Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Miracle Eve

It is Christmas Eve, 2008. This last year has been awfully challenging for millions of people, including us. The world is full of hopelessness and panic pushers. But we have a hope that pierces through the blackest headlines. We have eternity in our souls. We have Jesus, the light of the world and the Master of Miracles.
The original Christmas Eve was a hopeless time for the world, too. God had promised a savior and redeemer, but that was seven hundred years earlier. Do you suppose the Israelites wondered if Isaiah had made the whole thing up? Where was this redeemer who would rescue them from the tyranny of a godless government? Why was God taking so long? Didn’t He care?
Then, in the swiftness of a baby’s first wail, God came to earth. Light was embodied. Hope was born. The world has never been the same.
We all have prayers we are waiting for God to answer. We know His word promises us certain things, and we don’t understand why He takes so long in fulfilling His promises. Did we misunderstand His word to us? Does He really care about our plight? We have the same questions the Jewish nation had just before Jesus came.

One of my favoriter preachers, Joyce Meyer, likes to say: "faith requires unanswered questions." If we knew what God was going to do ahead of time, it would not be faith for us to believe His love and goodness, and rejoice in Him in the darkness.
Let’s not give up on God. He may be planning the greatest miracle we’ve ever experienced. He may be staging our rescue this very moment. The blackest picture can transform to a lovely, light-filled landscape with one word from Him. He is still the Master of Miracles. Let’s hang on just a little while longer, and believe that He will come through. Any night just might be our Miracle Eve. --- Jen

Monday, December 15, 2008

Imposed Reverence

Imposed Reverence

Last Sunday afternoon we attended an eye-misting, heart stirring Christmas musical performed by an all-church community choir and several instrumental groups. Some of the music was classical, some traditional, and I was amazed at the talent and creativity in our little town, stuck away in the middle of Eastern Illinois. “My heart rejoiced in God my Savior” as Jesus' mother, Mary said. I even got goose bumps from the sheer joy of knowing this God-become-man, and His eternal love for me.
But, I left the church with it’s exquisite stained-glass windows less than elated. Instead of my joy remaining and spilling into the coming days, I was disappointed, sad and angry. Why?
Because some zealous soul got the idea that reverence equals silence.
Printed in the bulletin for this glorious, Godly music was a request to not applaud, either during or after the program. We, the audience had to bottle and cork our thanks and exultation as we stoically, politely listened to the story of the God of eternity stripping off His robe of glory to become a man. I was tortured.
Praise was shooting out my ears, oozing out my eyeballs and dripping from my hands, but I was not allowed to express it. I felt like a frog at a sitting convention, or a jumping bean in a straightjacket! It was all so frustrating. The beauty and magnificence of the music was squelched by the rule of silence.
I understand that when some people are moved by beauty and awe, they are silent. I have experienced that myself in the presence of God as I’ve prayed or worshipped my Lord and Master. But to impose it on all in the audience because it is one person’s or one group’s idea of reverence, is criminal. I felt cheated out of the blessing of giving my whole self to the One I owe everything to. I needed to clap! I needed to shout “Hallelujah, Jesus is real!” “God is good!” to fully enter into worship (I did sneak in a few ‘amen’s that only Kevin could hear, but that didn’t satisfy my ‘praise’ appetite). I needed to be allowed to express my gratitude to the Savior of my soul, who bought my life from satan and freed me from hell. But, I was obedient during the program, sitting in silence. Later on the rocks and I cried out in praise to Jesus.
Sadly, I won't return to this program next year. Not because the artists didn’t do a splendid job of glorifying God and His majesty. But because they were the only ones allowed to do so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Moon Shines Down book review

The Moon Shines Down
By Margaret Wise Brown

This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book was lost for over fifty years, and recently discovered in a Vermont barn. The original manuscript was written by Margaret Wise Brown, but since the manuscript was too short, it was added to by Laura Minchew, a children’s book publisher and a fan of Brown.
It’s singsong style and bold, colorful illustrations are endearing. However, the rhymes that did not rhyme grated on my nerves. Some examples are “asleep” and “country”; “East,” “sleep,” and “speak”; “dream” and “things.” Either make a rhyming book or just write prose. Don’t say it’s a rhyming book if it doesn’t truly rhyme!
Another factor I questioned was the use of the word “kids” in place of children. Because Margaret Wise Brown lived from 1910 to 1952, I doubt she used the word “kids” in her writing. In trying to appeal to modern readers, I think the newer text lost the flavor of Brown’s original writing.
Different cultures of the world are wonderfully represented in both the manuscript and illustrations by Linda Bleck, an award winning artist. From Holland to Japan, from Africa to Australia, the moon shines down on each boy and girl. Every poem ends with the familiar and comforting, “I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.”
In spite of my two little issues, I would recommend this book for young children. They will enjoy the vibrant colors and the cadence of the rhymes.

-- Jeanette Levellie

Friday, November 28, 2008

Divine Appointments

God uses strange things at times to dispense His grace. This morning it was a battery that was questionable. Turns out that the battery was fine, but because I felt it needed testing where we bought it (and it was still under complete warranty) we went to a different place than what we had planned to go this morning. At the last minute in another place near there we were deciding whether to stay on or to go elsewhere for coffee. We stayed and in stepping five steps to the left rather than going to the right and exiting the building we ran into a friend who really encouraged us. Now, that wasn't "lucky" or a freak accident. It was a case of having our footsteps guided.
Many times I've gotten off the track I've set for my day, and I couldn't understand why. Then something like that happens and the moment it does I know the full reason for what happened before. It takes time to learn to be open to the will of God, but He always rewards a faithful heart. God's Spirit always knows the best paths to travel.
- Kevin

Christmas Greetings From Kevin 2008

Christmas Greetings from Kevin 2008

The days
That made the world
Are not even noted
On any calendar
For even
Occasional commemoration
Yet they began
All things

Often are beginnings
Cast away
In the contemplation
Of what
Looms large
And seems to make
Today important

Yet the origin
Started the line
Which now
We draw
But it
Did not
Complete the drawing
Nor do we

For that,
Another hand
Was needed
To take up the pen
And flourish
It to
A favorable

And that hand
Has made its mark
So well
That it need not
Do anything
To make us

I have been writing Christmas poems in lieu of Christmas cards since 1970. This is the 39th year I've done these and they've been different every year. I hope the different perspective will bless your season. As I wrote in another article posted today, May You See Wonders!

Christmas Greetings From Jeanette

Christmas Greetings from Jeanette 2008

Everything I have
Came from you
Everything I am
Is because of you
Everyone I love
You gave to me
Every day I live
I live for you.
Jesus, Son of Man
And Son of God
You left everything you had
To come to earth for me.
Born in a stable
Lived with the lowly
Died a criminal’s death
So that I could be free
Forever Free.
Everything I have
I give to you
Everything I am
I dedicate to your sweet name
Everyone I love
I place into your loving hand
And every day I live
I’ll live for you
Yes, every day I live
Will be praise to you.

May You See Wonders


A season of wonders. That’s what this month has been called. Have you seen any yet this year? Wonders, I mean. For that matter, how many have you seen in your entire life?
There are people who think they see a wonder when they look in the mirror, but don’t be discouraged. You don’t have to agree with them. A true wonder is something beyond what we have seen up to this time. It is something new, something strikingly, arrestingly new. It stops you and overwhelms you. It may be as small as a brilliant flower bud or as large as an entire sky display of lightening, but it gives a new focus, sometimes even a new reason for living.
May YOU see wonders! I’ve written those words on a lot of Christmas greetings this year. It is my blessing for you whether I know you or not. The wonders of God are not just something of the past and they are not the emotional feelings aroused by this season, but realities of God in this world, even in us. Jesus came in the flesh at Bethlehem (a Wonder with no doubt) and His Spirit has come into the spirit of every Christian (one of the present day Wonders). He enables us to do what we cannot do.
People who lacked love have learned to give it. Those who had no patience with others now bear with those who still irritate them. Souls stunted through selfishness have learned to think of others and sometimes even to think of them first. Folks without self-control have learned to say no to substances and acts which would steal their life. Those caught in traps of the past are free for the future.
God sees and knows every one of these wonders. He made them, and He is looking to make more. May you not just see wonders; may you BE one.

- Kevin

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Last night as I was out calling I got a bit discouraged about some who weren't home and then I got to thinking about those who had died since we came here to the church in Illinois. It's easy to look only at what we don't have at times. Those people we lost were great people.

Then this morning as I was practicing the material for the Sunday morning message (I practice my messages at least three times before delivering them) I came across this verse in the middle of the text: Psalm 34:18 "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

It came to me that God is NEAR!!! That's not just a designation of space, but of activity. He is never just near, but is always doing something.

God doesn't hang out with the proud or complacent, but with those who know that they have no refuge but HIM! That's true no matter what condition our heart is in, but the brokenhearted seem to recognize it more readily. Remember the truths of this verse.


Monday, November 24, 2008


One of my favorite qualities of our Heavenly Father is His redemptive love. He can take any horrible situation, any broken-in-a-thousand-pieces heart, and make them new, bringing beauty from the ashes and flowers in the desert. We are strengthened and encouraged when we focus on His heart of compassion and His willingness to help us. I tend to get depressed when I think of people's problems, especially those I love. I want to lift them out of their pits, but I can't. I can't even help myself when I'm in a pit! What makes me think I can rescue someone else? Only Jesus is that potent. If I remember to cry out to Him rather than crying to myself or someone else, I am hopeful once again. He is the healer. He is bigger than any mountain in our way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be Still my Soul

I was excited as I spoke to my friend, Loretta. I enthused about the tremendous writers’ conference I had attended, the selling of a humor article to an editor there, and my commitment to write one hour a day. My words splashed out, filling the front seat of her car as we travelled to lunch.
“I am thrilled for you,” Loretta said, “But I feel strongly that you’re to do something more than writing each day.” A holy quiet embraced me. My heart picked up its beat. Because she chose each word with tremendous care, I sensed the Holy Spirit was about to speak through her. God usually tiptoes in when He has something significant to say. He rarely hollers and waves His arms. I shut up and listened.
“In order to write well, Jeanette, you need to spend time simply sitting still. Part of your ministry of communicating God’s love to people will be in those moments you are listening. You can’t hear from God unless you are quiet.”
I knew the Lord was not chiding me for talking too much. He was simply telling me to listen more. I already know everything I know. If I want to take His message of hope to sagging hearts, I must be still with Him long enough to fill my own sagging heart.
I know it was God who spoke through Loretta last Saturday morning. Yet, practicing what He preached will not be easy. I was born talking, working, and trying to motivate others. How can I change from a ‘human doing’ to a ‘human being’?
The same way I was born again. By His potent, loving grace. ---Jen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dings and Beeps

This is an article I recently submitted to a magazine for publication. Even if they buy it, it won't appear for an entire year, so I thought I'd share it here. It was originally around 500 or 600 words, so I had to cut it in half to fit their requirements! You know me-- being concise is a challenge! But, it's an excellent discipline for me, so I enjoy it.

Dings and Beeps

“What are those extra bells?” I asked as I buckled up. “I thought this car only chimed six times when you first got in, to remind you to put your seatbelt on. That was an extra four dings.”
“It’s telling me I need to change the oil,” answered my husband, as thrilled as I for the added racket every time we entered the car. “I’ll take care of it this weekend.”
A few weeks later we hear not only dings, but beeps. “What now?” I moan.
“A light on the dash is blinking. We need to add windshield wiper fluid.”
“ I suppose this winter it will ding to remind us to put the defroster on, and when the tires are low we’ll be beeped to put air in them. I wonder if it honks at you if you forget to send your Mom a birthday card? This is the naggingest car we’ve ever owned!”
My oven is the same way. The timer emits four or five obnoxious, high-pitched wails every ten seconds, until you recover your cookies or casserole. When I was a kid, we had one of those wind-up timers with a spring. You got one hearty ding at the end of the time, and if your cookies burnt, tuff beans. Treated you like an adult.
Aren’t you delighted God doesn’t nag? He guides with His Word. He directs by His Spirit through our conscience. He gently nudges us to make a change in our habits or repent of sin. But He does it in love, leaving the choice up to us. He trusts us.
That kind of trust and love make me want to chase Him down, jump into His arms, and embrace His every desire for me. I’d be a ding-dong not to!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A New Look At Love

While Jeanette was attending the writer's conference in Indianapolis I was doing sightseeing. One place I went was the home of James Whitcomb Riley. His name may not be all that well known today but everyone knows one of his creations, for he was the poet who penned "Little Orphan Annie". The home was a real pleasure to tour and at the conclusion of the tour I bought a book of the complete poems of Mr. Riley. This morning as I was reading a few I came across these lines in a poem entitled "If I Knew What Poets Know".

"I would sing of love that lives
On the errors it forgives."

I don't know if Riley was a Christian or not, but these lines certainly describe God's love in a new way I had never thought of before. It's a good target to shoot at for our own love.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'm Home

Before I attended the Christian Writers' Conference in Indianapolis last weekend, I was excited, apprehensive, nervous and hopeful. I hardly knew what to expect. Would these professional editors and publishers wonder why on earth I was even there? Would my book proposal and sample articles be an embarassment to me and those who read them? Kevin and I prayed and I wrote. My ladies' Thursday night prayer group prayed. I re-wrote. My friend and writing mentor in Florida, Clella Camp, assured me she was praying. I re-wrote some more. I was sick of my proposal, my one-page bio and even the photo of me on the front of the proposal. Kind of like how I feel about Hamburger Helper. We ate it so often when the kids were little, when I see and ad for it now, I imagine ripping that fat, white glove off the lady's arm and socking her with it! By the time we left for Indy Friday morning, I was a mess. I wondered if I'd truly heard from the Lord, or just made the whole thing up. But I went ahead, trusting the Lord to connect me with the right people. People who would give me honest feedback on my work. People who could help me get published or connect me with someone who could. And He did the Eph. 3:20 thing. He gave me above and beyond all I could ask or imagine! His first hug was a prize I won for composing a winning answer in 25 words or less to the question "What is your dream for your writing?" I have always loved winning prizes. Jesus knows that. He is so good. My next hug was when the first editor I met thumbed through my proposal and said, "This is very well done. I get alot of proposals, and most people do not put this much work into them." When he looked at some of my writing. he sang (okay, he just said it, but it sounded like music to me!), "It's clear you have a lot of talent." Although his publishing house is not doing work of my style, he kept my onepage and my business card, and showed interest in a possible future project. Finally, the second editor I met with laughed when he read my sample. This is a dream for a writer who hopes that what she thinks is funny, actually makes someone else chuckle. At first I thought he was just being kind. Until he said, "This is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for for my magazine! Can you cut it down?" "Oh, yes," I screamed (all right, I didn't scream on the outside, but I was doing a hoedown in my heart!), "I know I can!" He gave me his card, told me to send him some articles, and I went in the ladies' room and cried. Happy tears, with my hands lifted in praise to the Lord for His grace and kindness and favor. After fifty-three years, I have finally figured out what God is calling me to do with my life. To write. To make someone's day. To make the Lord's day. To have one--- or one million--- people approach me and say, "your writing revolutionized my walk with the Lord." Yes. I am home. This is where I belong. Jen

Thursday, November 6, 2008


When I was a child, my mom often called me a "chatterbox." It was not meant as a compliment. I grew up believing I talked way too much. When you believe something about yourself, whether it's true or not, you make it happen. So, I talked too much. Sometimes I still do. As an adult, however, I discovered my gift: communication! Now we know where the source of my desire to talk, sing, teach and write all those words, originated: from the Giver of all good gifts. I have found there is a difference between chattering--- just talking to fill up empty space that you feel uncomfortable with--- and communicating. When I say or write something that lifts another out of a deep well of despair or tweaks erroneous thinking about the Father, I am communicating His heart of love and goodness. This is my passion, to reflect Jesus more accurately to you than you saw Him a moment ago. I often ask the Lord to keep a watch at the door of my mouth, so I don't chatter. I want my words to count for eternity. To lift up and build and reveal His goodness and wisdom. To nourish a soul or a million souls. To pass on His heart that spills over with love for you. Even just to make you laugh, so you'll be healthier. This is communicating my Lord to you. Jeanette

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

Whatever happened to rhetoric? I don't think I heard any in this election or in the last several elections. Out of the news media all I have heard in the analysis of the election results is how the candidates strategized to get the vote out in selected areas so as to capture "key" states and locales or how they failed by presenting themselves in an uncomplimentary light. Some voters were manipulated to vote for a name on the ballot (and they had a right to vote for any name on it), but I wonder if they were ever persuaded of what they were voting for. Too often peole vote for personalities rather than principles. Instead of grappling with truth everyone spent their time marketing fear or personal charm. A candidate who will tell me the principles of his thnking doesn't need to tell me what he will do about any issue. I will trust his principles, if they are right, to get the issues right. What we need is both candidates and an electorate which will stand for principles rather than being rattled by issues. I probably should have written somethiing like this earlier, but I've only come to see these things in the last few hours. In the days to come we will find out exactly what we have fallen for.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Feeding your inner kid

When we had a pizza party for the jr. high/high school youth group tonight, paid for by a generous lady in the church, kids came out of the trees to attend. Several brought guests. It is amazing what interest free food will generate. It's also a little disappointing that they are not as interested in feeding their spirit man as they are their bellies. But at least they came. They could have done something else with their time. They know we are interested in them. It's a start. We haven't had a youth group here in several years, and now we have some new Christians who need to be discipled. It's slow going, but at least it's going. I long to show them, to teach them, to model to them somehow that living for Jesus may cost some time and a few sin toys wrenched out of their hands when they want to clutch them, but in the long run it doesn't cost, it pays. Richly. They have lived such a short time on this earth, they've not yet narrowed their search to what's really important: a relationship with one true Friend who will never turn his back on you. That can only be Jesus. He's the only one who is able and willing to be forever faithful. I pray we can help them realize His love for them and their worth to Him before they are adults. If they make Him Lord now, their lives will be so much simpler. Help us, dear Father. Help us show them what you are really like. Jeanette

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weed therapy

I had to take a break from research I was doing on the writers' conference I'm attending next weekend, lest I cry or go nuts. Reading eternal lists of editors' accomplishments and what publishing companies don't want is not my idea of fun. So, I went outside to my garden, the cheapest and easiest form of therapy I've discovered. Something about pulling weeds and throwing away old tomato plants that I enjoy. The forceful tugging, then the final yank that releases the weed from the soil, relaxes me. I talk to Jesus, reminding Him that this idea of publishing a book was His, not mine. I am content to keep writing columns as I have been doing for the past seven years, for the two newspapers in Edgar County. People here like my writing, they tell me so all the time. He listens, good shepherd that He is. But, He doesn't let me off the hook. I still have to go to the conference, and expose myself to unknown criticism from acquisitions editors and publishers. I am overwhelmed. I am nervous. But out here, with the sun hugging my neck and my Savior telling me "Do not let your heart be troubled," I am okay. I can do this difficult thing. He is with me. He will never lead me where He doesn't have grace to favor me. I've never done a great job of managing my own life, so I decide to trust Him.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Autumn is a lovely season, dancing with color and light. I remember the first time I truly experienced Autumn. We travelled 20 hours from L.A. to Portland, Oregon to visit my in-laws. Since I'd lived in California most of my life, I'd never seen leaves change color. I was mesmerized by the daring display of glory. I saved the brightest, most stunning orange and scarlet leaves I could find. I longed to capture their embrace and keep it with me, to encourage myself on grey, colorless days. When I returned home and opened my suitcase, I was disappointed to find my treasures brittle and dry. I kept them for a few weeks anyway, and wondered when I held them if there are colors in Heaven we have never seen here.
I'm grateful to live in a region where I can see the seasons change. That was a lie. I am not grateful to see the golden glow of Autumn change to the boring, scary white of winter. I believe 'hate' is too strong a word to use often, but I can say I tremendously dislike winter. So, I will love and cherish Autumn as long as I can. --- Jeanette