My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happiness is... getting more sleep...

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13 NIV)

Day 2 of my "Happiness Project" - one of the first things the author of the book talks about is energizing herself...with more energy, it is easier to do the things that make you happier because you have more energy. See how that is a cycle? She suggests the first thing to do to get more energy is to get more sleep.

I don't sleep enough. I go to sleep relatively early because my husband works very early in the morning, and I end up waking up early when he does and it's hard to go back to sleep. But yesterday, I began thinking about how I can get more rest and more sleep.

Well, this morning, after waking up at 4:00 am, I KNOW I didn't get enough sleep, so I did work hard to go back to sleep...and I did! It's 8:15 am now and I just woke up! Good for me...except now I don't have time to write as much as I wanted! But...I do feel better!

So, tomorrow...I hope to talk more about the importance of getting enough sleep in the process of being happier!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beginning the year with my very own "Happiness Project"

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13 NIV)

I have written about being happy and/or content before. It is a consistent theme in my life because I get so frustrated with myself for getting melancholy and dissatisfied with my life. I have a good life...what reason do I have to be sad? I have SO MUCH! 

And yet, I seem to go in cycles...or patterns of happiness and satisfaction. I go to work, take care of my family, spend time with friends, am active in my church...a pretty busy life...a basically pretty happy life. Most days are good. Most days are satisfactory. But occasionally, I find myself feeling sad and depressed at my life and wonder what to do about it. I pray, talk to friends and read books on the subject, all in the vain attempt to find the secret to happiness.  

My latest attempt is the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. It has been a pretty big book in the last year and has gotten a lot of press. I have had it on my "to read" list for months! This seems like a good time to pick it up.

The first few pages of the book explains why the author decided to do this "project" and how she went about it. She read a LOT...from the great philosophers like Aristotle to current popular figures such as Oprah. I don't have time to do all that! I am relying on her research and work. The rest of the book is her month-by-month memoir of her year long happiness project and the action steps she took each month. Action steps...that is what I need!

So...I am stealing Ms. Rubin's ideas. I am going to look at her action steps and try to incorporate them into my life..with my own own "happiness project." And, I will use this blog to journal my progress.

Before I begin, though, I must go back to the verse I listed at the beginning of this post. While I don't believe God promises us we will always be happy,  (Jesus did say there WILL be problems and struggles in this life.) I do believe that God wants us to be happy. But you will notice that that happiness also requires us to do good, and the last part of the verse mentions toil. It takes work! Happiness is not something that just happens to us. We have to give to get. 

Lord, let me do good with my life and find satisfaction in the good works that I do. Just for today, open my eyes to the people and situations around me and allow me to help when help is needed, smile when a smile is needed. Maybe my happiness isn't all about me!

That seems like a good place to start! Tomorrow I will tackle the idea of getting more sleep! ;-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

May the light of Christmas brighten your day and your life!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 NIV)

Merry Christmas!

I saw the verse above on a friend's Facebook page yesterday and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

For some reason, this Christmas has been a strange one for really hasn't seemed like Christmas. I took this last week as vacation so I wouldn't be rushed and I could ENJOY this special time instead of being so busy I forgot the reason behind the holiday. But, as with all good didn't quite work out that way. I did get some rest and enjoyed some extra time with my family, but I still found myself rushing around and so busy that I felt disappointed and let down. I felt that there was always MORE I should have done...more presents...more giving to the poor...more time spent with my neighbor...more homemade food I should have made. A darkness crept over me in the last few days that left me feeling a little sad and grumpy...and when I encountered other grumpy people I felt even more let down by myself and the holiday.

But, this morning as I enjoy the quietness of my home before the rest of my family wakes, I think of that verse. The darkness did not overcome the light! The REASON we have this crazy holiday is to celebrate the light of the world! That light came into this world to save save us from what we do to save us from the darkness around us. My belief in God and his gift of Jesus lives in my heart provides me with the light necessary to shine through the sad, gloomy, grumpy darkness that this world brings! 

It's not about me and the MORE I think I should have's about the hope that God's gift of light brings to us. What a wonderful gift hope is! 

Let the light of Christ shine in your heart today as you celebrate Christmas! That light will last far into the rest of the year...if you believe in the hope that light brings, darkness will not be able to overtake you either!

Thank you God for reminders of your light and love in simple places!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I like about Christmastime

Hello again friends! I haven't written for several weeks now, and I have missed it! I worked hard to keep up with the New Testament Challenge, and I thought I would give myself a little break from Bible study and my blog. Well...if you have ever been in the habit of doing something and then stop doing it for a while, you know how hard it is to start up again. 

Last night my husband said something that made me want to write. He said he hated Christmas and wished it were over. I have always loved Christmastime, so my gut reaction to his statement was hurt. How can you hate Christmas??? Bah humbug! But, when I asked him about it, he said he gets so tired of the commercials and the sappy Christmas movies. (He works at a television station so he can't escape it.) It seems it started so early this year, when it really is Christmastime, it is easy to already be sick of the music, and commercialism.

Yes, I have to admit, seeing the same annoying Christmas commercials over and over and seeing how this special holiday has become just another excuse for businesses to help improve the struggling economy... It does tend to lead us to forget the real reason for the season. No wonder some people just want it to be over!

But, while I strive to keep Jesus as the reason for the season, and lovingly set up my treasured nativity set, I also am thankful for the other things about Christmastime that I love and try to keep alive in my life.
1. Christmas music - I don't start playing it until after Thanksgiving (so I don't get tired of it.) Yes it's sappy, but the tunes and the nostalgia of it make me happy! There are songs that get my toe to tapping and songs that bring a tear to my eye. Music has always moved me...I look forward to enjoying Christmas music each year.
2. Excuses to get together. I love visiting with friends and family, and the holidays are sometimes the only times of the year that we make time for this. It doesn't have to be a big party...just sharing a meal and some conversation with people you care about. It makes you thankful for the people God placed in your life.
3. Decorations...I love AND hate this one. I have so many decorations and so little is hard for me to find time to decorate my home the way I want to. But the tradition of it...the remembering...noting who gave me what ornament asI hang them on the tree...the color and festiveness it gives my home. Some years I do better than others. This year I am doing a little at a time, but time is dwindling away...
4. Giving gifts...another one I love and hate. I love giving special gifts that make someone's day...I love being able to give to special charities and help people who I will never meet...but, there's never enough money to do all I want, and it takes so much time and effort to think of those perfect gifts. This year I'll just try to be creative and try not to think about what I hate about it! LOL (easier said than done!)

I will always love Christmas, but I sympathize with those who are just waiting for it to be over...I think there's more of those people out there than I know. So...I will smile at strangers, give my gifts, play my music and try to touch the people I come in contact with by a little of the Christmas spirit that lives inside me. Time already goes by so fast. Let's try to savor and enjoy the good things about Christmas!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful happiness...

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much to be thankful for. That sounds so familiar, it almost seems hollow. But it is true! My family, my friends, my health, my job, my home...I have been incredibly blessed in my life and while there are times I may forget that, I know it and am so grateful and want to give back. One way I give back is through this blog.

I began this blog a year ago today. A friend encouraged me to share my writings with others. While I was unsure of this, I gave it a try and it has blessed me far beyond my wildest dreams!

For whatever reason, people around the world have been reading my blog, and several have commented to me. I am a very social person, and interacting with people is what keeps me going. Knowing that what I write has touched people warms my heart. God has worked through my words in the lives of others in the last last year...another wonderful thing to be thankful for!

My wish to you today is health, peace and a glimpse of happiness. The holidays sometimes can bring a feeling of melancholy, and that is normal. But, take a moment and take stock of all the many blessings in your life...even if you have problems and trials, I'm sure you will find at least one thing to be thankful for. What more can you ask for! Why not celebrate that and allow yourself to feel a little happiness?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unchangeable things...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Most of us have heard the "Serenity Prayer," some of us more than others. It is stated by many people going through tough times, and it has helped many people. It came to my mind yesterday, and it stayed on my mind all day.

There are many things about our every day lives that we don't particularly like. The thing is, most of those things are completely out of our control. But those are the things we choose to focus on and the fact that they don't change makes us miserable. There are MANY "unchangeable" things. Why do we think we can change them?

I know in my life, there are things that really get me know, things that get me riled up and make me want to fight to change them. If they would just do it MY WAY...they would see how much better things would be, right? I spend a lot of my time, energy and brain power thinking about those things, talking about them...all in the guise that I can CHANGE the situation and make myself and everyone around me happier...what a great life it would be!!!

The thing is...with almost all of those things...I have absolutely  no power to change them. And I find myself emotionally, physically and spiritually drained when realize it hasn't and won't change, even through all my hard-fought efforts. And besides, there are probably things that I don't know or don't understand about the situation. "My way" probably wouldn't work anyway!

Don't get me wrong, there are times when we see something that is wrong, say someone is doing something to hurt someone else, or someone is in need...there are times when our efforts, our thinking and our time IS worth it and we CAN change the situation. As the Serenity Prayer says, we need the wisdom to know the difference.

I have wisdom inside of me that does know the difference...I have confidence that God lives within me and speaks that wisdom to me. The key is to LISTEN to that voice. Just yesterday, I found myself getting all riled up...just CERTAIN that I was right and everyone else was wrong. But finally, when I pulled myself out of the situation and LISTENED...I heard a small voice inside me say "Give it up and move on!" I realized that there really are unchangeable things, and getting riled up does nothing but raise my blood pressure and make me unhappy.

THAT is what I CAN attitude about the unchangeable things in my life. Probably, I will never like those things...they will continue to bug me...but they don't have to make me unhappy...THAT I can change. I can adapt my life to those unchangeable things so that I can live with them.

There is more to the Serenity Prayer: (written by --Reinhold Niebuhr)
"Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time; 
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; 
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

I understand that I can't learn to accept the unchangeable things in my life without God to lead the way. It's his voice inside me I need to listen to. His hand holding my heart, and his hand in mine, leading the way. I'll try to spend more of my time and energy working on myself, and the things I CAN change so I can be reasonably happy in this life. I have confidence that by doing that, I will be SUPREMELY happy in the next life!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


A Bible verse for today:
"Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." (John 5:8 NIV)

Before Jesus says this to the paralyzed man, he asks him if he wants to get well. The man doesn't really answer, but says he doesn't have anyone to get him into the healing pool.

This story struck me today, mainly because...I ask I want to get well? Do I want to stop fighting my weight and finally learn to live a healthy life? Do I want to take the knowledge that I already know and use it to live a better life? Why do I ask myself these questions? Because I keep reliving and reviving old habits that are holding me back...they are comfortable...they are an escape.

I may not escape into a bottle or into the arms of a stranger, but I do escape. When I get tired of all my responsibilities and fears and worries, I escape into a book or into a television show. It is easier to get caught up into the made-up, screwed-up lives of fictional characters than it is to face my own stuff. That is what I have been doing in the past few weeks.

I finished the New Testament Challenge...proud of myself that I made it...I read almost all of the new testament in 63 days. (I missed a few days here and there.) I had a good plan to get my finances back on track. But then I lost my focus...perhaps it was the constant back pain, or worry about my husband...I don't know, but I got addicted to watching "Private Practice" on Netflix. 

Those doctors may be smart and brilliant, but they make the STUPIDEST decisions in their private AND professional lives! I would get SO MAD at them...yes, I know, it's just a story...drama, drama, drama. But did their stupid mistakes make me feel better about my own? They were my escape.

But when will I ever learn that I don't need an escape? I have missed writing to you...I have missed reading the Bible each day and pondering with you what it means for me in my own life. I KNOW that I feel better when I do that, why are there times I run away from that Godly comfort and try my own escape?

Well...I think it might be because sometimes, even though I know I am to pray at all times and in all situations...I take that prayer and God-peace for granted. Perhaps I need to step away from it sometimes to truly appreciate it. I don't know... maybe that is just rationalization. It is what I do.

Anyway, I am back. I may not write every day, but I do appreciate the chance to put my feelings into words and imagine you reading them. Maybe an occasional escape from the norm, even if that norm is very good for me, is a good thing.

I do want to get well...I do want to live, today I will pick up my mat and walk. I pray that God is watching out for me and Jesus' healing hand is on me as I return from this escape and focus again on getting well.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NTC Days 62 and 63 - HALLELUJAH!

My memory verse this week:
"But you dear friends, build yourself up in your most holy faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life." - Jude 1:20-21

NTC Days 62-63
Revelation 17-22

Hallelujah!  At the end of this New Testament Challenge, I can think of no better word! 

If you keep reading through Revelation and don't get bogged down in the scary imagery and symbolism, you get to God's's not just good triumphing over's GOD triumphing over evil! You know the end of the story...God wins! HALLELUJAH! 

Last Sunday, my pastor talked about the way that John (God) chose to end the last book of the Bible...his message to us...Jesus says, "I am coming soon." John says, "Amen. Come Lord Jesus." What a perfect way to end His message to us...with his promise of wonderful things to come.

God is sending his son, our Savior back into our world again and he WILL fight off the evil that has overtaken the world. He is more powerful and he WILL win. When he does, in the end, heaven and earth will merge and we will again be in perfect relationship with our creator God. God says he will make everything new again and there will be nothing impure or shameful or deceitful in the perfect world. HALLELUJAH! 

Saying Hallelujah so much makes me sound pretty religious, doesn't it? A friend who reads my blog told me recently that I have been pretty "Jesus-y" lately. Perhaps a little too "religious" for some, I suppose. 

But these last 63 days ( even though I didn't quite make it every day) I have immersed  myself in God's word and have forced myself to study and write about what I was reading and how it made me feel. I still have many questions, and yes, some doubts, about what I read. But I feel so much closer to a God who wants what is best for his creation. He created us, and gave us the freedom to choose him or not...he gave us the freedom to make our own choices and we have chosen ourselves over him so many times, that we have allowed our greed to cast a blind eye to the evil that has crept up on us and has overtaken us.

How else can you explain all the horrible things that happen in this world? In the news this week we have heard over and over about the Penn State tragedy. A man in power did unspeakable things to young boys and many turned their eyes away and let it continue. What kind of person does that to children? There is evil in this world...I HAVE to hang on to my most holy faith that whatever dark, evil and unspeakable things that happen in this world...God's love and Christ's mercy will triumph over that evil and we will one day live in a world where there is no evil. If you don't have that faith, how do you crawl out of bed each morning and face the news, the hurts, the tragedies that occur every day???

Reading God's word every day doesn't make me a judgmental  bigot who looks down on those who don't believe what I believe! Reading God's word every day opens my heart to the people in this makes me stronger and more capable of loving the makes me want to help those in need and helps me find ways to help gives me HOPE!

HALLELUJAH! Thank you God for this amazing experience! Please help me to continue to find ways to immerse myself in your word so I can continue to find strength, peace and hope in You. Please help those reading these words to find that same strength, peace and hope as well, so they can crawl out of bed each morning and reach out to the people in their lives with love, and more and more people will want to know you and hear the hope that comes at the end of the story! HALLELUJAH!

Friday, November 11, 2011

NTC Day 61 - This is scary stuff!

My memory verse this week:
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." -- Jude 1:20-21

NTC Day 61
Revelation 13-16

WHEW! If I didn't believe and trust in God's promise of salvation, I would be scared to death about the end of the earth! There's a reason there are so many scary movies made about the apocalypse and Armageddon...there is a LOT of scary material in this Book of Revelation...nightmare material!

Four-headed beasts, the mark of the beast, seven more plagues, rivers and oceans turning to blood, 100 pound hail stones...what I still find amazing is that after each of the seven plagues, the people left on earth who are suffering from these horrible things, they curse God and STILL refuse to repent. They acknowledge God, they see that these things are coming from him, but still they refuse to take responsibility for their part in why it is happening. It seems God is STILL giving them a chance...they COULD repent, but they don't. It can't because they are atheists and don't believe there is a God. They see the results of God's wrath all around them...

Even if Revelation is just an allegory and God's wrath and the end times aren't as graphic and as scary as depicted in this last book of the Bible, God placed it in his Holy Word for a reason. Is it that he wanted to "scare" us into belief and repentance? I do not claim to know God's purposes, but for a God who gave his beloved creations the freedom to love him or not to love him, that seems too manipulative. But I do think that God wants us to see that He does have that power...he COULD bring this kind of pain, suffering and destruction to the world. But despite that, he STILL gives us chances to repent...up until the very last second. 

I am still having trouble in my head and in my heart balancing my loving, caring, and forgiving Father God with this vengeful wrath-filled God who destroys his beautiful earth and all that is left upon it. But I think I am seeing that he STILL gives us chances...

Please don't read my blog and think I think I have all the answers. These are just the ramblings of a loving and caring person looking for understanding in what she is reading and trying to grow closer to the God she loves. I am hanging on to my faith, praying to the Holy one, keeping my hope in the loving God who shows mercy to his people...I wait for peace that passes all understanding...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NTC Day 60 -Faith in the confusion of Revelation

My memory verse this week:
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." -- Jude 1:20-21

NTC Day 60
Revelation 9-12

Ok, dear friends...I admit it. I do not understand all the symbolism and imagery of Revelation! I read chapters 5-8 THREE times yesterday, in two different translations. Today, after reading chapters 9-12 and studying the notes in my study Bible, I went online looking for some interpretations that I could understand and I found more confusion! There are SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS of interpreting this last book of the Bible!

I get the main points...Good triumphs over evil and God wins in the end. I have hung on to that promise my whole life. When the darkness threatens to pull my under, I remember that God wins!  I also understand that believers of Christ and God's faithful people will be protected and saved from the horrors of the end times. For that I am ETERNALLY grateful! (Literally! LOL)

But...I have so many questions! If God loves all his creations, including those who don't love him back (which I totally believe!) how could be bring such suffering to those who don't believe? I read the Left Behind series...or most of it...and wonder about the glory found in such utter chaos and suffering. I am just little human me, and not worthy to question God, but I can't help but wonder and my heart breaks for those left behind. 

Does that make me a bleeding heart? Does being a bleeding heart make me less of a Christian? I guess it is hard to understand the vast difference between Jesus' teachings about love, forgiveness and loving your enemies with the hunger for revenge and wrath and pain and suffering of Revelation.

I believe in my heart that God understands my questions and doesn't condemn me for asking them. I am seeking understanding. I also am left feeling there is more I can do...I don't want anyone... not those I love, not those I am acquainted with, not those strangers I see on the street...I don't want to think of anyone suffering the torment of locusts, floods, famine. What can I do? Can I tell more people about what God's love and Christ's sacrifice has done in MY life? Can I be honest with nonbelievers and say there is much I don't understand about God and his future for our world, but that I trust that I will be safe in his arms in heaven one day?

I need to remember what my memory verse for this week says, when I get confused and bothered by my confusion, I need to hold tight to my faith and pray. I need to remember that God loves me, and wait for Christ to bring me into eternity. Not understanding Revelation has caused me to read and study and search for meaning...that is not a bad thing. My questions only strengthen my faith and make me hold tighter to it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NTC Day 58 - Those with an ear, let them hear...

My memory verse this week:
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." -- Jude 1:20-21

NTC Day 58 Revelations 1-4

I feel so unworthy to write about Revelations. I have read this book before and always got confused by the symbolism and imagery. It is hard to imagine creatures with six heads that are covered with eyes. It is hard to imagine an angel standing before me holding seven stars and seven lampstands.

But, I am approaching this a little differently this time. I read a little bit and then stop and read the notes in my study Bible. It helps with the symbolism and with the references to other scripture verses.

Each letter to each of the seven churches in chapters two and three ends almost the same way. 

*He who has an ear let him hear...
* To those who overcome...

Repetition in the Bible means something that is very other words, we'd better listen! If we are reading or hearing these words, we should listen and take heart...and the overcomes part is the hope. We are not condemned if we press on through trials and tests and hold tight to our faith and to God. There was always a reward listed for those who overcome. In Rev. 2:7 - "...To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is the paradise of God." This means that the relationship between God and man will be restored to what it was before Adam and Eve's fall. Wouldn't that be amazing??? to be able to walk and talk and really KNOW God!! 

The letters are meant for the specific churches, and explains that God sees all. They are commended for what they are doing right, and told of what they are doing wrong. These letters are meant to help these churches, the first Christian churches in the world, to shape up and be strong. But I think that these letters are meant to be important letters to us too.

In reading each one of these letters, I can see characteristics of my life and the lives of Christian churches all over the world. There are things we are doing right. We are reaching out to the lost; we are feeding the hungry; we show love to others; we are taking care of one another in our churches; we are preaching the Word to people all over the world; we have endured hardships and kept our faith. But...there are also many things we are doing wrong as well. We are lukewarm. Many of us go to church, worship, believe, and yet don't show love to others the rest if the week; we get enticed by worldly treasures and pleasures; we judge others; we slander others; we think we are always right and hurt others who do not agree with us.

We need to hear and listen to these condemnations to the seven churches and realize that God was speaking to us as well!  He sees all...he knows what is in our hearts, what we do in public and in secret. All he asks us to do is to admit that we do these things and repent...OVERCOME these things. 

Chapter 4 contains a lot of that imagery that is hard for us to picture. But the thing that struck me in the picture of God's throne room was how all of those creatures were bowing and singing and praising God!

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" (Rev. 4:8)

Day and night they never stop saying this! God is worthy of their praise! If he is worthy of their praise, he is worthy of my praise as well. He is also worthy of my listening ears. I want to hear the message he has for me. Let me take it to heart and learn from it. Let it change my heart and strengthen me so I can one day see the amazing and humbling throne room of God for myself and lay my human crown at his feet and praise him with all my heart!

Monday, November 7, 2011

NTC day 57 - Trust me...

My memory verse this week:
"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." -- Jude 1:20-21

NTC Day 57 - 2 John 1; 3 John 1 and Jude 1

"Trust me." We've all heard these words before, and we've all had reasons not to trust. 

When it comes to the Bible, we are taught that this book is a collection of writings by men who were touched by God. God breathed life into these words, so that all the books are connected, and are His message to his us. And, those of us who believe in God and believe that the Bible truly IS the word of God, we put our trust in those words. It is our connection to the unseen God. 

As we draw to the end of this New Testament Challenge, we come to the last books of the Bible. Today, reading 2nd and 3rd John and Jude, I struggled to understand their meanings, their messages for me. And tomorrow we will start reading Revelations, which has always caused me frustration because I struggle to understand exactly what God is trying to communicate to me through John's very symbolic and confusing words and images. While I struggle with this understanding, I continue to hold on to the TRUST I have in God and in his word. God gave us these books so we would better understand him...we just have to TRUST him.

Trust is a funny thing...we feel that trust has to be earned, right? We don't trust a stranger like we trust a long-time friend. When someone hurts us, or breaks a trust, it often takes a very long time to trust that person again. And in our lives with many different relationships with people, how we trust, or don't trust the people in our lives can affect our happiness. 

What I have come to realize just recently, the trust I have for those around me SHOULD NOT affect my own happiness or the way I deal with daily life as much as I let it.
People are human...they fail...they are bound to break our trust in one way or an other. Holding grudges and letting distrust worry us and really make us sick with worry, anger and hurt feelings will only hurt us further.

There is only one that I can really who won't fail who will always be with who won't let me who is powerful enough to help me overcome my greatest disappointments....God. He whispered this to me just the other day. I was worried about a situation in my life. I was worried that someone I love would let me down yet again. I became sick with worry and cried and whined to God about my hurt feelings and worries. I heard that small voice inside my head that said, "Trust in ME. I will never let you down." I thought about it, and that small voice was right. God is the only one to put all my trust in.

So, when I am struggling to understand the complex messages in His Word, I will trust that even if I don't understand it day I will. I will continue to  pray for understanding. I will continue to read God's word and let it wash me clean of my worries. My trust and my hope is in my Heavenly Father who is way bigger than any of my worries, fears or doubts!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NTC Day 55 - Be an eye-witness for Christ

My memory verse this week:
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 55 John 19-20 and 2 Peter 1-2

Eye-witnesses. When a news team hears of a hot news item, they send reporters and cameras. The cameras get stuck in the faces of eye-witnesses, and reporters ask them to tell what they saw and heard. Lawyers who have eye-witness testimonies have stronger cases. In order for us to believe something, we need to see it for ourselves or hear from people who saw it. 

Today's readings were all about eye-witness testimonies. John explains what Pilate did and said. Pilate tried to save Jesus. He didn't think he was guilty, and his superstitions about who Jesus was frightened him. But, because the Jewish leaders were crafty, and used clever words to defend their decision, Pilate seemed to have no choice but to have Jesus crucified. 

John describes what happened to Jesus those last hours from the point of view of someone who was there. He saw Jesus struggle to carry his own cross. He saw the soldiers drawing lots for his clothing. Be saw Jesus drink the sour wine from the sponge. He heard Jesus direct him to take care of his mother. He heard his last words, "It is finished." 

John also felt is was important to tell of another eye-witness. A soldier took a spear and pierced the side of Jesus. Blood and water came pouring out, proving that Jesus really was dead. This proved prophecies that Jesus would be pierced. This soldier testified to what he saw. John felt it important to tell of this incident, as if proving that it wasn't just him telling of what he saw and heard. Multiple witnesses seeing the same things strengthen a case.

Peter also was with Jesus during his ministry. He was witness to Jesus returning from the dead. He saw and experiences these incidents...these miracles...and wanted to tell others, the first church, about what he saw so they too would believe. 

We have the words of John and Peter thousands of years later, as well as testimonies of many others. There are many historical records outside of the Bible that corroborate their words. While there is no way for us to have witnessed these things, we have written, eye-witness accounts of them, giving us proof of their truth.

But, it takes faith for us to really believe really believe that an innocent man who healed many, and taught about a loving and caring God, was brutally crucified for our sins. It takes faith in something we can't see...a risen Savior who died and rose again for us, thousands of years later. We can read testimonies from those who were there to reinforce our beliefs, but God works in our hearts and gives us the ability to believe and have faith in something so outlandish as a God who saves.

We can be eye-witnesses to what this faith does in our lives. Eye-witnesses tell their stories. Tell someone what God has done for you. Tell someone how your belief in Christ has made a difference in your life. This is what John and Peter led us to do. They gave us their eye-witness accounts and now it is up to us to strengthen the case for Christ by telling our stories as well.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NTC Day 54 - A lesson in harmony...

My memory verse this week:
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 54 John 17-18 and 1Peter 3-5

1 Peter 3:8 says, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."

When I hear we are to live in harmony, I think of the 70's Coke commercial..."I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony." I love music, and I tend to be an idealist, so this idea suits me just fine!

When I was a young girl, I learned to sing harmony by singing old hymns or Christmas carols with my mom while she played the piano. It was just something we did...sit down beside each other on the piano bench and make music. I learned to LOVE harmony! It makes the music so much more interesting. 

When you think of musical notes on a sheet of music that go together, you need all kinds of notes to make harmony. You need the melody line that holds the song together. That's the part that most people hear and sing along with. But you also need notes above and below the melody to fill out the chords and make the tune complete.

And, to make the music even more interesting, you need a few minor chords and dissonant chords. Music composers use minor and dissonant chords to create tension, create a mood, communicate a feeling through the music. Most times, those chords are only temporary, and more harmonious chords follow to release the tension and bring the music around to a happier tone.

People are a like music...sometimes we are the steady, middle-of-the-road melody, the one everyone follows. Sometimes, we have new ideas that are high above what everyone else is doing...those people keep us moving forward, reaching for the future. And sometimes, we are looking back, wanting to stick to the trusted, familiar ways. We needs these people too, as they keep us connected to our past and our heritage. 

The problem is, these three kinds of people (oh, there are MANY more kinds of people!) don't always agree...each wants their own way and when no one gives in, there is tension, dissonance and cacophony! (Noise!)

Jesus taught us to love one another and to humble ourselves. It can't always be our way. Paul taught us to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)

If we want harmony in our homes, in our churches, in our work places, in our world, we have to be willing to work with the other notes in the chord, each fighting to be heard. Give and take, letting go, compromising...LISTENING. And, we need to be aware that there WILL be times of tension and dissonance. Sometimes, we NEED those times to really need, want, desire and appreciate the need for harmony. But as Peter says in the verse above, to bring back the harmony, we need to love each other, and be sympathetic and compassionate as well.

I need these lessons and reminders every day. Having a teenager in the house, who is spreading her wings, sounding out, trying to be heard in the chord...thinking she is ready to stand out on her own, but then realizing she needs the support of the other notes around her to be a stable chord. I need to let my note fall into the harmony line sometimes, and let her note take the lead. She needs to learn to take the lead in a safe environment, before she takes her song out into the real world. Many times there is dissonance in our home...waiting....anticipating...those moments of sweet release, when all the notes sing in beautiful harmony together.

How's the music in your life? Are you always trying to take the lead? Or, are you a supporting note, holding the chord together? Just remember that God created the harmony of life and wants us all to experience its beauty...all of it. We need to learn to work together to teach the world to perfect harmony.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NTC Day 53 - I'm just a branch staying close to the vine

My memory verse this week:
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 53 John 15-16 and 1Peter 1-2 

Most days, I read my daily Bible readings and just start typing...I don't know what I am going to say until I say it. This makes me feel like God is leading my words, because I know I don't have the insight to say the things I say without his help! Today, I read my readings, and I went to type, but I had no clear direction as to what to mind was blank and my fingers were still. I took a break, closed my eyes for a moment and tried to clear my mind. "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." I think I dozed off for a few minutes, and when I woke, I still didn't have clear thoughts about what I would write, but I knew it would come to me. I started typing.

John 15 is the "vine and branches" chapter that I have loved for many years. Today, it reminded me that if I don't stay tied to the vine (Jesus), I don't allow the gardener (God) to take care of me...water, feed, and yes, prune me, so that I can grow. I am a branch of a powerful vine, but I get my life-giving nourishment from that vine. There's a lot of love coming from that vine!

The problem is, there are many in the world who don't understand the gift of the vine and don't want it and its branches to grow and flourish. There are many troubles in this world...there is no question, the branches have to fight to stay alive in this world. When weeds creep in to choke us...when someone comes in with a hoe to chop us from the vine, we think it's hopeless and we can't survive. Why even try? The world is too powerful! But we forget...our gardener is God! He is more powerful than any weed or hoe! He makes the vine strong as well. It's roots are deep in the soil of this world and can't be uprooted or killed! 

We who are its branches must realize where our nourishment comes from and stay close to the vine. The gardener wants a healthy plant with much fruit! If there is good fruit, there will be more branches, making the whole plant stronger. We have the ability to help the plant to grow...we just need to stay close to the vine, follow its lead, and we will grow and produce a lot of good fruit!

I am not a branch on a grape vine, but I know I am drawn to stay close to Jesus. I have experienced growing stronger and being led through bad times and good times by the words of Jesus. I have experienced having my spirit renewed and filled by God, through his word and through the people he has placed in my life. I may not understand how, but I have experienced it! 

The vine and branches is just an analogy, a word picture for our minds to represent how staying close to God and believing in and learning from Jesus can help to sustain us in this troubled world. But that analogy means a lot to me. I am glad  I didn't know what to write about this morning, and allowed God to work through my words to share this analogy with you. I hope you will be a branch that stays close to the vine as well, so you too can be nourished and bear some good, sweet fruit!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NTC DAY 52 - God so loved...he gave us a choice...

My memory verse this week:
"I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 52
John 13-14 and James 4-5

God so loved the world...he loves the sinful people he created...he loves those that turned their backs on him...he loves. That's why he sent his son Jesus to teach us about his love.

Jesus was and is our example of what love is. It's one thing to say "Love your brother," or "Love your enemies." but it's a totally different thing to actually DO it...and Jesus did.

John 13 tells about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples before the Passover meal that marks the beginning of the end of Jesus' life. He takes on the menial task that is usually done by servants to illustrate to his friends that we are to love each other enough to serve each other. He had come to love this group of men, not only as disciples, but as his close friends. What made it even more important, he knew that one of those friends was going to betray him...he knew which one, and still he served him and lowered himself to wash his betrayer's feet. 

Imagine what was going on in the mind of Judas. The first few verses of chapter 13 tells us that the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus...he knew what he was going to do. And yet, here is his Master, the one he was going to betray, washing his feet. He probably doesn't realize at this point that Jesus knows too.

John says that Jesus was deeply troubled...he knew what was going to happened, but was saddened that his friend was the one to start the ball of suffering rolling toward him. He wanted to give Judas one last chance to change his mind. He tells his disciples that one of them was going to betray him. When someone asks which one, Jesus says the one who he gives the next piece of bread, and then proceeds to give it to Judas. I can only imagine the look that passed between the two....Jesus, letting Judas know that he knew and giving him a chance to back out. When he didn't back out and took the piece of bread, he rejected that last chance and the devil entered was over and Judas became part of God's plan.

What would have happened if Judas looked at Jesus and refused to take the piece of bread...and rejected the devil's instructions? History would have turned out differently, wouldn't it? But SOMEONE had to betray Jesus and cause Jesus to be turned over and caused to suffer and die...THAT was God's plan for our salvation. But...Judas HAD A CHOICE! He chose the world instead of God.

James 4 says "You adulterous people..." meaning those who are spiritually unfaithful. Many of us seem to love the world (the passions and ways of those who don't know Christ) more than we love God. If we don't obey God's commands, we are showing him that we are selfish and love our own worldly ways more than we love him. In that way, we are like Judas...we claim to love God, but we make the choice to turn our back on him. 

For God so loved the world...yes, he loves us, even when we turn our backs on him. But are fooling ourselves if we think choosing ourselves over God will bring us peace, love or salvation. Jesus showed us how to find those things...he was our example. Love God, love others, serve others. When we do those things, we choose God over the world and heaven sings!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NTC Day 51 Faith + Action = Freedom

My memory verse for this week:
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as The Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 51
John11-12 and James 1-3

Putting your faith into action brings freedom...freedom to be what you were created for. How many of us know what we were created for? Wouldn't that be KNOW what God created us for and then actually BECOME that? It does sound wonderful, but how do we attain that freedom?

Today's readings were all about putting faith into action. In John 11, Jesus' friend Lazarus is sick and his sisters, Mary and Martha, send news to Jesus because they knew that Jesus COULD help him. They were putting their faith in Jesus into action to save their brother. (By the way...I didn't realize that this Mary was the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and her hair AND the Mary who sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his teachings while Martha prepared the meal! She REALLY put her faith into action--first hand!)

Jesus, who knew who he was and why he was here, put his faith in his Father God into action by bringing Lazarus back to life. He knew that this would be another sign that would help people believe in him.

Many did see and were moved to become followers of Christ. But, many who saw, were moved to believe, but were too afraid to put their faith into action. They were afraid of being put out of the synagogue by the Jewish leaders opposing Christ.

And...those Jewish leaders...they all had seen and heard of the miraculous signs Jesus had performed but they refused to believe he was God. God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts to the miracles and to the freedom of faith + action. Not that they didn't have a choice...they could have believed, but when they didn't, God used their disbelief to move his plan forward. Had there been no opposition to Jesus, he wouldn't have had to suffer and die and we would not have freedom. It was all part of God's plan.

But we don't have the opportunity to see the miracles of Jesus as they did then, right? Or do we? When we read God's word and read about what Jesus did while here on earth, we find that our eyes are opened to see miracles all around us. Jesus is at work here on earth today! We just have to open our eyes and our hearts to see it!

And what about that freedom we were talking about? How do we gain that? James says that faith without works is dead. That doesn't mean that we can work our way into heaven. It simply means we need to put our faith to work to SHOW OTHERS our faith! Our faith is evidenced by what we do with it. When we put it to work, following the laws and guidance given to us by God, we will be showing others what faith in God looks like, and we fill find that freedom to be what God created us for! It sounds so simple...and...thank God, it is!

Monday, October 31, 2011

NTC DAY 50 - Don't be a blind sheep

My memory verse for this week:
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as The Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep." -- John 10:14-15

NTC Day 50
John 9-10

I think these two chapters have some of the most important words of Jesus...he explains who he is and why he is here on earth. 

I have written before why I relate to Jesus' sheep analogies...I grew up on a sheep farm, and so relate with how much care sheep require. They really do recognize their shepherd's voice. I can remember my dad (and my grandparents too) calling the sheep. They would come running...mainly because they knew that voice meant food! I would have a tougher time getting them to come to the barn for me...they didn't recognize my voice. They would finally come, but only out of hunger.

Jesus speaks of being the good shepherd...and he not only cares for us...he laid down his life for us! The problem is...while we are all sheep, we don't all know Jesus and therefore don't recognize his voice when he calls. Those sheep are like wild mountain goats, wandering around fending for themselves. Jesus tries to get our attention, but if we don't make the effort to get to know him, we don't recognize his voice and run away...scared of a stranger and blind to the blessing that is right in front of us.

The miracle that Jesus performed most often, or at least the one that we read about the most, was healing the blind. In the Old Testament, it was said that the Messiah would come and heal the Jesus was fulfilling prophecies by doing so. But it was so much more than that. He was making the blind see, but he was also opening the eyes of the spiritually blind as well. 

In John chapter 9, Jesus heals a man that had been blind from birth. Think about what a miracle that was for that man...he had never seen the beauty of the world around him, and after Jesus put the mud on his eyes and he washed it off...he could see everything for the first time! Talk about overwhelmed! He was excited! 

But the Pharisees didn't WANT to believe...they didn't WANT to see the miracle of this man seeing the world for the first time. In fact, they were blinder than the man was...they just didn't know it!

As I have said before...sheep are pretty dumb animals and can get themselves in a lot of messes to be rescued from. Can you imagine a BLIND sheep? I am afraid a blind sheep on our farm would have had to spend most of it's time in the safety of the barn. A blind sheep would have wandered off, fallen in holes, and not been smart enough to get out. A blind sheep REALLY needs the care of it's shepherd. But what if that sheep didn't realize it was blind? It might be with the flock, following the sounds of the group, and as luck was with it, it might be able to survive.

How many of us are blind sheep? We follow the flock...we listen to the voices of those around us and let them lead us wherever they go. We can survive that way, but it might not be as fulfilling a life as if we were listening for the voice of our shepherd. Our shepherd knows us, knows our needs and wants to being us into the safety of the barn. Our shepherd has laid down his life to protect us. When we listen for his voice when he calls, we can follow his voice to safety. And the good thing is...he will heal our blindness and help us to see the beauty of this world....maybe for the first time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NTC Day 44 Paying it forward...

My memory verse for this week:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:11-13

NTC Day 44 Luke 23 and Philemon 1

Although i haven't done it, I have heard of some generous people who, when paying for their fast food in the drive through line, they pay for the person behind them as well. That seems like such a small thing, but to the person who gets their meal for free, it could be huge! Would you be willing to pay someone else's bill, or even their debt? In today's readings, that seems to be the theme. 

Philemon is a very short book of the Bible, just one page. To be honest, I don't think I ever really read it before! Apparently, Paul writes this letter to Philemon to plead the case of Onesimus, who was a run away slave belonging to Philemon. Onesimus had stolen something from Philemon and then run away. He met Paul, the two became friends and Paul led him to Christ. Paul thinks so much of Onesimus, that he writes this letter to his friend and fellow Christian leader, Philemon, asking him to forgive Onesimus. He even goes as far as offering to pay whatever debt Onesimus owes.

In verses 17-18, Paul says, "So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me." That is a kind thing to do for someone, isn't it? 

When you think about it, isn't that what Jesus did for all of us? Our Luke reading for today is about Jesus' final moments. He is sent to Pilate, wrongly accused, questioned, sent to Herod, questioned, mocked, and sent back to Pilate. Pilate gives the people the chance to set him free and they refuse. He then is beaten, mocked, forced to carry his own cross, and then is crucified. Jesus didn't have to do this...God didn't have to follow through with his plan to save us from our sins...the suffering and death of Jesus was done to pay our debt.

Our debt is much more than a Happy Meal at McDonalds, and even much more than Onesimus had stolen from Philemon. Our sins, which we cannot help doing, deserve death. We owe God our lives. Jesus paid that debt for us. He gave God his life for ours. We should rejoice at the gift of grace given to us by what Jesus did for us!

Have you seen the movie "Pay it Forward?" It premise behind it is, since someone did something nice for you, you should do something nice for someone else. Jesus did something more than nice for you...he paid your life-debt to God. Doing good for others every day of your life could never pay back what you owe, but it sure feels good! Look for ways every day to "Pay it Forward" and do nice things for others! It could be a's simple as paying for someone's Happy Meal!

Monday, October 24, 2011

NTC Day 43 - Is cleanliness really next to godliness?

My memory verse for the week:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." -- Titus 2:11-13 (WHEW! that's a long one!!!)

NTC Day 43 - Luke 22 and Titus 1-3

You have heard the familiar old saying, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," meaning that besides worshiping God, being clean is most important. In the readings I have read in the past several months, it was very important to the Jews to be clean, and not to associate with "unclean" food and people for that matter. I think, more importantly than cleanliness, do we really understand what "godliness" means? 

Our pastor talked about this yesterday and our Titus readings for today did as well. I liked how my pastor defined the word. Godliness - fully devoted to God.

He went on to say that when you are FULLY devoted to God, you begin to resemble Jesus. And...just HOW do you do that? By spending time with him!

In the Luke 22 reading for today, we learn a lot about Judas. The chief priests and Jewish leaders were looking for a way to being Jesus down. They found Judas to help them. Why, oh why, would one of his followers, who had seen all his miracles, heard all his amazing teachings and gotten to have a close relationship with Jesus, betray him like he did? There are a lot of theories about this, but in my mind, Luke 22:3 says it best: "Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve."

My study bible says that Judas had never displayed a high motive or commitment to Jesus. I guess that might have been true...I have read a lot about Peter, John, James, Matthew and the rest, and how they interacted with Christ during his ministry. But you never really hear of Judas saying or doing anything until he betrays Jesus in the end. I wonder why? Perhaps he didn't spend enough one-on-one time with Jesus in order to really get to know him and understand where he came from and what his presence meant. And, because he didn't have the level of commitment that the others had, Satan saw an opportunity, and he took it.

In that regard, could I be a little bit like Judas? What a silly question...of course not...right? Well, if godliness is full devotion to God, and we can become "like" God by spending time with him, when I choose one of my many activities over spending time in prayer and Bible study, or when I find myself gravitating to having too much to drink, or gossiping, or being wasteful, or letting curse words fly, or being I opening the door and giving Satan an opportunity to come into my life to cause havoc?

There have been some who have called me a "goody two shoes" at times in my I really don't consider myself a "trouble maker," but almost every day I find myself in situations where I have choices to do the "right" thing or to go along with the crowd. MOST of the time, I think I make wise choices...especially when I find myself having my daily quiet time with God, in prayer and Bible study. It's like my pastor said, spending time with Jesus helps you to become more like him. It's is strange, but true: the times I find myself making the WRONG choices are times when I have NOT made time for God.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't claim that it's through my own willpower or wisdom that make wise choices...not nearly! If left to my own devices, I'm afraid of what my life would be like...I've seen too many glimpses of that...way to scary for me!

Titus 2 says that the gift of God's grace saves us from our sins, but believing in Christ and being godly - fully devoted to God -  teaches us ethical behavior and leads us to do good works.

So, you see, it's not ME being godly, it's GOD showing me how to be godly. And the only way to let God show me, is to spend time with him and open my heart and mind to his leadership. I want to clean out the bad stuff and bring in the good guess cleanliness IS next to godliness!

Have a GREAT week, my friends!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NTC day 39- persistently seeking understanding

My memory verse for this week:
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." -- 2 Timothy 2:15

NTC Day 39
Luke 18 and 1 Timothy 1-3

One who correctly handles the word of truth...I have struggled with this sentence this week. Because anyone can read the Bible and interpret it any way they want, I often worry that what I get out of what I have been reading every day is my own interpretation and not the TRUE meaning that comes from God. But, because I WANT God's approval of my thoughts and my writings, and I don't want to have cause to be ashamed of what I write, I have to persistently ask God to guide my mind and my fingers as they type. 

I have good reason for this persistence...Jesus tells a parable in Luke 18 about a widow woman who PERSISTENTLY goes to the judge in the town, pleading for justice against someone who has wronged her. He ignores her most of the time, but finally, he gets so fed up with her bugging him that he finally gives in and grants her wish. The point Jesus is trying to make here is that this human judge, who didn't even care that much about God, heard this woman's persistent pleas and gave her the justice she deserved. Our God is our judge and is so much more faithful than this flawed earthly judge, and will listen to our persistent pleas and give us the grace we NEED instead of the justice we DESERVE. He loves us that much.

But it's the persistence that gets me in this story...the woman just wouldn't give up. If you have children, you understand how kids just keep asking and asking for something they want badly....they will whine, cry, beg, plead and bug you until you can't take it any more and FINALLY give in. Children understand persistence....WHEN it's for something that they want badly enough. 

Jesus understood this about children and said that we need to come to God like a little child...I think he meant for some deeper reasons too, but persistence is part of it. Children are totally dependent on the their parents for everything. They trust that their needs will be taken care of and they are frank, open and sincere in their wants, needs and desires. They haven't had the opportunity to be jaded and hurt by life yet. 

Jesus calls us to be totally dependent on God, to trust him, to be open and frank and sincere...and persistent with our needs. In other words, we should pray continually...depending and trusting God that he will listen and grant us his grace we don't deserve, but he willingly gives.

So, when I have a need, I go to God. When I don't understand something I read in the Bible, I ask for clarity. When I am writing about God's word, I ask for God's wisdom in what I say, so that His truth comes through my words and they aren't jaded by my own thoughts and opinions.

For example: in 1Timothy 2, Paul gives instructions that women are not to teach in the church. He says they are to be quiet. Because Adam was created first and it was Eve that sinned and led Adam into sin. Well...being a woman, and a women gifted to teach, I have a lot of problems understanding Paul's meanings here and what that means for me today. I know people who believe that this is still true today, and they belong to churches where women cannot be teachers or have any leadership role in the church at all. While I see why they believe that...Paul, whose other words I believe and trust, said it, so it must have some validity, right? Because I don't understand it, and I have trouble believing it to be true, I have to give my questions and understandings to God. I have been persistent in asking about this issue for a while now...I truly believe that one day, I will have a clarity about it because God hears my prayers and one day will answer that prayer. Until then...I'd better just keep my mouth quiet about it. :-)

After all, God showed grace to Paul, who in ignorance and unbelief, persecuted Christians for a long time. If he can do that for Paul, I have faith that he will do that for me too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

NTC Day 36 - Lost and Found

My memory verse this week:
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

NTC Day 36
Luke 15 and 1 Thessalonians 1-3

I chose the memory verse above for several reasons...for one thing, I have a personality which seeks approval. I like to be doing the "right" thing and I like to do it well and I like to hear that I am doing it well. Sometimes that kind of personality trait can get you in trouble because you end up being a "people pleaser" and do things because OTHERS want you to and not necessarily because YOU want to. But...when the person I am trying to get approval from is God, I will do whatever I can to please him, and I long to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I also chose that verse because I want to be one who handles the word of truth correctly. I do a lot of writing about the Bible and how I feel about the Bible. I want what I write and share with others to be as correct as it can be, coming from the mind of a flawed human being.

For example, one of our readings for today's NTC was Luke 15. This chapter contains 3 of Jesus' most familiar and most loved parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. I know how those stories make me feel and what they make me think...when I share those feelings with you, I pray that my thoughts are at least closely tied to God's purposes.

Lost and found. We all have lost something important to us...whether we just misplace it or it is gone forever, we all HATE that feeling of loss when we don't know where it is. We will search and search, spending a LOT of time looking, sometimes growing more panicked as time goes on. IF AND WHEN we find that item, we are elated! We celebrate with a cheer, a yell, a dance for joy...I found it!!!

When that item is a loved one...we only then understand the father's actions in the parable of the prodigal son...and then we realize who was telling the story and what that story really means.

Jesus, who was from God, who WAS God on earth...he told that story to help us understand our heavenly Father's love for us. He created us, but gave us the choice to love him and accept his great love for us. So very few of his beloved creations make that choice to love and accept him that when one does...HE CELEBRATES! 

Jesus also told that story to teach the negative Pharisees why he hung out with sinners. He hung out with sinners because they hadn't made that choice to love and accept God yet. He hoped that his teachings would touch some of their hearts and be moved to love God.

Lost and found...there are so very many lost people out there in our world today, lost and looking for love and acceptance. Those of us that already love God can reach out to those lost souls and share the faith, hope and love that we have found in Jesus with them. That doesn't mean we have to go around preaching and scaring people away with our "religion." We can find HUNDREDS of ways to share God's love in practical the lost just a glimpse at what it's like to be found. They might just make that choice themselves and then...there will be a party in heaven as God celebrates!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NTC Day 34 I want to be a blooming fig tree!

My memory verse for this week:
"Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:25-26

NTC Day 34
Luke 13 and Colossians 1-2

I have come to another point where I question what I thought I knew...or perhaps what I want to believe. I see a contradiction, and since God doesn't make mistakes, it must be my understanding that is wrong.

The Great Commission: Jesus says in Matthew 28:19 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"

Then, in Luke 13:24-30, Jesus says that few will be saved. "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."

The image I have in my mind and in my heart of my loving and caring Father in Heaven, is a forgiving Father who wants ALL of his children...those he be saved and be with him in heaven. That's why I tell people about my faith...I share with the hope that perhaps they will be touched or moved enough to WANT that saving, loving and forgiving relationship with God too...and repent and be saved. I want EVERYONE to be saved...I've been told it's never too late...even in your last dying moments on earth, if you reach out and ask Christ to be your savior, he will save you and you'll be with him forever in heaven. I don't like to think about hell...I don't like to think about Jesus saying "I don't know you. Away with you." to anyone. But, the reality is, God gave us a choice, and many do not choose Christ, and many will perish.

Jesus tells of a man who planted a fig tree and for three years it bears no fruit. The man wants to cut it's not any good...but the caretaker says give it another year...he offered to water it and give it fertilizer... Hoping it would produce fruit. I want to be a fruit-bearing tree. I want to bloom where I am planted and produce the crop I was meant to produce. Jesus is that caretaker...he wants to give me another chance...he wants to give me fertilizer (food for me to grow-The Word) 

Paul's mission in life was to spread the gospel- tell people about the saving power of God's grace through Jesus. With Jesus' Great Commission and Paul's example, Surely that means we are follow in Paul's footsteps and share our faith with others. They still have the choice, but if we tell them the joy we find in that grace, then at least they will hear and be able to make that choice.

I may not understand God's purposes and his ways...I may think there on contradictions in what I read...but one day...I have faith and hope that one day all will be made clear to me. God's grace will save me from my confusion. I want to be a blooming fig tree!

Friday, October 14, 2011

NTC Day 33 A needed message of encouragement...

My memory verse for this week:
"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." --  Galatians 5:25-26

Luke 12 and Philippians 3-4

Well, God is at it me a message that I need in my heart and soul. I missed yesterday's readings as my routine was changed a bit and there was no time for reading, contemplating and writing about my thoughts. To tell you the truth, my day was off yesterday. I was so wrapped up in the busy-ness of the day and the worries that came with it, I spent very little time praying or even thinking about God. 

This morning, as I read the assigned chapters, it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear! Again, Jesus and Paul were talking about the same things, though in very different ways.  These chapters are filled with many lessons and familiar stories and verses, but today I heard just what I was supposed to hear...I was reminded of things I already know...I was encouraged and my anxiousness was eased.

Many lessons are in Luke 12, but what I heard not worry. Right now I am worried about my back pain, my health and money. All three things I tend to worry about often...they all play a part in my future and the future of my family. But from the words of Jesus, who I love and trust, I am reminded that God doesn't want me to worry.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." Luke 12:22

"For the pagan world runs after these things and your Father knows you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well." Luke 12:30-31

Paul reminds me as well. 

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

I have that verse memorized...I know it and believe it...why oh why is it so easy to forget when I am in the middle of a trying situation?

Paul again reminds me of a verse I know and even have underlined in red in my Bible...

"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:12-13

What a better reminder than that, right???

Yes, I have responsibilities and yes I have health concerns, and yes, there doesn't seem to be enough money to go around, but...I need to be thankful for those things because when I get through them, I will be a stronger person. It might seem tough right now, but I WILL make it through and be better off in the long run. 

God doesn't want me to worry...He will take care of my needs. God wants me to learn to be content with what I have and to lean on him through prayer...he will give me what I need.

Oh, did I NEED to hear this message this morning! Thank you Lord! I can make it through whatever today brings! Your words were a comfort to me today. May your words bring comfort and peace to my friends as well, because they too may be worried. Take their worries and turn them into joys this morning as they read your word. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NTC Day 31 - Love God, Love your Neighbor, Serve others

My memory verse for this week:
"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." --  Galatians 5:25-26

NTC Day 31
Luke 10 and Ephesians 4-6

I missed writing a message yesterday, but today's readings were enough to fill a week's worth!

We're about half way through the challenge! I think it has been a challenge...both to stick with the daily readings and to understand all that I read. In fact, I DON'T understand a lot that I have read. Many chapters and verses make me question what I have known and believed before. Sometimes those questions make me want to study more, and to be honest, sometimes the questions I have frustrate me and cause me to want to give up. Why does God have to be so...mysterious?

But today's readings weren't mysterious...they laid the truth right on the line. Both Jesus and Paul gave important instructions to their audiences that are still very important for us today.

In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 more followers to prepare people for his messages and he gives them power to heal and cast out demons. Jesus had God's power over Satan and he gave some of that power to his 72 followers. I couldn't help thinking...if I am a follower of Christ, could I have a little of his power? At least enough to overpower Satan in my own with my temptations and my potential failures? I believe that if I lean on God's power instead of my own willpower, anything is possible!

Jesus also told a parable to a Jewish expert in the law that explained that anyone we meet is our neighbor. So...if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves...then we are to love everyone we meet as we love ourselves. This comes into play again later in what Paul says as well.

And speaking of what Paul says...Ephesians 4-6 are filled with some important instructions that we can put into practice today. 

Ephesians 4
God gives each of us a calling...and that doesn't just mean your chosen career. As believers and followers of Christ, we each receive a calling, or a job to do, to build up the church. That doesn't mean just the pastors and leaders of the church, but everyone...we are to build and take care of the church and bind it in unity. I don't think this is just talking about our own personal church, but all the people who claim to be believers and followers of Christ....WE are the body of Christ, which is the church. It doesn't matter the denomination, or the building...but we are to build the body of Christ by following our calling, whether it be pastor, choir director, Sunday School teacher, small group leader, secretary...or whatever job you've been given to do in the church using the gifts God gave you. If you don't have a job or a place to serve in the church...have a leader in your church help you find one! There is PLENTY of work to go around! We are preparing the people of our church (believers in Christ) to do works of service in our communities and in the world. It takes many hands to fill the needs of the world!!!

And Paul talks about our neighbors, just as Jesus did! Our neighbors are everyone we meet! Paul gives us some advice on how to treat our neighbors.
* Speak the truth in love
* Don't go to bed angry. Which means don't let your anger overcome your good judgement on how to treat those you are angry with. Acting in anger only gives the Devil room to work in your soul.
* Share with those in need.
* Don't let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only helpful talk. 
* Get rid of bitterness and malice
* Be compassionate and forgive others as Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 5
Paul says we should be imitators of God. This means we shouldn't behave in immoral or course ways. Why? Why is the Lord against course behavior? Because it opens the door to sin. Every time you tell a dirty joke or act in inappropriate ways, you find it becomes easier and easier to do so. If we know we don't want to act in those ways, then we shouldn't practice them or even flirt with them. Does that mean we are going to hell if we tell or laugh at a dirty joke? No, I don't believe so. But touch a hot stove and you'll get burned. God is a loving Father who wants to keep us from making mistakes that will hurt us and cause us pain. So he instructs not to act in ways that could hurt us in the long run. Any good parent does the same thing for their children.

Chapter 5:21 says we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. While on earth, Jesus always put others' needs ahead of his own. It is by his example we should follow. The rest of Chapter 5 and part of chapter six explains the different relationships we have and how mutually submitting to one another creates better relationships.

* Wives to husbands (yes, I used to have a problem with this one until I realized it is a mutual submission.)
* Husbands to wives
* Children to parents
* Parents to children
* Slaves to masters (or in our case, workers to boss)
* Masters to slaves (bosses to workers)

And just HOW are we selfish human beings supposed to act like God, imitate Christ and put others needs ahead of our own??? That is expecting a lot out of us, don't you think? Paul explains that to this and to protect ourselves from the evil one, we are to put on the armor of God. God has given us everything we need to behave and love others and protect ourselves:
* Truth- God's truth and plan for our salvation
* Righteousness - We KNOW what to do to live right...we just have to DO IT. And...when we fail, we ask for forgiveness and allow Christ to forgive us and restore our righteousness
* Faith - in God's truth
* Salvation - KNOW that through Christ you are saved!
* The Spirit - Believe that he lives in you and will help protect you and help you to live righteously.
* Prayer - pray at all times, in all occasions, pray all kinds of prayers...just keep on praying.

WHEW! That was a lot of information and a lot of promises...but it sounds like good advice to me. There's nothing too mysterious in that! Love God, love your neighbor (EVERYONE) and serve others. Sounds like a way to live a life of love.

Monday, October 10, 2011

NTC DAY 29 - The good farmer knows...

My memory verse for this week:
"Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." --  Galatians 5:25-26

NTC Day 29
Luke 8 and Galatians 4-6

My dad was a farmer. He had some acres in hay to feed his animals through the winter and he had some acres in corn to grind for feed for his animals as well. If those fields didn't do well, he would have to buy hay and feed for his sheep and cows, and that was costly. It was to his benefit to raise good crops. He had good soil so if he planted well and the weather cooperated, he usually had good results. But, he had to take care of those fields, giving them good fertilizer and making sure the weeds didn't overtake the crops.

In Luke 8, Jesus tells the parable of the seeds. We know the one...if seeds are scattered along the way in the paths, the devil comes along and takes away the word from their hearts. Those planted in the rocks aren't deep enough to survive the trials and tests of life. Those planted in the thorns get the word choked out of them by life's worries and they don't mature. Those planted in the good soil hear the word and flourish, producing a good crop.

That's how the parable ends, but there is more too it. Just like my dad knew...even seeds planted in good soil need tending and care. In Galatians, Paul is explaining this to the church in Galatians. They were planted in good soil...they heard the word, and believed, but they are going back to their old ways of being tied to the law and religious practices, and their crop was being destroyed.

Paul is desperately trying to get them (and us today too!) to see that it is by faith in Christ that we are saved, not by our works or by following the law. 

Going to church and following certain religious practices and following the law is not bad...all those things keep us in contact and in relationship with Christ. But...if we open our hearts and let our faith in Christ allow the Spirit to take control of our lives... the Spirit will guide us PAST our sinful nature...THAT is what saves us! 

We sing a song in KidsPraise about the fruits of the, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If we are living with THOSE fruits in our lives everyday...then the sinful nature has no room to flourish in our lives. Does that mean we don't sin? Absolutely not! We can't be perfect and live with all of those fruits thriving perfectly all the time. But...when we allow the Spirit to fill us with love, and love be what we live by everyday, we will find ourselves more able to fight off the sinful nature that seeks to destroy us.

It is the law that makes us aware of our sinful nature. It is wrong to is wrong to is wrong to steal...and so forth. But...if we were ONLY judged by the way we followed the law, if THAT were the only thing that decided our eternal life, we would ALL be in trouble!

There are those who do a good job following the law. They watch their own behavior and make sure they aren't breaking any laws. The problem with these people...they get so obsessed with following the law that they become self-righteous and critical and judgmental of others. The only things that end up coming out of self-righteousness, judgement and criticism is cruelty and hatred. When such a person sins himself, (which he is bound to do) he sees the sins of others even more and lets self hatred turn into hatred of others.

God knew this...he gave us the law so we would be aware, but he gave us Christ to be saved. It is through that faith that we come new creations. Not creations that never sin, but creations that let faith and the Spirit guide us through life, fighting off our sinful nature and loving those around us. 

So, if we want that Spirit within us...we have to KNOW that God's word was planted in the good soil of our hearts and then TAKE CARE of those seeds by giving it food and water to make it grow (reading the Bible and going to church to be fed.) When you open your heart to God's word, you will grow and flourish and produce a good crop.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

NTC DAY 27 He still leads me...even when I am a cry baby!

This week's memory verse:
"Therefore since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians  4:1

It is early on Sunday morning, before my busy day starts. I am feeling myself draw away again...what I seem to do when things get hard. Whatever back issue I have going on, pain has become the norm instead of occasionally. Isn't it funny...the pain should be a reminder to pray more, shouldn't it? But, as I look back at my behavior over the last week, instead of praying more, I have whined more and sulked more and felt sorry for myself.

I have read Luke and Paul this week. Their words are good reminders of God's love and mercy through Christ's pain and sacrifice. Luke tells the story of Jesus' ministry and Paul tells us (through his letters to the Corinthians) how God wants us to live and worship and love each other. 

If I can whine about my pain even after reading of Christ's pain, imagine what a cry baby I would be if I hadn't been reading God's word all week! 

Life is sometimes hard...that is the plain hard truth. As much as I would like to believe in sunshine and rainbows all the time...we wouldn't even have the rainbows if we didn't have the rain!!! I am writing this as an encouragement to myself, but I bet there are many more out there like me.

I believe...I have faith in a loving and caring God...I believe in God's miracles and in his healing. In times when I am not able to do what I want to do, in times when pain gets in the way and tries to steal my joy...I need to hang on to what I learn each time I open the Bible. I need to cling to my faith, even when it is small...God still leads me with extending grace, his mercies are new each day. No matter what comes, he will keep my soul and I can rest in that knowledge and chase away the whiny baby thoughts!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

NTC Day 25 - We too can put a "ding in the universe"

My memory verse this week:
"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1

NTC Day 24
Luke 4 and 2 Corinthians 7-9
(I apologize...I think I had my days numbered wrong in the last few days.)

Luke 4 is filled with a lot of important stuff! First, Jesus is tempted by the Devil in the desert. The Devil keeps taunting Jesus to prove his power..."IF you are the son if God..." The Devil knows all too well who Jesus is! He tries to bring him down, make him fail, thwart the plans of God. The Devil is not dumb and uses temptations that might have worked on a regular man...but Jesus was no ordinary guy! He WAS God and knew what he was supposed to do, even at his weakest moment.

While the Devil is not dumb...he is blind. He knows the power of God but doesn't realize that he will NEVER win! He STILL thinks he can win! But Jesus sets the best example for us...he used God's own words to fight him off and send him away. What a great idea for us even today...put God's word into our minds and hearts and be able to pull those verses out to fight the temptations that come to us every day.

I usually write these messages in total quiet. But today, as I write this on my IPhone, I am listening to the people on the Today Show talk about the impact of the life of Steve Jobs. The creator of the very instrument I am using at the moment had such an impact on the lives of us all, whether you have an Apple product or not. Jobs said he "wanted to put a ding in the universe." It seems that he did just that.

Humans need people to look up to. We need visionaries who make a difference in this world. But...we can't always leave that job to others. We should each strive to make a difference in this world. We have an excellent example to follow...Jesus. If we study how Jesus lived, worshiped, loved, and moved the world, we too can learn how to move the world.

Jesus talked and taught a lot about love. And he loved even when those around him were NOT lovable. He loved even when his life was ending. If we each could love those around us with just a fraction of the love Jesus showed...we would make a difference in the world.

Steve Jobs made a difference in the computer world and the strength he showed during the last years if his life has been an inspiration to many. I thank him for his contributions to this world. Through Christ's love for me and the world, I hope I can put a ding in the universe as well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prepare the way and let your light shine!

My memory verse this week:
"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1

NTC Day 23
Luke 3 and 2 Corinthians 4-6

Luke 3 describes John the Baptist's ministry. He was baptizing people and preaching about the coming of the Christ. People started going to hear and see John because it was "the thing" to do...some were "rubber-neckers"....they wanted to see what was going on and what the fuss was all about. John called them out on this. 

They listened to John preach about how they must change their lives and they then asked him how they should do that. He gives them a preview of Jesus' teachings...give your things to those who have not; tax collectors should be honest and not take more than they are due; soldiers should behave honorably with no shake downs and blackmails to get more than their due.

John seems so serious and solemn. But, when I read about John's ministry, I can't help but think of the musical "Godspell." I see him as joyously preparing people for something better...inviting them to leave the trappings of this life behind and joining the way to a better life.

In the opening song of the 1973 musical "Godspell" we hear John singing alone "Prepare ye the way if the Lord." He is CALLING OUT to those with open ears to come. You then see a few people in the crowded streets leaving their jobs and old ways, and joining John for a joyous baptizing in a fountain. Even though being baptized is a very serious event, it is such a  joy-filled event too! Soon, the whole group is singing along with John about preparing the way for the Lord! They were so happy, they just couldn't hold it in...they were letting their light shine!

2 Corinthians 4 says that the god of this age (the devil) has blinded unbelievers to the light of Christ. We wonder, if people can't see and won't believe, what's the use of sharing our faith in Christ with nonbelievers? But...what was one miracle that Jesus performed over and over? Making the blind see! Through Jesus, God CAN AND WILL take the devil's blindfold off of their eyes and they WILL see!

We who know and believe in Christ have his light deep inside us, treasured away in our "jars of clay"...our human bodies. Through our cracks...the hardships and trials that Christ has walked us through, that light escapes for the world to see. 

Those trials and difficulties that cracked our human bodies are only temporary...By comparison, they are NOTHING to the glories we will receive in heaven with Christ!!! So, we fix our eyes on heaven and away from the troubles of this life. By doing so, our light WILL shine and others can not help but see and be drawn to that light of our hope in Christ!

Yes, some may call us "Jesus freaks" or crazy in Christ, as they did Paul in 2 Corinthians 5. But if we stay close to God and his word, and trust in Christ, we know that we are NOT crazy, but are a new creation!

2 Corinthians 6 confuses me a little bit, because it says we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers and that we are to be separate from them. I think many interpret this to mean we are not to associate with unbelievers...BUT...if that is true, how are we to let our light shine to them? I think I understand Paul to mean that we are not to participate in the activities of the nonbelievers. In order to "make disciples of all nations," we NEED to be IN the world...just not OF the world.

The Message Translation of 2 Corinthians 6:17 - So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good. Don't link up with those who will pollute you. Run to your Heavenly Father, be His daughter or son.

I have a friend who has a biker ministry. He looks like a biker and rides a Harley, and has a long beard and tattoos and hangs out in bars with other bikers. He gets to know unbelievers in THEIR environment...where they are comfortable. He is kind and loving to all...and when they know and trust him...THEN he shares the good news with them. He even has a Biker Church now! His clay jar is full of cracks and Christ's light is shining BRIGHTLY through it!!! I want to be just like him, because....he is acting just like Christ!

How can you prepare the way for the Lord in this world and let your light shine so others can see today???

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NTC Day 23 - It's all a matter of the heart...

My memory verse this week:
"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1

NTC Day 23
Luke 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 1-3

Our hearts are miraculous things. In the body, the heart is the pump that keeps everything running. Without it, nothing in the body would be able to work. While the brain sends signals to our muscles and nerves and enables us to speak, move and live, without the heart, the brain wouldn't get the blood and oxygen it needs to work. It is also in the heart that seems to house our spirit...or someplace deep inside us. My heart goes out to heart is filled with love, my heart is broken...

The heart is mentioned several times in both the Luke and 2 Corinthians readings for today. 

* "And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." - Luke 1:17 (Zechariah speaking of his son John the Baptist)
* "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." -- Luke 2:19 (After the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds.)
* "The he (Jesus) went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart." -- Luke 2:51 (After Jesus had been missing and was found in "his Father's house")
* "...set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."--2 Corinthians 1:22 (Speaking of Jesus)
* "For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you." --2 Corinthians 2:4 (Paul, speaking to the people of Corinth)
* "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. -- 2 Corinthians 3:3 

From all of these verses we see that it is in our hearts that we feel joy, anguish, memories, but more importantly, it is where the Spirit comes to live.

Like Mary, there are many things I treasure up and ponder in my heart. I want my heart to be open to allow Christ to write on the tablet of my heart so I can pass those lovely words on to those I meet.

I don't always feel like my heart is full of love...lately, I have felt a little anguish, worry and hurt in my heart, and that can stand in the way of what God wants to do in my heart and through my heart. Today, I pray that my spirit is lifted and my heart is opened to the love and power of the Holy Spirit within me! I pray the same for you, my friends!

Monday, October 3, 2011

NTC Day 22 - Take heart and keep going...

My memory verse this week:
"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1

NTC Day 22
Mark 15-16 and 1 Corinthians 14-16

Have you ever woken up in a foul mood and you don't really know why? That is the way my day began, and I have growled at my daughter, my dog, my cat, my car, and myself. Everything I have touched so far this morning has not turned out right. I am tired and have so much to do this week...I am having one of those overwhelmed moods that make me sad for no good reason.

I read my NTC chapters earlier this morning, but I didn't take time to write on my blog. I thought maybe if I went back to God's word and started my day would be better. I was searching through this week's readings for a memory verse, God sent me a little message through the verse I chose. 

God gave me my blog ministry, and the Children's and music ministries I take part in at church. Through the spiritual gifts and talents he gave me, I have the great opportunity to share my faith with others. But, writing every day, getting lessons and songs ready for each Sunday, on top of my full time job and taking care of my family...I can come to times when I feel it's all too much and I can't do it. But 2 Corinthians 4:1 reassures me because I remember that it's God I am doing things for and it's God's mercy from which i can draw my strength. At moments like these when I am tired and think I can't continue...I can take a moment to pause and let God recharge my spiritual batteries.

Today's readings in Mark and 1 Corinthians remind us what Jesus did for us. Mark 15 replays the sad and brutal crucifixion and death of Jesus. Mark 16 tells us of the hope that comes from his resurrection. We learn that Jesus went through that horrible experience FOR us. 

While in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul continues to teach the people in the church of Corinth how to maintain order and worship within their church, (I have a few issues with a couple of things...) he goes on to explain the importance of believing in the resurrection of Christ. Through his death, Jesus paid our debt for our sins, but through his resurrection we have God's victory over sin and death. When we believe this, we do not serve Christ in vain in our various ministries.

That takes me back to gaining strength and heart from Jesus as I serve him in the works God prepared me to do. Sitting here in prayer this morning, I feel as if I CAN keep going with taking care of my family, doing my best at work, keeping up on my blog postings,  preparing for my KidsPraise lessons and practicing my songs for choir and Hearts for Worship. Written down in a list, it looks like a lot...but it's the work God prepared ahead of time for me to do and I will not lose heart and I will do my best to continue.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the many tasks you have to do? Take a moment to stop and think about the things you are doing and why you are doing them. If you give him a chance, God will breathe his breath into you and recharge your batteries too so you can take heart and keep going!