Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sacrifice

"This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."  (NIV)  1 John 3:16

My dad was a Marine who fought in the Korean War.  We never heard about his time in Korea.  We never heard any "battle" stories.  We saw a couple of pictures of him with his platoon.  Yet, he never spoke of his time in Korea - and to be honest, I never asked.  I always thought it was something he didn't want to talk about.  Yet, what he did talk about, with great pride and humility, was being a Marine.  Daddy loved being a Marine - down to his core.  It was definitely part of who he was.  This picture that you see above, from Iwo Jima, was a picture we knew about in our household.  It wasn't until a few years ago that I was able to see this memorial - and I saw it at night.  I was completely awestruck.  Daddy came home from Korea - many others didn't.

Yes, tomorrow is Memorial Day.  It is an incredibly important day in United States history.  It is when we stop and reflect on the important men and women who gave their lives so that we have freedoms that other countries don't.  I can't imagine giving up my life for someone I have never met - someone I don't know.  Yet, these brave men and women went into battle without hesitation.  I thought about this a long time this morning as I sat in church.  I get to wake up on Sunday, go to church and worship with fellow Christians, host a Bible study in our home, and speak of God when I choose.  This isn't possible in every country.  Not every Christian has that opportunity.  How very blessed I am that those who sacrificed, who gave everything including their lives, were willing to do that for someone they didn't know - me.  Thank you doesn't seem to be enough.  By them giving up their lives I have hope, joy and freedom.

There was another person who also sacrificed everything.  He died on a cross for sins that He didn't commit.  He suffered and was tortured for something He didn't do.  He willingly gave up His life for me, ME, because He loved me.  He went into battle willingly.  In fact, it was His life mission = to lay down his life for me.  He did this so that I can have hope, joy and freedom.  Joy that I have salvation in His death.  Hope that I will one day see Him and those that have gone before me in paradise,  And freedom from the peril of sin.  What my Dear Lord did for me, sometimes, is too hard to comprehend.  
On this Memorial Day, please take a moment from the cookouts and activities, to remember.  Let us remember those who gave everything so that we can have freedoms, especially the freedom to worship our Savior.  May we also reflect on the one who saved us from our sins - who has prepared a room for us in paradise.  Most importantly, may we reflect on BOTH these items not just on Memorial Day, or Easter, but every day of our lives.  

To those who have lost a loved one in battle, please know how much I appreciate the sacrifice your loved one has made, and how much it means to me.  Prayers are with you.  Here's to our hope, joy in freedom - in our country and in God.

"Dearest Jesus, I thank you for sending to earth men and women who took on the strength and courage to go to battle in the name of freedom.  May you be with their families and provide peace and comfort.  I especially thank you, Jesus for the sacrifice that you made for me, that my sins will be no more and that I have a place with you in heaven.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Time to Rejoice

"May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!"
(NIV) Proverbs 23:25

Children, yes they can be difficult.  When I ponder over the last 26 plus years with all my children in my life, I seem to focus on the days when things haven't gone right.  The times that when I turned my head, "just for a second", tumbles and accidents happened.  Times when I knew my instructions were quite explicit, only to have almost the direct opposite happen.  Times when I said, "We are leaving now," only to have to wait another 15 minutes.  Times when I know MY voice of reason was the correct one, but other choices were made.  Times when I poured out my soul, all the energy I could have imagined, to not have a "thank you" in return.  Have any parents out there felt the way I have felt?  Have there been times of disappointment?  Maybe you are a child who has given your parents moments such as the ones shared above.  I know I have given my mom a few disappointing moments.  Many times, these are the ones we focus on, THOSE difficult times, versus the other times in our lifetime.

As parents, life throws many challenges our ways.  As humans, we tend to focus on the negative ones and remember those the most.  As children, we have also challenged our parents in many ways (although I am sure I challenged my mother less than my brother - he, he).  We challenge the ones we love.  We challenged our parents and our children challenge us.  Let's think, for just a minute, the numerous times we have challenged or disappointed our Heavenly Father.  Not just a moment here or there, but every time we sin we have disappointed Jesus.  Every time we don't follow His words, are not on time for His appointments, or turn our heads for "just a second" from Him, we are giving our Heavenly Father difficult moments, disappointing moments.  Yes, these times can flood our memories, and many times, the guilt can consume us.

Yet, just like our parents here on earth, the love that comes from Jesus and the salvation He died for, gives us a reason to love each other no matter what.  Challenges, yes they may be there.  Yet LOVE is what conquers all.  Love gives us reason to rejoice.  Love gives us reason to be joyful.  It is this love and feeling of joy that I felt this past Saturday when Krystina walked up to that stage to receive her diploma.  All those terrible twos, independent nines, and stubborn teens led to wonderful twenties!  During the last 21 years, we may have had our share of difficult times, but there have been more times of joy, of happiness, of wonder, of strength, and of peace.  Through it all, the tough times and the good times, there has been LOVE and there has been Jesus.  

So today, I would like us parents (or if we are a child), to remember some moments of love.  Times with your children.  Times with your Mom and Dad.  Times when life was good and right.  Times when LOVE penetrated everything.  Hold those moments in your heart - even if just for a few minutes.  Hold fast to the joy that comes from the parent/child relationship.  I know, even as I write this, a flood of memories return - from small little moments of hand holding to large graduation moments.  Each of them holds a special place in my heart.  May these moments share a special place in your heart.  Most of all, remember the very special place we hold in God's heart.  That puts a smile on my face.

"Heavenly Father, so many times as parents and as children, we focus on the difficult and challenging times.  They tend to stand out for us and hold close to our thoughts.  Yet, help us turn our hearts to ones of rejoicing.  May we hang on to the memories of joy, happiness, wonder, strength, peace and love.  May those memories take hold of our hearts as we also remember the place we have in your heart - and how grateful we are for our salvation.  In your name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Explore

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"I applied my mind to study and explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens."  (NIV) Ecclesiastes 1:13

As I write this week I am doing so not from the comfort of my home in NH, but from a hotel lobby in San Antonio, TX.  I had the good fortune and pleasure of extending a business trip to a weekend away with my husband.  We had a chance to explore a city we had never been to before; a chance to see new things and explore new areas.  We had a wonderful time and made new memories together.  

This made me wonder about all of the exploration that happened throughout the Bible. From the time of Adam and Eve through Moses, Noah, Abraham, etc., we get a glimpse inside all that God has for his people to explore.  When I think back on all of those times, I reflect how all these people stepped out to explore, stepped out in faith, and what it meant for all of us today. 

Sometimes stepping out and exploring something new can lead to apprehension and fear.  Even as recent as last week, I stepped out of that "comfort zone" and found myself doing things that were unfamiliar. I will admit I was a bit frightened.  Do you know what I mean?  That sick feeling in your stomach, trying to reach out to anyone who would respond (via cellphone), that would help calm my fears.  I get like that when I do something new, something different.  I rely on my OWN ability to feel secure in stepping out.  We all know how that ends up!  Every time I step out on my own, I tend to fail and feel horrible.  

So this time, I decided to stop the immediate nauseousness and reach out to the one that always picks up my messages, my Dear Jesus.  When I reach out to Him, I know He is always listening, always available, and always can guide my exploration.  He never lets me down and helps me to see what I can't, the path to safety and strength.  When I surrender to His help, I know it will be okay.  That is exactly what happened this time.  When I went to God for help, I immediately knew that my Lord was with me and peace came to me like it does when I fall into His safe arms.  

Is there a part of your life that needs to be explored?   Maybe it is a new town?  Perhaps it is something larger than just exploring a new town.  Maybe it is a new passion, a new position at work, a new path that God has set before you?   Yes, these paths can bring apprehension and fear.  Exploring can be difficult and intimidating. Always remember, though, that God is right next to you, with His loving arms around you.  He helps you to explore and see things that you have never seen before.  Take the step. Open your hearts and eyes to new experiences.  What He has waiting for you can be an incredible journey.  

"Heavenly Father, as I look around me to see what I can explore, help me to rely on you to bring peace to my fear and joy to my heart as new experiences in your world are part of my journey here.  Bless all those who explore with you and bless their adventures. In your name, Amen"

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Treasure the Moments


". . .  But his mother treasured all these things in her heart."  (NIV)  Luke 2:51

Yes, it is Mother's Day.  I pray that all mothers who are reading this enjoyed their day.  Whether our day was filled with joy or chores, fun or frustration, it is still a day that helps us - as moms - reflect on all that is cherished in our most important job - being a mom.  I ask that you let me indulge in a little reflection with all of you.

In between going to church, having a nice breakfast, opening presents, and enjoying a nice meal, my heart kept taking me back to all the reasons I love being a mom.  I think it starts with the wonderful example I have from my mom.  Throughout our childhood, and into adulthood, my mom continues to share every day why it is so great to have this most important job.  She has shared warmth, she has shared discipline (of course, more with my brother than with me), she has shared hope, she has shared pain, she has shared joy, and she has shared frustration.  Yet, the two greatest gifts she has given me is love and faith.  Those two items she shared in abundance - while we were growing up and still today.  How blessed I am to have such a role model!

Then I thought back to all the wonderful moments I have had with my own children.  From pony rides to strawberry picking, from planting a garden to playing soccer.  From vacations in Washington DC to Niagara Falls.  From meeting Mickey Mouse (or too afraid to meet him) to meeting new family members.  As our family grew and we went from two children to four, the wonderful moments continued.  From enjoying treks through Costa Rica to enjoying time around a fire.  From family meetings to family dinners.  From crying together to laughing together.  Now the moments consist of high school and college graduations.  As the cliche goes, how time flies.

Yes, we have pictures to commemorate many of these incredible experiences.  Yet, as Mary, most of these treasures sit deep within my heart.  When I looked at that verse, I can see how Mary felt.  No, maybe I am not the mother of Jesus, but each mother knows that her children, whether they gave birth to them, adopted them, step-parented them, or were primary care givers in any capacity, are true treasures.  There is a peace that comes with knowing our children.  A peace that starts with each of their uniqueness as infants and continues long into  adulthood.  They may give us times of frustration and worry.  There are also times when us moms sit back and treasure moments.  It happens randomly.  Times that they can't be predicted, but the treasures become so overwhelming that emotions pop up (mine is usually in the response of happy tears).

Our Mother Mary taught us well, early on, to ponder these moments, treasure these moments.  I pray that as you reflect, you find a moment or two that have been treasured in your heart.  Maybe it is a moment with your children.  Maybe it is a moment with your mother.  Find that moment, ponder it in your heart, and treasure it with all that God has given us.  For it is these moments that make the word "Mother" so cherished.  Thank you for letting me indulge in this Mother Moment, for letting me share some of the joys my children have brought me, and for sharing the joys I have with my mom.    Treasure the Moments.

"Heavenly Jesus, we know the goodness and mercy you have bestowed on us through the gift of mothers.  We thank you for the wonderful example of your own mother, Mary and how she has influenced mothers throughout the years.  Let us give thanks for our moms and all that they have taught us.  If they are now with you Jesus, we know that their hearts are filled with constant joy.  May we all share in Mother Moments.  In your name we pray, Amen."



Sunday, May 1, 2016

Foggy Faith Days

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."  (NIV)  1 Peter 2:21

This past week, I woke up to an incredibly dense, foggy day.  I could  barely see out of my bedroom window to the driveway, never mind any further.  I have always found fog to be somewhat of a "phenomenon".  This should explain much to many of you - science is not my "main thing".  Therefore, on a foggy day I find myself in wonder at how fog just "showed up".  I am sure there are many of you out there that can give me the scientific version of how fog is created, but why don't we all let me live in my state of wonder on this one, okay?

As I was trying to navigate through the foggy roads in order to get to work, it helped that I take the same roads every day - knowing which way to turn and even where to avoid the spring potholes.  That clarity helps me to get to my desired destination, despite the fog.  While driving, my mind drifted to other times when the fogginess wasn't in front of my eyes, it was more "inside" of me.  There have certainly been times when I have had a foggy head.  Whether I wasn't feeling well or had too much on my mind, I found myself not being able to focus and my thoughts wandered, constantly.  I don't like feeling like that and look forward to when I feel better and have more clarity.  If the fogginess is due to too much on the plate, it is a wake up call for me to get the priority list written.  Those lists have always provided clarity for me - a direction to follow.

There have also been times when my faith has been a bit foggy.  Although I don't like to admit it, when the life of this world gets the better of me, I begin to wander away from what is most important and focus on things that are less important.  It may be times when I put other things in front of worship.  Times when I'm "too busy" to spend a few moments in the Word first thing in the morning and need to rush out of the house.  Times when I believe listening to that "hard rock" station will lift me up better than praise music.  Times when I rely on my own means versus God's means to see me through a difficult situation.  Have you been there as well?  I call those Foggy Faith Days, days when my faith doesn't have the clarity that I wish it would.

So how do we navigate through those Foggy Faith Days?  By doing what our verse for today tells us to do.  Follow in Jesus' steps.  On those days when I know my faith is getting a bit foggy, I turn to the one who can always provide me clarity, Jesus.  Sometimes it is as simple as opening up my Bible (how Jesus ALWAYS gets me just to the right passage).  Sometimes it is sitting in worship and getting navigated to the cross and the Lord's supper.  Sometimes it is finding my favorite hymn to sing out load.  Most times, it is the act of folding my hands and bowing my head in prayer.  In doing this, I am able to ask Jesus for His help, his guiding hand, through the fog.  When I start walking in His steps, I find that the fog is lifted and my faith is renewed.

So the next time we find ourselves in a fog, take a few moments to find the clarity we need - in Jesus.  If the fog is truly right in front of you, going to Jesus for THAT clarity can be helpful too!  Funny thing - Jesus seems to be the clarity in any situation.  Let's follow Jesus' steps to clarity.

"Faithful Jesus, thank you for always being the clarity when fog takes over us.  We know that by following in your steps, we can lift the fog and find the clarity that you want us to have - a true focus on you.  Help us to turn to you Jesus on those Foggy Faith Days so that you can clear the path as we follow your steps.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen!"

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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.