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

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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.