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  

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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.