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."

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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.