Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Are you ready for the big day? I’m not sure I’m ever really ready, but since I have yet to learn how to stop time, it’s coming anyway. 😉

One of my favorite things about Christmas has always been the Sunday before. I have tons of memories of me, my sisters and Mama, all in matching velvet dresses on Christmas Sunday. Sometimes Mom got Jeffrey in a matching velvet vest, but for some reason could never get Dad in one. 🙂


I still love church on Christmas Sunday. We sing all the songs I’ve always loved, or most of them. And we hear about the Bethlehem Adventure–or at least part of it, depending on the preacher and what God gives him to share.

I love learning what I think I know and realize I don’t know. Like the wise men. You know, like the song. “We Three Kings of Orient are . . . ” and learning I don’t know how many Wise Men there were. (No one does.) And the idea that Mary rode a donkey when she and Joseph went to Bethlehem. Go back and read it again. Where’s that donkey? 😦 Poor Mary.


More than anything, I like the reminder that Immanuel (God with us) who created the universe, became an infant so that thirty odd years later He could die for our sins. Our sins, not His. (He was perfect.) No matter how many rules we had, we couldn’t be perfect enough. But He is God, so He’s perfect, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins.

His presence (remember, He’s Immanuel, God with us) is our present for eternity.

I like that so very, very much.

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The TRUE Christmas Story

Haloed Angel

God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

29-33 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,     be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him     the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever—     no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

35 The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,     the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth     will be called Holy, Son of God.–Luke 1:27-35 The Message


A Day That Will Live

cropped-merry-ornament.jpgA long, long time ago in a land far, far away (at least it seems that way now) I had a very good friend named Mary. (Yes, that’s her real name.)  Mary was dating a guy she really liked (a bunch!) and he had a friend she thought I’d like.

“Want me to fix you up?”

No. No! I don’t like blind dates. I had one once, and he turned out to be a kindergartener.

But she assured me that this guy not only wasn’t a kindergartener, he’d finished college and had a real job.

Ooookay. Let’s do it! (I tried not to act too thrilled, but she probably noticed how excited I was when I didn’t stop jumping up and down.)

Now I’d had a few less than stellar dates in my time. I had one where the guy took me to Denny’s, looked at the menu and said, “I had no idea it would be this expensive!” so we got up and left.

Another guy took me out and asked me to marry him on the first date. (Uh, no. But thanks.)

And yet another guy, who had a key chain with a girl’s name on it. When I asked who Tara was (not really her name) he said, “Have I been talking about her a lot? We just broke up . . . ”

See ya.

Anyway, I knew better than to place any big expectations on this date. But at least I figured I’d be safe, since my friend, Mary, and her guy, Sam, would be with us.

December 7th, a day that will live in infamy. It was cold and windy night (for real) and I was running late. (As usual.) My apartment had only one door and it was a sliding glass patio-type door. When G-Man and his buddy got there, I didn’t have my dress on yet, so I couldn’t even invite them in.

“Hurry up! It’s cold out here.” Sigh.

I hurried, so they didn’t turn into a pair of popsicles They were just a little blue from the cold when I let them in. As soon as the ice melted off their noses and ears, we bundled up and went to pick up Mary.

I remember that Christmas season as one of the best in my memory. Why? Probably because I didn’t have a lot of stress over gifts or decorating, and I wasn’t responsible for making anyone else’s Christmas “perfect.” (And I didn’t have a kid pointing to someone else’s gifts and saying, “I didn’t get as much as him.)

All I had was a really nice guy to talk to, spend time with, get to know, and fall in love with. Great way to spend Christmas, if you ask me. 🙂

We were married five months and twelve days later.

Pretty nice Christmas present Mary gave me, wasn’t it?


Wowed Wednesday

I hadn’t planned to talk about “Mercy Triumphs” again this morning, but after experiencing the first session last night, it’s big on my mind.

In case I didn’t mention it yesterday, “Mercy Triumphs” is a study of the Book of James.

Beth Moore does a wonderful job of allowing God to work through her. She shares what other people would board up in a closet without telling more than we need to know. She bares her heart and lets you see it beat. Unless I’m very wrong, she asks God to fill her from her toes to her nose in order to use her to His glory. (And His alone.)

When the video was over, it seemed everyone in the room took a collective breath. The woman sitting next to me whispered, “Wow.”

The Bible study leader stood up in the front of the room. “Wow.”

I was wowed, too.

  • Beth was able to explain to those who believe that Mary is an eternal virgin that, according to the Word, she had other children–without being in the least offensive. In fact, she told them to try to press on through it because they didn’t want to miss what God had in store for them.
  • Who James was–
  •                 The oldest of Jesus’s half-siblings.
  •                 One of the half-sibs who said, “He (Jesus) is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21.
  •                 One Jesus appeared to after His resurrection. (1 Cor 15:7)

Of course, she started my imagination to working. She made me think what it would have been like to grow up with Jesus as my older brother. Imagine, having a sibling who never did anything wrong. Who never got in trouble.

I might have picked on the poor guy. Called him Goody-Two-Shoes Sandals. Tried to talk Him into doing my chores for me.

Imagine learning your older brother was God.


Another way Beth wowed me was the way she can take scriptures I’ve read over and over (and probably had read to me a bunch of times) and show me a phrase I’ve totally missed. Just this Christmas I read the account of when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. (Luke 2:22.) I read about Simeon seeing Jesus and knowing that God had fulfilled his promise that he wouldn’t die until he’d seen the Lord’s Christ.

I read where Simeon blessed them and even the part where he said to Mary,

 “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35a

But somehow I missed,

“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

How did I miss that?

You know, I listened to “Breath of Heaven” a hundred times in December. I shared it here at least twice.

For some reason I was drawn back again and again to Mary’s story–who she’d been and how she’d lived, pregnant with the Savior. And then after He was born, visited by shepherds, and then the Magi.

I think maybe I was being prepared for this Bible study. As Paul Harvey use to say, “And now the rest of the story.”  Or at least more understanding of it. 🙂


Christmas Week

One week until Christmas. This morning I’m going to stop worrying about gifts and trees and other temporary things for a little while and consider the Reason for the Season. Jesus.

I have Luke 2:11-12 on a sticky note, which keeps it at the top of my blogs until I take it down. (It’s there because #4 and I are memorizing it for our final SSMT of the year.)

Yesterday I heard a man talking about how the shepherds, who were first to hear the Good News, and when they did, they RAN  to find Him.

I don’t know what else the man had to say because my mind took off. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I couldn’t keep from thinking about it in the angels’ point of view.

Imagine, being in Heaven when the announcement was ready to be made. Today, God has become a man!!! He is Christ, the Saviour. Were the angels all excited? Did they all want to get to announce the news?

Can’t you see them, all standing on tiptoe, hoping Yahweh will choose them to give the announcement that Christ, the Saviour, has been born?

Finally, one gets the job, and gives the word to the shepherds.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

But the rest of the angels can’t stand it. They have to sing out their joy.

Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

Next my  brain switches to the Shepherds’ POV. (Point of View)

There they are with the sheep all bedded down for the night. They’re chatting as they do every evening before the graveyard shift starts. Some are getting ready to sleep while the rest are getting ready to stroll around the perimeter or sing to the sheep.

Out of nowhere, a being appears who is unmistakably an angel. The shepherds don’t question that it was an angel.

 The glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified!

When they see the angel, I imagine they all froze.

“Behold!” (NIV says, Be not afraid, but I like, BEHOLD!!!)

Don’t you imagine all the shepherd’s crooks hit the ground?

“I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people.”

When the angel who brought the news finishes the announcement, as if to prove to the shepherd they hadn’t imagined the single angel, a whole flock of angels appear.

“Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels were gone and the sky was black again, the shepherds ran to find the Christ Child.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Okay, maybe that’s why God decided to tell the shepherds first, because He knew they would spread the word.

Now can you put yourself in Mary’s place? She’s a young girl, a virgin, who has traveled far from her home with the man she’s going to marry. I think I read someplace that it took them about a week to travel to Bethlehem.

The last week before my first child was born, Mom made me stop driving a few blocks to work at Four Seasons, our dress shop. (I think she was afraid I’d slip and fall in the snow and have him on Broadway.)

Mary either walked or rode a donkey for most of that week as she traveled to Bethlehem.

The night before my first son was born, I wasn’t comfortable any place–walking, sitting or lying down. I went to a basket ball game, but couldn’t stay too long because #1 son’s feet were in my ribs.

Try to imagine the exhausted girl, Mary, and Joseph as they tried to find a place for her to rest. When the pains started, had they found the stable? Or did the man who owned the inn see that she was in labor and send them to the barn after he heard her cries?

Was Mary frightened as she had God’s son? I doubt that He took away the pain of childbirth. When her body worked to expel Christ, Creator of the Universe, and the only person with her was a man who’d never been married or delivered a child while a barn full of animals looked on, was she surprised or taken aback?

I was when my body took over, even though I’d read the books and gone through the classes.

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Ready for True Christmas? I am. I want to celebrate The Reason for The Season all year ’round.

How about you?

Wishing you and your family a wonderful faith filled Christmas.



The Spirit of Christmas

Have you caught the Spirit of Christmas yet? If you’re like me, it’s a hard thing to do. Between decorating, shopping, wrapping, working and hoping I got all the right gifts, the true spirit kind of gets away from me.

But I can find the Christmas Spirit if I’ll take the time to do one thing. Read and meditate on Luke 2:1-20.

When I was in Sixth Grade, Miss Thelma asked me to be the narrator for the Christmas Play. Yep, I’m that old. We really could read the Bible AND PRAY when I was in school.

So, Miss Thelma said, “You’ll need to memorize Luke 2:1-20.”

I memorized the entire scripture that night. If I had to do it today, I doubt if I could. It takes me two weeks to memorize one SSMT verse these days. But that night it wasn’t hard.

Here’s how I did it. That night while Mom cooked supper, I crashed on the couch and tossed my feet up on the back. The scripture was typed out, so I just read the passage again and again. While I read it, I could see it in my mind.

I’m sure having seen the Christmas Story in plays and on TV all my life helped. 🙂 I could see Joseph walking along, leading the donkey with a very pregnant Mary on its back. For me, it’s night time.

I know, it couldn’t have been night through the entire trip–90 miles or so–because it took at least a week to complete. (Longer if Mary needed potty breaks as often as I did when I was pregnant.)

This map is from Holymusic 55’s Photobucket album.

I imagined the couple gazing down on the Little Town with the night sky behind them. Their trip probably looked more like this


than this


But I liked my gentler version of the trip.

To be able to remember the words of those verses, I imagined the way it happened and told the story.

Luke 2:1-20

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

If that doesn’t get you in the Christmas Spirit, nothing will. It’s the TRUE Christmas Story. Not Red Rider BB Guns or jingle bells or Santa Claus.

God, the creator of all things, became man so He could walk among us. And save us. This is how it all began.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

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Sunday Morning–♫ In the Garden ♫

This is the account of how this beautiful hymn, In the Garden, was written—from the hymn-writer C. Austin Miles himself:

One day in April, 1912, 1 was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20–whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm.

As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, Rabboni!

My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches.

A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.

John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John. As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept.

Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did 1. 1 knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, Rabboni! I awakened in sunlight, grip­ping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating.

Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone,
while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

CHORUS: And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.

From Susan: There are lots of wonderful new songs and choruses in churches these days. I love the gut level truth they tell about. (Even if you cling to the old standards, you should at least appreciate the new songs.)

But there’s not one new song that I love more than this one. A song that speaks of that wonderous time is history and the moments we can spend with our Lord and Savior even today is amazing.

If you haven’t read the Bible account of Jesus speaking to Mary in the garden recently, read it as soon as possible. You’ll see it in a whole new why. Here’s I’ll make it easy. Click here.