Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hope in Darkness



 
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned."  (NIV)  Isaiah 9:2
 
Yes, here we were, the day before Thanksgiving, and the snow started.  Heavy snow is beautiful when it comes down.  Big flakes that coat the ground and trees - it is pretty.  Yes, pretty heavy.  It also causes tree limbs to bend and break as well as electricity lines to bend (and break).  Hence, the day before Thanksgiving and roughly 200,000 people in the state of New Hampshire had lost power.  We found ourselves to be in the same predicament as the other 199,999 homes in New Hampshire.  No power and no heat.  That Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving was cold and dark.  We kept our family occupied with board games by the fire, hoping that by morning the power (and heat) would be back.  As Wednesday night progressed, one couldn't help but focus on the darkness and cold. We were able to warm ourselves with lots of blankets and such, but the darkness can be overwhelming. Once the candles are blown out and the flashlights are shut off - it is dark!  The generator was put into place on Thursday morning to keep things going.  To make a long story short, by Friday afternoon, power was restored. 
 
Yet, the feeling of Wednesday night stuck in my head.  Darkness and cold.  There was another night when it was dark and cold - the night of our Jesus' birth.  Yes, that night there were no flashlights and no big comforters.  There wasn't a fireplace to keep warm and not even a house to stay within.  That night, there was a lowly stable, with hay and animals surrounding the birth of the Messiah.  Such humble beginnings for our King!  There was something that permeated that dark and cold, though.  The star - the star that brought the shepherds and wise men to the King, Jesus.  The star that provided guidance and light.  The star that provided HOPE!  Hope for Mary and Joseph and the child they would parent and hope for the people of Jesus' time
 
The good news is that the hope of the star, the hope of Jesus didn't stop there.  The wooden manger that saw Christ's birth and the wooden cross that would see His death provided for us symbols of hope - along with the brightness of the star.  With those three symbols we will always have the hope that only Jesus, our Messiah, can bring.  The good news is that we have hope because of Jesus who came for US!!  To have such deep hope in our hearts and souls that nothing else can bring comfort except the faith that Jesus came for me is life-changing.  It replaces the darkness and coldness of this world with the hope of the star -  the star that shined over Bethlehem.
 
Eventually, our power was restored.  What received greater restoration that evening that Jesus was born was our souls - our souls received the restoration of salvation and hope.  We all need to have the hope that only Jesus can bring, the hope in true eternal life.  I pray that all those who read this never have to live in darkness and cold.  Yet, if that should happen, turn your thoughts, prayers and HOPE to our Jesus.  Give Him your prayers and your love.  The HOPE He gives to us is a great gift for us to hold onto. 
 
As our Advent season begins, I will try to share the meaning of the four Advent candles.  The first is HOPE, and I pray that during the next four weeks, may you turn to Jesus for the HOPE you need in this world - knowing that we have HOPE for our future.  May you all have a blessed Advent season.
 
 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

God Is Good

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will about in every good work."  (NIV)  2 Corinthians 9:8
 
It was a big day, yesterday, for our family.  Our son and his football team won the state championship in football.  It was the first time the high school received this honor, and the whole town was thrilled.  There was a parade of cars, buses, police and fire trucks going through town to the high school.  There were speeches.  There was cake.  There were smiles and tears of joy.  This team had great leadership with wonderful coaches.  It was a big day.
 
As we sat in the stands, barely 32 degrees, it was hard not to reflect on the goodness of God.  Yes, these boys worked hard.  Yes, there were many practices.  Yes, I am sure the coaches put in an incredible amount of time ensuring the plays were just right.  Yet, as I sat in the stands before the game yesterday, I prayed.  Oh yes, I prayed that He would watch over the team and guide them to victory.  I prayed for their safety.  I prayed, a lot.  God is good and he answers prayers.  He answered many prayers yesterday.
 
God brought this team a win yesterday.  God brought families together - all for the common goal of supporting players.  God brought dear friends from New Jersey up to watch the game and show their support - through traffic and injury - they came.  God blessed our family, abundantly.  At the end of the game, as the team cheered and the fans did as well, I gave thanks.  My heart cried out to the Lord with thanksgiving.  It was then that I realized how truly good God is.  Not because the team won, but the other blessings that came with it.
 
God showed us how wonderful family and friends can be.  As the celebration continued throughout the evening, and family joined us for dinner and cake, it was great that a simple game brought such happiness and joy to so many.  God showed us what faith can bring, warm hearts despite difficult times.  God showed us the power of prayer.  God showed Himself to us.  His love, His grace, His goodness, His peace.  It was all there throughout the day yesterday. 
 
This morning, as we worshipped our Dear Lord in church, once again I realized how Good God Is!!  Through His Word, through testimonies, through smiles and hugs, we get to see how Good God Is.  Sometimes, it is hard to see His goodness.  The previous week held frustrations, held hardened hearts, held wonders of not understanding, held missed opportunities to share his goodness.  As the service came to an end, once again, I thanked our Lord.  Once again, a tear of joy fell - so emotionally touched I was by His goodness.
 
Tonight I write with a sense of peace.  To know how much you are loved, by family, friends, and God, is overwhelming.  Tonight, I feel His love.  Tonight I feel His grace.  Tonight I am in awe of the blessings God has bestowed on me.  As we sang this morning in church, "God is so Good, God is so Good, God is so Good, He's so Good to me."  Blessings to all and may you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving - sharing praise to our Heavenly Father for all He has abundantly given to us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Leaky Pipe

"And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost."  (NIV)  Acts 13:52

It happened a couple of weeks ago.  We were going about our family chores in the house when we all started smelling a gas odor.  To make a VERY long story short, we were told that we had a leaky propane line.  Not something anyone wants to hear.  We were grateful for an evening of warmer temperatures and the next day a temporary tank and line were hooked up to our home until we could have the propane line from our larger tank repaired.  As with many home projects, it is not an easy fix, but it is fixable!  My husband and I are grateful for that and hope within the next couple of days, we will be "back in business" - especially as the colder weather is knocking at our doorstep here in New Hampshire.

That evening, and many evenings following that day, I have thought much about our leaky line.  I pictured our tank being full, and then through a small leak, all of our propane was gone and we had nothing left.  I have to share, I have felt much like that empty propane tank in my life.  Yes, let me share.

There have been events in my life when I have been "filled up" with the Holy Spirit.  I have felt full of God's word, God's strength, and God's love.  It may have been a great sermon that truly left me full.  It may have been a wonderful Christian music concert.  There have also been times when I have chatted with a fellow Christian friend and have found myself full to the brim with God's love.  There have also been times when I have read my Bible and a particular verse filled my soul.  Yes, these and others have filled me up so that I could continue my days ahead with the fullness of Christ.  Have you ever had the sensation of being "filled up" with the Holy Spirit?  I pray you have felt this as I have!  

Yet, I also have to share, that maybe days, or weeks, or months (or even years), after the "filling up", I have experienced the leaky pipe!  It may be a slow leak, or it could have been a gushing break, but my pipeline to the Holy Spirit was losing gas.  This leaky pipe has always been of my own doing - maybe "my ways" became stronger than God's ways (slowly but surely, that leak has occurred).  Maybe it has been the leak of selfishness, or gossip, or judgment - yes, I'm not proud to say that those leaks have passed my lips.  Then there is the strong break of the pipe - when I have been defiant to my Lord.  Yes, those times have happened too.  As you can see, none of these times have "filled me up", they have only created a leak or a break in my pipeline to God.

As with our home projects, the fix is not always easy.  It takes time to reflect, repent, and rejuvenate.  It takes work and time to be filled up again - getting back to my Bible, back to worship, back to my friends who fill me up.  Aahhh, but when those moments happen, I can feel my pipeline being restored.  The drive, the energy, the love that is in my heart continues to grow and, thank our Dear Lord, I am filled again with the Holy Spirit.  Yes, as with our leaky propane tank, I am "back in business".

How about you?  Do you have a slow leak in your pipeline to God?  Maybe it is a huge break.  Either way, remember, it is "fixable".  God provides so much to us to gain a stronger relationship with him.  Where should you start?  For me, it starts with prayer.  Reach out and talk to God, our Heavenly Father.  He is on the other side of the pipeline - waiting for us to reach out to him and be restored.  Talk to Him and let Him know what is in your heart.  The healing will begin, the fixing will occur.  Soon, you will be filled up - filled with the Holy Spirit.  Here's to fixing our leaks!!  The warmth that comes from a leak that has been fixed just doesn't happen in MY home, it happens in all of our hearts!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering . . .

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. . . . In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  Ephesians 6:10-16 (NIV)

Veteran's Day is this week.  This wonderful day of remembrance helps all of us to be aware, to be solemn, to be grateful for all the brave men and women who have fought on the battle lines to preserve the freedoms we have today.  I have such respect for people who give to their country in such a bold and profound way.  What makes them so very special?  I believe it is the self-sacrifice that they share with all of us.  They walk into battle, wherever that may be, knowing the dangers that surround them. They walk into that battle knowing what they may receive from their enemies - the scowling, the ridicule, the persecution, the injury, the sacrifice of life.  They walk right into that with a clear understanding of what is expected of them - to do whatever their commanding officer asks of them.  May we salute them - not just this day, but every day of our lives.

One can't help but look at our own lives to draw parallel.  We have an enemy who is as strong as any opponent that has faced our country - the devil.  As our enemy, he scowls us, he ridicules us, he can injure us and certainly put us into a place of persecution.  Many people throughout the ages have fought the valiant fight of being a Christian and defacing the devil.  This includes ourselves.  There is much around us that defines who the devil is - crime, addictions, hatred, etc.  We see it almost every day in the news.

Yet, we can find comfort.  As we find comfort that our military will protect us and our freedoms, we also can find comfort that our Lord and Savior will protect us from the devil.  He is there with us, guarding us and protecting us.  As our verse for today states, we need to prepare - we need to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand up against the devil and all that he throws our way.  If we stay in the way of our Savior, we will have righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Holy Spirit with us every day.  Those are wonderful pieces of armor to deter the one who wants to get to us, the devil.  With God's love, and His armor, we are able to walk into battle with faith, conviction, and love.  When WE do what our commanding officer asks of us, our Father, it is clear what is expected of us and we do it with self-sacrifice.

As we walk through the week ahead, may we be cognizant of the many men and women who have, and continue to give of themselves in our military.  May we thank them and shake their hand, letting them know how much we appreciate all they have done for us.

Also in the week ahead, may be put on our armor, and take up our sword, to defend ourselves and others against the devil.  Let God's word be your guiding force, and let His love reign down on you.  May the devil be pushed back from your life and may you shine forth in glorious victory!!

Heavenly Father, give us the strength to be soldiers for you, to put on your armor and defend against the devil.  Please be with all who are in our armed forces - protect them, guide them, and bring them home to their families.  In your name we pray - Amen

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Influence



"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  (NIV)  Hebrews 12:1

Yes, today is All Saints' Sunday.  I sat in church this morning listening to Pastor's wonderful sermon, selection of hymns and scripture, and saw all the other parishioners.  It made me reflect, it made me wonder. . . .  all those incredible people that are now with our Heavenly Father that have had an impact on my Simple Faith and the Simple Faith of my family.  

I can't help but start with my grandfather, who was a Lutheran minister.  I never met my grandfathers and that always made me sad.  I always wanted to know what they were like, what it would have been like to walk, hand in hand, down the street.  I know they are with our Savior, but I always wondered.  Although I never met my grandfather, I KNOW he had an influence on my family's faith.  I am sure he influenced both my mom growing up and, later on, my mom and dad as a newly married couple.

My grandmothers also influenced me.  My grandma would pray her rosaries every night.  She was deeply rooted in her faith and many of my fondest memories are of her praying as I fell asleep.  My Nana attended church with us, and was always a part of my church memories, especially the day I made my Confirmation.  Both of these strong women showed me how their faith impacted their lives with such incredible strength.  I also know they are in heaven keeping everyone up there in line!

My dad, yes, also had an influence on me.  He was one who lived his faith - he showed that many times over to his wife, his children, and his surrounding community.  He couldn't necessarily quote scripture, but he lived his life as a testimony to Jesus.  He always shared that he was  "strong like bull"; at the end - that may not have been his physical condition, but it certainly was his spiritual condition.  

Then there are those outside of my direct family that had an influence on my faith.  My pastor growing up, Pastor Kucharik and my dear Sunday School teacher, Mr. Dzuroska, will forever be in my heart as people who influenced my deep faith to an understanding of a teenager.  They were amazing saints that God definitely put into my life to influence me.

What about my family past me? There is no doubt that my husband's parents, both with Our Lord, influenced his faith and commitment to Jesus.  Juan often speaks of the times his father would sit at the table with the family Bible open, just reading.  His mom, a great servant of the church, found her time to be dedicated much to God and serving the church community.  I know that their influence on Juan has found its way into my heart as well.

Such great saints - people who witnessed their faith to me, to us.  The best part is, as Pastor shared this morning, that they are still influencing us - albeit far away.  They still watch down on us, continuing to be our witnesses, helping us, guiding us, ensuring that the faith they gave to us does not vanish.  With God's ever-present hand, the faith that began with earthly family and friends, has continued to bring us closer to Him every day.  It is this faith that helps us continue on the path He provides for us - the path that God brought to our lives.

Who are your saints?  Who are the people that have gone on to heaven that influenced YOUR life, YOUR faith?  Think about them, thank our Dear Lord for their presence in your life, hold them close to your heart, and continue the simple faith that they brought to you.  That is truly the greatest gift you can give these all-deserving saints.  

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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.