Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Crystal Cave

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Photo from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/04/
photogalleries/giant-crystals-cave/images/primary/crystal-cave-1.jpg
I started my morning out thinking about the stones in the Bible. Stones can be used for a lot of things, alters, covers for tombs, tools, monuments, jewelry.  I've been thinking a lot about the verse in Luke 19 where the Pharisees are telling Jesus to rebuke his disciples. He responds with this verse. 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” I think about how we use diamonds to make record needles. Not that many folks use vinyl records anymore. Its kind of a side rabbit trail of wondering if there is deeper wisdom in the use of gem stones. Do various stones have any capability of resonance or give off energy. Might one be helped by wearing one stone rather than another.? I clearly have more questions than I have answers at this moment. One question seems to lead to another and along the way I stumble upon little bread crumbs left by the Lord for me to find. I'm not really sure where we are heading with this but as I follow the Lord I find I have these questions. As I search out the answers I discover things along the way that then point me towards new questions and new discoveries. I guess I think of it as maintaing a sense of wonder. God's creation is so vast and far beyond my simple understanding. I'm like the kindergartner at the zoo thinking wow - those animals are really cool. Not even beginning to realize that each and every animal in the zoo is a study in and of it self. 

 I found this in Matthew Henry's Commentary 

"What a difference there is between men’s building and God’s; when men build their Babel, brick and slime are their best materials; but, when God builds his Jerusalem, he lays even the foundations of it with sapphires, and all its borders with pleasant stones, Isa. 54:11-12; Rev. 21:19

Revelation 21:18-21 NIV

18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls,each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

So my next thought was that it was notable that the stones are listed in order. I wondered why?  So I started with jasper and I found that it comes in a lot of colors. I found the following in the Easton's Bible Dictionary. 


(Heb. yashpheh, "glittering"), a gem of various colours, one of the twelve inserted in the high priest's breast-plate (Ex. 28:20). It is named in the building of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:18, 19). It was "most precious," "clear as crystal" (21:11). It was emblematic of the glory of God (4:3).

Then I found this on jasper in wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasper "Although the term jasper is now restricted to opaque quartz, the ancient iaspis was a stone of considerable translucency. The jasper of antiquity was in many cases distinctly green, for it is often compared with the emerald and other green objects. Jasper is referred to in the Niebelungenlied as being clear and green. Probably the jasper of the ancients included stones which would now be classed as chalcedony, and the emerald-like jasper may have been akin to the modern chrysoprase. The Hebrew word yushphah may have designated a green jasper. Flinders Petrie suggested that the odem, the first stone on the High Priest's breastplate, was a red jasper, whilst tarshish, the tenth stone, may have been a yellow jasper. 

The term basanite has occasionally been used to refer to a variety of jasper, for example a black flinty or cherty jasper found in several New England states of the USA. Such varieties of jasper are also informally known as Lydian stone or lydite and have been used as touchstones in testing the purity of precious metal alloys.

A touchstone is a small tablet of dark stone such as fieldstone, slate, or lydite, used for assaying precious metal alloys. It has a finely grained surface on which soft metals leave a visible trace."

Interesting I think, and I go look at photos of Jasper stones trying to find any that look transparent. I found a photo of someone in front of huge clear crystals. So I click on the photo and found an article that talked about the Crystal Cave. It reminds me of  Super Man's home from the movies. I think about how in Revelation 21 the gates to the city are each made with a single pearl. I look at the immense size of the crystals in the cave and I think I wonder how big the oysters will have to be to make pearls big enough for gates. I think of the saying "The world is your oyster." I think about how tiny pearls are made from irritating grains of sand. I think of the beauty and the mess we've made of our world. Which causes me to think of Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

So I go to find out more about the crystal cave. I found theses videos and I sat and watched them with great wonder and fascination. They lay under the mountain in water and would not have been discovered except for the mining in the area that pumped out the water. They would not have been created or grown except for the heat and water and gypsum. I think sometimes it is the heat and pressure and odd circumstances in our lives that create the conditions for us to become all He intends for us to become. 

Revelation 4:6 NIV

Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures,and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

I need to get on with other things but I leave this little journey with a greater sense of wonder, awe and a deep humility. I am reminded again of John 21:25 NIV 
"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

Here are the videos about the Crystal Cave hope you will enjoy them. 

The Crystal Cave Videos

http://youtu.be/laMZAJ2L_1Y  Episode 1 of 5

http://youtu.be/tlz8Z_QZU40 Episode 2 of 5

http://youtu.be/K7VunyiXhDg Episode 3 of 5

http://youtu.be/gwkE7DWrgr0 Episode 4 of 5

http://youtu.be/bx81-exV7g8 Episode 5 of 5


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carpe Diem

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NASB)
24 For, “All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.

I can't help but read this verse and chuckle. Years ago I had painted a shirt with these words and a bunch of flowers. Only I used a version that said "All men are like grass". I was wearing it one day and some ultra feminist woman saw it and commented as she passed by about no good, men being like grass that should be trampled on. Clearly she missed the point of this verse. It was not a slam on men but a reminder that our glory is for a very short time. Like the flowers of the field we grow old and wither and die. Thankfully our time frame is longer than flowers but in the great expanse of time our 70 to maybe a 100ish years of life is pretty fleeting. 
What are you doing with the time you have been given? 

The words Carpe Diem come from the last line of a Latin poem by Quintus Horatius Flaccus from about 65BC to 8BC. It talks about not spending your time trying to predict the future. Rather get on with living your life. The last line ends with the words Carpe Diem which means to seize the day.

Are you living in the present or are you spending your time regretting the past and dreaming about a different future. We can find our selves developing our future plans about what we will do and who we will do it with and rather than living in the present we are busy living in a fantasy dream of our possible future. There are always unknown variables that are out of our ability to control and in those cases we sometimes even have alternate future plans. I'm not saying that one should not have a general sense of direction or a vision for ones life. Vision and purpose are good things and help keep us moving in the direction we want to head. It becomes a problem when we spend all our time dreaming. Sometimes we do this because our present life is a mess and we are depressed and unhappy. So we spend our time dreaming and hoping that things will someday be better. The fact is that if you don't begin doing something today to move towards that vision you will never get there. At some point you have to seize the day and do something productive with it. When I am working on art projects I often don't have everything I need to accomplish the project. So I assess what I do have to work with and do what I can with that or I realize I need to work at getting the needed supplies. Getting the supplies or the training that I need is part of the bigger process. What I don't do is sit and fret or have a pity party because of the current state of my project as compared to the vision of it that I have in my mind. I constantly ask the question "What can I do today that will help me to actually move towards the vision. I think sometimes rather than being purposeful about moving towards a vision we default into what I like to call floating down the lazy river. We just drift along reacting to circumstances and we go with the flow. I don't think that God intends for us to be tumble weeds for Christ blown about by every circumstantial wind. Like a runner in a race we are to press on towards the goal. 
1 Corinthians 9:24 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win."
If you want your future to be different than your present you have to decide to do something with today. Too often we just continue to do the same old thing hoping for different results. To often we get stuck in the familiar comfort zone even if there is a lot about it that could be better. We sit around praying Oh God come solve my problem thinking that we have no part in the process beyond crying out to God. Obviously prayer is a good place to start. Too often we are trying to have our will be done when we should be seeking God for His will to be done. We can be mad at God for not giving us the desires of our heart. We are quick to quote Psalm 37:4 and then wonder why its not working for us. 

Psalm 37:3-5 (NASB)
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord;  (I believe this means learning to enjoy His will and ways)
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

Heres the deal - God desire is for you to become more and more like Jesus. Its a process of humbling our selves, learning to trust, learning to obey, learning to know God's heart and purposes. For most of us its a slow process because we are too busy trying to do what we want and to get God to help us do it.  

Some of you are thinking some day I will do more for God. Someday I'll have more time to pray and seek the Lord. Someday I will read my bible. Someday I will help the poor or go to the mission field. Someday I will have enough money to support God's work. I heard someone say "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." 

James 2:17
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Seize the day. Take a step towards the goal. Do something you probably can't eat the whole elephant in one bite but at least take a nibble and keep nibbling. Then look back from time to time to see how far you've come and take a moment to celebrate. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

These Words of My Mouth

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Emma
May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, 
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 NIV

We have been created in the image of God who spoke things into existence. The words of our mouths are powerful things. Its not just the word we say to or about the Lord but also the words we say about ourselves and others. I am reminded of another verse Proverbs 18:21
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. We can use our words to speak truth, health, love and peace or we can use our words to gossip, spread rumors or stir up strife,  hatred, pain and unbelief. It is said of the prophet Samuel that he let none of his words fall to the ground. He was careful of what came out of his mouth. We should use ours wisely as well 

I suppose my challenge today is for each of us to be aware of our words. When I was a little girl my grandmother used to say "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all." That is a good reminder for us. I think some of us do pretty good with our public words to others but are not as kind to ourselves. We buy into negative self talk. What do you see and say when you look in the mirror. Are you reminded that you are wonderfully made. Do you marvel at how God created you from dust? Do you remember that you are His child whom He loves in spite of your flaws and failures. Probably not - you probably see, fat, ugly, old, or all your perceived flaws.  Do you walk around with guilt and shame or as one set free and forgiven? Most of us look in the mirror and beat our selves up in one manner or the other. Don't! Start at the mirror and then remember through out the day to speak health, peace, life, joy not only to others but to yourself as well.  Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

We all have challenges but we don't need to allow those things to define us. Our circumstance, our job, or kids, our health do not define who we are. In Christ we are new creations. In Christ we are loved and accepted. To many of us go around saying things like I'm sick, I'm depressed, I'm broke, I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I'm a looser... We could chose to stand on God's word regarding such things. I am Gods child and I may currently be facing some challenges but I am believing that my God is my healer and my provider. With Him all things are possible. He knows the plans he has for me and those plans are for my good and not for my destruction. 

Well I started this last week and never got back to post it. This whole moving process has been grueling but things are starting to shape up. School is going really well, I'm looking forward to everything finally being put away in the house so I can concentrate on studying and my student massages. So for a while I will continue to post when I can - I'm pretty sure that won't be daily but there are over 400 posts at this blog if you are needing more to read.

Also please pray for Emma I took this photo earlier in the summer. She was born mosaic turners syndrome and is presently having trouble with both of her kidneys.  We have seen God do so many miracles to preserve her life and she is in need of yet another. Her family could also use your prayers they have been walking through some pretty tough stuff.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hold Fast to Him

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

The Family Room with my Massage Area 
It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NIV

We as people are constantly trying to explain the world around us. Scientists test and want to replicate their theories.  Though out time we have created stories to explain who we are and why or how we came to be. The word says the in Psalm 19:1-4
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." In Luke 19;37-40  we read the following, "And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

All around you every day nature is declaring God's goodness and glory. The sun rises and shines on both good and evil people. The flowers on the hill side show the wonder and beauty as God paints each day a beautifully changing landscape for us to enjoy. Yes there are a lot of processes in effect that we have come to understand about how and why flowers grow. You may or may not attribute those processes back to a creator. I guess I have trouble seeing how one could not see within the scope of creation intelligent design. One just has to look at the intricacy of the human body to see that its more than some DNA and some cells getting haphazardly thrown together.  

I like to wear hummingbirds, and dragonflies because they remind me to approach life with a sense of wonder. I rarely wear crosses, I can look all around me and see the destruction that mankind is capable of. Its odd to me that we would use a symbol of such suffering as a sign that we are believers. I do understand that it is a reminder of how great a price Jesus paid on our behalf at the same time I think we get stuck at His death and forget to move on to His resurrection. Even beyond the resurrection we often forget to move on to the Holy Spirit that he promised to send to us - to help teach us and guide us through life. He kept his promise to rise from the dead and because of that I know he is able to keep all His promises.  There is a lot that I don't understand and much that I take with simple faith, trusting God's love will make it self evident should I need greater understanding. 

My Massage Area
I try to approach new ideas with an open mind and often I realize that our attempts at explaining are limited. I've had people say "I want to learn to pray like Margot prays". Its odd to have to stop and try to explain how and why you do particular. Most of it is just stuff I have learned spending time with Jesus. Somewhere on my to do list, when I eventually get back to it is a e-book on prayer. It is still stewing at this point while I continue to unload boxes and try to get the house we just moved into organized and functioning for each family member. Last night I re-arranged the family room so I would have room to set up my massage table. I have a bunch of student massages that I need to do to graduate and I need a place to do them. I'm happy to say I finally came up with a workable arrangement. I challenge you to take the things that you just do and try to explain why and how you do them to someone else. I think the Lord does a pretty good job of explaining Kingdom life and we have Jesus who walked it out before us. Still it is a challenge to decide to do things God's way and not our own ways. Even when we decide to obey we often still struggle and I believe it is because God desire is not for us to be religious but to be his. We can't really live the Kingdom life without the constant aid of the Holy Spirit. Stay close to the Lord, hold on to Him and He will help you through each day of the journey.  


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Anointed

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. Isaiah 43:11-12 NIV

Interestingly the word Messiah according to the Encyclopedia of the Bible, means to anoint or to smear with oil. I guess I have always thought Messiah to be synonymous with Savior. It seems savior is more of a function of Messiah.  Messiah is the one set apart, anointed to be God's perfect king. In Israel they discovered that men, even anointed men were far from perfect. The two kingdoms had mostly bad kings with a few good ones here and there that followed the ways of David. I think the thing about David even with his flaws he was quick to turn to God. He was humble in his approach to kingship realizing that without God he could do nothing.  Our verse today talks about apart from the Lord there is no savior. We are His witnesses and His ambassadors. We are to go about modeling Kingdom life and principles to others. Just as kings were endowed with gifts from God to help them to rule well. We are given gifts so that we can demonstrate God's goodness and grace to a watching world. 

Each of us has a unique story of how God has dealt with us. We have been through good times and difficult times. In difficult times we have seen the Lord help us and in good times we have not forgotten that every good and perfect gift comes from God. As we have walked with the Lord we have seen how he has used us to minister to others. 

I think it is interesting in regards to things that are anointed. Everything that they touch becomes anointed too. We who have touched Jesus the anointed Messiah also become smeared with oil and set apart for God's purposes. 

In Massage School I am spending a lot of time around oil. I have had to re think how I dress because the oil we use gets on everything. So I have gone to wearing t-shirts that I don't care about and wearing a sweater over them that I take off. On skin oil does wonderful things but its difficult to get out of clothing. The sweater helps cover up the oil spots on my shirts. I also learned quickly that one gets pretty warm doing massage so a short sleeved shirt is plenty even in the winter. My point being that oil in a sense marks everything that it touches. I suppose I would remind you that you are marked by the Lord and set apart for His purposes. Don't forget who you belong to. 

I aways remember the kids movie Toy Story. In that movie Andy put his name on his special toys. Cowboy Woody had Andy's name on his boot. We must never forget who we belong to and remember that we have been touched by the Anointed one and we are forever marked by His love. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

In a Dry and Parched Land

I'd like to make one of these - I have the tub. 
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

 [ A psalm of David. 
When he was in the Desert of Judah. ] 
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry 
and parched land where there is no water.Psalm 63:1 NIV

I suppose we tend to take water for granted. After all you just turn a faucet and ta-da! you have water. There are rarely worries about water. In America it is almost as sure as the sun rising each day. I lived in Arizona for a while and it is not the place to be a weather man. Every day except for a short time during the monsoon the forecast was sunny and hot. I currently live in the Pacific North West and I have learned to get out and enjoy a sunny day because for much of the year it is grey and gets dark early. The last few days have been pretty glorious and I have made time to sit on the porch and enjoy the sun shine. 

I our verse today David compares his yearning for God the value of water in a dry and parched land. Our souls quickly become dry and parched with out God. We often due to the busy pace of life will allow our selves to remain in that dehydrated state far too long. The idea however is that water is one of those things that we need daily in order for our bodies to function as designed. For our spirits to thrive we need to be saturated in the presence of the Lord. If you were lost in a desert one of your first concerns would be to find a water source. 

I suppose the question that comes to mind for me is to wonder, is the presence of the Lord in my life as simple as turning the faucet?  Or have I become so estranged from Him that to hear his voice and find his presence is like a desperate search for water while lost in the desert? 

Yesterday was the first Sunday in a month that we were able to go to church. We've been busy moving and since I have massage school and teach music students during the week most of the move had to happen during the weekends. It was wonderful to see my church family and to even see some new faces. I enjoyed worshiping and praying with people. I was just glad to be there, I was not concerned with the little things that did not go to plan or could have been done better. If you are just someone who attends services and in not part of putting them on you may not even realizes the hundreds of little details that someone has to attend to each week. So at times I can get stuck in the mechanics of a service and forget to simply enjoy the presence of God in spite of the variety of little hiccups and glitches.  Yesterday was not one of those days after a long month of moving it was good to be in the house of the Lord. 

I suppose there are some things that I do to stay saturated in the Lords presence. I want to have more than just a cup of water for the thirsty, I want to be a well of salvation. I want to be able to tap into the stream of the Lord's presence for myself and for others. For some people their water source is their church. They go to be fed and refreshed. Once a weak they go to church and its kind of like going to the big all you can eat smorgasbord. They go to fill up their spiritual tanks so you can get through the week. I don't think that is God's intention for his people for very long. Sure when you are just discovering the Lord you are like a baby that needs regular bottle feeding. As you grow you are supposed to learn to feed yourself. Some folks get the mistaken impression that "church" is the source. The source is always the Lord himself and his presence is available to you where ever you are. Even if you are in some deep dark pit His presence can be found by those who truly seek Him with all their heart. 

Things that have helped me. 
• Learn to be quiet. Take time to be quiet. 
• Learn that prayer is a conversation not like a long list to Santa. I share but I also must listen. 
• Learn to set aside times to be in the word and to worship and pray each day. You may say "I don't have time." I say we make time for the things that are important to us. 
• Learn to be in an on going conversation with the Lord. 
• Spend time in the Word and learn to rightly apply it to everyday life. 
• Realize that our walk with the Lord is a journey and that He knows the way. 
• Learn to recognize the nudges of the Holy Spirit and to respond quickly to them. 

I suppose that is still a short list and you may be asking how do you do those things. You start with that little mustard seed of faith and you allow your relationship with the Lord to grow. Relationships that grow are those that we make time for. Too often we are to caught up in our situations and our worry that we are so consumed that the Lord could be standing at our right hand and we would not even notice. We are so busy trying to fix and manipulate things to go our way that we often forget till things get out of control and seem utterly hopeless, that we were never really in control. 

Prayer: 
Lord, come and fill these readers with your presence. Take them from where they are in this moment out into deeper water with you. Help them to be saturated by your presence so they may themselves be filled but also have water for the thirsty all around them. 
Help us each to move beyond being bottle fed and entertained to being able kingdom ministers.  
  




Thursday, October 3, 2013

A New Hope

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3 NIV

It has been a while since I have posted. Particularly since I was formerly writing and posting five days a week. I am happy to say that we are past the crazy part of the move with looming deadlines. I have been going pretty much non stop all month. Today is the first morning that I have moved at a leisurely pace. We still have a house full of boxes to unpack but there are not trucks that need returned the next day or houses that need emptied and cleaned so we don't get charged another month of rent. Moving three houses has been a tremendous undertaking. My family has all pulled together on this effort and everyone has helped and worked together to accomplish this move. 
If you are new to this blog, we have moved to a larger home that could also accommodate my mother and aunt. They are both needing more help and we decided that it made more sense to create one big happy family. 

Our verse today is about how we have been given a new birth into a living hope. If you have ever given birth you know that there is a preparation stage that starts at conception and labor and delivery. Waddling around with a growing baby and hormones that are all over the map is not always the most comfortable time. Labor and delivery is down right painful. In the end or in the new beginning there is this wonderful new life, full of hope and potential.  One quickly forgets the 9 months and the pain of labor and delivery.  This move has been a bit like labor and delivery. I have known that God has given us a wonderful blessing, but this blessing has not felt all warm and fuzzy it has been hard work. I think we have this idea that God should just download good things into us - like in them movie the Matrix. Oh you need to fly a helicopter, lets just download the program. I am pretty convinced that most of the time God does not work like that. Most of the time healing is a process. Most of the time developing our skills, abilities and talents takes work. 
Relationships with others and with God takes time and commitment. God gives us gifts but we must activate them in our lives.   

With my massage school training, it seems I have some natural abilities. I am still having to work to refine and to understand how to use them. I can give you a violin as a gift and it is certainly a beautiful piece of craftsmanship but if you want to use that gift to make music one must embark on the journey of learning, practicing, developing ones ear.  I think too often we want God to give us easy gifts that come with instant gratification. Most of the time His gifts and blessings come in odd packages and circumstances in our lives often push us to leave our comfort zones and to find new answers, and solutions as well as to turn to God for help in the process. 
There are things in your life right now that are gifts. They may presently be difficulties that are pushing you to change. Skills that you are having to work to master. They may be people who are hard to love and a pain in the neck. Yet God is using those things to refine and develop His plans and purposes in your life. He is using those things to create deeper character and humility. His goal is not your comfort - it is to conform you to His image.