Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Simplest of Faith

"So, as I sit on my special rock, I pray for many things:
  • for healing; physically, mentally, and spiritually
  • for love; love of family, friends and others
  • for hope; the hope I'll never have to do this again
  • for peace; the peace that truly passes all understanding"
The above was taken from a journal I wrote 18 years ago - a journal that I kept as I went through my journey with cancer.  Eighteen years ago this past weekend, I was diagnosed with cancer.  It certainly was not expected - no history of cancer in my family.  Yet, it was my journey to take.  So it began.  That journey is an entire blog series all in its own.  There were many things I learned on that journey.  I believe that is when I started learning about simple faith.

During this time of my life, I took to writing in a journal.  Who would have known all these years later that I would find inspiration from that journal in many ways.  At this time every year, I make it a point to read that journal and remind myself of something - that when times get hard, having the simplest of faith creates a journey of hope.  For those of you who are reading this and have gone through a struggle similar to this, you know that you come out the other side a different person.  I believe that has happened to me.  Throughout the surgeries, the chemo treatments, the loss of hair, the radiation, the burns associated with that, and then the recovery, something became increasingly clear.  

I knew that God was with me.  In anxious-filled thoughts, in moments of despair, in anger and frustration, in sadness of what life would never be like again, and in hope for moving forward, God was with me.  Sometimes, I would do as the entry above shares, I would sit and pray.  Other times, I felt like I had no more prayer in me.  To God, either situation was okay - He was always there for me.  

I look back at that time and realized that many of the God-filled moments in my life had been put aside - teaching Sunday School became infrequent, going to church was built around moments when I felt well, there weren't any Bible Studies, I rarely picked up my Bible, and my prayer life was inconsistent.  Yet, God didn't give up on me.  I talked to Him, He talked back.  Through people who graciously helped me during this time.  Through cards and letters.  Through hugs and kind words.  God was talking to me - and I was listening.

God knows us, He understands us, and above all, he loves us.  When we believe and have the faith that He is in control, He fills us with hope, joy, and peace.  He doesn't just "sprinkle" those things on us, He fills us up - to the brim!  Yes, that even happens during times of struggle and despair.  Remember, just have faith that He will provide.  Go to Him with your thoughts.  Live your life in His light.  The rest is an incredible journey that brings us to the other side - a different person - one that is embraced with God's love.

Heavenly Father, we know that by living our lives with the simplest of faith, your blessings will adorn us.  Help us to always remember that - even when life gets hard.  May we come to you with our faith, that you may see our struggles and bring us to the other side - one that is filled with your grace, mercy, peace and love.  In your gracious name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Changing Colors

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness."  Psalm 107:9 (KJV)

Many of you know how much I love autumn.  It is truly a season that I wait for all year.  Once the last days of August hit, I'm ready to bring out all of the autumn candles and decorations and try to wait, patiently, for the beautiful colors to surround me.  I believe it is one of the main reasons I live in New England.  I can't imagine October without the colors of autumn.

This year, I waited.  And waited.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that leaves seemed to have a different hue to them, but I wasn't seeing the radiant colors of autumn.  So I waited.  And waited.  To be honest, there was even a slight sadness to my demeanor.  Was autumn going to pass us by this year?  Were the leaves going to move from green to brown without the beautiful autumn colors of red, orange and yellow?

It reminded me of many times in my life when I have waited for something - truly longing for something, as our verse for today shares.  It could have been a time when I longed for our family to be all together - for a meal or just to talk.  Other times, it was when I was struggling with health issues and longed to feel better - desperately wanting the pain and discomfort to be lifted.  Whatever the wait was, it seemed to feel like it was going to take a lifetime.

Then enters God!  As He always has, He comes into my longing world and fills it up!  Maybe it is a quick family dinner when everyone is available - time cherished around the table with lively conversation.  This always fills my soul with goodness.  Maybe it was finally having a day when I felt good after many months of chemo.  That certainly filled my soul with goodness and provided the hope needed that better days were coming.  

God fills our longing souls.  As always, it is in His time, but He always delivers!  Whatever we may be longing for, God will share with us what is good and right just for us.  Although our times of longing may seem like an eternity, God will provide.  God's love for us promises us the goodness that He wants for his children.  When He provides, we are satisfied - our souls are filled to the brim!  Alleluia!

So what about autumn?  As always, God delivered.  What seemed like overnight, the trees changed from brown to beautiful colors of red, yellow and orange.  This has certainly filled my soul!  I am in awe every autumn at the beauty God provides for me, for us!  He takes that broad paintbrush and covers us with autumn hues.  My hungry soul is filled with goodness.  What does it take?  Just a little simple faith that my God will always deliver!  Praise be to Him!!

"Heavenly Father, thank you for filling my soul - just at the right time.  May all of us who may be longing for something so dear to us have simple faith that you will fill our souls.  On those days, may we give thanks to you, God, for remembering us, your children.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Laser Focus

"Then Jesus declared, "I am the one speaking to you - I am he."  John 4:26 (NIV)

I have many areas of self improvement, but one that I struggle with the most is thought racing.  Let me explain.  I will be speaking about one topic and then my mind will quickly shift to something as a thought races into my mind.  Or I may be listening to a person and thinking about other things that need to get done.  I tend to be better at focus when I am at work than when I'm at home.  You can ask my husband.  We will be driving in the car having a conversation about something and within five minutes I will have changed the subject three times.  Yep - just a bit frustrating for the person I am with (again, just ask my husband!).

I'm not sure when this struggle started.  If I look back, I think it was when I became a mom.  Mothers out there - you know the struggle.  You have fifteen things that need to get done so thinking about them all at the same time makes it more efficient - right?  Yea, probably not!  I used to think that was the case, but in all reality, I know it isn't so.  When I lack focus, I usually disappoint the person I am with.  They thought that they had my full attention, and they deserve my full attention.  Yet, when my mind races, they truly don't have my full attention.

Let's shift to Jesus for a moment.  If there was a person on this earth who had a lot on His mind, I would say that Jesus gets to top that list.  He certainly knew his mission and He went about teaching, healing and modeling behaviors that all of us aspire to.  Of the many characteristics that Jesus portrays, the one that I really admire was His focus.  Whenever he speaks to a person or listens to a person, He focuses just on them.  There is no "changing of the subject' or lack of listening skills with Jesus.  

Whenever I read excerpts from the Bible where Jesus is speaking to someone or listening to someone, you truly sense that He is there just with that person.  Whether there is a crowd of people around or not, that person He is speaking to is the only one that matters at that time.  Wouldn't you like to be on the receiving end of a conversation like that?  To truly have some one's laser focus, laser attention?  My friends, let me share with you.

You DO have some one's laser focus.  Just as Jesus focused on each person when He was on earth, He does that for each of us today.  When we go to Jesus in thought and prayer, He is listening just to YOU.  When we go to Jesus and ask Him to talk with us - He does, just to YOU.  Jesus' focus with those he traveled with many years ago is the same focus He provides for us today.  By going to Jesus in thought, word, and deed, He will provide us with the attention that we are looking for - each and every time.  Yes, even with all that Jesus concerns himself with, YOU become his number one focus.  Please, remember this as you seek His counsel.  He will always be focused on you.

Dearest Jesus, we thank you for your laser focus in our lives.  As we go to you, we know that you are listening and speaking just to us.  Your mind doesn't race or wander with random thoughts, but hears our every words and speaks to us with love.  Help us to have that same focus as we speak and listen to others.  In your gracious name we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Why God, Why??

In times of trouble and turmoil, as much as I would like to admit that I have never questioned God, I have.  Yes, in the beginning of the difficulty, I typically try to handle it on my own - no need to bother God on THIS one!  Yet, as the situation becomes more and more difficult, I begin praying.  For those times when it was grave, I would pray and pray and pray.  When those prayers weren't immediately answered, I would begin to question.  "Why God, Why?  Why are you letting this happen?  Why aren't you answering my prayers?"  As we all know, God answers our prayers in His way and in His time - always to our needs.

The other day I was on my way to work.  The air was crisp (always makes me happy).  I thought about my family and realized that for this moment in time, things were good.  Everyone was working.  Those who were physically challenged were getting better.  In that one moment, there was peace.  It was a really nice feeling.  It made me think.  Why do we question God when things are tough, but never ask that same question when things are good?  When was the last time, when things were going well, we raised our voice to God saying, "Why God, Why?"  It certainly had never happened to me before.

Yet, I did.  I raised my voice and said, "God, I know things are going well for my family, while others are suffering.  Why God, Why?"  Then I was quiet.  I listened for God's answer.  As always, it wasn't right away.  This thought continued with me throughout most of the day.  It was positive, yet inquisitive.  This thought helped to bring me to today's verse.

God's with us, in every step of our lives.  He doesn't leave us when things go "south", and, even more so, He is with us when we are blessed.  When we ask, "Why God" when things are tough, the answers are usually very clear.  We need to go through those trials and tribulations to fully appreciate God's awesomeness.  We need to experience the pain to fully rely on Jesus and give our problems to Him.  With that level of faith, God is happy.  It isn't a bother to go to God when things are difficult.  He WANTS us to approach His throne with our worries and burdens.

He also wants us to approach His throne with our praises of thanksgiving.  Not just when our prayers are answered, but in everyday living.  God allows for the tough days to strengthen our faith.  God also allows for the good days to ALSO strengthen our faith.  For God is there for it all, for all things in all times.  How blessed we are to have such an awesome God!  

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your presence - in trials and goodness.  Many times, I ask "why is this happening to me" when I am in difficult times.  Yet, I typically don't say, "why is this happening to me" when things are great.  What I DO know is that you are there for it all, because you love us, care for us, and guide us with each step.  Thank you God for walking with me on this earthly journey.  I look forward to the heavenly journey!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

No, No, No

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."  1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

I am sure we have all been around a two-year old who, in a moment of independence, screams, "No, No, No".  Of course, these times always seem to happen in the middle of a grocery store or during a church sermon.  It's always difficult to navigate through these situations, but eventually, the independence moves on and the sweet child returns.

Move forward 13 years and the independence returns.  Now, our child is a teenager and those words seem to return back to their vocabulary.  Maybe we are asking them to clean their rooms.  Maybe it is to attend a family function versus going out with friends.  Whatever the situation, the words of, "No, No, No" return, now in greater defiance.  Yes, we manage to navigate through these situations as well.

Funny, though, as we grow older, how those words become more difficult to say.  What was once so easy to come out of our mouths, even at a young age, becomes difficult.  Work asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Friends ask for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Family asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  Church asks for commitments and we say, "Yes"!  We are supposed to do good, correct?  We are supposed to help others, correct?  Yet, what happens when, by saying yes, we find ourselves over-extended, stressed to exhaustion, and feeling resentment each time the word "Yes" comes out of our mouths?

I have been in this situation multiple times.  I am certain that all of you may have found yourselves in these times as well.  It is so hard to rationalize saying No.  People come to us for a reason - because they need something, they need help.  That is why I love this verse so much.  We are tempted for many reasons to say yes in all situations.  Helping others makes US feel good.  There is a sense of pride that comes with "doing it all".  These are all common reactions.  Yet, when the"yes" overcomes us, we can fall into many negative behaviors that are not Christlike.

When I get overextended:
  • Sleep evades me
  • Happiness turns into constant seriousness
  • Worry takes over 
  • Resentment sets in
  • The tone of my voice can be bitter
God will never give us more than we can handle.  Many times, especially during times of trial, it feels like He does - but He always provides a way out - a light that shines on us.  The same happens when we get to the "no" point.  What am I supposed to say "NO" to Jesus?  Talk to our Jesus, let Him know your anguish and pain.  HE will tell you, He will provide you with the words.

  • "I wish I could, but my plate is a bit full right now.  I wouldn't do your request justice.  Maybe there is someone else on the church council that can assist."
  • "I would love to take on this work project.  Maybe you can assist me in prioritizing my work so I can ensure a quality job."
  • "Gee sis, I just can't get together this weekend - but let's make a date for next Wednesday".
Saying "no" can be difficult, especially for us "yes" people.  Yet, in can be freeing.  In saying no to certain things, we will be able to do the "yes" things with our full attention.  God doesn't want worry and resentment in our lives.  He will guide us to a less-stressed life with His power to say no!

Heavenly Father, I don't find it easy to say, "no".  I want to help others and be of aid.  Yet, when I over-extend myself, I know the stress of the situation can become unbearable.  Help me and guide me to go to you FIRST before saying YES.  Guide me to situations where I can say "no" with greater confidence and in love to all.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Secrets

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."  Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)

We were sitting around the kitchen table with all the kids, now young adults.  We reminisced about days gone by and how those "teenage years" weren't exactly moments of heaven, for them or for us!  As each child shared things that were done "against the rules", there was a bit of a pride factor they has that us,  as parents, never found out about their secrets.  They had actually gotten away with going against the rules and us parents were not aware.

It made me think of my teenage years.  Certainly as a teenager, I as well, did things that I would be less than proud of and also didn't tell my parents (statute of limitations is up Mom!).  I guess, down deep, there was also a sense of pride that I had when I got away with breaking some rules.  Of course, there were plenty of times that I didn't get away with breaking the rules!  

Fast forward a few years (okay, quite a few years), to my life today.  Even today, there are thoughts that I have or sins I have committed that I think, "well, at least nobody is aware of those sins."  I breathe a sigh of relief and move on.  Yet, I don't move too far.  For I realize very quickly that there is someone that knows about those sins.  As in our verse for today, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight".  He knows everything that I do, everything that I say, and everything that I think.  Therefore, with God, there are no secrets!

No Secrets?  Don't we all wish that there were some secrets that don't need to be shared?  Maybe, but with God, there are No Secrets!  There is no ability to run and hide, no ability to think that I got away with something, not ability for someone not to find out.  I have to share, that verse has come into my mind many times when I was thinking thoughts that may not be desirable or about to say something that I shouldn't.  Knowing that God is watching my every move and knows my every thought does make me stop in my tracks.  It has stopped me from doing or thinking something that was of a sinful nature.  I sin; I know that!  God certainly knows that even better than I do. 

So, if God knows everything and I sin all the time, then what is it worth to not sin and not try to be a good person?  Why don't I just live in sin all the time?  Because, with God, there is forgiveness.  No matter how bad my "secrets" are, God knows them and forgives them.  "For God so loved the world that he fave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16.   Although I might want to have secrets in my life, the Dear Lord sees it all - there are no secrets.  Better yet, though, there is forgiveness!  

Heavenly Father, help us to remember that there are no secrets in our lives.  You know all of our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Help to guide us to do as you direct, Jesus.  When we fall from your path, please help us to remember that you provide us unconditional love and forgiveness so we may get up the next day to do your will.  In your name we pray.  Amen

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Missing You

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."  Isaiah 66:13 (NIV)

It's that time of year when children go back to school.  Some are entering grade school, others heading back to high school; still others are off to college.  When the children headed off to school, there was always a piece of my heart that went with them.  I have to say, when they went off to school through high school, it wasn't too bad - I knew they were coming home at the end of the day.   

College was a bit different.  When we dropped off our children at college, it would be days/weeks before we would see them again.  Yes, it is different now compared to when I was a kid.  Through modern technology, we can "see" our kids (when they choose to answer our Skype)!  Yet, again, we knew that at the end of the semester, they would be home again.  Although those times, as they entered adulthood, were harder to navigate, I still knew they were coming home.

These days, our goodbyes are more difficult for this mama's heart.  As we move our children from our home into their new homes as they begin their adult lives, I know that they are moving on with their lives.  Yes, I still long for the days that they would be coming home.  Bottom line?  I miss them!  I miss the rowdy conversations around the dinner table.  I miss the picking on each other.  I miss the laughter.  I even miss taking care of their needs, cooking meals for them, and hearing about their heartaches.

I thought about my role as a mom this weekend, and how that role is changing.  Will my children still need me?  Will they still find time to talk to me, tell me about their days, the good stuff and the tough stuff?  I pray for each of them and hope that their lives find time to come home and chat~~  When they call or stop by, I am certainly comforted.

This reminds me of our Dear Lord.  Does He miss me?  Am I coming home to Him each day?  Does He get to "see" me?  I am certain that Jesus' heart longs for us, just as a parent longs for their child.   When we 'move away' and are not coming home to Jesus like we should, I am very certain that His heart pains for us.   Life today can be busy - very busy.  Much can interfere with our time of devotion and worship.  Yet, we need to remember how much Jesus gives to us; everything we have is a blessing from Him.  Going home to Jesus, talking with Him, telling Him how your day went, sharing the good and the difficult, gives us the comfort that we need.  

During these days, as our children head off to the next chapter in their lives, whether kindergarten or adulthood, may we be reminded of the days when we say grace together, have devotions together, and pray together.  We need to have simple faith that our Dear Lord is there with them, when we can't be.  We need to have simple faith that Jesus will be their "go to" person if we aren't available.  We need to have simple faith that God is with them, and in them, as they head off to their days.  We may miss them, but God's got them!!

Dear Jesus, as our children head off too school or work, we ask that you be with them.  We may miss them, but we know that you have them Jesus, in the palm of your hand.  Walk beside them as they go through their days and let them always know that we are a phone call or visit away.  May we, as parents, have simple faith that you will guide us all on this journey.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Faith Through Disasters

Image result for hurricane harvey
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

It is horrifying to see the pictures coming out of Texas.  As the days continue, we begin to see more and more of the destruction from Hurricane Harvey.  Roads have been washed away.  Homes have been washed away.  Cars and belongings, all washed away.  At the writing of this blog post, the rain continues to come down over Texas.   As I watch the news and see the devastation, it's hard to understand the magnitude of what this hurricane has actually caused.  My heart goes out to all that are dealing with this.

Over the years, all over the world, there has been devastation like this.  Whether it comes in the form of wind and rain, or tornadoes, or fires, or snow, or drought or other weather phenomenons, disasters occur.  We tend to look at natural disasters as difficult to control.  How do you control Mother Nature?  Obviously, we can't.  

There are other disasters in our lives that aren't produced by nature that can be just as devastating.  They can come in the form of a broken relationship, someone who leaves earth far too soon, financial difficulties, health hardships, etc.  Disasters can come in so many forms, predicted or unforeseen.  How do we respond to these types of disasters?

These are the times when our Dear Lord shouts and says, "Here I am, Lean on Me!"  He knows, better than all of us do, that hardships and disasters will come into our lives.  Yet it is how we deal with these hardships that help us get to the other side - with hope.  As our verse for this week shares, "...we are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, not destroyed."  Why?  

Because our Jesus is with us every step of the way.  He is there as our belongings move with the water.  He is there when our loved one is taken from us.  He is there when we hear a diagnosis of cancer.  He is there when we are lonely.  He is there - every moment of every day.  We will face difficult times as Christians.  Our paths are not paved with gold and always full of sunshine.  What makes our hard times different?  We have a Savior who has been through pain.  He knows what our pain is like and He will guide us through it.  With our faith as a cornerstone, our lives will move forward - in hope.

As we go through the disasters of our life, it is hard to see "the other side".  Yet, when we have faith  through these disasters, we know that better days are ahead of us.  There is a rainbow of hope.  There is Jesus waiting to help us.  Let Him help you!!

"Heavenly Father, we ask that you be with those that are going through personal disasters right now.  Our greatest thoughts are with those in Texas.  Help them, Jesus, to have faith through all of this.  Please put your loving arms around them, let them know you are there with them, and provide the hope that they desperately need.  We also ask that you be with all that are in the midst of difficult times.  Help them to reach out to you, and please respond to them with love.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen." 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Well Running Dry

"...but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  John 4:14 (NIV)

Summer can certainly be a time of dryness.  Our other three seasons provide ways for our lawns and gardens to receive water, but the summer can be difficult for constant water.  I noticed this about a week ago when parts of our lawn were getting a bit parched.  The green was turning to brown and was very dry.  I even noticed the sign on a local fire department sharing that there was a high risk of fire.  Sure enough, a few days later, black clouds formed overhead and the heavens opened, providing some much needed relief and lots of rain.

The same thing happened to me, personally, last week.  The days were getting more and more difficult with many different situations.  By last Friday, I was parched.  I felt as if I didn't have an ounce of energy left in me.  I woke up dragging and couldn't seem to gain any relief as the day continued.  I was picturing myself in a desert with no water in sight.  To say I was frustrated was an understatement.

This can happen to all of us.  We get so caught up on getting things done, running through our chore list, making sure all the t's are crossed and i's are dotted that we forget that we need to stop to quench our thirst.  We find the items that need to get accomplished take precedent over what is truly important and what truly needs to get done - replenishing our souls.  I am very guilty of this when times get tough - I put aside what needs to get done for my soul for what needs to get done on a list.

I prayed to my Lord, looking for relief.  Just as he provided the black clouds overhead, He also provided for me.  There, in front of me, was our verse for today - one that I keep written on a small piece of paper for "just when I need some help".  God guided my eyes to this verse, helping to remind me that I will never thirst, as long as I go to God's Word for relief.  With that Word, my "today" life was restored and I was reminded that my "eternal" life was in good hands, God's hands.

I encourage all of us to focus on our souls just as much as we focus on the "list" of this world.  In doing so, the words of our Lord will fill our hearts, our minds and our souls - providing the relief we so deeply need.  God wants our eyes to be focused on Him for restoration, not the items of this world.  When we do that, we understand with more clarity that Simple Faith brings us the peace we need in this world, the peace that calms our souls and re-energizes our lives.  

Please, spend time each day in the living water of Jesus.  Let's commit to sharing time with Him who so graciously gave of Himself for us.  When we fill ourselves up with this living water, we will never be parched, and our faith will grow just as a plant who receives water during the summer.

Dearest Jesus, just as you were there for the woman at the well, I ask that you continue to be here for me.  Help me to never be thirsty as long as I immerse myself in Your Word.  Grant me the peace for my soul and the energy of your love to help grow not only me, but those around me.  In your loving name I pray.  Amen!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sweetness on the Inside

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine cloths.  Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

The simple task of husking corn.  Nothing elegant.  Just sitting on the back stoop and making sure I get all the silk off of the ear of corn before cooking them.  Yet, as I was doing that, it struck a thought with me.  On the outside, corn is pretty much the same.  Taller stalks, silk coming out of the top.  If you look at the outside of corn, you would say they are all very similar.  As you begin husking the corn, the individuality of the corn starts to shine through.  Some may be all yellow with large kernels.  Some may be yellow and white with smaller kernels.  Typically, regardless of what you see as you peel the husk back, you find great sweetness.  As you bite into an ear of corn, it's hard not to smile with delight as those kernels pop in your mouth, so sweet.  Sure, sometimes we see an ear that is not mature or has been chewed by insects, but most of the time, it is good.

It made me think, if we were to peel back the husk of our neighbors, friends, and families, what would we find?  Do we find people who are full of kindness and sweetness?  Do we find people that are fully mature or haven't fully matured yet?  Do we find people who may have been chewed up by the bitterness of their situations?  What is on the outside of people may not be what is on the inside of people.  The elaborate lifestyles or personas may not mirror what is on the inside of people.  As when we open up an ear of corn that is not "sweet", we are disappointed.  When we get to know the "inside of people" and realize they may not be "sweet", we are also disappointed.  Can we change them?  You know the answer to that.

As always, it is important to start with the sole person that you can change, YOURSELF!  As you peel back your own husk, what are people finding?  What are you finding?  Is there a person who is mature and full of sweetness and delight?  Or is there a person who is not mature, eaten up by the bitterness of past mistakes and not forgiving others.  We may share with others that we work hard to live the life that Jesus has asked us to live.  I know I try to do that.  Yet, if I'm going to be truthful, I often fall short.

On the inside, I am not always sweet (hey, just ask my family!).  I may try to be mature, but often my responses, both inside and outside, aren't always that of a mature woman.  I can get cranky and bitter and the anxiousness that I feel can many times be revealed in my emotions - the inside stuff.!  Can you relate?  I try to ensure that the sweetness and goodness that God wants me to share is there every day.  Yet, there are some days when that just doesn't happen.  So what's a girl to do?

We go to the word of God.  There, and only there, can I find true redemption for the behavior that may not be the sweetness I want on the inside.  When I ask my Savior for forgiveness and begin the healing, peace enters my heart and sweetness returns.  The simple faith of knowing God can make me sweet is such a rich blessing.  Through His goodness and His love, I know that peace and happiness will return.  That is a guarantee.  

I challenge us.  What are people seeing when they "husk" us?  Are they seeing the sweet love of Jesus or a person that has been chewing on bitterness?  We can change ourselves to grow more sweet on the inside.  We can live in the words of Jesus and have simple faith that through his love our sweetness will grow.  The next time you husk that ear of corn, take a look on the inside for the sweetness that we know only Jesus can give us.

Dearest Jesus, we ask that you help us to self-reflect what is in our hearts.  May we find the sweetness and goodness that we can share with others.  If we find bitterness Lord, we ask that you change our hearts and fill us up with the words of saving grace that only YOU can provide.  In your saving name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Test of Patience

Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?  Isaiah 7:13

I want to believe that in my old age I have gotten wiser and my ability to be patient has gotten better.  To be honest, I'm not sure I'm succeeding in either!  This past weekend brought to life the part of the verse above "...try the patience of men".  It started off well,;I had a half day on Friday and I was going to get my car inspected.  

I went.  It failed.  I was appalled.  The car is in great condition.  Yet, the paint was chipping off my plates, so they needed to be replaced.  Oh, and I need two tires in the rear of the car.  WOW - not what I was expecting.  Well, I had the 1/2 day off, so off to Town Hall I went for new plates.  Yep, wrong spot, needed to go to Dept of Motor Vehicles (a 1/2 hour away).  I'm not sure how your Dept of Motor Vehicles works.  Let's just say that ours is a test of patience.  I was glad that my husband joined me for some "quality" time and off we went.  Two hours later, I had two new plates.

Off to the tire store we go.  Got there just as it was closing.  They didn't have my tires in stock.  All could be resolved on Saturday, though.  Saturday at 10:30, the car was dropped off.  By that time I had already completed the normal Saturday chores, so, after making some meatballs and doing a couple of other things, I thought I deserved a pedicure.  I called for a 12:15 appointment.  By 12:17 my toes had dipped in the water.  Someone didn't come over to start my pedicure until 12:55.  Yep - another test of patience.  Didn't they already know what kind of weekend I was having?  I did finally get my toes painted and just in time, my husband called to tell me my car was ready.

Yea, pick up the car, go back to where I had it inspected for a "re-inspect".  I get there, they can't take me for 1.5 hours.  Really?  Are you kidding?  I did what they asked and all they have to do is put on an inspection sticker.  Nope, that was the deal.  Fine.  I went home, did a few more things around the house, and was off to get my sticker 1.5 hours later.  Got there and the guy came out.  "Not sure we will be able to do it today?"  Are you kidding?  While I was gone, two other people came and dropped off their cars, so they got a "spot" in front of me.  

That was it!  My patience, that I tried so hard to keep all day long, was gone.  This was going to be a relaxing, filled with family time, type of weekend.  No, we didn't have any specific plans, just to "be" with each other.  It had turned into a test of patience.  I don't lose my patience often, but when I do, I can be a bit indignant.  My voice was raising and I needed to talk to the technician, the asst. manager and the manager.  Yes, EVERYONE needed to hear my pain.  I was mad.  They can see I have new plates, and the tires are new!!!

That went well for me, until the manager checked and said, "Yes, you have two new tires, but they are on the FRONT!!  The back ones are still bad."  Are you kidding me?  Really?  After a "wonderful"call to my husband, I was on my way back to the tire place.  Meanwhile he called there and found out they had closed.  Done.  All this work and I still won't have my car inspected this weekend.  

As I was driving to dinner with my family, in a car that had yet to be inspected, I started chatting with my best friend, God.  "Really God, all of this and nothing?  My patience is being tested beyond belief.  What are you trying to tell me?"  I realized, He was sharing much with me.  
  • Maybe my patience wasn't as good as I thought.  I obviously have some work to do in this area and ensuring I don't take out my frustrations on others.
  • Check and re-check.  There are many times throughout this scenario I could have checked something to ensure it would be smooth - like checking to make sure the new tires were on the back!
  • Be in the moment.  As my husband and I left the Dept of Motor Vehicles on Friday, we laughed that although we waited two hours, we were together.  We laughed and chatted during that time.  Maybe God wanted that for us.  While I waited for my toes, I was sitting in a wonderful massage chair.  
  • Deal with the deck.  Just deal with the cards you have been given.  Maybe the "cards" I had this weekend weren't a winning hand, but I got to play.  I was here, among family, enjoying some rainy days with them.
Yet, all of this made me think of how patient God has to be with me.  With all the sins I commit, the lack of initiative to share His word, the times when I don't do HIS will, He is still patient with me.  He still loves me.  He still embraces me in His wonderful arms.  He NEVER takes away my eternal life.  Now THAT is patience.  For as much as we try to endure in situations that don't go perfectly (a crying child in a grocery store, a friend/family member who lashes out, best laid plans going array), our Heavenly Father has endured so much more, and we still come out on the winning side.  

So, the next time our patience is tested, remember.  God's patience is tested every day, and He still loves us.  When our patience is being tested, let's check and re-check our behavior.  Be in the moment, is there something good that can come of this?  After all that, we just need to deal the cards we've been given.  With God on our side we will always come out with a winning hand!!

Dearest Lord, how our patience runs thin sometimes!  With the day to day frustrations, our patience to handle situations can be difficult.  Let us remember that when those times arise, you are there with us.  Provide us with the patience we need and may we show our Christian hearts in the process.  Your patience of us is immeasurable.  Thank you for always loving us and never leaving us.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pictures of Love

I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to listen to the news.  To be honest, I typically don't turn on the TV unless it is on the HGTV channel (and Juan can share just how much HE enjoys THAT)!  The radio in my car either listens to devotions or music.  So, you can see, I am probably not the person you want to reach out to on current events.  Why?  I find that my newsworthy moments are usually right in front of me.  This week was no exception.  I received special blessings this week. 

The funny part is, of all the blessings that I received, those people that gave me the greatest blessings probably didn't even realize it.  I think that's the best part when we receive blessings.  It's the ones that sneak up on us that make us have "newsworthy moments".  This week's newsworthy moments showed up as wonderful pictures of love.  How did that happen?  Please let me share.

Monday morning, I watched a dad send his son off to his first naval duty.  The last few months were filled with boot camp and learning.  Now, the real work begins.  With tears in their eyes, love was shared with very few words.  Love was shared through hugs, through smiles, through pats on the back, and through tears.  It was a beautiful picture of love between a father and his son.

Fast forward a few days as I watched a number of wonderful people set up for a baby shower that they were giving for their supervisor.  The beautiful decorations, the aroma of wonderful food and the gifts that were overflowing were all performed with hands of love.  I watch this supervisor on many days reach out to her associates with care and humility.  Now, the love was returned.  It was another beautiful picture between work associates and supervisor - so unique.

The next day I was walking out of work with a woman who was filled with joy.  May I preface that she typically is a happy person, but as we continued to chat, you could see her radiant face just shine.  She spoke about how the cancer that had plagued her husband has started to retreat.  The treatments are working and there is much hope for their future.  As we discussed how wonderful prayer is, I saw how blessed she felt.  Although in this case, the other person wasn't there, I could see the picture of love that this woman has for her husband.  I pray that their future is filled with happiness and good health.

Each of these "newsworthy moments" were brought to me by God himself, not by any national news channel.  These wonderful people had no idea how their moments were going to impact me.  Yet, God knew.  During a week when I was exposed to many relationships that didn't seem to be working, God blessed me with pictures of love that were all around me.  Those moments were far greater than any news that could have been shared.  For in those pictures of love, I saw God.  I saw Him through people who had no idea how their moments were impacting me.

Isn't that the wonder of God?  That He can give us those moments just when we need them.  He does know exactly what we need when we need it.  He blesses us richly through pictures of love.  I'm sure all of you have experienced pictures of love lately.  They are all around us.  Those pictures can be in so many places; a person holding another's hand in prayer, a grandchild helping a grandparent to walk, a smile that brings peace to our hearts.  Have your eyes take another look around you for those pictures of love.  They are there - and they will be a blessing for you I am sure.

Dearest God, we thank you for the pictures of love you give us every day.  When our faith in our fellow human beings wears thin, we know that you will provide.  Open our eyes and our hearts to see these pictures you give to us.  May we cherish them in our hearts and may our souls find the peace that comes with such love.  God, may we also be the picture of love to others.  May our words and actions be that "newsworthy moment" to those around us.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hard Working Hands

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

I was about to start typing today on another subject as I looked down at my hands.  Oh my, the wrinkles were starting to show.  Yes, there are other parts of my body that ache and remind me that I am not a spring chicken anymore.  Yet, my hands seemed to show my age today.

I thought about my hands for a long time.  What they have seen over the years.  My hands learned how to take shorthand while I was in high school.  They learned how to type (yes, on an old typewriter).  My hands played piano on my parent's baby grand.  As I entered adulthood, they took exams in college and applied for new jobs.  They adorn a wedding ring and hold my husband's hand with love.  They have also tended to a garden rich in vegetables.  Hands have a way of serving us when we least expect it. My hands have served me well.

Yes, there have been many other things my hands have done.  They have stroked foreheads of others that were in pain.  My hands have also held others' hands in support and grabbed tissues for many tears (mine and others).  They have rubbed feet that were aching and have changed many diapers. My hands have been lifted up to God in joy and have been folded in prayer.  Hands have a way of serving others when we least expect it.  My hands have served others.

Can we serve others better with our hands and hard work?  As we go through our days, see how we might be able to serve someone else with our hands.  Maybe we can make a meal for someone home bound.  Perhaps we can do yard work for others or hold their hands in support.  I truly believe the greatest way we can serve others with our hands is to have them folded in prayer.  There is always someone we can lift up to God in prayer.

Have our hands served in the way Jesus has served us?  When I think of hands, I can't help but think of Jesus' pierced hands on the cross.  Reflect on how many hands he held in his life on earth, how many times His hands touched others in healing, how many times they were folded in prayer.  Jesus' hands are truly hands of a servant and are a wonderful example of the hard work our hands can see.  

Take a look at your hands.  Think about the things your hands have done over the years.  What joys have they embraced?  What tears of sorrow they have wiped away.  What prayers they have lifted to our Heavenly Father.  I'm sure when you reflect upon your hands you will also see that they have served us and others well.  Continue the hard work of your hands, for as Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Here are to the blessings of hard-working hands!!

Dearest Jesus, your hands are certainly the shining example of hard-working hands.  May we reflect upon the good works your hands have done and all that they have given us.  May we take that example and use it to drive us to have hard-working hands for others, for we know the blessings that can be received.  Into your hands we give our lives, Amen!"

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shining Star

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."  Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

One of my favorite memories as a child was when my dad would take us outside at night and we would look to the heavens.  He taught us how to find the Big Dipper and how to appreciate the wonder of the nighttime sky.  I remember looking up into the sky and thinking that those stars were shining just for me.  The other evening, I had that same feeling.  I looked up to the sky and saw stars that were flickering and those that shined brightly.

That moment made me reflect on the type of star "I" am.  Am I a star that flickers or do I shine brightly?  There are many references in the Bible that compare our Christian behavior to that of a bright star.  I want to be the star that shines brightly among the heavens, but I have to admit that many times, I am a flickering star.  

Each day I wake up with the determination that my light will shine brightly for my Savior, Jesus.  Yet, by the end of the day, my greatest determinations fall short.   There are opportunities for me to say more about Jesus than I do.  There are moments for prayer that I miss.  There are times for repentance that I gloss over.  Yes, although I want my star to shine, it many times flickers.  Can you relate?  Do you have moments that go from shining star to flickering star?  What are we to do?

We begin at the place where we shine brightest, in the word of God.  May we turn to God's word to find out how we can become like "those who are wise will shine like the brightness of heaven."  When we find ourselves in God's word, we fully understand the greatness of God's love, His divine Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness that Jesus provides.  Deeply immersing ourselves in the richness of God's word will create a shining star in us so great that it won't have time to flicker.  

We can also worship with each other in grand fellowship.  Sharing our gaps with each other and building each other up can send us into the world with great brightness.  Let us not forget the power of prayer.  Talking to Jesus can send my heart soaring - knowing that He is listening just to me!!  Can't help but be excited when I know I have his total attention (and He has MY attention).  Together, we ignite a shining star so bright it's hard to flicker.

So when we feel like our star isn't shining as brightly as it could, help us to dive into the Word, link arms in fellowship and fold hands in prayer.  When we pursue the immense power of God and His love, our star won't flicker and fade.  It will persevere and grow stronger in light.  Remember, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine; Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine."

Heavenly Father, so many times I want to be the Shining Star for you.  Yet, I know my thoughts and deeds fall short to a small flickering star.  Please guide me to gain the light that only YOU can give to me.  Fill me up, Jesus, so my star shines brighter than ever before - each and every day.  Provide to me your everlasting love.  In your glorious name I pray, Amen!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What I Deserve

I try to go through life living it in a way that is deserving of God's love.  I try to treat people with respect and love.  I try to give more than I sometimes have, both in energy, time and possessions.  I try to love and be kind regardless of the circumstances.  I try . . . .  I typically feel that I do my very best and that is what God asks of me, until I read this verse this past week.

I've read this verse before, so why did it home for me this time?  Maybe it was the circumstances during the week, the people I met and the situations I was in.  Maybe it was my frame of mind.  Maybe it was the condition of my heart.  Quite frankly, it didn't matter WHY as much as it matters NOW.  Whatever the reason for this to touch my heart, God wanted me to see this in a different light.  And It Worked!!

I don't know about you, but I have taken how I handle my life, my conduct and my thoughts, as though God was okay with my daily activities.  Yet, this verse, at this time, made me realize the important thought, "Am I REALLY trying?"  Am I really having the thoughts that God wants me to have?  Am I really conducting myself in the manner that He chooses?  The most important thought, "Can I do better?"  Before last week, I might have said, "I do pretty well".  After evaluating myself, as God asks us to do, I can truthfully say, "I Can Do Better"!  What does better look like?  For me, it was in a variety of areas:
  • Words - the words that came out of my mouth were not always words of encouragement or love.  Sometimes, the bitterness of sarcasm came out.  Sometimes, it was the chastising words of criticism.  Sometimes, the words that were spoken were said without a lot of thought, and could cause heartache.  My words can be better.
  • Thoughts - the thoughts that run through my mind aren't always nice.  I used to tell myself, "At least those thoughts didn't come out of my mouth", but we all know that God doesn't see it that way.  My thoughts could lead to a negative change in my behavior and in my actions.  My thoughts could be better.
  • Deeds - the actions I take aren't always selfless.   Many times, my actions can be selfish - because it is what "I" want the way "I" want it.  I can try to justify those actions as "I know best", but do I?  Could my actions be driving people away versus inviting them in?  My deeds could be better.
Yes, the bottom line is that I could be better.  With self reflection, I realized that my words, thoughts, and deeds were not necessarily always pleasing to God.  I might have felt as if I deserved more, but in turn, God was truly giving me what I deserved.  A sight of self reflection, although truthful and difficult at times, is the sight that God wants us to have.  In the sight of self reflection comes the richest gift and what we so deeply deserve, God's forgiveness.

I may try, and I can do better, but the bottom line is that I will never reach God's expectations.  I will never be that person He may want me to be.  Yet, he loves me so much, that He is willing to look past all my flaws, all my hopeless attempts or even my lack of attempts, to say to me, "Susan, I love you.  Your hard work and belief in me will continue to yield a home in heaven."  I don't know about you, but I need to hear those words.  I need to know He will always be there for me. 

My deeds may not always be rewarded the way I think they should be rewarded.  Yet, I do believe that with some self-reflection and attempts to do better, God will give me the greatest reward - a place with Him in heaven.  Therefore, I will continue to strive to be better and live with His promise of forgiveness and love.   Care to join me?

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the words of the Bible that help us to reflect on the person you want me to be.  Help me to continue to work on being better, in my thoughts, words and deeds.  When I falter, I ask for your forgiveness.  Remind me that your grace, mercy and love will always be with me.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Enduring Love

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." 
1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)

Love let me down.  When you get married, you expect it to last a lifetime, at least I did.  So with high expectations and a vision of my future at the age of 24, I got married.  It wasn't everything I had hoped for.  Yes, there were good times, but there were very difficult times.  Thirteen years later, love was no more.  I blamed me.  I blamed him.  I questioned God - A LOT.  I couldn't understand why God would let that happen, why he would let me suffer and let my family suffer - A LOT.  It didn't seem right, and it certainly didn't seem fair.

Divorce can be difficult, and stressful, and just down right miserable.  It was truly one of the most horrible times in my life.  Yet, it's not just the love of a spouse going wrong that can be difficult.  Maybe it is the love of a child or of a parent that has let you down.  Maybe it is the love of a friend.  All of these scenarios can cause us to question love.  I know that when I started questioning why love was eluding me, I turned my questions to God.  

I wasn't questioning God in a doubtful way, just a "I don't understand your plan" way.  I didn't doubt that He had a plan for me, but I wasn't quite getting it.  I used the time when love seemed far away to ask God what I was supposed to learn from all of this.  In doing so, I grew closer to God.  I may not have been getting answers to my "love dilemma", but I was getting answers about me.  I began to see where my gaps were, and where I needed to gain strength.  My strength needed to come from God, not from man.  My love needed to come from God, not from man.  When I realized this, my eyes were opened.

Think about this for a few minutes with me.  Undoubtedly, God has provided you an opportunity at some time in your life to evaluate earthly love.  Those times can be seen as difficult and heart wrenching times, but usually these times are in our paths for a reason.  They are, what I like to call, learning moments.  We don't see them as learning moments at the time, yet, months or years down the road, God helps us to yield learning moments.  Look back upon your life, where gaps of love may have occurred.  Chances are, you have grown in those moments.  Maybe you are in one of those moments now.  How do you fill that gap?

With the only love that will endure forever, God's love.  God's love is there regardless of when earthly love may have let you down.  God's love fills the gaps.  God's love blankets you every day.  God's love is with you to eternity.  God's love is constant, good, and right.  God's love will never let you down.  While you are working through your learning moments, lean on the love that will always be with you, God's love.

After love let me down, God provided me with the greatest blessing, a love that I could have never imagined could be.  God sent me my husband Juan.  Twelve years ago today, we blended our families and our love under God's watchful eye.  God has blessed us every day.  Yes, there have been times when life provided challenges.  Yet, our love was not challenged - it is good, right and strong.  I believe God took my learning moment and turned it into a wonderful gift.  I now can appreciate a marriage full of love and joy.  Take your learning moments, the time when love may have let you down.  Know that you have the love of a Heavenly Father who is with you always.  He will provide for you exactly what you need - remember - He knows the plan.

Dearest God, thank you for providing us with a love that endures forever.  When earthly love may let us down, help us to learn from those moments.  May we turn to you and your love to bring us up and move us forward.  You love us, God, far more than we can love ourselves or each other.  Help us to always remember that.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It Was Time

"The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"
Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

It was time; my husband and I just stopped.  Continuing to move forward would have resulted in turmoil on many different levels.  Closed eyes, deep breaths, limp limbs - it was what was needed.  It was time to rest.  

As you know, I am a planner.  Many times it can be used for good results.  Other times, it can be detrimental.  My mind and my actions keep me moving - and in turn for my wonderful husband, he keeps step with me.  Maybe we aren't sharing the same projects, but we will find projects to do all the same.  The last six months, after our return from our Costa Rican vacation, have been exhausting.  Working full time plus jobs, and Juan changing jobs, is enough on its own.  Add some family responsibilities along with the usual chores, well that's some more.  The topping on the cake has been the numerous projects we have taken on, renovating our bathroom by ourselves, lots of painting, new flooring, etc.  Well, you can picture it.

I'm sure you can picture it because you have been there as well.  Constant movement, constant responsibilities, constant pressure - with no time for rest.  Moving from one project to one responsibility to another project - it all can be very exhausting.  Add into the mix all of the things to "think about" while this is going on, and neither mind or body can rest.  We think that is the best thing for all of us.  Keep ourselves busy.  Get stuff done.  Yet, that can hurt, both mind and body.  God didn't design us for constant pressure - God designed us to get rest.

There are so many examples of this when we read the Bible.  Of course, the obvious, that God himself rested on the seventh day after Creation.  There are also other times, as we read through stories in the Bible where people rested, under trees, with family, after battle.  So what makes us think we are any better than them?  Our verse for today is clear that when we rest, God is still with us.  When I think of our Heavenly Father, I see Him with me when I am doing something - worshiping, praying, working, serving, etc.  I typically don't see Him with me when I'm resting.

God wants us to rest.  God wants us to get rejuvenated and prepare ourselves for further service to Him and others.  Future service can only come when our minds are clear and our bodies are fresh.  Resting can be hard.  That seems like an anomaly, but it is true - at least for me.  To sit and do nothing, clear my mind and body, can be difficult - at first.  Yet, when I give myself time to do this, it is completely restful.  Today, when I rested, I thought of God saying, "That a girl!"  He's with me, even as I rest.

Take time this summer to rest.  Put the projects aside for a little while.  Leave the problem solving for another day.  Enjoy this world God gave us.  Sit on your front porch (as I did this afternoon), your balcony, your back stoop, your favorite couch cushion.  Gain a day for rest - with your family, by yourself - just rest.  Know that God WANTS this for you, for me, for us.  Rest, and know God is with you.

"Dearest God, we thank you for giving us words that help us understand that we need to rest.  The constant pressures of this life can lead to constant movement, constant thinking and constant stress.  Help us and be with us, God, as we purposefully take time to rest.  Restore us, strengthen us, and enliven us through this rest so we may continue to share glory to you.  In your name we 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.