Sunday, December 25, 2016

Time to Ponder

"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  (KJV) Luke 2:19

Merry Christmas everyone!  I pray that each and every one of you has enjoyed a wonderful Christmas.  After months of preparation and planning, days of shopping and cleaning and hours upon hours of cooking, it is all over.  As much as I love the preparations of Christmas, it all leads up to this memorable day.  

I have had the incredible privilege over the last many years to share the Christmas Gospel of Luke 2 during our Christmas Eve service.   Each year, our lovely church administrator provides me the reading so that I can ensure I have the words correct.  The words don't change year after year, but each year, a particular part of that wonderful story seems to touch my soul.  This year, I reveled in the scripture chosen for today's blog, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  I wasn't quite sure why those words were touching me so much, but I believe it God's special way of preparing me for today.

I enjoy the traditions that our family has created over the years - waking up and opening presents while a fire burns in the fireplace, enjoying a bountiful breakfast while Christmas carols play in the background, delighting in watching our dog Duke play with the wrapping paper, going to Mom's to open presents all over again, and end the day with a meal made with much love.  Yet, this year was a special Christmas.  

Many years, my brother and his family make the trek from Virginia to New Hampshire so we can enjoy Christmas together.  In his family, his eldest is heading off to college next year.  We may not have the ability to join together in Christmas much anymore.  Then there are our children who are all getting older.  One lives near Boston, the others are still with us.  Our youngest, Christian, is headed off to the Navy in January.  We don't know what next year will bring - if he will have the opportunity to spend Christmas with us.  That is why this Christmas was special.

I found myself listening to words that the children were sharing a little more intently this year.  Their giggles and hearty laughter made me smile.  Memories of past Christmases that were shared brought a warmth to me.  Small actions and phrases meant the world to me.  I realized what was happening - I was pondering.  I, like Mary, was keeping all these things and pondering them in my heart.  Each thing meant so much to me.  I was creating that special place that I could refer back to when I have those days where I long for my children and nephews.  

As I reflect on this as I write this blog, I'm thinking, "How can I compare my pondering to that of Mary's?  My goodness, she was pondering about Jesus Christ - our Savior!"  Mary and I may not have much in common, but we are both mothers.  I believe that the way she held her baby close to her is the same way I hold my children close to me.  We both have cherished memories that make up our hearts.  We both love our children dearly.  We both know our Heavenly Father is with our children always.  

On this Christmas evening, I'm even closer to Mary.  I'm closer to Bethlehem.  I'm closer to the Christ Child, for I know what it is to ponder about my children.  I pray that you, as well, have had cherished memories from either today or past Christmases.  Keep those memories close to you and ponder them.  Nobody can ever interfere with what we hold close to our hearts - including the little babe born in a manger!

"Dearest Jesus, on this Christmas evening, I thank you for the wonderful words of Luke.  Understanding how Mary listened to all that was going on around her that first Christmas evening, and kept them in her heart, helps me to bring the Christmas story even closer to my home.  Bring the gift of pondering to all, Jesus, that our hearts are filled with joy and love."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

King of Kings is Born

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"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen."  (NIV) 1 Timothy 1:15-17

Our journey with the kings is coming to an end.  Yes, we talked about the three magi and the incredible gifts they brought - one king brought gold - a gift fitting for a king.  One king brought frankincense - a gift fitting for a high priest.  One king brought myrrh - a gift fitting for one who would give his life.  Three telling gifts that would share our Dear Lord's story.

Yet, it was the little baby, the chosen one, who came to this earth from heaven, for us.  It is hard for me to truly understand the full impact of Jesus' arrival.  Yes, there were many reasons for Him to come here.  Let's bring this to each of us, though.  Jesus came for you, Jesus came for me - little old me.  He came to bring ME hope.  He came to bring ME joy.  He came to save ME - yes ME, from all of the horrible sins I commit.

It's hard to fathom that love.  At least I find it difficult to process the type of love Jesus had for me in order to leave his heavenly throne to come to earth only to die for me and become my savior.  Christmas brings us so many wonderful thoughts and joys, so many hopes and dreams.  Let us not disconnect, though, from the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus needed to come here in order to fulfill the great prophecies.  It is through his birth that his death saved us - saved me.  

That Christmas Eve brought all of us the hope that we would never be able to experience unless he came to earth.  That Christmas Eve brought all of us the love that we would never feel from any other person.  That Christmas Eve brought us the joy that we can only feel by knowing we are one of Jesus' children.  That Christmas Eve brought us the salvation that we need in order to live in eternal glory with Jesus.  That Christmas Eve brought us our Jesus!

As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we all look at our nativity scenes with awe and wonder.  May we live with the glory, joy and love that Jesus wants for us.  May we know that through Jesus' birth, the king of kings was born - and by Jesus coming to us, we are able to receive the salvation that only he could bring.  

Below is a link to a Christmas song that brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it.  It was the inspiration for my Advent blog series this year, and so clearly moves forward the hope that Jesus' birth brought to the world.  I pray that you enjoy it as much as I do.

As I close this Advent series, I pray that each of you has a Christmas that is filled with all of the blessings Jesus wants for you.  May you join together in song, prayer, and love for the little baby who became the King of Kings - just for you!  Merry Christmas to all!!

"Heavenly Jesus, I am in such awe that you would leave your heavenly throne, as King of Kings, to come to earth for ME - fulfilling the prophecy to forgive my sins and bring me the greatest hope of all - salvation and life with you.  Every time I think of this, my heart leaps with love - love that is cherished each and every day.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming to all of us so that we can one day come to you.  Amen."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Gift of Myrrh

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"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

Let our wonderful Advent season continue!  I pray that this time continues to be a blessing for all of you.  As we explore the gifts that the kings brought to Jesus, it amazes me how, as with everything else our Dear Lord does for us, each gift has a significant meaning to Jesus and the reason He came down to be with all of us.

As we noted, Gold was brought because these wise men, these kings, knew that gold was a gift fit for a great King.  Frankincense was a gift fit for the highest of priests.  Both of these gifts certainly had great meaning, the greatest of Kings and the greatest of Priests was being born.  How Gaspar and Melchior must have felt as they bowed down to this little baby.

The last, and what I believe is the greatest of gifts, came from Balthazar.  He brought forward the gift that would be the true reason why Jesus was born.  Balthazar brought the Myrrh.  Myrrh, for those of you that may not know, is a perfume that is used put over bodies after they have died.  This certainly seems like an odd gift from a king like Balthazar.  Why would someone bring something like Myrrh to a new baby?

As we know, that gift was to signify the incredible suffering and eventual death our Dear Lord would endure.  I wonder what Mary was feeling as she held he baby.  I wonder if she knew the reason why she would have received such a gift.  Although the gift of Myrrh may have been odd, it certainly was the gift that meant the most.  To look back at the birth of Jesus now and put the pieces of the puzzle together, Myrrh has incredible meaning to our salvation.  Myrrh was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus our Savior.

Knowing that the baby that was born in the most humblest of ways would become the savior of the world brings new meaning to our Advent season.  Balthazar must have known that Myrrh would bring great meaning to the first Christmas - and certainly to our Christmas season today.

Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar - Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  These incredible gifts that were brought from kings/wise men to the greatest of Kings, Jesus.  As those men laid their gifts to Jesus, they didn't just "give" the gifts, they bowed down to the King of Kings.  Everyone who was at that first Christmas had such an important part in the story of Jesus' birth.  The kings provided the symbolic gifts that helped to tell the story.

Next week, we will explore the King who brought the greatest gift!!

Dearest God - it amazes me how you orchestrated this most wonderful story of Jesus' birth.  Every person involved in this miraculous event had such meaning.  This includes the three kings (wise men) that brought the wonderful gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  May we more clearly understand their purpose in the Christmas story - and may we always wonder at the happiness it brings.  Amen

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gift of Frankincense

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"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

Blessings to another wonderful Advent Sunday.  So hard to believe that we are on the 2nd Sunday of Advent already.  What a blessing to have the privilege to prepare for our Savior's birth!  As the days move on and the preparations of Christmas become closer, I cherish this time that I have to sit back and revel in the opportunity to seek Jesus and ask Him to join me in my heart.

We are onto our second wise man - Gaspar.  It is believed that he was the king that brought the frankincense to Jesus.  After last week, I better understand why gold was brought, but now frankincense.  To clarify, frankincense is actually a resin from the bark of a tree that can be burned as incense.  Incense was burned by the holy priests as they prayed for forgiveness for themselves and their people.  As the incense was burning, the priests would continue to pray to God for forgiveness of their sins.  It was considered a special ritual and an important part of the priest's work.

To put it all together, Gaspar knew that this child that was born, Jesus, was the holiest of priests - a priest most high.  Therefore, it is fitting that they presented Jesus with frankincense.  As we now know, as Jesus' ministry took hold, He was seen as the holiest of priests!  Not only would He pray for the forgiveness of people's sins, He would actually be the sacrifice itself to atone for ALL of our sins.  Jesus' role as a high priest is one that we can cherish every day.  Frankincense was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus the Highest of Priests.

Last week, we thought about what gifts we could bring to a king.  This week, the question becomes what can we bring to the highest of priests?  As we go about our earthly lives, it is difficult to know what we can bring Jesus.  We spoke of time and talents, but in this case, we can bring our study of the scripture.  In order for us to gain a better relationship with Jesus, the first thing we can do is review the commandments, better understand what our behaviors should look like, and begin living a new life in Jesus.  Let us revere Him the way He should be, with love and humbleness.

As we move through the week ahead, may we take time to go to Jesus in prayer.  Let's ask Him for His help on our journey.  Not every day is easy and so many things can bring distraction away from Jesus during this time of year.  Yet, let us not take our eye off the manger, let us remember the incense that burned for prayer, and let us know that our relationship with Jesus, the high priest, is one of reverence.

"Dearest Jesus, as the wise man brought frankincense to the greatest of priests, may we bring our lives to you.  Help us to pray as you prayed for us.  Help us to behave in a way that magnifies your commandments and help us to study your scripture so that we might enhance our journey towards the manger.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Gift of Gold

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"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

The first Sunday of Advent.  I just love Advent.  The preparation of Jesus' coming to this earth gets more exciting with each passing year.  As I gently put up the nativity scene, as I carefully set the Advent candles, I reflect on our Jesus and all those who so wonderfully participated in His birth.  Certainly we have Mary and Joseph, we have the Innkeeper and Herod, we have the Shepherds as well.  This year, my plan is to focus on the kings of Jesus' birth, and the gifts that they shared.

There are many different renditions of how the kings (or wise men) learned of Jesus' birth.  Any recount shares that these were very wise and knowledgeable men - who studied the stars and the Bible (especially the book of Numbers).  I read that there may have even been more than three kings, but we definitely know of at least three, and we know their names.

It is believed that Melchior was the king that brought gold.  When we look at the gifts that were brought to the baby, gold seems like a strange gift.  Yet, it may not be the gift itself, but what it represents that has the greatest meaning.  In Jesus' time, gold was a gift fit for a king.  Although Jesus was young, the kings - Melchior - knew that Jesus was the king that was prophesied.  Gold was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus the king.

There is not a lot of detail of these men in the Bible, but it does say that they came to see him.  These great men of learning and knowledge bowed down to Jesus and worshiped him.  It's hard to imagine a king or president of our time doing this to a small child, but these men knew the greatness of our Lord.  They were not above reproach and deemed it an honor to worship our Lord child.

How about us?  We may not be able to offer Jesus gold, but what can we offer Him?  Do we acknowledge Him with our time and talents?  Do we share what we do have as an offering to Him?  Do we take time out of our schedules to reflect on His grace, mercy and love?  He is the King of Kings.  The wise men of Jesus' time knew that - do we?  

During this Advent season, I ask that we look at the gifts that we are giving.  Remember that the greatest gift of all was given to us.  Let us take the time that the King of Kings deserves to talk with Him, thank Him, love Him, and show Him how grateful we are that  He was born!!

Dear Jesus, it seems impossible to bring to you a gift that is worthy of all you have given to us.  Yet, we know that what you want from us is our time, our talents, our treasures, and most of all, our love - given to each other.  We pray that the Holy Spirit guides us this Advent season to bring the joy of Christmas back to our lives - through sharing that special gift of love with all.  Amen"

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful Trials

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Yea - Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I love Thanksgiving!  Yes, the food is awesome.  Yes, the time with family is great.  Yes, love the football.  Everything about Thanksgiving is wonderful.  I even truly enjoy all the preparations - making sure the house looks nice, ensuring all the food prep is done properly, getting up early to put the turkey in the oven - each and every moment makes me happy.

The most important part of Thanksgiving for me, though, is when we all sit down and say grace.  It is such a perfect time for all of us to review what we are thankful for.  As we go around the table, it gives each of us a moment to reflect all the blessings our Dear Lord granted to us.  Many times we share our thanks for good health.  It could be we are thankful for something we got new - a car, a job, etc.  Sometimes we are grateful for good things at work or at school.  We share nice times when we were all together as a family.  Typically, even when good things happen right away, we stop and give thanks.

What happens when things aren't so great?  Maybe we lost our job.  Maybe we have poor health.  Maybe we lost our home, or a relationship, or a pet.  Nothing of those times make us feel thankful.  Yet, as in our Bible verse for today, we are told to be thankful in ALL circumstances - not just the good but even the not-so-good circumstances.  How can one find thankfulness when things go wrong?

Let's dive in a little deeper on this.  God takes us on journeys that sometimes we don't understand.  When difficult things happen, jumping for joy and giving praise and thanks is not exactly our first "go to".  I'm not sure about you, but I know that I have typically responded with complaining, self-pity, and general nastiness!  So why should we give thanks?

Certainly, to start, God asks us to!  As we see above, God asks us to give thanks in all situations.  Maybe if we responded in such a manner, we would look at the situation from a less "negative" viewpoint to a positive one.  Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to see our situation from a different perspective - one that helps us to see more than the "bad", but also the possibilities in these difficult times.  Most importantly, we can use these circumstances to rely on our heavenly Father for help, assistance and guidance.  Let's be thankful that we have a gracious Father that we can turn to, all the time, every time, when life sends us trials.  

As we sit down at our Thanksgiving tables in a few days, may we find thanks in the difficult situations and remember that all of our thanks can be given to the One that gives us everything - our Dear Lord.

"Dearest Lord, THANK YOU for ALL of our circumstances.  We are certainly very thankful for all the noticeable blessings in our life.  Help us to be thankful for the trials in our life as well.  Open our eyes to see the good in the difficult times - especially the goodness of turning to you for help.  May our prayers and praise be heard by you in all circumstances.  Amen."

P.S. - Hard to believe Advent begins soon.  My Advent series this year will focus on the three kings (or wise men).  We will end the series with the greatest king of all!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Surprise Gift

"A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great."  Proverbs 18:16 (NIV)

Many years ago, my father gave me a Christmas Cactus for the holidays.  I loved that plant for many different reasons.  I loved it because I love ANYTHING that has the word Christmas in it!  I loved it because it was a beautiful pink when it bloomed.  Yet, I loved it the most because it was a gift - a gift from my dad.  My dad has since passed (over 15 years ago), but the plant lives on.  

The plant "regifts" itself every year as that it doesn't wait until Christmas to bloom.  The plant blooms just when it wants to - just when I need it.  When life starts getting a little difficult and I wonder if I have enough hours in the day to get things done, the plant blooms and reminds me the beauty of a gift.  It usually is around the October to December time frame, when life gets busy.  It tends to bloom another time during the year as well - and that is a VERY special gift, because I certainly don't expect it to bloom - in the spring or summer.  That surprise gift always brings a smile to my face, warms my heart, and helps me to refocus on what is important.

Isn't that the way it seems when we get a surprise gift?  The gift is certainly nice, but it is the feeling that I get when I receive the gift.  It does warm my heart.  How about you?  Do you feel extra happy when you get a surprise gift?

Let's move to the other side of the gift - and focus on the giving aspect.  Getting a surprise gift is really nice, yet, I believe the true warmth comes in the giving of a surprise gift.  The opportunity to give something special to someone when they least expect it.   An actual item is nice, but maybe it is a kind word, a special note, a home-cooked meal or even a warm hug.  Whatever the surprise gift, the giver tends to "be in the presence of great".  Great heart, great warmth, great attitude, great hope, great faith.  All those things happen when we are the giver.  

Going back to Jesus' time, think about the surprise gift He gave each and every time he spoke, each time He healed, each time He displayed His love, even up to the surprise when He died for our sins and lived again in three days.  Most importantly, though, is the gift Jesus will give us when He comes back to take us home.  That gift can be on the day we join Him in heaven as we pass from this earthly place, or it can be the gift we receive when He comes back to get us on that miraculous day.  There is a surprise gift I can't wait for!!

As we ponder on surprise gifts, take some time to think about a surprise gift you, as the giver, can present to someone else.  Again, it doesn't have to cost your next paycheck, it just needs to be from your heart.  I am certain that when you give, you will be in the presence of great - and that's a great feeling that everyone can enjoy.

"Dearest Jesus,  You provided us the perfect example of how to give a surprise gift as you walked this earth.  As well, we know that the day you return will be a surprise as well - a surprise gift of greatness.  Until then, help us to provide others with a surprise gift - a gift of words, of deeds, or of actions.  Guide us to experience the greatness that comes with giving.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thankful for Courage

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"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong & courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

During this month of November, I thought I would take this opportunity to focus on what we can be thankful for.  With Veterans Day just a few days away, I believe honoring those who gave so much of themselves for all of us is more than appropriate.  I have always been humbled by those who decide to serve our country.  I admire all that they give up, for me!!  It truly is an incredible selfless act.

I can't imagine what it is like to walk into battle.  We may have all experienced some sort of battle in our lives.  Maybe we battled an illness.  Maybe we battled emotions or relationships.  Yet, our veterans walked into battle with an enemy.  I thought the Bible verse for today closely mirrors those who have stepped into battle for our country.  The strength and courage they must have to find as battle draws closer.  It is so impressive, especially as they do this willingly.  I am very confident that our Lord was and is there for every military person as they go into battle.  

There was another who walked into battle for us.  Our Dear Jesus also walked into battle, the battle of our sin for the redemption of His blood. Once again, Jesus had to have incredible strength and courage to begin the long trek of walking into the battle of Pilate and all those who mocked Him.  Yet, he walked into that battle willingly as well.  He walked up that hill with the cross on His back, for you and for me.  

Do we have that strength and courage?  We may not walk into battle as our veterans have done or as Jesus did for us.  Yet, there are other battles that we can fight, closer to home.  Reflect . . ., do you have the strength & courage to speak to another about Christ and all of the magnificent things he has done for you?  Do you have the strength & courage to tell strangers about Christ's love?  Do you have the strength & courage to tell family and friends about how Jesus died for your sins?  This is they type of strength & courage that Jesus asks from us.

We may not walk into battle to show our courage, but Jesus provides us other ways to show the love we have for Him - and we can do this by sharing our faith with others.  This takes courage and strength, and each of us can do it!!

I will be eternally grateful for the courage that our veterans have displayed throughout the years.  I am also eternally grateful for the courage our Dear Jesus has shared with us.  I am also eternally grateful for all of you who step out in faith each and every day.  

"Heavenly Father, thank you for giving ALL of us the strength & courage to walk the walk you ask us to do.  As we head out into the world, please equip us with all that we need to talk to others about your grace and mercy.  Thank you for all the ways you give us to share our courage.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cozy Home

"Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."  John 14:23  (NIV)

Today, I was outside with the sun shining doing some yard work with my husband.  I was marveled by how warm it seemed.  Then the clouds came over and the wind picked up and I was reminded that it is autumn, with a chill in the air.  Yes, that made me smile!!

Of all the many things I absolutely adore about this season, I believe one thing that really makes me happy is that it is a time when a homey, comfy way of life begins.  As the spring and summer brings lots of activities and busyness, the fall starts a time when a more homey time begins - at least at our home.  This means more fires in the fireplace, warm meals (the homemade mac and cheese is in the oven), and candles are always lit.  It provides a cozy feel to our home.

I love that feeling of coziness, a warm blanket to cover a chill, a hot cup of tea, or even the glow of a single lamp.  I reflected a bit on why that feeling is so wonderful to me.  It boils down to the sense I get of love and security.  Whether the warmth comes from a fire, a blanket or a cup of tea, I feel cozy and happy.  The warm meals are my way of telling my family how much I love them - so they can also feel "cozy" and happy.

The verse for today talks about Jesus coming to those who believe in Him and making home with those people.  Wow, talk about a cozy home!  Imagine for a moment, Jesus showing up at your front door and coming in to stay for a while.  The warmth He would bring would light up the house and certainly create a grand sense of coziness.  I can only imagine sitting in Jesus' presence while He speaks of His love.  That certainly brings a smile to my face.

Remember, though, that Jesus IS in our homes.  He is there through the Holy Spirit, who is in each and every one of us.  We have the ability to speak of Jesus' love to each other in our homes.  Words of kindness instead of destruction.  Deeds of love versus fighting.  We can bring the coziness that Jesus wants for our homes through our words and deeds.  The next time that tensions rise in our homes, let's move forward in the Spirit that Jesus wants for all of our homes - a Spirit of love, joy, happiness and peace - a comfy home filled with Him.

As you light that candle, remember the Light of the World.  Stoking the logs in the fireplace?  Remember the blaze of wisdom.  Covering up with a blanket?  Remember how Jesus covers us with his love.  Keeping our homes cozy begins with keeping Jesus in our homes.

"Dearest Jesus, as we embark on the autumn season, come into our homes.  Fill us up with a sense of coziness, a sense of love and peace that we can give each other.  May we invite others into our homes and give to them as Jesus gives to us.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Never Ending Battle

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

Last post on leaves this autumn, I promise!!  The colors this year were magnificent (of course, I say that every year).  It seemed as if the lack of water produced colors that were just amazing.  I truly thought it was going to be a different story.  Yet, as I drove down the roads of New England, I couldn't help but see all the beautiful glory that God had painted for us this year.

Yet, just as the leaves turn beautiful colors, eventually, they fall to the ground.  Typically, we get one very strong wind storm that forces all the leaves from their home on the trees to a blanket of color on the ground.  They are gorgeous, but it then becomes a chore to pick up all the leaves off the grass.  Usually, we wait for a calm (less windy) day for this event.  Not today.  Juan decided that he was going to get a start on this annual ritual, despite the strong winds.  Thus, the never-ending battle.  As he would make a pass to pick up the leaves, just as many seemed to fly down around him.  It seemed like he was fighting a battle that he just couldn't win.  

As I watched Juan take on this insurmountable chore (yes, I watched from afar), it made me think of how our lives can be so similar to this chore!  Our days can seem like a never-ending battle of chores, work, and demands.  Compound all of that with health concerns, relationship issues and other worries and it seems as if we are always fighting some sort of battle that we can't win.  I know when I feel that level of stress, it seems as if nobody is on my side and I'm in the battle alone.  

Let us never forget, though, that the Dear Lord is always there to fight our battles for us.  Among all of the stress and anxiety, He is there.  Among all the worry and demands, He is there.  Among all the chores and work, He is there.  He is there to fight our battle when we don't have anything left to fight the battle.  Instead of running like the hamster in the wheel, we just need to be still, find time with The Word, and realize that God is there to fight our battle for us.  It can be hard for us to do just that.  Let's be still and be WITH God, for when we do that, our battles seem less and our load seems to be lighter.

For the record, Juan did get a head start on the leaves and I believe it will be easier during the next couple of weeks to pick up the balance.  

"Heavenly Father, many times during the battles of our daily lives, we keep going and going, believing that we will succeed on our own.  Help us to know, Lord, that when we are still and dive deep into your Word, you will fight the battle for us - helping us to see "the leaves through the wind".  Amen!"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

True Colors

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;" 
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

As I continue to view the beautiful leaves in awe and wonder, I realized something this year that I didn't really make a conscious effort of noticing before.  The trees each have their unique hue to them.  Some are yellow, some are red, and some are orange.  Of course, there are others who haven't changed at all or are moving towards a brown.  In my mind, I always saw the trees' leaves as turning to one color on each tree.  This year, I saw the incredible difference.

As evidenced by the pictures above, the leaves themselves are different colors.  Some are a mixture of red and orange.  Others are a mix of orange and yellow.  Mix that together with a tree of those types of mixtures and the tree itself is filled with a host of different, collaborative colors.  It's amazing.  It is as if the trees don't have one true color, they are a mixture of many colors.

There are times people will say about others, "Oh, they are showing their true colors now!"  Have you ever realized that when someone says that statement, it is never in a positive tone?  Typically, this is when someone has been striving to behave in a "good" manner only to have a certain comment or situation bring out a different, less positive, response.  I think our true colors are more than the "negative behaviors", but different behaviors.

I believe that I am much like the trees.  I would love to be the vibrant orange all the time.  I always see that color as inviting and approachable.  Yet, there are times when I am the intense red (a bit filled with anger) or a timid yellow (yes, I can be timid).  There are also times when I am the muted brown (drab and blah) or a refreshing green (filled with newness).  It's hard to have a true color.  I think we are all a bit of the many colors that come together in a warm autumn breeze.  Isn't it all those incredible colors put together that creates the majesty of fall?

The next time we come across a person that may be showing their "true colors", keep in mind that it is probably just one of the many beautiful colors that they have - it's just up to us to see the mixture of the many colors that make up a wonderful person.  Remember that each person, in all of their colors, have been perfectly formed by God.  He is the true artist - the One who brings all the colors together.

"Heavenly Father, help us to remember that we all have many colors that make up who we are.  Instead of looking at those colors as a negative, help us to see all the wonderful colors that create the uniqueness of each person - for each of us has been made by YOU.  Amen!"

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Be Vibrant

"...even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."  Psalm 139:12 (NIV)

Of course I was going to start writing about fall and leaves.  I'm sure you were all waiting patiently!   I absolutely adore the colors of the trees.  To me, it is a clear reminder how our Lord takes the time to paint this incredible picture every year.  This is the time of year that I slow down.  I take a look at the trees.  I smell the aroma in the air.  I take time in the kitchen making "autumn" goodies.  

In slowing down recently, I noticed something even more amazing.  Yes, the leaves on the trees are incredibly beautiful.  Yet, I think they are even MORE beautiful when the skies are cloudy.  The sunshine does reflect onto the leaves and they are pretty.  Yet, when the clouds cover the skies, the trees take on an incredible hue that seems to surround the tree in a stupendous view of color.  The trees are more vibrant when the days are cloudy.

This did make me think of all of us.  We have cloudy days, that is for certain.  The cloudy days could be filled with overwhelming difficulties and struggles.  Those days can seem insurmountable.  We can also have cloudy days that are just, well, not happy.  Maybe you can't pinpoint the troubles, but you know that it isn't a "sunshiny" day.  On those cloudy days, we have a choice, to be gloomy or vibrant.

Usually, we can be justified if we are a bit gloomy - life isn't picture perfect.  Those around you might even understand why you wouldn't be very happy.  Life can be tough and so can our dispositions.  What we need to remember is that we have someone to share our tough days with - Jesus.  In Jesus, we can share all of our thoughts, all of our difficulties, and all of our struggles.  

In Jesus, we can also find joy and thankfulness during those tough times.  With Jesus we are able to see things differently, have a different perspective.  We can see through the darkness to the light - the light of hope.  In Jesus, we can be the vibrant colors on a dark day.  It's not always easy, and it may not always be done.  What we can remember, though, is that we have a God who is faithful, who is loving, who is forgiving, and who is the Great Healer.  We have a God who is our friend, our joy, our hope and our salvation.  With all the cloudiness that may be around us, remember where you get YOUR light from - remember Jesus.  Be Vibrant on the cloudy days!!

"Dear Jesus, on cloudy days it can be hard for us to find goodness and hope.  When we are close to you, though, we know that your love is a comforting blanket for us.  We know that although we might feel desperate, our light can shine.  Help us to be vibrant on the cloudy days by being close to you, Jesus, to fill us with the light.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pick Up

"If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."  Ecclesiastes 4:10  (NIV)

It's football season, and for those that know me - I love football.  As I was watching a game on television, I noticed something.  At the end of the play, once the tackles were made, typically one player would assist another one back up.  Sometimes, the player would actually have to pick the player up off the ground.  By offering a hand, the player on the ground found relief.  Many times, the player assisting the one on the ground was on the other team!  That's right, one person just genuinely helping up the other.

It reminded me of this special verse - about having someone else pick us up.  I know that I have had the blessings of many people who have picked me up when I was down.  I have been down physically (and my dear husband picked me up many times).  I have been down emotionally, completely drained without anything left in me, and my family and friends have picked me up. 

Coming back from being down can be tough.  Physically, it means trying to find a strong footing to move forward in better health.  If one has been unhealthy for a long period of time, rehabilitation is a step to recovery.  It's hard - getting better.  It's hard - relying on others.  It's hard - taking the next step.  Where we can be grateful is that we have people who can help pick us up as we continue to get better.

Coming back from being emotionally down can also be tough - sometimes even tougher than our physical ailments.  Being down, being depressed, having anxiety, or even a roller coaster of emotions can create havoc on us.  Yet, when we have people who pick us up and help us gain the strength to keep moving forward, we know we have been blessed.  Once again, it can take time for us to gain the strength to be emotionally healed.  We can be grateful for those who help us here as well.

 Probably the most difficult times I have endured are when I have even been down spiritually.  During those times, it can be tough to ask for help, spiritually.  People can see when we physically need to be picked up.  People can even see when we need to be emotionally picked up.  Yet, it is tough to see when we need to be spiritually picked up.  This is when I turned to my Dear Jesus, who was there to pick me up.  Through numerous prayers, He heard me.  Through numerous tears, He saw me.  Jesus was there for me, when I needed Him most.  He picked me up when I couldn't do it anymore.

It can be difficult to be the one who needs to be "picked up".  Asking for help is not easy for many of us.  Yet, doing so can prove such a great relief.  On the other side, being the one who is "picking up" another can also be a wonderful experience - many times far greater than being picked up.  Having the opportunity to pick up someone who needs help, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually, can have a healing factor on us!  

Look at the day ahead, look at the people you encounter.  Can you be the one who helps to pick up another?  Maybe it is a kind word, a warm meal, physically picking them up to go to a doctor's appointment, or saying a prayer for another.  Taking time out of our days to pick someone off the ground can be the best thing - for the other person and for YOU!

"Heavenly Father, many times we need to be "picked up" from the ground by others who can offer assistance.  Let us ask for that help and be grateful for those you surround us with.  In the same manner, help us to see those that need to be "picked up".  May we take the time to know that we can help others with an outstretched arm.  As always, Jesus, thank you for always being there to pick us up!!"

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Turned Backs to Turned Repentance

"...They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, 'Come and save us!'"  (NIV)  Jeremiah 2:27

It is hard to not get caught up in the media hype of issues.  When the news portrays certain situations, they have the ability to put their own spin on it.  Many times, after watching their reports, it is hard to determine whether what they are sharing is the actual truth or truth that has been stretched a bit.  Yet, that is the world we live in.

Such was the news a few weeks ago when a football player (sorry, his name escapes me), knelt during the National Anthem.  It was all over the news and so many had opinions on whether what he did was right or wrong.  Many felt that he was disrespectful to our country - and in a way - had turned his back on the USA.  Others felt it was his right to do so.  I am not here to get into whether he was right or wrong.  For those of you who know me, you know I am not a issue driven/politics kind of gal!

What I thought was interesting was something my husband said during our Bible Study last week.  He shared, "So many people are talking about this player who, in the eyes of many, turned his back on his country.  Yet, we Christians turn our backs on God all the time."  WOW - that was a very powerful statement and has had me thinking ever since.  At first I thought, "I don't turn my back on God!", but do I?  

Do I follow God's commandments every minute of every day?   The obvious answer to that is a resounding NO.  Yet, turn my back on God?  I love my Lord and always want to do what is right in His eyes.  Yet, I truly have to admit, I have turned my back on him.
  • When somebody needs my help, but I'm too busy - I've turned my back on God.
  • When I begin to pray, and my thoughts turn to my "to do" list - I've turned my back on God.
  • When I should be reading my daily Bible verses, but turn to Facebook - I've turned my back on God.
  • When somebody says something that is hurtful to another, and I don't say anything - I've turned my back on God.
  • When my patience runs low and I snap at a loved one - I've turned my back on God.
God's love for us is unconditional - thank our Dear Lord!  Although I may turn my back on Him, and He would have every right to ditch me, He is always there with outreached arms to invite me back.  When I turn to repent, His forgiveness is unconditional - just like His love.  All those time I turned my back on God are completely forgiven and forgotten. What an awesome God.

Before we start pointing fingers at those around us whose behavior we may not agree with, let us turn to ourselves to see if we believe our behavior is without reproach.  I know that when I did that, I found I had some repenting to do!  Turning to repentance after turning my back on God has helped me to "check my behavior" and see that I have some work to do.  Can I ask you to join me on checking to see if you have been turning your back?  If so, know that our Lord is waiting for you to repent, to forgive, and to completely forget!!  What joy we have in His love!

"Dearest God, when I take the time to review and reflect on my behavior, I realize that I have turned my back on you and your will for my life on more occasions than I care to admit.  Today, I ask for your forgiveness.  Help me to see when I behave in such a way.  Help me to not turn my back on you and your will but to find grace in repenting and a renewed focus on You.  Thank you, God, for always being with me - waiting for me with outreached arms.  Amen." 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Light Among the Dark

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12 (NIV)

Sunsets are the amazing parts of days when we realize the sun that had been brightening our world for roughly the last 12 hours or so will be coming to an end.  I have yet to see a sunset that I haven't loved, whether it is sitting on my front porch, in an exotic setting like Costa Rica, or here, with friends, at Cape Cod.  They are such a sight of beauty and can bring such joy, calming and peace.  I know I am not alone - I have seen many pictures and have spoken with many people who enjoy that particular time of day, when the sun sets.  Aaahhhh . . . .

Sunsets bring us the evening and the darkness that goes with that.  As bright as the sunshine of the day and the beauty of a sunset is, the darkness, for many, can be hauntingly difficult.  Yes, there may be a beautiful Harvest Moon, but for many (and I was one of those many at a time in my life), the darkness can mean many things.  

  • An inability to sleep due to insomnia
  • Racing of thoughts that you can't turn off
  • Actual work for people who work the 3rd shift
  • Sense of despair that can come with the darkness
  • Lack of sleep due to a newborn
  • A quiet that can be deafening
I have been there, where as much as I love watching the sunset, I knew what would be coming - a night where I couldn't sleep, a night when so many thoughts would run through my head that by 3AM I had solved world peace.  Sometimes these things can happen to us every now and then.  Yet, when it goes on for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, it can make one only want the sunshine and not the darkness.  Let's face some other facts, my friends.  There are probably times when the sunlight of the day can still feel like darkness.  It can still bring about feelings of loneliness, despair and a lack of hope.

Please let me share with you, there is Sonshine in the darkness.  Regardless of how dark our lives may get, Jesus promises us that he is light of the world.  If we follow Him, listen to Him, delve into His world and let Him guide us through our life, His light DOES shine upon us, regardless of the time of day.  I'm sure some of you are saying, "Ya, ya, ya, Susan, but He's not HERE with me."  Oh yes He is!!  

I  don't disagree.  Wouldn't it have been wonderful to be around when Jesus was here on Earth?  To be able to go where He was teaching and preaching - to know that He was living among us?  Yet, He is, my friends.  He is here.  He is here when the sun rises in the morning, at every beautiful sunset, and even in the darkest of nights.  He is Here!  You can see Him in everything, in every sun that shines and in every star that twinkles.  He is not only with you, He is IN you, through our Holy Spirit.  Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we would never be alone.  Next to the gift of Jesus himself and all of His wonder - what an incredible gift!!

Yes, the sun and all its glory can be wonderful.  Yet, so is the darkness.  Whether the sun is shining or the darkness prevails in our lives, we have Jesus who brings us the constant light - the light for us to see our way through the journey of life.  The light during the darkest of nights.  The light through trials, tribulations and despair.  The light of hope that nobody or nothing else can give us.  Remember this, pray for this, and know that Jesus, the light of OUR world, is with us always!  And a little side note, to the wonderful women I had the honor to be with this weekend - thank you for helping me to see the light in my life (these women are truly gifts from God)!

"Dearest Jesus, we thank you for being the light of our world - even during the darkest of times.  The light of the day and the light of our lives can many times bring us much happiness.  When the darkness arrives, life can be difficult and it's hard to see the good.  Help us to be reminded, Jesus, that you came so we would have light always - to see through the difficult times to the light that only You can give us, Jesus.  For those people who are in darkness today, we pray that you will fill them with hope, with love, and with light.  In your name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Where Is God???

Image result for 9/11 cross in rubble
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  (NIV)  Deuteronomy 31:8

It's hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the horrific events of 9/11.  I am sure each one of us remembers, in great detail, exactly where we were and what was rushing through our minds when the events unfolded throughout the day.  The horror, the fear, the anger, the sense of urgency, the need to be with our loved ones - to touch them, to hold them, to tell them we love them.  The myriad of emotions was overwhelming for all of us.  Then there was the waiting when we couldn't reach those we love.  I remember my mom was travelling (no surprise there) and she was in Las Vegas.  I couldn't wait to hear her voice and get her home.

The country reacted in so many different ways that day.  The greatest response was people going to church.  Churches saw a 47% increase in attendees the following Sunday.  Prayer meetings were happening in every town.  I find it amazing that when things are in turmoil, the focus turns to faith.  People gathering together to worship can be a powerful thing!!

Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, asked the question, "Where was God?"!  Where was He when the planes struck the towers?  Where was He when the plane hit the Pentagon?  Where was He when the plane went down over a Pennsylvania field?  Where was God?  Aren't these the same questions we ask when things go array in our lives - when traumatic events occur.  Where is God when my health deteriorates?  Where is God when a loved one passes (especially a child)?  Where is God when my marriage falls apart?  Where is God?

He was right next to thousands of people on September 11th, 2001.  He was there for the ones who miraculously survived.  He was also there for those who didn't, walking them to His heavenly home.  He was there for those who cried out to Him - for the first time in their lives - asking for forgiveness, and He granted it.  He was there to give strength to the responders who didn't think they had any strength left.  He was there for all the families to give courage in the face of darkness and hope in the days to come.  He was there!!  We even saw that oh so strongly in the picture above.

I have good news for you as well - He is also right there for you.  He is providing you miracles every day, continuing to bring you out of difficult health situations.  He is also there for those whose time it is to join Him in his heavenly home.  He is there to give strength and courage when we don't think we have any left.  He is there to provide us peace and even joy.  Yes, JOY when things are tough.  JOY when life is hard.  JOY when we hurt.  We have the JOY and PEACE that others can't comprehend because we know we have a God that is right beside us, loving us each and every moment of the day.

The next time you ask the question, "Where is God?", know that He is with you.  He is before you, beside, you and behind you, guiding and supporting you with each breath you take.  The next time someone asks you that question - let them know your story, let them hear your faith, share with them your hope, your joy, your love and your peace.  For God is right there with us all.  Blessings and peace to you all.

"Heavenly Father, please help us to be reminded that you are always with us, regardless of the situation.   Keep your Word safely in our hearts so that we can be reminded in a moment's notice of your grace and love.  When times get tough and discouraging, and we know that they will, please let our thoughts and words turn to you, and give us exactly what we need to continue on our earthly journey."

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Eye of the Storm

"He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, "Silence!  Be Still!"  The wind settled down and there was a great calm."  (NIV)  Mark 4:39

It's hurricane season.  This week we heard of much activity throughout the US - from Hawaii to North Carolina - on hurricanes and tropical storms.  Certainly, in recent years, we have seen so much destruction from hurricanes - Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy - to mention a few.  Many of us, at one time or another, have experienced the wrath a hurricane can bring.

We can do much to prepare for a hurricane.  We board up our houses; we buy water and food; we get our flashlights ready; we tie down or put away anything that can blow away; and then we wait!  We wait for what we know will come - high gusts of wind and torrential rain.  Experiencing a hurricane is a scary situation.  Although we may prepare, the inevitable comes.  The wind howls and blows and the rain comes down in sheets.  The aftermath of a hurricane can be just as destructive.  Although the hurricane may pass, it leaves remnants - flooding, wind destruction, and cleanup.  

So we prepare, we wait, we experience and we cleanup.  The part of the hurricane that has always fascinated me is the "eye", the middle part of the storm where everything is peaceful and calm.  Scientists say that there is even glimpses of sun in the eye of the storm.  I find that amazing - surrounding all this source of destruction, there is peace.

Isn't that our lives, though?  We work hard to prepare for what life brings us - we find good jobs, build good relationships, have solid homes and apartments, and eat healthy.  We wait as we know that although we may prepare, we will have times of turbulence.  We experience trials that life brings us, no matter the level of difficulty.  Then we clean up, we grow from the experience and move on.  Yet, in the middle of all of this, there are times of PEACE - the eye of the storm.  Even as we may go through difficult situations, there are moments of peace.  I'm not saying hours or days of peace - but just a brief moment - that let's us know we can get through the rest of the storm.  

I found this to be true as I was struggling with cancer.  Throughout the experience, the treatments, the medicine, the countless doctor appointments, there was a moment of peace.  I remember that day well, so many years ago.  For that one moment I found peace and was able to move forward.  

Who provides the peace among the storm?  Our Dear Lord.  With His guiding hand and loving arms, He brings the peace that I needed, the peace that we need, to move through the storms in our lives.  He is there to remind us that when we experience our storms WITH Him, that He will bring the peace to sustain us.  It's hard to see all of that when we go through storms in our lives.  It's hard to see or feel the moment of peace among the chaos.  Yet, it's there.  We have to rely on our Lord and He will not only lead us to the moment of peace, but He will also lead us out of the storm.  

As we prepare, wait, experience and clean up for the storms in our lives, remember the EYE - remember the PEACE - remember our LORD.  Look for the eye of the storm and for that moment, know that everything will be all right!  My prayers and blessings to you if you are in the middle of that storm now - and rely on our Lord for peace.

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the peace you provide during the storms of our lives.  We may be able to prepare, wait, experience and clean up - but with you by our sides, we can experience the peace.  Thank you for being our "eye of the storm" and for your ever-present reassurance of hope.  In your name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Treasures in Our Hearts

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  (NIV)  Matthew 6:21

About twenty years ago, my father said to my mother, "I want a truck."  They had a car, they were retired, life was good - but Daddy wanted a truck.  So off they went and he came home with this little Ford Ranger.  It was all my dad wanted and needed, and he was happy.  When it came to a choice of what car to use, Daddy always chose the truck.  He and his pup would go everywhere in that truck - it made him happy.  

When Daddy passed on over 15 years ago, Mom didn't know what to do with the truck, but she kept it.  Maybe it was part out of need.  I'm thinking it was mostly out of memories.  I didn't blame her one bit.  Yet, about a year after I married my true love, over eleven years ago, Mom passed the truck to Juan.  The journey began.  Juan treated this truck as if he had nurtured it himself.  He, as well, would take it places.  It became our family trademark.   Most of the kids used it when they first learned to drive.  It moved many children in and out of dorm rooms.  It even moved one daughter into a couple of apartments.  Not only did Daddy's dog see the inside of that truck, so did our own Duke.  I think Duke loved the truck as much as Juan did.  Over the past eleven years, my husband diligently brought that truck back to life - long after we thought it had seen its last day.

Two weeks ago, it finally happened - the day our family had been dreading.  The "Granny Ranger", the "Put Put", or "Pop-Pop's truck" - the names our Ranger had been fondly known as, just died.  There was no more CPR with this truck.  The day had come.  Tomorrow, the junk yard will come and take it away.  It's time - my poor husband has put more sweat and tears into that truck.  We are all sad to see this truck go.  Each member of our family has a special memory with this truck.  Whether any of us want to admit it or not, this little truck has been a treasure.  No, it isn't fancy and it isn't high in monetary value, but it is a treasure.   I think that was the reason why Juan worked so hard on it - it was a treasure.

I'm sure we all have those things in our lives - the ones that are true treasures.  Maybe a beloved t-shirt of a concert you went to with a friend who has passed on.  Maybe it is your great-grandmother's special pan or your grandfather's favorite tool.  When the day comes for us to retire those treasures, it can be hard.  We hold them in our hands a little longer, reliving the memories over and over.  Sometimes it is very difficult for us to let go.  Yet, we all have to remember something.  Our treasures are not in the "things", our treasures are in our hearts.  

What we really treasure are the memories that were created with those items.  The laughs, the tears, the hopes, the dreams, the good times, and the sorrows - all of them connected to those earthly items.  For many of us, saying goodbye to those earthly treasures may seem like we are saying goodbye to our loved ones - one more time.  Let us remember, though, that the earthly treasures are no more than that - earthly.  The treasures we hold in our hearts is where the true value is.  Things come and go, objects come and go, but the memory of Duke sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, or me riding home from dropping off children at college with tears in my eyes, or me sitting next to my dad in that truck - those memories are tucked deep in my heart.  Those memories aren't going anywhere!!

The next time we find ourselves having to say goodbye to an earthly treasure, may we be reminded that the real treasure is the memory that is sitting in our hearts.  May we hold on to those memories even tighter than the special pan, favorite tool or old pick up truck.  For memories are what can be cherished a lifetime.

"Dearest Lord, thank you for helping us to remember that our true treasures are in our hearts, not in earthly possessions.  May the value that we find be that of scenes that pass through our minds, not value in an item.  It is those treasures, God, that we know we can keep for eternity.  In your name we pray.  Amen!"

About Me

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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.