Sunday, January 14, 2018

Clanging Cymbals

"And now I will show you the most excellent way.  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." 
1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)

Seventh grade Sunday School.  Mr. D decided to take a bunch of seventh graders and show us how to truly love, God's way.  It was a defining moment in my faith.  As we prepare for lent (only one month away), I thought I would take this opportunity to do a series blog on this wonderful chapter.  My goal is to help prepare our hearts for a special time of year - Lent.  It will probably run a little longer than Ash Wednesday, but I hope God blesses us in wonderful ways.

I like to talk - no surprise to many of you who know me.  When someone asks me to speak on a particular subject and they say, "Do you think you can talk for about an hour?" my typical response is, "I can talk about peanut butter and jelly for an hour!"  There are many times when I speak that I believe MY words are right and are truth.  Yet, when I reflect back on many of those moments, I often realize that my words - as eloquent as they might be - may not have been shared in love.  

How so?  I remember times when I may have judged people's actions, or believed my opinion or way of doing something was the ONLY way for that action to take place.  I may have shared those words with a great sense of conviction to all those that I spoke to.  Then I walked away from that conversation only to feel empty inside - and I'm sure the person/people I was speaking to felt the same way.  

Conversations can yield such positive results.  Think back to THOSE conversations.  They typically are not just shared with a sense of intellect, but also with the most important ingredient - the ingredient of love.  When we talk to others, regardless of what language we may be speaking or how the message is shared, when we add love to our words, the words spill out in a most glorious way.  

Words are a powerful tool in today's society.  They are shared in so many different mediums - verbal, written, and even images.  People expand their ability to communicate by learning different languages and using translation systems to ensure their words are delivered.  Due to the internet, we have the ability to speak to people all over the world instantly. How Awesome!!  Is it?

It is if we are able to share our words in love.  As Paul so richly describes, when our words are shared without love, they turn into a "resounding gong or clanging cymbal", neither of which are music to our ears. As I move through my day, I need to remember this.  If my words are not filled with love, are they hurtful?  If my words are not filled with love, are they worth saying?  If my words are not filled with love, am I truly aspiring to be like Jesus?  

Let's take a few moments during these next few weeks to re-evaluate our words.  Let's stop and think before we speak.  Are our words filled with God's Love??  If not, we can risk our words being heard like clanging cymbals.  I don't know about you, but I know I don't want my words to be heard like that - and I know I have some work to do!!  Let's pray that our words are filled with God's Love!!

Dearest Jesus, you gave Paul the wonderful words of 1 Corinthians 13.  As we explore these words during the next few weeks, grant us the wisdom to see these words through Paul's eyes, through YOUR eyes.  May we learn where we can improve and may we, with your help, take the necessary steps to move forward in your grace.  In your name we pray, Jesus.  Amen!!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Hand of Help

"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you."  Isaiah 41:13  (NIV)

The other day while in the grocery store I saw a mom and a young child holding hands while walking down one of the aisles.  I looked at the little one's hand cuddled so safely in the mother's hand and it brought me back to memories of when my children, when they were young, would search for my hand to walk with.  Yes, I do cherish those days.

What led up to the mom and child holding hands was a short moment when the mother, looking up at the shelves for a special item, took her hand away from the child.  You could see the child look around, wondering where the safety net had disappeared to.  The smile on the child's face when the mother's hand reconnected with the child was truly precious.  The hand of help was there and you  could actually see the relief in the child's face.

It not only reminded me of times when my young children would hold my hand, but also the days when, as an adult, I needed to hold someone's hand.  Times were difficult.  There was much to be concerned about.  My chemo treatments, dad's failing health, and relationships that seemed to be breaking apart.  The nights were the worst.  It seemed like I could handle juggling all the balls during the day, but the nights . . .

The nights had my thoughts drifting to horrible scenarios.  I thought of all the "what ifs" of my life.  What if the chemo didn't work?  What if my dad didn't make it?  What if my relationships couldn't be repaired?  Those thoughts would drive many sleepless nights and many heart palpitations.  During the middle of the night there were no family/friends to call and nobody to reach out to.  Except . . .

Except for the one hand that is always reaching to hold my hand - to hold your hand.  Jesus was always there with a hand of help.  He was always there to listen to my heart, to hear my cry.  On the darkest of nights, Jesus was there.  I may never understand why all those things happened in my life - especially what seemed right on top of each other.  Yet, I do understand that I was never alone.  Jesus was there with his hand of help.  

Know that Jesus is there for you as well.  His hand extends to you in your deepest despair.  As you try to sleep at night, He is sitting at the bedside with you, holding your hand.  As you struggle through the day, He is holding your hand as you sit by a sick loved one or struggle through a work project.  As you question the "what ifs" of your own life, He is there for you - holding your hand and letting you know that He loves you.  Remember this as you go through your days.  Your hand of help is only one thought away - let Jesus hold your hand and bring you to safety.

Dearest Savior, thank you for extending your hand of help each and every moment of the day - and of the evening.  Let me be reminded that when times get tough, your hand will safely guide me to peace.  Let me be reminded that your hand is also available when the days of joy surround me.  May I also, Jesus, extend  my hand to help those in need.  In your name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stretching Your Soul

"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes."  Isaiah 54:2 (NIV)

Hard to believe it is New Year's Eve already!  It seems as if the years pass by more quickly the older I get.  This is also the same time that I typically start thinking about personal goals for the next year.  Yes, always on my list is getting a bit more fit and eating better (that REALLY needs to be a priority this year).  I have let my fitness goals go to the wayside as I prepared for the holidays and it's time to make time for it in my day. 

I find that one of the greatest ways for me to feel a bit more fit is by stretching.  It seems to get this tired body moving.  As I continue stretching, I can see the progress as I can stretch just a little bit farther than the last time.  I have to share, I'll be starting with small stretches this new year - got a way to go to "touch my toes".

One of the areas that I also need to stretch is my soul, my faith.  As I think back on the last few months, I believe this is also an area I need to concentrate on - and I plan to put it at the TOP of my list!!  Probably many of us walk through our days with the same routines.  If you are like me, I need to put Jesus in the beginning of my day, as other things seem to float to the top as my day moves on, making it hard to find "faith" time.  The question becomes, what other things are more important than Jesus?  As I reflected on this, I realize it isn't those "things" that are more important, it is where I am putting those things in place of time with Jesus.

I started thinking about things that we can do to give Jesus not just my TIME, but my SOUL.  Where can I make improvements in my time with Jesus.  Let's take a look at a few:

  • Pick up a devotion.  During Christmas, I walked through a great little book I found on Christmas devotions.  Short stories along with Bible verses that began my day.  There are so many devotion opportunities - even ones that you can download to your phone and take with you anywhere!  It's time for me to find one to END my day with - not just begin my day.  How about you - maybe there is time for some devotion in your day?
  • Try a Bible study.  There may be opportunities at your local church for a Bible study with other parishioners.  It's always nice to sit around the table and discuss different areas of the Bible.  Also available are online Bible studies which provide you the opportunity to do a Bible study from the comfort of your own home in your own time.  I know I always can learn more about Jesus through studying His word.  
  • Prayer time with friends.  Prayer is an area I know I need to strengthen.  I seem to "fit it in"my day versus making specific time for it.  I usually talk with God on my way to work - during my commute.  Yet, where I find that prayer can be so impactful is when you write down what you are praying for and watch God in action!  I need to make a stretch in this area.  Maybe find a friend and pray together for all the needs you are aware of.  "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them."  Matthew 18:20
  • Immerse in worship.  Sometimes, we can go to worship on Sundays as another item to check off the list.  Yep, attended church - I'm good!  I am sure that is NOT the way God wants us to attend worship.  It can be difficult to walk into church with a clear mind.  We all have so much on our minds these days.  I do know that when I make an effort in this area, my connection to our Lord is so much stronger - it is strengthened.  I am going to recommit to leaving my cluttered mind at the door of the sanctuary - and enter God's home with a clear mind.  
  • Open the Bible.  I will never forget some time back when the children were smaller.  I found one of my daughter's sitting on her bed one day after school, with her Bible open.  I asked what she was doing.  She said that she had a hard day at school and wanted to feel better.  "Is there a particular verse you are reading?" I asked.  She stated, "No, just reading whatever I open to makes me feel better."  Isn't that the truth!  Open the Bible - God takes us to where we need to go.
I know I have a great deal of stretching to do - and certainly not just physically.  I want to have a closer relationship to Jesus.  I want to be the Christian girl he wants me to be.  I want to show him how very much I love him.  So let's "lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes" by stretching ourselves.  Happy New Year!

"Heavenly Father, stretching our muscles is great for us, but stretching our souls can be greater!  Help us to focus on stretching ourselves to have a greater relationship with you and to share your love with others.  Bring our minds to you not just in times of trouble but in daily connection - stretching towards your love.  In your holy name we pray, Amen!"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Humbleness of Jesus

"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."  Luke 2:7 (KJV)

Here we are on Christmas Eve.  The final entry in our Advent series this year brings us to the one with the greatest of humility, Jesus.  Every year, as we read the Christmas story, I am still amazed by the way our Dear Lord entered this world.  Yes, a carpenter was His earthly father and a young virgin His mother.   That was humble enough, wasn't it?  Couldn't Mary have given birth in the comfort of her own home with her mother by her side?  Couldn't Kings have called Mary to their palaces so she could give birth to the King of Kings in comfort?  None of that was God's plan.  He brought Mary and Joseph to the humbleness of the manger.

As we know, it wasn't just Jesus' BIRTH that was of humble state, but all of Jesus' life, there was the greatest of humbleness.  He, the King of Kings, could have had anything he wanted and lived a life of luxury while on earth.  Yet, He lived a simple upbringing, walked more than he rode, ate from what people gave Him, lived among the sinners, preached from a boat, and died on a cross.  Many times, people will ask "If He really was the King of Kings, why didn't He live a life more conducive of royalty?"  He certainly could have, but He lived that life for YOU and for ME.  Yes, for each and every person that was, is and will be.  

Jesus' humble life is a wonderful example for all of us.  He never "longed for more".  We all aspire to live a life that resembles that of our Dear Lord.  He provides us with the "playbook" to move forward in this direction.  How can we be more humble like Jesus?
  • Be satisfied, and more yet grateful, for all the things we have been blessed with.  Let us not long for "more" things, but be happy with what we have.
  • Eat of what we have, not longing for more.  God will provide everything that we need, even with our daily needs of food and water.
  • Preach of Jesus from wherever we are.  Let us not "long for the perfect time", to tell family and friends of the love of Jesus.  Every opportunity is the perfect time.
  • Remember that we are all sinners.  Our lives are not perfectly lived and neither are the lives of those around us.  May we remember that our "longing for more" perfect family members and friends is not where our hearts should take us.  Each person is perfect in God's sight.
I love the picture of the cross in the manger.  It so beautifully brings together Jesus' birth and death - helping to remind me that ALL of it was for ME!!  The truest and greatest gift of all!

This journey of humbleness reminds me that I have much to do in my life in this area.  From the letting go of pride like the wise men, to the humbleness of obeying and commitment from Joseph, to the humbleness of servitude of Mary; it all culminates in the life of humbleness from Jesus.  On this Christmas Eve, may we begin to live our lives with humble hearts in honor of the King of Kings - our very own Savior, Jesus.

"Dearest Jesus, may our hearts continue to turn to you as our guide to a life filled with humility.  You  so greatly showed us, through your life and those that you touched, the riches that come from being humble.  As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we remember to be humble, to live as you lived, in humility, in commitment, in servitude and in love.  In your greatness name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Humbleness of Mary

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Luke 2:19 (NIV)

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had many of the "memory" posts from Facebook come up on my social media feed.  Almost each one of them has to do with me posting items about my children and me being proud of them.  I don't think there is a parent around that doesn't take an opportunity to proudly share with others the accomplishments of their children.  I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing.  I love to hear parents speak about their kids and all the great things they have done.  Likewise, I also like to chat about my children with others, too.

Is there something wrong with that?  Well, when I look at the paragraph above, I certainly see the word "proud" mentioned multiple times.  Should I be "checking" my proud moments at the door?  I do if I want to live a life of humility.  It is certainly okay to be feel proud of the achievements of your children, but what if I take that too far - what if I share those moments without listening to that of others?  I am sure there have been times when that has happened.  

Yet, if there is someone that had good reason to be proud of her child and share it with everyone, it was Mary.  Think about this.  Mary could have handled the entire situation from a different point of view.  When people were mocking her and shaming her, she could have shared, "Go ahead, you don't know who you are messing with!" or "Wait until you see what MY child is going to do."  Mary doesn't do ANY of that.  Although Mary had plenty of opportunity, she takes on a state of humility enveloped in servitude.  From the very beginning when she had that meeting with the angel, she accepted her role as a servant of God.  She lived the life of humbleness even after Jesus' death.

Mary is an incredible example of how to live a life of humility.  Mary never used the birth of the world's savior to her advantage.  In fact, she continued to live a life that was filled with serving God.  From Jesus' birth to Jesus' death, Mary served her son as the God that He was.  There are many actions that show Mary's humility.  Yet, the greatest of those, I believe, is the verse for today.  She pondered all that was said about Jesus' birth in her heart.  She didn't scream them from the mountaintops.  She didn't post it on the local social media.  She didn't send out her own messenger to tell the town of Bethlehem all that was happening in their little town.  Mary didn't fill her self with pride, but filled her heart with joy and servanthood.

The lessons are long on what we can do to emulate Mary in our lives.  Today's lesson is the greatest she gives us, the lesson of humility through servitude.  As we go through not just this Christmas season, but through our lives, may we ponder Mary in our hearts.  May we know that a life filled with humility is a great gift to our Savior Jesus.

Savior Jesus, please help me to have a heart of humility, like Mary.  May my life be one of servitude to you and to those that surround me.  Replace pride with humility and an opportunity to give to those around me.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Humbleness of Joseph

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."  Matthew 1:24 (NIV)

Welcome to the second Sunday in Advent.  As we continue our series of Christmas Humbleness, we move to Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.  Joseph is someone who truly amazed me.  There is little written of Joseph in the Bible past the Christmas story.  Yet, here we learn much about this truly humble man.

Throughout the Christmas story, Joseph had to deal with many "curve balls".  Mary becomes pregnant prior to their marriage.  Joseph makes a decision to quietly divorce her (humble decision?).  In those days it was.  He didn't want to disgrace her, which was typical in these types of situations.  Joseph refuses pride and humbles himself to protect Mary.

Then there was the dream when the angel tells Joseph that he needs to continue with the marriage, that the son of Mary is Immanuel.  Joseph humbles himself and obeys God's word, taking Mary as his wife.  Joseph's life probably would have been easier if he had gone through with the decision to divorce her - he would have been free from the public humility he endured.  Yet, he knew that wasn't God's plan, so he obediently followed.

Joseph also obeys as they go to Bethlehem to be registered, and is at Mary's side as she takes that journey with him.  He doesn't abandon Mary and leave her behind.  Through all of this, Joseph stands up in humility and does the right thing - by Mary and by God.  

Later, Joseph wonders what he would actually teach Jesus - the son of God.  After all, Joseph was a simple carpenter and wasn't, in actuality, Jesus' father.  Joseph could have left at any time.  Joseph could have moved on.  Yet, that wasn't Joseph.  He brought to this world a picture of humility that stays with us today.

In Joseph, we see the humility of helping others, although the position we take may not be a popular one.  In Joseph, we see the humility of obeying, although obeying God's word may not be the popular one.  In Joseph, we see the humility of commitment, staying with Mary and Jesus long past the birth.  In Joseph, we see the humble man that God chose to be Jesus' earthly father.  

What can we learn from Joseph?  Being humble means obeying God's word through a commitment of helping others.  Joseph is our ultimate example of doing this.  In our every day lives, our opportunity to do this may be greater than we think.  Read God's word - see what He shares about us living out His word.   Find those that need to feel God's love and may we move forward in this love, even if it isn't the most "popular" thing to do.  Our opportunities are endless, as is God's love.  Through God, we are able to live a life of humbleness.  The most important thing to remember is that in all actions, the glory goes to God, not to ourselves.  At any time, Joseph could have proclaimed himself as Jesus' father, "Look at me, the father of the Savior of the World".  Yet, Joseph didn't do this.  Through his humbleness, he did so much more - he provided the image of humbleness to God.  May we do the same.

Dearest Jesus:  Your earthly father, Joseph, is a wonderful picture of humbleness.  Through his obedience to God, he lived this out through his actions that we read in the Christmas Story.  May we also show that level of humbleness in our daily actions - ensuring that all glory goes to you.  In your blessed name we pray, Amen. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Humbleness of the Wise Men

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."  Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

We are upon another Advent season.  Each year, they seem to come sooner and sooner.  There are an abundant amount of reasons why Advent is a favorite time of year for me.  The greatest is that it is time for us to slow down and focus - focus on what is truly important.  As we light our first advent candle, the candle of Hope, this Advent season I will be focusing on the humbleness of those in the Christmas Story.  Today, I begin with the wise men.

There are many conflicting stories of who these three men were.  Kings?  Intellects?  Scientists?  Regardless of their particular background, it is safe to say that they were important men of their time.  Men who weren't of a servant nature.  Men who had living arrangements that were above average.  Men who were revered by others.  They were definitely a higher social stature.  As they set out on their journey, little did they know what they would find - and where they would find it.

As the wise men searched for the newborn king, as they followed the star, I can only imagine what was going through their minds.  They were looking for a newborn king.  Although the star was their guiding path, I would assume they would think there were also looking for a place where a newborn king would reside.  Weren't they surprised.  Yet, with all that they had, and all that they were, when they saw the newborn king, Jesus, they "bowed down and worshiped him."  Imagine, for a moment, kings of our nations today possibly bowing down in a lowly place for a newborn king.  Doesn't seem possible, does it?  Yet, these three wise men did just that.  They humbled themselves to the glory of our newborn king, Jesus.  They forgot about their intellect, their high social stature, the people who revered them, and they got down on bended knee to worship a child.  That picture of humbleness is beautiful.

During this Advent season, may we learn from those that were humble that first Christmas.  From the wise men we can learn much.  It didn't matter to them what their place was in the world, it was more important to be humble and bow down before Jesus.  The same is so true for us.  Regardless of our particular background, it is our time to bow down before Jesus.  May the pride that we might have in our lives for our intellect, our material items and our social stature be released to humble ourselves for the true king.  May we "bow down and worship him", and help others to see the awesomeness of the newborn king this Christmas season.  Take time to find ways to worship the True King this Advent Season.  I hope to start by reading and re-reading the Christmas story.  I always find something new and amazing each time I read it.  Let's remember to leave our "wealth" to the side and humble ourselves to Jesus and to each other.  When we look at the world through humble eyes, we see such great gifts - like the unconditional love of our Savior.  Blessings to all on this first Advent Sunday.

Dearest Jesus, help us to be humbled to you and to each other as the wise men humbled themselves that first Christmas.  Let us leave the pride of everyday life behind and may we rest our hearts close to yours as we bow down before you in the manger.  Help us, Jesus, to be more like the wise men as we approach each day.  In your heavenly Christmas name we pray, Amen.

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.