Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Old and The New

Yes, it is that time of year again.  I am not sure about all of you out there, but this is when I say to myself, "I can't believe the year passed so quickly."  As 2013 started out, I had many lofty goals that I wanted to achieve - many things that I wanted to improve - many things I wanted to get done.  As with every year, some of them have been accomplished and some of them have not.  Think with me over the past year.  What were some of the things that you wanted to change, improve, do differently, achieve??  Was it a good year for that?

There were the things I always have on my list - I was going to lose weight, exercise more, and be healthier.  I will share - that was one that didn't happen this year.  I was going to overhaul my wardrobe and come into this century.  Nope, that didn't happen this year either.  There were some wonderful things that I wanted to happen that did come to fruition, thanks be to our Dear Lord.  My mom had some very serious open heart surgery in the beginning of the year.  One of my goals was to try and help her to feel better - be there for her as she was so many times for me.  I tried, but the greatest blessing is that she is in tip top heart shape now - and could probably run circles around all of us.  The Lord certainly was there for mom during her recovery - it was great to watch Him work in her.   

I also prayed to our Lord to get closer to Him this year, to gain perspective with my life and to give Him and His word the attention He so richly deserves.  I will always continue to work on this, as I believe I am always a work in progress.  Yet, this year found me less stressed about this life and much more at peace by bringing God's word more abundantantly into my life.  It was truly life-changing, and continues to be.  This new peace, this new desire to serve God in many different avenues, enriched my life  in so many ways.  The richness that comes from studying his word - whether it be with on-line friends or weekly with our dear friends from church - filled my soul and brought my life to a new level.  God truly gives us everything we need, in one place.  The answers to our questions about this life, a greater understanding of the life to come, peace when it is needed, and a friend when we are alone can all be found in The Bible.  It is all right there for us, each and every one of us.   It was a great year to move forward with the joy that is found in the pages of The Word!!  I have been richly blessed.

One of my greatest blessings this year was to be able to start this blog.  It was a result of participating more in-depth in an online Bible Study.  I knew nothing about "blogging", but with a quick lesson from my daughter and experimenting, I was able to start a lifelong goal of writing about our Lord.  Each week, I have looked forward to sharing thoughts, verses, and experiences with others.  As many of you responded back to me, I felt inspired to continue.  I thank each of you for reaching out and giving me the drive to continue this small method of ministry with you.  As the Dear Lord provides to me, I will share with you.  I never thought this would be something that I would be able to share, to actually DO, but once again, God had much bigger plans than I did - for that I will be eternally grateful.

Now, 2014 is right around the corner.  What might be on the horizon?  I believe the greatest journey I want to focus on is to continue the one that The Lord has mapped out for me.  He has given me a path to follow.  I want to follow HIS path, not mine.  I realize that when I follow His journey, my life is filled with joy, with peace, with love.  There is no discontent.  There is no emptiness.  There is no worrying about what other people are doing or are not doing.  I am only concerned about what I can do better for Him, and that's a great feeling.  How will I be doing this?  Getting stronger in The Word - continue with the Bible Studies - both online and around the kitchen table.  Getting stronger in my faith by interacting with those that fortify my love of The Lord.  I can't wait to see what He has in store for me!

What about you?  What does 2014 have in store for you?  I pray for each and every one of you who read this blog that the New Year finds you encouraged to do something different in the name of The Lord.  Maybe it is to join a Bible study.  Maybe it is to serve your church or local charity in a special way.  Maybe it is to bring your family a bit closer to God's love.  Maybe it is to strengthen your prayer life.  Whatever our Lord has in store for you, I guarantee you it will be a wonderful journey.   May the New Year bring you joy, good health and rich blessings.  God Bless You All!!

P.S. - Yes, I will try again to lose a few pounds and eat healthier too - I will let you know how that turns out in December, 2014!!

"As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him."  (NIV) Psalm 18:30

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Greatest Gift

Here it is,the final Sunday of Advent.  It is amazing to me how each and every Christmas, admist traditions and greatest desires to keep things "the same", each Christmas is different; different details, different circumstances, different relationships, just different.  In our home, it is a different Christmas this year.  One that includes me not being as "mobile" as I have been during other Christmases.  I felt the limiting effects of this throughout the season, and it precluded me from being able to keep some of our family traditions or things that I enjoy doing!!  I missed the hussle and bussle of doing my shopping among the masses, everything was ordered online this year.  I missed doing a lot of baking and sharing it with friends.  I missed driving in my car and singing to carols throughout the season.  I missed being able to pick up the poinsetta I always buy my mom and just dropping in with it to say, "I love you - Merry Christmas" and spend a few moments with her (sorry Mommy).   Yes, there were many things I missed this Advent season.

The greatest gift, though, is the same each and every year.  It never changes, it always is full of awe.  I won't miss it this year; I haven't missed it in past years, and I won't miss it in years ahead.  You see, the greatest and most constant gift that comes every Christmas, without fail and with much joy, is Jesus.  He is always there for us, no matter how different each Christmas may be.  He is there regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our details, regardless of our relationships - HE IS HERE!!  The great joy this brings my heart, and I hope brings your heart as well, makes up for all the "missed" things I wasn't able to do this year.  Our lives may be full of desires for traditions of the past, and making memories for the future.  That usually involves some sort of change that we may not always see during the moment.  Looking back upon those changes, we see the greatness of Jesus' presence in our Advent  season, and all that He brings us.

So for this, my last symbol to share with you the meaning of this Advent season, I'd like to share the nativity scene.  To me, it will always be the greatest symbol of Christmas.  Along with Christmas each year, I have been able to unfold a nativity scene each and every year regardless of where I called home. I have incredibly fond memories of being home as a child and waiting for my mom to take out the nativity scene.  Yes, when I was very young it was fun to "play" with, but as I grew older and better understood the Christmas story, the beauty of each and every piece meant so much.  The animals, the wise men, the shephards, Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus.  As I moved out of my childhood home and into my own, I bought a scene that I found to be beautiful and simple.  Today, our living room table is adorned by a nativity scene that was made by my mother, and a true familly heirloom.  As I sit and look at each piece, it is hard not to imagine what it was like that first Christmas.  What did the shephards think when the heavenly angels appeared?  What did Joseph think when the innkeeper said there was no room at the inn?  How did Mary feel holding the Savior of all men for the first time?  These questions fill my heart each Christmas as I look at the nativity scene; questions that bring my heart peace.

This Christmas, I wish everyone a Christmas filled with tradition and change, same and different, and ultimately, the peace that only Jesus, our Savior, can bring to each of us.  I thank everyone around me who has helped me through this Advent season.  Yes, I might have missed things, but I have been blessed with so much more.  Giving that has come in so many forms, from meals to cards to flowers; giving in the form of precious time; giving in the form of physical labor that many have endured for me (thanks so much Juan); giving in the form of patience and kindness.  To experience so much giving from others has humbled me greatly and has shown me Jesus in so many people's hearts.  To all my friends and my wonderful family, thank you, for showing me the true meaning of Christmas this year.  My love to all of you - 
Merry Christmas!! 

"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  (NIV)  Luke 2:7

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Passing the Light

The third Sunday of Advent.  My, how time is passing.  Here, in NH, we are waking up to a winter Wonderland this morning.  As I look out the window, there must be at least 10-12" of snow (with a light coating still falling).  There are many pictures of peace that I have been privileged to see over my 50 years, but I truly don't think much rivals the peace that comes watching the beauty of new-fallen snow.  Maybe it is the gentleness and grace of how it comes down (most of the times), maybe it is the pure white hue, maybe it is the picture of it not yet trodden on - a beautiful blanket.  I'm not sure, but there is a certain peace that pours into me when watching it.  As the peace filled me this morning, it is the same peace that I feel with my third symbol of Advent this week, the Christmas Eve candle.

Our family last night was sharing some of our favorite Christmas memories.  As we went around the table and shared special gifts that were chosen or received, times in our past when we woke up to splendor and wonder, or shared times with those who are now with our heavenly Father, it reminded me that nothing rivals each and every Christmas Eve Candle Light Service.  As I type these words, the memories come running back of so many of these services. 

I remember the church I grew up in, same candles as in the picture above.  As a small child, I anxiously awaited my turn to light my candle and hold it up so proudly, singing "Silent Night".  I would watch the flame and, even now as I remember, there was a sense of peace for a brief moment (for the anticipation of presents to come was certainly there).  Yet, that sense of calm.

As I grew up and was on my own, there was my church home now (which has grown over the years and has seen many locations for our Christmas Eve services).  Yet, each and every one had the candles shown above, the candles that seemed to bring that sense of peace.  Over those years, those Christmas Eves have come with great highs and lows - the birth of children and bringing them to their first service, family from afar joining us for services, new families being joined at these services or illness plaguing the times, or relationships that were broken, or other struggles.  Yes, there have been highs and lows as I would enter the church door.  But, when the candles were lit, the struggles went away, and the busy activity of the "perfect Christmas" went to the wayside for the moment of peace the candle brought.

The peace, I know, truly comes from the Christ Child that was born on that Eve so many years ago.  There is no doubt in my mind that when the light is lit and passed from person to person, when it reaches me, Jesus envelopes me with His true peace that can ONLY be provided by Him.  No other person, no other vision (not even newly fallen snow), can provide the true peace that our Savior provides for us.  The lit candle so boldly represents that peace.  

As we sing "Silent Night" each Christmas Eve, the tears flow.  They flow for many reasons; for those that cannot be with us but are singing so proudly in heaven, for those that are suffering, for the joy that I have in Jesus, the flow.  And I don't stop them - for they are my reminder of the peace that fills me up as they pour out.  Jesus never lets me down.  As we extinguish our candles, I'm filled to the brim, with the peace that brings me everlasting joy, everlasting life.  I pull from that moment many times throughout the year when I need it.  Once I year, I am rejuvenated by it.  Jesus lights our world, He brings us the promise of everlasting peace.

Whatever hardships we might be facing, whatever stressors have found their way into our lives, whatever joys we may have, we all need a time for perfect peace.  I encourage you, if you don't already, to find a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service to attend this year.  Find the peace that comes with lighting the candle.  Find the peace that Jesus gives JUST TO YOU!!  He is waiting to give His gift to you.  May your Advent season continue to be blessed with all that our Savior brings to us.  Christ the Lord is coming, He is coming soon - Alleluia~~

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (NIV)  John 8:12

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Show Your Stripes

The second Sunday of Advent.  We are getting closer - it is so exciting.  The anticipation of celebrating Christ's birth becomes ever more meaningful with each year. Maybe it is because I am getting older and certainly see things in a different light.  Maybe it is because as I get older, I enjoy reveling in a more simplified look of Christmas - one that focuses on Jesus more than anything else!! It hasn't always been that way.  My Advent season used to find me checking things off multiple lists that never seemed to end.  The "to do's" far outweighed the "take time".  

Often, we wonder why things happen in our lives.  That was certainly the case about 6 weeks ago when I broke my ankle and found myself unable to put any pressure on my foot.  Yet, for probably the first time in my life, I decided not to put a lot of thought in the "why".  I believed that there must have been a reason and that God was going to use this time for goodness.  He Has!!  I have realized that the shopping and such can be simplified (it's amazing what you can do from a laptop).  I always enjoyed the busyness of going to the stores.  Yet, this year, I haven't been able to.  All has had to happen from the comfort of my home. The wonderful part is that, with Christmas carols in the background that I can actually hear and appreciate, my viewpoint has changed.  The words seem to mean more.  Our decorations around the home seem to mean more.  Notes from family and friends have truly touched my heart.  The lights and trees, when I am able to get out, touch all my senses.  

Then, as I was sitting at my kitchen table looking at my kitchen Christmas tree, I realized the candy cane.  I remembered  the wonderful story I read many years ago.   It spoke of what the candy cane represents and as I looked at the simple candy cane dangling on the tree, a tear came to my eye.  The red & white candy represents so much of our Savior and the Advent season.  The cane (a symbol of a shepherd staff) symbolizes our dear Shepherd, Jesus, who was born in the lowly manger.  The red color, symbolizes the blood that was shed for all of us by our Savior, Jesus, as he hung on the cross that Good Friday for ALL of our sins.  The white represents the purity of Jesus -the one who never sinned, yet, took on the sins of you and me.  The purity of living at God's right hand - preparing a place that we can come HOME to for you and me.  The purity of being born of a virgin, dear Mary, through the Holy Spirit.  The sweet taste?  Yes, that certainly represents the sweetness we receive by being saved and believing in our Savior; the sweetness of eternal life in paradise, the sweetness of hope and unconditional love - sweetness.

So, as we prepare this Advent season and experience all that is around us, I ask that you look at the candy cane in a new (or remembered) sense of gratitude.  Show your stripes of the candy cane - display them proudly.  Find a way for you and your family to revel in the simple spirit that Advent and Christmas has to offer.  Spend time, special and precious time, to read the Christmas story right where it is most beautiful, from the Bible (Luke 2: 1-20).  Cherish each word.  All the stories of Christmas can't compare to that precious one.  Bring simplicity to this Advent season - simple faith in knowing that Christ is Coming- for each and every one of use.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."   (NIV)  1 John 1:7

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Evergreen of Life

Advent is upon us!  For those of you who don't know me, you will soon find out that Christmas is my favorite season. I wait for it with much anticipation and am sad when the season is over.  Some people feel that I can be a bit obsessive about the holiday, but as far as I am concerned, you cannot appreciate this season enough.  Yes, there are all of the preparations and lists and shopping and cooking and cards and more cooking and more shopping and, . . . .  Yet, it is the truly special moments that this season offers that brings us so richly close to our Savior, Jesus.

During Advent, I hope to share with you what different symbols of Christmas mean to me.  Some of them I have read about, others I have shaped myself over the years.  My prayer is that throughout this Advent season, the words of this blog will bring you closer to Jesus, through a simple faith, that will enhance this Christmas.  Advent means "the coming of Christ" .  Our preparations for Jesus' coming do not have to be flamboyant or grand.  What they need to be is meaningful to us and to our Savior.  Think about how much we prepare when family or friends come to visit.  When we know someone special is coming, we prepare, we cook, we clean, we shop, we want their visit to be perfect. Such should be our Advent season, inviting Christ into our home for a special time when we glorify Him!

For this first blog during Advent, I wanted to take the symbol of the Christmas tree.  I love Christmas trees.  So much so that I have one in every room of my home.  We have the "live" tree in our living room (the one that you see in the picture), which is our family tree.  The rest of the trees are artificial but each mean something special.  The one in the kitchen?  This one is decorated with cookie cutters and candy canes.  The dining room is coordinated with the decor of the room - cranberry color.  The one in our family room is filled with ornaments that have been given to me over the years from my Sunday School students. The one in my bedroom is a small lit tree that has lit my way through dark times and bright.  Why so many trees?

Yes, they each have special meaning, but wherever I go in my home, I am reminded of the evergreen tree.  I am sure it was something I read many years ago, but the evergreen tree is a wonderful symbol of everlasting life.  It is strong and tall and the green color represents the life that we always have in Jesus.  As he came into this world to save us from our sin, he came to give us the everlasting life that can only come through him.  Through a simple faith of saying "Yes, God, I believe you came and suffered and died for me -for my sins", you gain the eternal life of joy in heaven.  The strength and life that comes with that simple faith, the same strength and life found in the evergreen tree, is what we strive for as Christians.  Yes, sometimes we might sway with the wind, but our strength that comes from God will last us an eternal life.

Thus, the evergreen tree, a symbol of Christmas is a special part of our home's Christmas celebration.  Yes, each child has their own tree that they also decorate in their room.  And as they move out on their own, as our oldest child Sarah has done, their tree goes with them.  I pray that the everlasting faith that we have tried to share with them as well will go with them for eternity.

My trees are all up for the season.  As the last of the decorations were delicately placed, tears rolled down my cheeks.  The house, once again, shared our joy of everlasting life - in each and every room.  I pray as we begin this Advent season, you may take a few moments to appreciate the evergreen and be reminded of everlasting life in Jesus.  

"I am telling you the truth: he who believes has eternal life."  (NIV). John 6:47

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving Thanks
The Sunday before Thanksgiving.  It's always a special day.  Yes, the preparations are probably starting in your homes as it is in ours.  Shopping is being conducted for the "perfect" meal.  The lists are being made, so that we can check the items off precisely at the right moments.  Assurances that we have "enough" of everything - food, plates, chairs, etc.  Thanksgiving is a day by which we want to make sure everyone has a memorable experience.
Yes, that is how I viewed Thanksgiving for many years.  A few years ago, our family decided to put a stronger emphasis on the "Thanks" part of the day.  We have delighted in a variety of ways throughout the years to share our thanks, with each other, about our world - most importantly, our thanks to God.  When the children were smaller, they were able to construct their own placemats with pictures of what they were thankful for.  As the years moved forward, we were excited as we made a paper chain of thanks.  Each night of November, we would write what we were thankful for, connect them together, and watch our chain of thanks grow until Thanksgiving Day!  During the last few years, notes of thanks were written by each member of the family for each member of the family.  I am sure these notes are kept in a safe place and are read on days when we need to feel the blessings of our Lord.  It is important to take a few moments and find ways to give thanks for all that is good and right in our lives.
Where does it all come from?  There is no doubt that although those around us provide so much for us, it all starts with God.  The blessings, the love, the faith, the forgiveness - it is all graciously provided to us from God, multiple times a day, not just one day a year.  Stop, think about today so far.  What has happened that has been a blessing?  Did you get out of bed?  Have you spent a few moments, maybe at church, at breakfast, around a fire - with ones you love?  Are you feeling well? 
Let's even take a look at things that may not be going "just as we planned".  This weekend, I had great plans of cooking, of cleaning, of getting the house ready for a wonderful holiday.  Yet, I look at a walker, have a cast on my leg, and realize that the plan I had set for this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas may not be my plan.  I have been blessed beyond measure, though.  Although I may not understand the circumstances in my life, I have been afforded an incredible amount of blessings.  I truly believe our Dear Lord wanted me to stop, to feel the love that has been around me so very much - and I am grateful that I feel it, see it, and now am taking the time to enjoy how much God's love is enveloping me.  Through small things and large, too numerous to mention, I am thankful for so much that everyone has shared with me.  There is thankfulness in all situations for us to see and enjoy.
So, as we begin our Thanksgiving holiday ahead, I pray that you take the time, to stop, and notice the blessings that God has so richly given to us.  The tough situations can be replaced with love.  The negative situations can be replaced with God's joy.  The stress of the holidays can be replaced with the peace that comes when we focus on what God has provided for us.  There is no perfection here on Earth.  There is love, joy, and peace.  May your Thanksgiving be filled with God and all He has brought to you.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever."  (NIV)  Psalm 136:1

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Searching for Strength


I would consider myself to be a fairly strong woman.  Strength can be seen in many different areas. I view that I can be somewhat strong in the physical sense (but please don't put me up against anyone who works out at the gym).  Typically, I can hold my own and keep up a steady pace of work, home chores of love, and other items on the list that would see me constantly moving. I also see strength in the emotional sense. Again, typically, I see myself as a fairly strong woman in this realm as well.  I view the circumstances, view the options, and persevere through.   I would like to see myself as strong in the spiritual sense as well, growing every day. 

There are challenges that are put in our lives that waiver our strength. I believe they are put there for many reasons. These situations are usually placed perfectly when needed most - when we need to realize that our strength is not our own. Last night, I had one of those moments. Through this latest "bump" in the road that has slowed me down, I have been trying to continue as much 'life as normal' activities as possible. Yet, last night that all seemed to come to a halt. Nothing drastically changed last night from the other nights during the last two weeks.  I just stopped and cried. It seemed overwhelming.  The thoughts that I couldn't provide like I used to for my family with their meals, that I didn't have any physical strength left to even lift myself from a chair into a bed, that my emotional strength seemed to be breaking down  - all of it left me drained. 

Have you been there as I have been?  Have you wondered where all your strength went?  Maybe it was dealing with a physical calamity.  Maybe it was dealing with something that strikes closer to your heart, an emotional or spiritual weakness that you couldn't seem to gather any strength from.  It is hard for us, as humans, to admit weakness - either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Many times , we believe we can do it all and nothing should stop us. Yet, it is at these times of weakness that we truly understand where our strength comes from.

Sooner than I have done in past situations (I must be learning something along the way), I went to my Lord. Through tears that only He could know and understand, I prayed for strength. I asked for strength in healing, for emotional strength, for the strength that only He could provide.  As I turned to His word this morning, God found me!  He gave me His words to gain strength.  I found new ways to do things. I found a way to make a meal for my family. I found a way to make a cup of coffee. Although my husband lovingly does these things for me, I needed to try and do them for myself. There is strength that comes from that. 

When we least expect to find strength and in the smallest of ways, God is there for us - to guide us to the strength that we need.  I've seen that with so many people in my life, so many people who found strength to keep going from their Lord. My dad was one of them. Often sick and weak, we would ask him, "How are you Daddy?"  He would always respond, "Strong like bull."  He could barely lift his head off the pillow, but we know where his strength came from!  My mom uttered those same words upon her long recovery from heart surgery less than a year ago. Yes she is!

Do you need strength?  Maybe strength to deal with physical concerns. Maybe strength to get through a difficult relationship. Maybe strength to persevere and guide you way through a tough situation. There is truly only One who can provide the strength we need - the only One who can give us the strength to move forward. Reach out to Him, pray to Him, read His word, talk to his believers. Find the strength that He has for you. He loves you so very much - strength comes with love from Him! 

As for me?  I am regaining my strength, both physically and emotionally. For He has given it back to me in small meaningful ways. I am "strong like bull."  Afterall, I am a product of my parents - and God!

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."  
(NIV). Isaiah 40:29

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Calling Out


To say it's been an interesting week is an understatement.  Last Monday morning, as I was pumping gas to start off my week of commuting and work, I tripped over the gas pump hose and ended up dislocating and breaking my ankle.  It has been a long week of xrays, surgery, hospital stays, crutches, etc.  Unfortunately, it seems as if I will be off my feet for a few weeks.
So, this week's blog will be a little short.  Yet, there was a very important lesson I learned this week when this happened.  My initial response when this happened was to cry out to my Lord, "Help me please."  It was a whisper, I was on the ground, but it was my initial response, "Lord, please help me."  It was then that he told me to call out louder.  So, I did.  In a louder voice, it was "Help me, please, help me."  Sure enough, two wonderful saints came to my aid to assist with calling an ambulance, my husband, and get the "wheels of recovery" in motion.  The Lord didn't wait to answer my calls, he sent wonderful people to come.  They stayed with me until the ambulance showed up - two people that had their morning disrupted, but chose to answer a call of help and didn't leave me until it was okay for that to happen.
The incredible people who assisted has continued throughout the week.  There was the nursing staff who was always there to hold my hand and ensure me that things were going to be okay; there were the great doctors who tended to my injuries.  My wonderful family has truly come to my aid, interrupting their days of work or college and returning home to help with the cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc.,  There have been many friends who have generously brought meals to nourish me and my family, as well as gifts of flowers, cards, and fruit to let me know that they are thinking and praying for me.  Most of all, there are all the prayers of healing from so many.  So many incredible stewards responding to the call that I sent out to our Lord, asking for help.
It's amazing how God responds to us when we ask for help.  At the moment, I knew that my ankle was dislocated (trust me, I knew), and I just asked God for help.  I didn't know what type of help I needed - but God did.  He always knows what we need.  When we call out, when we rely on the One who always knows what we need, he responds bigger and greater than we can ever imagine.  Other times, I would have tried to do so many things on my own first - waiting to call out to our Dear Lord.  This time, as I grow in my every day faith of our Lord - growing with all of you - I looked to Him first.  He was wonderful enough to respond so generously.
Remember, it is okay to call out to God, to ask Him for help.  The way he responds is truly a miracle.  I experienced many miracles this past week and will be eternally grateful to all those who gave of their time, their energy, and their resources, to help.  It will be a lengthy recovery, but I know when I call out, He will provide. 
"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I."  (NIV)  Isaiah 58:9

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Giving and Receiving


The art of giving & receiving -  stewardship.  Over the many years that I have had an opportunity to sit in church and listen to a variety of sermons on this topic, I have realized much.  The greatest of which is that the topic of stewardship and giving can strike a very strong emotion in people.  Today I had the opportunity to share a testimony on how stewardship, and giving, has effected my life.  When I actually stopped to think about it - I realized it has changed me as a person.  Growing up in the church, giving was always part of what we did.  Whether the giving found its way to the offering plate, or through church needs on committees or even through youth activities, our family found a way to give back.  

As I started my own journey of understanding the giving side of things, I realized early that giving was truly a gift.  God has blessed each and every one of us with many talents, time, and treasures.  We may not always see them that way (in fact, there were many times when I looked upon these things as a burden).  Yet, as I look back, I understand better how the giving journey may begin, and how we are always on this quest of finding the ultimate giving gift~~

I was blessed to join a congregation that was just starting out.  We were ALL a member of the evangelism committee, we were ALL a member of the stewardship committee, yes, we ALL chipped in any way we could.  It was an exciting time.  As the church grew (in both families and structure), others joined who were able to assist in the many needs of our congregation.  We have been fortunate to have a congregation of givers.  Whether the need is within our church walls, or stepping out into the community where other needs surface, our congregation of givers seem to be there.

Yet, I believe my personal giving has always been challenged to find the balance - the balance of God, family, work, and breathing!  On any given week, one may find more of my time than others.  When I find the hand tipping greater to the giving of needs, what I realize is the receiving that I get in return is abundant.
This couldn't have been more true than about 14 years ago.  I felt my life was moving forward pretty well.  Great church, family with two children, a dog and cat, parents living nearby, good job, etc.  Then the world stopped the day that I heard I had cancer.  The giving that I so much enjoyed seemed to be put on hold.  My life turned into a series of surgeries, chemo treatments, sickness, radiation treatments, etc.  The time that I enjoyed sharing with others (especially my Sunday School class), seemed to slip away.  The energy I had to pray seemed to slip away.  The ability to be there for my children and make their Halloween costumes, slipped away.  Then it happened - the receiving.  Family, friends, fellow congregation members - they all gave.  When I had difficulty cooking for my family, meals showed up.  When I couldn't get my children their costumes, two beautifully made costumes showed up.  When I couldn't pray anymore - prayers were said, and answered.  I received ABUNDANTLY!!

Within two years of learning I had cancer, the rug was pulled out from underneath me two more times - my father passed away and I got divorced.  It was an unbelievable two years of darkness.  Yet, as God always does, His light shined much brighter than any darkness we can experience.  My giving wasn't as great during that time - it was more difficult to balance things.  Yet, I kept trying to ensure that the giving side of me didn't become dark.  I had seen God's Grace in so many people, and just wanted to keep giving - to help others as I had been helped.

It happened again, the blessings of our Dear Lord.  Through the challenges of above, support was provided.  I wasn't shunned away, but received and supported.  My church became my refuge - and peace soon found its place again in my heart.  The bonus blessing??  My Lord providing me with my soul mate, the true love of my life, and his children to complete our family.  The joy surrounding our blended family of six has been incredible.  The ABUNDANT receiving has been overwhelming.  

How do we give?  What is this giving journey?  It can be in so many different ways.  If you have a church family, I am sure they are always looking for an extra set of helping hands.  Our time, talents, and treasures are always needed.  Check out your community - our neighbors are in need.  Maybe it is a dinner for an elderly shut in, or a card for someone who needs some supportive words.  Maybe it is a gift card for someone who is trying to make ends meet.  Maybe it is simply a hug and a cup of coffee for someone who needs to know they are loved.  

We can give - we can always start the journey.  Blessed are those who give in the name of the Lord.  The peace your heart will receive will truly be enough.  The blessings that God will give you will be amazing.  Simple Giving of your Heart.  Simple Faith for Today.  I would love to hear your giving stories~~  Be blessed by your giving journey.

"Remember this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."  (NIV)  2 Corinthians 9:6

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who is Your Shepherd?


If there is an image that I adore, it is Jesus as our Shepherd.  Maybe it is the image of warmth, maybe it is the image of guidance, maybe it is the image of discipline, maybe it is just the pure simplicity of it all.  What I know is that when I reflect on Jesus as the Shepherd in my life, I feel complete.  I continue to find it amazing as I, a true novice, continue my journey of God's Word, I open up treasures that enhance the peacefulness of my life.  As our days become more hectic and chaotic, the refuge that I find in God's word brings solace to this world.  It is with my Shepherd I find peace.

Who on this Earth can provide a similar picture for me on a regular basis?  It is my pastor.  As a Shepherd of our flock, our congregation, he provides similar images for me.  There are times when the image and message he shares is one of warmth, one by which I can truly feel God's immeasurable an unconditional love for me.  There are times that the image he shares is guidance and direction for my life, when my life may seem too chaotic through my glasses.  Also, there are times of discipline, where the message is challenging me to reflect upon my life and my choices - seeing if they line up to what God wants for my life.  All the while, my Pastor's message is simple.  Jesus gave His life for mine on the cross.  He provides forgiveness and grace for all that I do/don't do that is wrong.  He loves me with a love I cannot even understand.  Best of all, He has prepared a place for me to come home to when my time has come to rejoice with Him in heaven.  

My Pastor, Pastor Mick, provides that for me.  On a regular basis over 26 years, he has given of himself - and to the rest of our congregation - in many times of need.  He has been a source of strength, of vision, and of love.  During October, it is Pastor Appreciation.  Many of us, I'm sure, are recipients of our pastor's compassion and endless work.  Being the granddaughter of a pastor, although I never met him (He is with our heavenly Father in glory), the stories my mom shares of his countless hours with his parishioners, shepherding to their countless needs, helps me to understand the role of a Pastor.  Much of their life is not their own, but that of their congregation.  The day to day rigor that comes with this role can be much to bear.  Yet, their shepherding continues.

Look to who is shepherding your spiritual needs?  Has your pastor provided guidance for you?  Have they been a compassionate ear when one was so desperately needed?  Has your pastor shared the Good Word of God to you and pierced your heart with goodness and love?  Think about your pastor's role in your life.  If he is shepherding you throughout the years, then it may be time.  A heartfelt thank you, a note of appreciation, maybe even some home-cooked treats or such.   No doubt, it would be appreciated.  

Being a shepherd to others is not easy.  Keeping a watchful eye on the flock and providing for their spiritual needs is huge in responsibility.  Those who take on this role do so with God truly in their hearts.  As your lives have been blessed by that of a Pastor, a Shepherd here on Earth, may you respond back in kind.  Follow, respond, be grateful, and assist.  All of that is necessary for the flock to flourish.

A note to my Earthly Shepherd - I thank you Pastor.  Your guidance of my journey of faith has been much.  Your sermons help me to reflect on my behaviors, challenge them when necessary, and change to show love.  Your love of God's word has inspired me on more occasions than I can remember to share His love with others around me.  May you continue to shepherd us all with the passion that God has provided you. 

To the rest of us, let us remember and appreciate our Earthly Shepherds.  They help us to see the Simple Faith that is necessary in today's world, God's love.

"And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding."  (NIV)  Jeremiah 3:15

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

It had been one of those days.  Well, to be honest, it had been a couple of days.  Life was taking its toll -  the business of the daily grind, the planning of the days ahead, the understanding that what I could get done in a work day would never be enough and just too exhausted after many hours at work to endeavor working at home any further into the night.  I was tired.  When I get tired and the busyness of life moves forward in my life, my patience wears thin.  It wears thin with people, it wears thin with situations, it wears thin with myself.  Please tell me you've been there too; maybe you are there now! At the end of those couple of days, I had realized what had happened.  Busyness had bullied its way through.  I don't mind being busy.  In fact, if you ask my family and friends, they will tell you that I thrive on busy.  Yet, when busy becomes a bully, I change.  I say and do things that are not what Christ has in mind for me - I am not living out the person He desires me to be.

So here I was, a couple of days into "Bullyville" and getting nastier as the moments progress, I'm sure.  What had changed, why was I here?  I had made a very strong commitment about six months ago not to let the stresses of everyday life succumb me.  Although I had many "stressful" situations arise during those six months, I had chosen a different road and my life had truly changed.  I felt peace, I felt assurance, I felt God.  The strength I found to get through some of those difficult situations by focusing on the one who could truly relieve my stress, Christ, was overwhelming.

I then realized there were a couple of things that drove me to the path I was on.  I had lost focus.  Although I had a new-found strength and was living it with zeal, there were other things that had taken a side step.  One of those was truly stopping and enjoying the beauty of God's world.  In my zeal to "get it all done", I had forgotten that He is there to help, He is there to lift us, He is there to provide us with beautiful moments for us to stop, take heed, and breathe.  I had forgotten to breathe.   As you read this, take a moment.  Breathe - deeply.  Close your eyes and realize that God has given you this wonderful life to live - in this moment. 

It may be a busy life, a chaotic life, one by which it seems as if the list is long.  I had taken my stress and had given it to God.  I had taken two steps forward and was enjoying the journey I was on.  During this past week, I took a step back.  I took my eye off the cross, focused it more on "my" agenda and less on God's agenda.  When did all of this occur to me?  When did I realize that busyness had bullied its way into my life?  
I was driving home from work one evening.  As I came up over the hill, as I always do, a steeple on one of the churches I pass every day silhouetted the sunset.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  So much so, that I stopped in the local apple orchard lot and sat.  I asked God to forgive me for stepping back into my own agenda instead of focusing on His.  I looked at that cross and all that it meant:  pain, suffering, joy, forgiveness, eternity, happiness, love.  

The true beauty of it all (as if the incredible moment wasn't enough)?  I knew that while I had stepped back for a few days, the God of love, grace, and mercy was there waiting for me with open arms.  He has so wonderfully forgiven me my sins, forgiven me for losing focus, and has graciously guided me back - to peace, love and hope.  Know many good things in your heart.  When we take a step back, whether it be on our journey with God or in our sinful nature, God is waiting for us to come back.  Bring your repentant heart to His forgiving heart.  I have - it is a peaceful place~~  

"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  (NIV)  Romans 3:23-24  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wait & Trust


Every year, right around this time, I play a waiting game.  I used to be horrible at this game.  I am getting MUCH better at it.  Yet, the lessons I have learned along the way (from being horrible to gaining better skills), lie with only ONE.

Fourteen years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  With no history in my family and at the age of 36, it seemed as if the "doctors got it wrong".  I felt a lump - I waited.  I was young.  I had young children.  I had a full-time job.  I had a husband. I was BUSY ~~ much too busy to be concerned about a lump.  I was positive that it was a cyst, that it just needed to be aspirated, and that we could move on.  When I couldn't ignore it anymore (it seemed to be getting bigger by the weeks), I finally went to the doctor.  The next few weeks proved to be a whirlwind of appointments, tests, new doctors, poking, proding, and the final words of, "You have breast cancer".  If the waiting to hear those words wasn't enough, the waiting for the rest of the tests and what they would find, the waiting of decisions concerning the treatment plan, the waiting to begin treatment, etc., seemed to be endless.  As I have shared before, I always considered myself a faithful person - so I just needed to put my life in God's hands and I was good.  Yea, well, it wasn't that easy.  Remember - control??  I wanted more control, of the whole situation.  Each time I had to wait, the horrible anxiety and worry that was associated with each step seemed more than I could bear.  Once decisions were made, I seemed to be better - I could talk to God again.  It was during the waiting that I seemed to hold my breath, worry like crazy, stay up all night, and shared enough "what ifs" in my mind to solve world peace!!

Not to bore you with all of the details, I am able to celebrate that day of hearing "You have cancer" fourteen years later.  I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to say "fourteen years later".  I know others who have been less fortunate.  You know others who are less fortunate.  Yet, every year, around this time, the waiting game becomes a factor.  I go for the yearly test - a mammogram.  Depending upon the result of that test, other tests may be asked, ultrasounds, biopsies, etc.  There are years that I find myself in the waiting game.

What is the difference?  During the last fourteen years, the God that I knew all my life has become someone I have grown closer to.  I have been able to see past what He should be doing for me and can now see what I should be doing for Him.  In seeing that path much clearer, and doing more of what He is asking of me, I am able to relinquish my waiting game over to Him, fully.  When it is time to wait, for results, for doctors' appointments, for an understanding of what might be ahead of me, I may be anxious, but it isn't this overwhelming feeling.  I believe God knows my needs.  I pray to Him and God has got this one - He has got my life.  Whatever that life may be filled with, He has got it and I know it will yield exactly what He has planned for me.  I trust Him.  I have said those words before, and yes, I believed them.  Yet, now, there is a deeper trust.  There is a deeper understanding.  There is a deeper love for my Lord.  

This day has become one of celebration.  My wonderful family rejoices in the fact that I still get the chance to be their wife, mom, and daughter.  Their words of encouragement and support, along with special gifts, make me feel as if I am truly the most cherished person on this earth.  In God's eyes, I - along with each one of you - get to be one of His most cherished children.  Don't you feel special?  I certainly do~~

Maybe your wait isn't that of a diagnosis.  We all have a wait in our lives.  The wait could be that of health, or a job, or a relationship.  Maybe the wait is for children, or travel, or friendship.  It could be a short wait or it could be a very long wait, by which our trust it truly tested.  Yet, the important factor to remember is that we have someone waiting with us, right by our side.  God is sitting right next to you, and He knows what the path is going to be.  Give your wait to God.  Trust that whatever the answer is, it is the right answer for you.  It will bring you peace, it will bring you relief, and it may just bring you joy.

I am happy to say that my wait for this year is now over - I got the "no cancer" nod!! What was the wait like this time?  Nothing like in the past.  My wait was filled with peace; anxious, but peace.  I'm getting better at the waiting game.  I still have a way to go (remember, control??).  Yet, trusting God fully, regardless of where the path may lead, makes my life a wonderful journey.

Try it with me - please!!  Trust God for your wait - whatever it may be.  Glorify His name during the wait.  Praise Him, Love Him, Serve Him, Trust Him.  

"Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."  (NIV) Psalm 62:8

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

It's a rainy fall day in NH today.  It's days like today that I enjoy lighting candles around the house.  Okay, maybe it's time to admit - I enjoy lighting candles EVERY day.  Yet, on days such as these, the flames seem to burn brighter, the scents seem to be stronger.  Why?  I believe there are many answers to those questions.  On days like today, when the world seems to be a bit dimmer, the light is stronger, it lights my path around the house brighter.  It provides a sense of warmth.  The house seems a bit warmer because the candles are burning.  The topper is the wonderful scents that the candles are giving off - it smells like fall on the inside of the house.  Although it is dreary on the outside, the light is burning bright and providing happiness on the inside.

The candle and its light made me think of us, as people.  How often are we surrounded by the dimness of the world?  It can be a series of many things.  If we are in school, it could be difficulty with our studies, or a tough time with friends, or the demands of school and after-school activities.  If we are in the workforce, maybe it is the challenge of looking for a job, or finding our "place" in the one that we have, or understanding how a life in the workplace is orchestrated.  If we are in relationships, we might be treading new steps with each other, or maybe we are being introduced to not only all the great "wonders" of love, but some of the trials that go along with it as well.  If we are parents, there are the struggles of patience and discipline.  If we are alone, there are the days of actually feeling alone - although we may have many friends around us.  If we struggle with our health, there are the days when we don't feel so great, and memories of when we did.

The dimness of the world can overcome us in many different circumstances.  If the world is not dim for me or you, I am sure that there is someone around us that is struggling, that may be having difficulty.  This is when the light needs to shine through.  Yes, a wonderful scented candle might help.  Yet, greater than that light is the light that is inside each of us - the light of the Holy Spirit richly presenting itself from God.  THAT light is one that is more powerful than any other light we can imagine, than the light of a candle, a lamp, or the sun.  The light that we can share with others is what God has asked us to do.  It is that light that gives the world its true warmth.  It is that light that can bring all the challenges listed earlier to a brighter place.  It is that light that will one day bring us home to our heavenly Father.

Now comes the great challenge.  How do we shine that light?  How do we get the light that is inside of us shining brightly for the rest of the world?  I am sure we can all find something to do, a deed, an act, that will shine light into a person's dim world.  A note, a meal, a call, a visit, a helping hand, a needed check,  . . . .  the list continues.  We can all find something, do something, to bring light and warmth.  God rewards those whose light shines.  Even when it is our world that may be dim, we can reach out - we can bring light.  Our light needs to shine.  If it doesn't, it means that Satan has won in our dark moments.  We know that's not the case.  Usually, it is in those moments when our world seems most dim, when we DO shine our light, we are so very richly rewarded.  Our reward may not be exactly what WE think is needed at the time, but it will certainly be what God KNOWS is needed at the time.  When we look back upon those times, we always know we are richly blessed.

When I think of light, I can't help but remember teaching Sunday School with my dear friend and singing the song, "This Little Light of Mine" with them.  I believe it is one of my favorites.  Will you sing with me??

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, NO, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, NO, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine.
Don't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

This week, let us shine our lights.  Let us do something for someone who may need some extra brightness in their lives.  Even if you believe that it is too difficult for you to do right now, try.  It doesn't need to be much, a small flicker can provide a sense of great warmth.  We all have the ability to be a light for someone.  The glory will be all God's!!

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  (NIV)  Matthew 5:16

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chores Vs. Desires


Chores, we all have them.  In fact, we probably started them when we were young and have decided to share that "growing" experience with our children as well.  It may have started with making our beds or taking out the garbage.  If we find ourselves in the "over 20 something crowd", our chores may seem a bit more daunting these days - create meals for our families, do the laundry, clean the house, cut the grass, snow blow the driveway (yes, those days are coming), etc.  The chores can pile up, especially when you add them to an 8+ hour day at work.  The chores can be heavy and burdensome.

I felt the same way.  There were days when my shoulders weren't big enough to take on the weight of the chores, the list couldn't get any longer, and I didn't have enough hours in the day.  Stress-filled moments were greater than joy-filled ones, and my nights were spent not sleeping and creating my longer list for the next day.  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  In the society that we live in today, it is easy for our chores and our lists to become the sole focus of our world.  It was for me.

There was a day my world began to change.  I decided, once and for all, to pursue my desires.  I had a desire to focus on my Lord.  With my upbringing and weekly worship, I had learned that God wanted to have that relationship with me - one by which He wasn't another "thing to do" on my list, but a real desire to be with Him.  Yes, I knew I should pray (check).  Yes, I knew I should go to church (check).  Yes, I knew I should serve Him (check).  Yes, I knew I should read my Bible (couldn't fully check that one).  Yes, I knew that I should share His love with others (well . . . ).  As I searched deeper into my soul, I realized that although I might be living a life that had God in it, He certainly wasn't the focus I wanted Him to be.

So I started to put God where He should be, first.  Morning devotions with my husband and prayers for the day became something I desired, not a check mark.  Bible verses that I could refer to throughout the day when my need to rely on my Heavenly Father was strong became within eyesight.  If I desired to talk about God - I did, without hesitation.  And when the need to pray was on my mind, I stopped and prayed.  Life began changing - I began changing.  Certainly, the change has been on the inside (and I'm hoping a bit on the outside for others to see), but my heart has been a more joyful place.  

Chores can change to desires.  The things I "had" to do before, I "want" to do now.  Yes, I always wanted to make my family happy, but I hang on to the pleasure that I see in their faces instead of moving on to the next thing on the list.  By putting God first, my life has become more fulfilled.  There is joy in our chores; there is joy in our "to do" list.  This blog has been a big help on my way to fulfillment.  Today marks the 6-month mark!  I have written every Sunday for the last six months.  I didn't think I would be able to do that - but it has been a joy, a true desire.  I thank all of you who read and share with me your thoughts.  It means so much to me.  It does provide me the strength to keep going.

Desire God.  Find a way to put Him first in your day.  It doesn't need to be big.  It just needs to focus on Him.  I am sure you will find, as I did, that He will draw you closer as the days and weeks progress.  Your heart will be changed - your life will be changed.  Let Him provide you JOY~~

"...yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."  (NIV) Habakkuk 3:18

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stand Out

There are many things I love to share and other things I enjoy keeping to myself. One thing I am NOT shy about is that I love Fall in New England.  Today is the first day of Autumn.  I look forward to this day all year - every year.  I am happy to say that it never disappoints.  I have absolutely no doubt that God has created many beautiful areas on this Earth that are just incredible to see, but Fall in New England has to be, by far, one of the greatest anticipated blessings.  It's funny how it happens, it begins slowly - we get to see a few leaves change to bright reds or glowing yellows.  There is a hint of orange here or there.  As the weeks proceed, and the backdrops of gorgeous mums, large apples on trees, and the feel of the crisp air rolls through, the Lord's paintbrush comes alive.  Each day, as one looks to the left or right, you can't help but see new brilliance with every view.  The commute each day turns from a chore to an anticipated journey.  It is a "wonder" that I never tire of.  Yes, some years the colors are deeper, more defined. Some years, the leaves stay longer on the trees or a quick storm comes and sends them all falling to the ground.  Each year is different.  I think that's part of the fun - not knowing what kind of year it is going to be until it actually is here!

Yet, with all the splendor that I have shared, there is something miraculous about finding the one leaf that stands out among the green, the one leaf that chose to do something different first - the one that said, "Let me shine to you."  Now, that one always seems to feel special.  As I sit in my backyard, with the fall crisp air blowing (snuggled in a sweatshirt), I couldn't help but to chose this topic to write about this week - standing out.  The red leaf in my picture helped me to gain a perspective about our lives as Christians and what our Dear Lord asks us to do.  God provides a wonderful path for us and a guidebook in The Bible.  For each of us, he knows what will happen, knows who we are, and what our lives will hold for us - if we choose to live a life filled with Christ.  Of course, when we decide to go after our own selfish desires, our own free will, we opt for a life that tends to be far from what Christ orchestrated.  When we choose to "Say Yes" to what God has in store for us, the blessings abound.  This doesn't mean life doesn't come with moments that help us gain courage, strength, and perseverance towards faith.  This doesn't mean life won't have its tumultuous days.  Yet, when we decide to stand out and stand up with Christ, we know there will be a difference - not just in our lives but with those that we help, with those that we chose to share Christ with.  

God has provided each and every one of us with an incredible gift.  Sometimes, our own difficulty is realizing what that gift is.  Maybe you have been blessed to open that box and realize your God-Given Talent!!  If so, it is time to stand out and stand up - it is time to use it.  Find that special way to be the red leaf among the green ones - the leaf that chooses to stand out with the talent you have been provided in order to share God's love with others.  It doesn't have to come with firecrackers and streaks of lightening.  Standing out to another person may be all that is necessary to move in God's journey.  Stand out!!  Maybe others of you are still trying to find the gift.  Many times, the discovery is half the fun.  Our ability to try new things in the name of our Lord is a wonderful journey in and of itself. Most importantly,remember to stop and listen for God's word.  He will talk with you, guide you, show you His path for you.  For years I kept asking God to show me my path.  Although he practically took the baseball bat out for me, I will listen, I will learn, and I will grow on this journey - with love in my heart and peace in my soul.

Choosing to stand out - to be the red leaf among the green, is when we let God paint our lives for us.   Our lives then become the canvas and the painting He creates is truly a masterpiece.  Let God's love for you create the masterpiece of your life.  As the type of canvas can change the entire painting, let your canvas be one that God is pleased to paint on.  May the end result be a masterpiece that stands out to the rest of the world - one person at a time.  God's blessings be with all of you during this Autumn season.  If you happen to live in a part of the world that can enjoy this incredible view of God's paintbrush during the next few months, I encourage you to take a few extra moments in your day to soak in the wonder of His awesomeness.  If you don't happen to live where Autumn shines - I will do my best to share some of His glory with you.

"...who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood:  Grace and peace be yours in abundance."  (NIV)  1 Peter 1:2

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Friendship Everywhere

God provides us with many blessings. The abundance sometimes inhibits us to stop and take time to enjoy all that we have around us. We say stop and smell the roses. To actually take the time to do this is one of my pitfalls. I find many reasons not to appreciate the wonders around me sometimes.  I am learning, with maturity and age, to stop and appreciate all the wonders God has provided to me.

This weekend I had one of those weekends. I stopped. I took time. I spent time with one of God's greatest blessings. - my friends. I have been blessed with incredible friends throughout my life. This weekend I went away with a set of girlfriends I have had for almost 20 years. We have endured a lifetime journey together, full of the joy of children's successes, full of some parents' deaths, full of illnesses, full of divorces and weddings, full of disappointments and laughter. We have endured life - with each other. I have been truly blessed. I have many wonderful friends such as these, who have seen me through many of my life's greatest journeys.  Some are close, some are afar, all are dear to my heart.  Yet, I realized, that there are always days, always situations, when I truly only have ONE friend who has been by my side for every trial, every triumph.

It helps bring my sights to my greatest friend of all - the person who has always been there for me in each tribulation, in every joy, every tear, every dream. Jesus has been the ONLY one there for me every day, every moment. I have great friends to share much of my life with. Jesus shares ALL my life. There have been times in my life when it has been lonely. Although I have incredible friends there are times when I would feel very alone - during my illness, struggling with relationships, alone with my thoughts. Those are the times I realized I have a friend that sits by me, holds my hand when I need him most, hugs me and always has my best interest in mind. 

God provides us wonderful friends.  It is important to appreciate the time with our earthly friends. They are to be cherished, such as the ones I had the chance to be with this weekend. I have other friends that I might see less often yet love dearly. Other friends I get to see weekly during Bible study.  There are friends I keep in touch with at work. Those that I share thoughts with online.  Yet, in the middle of the night when I struggle with thoughts of things to do, during the day when I am burdened with stress, I try to remember the friend I have 24/7, the friend that will always guide me in the right direction, the friend that gives me a book of guidance, the Bible, our dear Lord.

I don't think there is anything that expresses our Lord's friendship with us better than the wonderful hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".  Below is the second stanza from this beautiful hymn:

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

The Dear Lord gives us people in our lives to help us here on earth, like all the wonderful friends that I have.  I say "thank you" to all of them, and to Him, for all the blessings they have given me.  I feel very rich.  Yet, we always need to remember that whenever we need a friend, no matter the situation, the time of day, the burden we carry, or the joy that we share, we can take it to Jesus.  There is no greater friend.

"A friend loves at all times. . . ." (NIV) Proverbs 17:17

Sunday, September 8, 2013

River to Forgiveness


To forgive:  to stop feeling anger or resentful toward someone.  My husband and I are in the middle of a Bible study with some dear friends on Forgiveness.  When we started this study, I was hoping to find the "magic answer" for forgiveness - that one thing that I could learn that would take all the resentment that I might be feeling towards situations or people away = that I might truly forgive.  As I shared, we are in THE MIDDLE of this study, and I am finally realizing that the magic answer I might be looking for has been with me my entire life.

Today, as I prepared for our study, I read the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35) with a new eye.  I look at forgiveness now, as a river.   God's forgiveness towards us, for ALL of our sins in all that we have done, is truly a river of forgiveness.  The river freely flows, whenever it is needed.  There are times when the river needs to rage - as my sins are deep and wide.  There are other times when the river is more calm - as my sins are shallow and narrow.  What I am grateful for, though, is the fact that the river is ALWAYS flowing.  The water of forgiveness is always there for me - regardless of what my sins may be.  My eternal life with Christ comes from His death on the cross, thereby making each and every sin that I have washed clean.  Yet, what is amazing, is that they are wiped clean - with no record of my sin happening.  God forgives~~

Now, the real test comes with MY forgiving heart.  Where is my river of forgiveness?  Do I share the same river with those that I come in contact with?  Do they hear forgiveness from my lips AND feel forgiveness from my heart?  I believe that is the true test of forgiveness.  It is also time that I realize and be humbled by the fact that my forgiving heart sometimes falls short.  Along MY river there are sharp turns and ragged rocks where the forgiveness gets "hung up" on.  Sometimes, I think my forgiveness gets stopped by a huge dam built by incredible beavers - at that point there is NO forgiveness getting through there.  

Think with me for a few moments.  Is there someone in your life or a situation that you might have had (or maybe are in right now), where forgiveness seems to be falling short on your side?  Maybe it takes you a while to forgive someone close to you - or maybe it is strangers that you encounter?  Think for a few moments about your forgiving heart.  I know mine needs some repair.  I know I need to look to my forgiving heart and help to see how I can forgive others more freely, like the river.  My forgiveness isn't as great as God's, it doesn't always flow as easily as God's forgiveness flows.  Strange enough, when we hold on to forgiveness and we don't let it run free, we are the ones that suffer.  When we don't allow our hearts to forgive, anger, resentment, and pain fill up our hearts.  An unforgiving heart can truly poison us from the inside out.  The anger and pain tends to fall out on those around us.  Maybe it is through our daily interactions with people, maybe it is towards the ones we love, maybe it is in our attitude towards life, or even, in the way we look at our faith. 

Once we let go and forgive, the river of peace can run through our hearts.  That feeling is like no other.  That river is one of joy, of relief, of Simple Faith - in God and in those we encounter.  Once we experience the River of Forgiveness, we can get a small glimpse of what God sees in us~  Take a moment and realize all that God has forgiven you.  We can't compare our forgiving hearts to God's great mercy and grace.  That is truly impossible.  Yet, we can lead our lives with a forgiving heart.  Remember all that Christ did on the cross for us.  Let the River of Forgiveness that Jesus so willingly gave to us be willingly shared by you with others.  It's time to have the Simple Faith that God will be our "river guide" and keep us safe among the sharp turns and ragged rocks of forgiveness.

"... Peter asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times."  Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."  (NIV)  Matthew 18:21-22

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Does It Look Like?


Some things are hard to picture, things that are not concrete in nature.  Today, we had a great sermon preached by Pastor Mick on being humble.  It got me thinking - what does being humble look like?  I think I am humble, but am I truly humble in all situations?  As I thought about this all day, it came down to a resounding - NO.  I think I am, I believe that I TRY to be humble, but as each situation presents itself, there is certainly room for me to improve, to get much better at being humble.

I started by looking at my world and those in it.  I thought about work and those relationships.  I could find plenty of examples with people who were not humble - MANY.  It was easy to point the finger.  Then I looked at myself and realized that I, as well, was not always humble during work relationships.  There are plenty of times when I am involved in scenarios at work and I am not always right.  Yet, I do my best to prove my point versus listening to the other side of the story - to learn from those around me.  Yes, there are times when I try my best to live by the example of others first, to take a seat of less stature for those around me to be exalted.  I am sure that it doesn't happen nearly enough.

What about my family?  Yes, there are plenty of times, once again, I can point my finger and say to myself "that person didn't exhibit very humble behavior".  I am sure that my family can share many times when I was not humble.  Many examples come to the table.  Times when I "know when I am right", when truly listening to my husband and his ideas of how to fix the house or what to do with our day would be more humble (and probably the better) thing to do.  The same holds true of my children.  I try my best to put them all first, to put their needs above mine, to listen to their outlook and their points of view.  Yet, I don't always let go of my "pre-conceived" ideas, and find it hard to eat some "humble pie" when I should.  Once again, I am sure that showing a humble heart doesn't happen nearly enough.

Why is it so important to be humble?  Why should we strive so hard to be humble?  Let's look at the picture of us when we aren't humble.  When we lack humility, we are self-centered.  The direction and focus is on ME, on MY way, on MY direction.  I am right in my thinking, I am successful in my job, I am good when others are not, I am . . . well, you get the picture.  When we are NOT humble, the focus becomes one by which the mirror is reflective of me, not God.  When God is not in the picture, then Satan is.  No good can possibly come of that.  We believe we deserve all that is around us, and greed steps in.  I am sad to say, there are moments in my life when my behavior has been reflective of the ME and the MY, and God's grace has difficulty entering that picture.

So, what does humble look like?  I think the greatest picture that we can frame our own humbleness after is that of our dear Savior, Jesus.  Let's reflect on the incredible humble servant he was to US.  To me, a great picture of Jesus being humble was when he washed the very dirty feet of those who walked with him down dirt paths, washing the feet of his disciples.  He was the one who should have had his feet washed every day by those men, but it was he who humbled himself, took out water and towel, and washed their feet.  Yet, the greatest picture of being humble was when Jesus went through the pain and torture for a crime he never committed, for US.  To hang on a cross and feel the humiliation of all of our sins had to be the most humbling of experiences.  Why did he do such an incredible act?  Because he loves us, each and every one of us.  When I picture humble, I picture Jesus and all that he has done for me.

Therefore, I need to continue to try to be the picture of humility, of being humble.  I need to pray and ask Jesus for the strength to resist prideful ways, and realize that being humble brings so much more grace, mercy and peace in my life.  When my behavior has been more humble, my life has been more filled.  Maybe not with material things, but with God's hand of grace.  I have felt it.  When I extend a warm touch, a kind word, an understanding heart, I have been blessed tenfold in return.  That's what God gives us.  The next time we want to believe we did it ourselves, that it is our way to success, that we are better than others - may we stop, pray for a changed heart, and bring forward a humble picture - one that GOD would be proud of.  Here is to a humble journey for us all.

"That is why Scripture says:  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  (NIV)  James 4: 6-7  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School

It's that time of year again, for children to head off to school.  For many of us, January 1st is the beginning of the year.  For me, it has always been this time of year, the school year.  You see, my parents were both school teachers, so for us, everything revolved around the school year - and this time of year meant new beginnings.  New faces, new teachers, new friends, new classrooms, new situations to brave.  It can be both fun and difficult at the same time.

As our children were growing up, I found a variety of different efforts to help ease their anxiousness and bring them closer to the one that would ultimately help them when I couldn't, God.  What I find amazing over the years that as the children have gotten older, and school days moves to college years, the efforts are still worth discussing and bringing to light - helping them to a better day.

We always began our days with devotion.  In the beginning, when the children were smaller, we actually had a children's devotion that we used to start our day on the right foot.  It was extremely helpful.  The devotion always ended in prayer - either said by me, but as they got older, the prayers were said by the children.  I learned a lot during that prayer time - they would pray for friends, or friends' families, teachers, situations that they felt were tough to deal with.  I would pray for help with work situations that seemed to be weighing heavy on my mind.  All in all, prayer time became a great part of our day.  It was a sad day for me when I didn't have to take the children to school anymore, I couldn't start our day like that.  Yet, I pray that part of their day finds them going to the Lord in prayer.

I always thought it was important to bring a sense of blessing to our family, in a variety of ways.  It began with the making and using of blessing beads.  Nothing fancy, a piece of yarn with three of four beads on it.  At the end of the day, we would move the beads from one side to the other, sharing things we had been blessed with.  As the children grew older, we especially became fancy for our Thankful Chain.  During the month of November, at dinner time each person would receive a strip of construction paper.  On this they would write something or someone they were thankful for.  We would read them aloud before dinner and make a paper chain.  With six people, you can imagine how long our chains would get.  It was a wonderful reminder of the blessings in our family's life.  Now, thanks to a great friend, we have a blessings jar where we can write pieces of paper and put them in the jar.  When we are all gathered around the table, the jar is opened and the blessings are shared.  All of these have been wonderful ways to share God's goodness.

Yet, we need to remember that there are difficult days as well.  On those very special days, when life seems overwhelming for our children, I would take out a paper plate and some sticky notes.  The children could write all that was bothering them - a lot of homework, a tough situation with friends, maybe even difficulty within our own family unit, and stick them on the plate, trying to decide how much of the problem was taking up "their plate".  We then would take each one off, and try to find some ways to bring some solutions to the problems - always understanding and ending that prayer helps BEST OF ALL!!  God is always in control of all of our problems, and by bringing the problems to Him, he will find a way for us to move forward.  We would then rip the stickies up and throw them away - never to be found again.

Back to school can be tough on all of us.  Our oldest daughter is off on her own now.  Our middle two daughters will be heading off to college soon.  Our youngest son will be entering his junior year in high school.  This time of year can be most most difficult on us parents - realizing that we need devotion time, blessing beads and paper plate nights, too.  The best part is we have a loving God who grants us grace and mercy and just loves us to pieces, helping us with our all "back to school needs".

Here's to Back To School~~  May all who are parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles pray for their children every day - they need it so.  Continue to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord, that they might find His everlasting love.  May all the children out there realize God is watching over them and helping them in everything that they need.

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."  (NIV)  Ephesians 6:4  

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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.