Sunday, February 22, 2015

Prideful Souls, Humble Hearts

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."  (NIV)  1 Peter 5:6
There is something about today's world which leaves the words Humble and Humility to be words that aren't utilized much.  I have no doubt that there are many reasons for this, but that is not the point today.  I look around and what I see our Prideful Souls - people who work hard to share with another all that they have done, all that they possess, all that they are.  If we are going to be completely honest, there are many times when my soul is full of pride.  I am not happy to admit that, but if we are going to gain insight to ourselves, we need to be honest.  Pride is certainly not something I am proud of  (seems ironic).  I know this because I know how my Lord feels about a prideful person ( bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble all who are renowned on the earth... Isiah 23:9).  I don't want to be that person - I want to have a humble heart.  What does that mean to you?
To me, it means that my heart (which in turn will connect to my mind), enters into situations without an "air" of I am the best, but rather, where can I learn.  This past week, I read a devotion that stuck with me - enter a situation with something to learn, not something to prove.  How powerful is that when seeking a humble heart?  Do I always enter into situations that way?  I certainly don't.  There are many discussions/meetings/chats where I may enter without a humble heart .  As we know, God's choice for us is the humble manner. 
This became increasingly apparent to me most recently when I was observing a conversation between two people.  It was clear, as the conversation progressed, that neither party had any humility between them - they were both going into the conversation to "win".  I have had more conversations than I care to admit where I entered into them with the "winning" mentality versus the "learning" mentality.  I hope I am not the only one out here who has focused this way.  I am certainly not proud of my behavior, especially looking back.  Did my behavior demean someone else?  Were they made to feel inferior based on my words?  How did the rest of their day unfold due to my need to "win"?  No, I am certainly not proud of those moments. 
Entering a situation with humility is how our Dear Jesus entered Jerusalem during his last few days on Earth.  He didn't enter with a sense of pride.  He entered on a donkey - a lowly animal.  His power is unimaginable - he healed the sick and oppressed.  He drove out demons.  Yet, he humbled himself in front of his enemies.  The example Jesus gives us in all his actions is that of a humble heart.  If anyone didn't need to be humble, it certainly was Jesus.  Yet, that's not our Lord - our Lord came to us to show us - show us how to live.  Jesus' humble heart yielded him at the right hand of our Father in heaven.  As our Bible verse for today states, He will "lift up" those who are humble.  Let us not show our pride, but let God be proud of us.
As we enter this Lenten season, let us remember the Jesus that made the long walk to Calvary for our prideful souls.  Let us reflect upon our ways and ask God's help in changing us.  As always, Jesus is the example of how we should live our lives, with a humble heart.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Giving to Give

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  (NIV) Galatians 6:9
This past week had many "feel good" things attached to it.  It was the week that our nation called "Random Acts of Kindness" week.  The focus of this week is to encourage people to do little things for people to share goodness and kindness.  I've also seen this going around Facebook as well, doing random acts of kindness for others.  It certainly is a nice thing to focus our actions to helping and assisting others.  Then there was Valentine's Day yesterday, a time for us to reflect on those that we love and let them know how much they mean to us.  All of these things are certainly good and wonderful to participate in - it's important to be kind and share love with others.
There are many people who state that these types of things are "commercialized" and that we shouldn't "participate" in these activities.  My aim here is not to take one position or another.  Personally, I love every opportunity I get to do these types of activities.  My aim this week is to challenge us - to challenge us to do good - regardless of the occasion or holiday.  Take the time to share with others the gifts or talents that we have to make their lives just a little bit brighter, a little bit better. 
I am sure each of us has had the opportunity to "do a little something" for someone - maybe someone close to us that we love very much and surprise them with a treat or a special thought.  Maybe it was a chance to give to a total stranger who is in need or who needed a bit of a "pick me up".  It is important to do these types of things, to do good.  Why?  Well first of all, because the Bible tells us to, as we see Paul telling us this week in our Bible Verse.  Paul helps us to understand that we might get tired of doing good things, but not to give up, not to stop.  Have you ever been in that position - when you try to do some good things but it takes its toll on you?  Maybe you volunteer at a charitable organization and doing it "one more time" will be a struggle during a long week.  Maybe you help a loved one or visit on a regular basis, but you are tired with all of your other responsibilities.  Maybe it's the outlook that you KNOW you should be doing something, but don't know where to start.
I have had those same feelings.  I struggle with this as I believe I should be DOING more, stretching myself.  Yet, the week is full of long days at work and ensuring I provide warm meals for my family.  That alone exhausts me - and then there are the other things that need to get done.  There are times I have said to myself, "maybe I should stop the weekly Bible Studies, or the Blogging, or  . . . .".  Yet, as Paul says, by continuing forth we will reap a harvest.  The reaping is so rewarding and so full of blessings, that it helps us to move forward, to not give up.  Whether it is a small note of encouragement from one of you, whether it is delving into a Bible verse with our friends and seeing the true joy our Lord provides, the blessings are there and abundant.
This past June, I began a small step in this venture.  I wanted to write a "note a day" to a different person at work - someone who may have needed encouragement, someone who did a great job, someone just because.  I thought - "I'll do this for three months and see what happens".  I ended up doing it until the end of December!!  I wrote over 100 notes.  They weren't long, just a small note card.  But boy, did Jesus provide a harvest for me!!  With each note went a little prayer, of concern, of hope, of thanksgiving.  I know I was blessed much more than those who received the notes.  It opened the door for conversations, for prayers together, for love to be shared, and for hope to be given.  People cried when they got the note, sharing they had never received something like that before.  A hand-written note. 
I stopped this effort in December - and thought back on each person I wrote to.  My life was truly blessed.  Yes, it took time - time I thought I didn't have some days.  Yet, when I read our verse for today, I know it is time to start again - to move my notes past those at work - others who may be in need of a note.  Why?  Because I don't want to grow weary in doing God's will, and the harvest was truly bountiful.  Let's pray together:  Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gifts and talents you have given to us.  May we share them with others to provide the kindness and love you want all your children to feel.  We know that these efforts bring us a large harvest that is only given to us by you.  May we extend the hand of giving to receive your bountiful gifts.  In your gracious name we pray, AMEN

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Piling Up

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  (NIV)  Philippians 4:6
It certainly  has been a winter to remember here in New England.  Once again, as I write this entry, the snow continues to pile up.  Many towns, including Boston, are having difficulty finding places to actually PUT the snow.  It is beautiful to watch the snow come down.  If you are reading this in a part of the country where snow doesn't fall, it is worth trying to see - just once.  It is incredibly peaceful to watch snow fall from sky.
Yet, the snow does pile up, pile up, pile up!!  With the piling up of the snow can come difficult moments, concern over collapsing roofs.  Yesterday, as we were driving around, we noticed many people using an extended "snow rake" to get the snow off of their roofs.  It's difficult to manage all this snow - especially as it piles up!
I couldn't help but think of how things "pile up" in our own lives.  Much like the snow, as things like worry pile up in our lives, we can certainly be like the roofs in New England, collapsing under pressure.  I don't know about you, but worry can do that to me.  I may begin to start worrying about one thing and before I know it, my mind is full of worry.  I may start worrying about the children, then it's my mom, then it's work, then it's finances - all leading to a mind that is worrying more than focusing.  Have you been there with me?  It can certainly feel overwhelming - like the entire world is collapsing on us!  When that happens, I find myself unable to sleep, my mind can't focus on the positive, and my mood begins to change from happiness and joy to critical and nastiness.  All around - the compounding worry doesn't do anybody any good.
That's where our Dear Lord steps in.  He is like the "snow rake" of our lives, taking the worry away and leaving us with "clean roofs" that don't collapse.  I have learned over the years, that when I go to our Lord in prayer, and share with Him my worry, my weight is lifted.  The feeling of collapse goes away.  There is nobody, yes not even me, who can handle my life better than God.  He is there to listen and to act.  As we all know, it may not be acting in our time - but he provides the needed relief to us.  What happens when I give my worry to God?  Yes, I do sleep.  Yes, I am more positive and yes (my family will tell you), I am nicer to the people around me.  The feeling of "weighted snow on a roof" is relieved, and I am at peace.
This journey of giving my worry to God hasn't been easy.  It has been many years of trying to control things on my own, to take things back from God. although I gave them to Him, ruler of all.  This type of life only resulted in my reliance on drugs to sleep and an attitude that was many times not positive, not Christ-like at all.  Although I am much better now, there are certainly times when I fall, when the snow is heavy on my roof.  Yet, I'm drawn back to our Bible verse for today, "Do not be anxious about ANYTHING....".  God wants us to give ALL our worry to him, "...present your requests to God."  We can do that.  Together, we can give God our worries.  Take a few moments right now.  Close your eyes and ask God to take away the worry in your life - leave your concerns in good hands, God's hands.  Blessings for a week ahead that has less worry and no collapsing.  Here's to a week with our Lord!!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Be Still

"Be still, and know that I am God."  (NIV)  Psalm 46:10

This morning I woke up and heard this noise from our bathroom window.  It didn't sound like a snow blower (we have heard MANY of those lately).  It didn't sound like a motor of any kind, but it was quite loud.  As I opened up the window to determine which direction it was coming from, there was a part of me that was relieved the noise wasn't coming from inside - it was definitely outside.  Still perplexed I stood still and just listened.  I then realized it was the sound coming from the river.  Our property is abutted to the Merrimack River.  It is a fairly fast-moving river that runs from mid-New Hampshire down into Massachusetts.  

During the time we have lived here, the river has been the source of many different feelings.  It was the source of fear when the river flooded and closely reached our home (talk about the Grace of God - but that's another blog).  It was the source of happiness as our children have caught fish from the river over the years.  It was the source of wonder as you can see many of God's little creatures in it.  It has also been the source of enjoyment as we have seen boats, kayakers, and even a sea plane in the river.  
Today, it was the source of stillness in my soul.  I was truly mesmerized by the beautiful ice as it formed and moved down the river.  Yet, the greatest sense of stillness came in the sound - the thing that brought me to the river in the first place.  The sound of moving ice - the stillness moving - was an incredible sound.  One part of me felt that it was a very ominous sound - that the "heavy" moving of the water was this force that one couldn't stop.  The greater part of me felt it was a sound of peace.  I could have stood by that window all morning, listening and just "being still".

This moment took me to other times when I have felt this way.  It is when I finally stop and am just "still" in my Lord.  When the moments of my life weigh heavily on me and I don't know where to turn.  It is in those moments I know I need to go and just "be still" in my Lord.  Sometimes, it happens near this same river.  Other times, my bedroom, a car, my office, or other places within my day.  At those points, it is the omnipotent God that takes over.  Much like the moving ice, I know that when I take the time to be still with God, a force that can't be stop comes moving toward me.  This force is one of being bathed in a sense of peace.  Whatever in life that got me to the point of stillness just stops, and God's love rushes over me.  

What brought me back to those moments is a creation from God, this beautiful river.  What had me be still was a gift from God, his grace and mercy.  All of it changed my day.  Today, for me, has been a day of joy, of love, of giving, of hope, of prayer, of God.    Our lives get busy.  Some of you have many different parts of your lives pulling at you all at once.  This week, I know I am going to take some time (I will try for each day), to be still in God.  Not ask Him for anything, just to be with Him, as if He was sitting right next to me.  I can't wait for the blessings I will receive throughout this week.  Will you try it with me?  Take some time to just be still.  I am going to try it for 15 minutes (for those of you who know me - this will be a big achievement for me).  Yet, I will try and I KNOW I will be blessed.  Here's to a week of blessings in front of us.  Be Still!

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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.