Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Dressing Room

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

I'm not a big shopper.  I shouldn't say that - I'm not a big clothes shopper.  Put me in the middle of a gourmet grocery store and I'm like a kid in a candy store.  Put me in a mall, and it's all about "What do I need and how quickly can I get out of here."  I am certain that most of this falls into a very self-centered world where I don't think many things look good on me.  Hence, why bother going to get more stuff.

Yet, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a store looking for a couple of new items.  After checking out all the options, I selected a few and entered that lovely place of truth - THE DRESSING ROOM.  Yes, with mirrors all around, it is the one place that nothing can escape - no imperfection, no "little too much here or there", it's all there for you to see.  As I tried on a few things, trying to determine what didn't look too bad, I remembered the wonderful verse for today.  This made me smile.

I realized that no matter what fabric or color I might wear, no matter what shoes go with what outfit, no matter whether it is turtleneck season or not, the clothes that are on my body are just that - clothes.  They are truly there for the purpose of ensuring I am presentable for those around me.  At home, when relaxing, I can get away with the best two pieces of clothing ever invented, sweats and a sweatshirt.  When I am off to work, much to the pleasure of my coworkers, I choose something more presentable.  

When I look at the concept that clothes are truly there for the purpose of being presentable for others, this verse is even MORE important.  Am I dressing myself in the things that are to be shared to others?  When I slip on that turtleneck, is kindness joining my presentation?  When I pull on those slacks, is gentleness a part of my wardrobe?  When I read those precious words, it helped me to see that the real things that I put on every morning shouldn't be about the right shoes with the right outfit, but more so, the right attitude for the day. 

Am I clothing myself in compassion for others who may be struggling?  Am I clothing myself in kindness for anyone that I might meet?  Am I clothing myself in humility, truly knowing that I don't know it all?  Am I clothing myself in gentleness and tenderness of words and action - especially to those closest to me?  Of all, am I clothing myself in patience, willing to hold my words and actions before speaking out of turn?  Wow, when I look at the things I should be clothing myself in, those red pumps don't seem nearly as important!

I believe I have had days when I have worried more about wearing the right blazer versus wearing the right behavior.  I realize that throughout the day when I might look in the mirror and I'm not happy about the reflection, it may be regardless of the great outfit.  It is on those days that I fully understand what God is trying to say in this verse, am I putting on the clothes that God wants me to wear?  For as far back as the Bible goes, it has been important for everyone to wear the behaviors that make our days and nights have true meaning, clothing in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Yet, here and now, these words and these behaviors are even more important.  

When you get dressed tomorrow morning, what are you going to put on?  With that nice tie, can you find a bit of compassion?  With that great blouse, can you find some humility?  Let's try it - let's put on the clothes that God wants to see on us - and may we reflect the behaviors of love.

"Dearest God, How one simple verse can change our perspective!!  We ask that as we put on our clothes every day, that we are reminded of what YOU want us to wear, the behaviors that show your unconditional love for us, and the behaviors that we can share with others.  May our clothes reflect your mercy for each of us, and may they radiate the joy of our salvation.  Thank you for clothing us with all that is necessary.  In your gracious name we pray.  Amen."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Signs of Hope

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him."  Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

This weekend is one of those weekends.  In New England, we are used to having snow during the winter months.  Yet, when February 15th hits - inside, we start hoping for Spring.  It just so happens that the last couple of weeks, we have seen the greatest amount of snow this winter.  So when a weekend like this one comes along, we savor it.  What is so special about this weekend?

Temperatures reached 50 degrees!  The snow started melting.  The air is warmer.  The sun seems brighter.  Car wash lines were long, windows and doors were open, people replaced the parkas with windbreakers, hats/gloves were shed and sunglasses were donned.  This weekend gives us in New England hope - hope that spring is right around the corner.

Days like this, days of hope, remind me of where true hope comes from.  I know that over my years, I have searched for hope in many things.  I have searched for hope in people I am close to, family and friends.  I have searched for hope in work.  I have searched for hope even in books.  It isn't that any of these things are bad in searching for hope.  Yet, when I look for hope there, I don't seem to get all my answers, all my peace, all my rest.  Good things may result when I search for my hope there - but it doesn't result in full peace for my soul.

When I go to my Lord for hope, the results are different.  Yes, I may still find good things, but along with that comes the peace, the rest, that only God can provide when we put our hope in Him.  How do we do that?  And what can we see from God?  Hope in God comes from faith.  When our faith takes root in Him who provides everything, our hope in what God has for us grows.  What we hope for doesn't necessarily happen right away, like we would imagine, just because we go to God with our hope.  What we do know is that when we bring our hope to God, the correct path will be taken.  

We may hope to recover from an illness quickly.  We go to our God for hope.  Recovery is delayed.  Why does this happen?  There can be many reasons why.  I know, in  my case, it means I need to grow closer to God, closer to His word.  We may hope for a relationship to be restored.  We go to God for hope.  Why isn't it happening?  We don't know, but in my case it was a relationship that I learned from.  

We can find our hope in so much that God gives to us - resting peace hope.  Maybe it is in a doctor who says to us, "You may not have recovery today, but you will have FULL recovery in another month."  Maybe it is in a friend that says, "I can't forgive you now, but I will pray on this," and writes a note to you in a week.  Maybe it is in a warm day in February, that tells us Spring is coming.  Hope comes in many signs from our Dear Lord.  For us, we need to be mindful, not spiteful.  We need to be quiet and listen.  We need to be still and not chaotic.  We need to trust, have faith, and believe that God is the one where our hope lies.  

"Dearest God, we know that when we put our hope in you, the peace for our souls becomes evident.  We know that when we put our hope in you, you provide for our every need and you give us what is best for us.  May we trust you always, with all of our hope.  Amen."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Peace of a Blanket of Snow

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33  (NIV)

Snow in New England is always fun.  When the snow falls gently from the sky, and lands softly on the earth, it can truly be mesmerizing.  It seems as if I can watch snow fall for hours.  Yet, not every snowfall comes to New England in that fashion.  More than not, we get snowstorms called Nor'easter.  This is snowfall of a very different nature.

Typically, Nor'easters are coming in off the water.  They come with a vengeance.  These storms are full of wind and A LOT of snow.  Not the usual snow that is measured in inches, but snow that is measured in one or two feet.  Yes, it's a different kind of snow.  When the snow falls from the sky, it comes in with blizzard conditions, blowing and drifting.  This past week we had one of these storms.  We are also having another one as I write this blog.  Nor'easters can also be mesmerizing.

There is much challenge that comes with these storms, much trouble.  Trying to drive in this type of snowstorm can be troubling.  There is very low visibility, windshield wipers freeze up, a four-lane highway goes down to one lane, and side roads are filled with snow.  Plow drivers try so hard to clear the snow, but as soon as they make a pass, it seems as if it is back filled with more snow.  It can be very troubling.

Yet, once the storm passes, the snow is absolutely beautiful.  It becomes a picture of peace.  The world slows down, people find the joy in the snow, and the heavy sighs end with a smile on our faces.  We live in New England - and this is part of our winter.  When I think of this beauty, the Bible verse from today comes to mind.  There may be trouble with some of our snowstorms, but they result in peace.

Our lives follow the path of snow.  How so?  We will have trouble in our lives.  Sometimes, we have low visibility and cannot see where the path of trouble is taking us.  Sometimes we freeze up, and are unable to move due to the load of trouble we are carrying.  Then sometimes, our highway of options go down to one lane, and the troubled journey may seem long.  But take heart!!  Peace is coming.  When our trust lies in the Lord, the trouble of our lives can find peace, just like the trouble of a Nor'easter can find the peace of fallen snow.

So, as snow may fall in your day, and the troubles that come with snow can be difficult, know that the peace of a blanket of snow will soon come.  The troubles of our days will find peace.  We just need to take heart in our Jesus - who endured much trouble for the peace of sitting next to His heavenly father in paradise.

"Dearest Lord, we know that troubles will be part of our journey here on earth.  Help us to endure the troubles to the peace that is on the other side.  The peace of a new-fallen blanket of snow can be a wonderful reminder that troubles can take us to a beautiful place.  Amen."

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Gaining Clarity

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"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."  Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

UUGGHH!!  Today was the day.  As I pulled on the sweats and the sneakers, I knew this day would come - it was time to get back to the gym!  For some of you, the thought of going to the gym may be a welcomed one.  For me?  Not so much.  I am not one of the "workout" people.  I do this because I know it is good for me, not because I think it is fun.  I knew the month of January was going to prove difficult to get to the gym.  There was vacation, then some family commitments that took much of my time.

So the inevitable was here.  Stretching, weights, sit ups, rowing, biking, the whole thing.  Yes, I know I will be sore tomorrow (no doubt there).  Yet, as I left, the same feeling came across me that always does when I leave the gym - you did it, Susan!  I leave the gym knowing that it was worth my time.  As my husband and I were driving home, he shared, "Ya know?  When I go to the gym, I seem to gain clarity of my thoughts.  Before getting back to the gym, I feel as if my head is spinning.  When I work out, I seem to gain clarity."  As I thought about what Juan shared, I realized he was right!  When we get back to the basics and do what we should do, we gain clarity in all areas of our lives.

The same thing happens when I get back to the basics of my Lord.  When I delve into my daily devotion, and read God's word, I gain clarity.  When I don't do those things, my thoughts take me into a million directions, and life seems overwhelming.  This also happened recently.  With so much going on at work and at home, I found my thoughts crawling over each other - fighting for my attention.  Whether I turned to the left or the right, I couldn't gain clarity.  It wasn't until I went back to God's word on a regular basis, soaking it in, was I able to gain the clarity of where to go and what to do.

Life is hard.  Finding time to do the "right" things can be difficult.  Whether it is work commitments or home commitments, finding time to do the things that provide clarity for us can seem impossible.  Don't let us forget the importance these opportunities give us.  When we get our priorities right, we walk in the way that Jesus has intended.  That is always a good thing!  Living a life that gives us clarity means living a life that walks in the way of Jesus.  

As you walk through the days ahead, remember to gain clarity.  Find the time to work out, read a book with your little one, hold your spouse's hand, and most importantly, read God's word.  For in gaining clarity, we gain peace.

"Heavenly Father, many times there is so much going on in our lives that it can be difficult to see 'the forest through the trees'".  Help us and guide us to gain clarity, Jesus.  Move us in the direction of YOU - and YOUR word.  In doing so, we know we will gain the necessary clarity to handle all that is on our plates - and to do so in a more peaceful way.  In your gracious 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.