Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gaining Wisdom


As human beings, certainly as we get older, I believe we have this propensity to give advice, counsel, and "words of wisdom" to others.  Maybe it is a friend sharing their struggles with us.  Or is it one of our children who needs our advice (well, at least we THINK they need our advice).  Our spouse or significant other may come to us with a problem.  Even a co-worker could share a difficult situation they are having with us.  Lo and behold, as I think back upon the times when I have found myself in the situations above - I found myself providing ways that the person might be able to find a path to solving their problem, their issue, their concern. 

The same has held true when I found myself with a problem or difficult situation.  Many wonderful family members, friends, and colleagues have provided their guiding hand to me along my life to assist me in the advice that was needed by me.  Sometimes it was asked for, sometimes it was not.  All of it was taken under consideration as I tried to move forward in whatever concern I was dealing with at the time.  This is all very helpful.  Having those individuals we can go to and share our issues and gain guidance from is very important in this earthly life.  It helps us to get the needed perspective and, many times, paves a path for us to move forward.

I've been thinking lately, about our concerns in life.  Not just the life-changing situations where we need guidance, but also the small issues and problems.  What about the opportunities for us to look for true wisdom.  There may be many we may feel we can go to for that vast wisdom.  Yet, there is truly only One who holds that wisdom for us.  God freely provides His wisdom for us, whenever we ask.  He never holds anything back from us.  He is willing to guide us, show us the path, pave the journey ahead, and provide solutions to all our concerns, big or small.  When we ask for God's wisdom,though, we need to do so in pure faith - with the solid belief that He will provide the answer.  No doubts on our part.  Easy enough, right?

Well, think it over.  I know that there have been NUMEROUS times in my life when I have gone to God, "in pure faith", for His guidance.  I went to Him, asking for His wisdom with a journey I was on.  I may have gone to God in a moment of optimism or desperation.  I believed I went to Him with pure faith, waiting for His answer, His wisdom.  Before I knew it, I was taking the situation BACK from him.  This tug of war began to ensue between me and God when I doubt if He heard me, if He really "understood" what I was talking about.  Please tell me you have been there, too.  Whether I have asked God's wisdom on how to deal with a situation with my friends/family or guidance on a path for my future, there have been many times when he:
  • Didn't work fast enough for me
  • I couldn't clearly see what He wanted for me 
  • The situation was not fixing itself as I had planned
For these, and many more reasons, I chose to doubt God's wisdom and do it on my own.  Each time I tried it that way, it went miserably.  It wasn't until I truly gave the situation, in full, to God's wisdom was I able to see, to hear, to feel what He wanted to show me, the wisdom he wanted to share with me.  Having faith in God's wisdom is easier said than done.  What I have learned over the many years is that when I truly ask for God's wisdom, and I truly listen for His answer, my life is better.  The situation I am struggling with is better.  The peace He chooses for me arrives.  

God WANTS to give us His wisdom.  He freely gives it to us, to all those who have faith.  Doubt can be a powerful tool that grips us when life gets difficult.  Faith can see us to the brighter side - the side that has the solutions, the answers, the path.  God provides us the wisdom we need.  All we need to do is ask.  

So the next time you need to gain some wisdom, ask the one that is there with you - right by your side.  Speak out loud, in faith.  I know as I choose to do so, my life finds the wisdom He freely gives to me.  No need to doubt in Him.  He loves us too much to turn His back on us.  Remember, God gave us His only Son.  Simple Faith for Great Wisdom.  Let's try it together~~

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when  you ask, you must believe and not doubt."  (NIV)  James 1:5-6

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hugs of Hope

There are some things that a person needs to admit.  Here it goes.  I'm A Hugger!!  Yep, full-fledged, 100%, hugger.  I will hug my family.  I will hug my friends.  I will hug people that I just meet.  I have hugged total strangers in a grocery store when they were able to find something that I had been searching the aisles for.  I will hug children.  I will hug adults.  Whew - that's a load off my shoulders.

I'm in Human Resources and I train, on a yearly basis, the importance of "personal space", and how we need to respect that.  I believe in what I train and it is never my intention to offend anyone with my hugs.  I don't make a habit of going around work hugging people - no worries.  I have been in the profession long enough.  Yet, I believe there is something very powerful in a hug.  

Many years ago, when I was in college, I began watching videos (yes, the old VHS ones) and reading books by Leo Buscaglia.  His message of love, and hugs, left a huge mark on my heart.  To this day, other than suggesting someone read The Bible, it is his books I suggest someone read to help heal their heart.  What I have come to realize over the years (okay, that's a nice way of saying as I get older), is that the power of a hug brings another person so much.  The power of which I speak is the power of the Holy Spirit.

Think about a time when someone gave you a heartfelt hug.  Do you remember what it felt like?  What words come to mind with that memory?  Really, stop and think for a moment.  How did you feel?  Warm, safe, loved, honored, cherished, hopeful?  Pretty powerful stuff - a hug.  

Hugs come at different times in our lives.  There are hugs we give to those that we know need the power of touch.  Yes, sometimes holding someone's hand can do the trick.  Yet, there are other times when a hug will only do.  A hug when someone is crying.  A hug in times of joy (yes, that was the grocery store example)!!  A hug to a person you love, to let them know you care.  A hug of reconciliation.  We have used this type of hug in our family often.  When our family may be in need of a family meeting in order to air differences, we will usually end in a family hug (they may moan and groan over it - but it always ends with laughter and smiles).  

There are hugs that we receive during moments of despair, moments that may challenge us, difficult times.  Those hugs seem to be filled with hope.  They give us the feeling that things will be okay, that life will go on.  We feel the safety of a hug which is what was needed for us to have faith, believe, have hope, for a better future.  I have had the privilege of receiving many hugs like that over my 50 years.  Hugs that I remember very vividly - that gave me the strength to keep on going, to reach for a new day.  

Whether the hug is given or received, I find hope in hugs.  When we think about those hugs that have been special to us over the years, we can see God sending the Holy Spirit, to reach out to us in such a unique way - a hug.  It is how the Holy Spirit works - that is the power of the Holy Spirit.  By working in us, through us, we can change hopeless situations into hopeful situations.  So many people question these days whether there is hope.  They say that they can't see hope for the future.  I challenge that.  I believe we feel hope every day.  The grace of our Lord Jesus comes to this Earth every day.  We each have the ability to give hope to another, and to receive the hope we may need.  It is truly a blessing to reach out to another with hugs.  Hugs of Hope.

Our Bible verse for today supports our image - Jesus hugging the children.  What a powerful image!!  I know there have been times when I desperately needed to feel Jesus' arms around me.  He has provided that through the hug of a caring and loving family member or friend.  How blessed I am!  There will be a day when I will be able to hug my Heavenly Father - now THERE'S a hug I really look forward to giving!  Until then, I will continue to reach out with hugs of hope for those around me, to let them know that Jesus is with them - the Holy Spirit will guide them - and God will be waiting for them in eternity.  The next time you get a hug, receive it as the precious gift it is - from the person in front of you as well as from Jesus.  More importantly, should the Holy Spirit tug at your heart to give someone a hug, don't stop.  Let them know that you - as well as Jesus - is with them.  May hope fill your world.

"Then he hugged the children and blessed them."  (NIV) Mark 10:16

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cleansing Waters


Today is a special day in the church calendar.  Today, we celebrate our Lord Jesus' baptism.  When I envision this event, I picture John the Baptist baptizing Jesus - almost in a state of awe.  What a wonderful privilege he had to baptize our Savior.  It is truly an image of pure love and beauty.  

I don't know about you, but whenever there is a baptism during a Sunday service, I get all excited.  Yes, it is wonderful to see a family stand at the baptismal font with their family, little one in their arms, receiving our Lord Jesus' blessing both upon their forehead and upon their heart.  It does give me chills.  What truly brings tears to my eyes is what the baptism represents.  To know that another soul, whether a child, adolescent, or adult, is receiving the grace of God is a precious moment.  Through the water there is  forgiveness of sins, salvation in Jesus, and life everlasting.  Thus, the journey begins. 

I always loved the story my mom used to tell when I was baptized.  You see, I was baptized twice!  When I was born, I was very sick.  My grandfather, a Lutheran minister, baptized me right in the hospital with a paper cup.  When my health improved and I was able to leave the hospital, I received a baptism in our church.  I always felt "doubly blessed" because of my circumstances.  To me, it is truly the fact that a person is baptized that makes the difference.  Whatever the circumstances by which one receives baptism, it is the joy of God's everlasting grace and enjoying the relationship with Him for our forgiveness of sins that is so important.

If we receive all of this with the sacrament of baptism, then why would Jesus - who had no sin - need to be baptized?  There is much said on this, and I truly encourage you to dig deep to learn more.  I look to Jesus as to how to live my life.  I will never be able to be the type of person Jesus wants me to be.  I will always try, but I fail, miserably, each day.  That is why baptism is so very important.  At a very young age, it is the sacrament that forgives my sins, even when I don't ask.  Jesus is our role model - He showed us through His life on Earth, what we need to do.  He received baptism from John to fulfill prophecy, and to show us that we as well, need to be baptized.  Jesus, the giver of grace and righteousness, certainly didn't need to be baptized to cleanse his sinless soul.  Yet, as always, he showed us what we need to do.  As the scripture shares, His father was pleased with him, as He is with us, when we bring others to baptism.  

Baptism provides cleansing - they are truly the cleansing waters that takes our sins away.  To know I have been cleansed early in my life is powerful.  Regardless of when we have been baptized, we are cleansed in Jesus.  The one who died for our sins, gives us living water.  Through baptism, we are His. Regardless of how far we may venture away from Jesus, baptism gives us the path back to him.  Our lives have all taken us on different journeys.  There have been times in my life when my walk with Jesus has had him right by my side - at other times I have been distant from him.  Grace comes in knowing that he never leaves me.  Through the cleansing waters, we are always together.  This has brought such comfort to me throughout my life - knowing that he has been with me when I was small and will never leave me, never forsake me.

As each of my children were baptized, that day became significant.  I felt, on that special day, that I had help - that God was with them at that point - and that He would never leave them. Regardless  of what happened during their earthly life, I knew that God was watching over them and would protect them.  I can't tell you how much that has comforted me in many difficult situations with our children.  As they grow up and move on, this probably becomes even more important, as I am not able to be with them for all their choices, all their decisions.  Yet, God is, cleansing them and loving them.

If you have been baptized, think of what your own baptism means to you - what has it meant to you through the years.  Take some time to relish in God's cleansing waters - they are with you every day!  I know I need them every day.  If you have children who have been baptized, remember that special day, and give God glory for being with them on their earthly journey.  Know that when life is tough, the cleansing waters are with them every day.  If you know people who are not baptized, maybe God is tugging on your heart to speak God's word to them, and encourage them to experience the cleansing waters of God's love.  Help them to know what it feels like to have such cleansing.  Last, but not least, reflect on our Bible verses for today - thinking of Jesus' baptism with John.  Jesus had no need to be cleansed, but His father poured the Holy Spirit upon him, as he does on each who is baptized, to show His incredible love.

May you celebrate in the cleansing waters of Baptism!!

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."  Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Face of Disappointment

How Disappointment Can Lead Us Into Hypocrisy

Yes, the new year means new beginnings.  For many of us, it is the time for new starts, new ways of viewing the world, and new approaches to situations.  It is an exciting time.  If this is you - I pray that you take on your new journey with much enthusiasm, and that prayer to our God for pursuit of this journey is part of your process.

For others, this can be a difficult time of year.  It is a time of year when we look back upon our lives and say, "What has happened - why didn't what I planned last year work out?" Maybe you are facing disappointments that range in many different areas.  Exploring those now and gaining an understanding of how God can truly HELP us through those disappointments is a great way to start the new year.  Wallowing in the disappointment, although very attractive at times, really doesn't help any part of what we are facing.  Let's take a look at how we can handle the disappointments.

Disappointments happen in a variety of ways - we can be disappointed in God, we can be disappointed in others, and we can be disappointed in ourselves.  Being disappointed in God shows many faces.  Did we put our trust in Him and the way we thought things should turn out didn't come through?  Let us always remember that God's plan is the one that triumphs over whatever our plans may be.  His greater plan, His greater good - will always reign.  We don't usually see it that way short-term, yet, long-term, His plan always prevails.

Being disappointed in others happens often.  Our expectations and others' actions don't align.  This can, many times, be the greatest disappointment of all.  Especially when it is with people we love very much.  This, as well, can take on many faces.  We can set solid expectations with children, spouses, loved ones, and those expectations can be broken.  It is very disappointing when that happens, and our heart breaks.  Yet, we need to remember that God is the one that, once again, is in control.  People have free-will to make decisions that may or may not be good for them.  God's plan is always a good one.  As people, we need to move forward with what is right, what is good.  If we make decisions that are not in line with God's plan, that is the human side of us, the free-will that chooses things.  There are ways to prevail -  I'll let you in on it soon.

The other area where we find disappointment is in ourselves.  We KNOW we are making poor decisions - we KNOW we are doing the wrong things.  Yet, we continue to make these decisions, despite what the outcomes bring for us.  Many times, it takes personal disasters for us to truly understand the magnitude of our decisions - and our disappointment is great.  We can be disappointed in choices, in actions, in words, etc.  Being disappointed in ourselves can levy much guilt on us, creating a sense of darkness that is difficult to rise above.

Maybe you are experiencing one of the above disappointments.  Maybe you have in the past, and understand the emotion of what I am sharing.  I have experienced all three in my lifetime (thus far).  Being disappointed in God for His plan was not yielding my plan has challenged me through the years.  More recently, I have understood greater that His plan is the one that I follow - and it brings about much more happiness.  Being disappointed in others is difficult, especially with those close to you.  The expectations you have can be small or great - yet, if they aren't met, it can be tough to manage the disappointment.  When people "let you down" it is hard to understand the "why" behind it.  I would constantly ask myself a series of questions that would only yield more disappointment.  Realizing that people have free-will to make their own decisions, despite encouragement, is hard to grasp.  Yet, we need to know that we can't control other people's actions.  Being disappointed in ourselves can be the greatest disappointment of all - because we can actually be the ones to change the outcome.  It has certainly happened to me.  I have missed the chance to make a difference, to say things that would have been more positive, to be more supportive, to handle situations differently.  The importance is to find a way to move from that disappointment - from ALL these disappointments.

This only comes in one way - prayer to our Heavenly Father and patience that He will prevail over all the situations we may be facing.  Pray to Him for the vision to see His plan (either short-term or long-term).  Pray to Him for others that may be going down paths that aren't fruitful for them, that are disappointing, that He will share with you how to handle the person.  Pray to Him for the path YOU need to be on when you disappointment yourself, and the ability to forgive yourself for decisions/actions that are not in line with God's path.  By focusing on God's word, we can see His plan, we can see His journey.  There will be disappointments in life.  "God didn't promise you a rose garden."  Yet, He did promise you that He would always be there for you, to guide you, to comfort  you, to hear your prayers and act upon them in His time.  

Confide in God.  Talk to Him about everything.  Give Him your disappointments. Trust Him with the future of them.  He will be forever with you through it all.  Hope will be restored and life will be light again.  Here's to less despair in disappointments and more hope in Him!!

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged."  Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV) 

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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.