Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Year of Wonder


So the story goes, when I was born, there was some "discussion" over what my name was going to be.  Apparently, my father's choice was the name Ruth.  We can all inference that his choice was not the one that made the birth certificate, yet, over the years since hearing that tale, I wonder what brings me back to that story in my mind.  I love this book of Ruth - I love Ruth's story.  I love to read of her actions.  Throughout the book of Ruth, what she actually says is minimal, but it is her actions that tell her story.  It's a story of faith, the faith she showed to Naomi and God.  It's a story of integrity, she not only told Naomi how much she meant to her, she showed that love to Naomi through countless unselfish acts.  It's a story of blessings, the countless blessings God bestowed on Ruth to keep Naomi and her safe, fed, and ultimately, providing a new home and life for them.  It's a story of God's gift to his people, blessing Ruth and Boaz a son, Obed, ultimately David's grandfather.

As I thought about Ruth and the year that has passed, I realize the growth that God has provided for me.  It is amazing what a year brings.  A year ago, my stress-filled life was consuming me - and my family.  There were days that I felt that I couldn't go on, that the world brought with it too much for me to handle, thereby, not handling much of it.  I was in constant turmoil.  Then the wonderful ladies at Proverbs 31 shared an on-line Bible Study.  It was amazing and changed my life.  It taught me that if I put God first, life will begin to take on it's rightful path.  One of my greatest learnings was understanding how to blog.  Through this avenue, I felt I had a chance to do God's will - something He had tugged at my heart for years - to write.  I started, I committed.  My goal was to write each week whatever He put on my heart.  I am sure there were times that you read and said to yourselves "what was she thinking" (I'm hoping those times were few).  I am hoping there were other times when a few of the words touched your heart, helped you to hear from God, and inspired you to say new words, take new actions, live a new life in Christ.

Well, my friends, it has been one year.  For the past year, each Sunday, I continued with my commitment.  I have been blessed more than any person can imagine.  The blessings have come through my growth while writing, my learning of what I can do better.  The blessings have come from sharing my personal struggles - and through writing - finding ways through those struggles.  The greatest blessings have come through my readers, who encourage me, share what they have learned, share their words of wisdom.  It is those blessings that I take with me to the next week's writing venture.  Now, the decision - do I continue to strive to write each week or is it time to say goodbye for a little while.  God's voice is telling me to continue - to keep on writing.  I pray that you are okay with that and that this time we have together continues to bless you. 

Although my name may not formally be "Ruth", it doesn't mean I can't aspire to be like her.  I want to live the life of integrity she did.  I want my faithfulness for my Lord to come through in my actions, my words, my deeds.  I want to show the type of kindness and compassion that Ruth had - to everyone I meet.  I want to have the faith in God that is not doubtful, the faith that drives me to go to Him in all I do, for help, comfort and strength.  Through all those things, I know the Lord will continue to bless me as he already richly has. 

This week, I encourage you to read the book of Ruth - no worries, it's not a long one.  I guarantee you that as you read of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz it will inspire you to be stronger people of God.  It amazes me that as we grow in the Word, that all the answers to our lives are clearly mapped out for us.  God does not let us down - he is here for us every step of the way.  Let him lead you.  Lastly, I would like to say "thank you" to all who read the words I write each week.  Please know that I do believe they are from God - sharing with me to share with you.  May we all continue to be a blessing to each other.

"Where you go, I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God."  (NIV)  Ruth 1:16

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Growth Potential

Yes, we still have snow on the ground in New Hampshire.  Although Spring is officially here, it is hard to believe that I will ever have the opportunity to plant my seedlings in my garden.  The picture above is one I am very much looking forward to and I know it will be here - because God never lets me down. I have put my faith in what He delivers, and it is always EXACTLY what I need.  It amazes me that when I begin my gardening journey each year, a small seed or sprout turns into a beautiful, vegtable yielding plant.  I truly enjoy taking that journey every year.

As I journey with Jesus this Lenten season, I thought about that growth - my growth.  The past few weeks have been spent recognizing my sins.  Yes, the quieter I am the louder God is, letting me know when my words, thoughts, or actions have been against His will.  It has truly opened my eyes, and heart, to realize the areas that I need to take time and listen to God.  After the recognition has come the repentence.  The need for me to stop what I am doing when I hear God's voice, that nudge that says, "Should you have said that? Was that an action that is pleasing to God?" and has helped me to say, "I'm sorry!"  This apology and repentence sometimes went to the person I was speaking to, or the person who was hurt by my actions.  More than ever, the apology goes to Jesus.  He, being the one who suffered and gave of himself for all of my sins.  He needs to know that I realize when I am wrong and that I repent for my sins.

The next step on this journey is for growth.  Although I have been a Christian all my life, it amazes me how much I need to Grow in God.  So many days I feel like the little seedling in the picture.  This season of Spring brings to light all the growth that I still need.  I am far away from the mature plant at harvest season.  Recognizing and repenting has brought forward the reality of my need to grow.  It doesn't do me any good to do just the first two steps.  I need to take what God has taught me through this proces and now apply it - apply these lessons in my every day life.  It is time to stop the negative and begin the positive.  Stepping outside the comfort of our daily lives can be scary and filled with anxious thoughts.  Yet, it also provides us the opportunity to grow in more areas of our life than we have ever imagined.

At first thought, it all seems very overwhelming.  There is much I need to do; many places where I need to grow; many bad habits that need to be replaced by good ones. Where do I start?  I need to start in prayer, praying to God for where my growth needs to begin.  He knows where my greatest challenges lie.  Through Him, I know I can make progress.  Through time, I can become the mature plant.  Until then, I need to make the steps.  I need to root myself in fertile soil, God's word,  I need to fertilize by praying and enveloping myself in God's world - worship, praise, thanksgiving.  I know that if I stay in The Lord, he will show me how I can be successful.  

So I ask you to take the journey with me.  Let's ask God what we can do, how we can be better in His world.  Then let's take the step - firmly planting ourselves in His Garden.  I have a few areas I will be working on, dependence on Jesus when I can't do it myself - complete dependence.  I will be working on thoughts that promote God's world, and getting rid of the negative thoughts that bring me and others down.  What are you going to firmly root in Growth in God?  Take some time to think of the one or two areas that will change your life - and become closer to our Heavenly Father.  Where to start?  Be quiet with God, He will show you.   Here is to our journey - let's pray . . .

Dear Lord, thank you for all the blessings you so richly give me.  As I recognize and repent for my sins, I know there is another step to take, the one that brings me even closer to you.  Help me to see where I need to grow and give me the path to get there.  Lay out the plan, God, and show me the way to get there. Give me the strength to succeed in you, for my growth needs to be in you.  Amen

"Commit to The Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."  (NIV)  Proverbs 16:3

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Boldly Repent


Friday, Spring will be here.  It is hard to believe, as we still have much snow on the ground here in New Hampshire, but it will be Spring.  During the many snowstorms this winter, us "New Englanders" didn't believe it would come.  Yet, God doesn't let us down, and as it does every March 21st,  it will return.  We are starting to see small signs of this.  We have a day or two when it gets above 40 (a real heat wave)!  We see puddles where the snow is melting.  I have actually seen small buds on the trees, noting that spring is coming.  Yet, what I hear are the geese - the geese are returning!  Geese have the most remarkable sound.  When they squawk, it is bold, it is loud, and you can hear it coming long before you see them in the sky.  I find it incredible that their sound is so deep, so rich.  I know I will soon see them among a small patch of grass, grazing.  It brings a smile to my face.

During this past week, as I have tried to spend more time listening to my God, I realized something.  The more I listen, the more He talks to me.  He advises, counsels, and yes, helps me to recognize where I have gone wrong.  There were times when he whispered to me, "Susan, are you sure you need to participate in that conversation?  Is that really something you want to say?".  There were other times when he squawked, like the geese, saying, "Do This" or "Go There" or my personal favorite, "Really?  What are you thinking?".   What I realized was that when I didn't listen, my day was not in God's hands.  The times I made poor decisions, or had bad thoughts, or didn't act when I should have, my day didn't go so well.

Although I certainly could have done a much better job listening to my God, as the week went on, I took some time.  I stopped, throughout my day, and focused on the one who focuses on me.  I tried to make time for the one who makes time for me, always!  Jesus never turns me away when I talk to Him, he never says, "I'm a little busy now" (and who has a better excuse to be busy than Jesus)!!  Yet, I never feel as if I am bothering Him.  He has put up with so much from me, times when I said I've been too busy, don't have time to chat, don't have time to act, etc.  Yet, not my Jesus, He is always there for me.  Small, simple moments is what God asks from us.  Certainly the more dedicated time should be His as well.  Yet, as our days get moving, taking small, simple moments for the one who ALWAYS has time for us, is important.

To take the moments means that we need to listen, to recognize.  Remember the next step?  Repent.  As I went through my day trying to be more cognizant of where I went wrong, I stopped, in the moment, and repented.  I realized these moments more often in my day, and repented - actually took time to say, "God, Forgive Me".  I was nudged by God to move in a different direction, more productive and fulfilling.  Yet, I know that my repenting needs to be BOLD.  It needs to proceed me, like the squawking of the geese.  I need to share boldly, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."  He's taking the time to put me on the right path.  I can boldly ask for repentance, and walk in a brighter path.

As I shared last week, I want to recognize, repent, and grow.  I NEED to do these things.  Share a prayer with me.  Father, please continue to open my eyes, my heart, my ears, and my soul to you.  Let me take time, simple time, to listen to you Dear Lord.  Show me, where I cannot see, when I am not acting towards your divine will.  Guide my heart away from evil to places of delight in You.  Bring my soul the refreshing water of Your forgiveness.  Hear me asking for forgiveness, repenting of my sins, and help me grow closer to You!  

May we continue on our journey to become closer to Jesus this Lenten season.  Boldly repent; share it loudly like the geese; so that we may graze in His heavenly home some day.

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."  (NIV) Luke 15:7

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Being Wrong

My family will tell you that there are many times when I have difficulty admitting I was wrong.  Over the years, having my "stubbornness" pointed out to me on a variety of occasions, I have come to understand that this is truly an area I need to work on.  It's not that I'm close-minded.  In fact, I work very hard, professionally and personally, to ensure all sides of the situation are represented.  Yet, sharing the words, "I was wrong" is a growth opportunity.

This growth area became increasingly clear to me during the Ash Wednesday service this past week.  The Lenten season has become my "growth" time each year.  I do love Christmas and all of the joy it offers to me, but Lent is a season where I reflect.  I reflect on all our Jesus gave for me, for us.  I reflect on His incredible love and sacrifice.  I also turn that mirror to me, though, in a true understanding that there are many areas where I need to grow - especially spiritually.  The Lenten season this year will be my time to listen to my God and have Him show me where I can grow.  Where am I wrong?  How can I improve?  I look at my sinful nature and I can see and understand many of the sins I have each and every day.  To me, our sins fall into numerous categories.  I'd like to explore two of them today.  

There are the sins that I would consider to be "graphic, in-your-face Susan" sins.  The thoughts I think and know I shouldn't, my lack of patience, the unkind words that may come out of my mouth, actions (or non-actions) that have occurred.  Yes, I am sure you can relate to what I am sharing - the types of sins that we KNOW we have done wrong.  These have become immediate sins to me, and I am working to recognize and repent immediately - asking for God's wonderful forgiveness and strength to not have those sins repeat themselves.  Every day, but especially during Lent, I am focused on this improvement and know that God can help me, His wonderful grace evident in each step I take.

The other sins that I know I commit are the less "visual" sins.  These are sins that maybe I don't consider myself to be wrong, or am not open to see the "sin" in my thoughts, actions, and words.  These are the sins I have to be shown - by family, friends - most importantly, by God.  These times, these sins, are when I need to be still, be quiet, and listen.  I need to listen to those around me, sharing with me how I might have hurt them or others.  I need to be quiet, and listen for God's voice.  He's there and so willing to talk to me, but often I do not take the time or the effort, to listen.  Yes, life is busy.  Yes, there is much to do.  But what is more important than listening to our God and Savior when He talks to me?  Often, I believe I am doing much of the talking without enough of the listening (I'm sure my family would agree on THAT statement).  It happens with God, too.  I will talk/pray with God, and then move on.  I need to listen - I need to grow - I need to learn.  Once I learn what I am doing that is sinful, it is at that moment I need to recognize, repent, and grow.  Recognize, repent, and grow!!

During the next few weeks, journey with me.  Jesus took the journey to the cross for us.  He suffered greatly for each of our sinful nature.  He walked the road to Calvary, each step stomping out our sin.  He hung on a cross, our sins on his shoulders.  Journey with me, as I ask God to open my eyes, my heart, and my soul to the sins that are less visible.  Listen with me, to God's words, as he lovingly shares where I went wrong, and the road back to His grace.  He will teach us best when we are quiet, and willing to learn the path to His kingdom.  Recognizing our sins is the first step on our journey.  It truly is simple.  Be quiet, have faith, that our Almighty Father can reign in our lives.  May this Lenten season bring you a oneness with our Savior.

"Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong."  (NIV)  Job 6:24

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thankful Praises

A moment in time.  That's what yesterday was.  I was driving along (back home from my weekly trip to the grocery store), and in that moment in time, I realized the blessings I had received from our Dear Lord during the previous week.  I realized how those around me, family and friends, had also been richly blessed.  It literally took my breath away.  Have you ever experienced that moment when you realize that prayers - prayers you have been praying day over day, year over year, have been answered?   That is the moment I experienced yesterday.

There are many areas I need to grow as a Christian - God is CERTAINLY not done with me yet - there is much I can and need to do to glorify his wonderful name.  If I started making that list, well, we know where that would go.  An area I am trying to improve upon is taking the time, each day, to give glory to God for all that He has done for me - that day.  Taking moments throughout the day - not just at prayer time - to say, "Thank you God".  Many times they are simple things (I do like the simple things in life).  I might have received a kind word from someone, a smile, a thoughtful gesture, just when I needed one.  Maybe it was relief of a concern.  Maybe it was the beautiful sight I had seen - knowing all those things can only come from God.  Take a moment with me.  Think of something, today - so far today - that you can be thankful to God.  Give our Lord a little glory, tell Him how wonderful He is and thank Him for your blessing.  It is important for us to take the time.

Yesterday, though, was bigger than the small moments.  It was a total realization that the recent goodness God bestowed on our family, on our friends, after months of praying was coming to fruition.  It is hard to be patient for God's timing.  In this world of instant gratification, it is difficult to continually pray for something, for many things, that just don't seem to be coming along.  There is the answer to prayer that is "yes" (those are always fun, aren't they?).  There is the answer to prayer that is "no" (disappointing, but we always realize that God has a bigger plan).  Then there is the tough one, "wait" (don't know about you - but that one seems to be the hardest).  Waiting can be a hard road, with many detours.  When we are told to "wait" by God, if we are not patient, we tend to take things into our own hands.  I know I have done this, with disastrous results.  I have learned over the years that the "waiting", although difficult, is most fruitful.  The gratification when God finally says "yes" or shares with you His greater and divine plan, there is nothing like that feeling.

Those are the times, my friends, we need to shout to the Lord, give him thanks and praise.  I shouted out to God - the Holy Spirit working in me to say, "Hey Susan, give deep praises to the one who made this possible".  God is Good.  He gives to us when He knows we need it - not when we think we need it.  God's timing has always amazed me.  His rich and wonderful timing.  Let's relish in this for a moment.  Let's do it together.  Think about life lately.  Think about how you have been blessed by answered prayers.  Praise be to God by whom all blessings flow!!  Share in the peace that comes with all He does for us.  As I worshipped this morning, I gave God my thanks - singing a little bit louder (I'm sure those around me really appreciated that), focusing a bit deeper, pondering the cross with greater reverence.  Now, I need to do this ALL the time, for there is much to give thankful praises to each and every day.  

I'm going to start working a bit harder on a few things.  Yes, I will continue my journey of a simple "thank you" to God for all that is good.  I will also continue my journey of thankful praises, glorified praises, to the one that gives us the light of the world, to the one that gives us salvation in Him.

It's hard to believe, but Lent does begin this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday.  As we spend the next six weeks reliving our Jesus' journey to the cross, may we do so with hearts filled with thanks and praise for the life He so graciously gave for us - so that we might live with Him in eternity.  I pray that the Lenten season ahead brings us back to our simple faith, to a time where this world of ours is set aside, and we focus on all that Christ did for us.  May we be thankful and give praise for our eternity with Him.

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."  (NIV)  Psalm 103:2

About Me

My photo

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.