Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Back into the New Year

I pray that everyone who reads this had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. I would love to hear from all of you as to your favorite Christmas moment.  Although there are so many to choose from, I think my favorite has to be singing "Silent Night, Holy Night" while just the candles are lit during our Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve.  There is something about that moment that I refer back to throughout the year.  Please feel free to leave your special moments in the comments section below.

As I thought about what to write today, the verses from above rang true to me, and I hope they will with you as well.  The New Year typically is full of New Year's resolutions.  Yes, those promises we make to ourselves, and sometimes to others, of all the things that we will do differently in 2015.  I have to share, there are many things that I would like to do differently in 2015.  Yet, today, I hope that we can look back as we enter the New Year.

Let's reflect on the first verse listed above, "The Lord bless you and keep you."  Please ponder with me over the 2014 year and think of all the blessings our Lord has bestowed upon you.  Many will say - nothing good has happened this year.  Yet, I challenge you.  Whether it be body, mind, or soul, I am sure there has been at least ONE blessing our Lord has given to you.  Yes, we may wake up with a few more aches and pains than in previous years, but we are still waking up each day - to make a difference in this world.  Yes, I know that there are many moments where my mind made the wrong choices during 2014, but there were other times where I made the right choices - Godly choices.  I also know that during the past year, my soul was guided more by MY doings than God's path for me.  Yet, there were times when I followed God's path - and the blessings were overflowing!!  I know the Lord blessed you this past year - please take the time to reflect on those blessings and give praise and glory to the One who provided for us.

Second verse, "The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you."  Have you seen God's face this past year?  I have!!  I have seen His face in those that have been gracious enough to forgive my sins for doing wrong.  I have seen His face in those that I have prayed with.  I have seen His face in my husband, my children, and my mom.  I have seen it in smiles and tears.  His face has shone upon me and has graced my life on more than one occasion.  Yes, let's reflect again on the times when you have seen God's face in your life.  I am sure there has been at least one time when his face has shined upon you as well.

"The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace."  Countenance = support!  Did the Lord support you this past year and provide you peace?  Was there one time when you felt washed over by the Holy Spirit and found that special peace?  Not just the "quiet" peace (yes, that is a special time as well), but the type of peace where even though life around you might be busy, you were able to breath, smile, and be in the moment of God's peace.  God's peace is available for the taking each and every day - it is US that need to stop and take the time to FEEL that peace.  Has God supported you in 2014?  Has He been there for you, helped you, lifted you up?  Those are wonderful moments where we know we are His children - when we know that God came to this earth, in a manger, and died on the cross, so that we might feel his support and peace.

My friends at Proverbs 31 taught me something that I love to use when I read a special verse.  Insert MY name into the verse and personalize it for ME - for that is how God intended the Bible to be read.  So the verses would read:
    The Lord bless me, Susan, and keep me.
    The Lord make his face shine upon me and be gracious unto me, his child Susan.
    The Lord lift his countenance upon me and GIVE ME PEACE.

This past year has been filled with God's blessings, no matter how difficult the year may have been.  So please, before the ball drops on New Year's Eve, take a few moments to look back and see the blessings God so richly provided to us in 2014 before taking the leap into 2015.  I pray the following for us:
   May our Lord provide for all our needs, body, mind and soul.  May He give us the peace that passes all understanding.  May we come closer to him and his word.  Let us give God the time he so wonderfully deserves and, in turn, may we give time to each other.  Here's to a 2015 that brings us closer to God, closer to family and friends, closer to strangers, closer to peace.  Amen


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Love Chain

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  (NIV)  John 3:16

It is hard to believe that this is the last Sunday of Advent and that Christmas Eve is just a few short days away.  How have your preparations been coming along?  Today was "wrapping" day and I'm happy to say that we are all done!!  Yet, the gifts have been abundant this Advent well before the day of Jesus' birth.

It has been a difficult four weeks.  As I mentioned earlier, the chaos of Christmas was in full gear.  Yet, also in full gear were the wonderful "love blessings" I received throughout the chaos.  There were words of encouragement, to me and from me.  I don't know about you, but many times, when I try to share encouragement, I believe "I" am the one that is more blessed.  Whether it be words written down or spoken, all of them have had great meaning.  Then there were the moments of peace and praise at church during this Advent - times when the Holy Spirit truly touched my heart and I could feel Jesus' love.  

God shared His son with us - the people he loved so much.  He knew, from before creation, that we were going to need a savior.  Someone who would save us from ourselves.  Someone who would care for us.  Someone who would love us dearly.  Someone who would die for us.  The love chain of Jesus is so incredible to view.  Please take a journey with me . . . .

God loved us so much he sent the angel Gabriel to speak with Mary.  Mary loved God so much she took on the role of Jesus' mother - unconditionally.  She never said, "Let me think about it," like Jonah did.  She loved her Lord and would do anything for Him, that's real love.  Joseph loved Mary and his Lord so much that when he had an opportunity to walk away, he didn't.  Despite ridicule, Joseph stayed with Mary, and became Jesus' earthly father.  Moving forward, Jesus' disciples stayed with him during his ministry - and saw blessings beyond comprehension.  Jesus loved Mary Magdalene so much that he stopped the behavior she was enduring and showed compassion and love to her.  In return, Mary followed him through his ministry as well.  I know, there are so many more examples of the love chain that I could write a novel.  Yet, there is one more link that has to be shared.

The greatest example of love comes from our Jesus - our savior.  His love is so great for all mankind that he was born in the most humble manner, a lowly manger.  That first Christmas had Jesus not joining this earthly world in the comfort of a palace but in the discomfort of a stable.  Yet, his love was so great that he came - for you and for me.  His love is so great for all mankind that he died the most humiliating death, so that we might live with him in paradise.  Such love, to us, is incomprehensible.  Yet, he did so with you and me and billions of others on his mind - so that we could experience the freedom from sin, and the warmth of his love.

His love is so great for all mankind that he will come again, this time in glory.  What a glorious day that will be.  His love is with us each and every day.  We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit, who takes residence in our hearts, and continues to help us understand God's love.  We see this love in the faces of family, friends and even strangers.  We feel this love in each touch.  We hear this love from the lips of those around us.  We read of this love in God's word.  His love is all around us - blessing us, reaching us, showing us that the chain of love cannot be broken.  Experience God's love - give the gift of love to those around you.

This Advent we shared the gifts of the Advent Candles:  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  I pray that this Christmas you experience all four of God's gifts in abundance.  I pray that the humbleness of our Lord is shared by you each day.  I pray that your faith in God brings you the hope, peace, joy and love that only Jesus can bring.  May you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joy within Sorrow

"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy."  (NIV)  Psalm 126:5

The third Sunday of Advent - JOY!  Joy is one of those awesome words - it helps us to understand what could possibly be greater than "happiness".  Great JOY comes in so many different shapes and sizes, so many different situations.  It's hard to believe that joy can rise up from sorrow - but then again, that is the beauty of life, of God!

A few days ago marked 25 years since my grandmother had passed.  I remember the day my mom called.  I remember the days following that call.  Most of all, I remember the wake, the funeral, the family, the friends.  The people kept coming, streaming from every doorway.  I knew she was well liked, but THIS many people? It certainly brought perspective to how many lives my grandmother touched.  Amongst all the people, tears were not being shed.  There were squeals of laughter and not many tears.  This was a wake, really?  Yes, really.  Out of a time of sorrow, our Dear Lord brought great joy.  

There have been many times in my life where the sorrow I was feeling led to a moment of joy - helping me to understand that I am not always in control. When I need our Lord, He is always there for me, to bring me down a greater path.  This thought led me to all the joyful moments I have had in my life was well.  Just pure JOY that The Lord bestowed upon me or my family.  One of those moments happened this week.

After much waiting and anticipation, our son received the letter every senior awaits - the one from the college of their choice sharing that they have been accepted.  As Christian read over the letter, a sense of pure joy (and relief) exuded from him.  Such tears of joy were incredible to see.  He had worked very hard for this one moment, the moment where he could breathe and say, "I got in!"

This helped me to think about the joy we have with our savior.  Let's reflect upon Mary's utter joy when Jesus was born and the wise men visited - such JOY.  What about when Mary came upon the open tomb and met the resurrected Jesus down the lane - incredible JOY.  Most importantly to us, we have a JOY to look forward to that nobody can take away from us, the joy that we will feel when we enter the heavenly kingdom.  

I have been fortunate to have much JOY in my life.  The type of JOY that surpasses general happiness.  Blessings from God are truly to be treasured.  Reflect on the moments of JOY in your life.  Have you, too, experienced joy from sorrow?  I think that the best joy of all is the type we have when we take stock of all of our sins, too many to bear, and the JOY that fills our hearts when we know our Savior was born of this earth only to die and take all of my sins with him.  NOW THAT'S JOY!!  Advent Blessings to All!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Peace Amongst Chaos

"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you."  (NIV)  2 Thessalonians 3:16

It is the Second Sunday in Advent and the second candle lit today is for peace.  I don't know about you, but from the time the turkey goes into the oven on Thanksgiving until the last present is open on Christmas Day, my life can seem a bit chaotic.  Yours?  Are you feeling the chaos of the Christmas Season?

Each year I make a commitment to myself, and in turn, my family, to take these four weeks and create a more peaceful environment.  Usually, right about now - week two, the panic starts to set in.  Work is extremely busy - I can't seem to get ahead of the game.  Deadlines are looming, issues are surfacing, and a pressure I put on myself to ensure everything gets done creates a sense of chaos.  Why aren't there enough hours in the day?  Why is everyone asking for something?  Why can't we figure out a way to spread all of this throughout the year versus right now in the last month?  Why, why, why?

Then there are the household commitments - events for the kids, entertaining, events for the adults, shopping for gifts, writing the cards, etc., etc., etc.  It seems that just as I get in the car to come home from a long day at work, I begin to remember all that needs to be done at home.  Believe me, I have scaled back from years gone by, but the pile still seems to grow and grow.

What is your Advent season like?  Is it full of chaos and commitment or is it focused on Christ's birth?  If you are one to feel the chaos of Christmas, I have hope for you.

Take this moment, this one moment, and say with me, "Jesus - you TRULY are the reason we celebrate with such excitement.  The events and the chores of the season are done with the knowledge that your birthday is one the world celebrates.  Be with me, create in me a sense of peace amongst the chaos.  Only YOU can do that Jesus, and I know you are with me right now to help me get there."

I prayed a prayer similar to the above about 4 days ago.  It seemed like I wasn't going to get "it all" done.  I left it in God's more-than-capable hands.  Over me washed a sense of peace.  We all define peace in different ways.  Maybe you believe peace needs to be "peace and quiet" - nobody talking at you, nobody asking anything of you.  Many people see peace that way - those "Calgon take me away" moments where you are alone and at peace.  Yes, those moments are peaceful, quiet and precious.  

I see peace a little differently - and that is what I experienced a few days ago.  Peace doesn't have to mean quiet - I believe peace is defined as "calmness from God".  When I need peace in my life, it doesn't mean that the busyness of life needs to stop - it means that I know God is with me, guiding me, through the chaos.  At the end of the day the chores and the commitments were done out of love for my Lord, my family, and my friends.  The feeling of me wanting to scream is replaced by the Holy Spirit washing peace over me, like a blanket of comfort.  It is an incredible feeling and one that, I have to share, I have had the pleasure of experiencing over the years.

During times of darkness, times of busyness, times of joy and times of thanksgiving, I need to feel the peace of God.  He has never disappointed me.  When I reach out to him in times of prayer - asking for great peace - He has delivered this sense of comfort, as if He was giving me a huge hug.  For those of you who know me directly, hugging is a BIG part of my world.  It is the best feeling, and to have that feeling from God gives me the strength to move forward.

It is the Advent season - a time for us to do all we do out of faithfulness to our Lord.  It is a time for us to enjoy each other, to sing those carols loudly, to bake with zeal, etc.  It is also a time to stop - maybe right in the middle of the mall - and say a prayer to God for a sense of peace amongst the chaos.  I promise you He will respond in kind, with a big hug!!  Oh by the way, if you get an opportunity for a "Calgon" moment - certainly take it.  Those moments are cherished as well!!  Blessings to all.  

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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.