Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hard Working Hands

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

I was about to start typing today on another subject as I looked down at my hands.  Oh my, the wrinkles were starting to show.  Yes, there are other parts of my body that ache and remind me that I am not a spring chicken anymore.  Yet, my hands seemed to show my age today.

I thought about my hands for a long time.  What they have seen over the years.  My hands learned how to take shorthand while I was in high school.  They learned how to type (yes, on an old typewriter).  My hands played piano on my parent's baby grand.  As I entered adulthood, they took exams in college and applied for new jobs.  They adorn a wedding ring and hold my husband's hand with love.  They have also tended to a garden rich in vegetables.  Hands have a way of serving us when we least expect it. My hands have served me well.

Yes, there have been many other things my hands have done.  They have stroked foreheads of others that were in pain.  My hands have also held others' hands in support and grabbed tissues for many tears (mine and others).  They have rubbed feet that were aching and have changed many diapers. My hands have been lifted up to God in joy and have been folded in prayer.  Hands have a way of serving others when we least expect it.  My hands have served others.

Can we serve others better with our hands and hard work?  As we go through our days, see how we might be able to serve someone else with our hands.  Maybe we can make a meal for someone home bound.  Perhaps we can do yard work for others or hold their hands in support.  I truly believe the greatest way we can serve others with our hands is to have them folded in prayer.  There is always someone we can lift up to God in prayer.

Have our hands served in the way Jesus has served us?  When I think of hands, I can't help but think of Jesus' pierced hands on the cross.  Reflect on how many hands he held in his life on earth, how many times His hands touched others in healing, how many times they were folded in prayer.  Jesus' hands are truly hands of a servant and are a wonderful example of the hard work our hands can see.  

Take a look at your hands.  Think about the things your hands have done over the years.  What joys have they embraced?  What tears of sorrow they have wiped away.  What prayers they have lifted to our Heavenly Father.  I'm sure when you reflect upon your hands you will also see that they have served us and others well.  Continue the hard work of your hands, for as Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Here are to the blessings of hard-working hands!!

Dearest Jesus, your hands are certainly the shining example of hard-working hands.  May we reflect upon the good works your hands have done and all that they have given us.  May we take that example and use it to drive us to have hard-working hands for others, for we know the blessings that can be received.  Into your hands we give our lives, Amen!"

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shining Star

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."  Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

One of my favorite memories as a child was when my dad would take us outside at night and we would look to the heavens.  He taught us how to find the Big Dipper and how to appreciate the wonder of the nighttime sky.  I remember looking up into the sky and thinking that those stars were shining just for me.  The other evening, I had that same feeling.  I looked up to the sky and saw stars that were flickering and those that shined brightly.

That moment made me reflect on the type of star "I" am.  Am I a star that flickers or do I shine brightly?  There are many references in the Bible that compare our Christian behavior to that of a bright star.  I want to be the star that shines brightly among the heavens, but I have to admit that many times, I am a flickering star.  

Each day I wake up with the determination that my light will shine brightly for my Savior, Jesus.  Yet, by the end of the day, my greatest determinations fall short.   There are opportunities for me to say more about Jesus than I do.  There are moments for prayer that I miss.  There are times for repentance that I gloss over.  Yes, although I want my star to shine, it many times flickers.  Can you relate?  Do you have moments that go from shining star to flickering star?  What are we to do?

We begin at the place where we shine brightest, in the word of God.  May we turn to God's word to find out how we can become like "those who are wise will shine like the brightness of heaven."  When we find ourselves in God's word, we fully understand the greatness of God's love, His divine Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness that Jesus provides.  Deeply immersing ourselves in the richness of God's word will create a shining star in us so great that it won't have time to flicker.  

We can also worship with each other in grand fellowship.  Sharing our gaps with each other and building each other up can send us into the world with great brightness.  Let us not forget the power of prayer.  Talking to Jesus can send my heart soaring - knowing that He is listening just to me!!  Can't help but be excited when I know I have his total attention (and He has MY attention).  Together, we ignite a shining star so bright it's hard to flicker.

So when we feel like our star isn't shining as brightly as it could, help us to dive into the Word, link arms in fellowship and fold hands in prayer.  When we pursue the immense power of God and His love, our star won't flicker and fade.  It will persevere and grow stronger in light.  Remember, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine; Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine."

Heavenly Father, so many times I want to be the Shining Star for you.  Yet, I know my thoughts and deeds fall short to a small flickering star.  Please guide me to gain the light that only YOU can give to me.  Fill me up, Jesus, so my star shines brighter than ever before - each and every day.  Provide to me your everlasting love.  In your glorious name I pray, Amen!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What I Deserve


I try to go through life living it in a way that is deserving of God's love.  I try to treat people with respect and love.  I try to give more than I sometimes have, both in energy, time and possessions.  I try to love and be kind regardless of the circumstances.  I try . . . .  I typically feel that I do my very best and that is what God asks of me, until I read this verse this past week.

I've read this verse before, so why did it home for me this time?  Maybe it was the circumstances during the week, the people I met and the situations I was in.  Maybe it was my frame of mind.  Maybe it was the condition of my heart.  Quite frankly, it didn't matter WHY as much as it matters NOW.  Whatever the reason for this to touch my heart, God wanted me to see this in a different light.  And It Worked!!

I don't know about you, but I have taken how I handle my life, my conduct and my thoughts, as though God was okay with my daily activities.  Yet, this verse, at this time, made me realize the important thought, "Am I REALLY trying?"  Am I really having the thoughts that God wants me to have?  Am I really conducting myself in the manner that He chooses?  The most important thought, "Can I do better?"  Before last week, I might have said, "I do pretty well".  After evaluating myself, as God asks us to do, I can truthfully say, "I Can Do Better"!  What does better look like?  For me, it was in a variety of areas:
  • Words - the words that came out of my mouth were not always words of encouragement or love.  Sometimes, the bitterness of sarcasm came out.  Sometimes, it was the chastising words of criticism.  Sometimes, the words that were spoken were said without a lot of thought, and could cause heartache.  My words can be better.
  • Thoughts - the thoughts that run through my mind aren't always nice.  I used to tell myself, "At least those thoughts didn't come out of my mouth", but we all know that God doesn't see it that way.  My thoughts could lead to a negative change in my behavior and in my actions.  My thoughts could be better.
  • Deeds - the actions I take aren't always selfless.   Many times, my actions can be selfish - because it is what "I" want the way "I" want it.  I can try to justify those actions as "I know best", but do I?  Could my actions be driving people away versus inviting them in?  My deeds could be better.
Yes, the bottom line is that I could be better.  With self reflection, I realized that my words, thoughts, and deeds were not necessarily always pleasing to God.  I might have felt as if I deserved more, but in turn, God was truly giving me what I deserved.  A sight of self reflection, although truthful and difficult at times, is the sight that God wants us to have.  In the sight of self reflection comes the richest gift and what we so deeply deserve, God's forgiveness.

I may try, and I can do better, but the bottom line is that I will never reach God's expectations.  I will never be that person He may want me to be.  Yet, he loves me so much, that He is willing to look past all my flaws, all my hopeless attempts or even my lack of attempts, to say to me, "Susan, I love you.  Your hard work and belief in me will continue to yield a home in heaven."  I don't know about you, but I need to hear those words.  I need to know He will always be there for me. 

My deeds may not always be rewarded the way I think they should be rewarded.  Yet, I do believe that with some self-reflection and attempts to do better, God will give me the greatest reward - a place with Him in heaven.  Therefore, I will continue to strive to be better and live with His promise of forgiveness and love.   Care to join me?

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the words of the Bible that help us to reflect on the person you want me to be.  Help me to continue to work on being better, in my thoughts, words and deeds.  When I falter, I ask for your forgiveness.  Remind me that your grace, mercy and love will always be with me.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Enduring Love

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." 
1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)

Love let me down.  When you get married, you expect it to last a lifetime, at least I did.  So with high expectations and a vision of my future at the age of 24, I got married.  It wasn't everything I had hoped for.  Yes, there were good times, but there were very difficult times.  Thirteen years later, love was no more.  I blamed me.  I blamed him.  I questioned God - A LOT.  I couldn't understand why God would let that happen, why he would let me suffer and let my family suffer - A LOT.  It didn't seem right, and it certainly didn't seem fair.

Divorce can be difficult, and stressful, and just down right miserable.  It was truly one of the most horrible times in my life.  Yet, it's not just the love of a spouse going wrong that can be difficult.  Maybe it is the love of a child or of a parent that has let you down.  Maybe it is the love of a friend.  All of these scenarios can cause us to question love.  I know that when I started questioning why love was eluding me, I turned my questions to God.  

I wasn't questioning God in a doubtful way, just a "I don't understand your plan" way.  I didn't doubt that He had a plan for me, but I wasn't quite getting it.  I used the time when love seemed far away to ask God what I was supposed to learn from all of this.  In doing so, I grew closer to God.  I may not have been getting answers to my "love dilemma", but I was getting answers about me.  I began to see where my gaps were, and where I needed to gain strength.  My strength needed to come from God, not from man.  My love needed to come from God, not from man.  When I realized this, my eyes were opened.

Think about this for a few minutes with me.  Undoubtedly, God has provided you an opportunity at some time in your life to evaluate earthly love.  Those times can be seen as difficult and heart wrenching times, but usually these times are in our paths for a reason.  They are, what I like to call, learning moments.  We don't see them as learning moments at the time, yet, months or years down the road, God helps us to yield learning moments.  Look back upon your life, where gaps of love may have occurred.  Chances are, you have grown in those moments.  Maybe you are in one of those moments now.  How do you fill that gap?

With the only love that will endure forever, God's love.  God's love is there regardless of when earthly love may have let you down.  God's love fills the gaps.  God's love blankets you every day.  God's love is with you to eternity.  God's love is constant, good, and right.  God's love will never let you down.  While you are working through your learning moments, lean on the love that will always be with you, God's love.

After love let me down, God provided me with the greatest blessing, a love that I could have never imagined could be.  God sent me my husband Juan.  Twelve years ago today, we blended our families and our love under God's watchful eye.  God has blessed us every day.  Yes, there have been times when life provided challenges.  Yet, our love was not challenged - it is good, right and strong.  I believe God took my learning moment and turned it into a wonderful gift.  I now can appreciate a marriage full of love and joy.  Take your learning moments, the time when love may have let you down.  Know that you have the love of a Heavenly Father who is with you always.  He will provide for you exactly what you need - remember - He knows the plan.

Dearest God, thank you for providing us with a love that endures forever.  When earthly love may let us down, help us to learn from those moments.  May we turn to you and your love to bring us up and move us forward.  You love us, God, far more than we can love ourselves or each other.  Help us to always remember that.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It Was Time

"The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"
Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

It was time; my husband and I just stopped.  Continuing to move forward would have resulted in turmoil on many different levels.  Closed eyes, deep breaths, limp limbs - it was what was needed.  It was time to rest.  

As you know, I am a planner.  Many times it can be used for good results.  Other times, it can be detrimental.  My mind and my actions keep me moving - and in turn for my wonderful husband, he keeps step with me.  Maybe we aren't sharing the same projects, but we will find projects to do all the same.  The last six months, after our return from our Costa Rican vacation, have been exhausting.  Working full time plus jobs, and Juan changing jobs, is enough on its own.  Add some family responsibilities along with the usual chores, well that's some more.  The topping on the cake has been the numerous projects we have taken on, renovating our bathroom by ourselves, lots of painting, new flooring, etc.  Well, you can picture it.

I'm sure you can picture it because you have been there as well.  Constant movement, constant responsibilities, constant pressure - with no time for rest.  Moving from one project to one responsibility to another project - it all can be very exhausting.  Add into the mix all of the things to "think about" while this is going on, and neither mind or body can rest.  We think that is the best thing for all of us.  Keep ourselves busy.  Get stuff done.  Yet, that can hurt, both mind and body.  God didn't design us for constant pressure - God designed us to get rest.

There are so many examples of this when we read the Bible.  Of course, the obvious, that God himself rested on the seventh day after Creation.  There are also other times, as we read through stories in the Bible where people rested, under trees, with family, after battle.  So what makes us think we are any better than them?  Our verse for today is clear that when we rest, God is still with us.  When I think of our Heavenly Father, I see Him with me when I am doing something - worshiping, praying, working, serving, etc.  I typically don't see Him with me when I'm resting.

God wants us to rest.  God wants us to get rejuvenated and prepare ourselves for further service to Him and others.  Future service can only come when our minds are clear and our bodies are fresh.  Resting can be hard.  That seems like an anomaly, but it is true - at least for me.  To sit and do nothing, clear my mind and body, can be difficult - at first.  Yet, when I give myself time to do this, it is completely restful.  Today, when I rested, I thought of God saying, "That a girl!"  He's with me, even as I rest.

Take time this summer to rest.  Put the projects aside for a little while.  Leave the problem solving for another day.  Enjoy this world God gave us.  Sit on your front porch (as I did this afternoon), your balcony, your back stoop, your favorite couch cushion.  Gain a day for rest - with your family, by yourself - just rest.  Know that God WANTS this for you, for me, for us.  Rest, and know God is with you.

"Dearest God, we thank you for giving us words that help us understand that we need to rest.  The constant pressures of this life can lead to constant movement, constant thinking and constant stress.  Help us and be with us, God, as we purposefully take time to rest.  Restore us, strengthen us, and enliven us through this rest so we may continue to share glory to you.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Words of Truthful Instruction

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."
Lamentations 3:32 (NIV)

We all know how powerful words can impact us.   Words can cut us deeper and have greater wounds than any knife.  Words can also build us up so we feel we are flying on a cloud.  During the past few weeks, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about the impact of words.  As I listen to people discuss situations, both at home and at work, I think about the meaning behind the words that are being shared.  During my time of reflection, I thought about what types of words I was hearing - and many of them felt as if they were words of instruction

This reflection took me to my dad.  He was a great man filled with joy, love, and faith.  His words, whether written or spoken, were always truthful.  Sometimes they were meant for comfort.  Sometimes they were meant for instruction. Yet, always they were filled with the truth.  As we were growing up, many times the truthful instruction could be painful.  My parents were more strict than others.  Each time I embarked on asking to do something that was out of our family's scope, it was met with the same answer - NO.  After being disappointed by not being able to do what others were doing, I just stopped asking.  It wasn't worth the disappointment.  

Of course, there were also the times when Daddy had no problem sharing truthful instruction, especially if I did something wrong.  That always was met with a "louder" voice, ensuring I received the message.  You get the point.  Again, it would make me sad, partly because I disappointed my dad, the other part because the "loud voice" was never a good thing.

Then, I found our verse for today.  Certainly as I grew older, I realized that when my dad would come to me with truthful instruction, it was because he cared.  That level of caring and love comes with a level passion.  Daddy didn't want me to make mistakes like he did.  Daddy wanted my life to be good and faith driven.  His purpose in doing that was his unfailing love.  No matter how bad the deed, he was still there.  His love was in His words and deeds.

Sounds a bit like our Heavenly Father, doesn't it?  Through His word, He provides us truthful instruction - ensuring that our lives are guided to the path and journey HE wants us to be on.  Yes, sometimes, the path we want to take is not the path God has planned for us.  Many times, that is when His words may seem louder than usual.  Yet, He does this not to make us feel guilty for our sins - remember Jesus took those all away for us.  He does that to help us hear the instruction He has for us.  Let's face it - somebody needs to tell us the truth and NOBODY does that better than Jesus!!

Words of truthful instruction, regardless of where they come from, can make us "grieve", feel bad, or even get angry.  Yet, let us take time when we get those words and maybe, just maybe, we can see that the instruction is coming from a place of unfailing love by the person sharing those words with us. That type of instruction is always a gift.  

"Heavenly Father, I ask that you help me to truly listen when you share words of truthful instruction.  Let me be reminded that they come from a place of love and caring, and that those words are for my benefit.  Take the guilt and anger away and replace it with reflection and hope.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen."












Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unsung Hero - Abigail

"Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, "Go home in peace.  I have heard your words and granted your request."  1 Samuel 25:35 (NIV)

"Keep the peace"!  How many times have we heard those words throughout our lifetime.  They can range in context anywhere from two siblings quarreling to armies battling.  I think as adults, we often do many things to try to "keep the peace".  Most people prefer harmony versus arguing.  What does keeping the peace look like?  Well, it could be one person putting aside their opinion of an argument so as not to let the argument continue.  It may be another person not bringing something up that could cause an argument.  Or it could be someone who intervenes to stop a battle from brewing.  

Hence we come upon Abigail.  Abigail's story is one of courage, yet humility.  She does something very brave to "keep the peace.  Her story involves her husband Nabal and King David (yes, the David and Goliath David).  David is now King and helped out Nabal's servants one time - ensuring their safety and well-being.  When David sent his servants to Nabal to ask the same of him, he answered with an emphatic, "NO" (very ungrateful guy).  As you can imagine, David, along with his many troops, didn't take this answer lightly and decided they were going to wreck havoc with Nabal. 

Along comes Abigail.  Nabal's servants went to Abigail.  They shared the goodness David had provided them and didn't believe Nabal was being fair.  They also shared that a battle was brewing.  Abigail gathered many provisions (wine, bread, sheep, grain, cakes, etc.) and she went behind Nabal's back to bring them to David and company - in order to keep the peace.  When she got to where David was, she offered a humble apology for her husband and gave him all the "goodies" she brought along.  It was then that David shared the words that are above - "Go Home in Peace."  

Abigail walked out in faith and courage to keep peace.  She didn't do it for the glory or the praise.  Remember, she did this behind her husband's back.  Abigail stepped out for peace.  How many times have we done the same?  As a parent, we may sometimes help our spouse to see things from our child's perspective to keep the peace.  As a child, we may help our parents see things from a sibling's perspective to keep the peace.  Outside of the home, it may also happen at work.  Helping to share information or feedback in order to help keep peace.  Typically, we don't do this expecting praise or thanks.  We step out in faith to keep the peace.

This type of stepping out is such a wonderful example of simple faith.  It takes faith in God that He will help the peace be lived out.  God was with Abigail as she approached David.  God is with us when we approach conflict.  He is there to help us keep the peace.  God granted David the words, "Go home in peace," to Abigail.  He says the same to you and me. "Go home in peace, Susan."  I don't know about you, but those words are truly the only praise I need to hear.

There is an ending to Abigail's story.  Upon her return home, her husband was in a drunken stupor.  So she waited until the morning and told him everything she had done.  As the Bible shares, "his heart failed him" and ten days later he died.  When David heard that, he asked Abigail to become his bride - and she did.  Isn't that the same for us?  When we are able to try and keep the peace, God blesses us.  It could be with the peace that we were hoping for.  It could be with greater understanding of the other party.  It could be with His love.  Chances are - keeping the peace can bring all three!  

The next time you think about "keeping the peace", remember our gal Abigail and the courage and humility she showed, and the grace that was granted to her.  Simple faith can bring simple peace.

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the example of Abigail.  As she showed us, simple faith in you and courage to step out helped to keep the peace and saved many lives.  Help us to be like Abigail, keeping the peace, and may your love shine upon us.  In you peaceful 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.