My sun porch

My sun porch

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!