My sun porch

My sun porch

Friday, December 27, 2013

Biblical wisdom - The Mister Rogers Way!

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." -- Proverbs 3:13-18

Happy December 27th my friends! I haven't written for a long time. There are many reasons for this, mainly because I haven't felt very wise or very motivated to share my thoughts with others when my thoughts have been so jumbled and disjointed. Looking back, there have been many times in my life like this, when I am in a period of transition and confusion. I always come out of these times in a better place, but during them, I am frustrated and somewhat lost. I THINK, I am coming out of my latest bout of transition. Today, a need to write struck me and I must obey.

This morning a friend posted an inspirational clip from Mr. Rogers: "10 Mister Rogers Quotes to remember on Bad Days."  One forgets how wise the soft spoken, sweatered man really was. Mister Rogers was a Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania who created the beloved "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" on PBS the year I was born, some 45 years ago. As I read these 10 quotes, it hit me that God is in each one without religion slapping you in the face.

1. "Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life."  -- We all know that we should not judge people by outside appearances, even if that is so very hard. --
 "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." -- 1 Peter 3:3-4

2. "Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we aren't perfect." -- Every day I discover some of those clues about myself. What if I remembered that the other human beings around me are not perfect either and found ways to be more forgiving when they mess up? -- "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -- Romans 3:23

3. "Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime's work, but it's worth the effort." -- We all have a perception of who we are, and that perception changes as our situations change. Some of us strive to work hard to  be be self aware and LEARN from those situations. Some of go through our whole lives BLIND as bats! -- "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." --  Galatians 6:3

4. "To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way the he or she is, right here and now." -- OH, how hard this is! Sure we want to love people, but only if they fit into the mold of who WE think they should be! If someone is a different race, from a different country, lives a different lifestyle, has different politics, thinks a different way, we want them to CHANGE before we can love them. I don't think that's what Jesus meant when he said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." -- John 13:34 -- What if Jesus ONLY loved us and accepted us if we lived they way he taught us and were without sin? I think we'd be in BIG trouble!

5. "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." -- Who are you? If you believe you are a child of God, then you are a son or daughter of the King! That makes you a prince or a princess! Shouldn't we live our lives as if we are royalty and make choices that glorify our Father the King? -- "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." -- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

6. "There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus of our growth." -- If we didn't have pain or problems, we wouldn't be able to grow and neither would we truly appreciate the times of comfort and peace. -- "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -- John 16:33

7. "The world needs a sense of worth and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile." -- People NEED to feel worthwhile! If we tear someone down because of who they are or what they have done, than we are really keeping the world from being what it CAN be and what God envisioned for it to be. -- "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?" -- James 4:11-12 -- And remember, those that do not truly know God and do not understand the law can't be bound by the law. How can they come to know God if we are tearing them down and making them feel unworthy of God's love?

8. "There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind." -- It REALLY is that simple! -- "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." -- Ephesians 4:32

9. "Often when you are at the end of something, you are at the beginning of something else." -- New beginnings are always waiting on us! -- "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 -- The following statement is NOT in the Bible, but it is nonetheless very true: When God closes a door, he often opens a window. Look for the open windows and leave behind the closed doors.

10. "The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them and some have few and give everything away." -- If we gave more of what we have, (not just money, but time, love, compassion, peace, comfort) others will will be blessed and God will bless us in return. -- "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” -- Luke 6:38

I think the real genius of Fred Rogers is that he said, taught and LIVED these statements each day of his life in a way that attracted others of all faiths, all types and all walks of life all over the world. Yes, those of us that know God and read His word know that these statements come from God's words and the teachings of Jesus. But, to those that are far from God, speaking only in Biblical terms often shoves them further and further away. If we LIVED these statements every day, then we too could attract others the way that the beloved Mister Rogers did. THEN we can show them that we live according to God's word and direct them to live that way too!

Be blessed today my friends, and be a blessing to those around you!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

RIGHT in the middle...

"And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:4

On one side of me sat the grandmothers and great grandmothers.. Their hair was "frosted" or entirely white. Their faces lined with years of living and loving. Their waistlines weren't what they were in their twenties. Their laughter was generous and their advice was sound and true. "Been there, done that" was the phrase used over and over.

On the other side of me sat the younger mothers. They held crying and hungry babies. Their eyes tired from lack of sleep. Their purses held everything from pacifiers to Barbie to little green army men. They watched the grandmothers with humor and a little bit of awe. Those women have LIVED their lives. They made it through the sleepless nights, temper tantrums, skinned knees, broken bones, teenage hormones and dating horror stories and STILL have the energy and heart to serve others in so many ways.

And there I sat...RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE. How fitting and appropriate as I am no longer the young mother with a crying baby and I have not yet made it to grandmother status. I am still figuring out who I am at this stage in my life. My body is changing and adjusting to the years and life I have led so far, and yet I have hopefully many years left to gain experience that life will deal out to me. God has so much yet to teach me and it is my job to learn, reflect and endure so when my hair is white and pictures of my grandchildren fill my purse I will have advice for young mothers that is sound and true.

I am middle aged. That is a phrase that I have a hard time saying aloud. I don't want to think about my life being half over. However, sitting in that room of Methodist Women and young mothers, I figured out I am RIGHT where I am supposed to be. I am RIGHT where God wants me to be and RIGHT in the middle of my life.

I was blessed so much by the loving and "motherly" women who welcomed me and the younger mothers to their meeting. They told funny stories, discussed how they take care of other people in need in our church and in our community and it was clear that they take care of each other as well. I hope when I endure my years to come and become a grandmother myself, I am half as loving, welcoming and caring toward younger women around me.

Until that time, I will make the most of the life God has blessed me with. At this Thanksgiving time of making one's blessings known to friends and family, I want to say that I am thankful that I have discovered and come to terms with the fact that I am RIGHT, smack dab in the middle and ready to move forward to the rest of my life.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

"The Troubles"

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

I have been watching a show on Nextflix called "Haven." It is NOT the kind of show that I would normally watch. I am not a sci-fi/horror kind of girl so I am not sure what gained my interest in this show. BUT...it is about an FBI agent, Audrey Parker who travels to Haven, a small town in Main that is dealing what is called "The Troubles" a plague of supernatural afflictions that have occurred in the town at least twice before. These "troubles" seem to affect only a select group of Haven's townspeople, but more and more of the town's citizens, so one can assume that the whole town is "troubled." People die...people and buildings burn...things appear...mythical creatures appear and cause havoc, all because of "The Troubles." Some episodes of this show are truly disturbing, and I am not sure why I keep watching. Audrey Parker seems to be immune to these troubles and she find ways to HELP those who are troubled.

Today, I was scrolling down through Facebook and had a thought. Perhaps we ALL suffer with our own kind of "The Troubles." There are so many people who are hurting, angry, depressed, disenchanted, upset and falling to pieces today. With this social technology we feel the need to tell all our friends about our troubles. While I generally try to keep my Facebook posts pretty positive and upbeat, I too sometimes find myself posting my troubles out there for the world to see. It is a convenient and easy venting resource, isn't it? So, if we ALL have troubles, shouldn't we all be a little more understanding of people's feelings? Apparently not! Our troubles seem to make us more close minded and hard hearted and our comments are equally as negative and hurtful, making THE TROUBLES of this world so much worse all over!

I know things are tough all over. We are upset about our Health Care, whichever side you are on...it's frustrating! Bombings, war, car wrecks, shootings in the local Burger King. Money's tight, schedules are tight, stress levels are high. It's no wonder we need to vent and get these frustrating feelings off our chests!

Some try to buck the system and live more positive and uplifting lives. November is the season of the days of Thanksgiving postings on Facebook where people list what they are thankful for each day. In this world there is MUCH to be thankful for, even amidst "The Troubles." We need to keep reminding ourselves, and more importantly each other, of the good things. We can be a little more forgiving...we can keep our negative comments to ourselves, even if they are warranted! We can be "Audrey Parkers" in this world and find ways to HELP those around us who are troubled, even if we have troubles of our own.

I think I am an Audrey Parker. It's the reason I write. It's the reason I listen to the troubles of my friends...I want to HELP. I want to point to the verse from John 16:33 above. Those are the words of Jesus. He is telling us there WILL be trouble in this world. But He tell us that He has overcome this world! He says that He tells us these things so we believe that IN HIM we can have peace IN our troubles. These troubles will not last forever! HE WINS! God knows what we are going through and sent Jesus to overcome those troubles.

Are you troubled today? Reach out to Jesus and let Him give you peace. Reach out and help another troubled soul. Something magical happens in your heart when even in your trouble you help someone else. You bond and lift each other up. The peace of Jesus allows you to do this. Tempted to post a nasty comment to someone on Facebook who posted something you disagree with? THINK AGAIN! You don't know what trouble that person is dealing with, don't add to it. Pray for them, but leave the negative postings to someone else.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A magical morning worship experience...


"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." --Revelation 21:3

It began the way most of my mornings begin, a drive to work, complete with toast and coffee to go. I started down the road, bite of toast and mind spinning with the events of the coming day. My car soon filled with the music of my choir practice CD that lives there most of the time. I have listened to this CD so many times that I almost don't even hear it....But soon the words of my choir director played through my mind about just LISTENING to the songs and worshiping as you listen. I began to sing the song, as I always do, but I stopped. I got quiet and concentrated on just driving and to the words of the song.

What happened next was truly a worship experience. The words...the beautiful sunrise sky directly in front of me...the sweet music behind the words...all these things enveloped me and wrapped me up inside of them.

"We have found our hope, we have found our peace.
We have found our rest in the One who loves.
He will light the way; He will lead us home
As we offer all to the One who saves us." (The One Who Saves - Ben Fielding and Bradley Knight)

I listened to these words and let them sink into my mind and into my heart. I BELIEVED them and the words comforted me and quieted my spirit. All the things I worry about...all my insecurities...all my doubts and fears...they slipped away for that moment and I was reminded that these things don't really matter.

"This is God in His holy place
This is God clothed in love and strength.
Sing out. Lift your voice and cry out,
"Awesome is our strong God! Mighty is our God!"

There is no higher, no,
There is no greater, no,
There is none stronger than our God." (Strong God - Jason Ingram, Jon Egan, Meredith Andrews)

I rounded a bend in the road and headed directly into the bright morning sun! It blinded me for a moment, but lit my spirit with it shimmering radiance.  For no particular reason, tears began to stream down my face and my chest tightened. The toast that I had been hungry for just a few moments ago lay discarded on the paper plate in the passenger's seat as I no longer wanted it.

"You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin...

Oh, I'm running to your arms
I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign" (Forever Reign - Jason Ingram, Reuben Morgan)

I know it may sound funny to some of you, but at that exact moment, I felt like I was wrapped in God's embrace...like He was THERE with me in the car, driving down the country road with me. I felt like a child, sitting in my dad's lap, safe and secure and happy.

I was getting closer to work and to be honest, I wanted to keep driving. I didn't want this experience and this feeling to end. But, duty calls, and I pulled into my parking spot. I wiped my tears, took a deep breath and thanked God for being WITH me.

I wish the feeling of this worship experience WOULD last all day, but the world came rushing in, quickly bringing me back to my reality and bringing along with it all my doubts, fears and insecurities. As I walked up the sidewalk, a coworker said something to me, and I started to cry...why, I'm not sure. I freaked her out and she was instantly worried about me. How do I explain to her that it had nothing to do with what she said...

No, I'm not a nutcase...I just had a magical moment with God. I can't explain why it happened or how it happened...if it was real or in my mind. But it happened and I am so grateful for those worshipful moments in my car.  I wanted...no I needed to write about it, to share with you this moment in my life that I hope someday happens again.

What started out as a normal, every day morning drive to work turned into a worship experience...or maybe an encounter with God. My wish for you, my friends, is your own comforting, inspiring and magical worship experience where God comes home to live in your heart for a moment as well.





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Praying through the...


"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Ok...those of you who read my blog often know that I use a part of speech called the ellipsis a lot in my writing. You may not know what it is called, but you probably noticed the dot, dot dot. My writing is very conversational, and the ... just helps me convey a pause. It is more effective than a comma or a period. I use it for dramatic effect. In the past year though, I learned that I may use it too much.

The book that I wrote with my two pastors this past year contained a lot of my blog posts. I compiled and organized them into chapters with themes that worked for the devotional book we were working on. We had a member of our congregation who is a retired teacher edit the book for us. He contacted me one day and asked me to fix something. He suggested that I used the ellipsis a bit too many times. It seemed to lose the dramatic effect I had in my daily blog posts. So, using the "find and replace" tool in Microsoft Word, I found that I DID use this grammatical tool a lot...419 times in 134 pages!

This morning, the book that I am reading, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, has a whole section devoted to the ellipsis! Since I am such a fan of the ... this caught my attention!

My prayer list is long. There are things that I have been praying about for years, with no real answer from God. There have been times in my life that I just stopped praying for certain things because, honestly, I guess I just believed they could and would not ever happen. There are things that I want for my life and have been waiting for that just never seem to happen, no matter how hard I wish for them or pray for them, but the WANT and the DESIRE for them are still there. I think I just assumed that if they haven't happened yet, they aren't going to happen. I think I give up too soon. There seems to be something hanging on in my heart...

It's that ...that is the hardest. The waiting. The wanting. The feeling that there is something missing or that there is more yet to come. Mark Batterson suggests that we DO give up too easily and that we should continue to circle those prayers AND those promises that God gives us about our prayers.

"And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Matthew 21:22

"Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13-14

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." John 15:7

While I don't think these promises give us the right to make a "Christmas wish list" of things we want, such as winning the lottery, being famous, or getting a new car, I do think that if we are asking God for things that are in line with his will for us, than he will give them to us...in His own time.

There it is again, that dot, dot, dot that makes us wait! We don't want to wait for the things we want, do we? His own time. God promises that he WILL answer our prayers, but HIS timing may be completely different than ours.

So what to do with that ... time? I am just trying to PRAY my way through it and LEAN on the promise that God WILL answer and I WILL see his glory when the promises come true!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

You ARE special!

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and compete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." -- Acts 20:24

I read an interesting article yesterday about Generation Y, those people born from 1970-the early 90's. The article talks about how this group "the Yuppies" are unhappy. They are unfulfilled, bored, and unhappy with their lives. The author states that because of how their parents, "The Baby Boomers" brought them up, their expectations for their lives were unrealistic. Yuppies were brought up to think they are special. Yes, everyone may find a good career, but YOU, my child will outshine and stand high above everyone in your chosen career. The point of this being that because they ALL think they are special, and EVERYONE can't be special, they think they are not living up to their own expectations and they are disappointed and dissatisfied.

Well, I was born a couple of years before 1970, but I was raised by my Baby Boomer parents to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to...and I HAVE done many things! But, sometimes I do think that I get dissatisfied with my life because it isn't turning out exactly as I dreamed it would be. I work hard, I dream big, I am ambitious, and I want more. I think sometimes I do think I am special. If everyone thinks they are special, than nobody is special, right?

Nope! I believe that in God's eyes, each one of us IS special. He created each one of us for a reason...He knows how many hairs are on our heads and has each of our names written in the palm of his hand! He has a purpose for each of us, and when we give up our own selfish desires and start truly searching for what God wants for us and start working toward that, then we find we ARE special! In God's eyes, when we are following his lead then each one of us can be top achievers and stand at the top of our field!

Don't you want to be special? You ARE! Ask God to show you HIS plans for your life and then work hard on those plans. Finish HIS race and then complete the task Jesus gives you -- tell others about God's plan and how HE gave you the grace you needed!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Praying in Circles


"So do not throw away your confidence: it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." -- Hebrews 10:35-36

My church is reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and I have started to pray in circles. I am getting specific about my prayers and about what I am asking God for. I went through my Bible and looked for every promise and every God statement about being a good wife and having a good marriage. I circled all of those promises, (I found 12 -- there may be more). Then I wrote down those promises and what they mean for me. They were action steps for me. I circled all of those action steps on the paper and prayed that I would DO the things I need to do to be THAT Godly wife for my husband.

I am not done circling. I wrote down some things that seem impossible to me...things that I have been praying for for a long time, but things that I haven't seen happen yet. I circled those things over and over and will continue to circle them each day until they happen. That old acronym PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) is true for me, but this time I am not just asking, I am BELIEVING that God will fulfill his promises.

Does that mean I think those things will happen tomorrow? Well, I would really LOVE that, but I know God has His own timing. So, I will just keep right on circling and believing. It might mean that my pencil circles so much it goes through the paper...I'll get more paper. It might mean that I grow weary of praying those circles...I'll buck up and keep circling. I am holding God accountable. He promised that if I ask, I will receive. He promised if I seek Him, I will find Him. A few of the things I am praying for are big, so big that if and when they do happen, it will be a MIRACLE! I believe in a God who can and does make miracles happen!

By circling my prayers, I am focusing on them and focusing on God and what he can do. I am not a pastor or a Biblical expert and I don't have all the answers, but I DO believe in God and crying out to Him in the name of Jesus. I believe because I have seen Him keep promises before. I have received answered prayers. I know in my heart that God is listening to my prayers. So I will keep circling, keep doing God's will and have confidence that God CAN make miracles happen in my life!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Laughing Jesus...

 

 

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." -- John 15:11


There is no evidence in the Bible that Jesus laughed. I looked. However, in my heart, I know that Jesus must have had a good belly laugh from time to time, even if he is sometimes called "the man of sorrows."

Yes, He did carry the weight of the world on his shoulders in his 33 years here on earth, but he also lived as we live, and must have had some moments of pure joy as well. He loved to have children around him. Think about the smiles and laughter that must have brought! Children were sitting on his lap and standing around him, telling him things that were important to them. We all know the funny things kids can say.

I am thinking about this today because this picture of laughing Jesus was my friend Carol's favorite image of Jesus. She gave me a little card of the picture several years ago and I still carry it in my wallet. It is comforting to know that our loving Savior, who took on our sins so we could be free, found joy in this world.

Joy is sometimes very hard to find in our busy work-a-day lives. I think we think and feel that our joy comes from others...our spouse, our children, our coworkers, our friends. If people treat me right and do what I want, I will be happy, right? Well, I have discovered that my joy comes from my own beliefs and more importantly, my own attitude. If I WANT to be happy about my life and LIVE like I want to be happy, then I find reasons to be joyful. The opposite is true too, however. I can find plenty of reasons to be miserable in this world too...if WANT to be miserable and LIVE like a am miserable, then I certainly will be.


My friend Carol as been in my thoughts a lot lately, since she is no longer there for me to call and laugh with. She had plenty of reasons to be miserable in the last few years. Her sister died of cancer a year ago and her own cancer came on with a vengeance, stealing her ability to stand, and do the things she so wanted to do. But, the last visit I had with her in the hospital a week or so before her death was one of the best conversations we ever had. Yes, she was worried about things, but she also found plenty of reasons to laugh. We laughed A LOT in that hour-long visit. She even had her nurse laughing so hard she cried! Carol loved Jesus so much, and I am comforted in the belief that she is laughing WITH Jesus now and has eternity to be joyful with him in heaven!

I'm going to carry that picture of laughing Jesus with me today as I go out into the not-so-joyful world. I am going to look for reasons to be happy and laugh! Laughter IS infectious! I hope everyone around me gets it too!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wake up! Pray!

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

This morning I was part of a prayer vigil. Members of my church signed up to pray for 15 minute time slots over a period of 24 hours. I chose 5:00 am on Sunday morning. I am a morning person, so waking up at 5:00 am is nothing new or anything difficult for me. I USED to be in the habit of getting up every morning and having my quiet devotional, "God time," but in the past year, for some reason , I got out of the habit. I got busy...I wasn't sleeping enough...I can think of many reasons why I stopped. But I have missed it. This morning made me remember why I loved my "God time" so much and made me want to refresh that habit.

I wasn't sure exactly what we were supposed to pray for in my 15 minutes, so I improvised. I just started talking to God and asked him to bless our church and the pastors and leaders. I then listed every ministry I could think of within our church and asked God to bless those ministries, the people leading them and the people who might possibly be touched by them. My 15 minutes went by so quickly!

I then thought of the Bible verse that I will be teaching kids in KidsPraise today: Joshua 1:9. I believe God wants us to be bold and vigilant, but it takes courage to be bold for God in today's scary world. It is so very easy to become discouraged, frustrated and sad when looking at the pain, suffering and evil that appears before us every day we open our eyes. This verse is a reminder that we CAN be courageous and bold because God IS with us!

Don't be terrified! Wherever you go, whatever you do, God is with you! So, be bold! Pray! Pray for God's will in your life and then start praying for others. If each one of us that believes in the awesome power of God and the life-saving power of Jesus Christ will pray boldly, there is no telling what amazing blessings will happen!

Dear God, I thank you for my 15 minutes of prayer this morning! It has refreshed my soul! I ask that you bless me today so that I can be a blessing to others. Help me to live boldly today and give me the courage that comes from knowing that you are with me wherever I go. Amen

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Love calling...



"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." -- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Okay, I have to tell you about my experience this morning. All week I have been feeling... frustrated, worried, not good enough, unworthy...just plain out of sorts. Rationally, I know none of these feelings are warranted, but nonetheless, those feelings have been plaguing my heart. I woke up feeling worn out and not ready to face the morning. I though a bath might relax and rejuvenate me and I thought some music might help as well. I often listen to Pandora, and have a contemporary Christian channel that plays familiar worship songs.

As I slipped my tired body into the water, the first song that came on was "Worn" by a group called Tenth Avenue West. Let me tell you, those words spoke exactly what I have been feeling like lately...I am worn. Then the next song was another song that I knew, loved and spoke exactly what I needed to hear. During my morning bath, each of the songs that played spoke to my heart and encouraged me.

As I slipped out of the water and began drying off, I felt better. Then the next song was "Love Calling" by Toby Mac, that talks about getting back up when you feel knocked down. It was that moment that I felt like God had just given me a loving "mix tape." He WAS calling out to me and comforting and loving me through the music on my phone. I felt loved and encouraged and can move on with my day, letting go of some of those "out of sorts" feelings.

Doubters may scoff at that, but I don't care. Who cares if I feel better believing that my Father God loves me enough to listen to my prayers and cries and send me a "mix tape?" It gives me hope.

I share this story with you so maybe you can open your heart and your mind enough to believe that God loves you enough to reach out to you too! God IS love and love will call you and encourage you as well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A morning meditation

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness." -- Isaiah 26:9

When I am dealing with any situation, especially a difficult one, I get stressed out. My stomach gets upset, my head hurts and I feel like running away. When I am in the middle of something, trying to resolve something, my brain seems to override my heart and God is not the first thing I think of. After the situation has calmed down some and I am evaluating the situation, THEN I think about what I should have done and how I should have prayed DURING the situation instead of after.

At least in my life, emotions have a way of taking over my body. I get angry, hurt, frustrated and my rational mind seems to go out the window. It is then that I say and do things that I regret after. I often wonder why that is. Why can we think of things we SHOULD have said and done well when we are thinking about something after the fact?

After just such an emotional "discussion" with my daughter last night, I woke up this morning still feeling a little raw and out of sorts, still going over things that were said in the heat of the discussion. I needed to put it behind me and stop letting my emotions upset me so, so I turned to my Bible. I opened to the Isaiah verse above.

I do long for God. The spirit that is inside me longs for my Heavenly Father to wrap his loving arms around me and tell me everything is going to me alright. When I am worried about how I am raising my daughter or concerned about choices I am making, I long for God to tell me I am doing the right things or tell me what to do if I am not. I long for a world without conflicts and "discussions." They are hard and upsetting, but unfortunately, they are part of life.

Somehow, just reading that passage from Isaiah did comfort me a little bit. Someone else in this world longed for God. I am not alone in my feelings of worry and concern. Even the last part of the verse, that talks about God's judgment and righteousness was comforting to me. Throughout trials, God is trying to teach us the right way. I don't believe that the reason I am feeling out of sorts and upset about things is a coincidence. God WANTS us to learn from our mistakes and from our situations and puts that desire for Him in our hearts so we DO long for Him and search for Him. God WANTED me to pick up my Bible and look for His wisdom this morning. Did He want to comfort me and teach me something? It is my belief and my hope that He did. He is God. He is powerful enough to do anything. He is my Father...why wouldn't He want to reach out to me and wrap his arms around me and tell me everything is going to be alright?

Father God, I thank you for your comforting words this morning. Thank you for placing people in my life last night who helped me with my situation. I may not have said and done all the right things last night, but I feel you teaching me through it. I long for you every day. Thank you for seeing that longing and reaching out to me today. Amen.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Distracted

Tony Dungy (click on the name to watch video)





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

I just have to tell you...SO MANY times I have been thinking about an issue in my life and something hits me at that exact time and makes want to write about it. That happened to me this morning. Yesterday I was watching my teenager with the device that seems to never leave her hand and TRYING to understand why she thinks the 7 second "vines" are so very funny. In my head I was thinking that her attention span is SO short and I need to do something to get the phone, Kindle, computer, etc. OUT of her hands for a few moments at a time so she can experience her last year or so as a kid. I then looked at MYSELF and I had my phone in my hand and was considering checking Facebook because it had been 10 minutes since I last checked it! Wait a minute...

I woke up still thinking about how tied I am to technology. I attempted to give up Facebook for a short period of time this spring, and discovered that is far too important to give up. It is my way to stay connected to friends and family. It is a mode of communication for several groups I belong to. It is a way of sharing pictures with people as well as seeing pictures of others that I want to see. I continued to contemplate the effects of Facebook and smart phone technology on my life when I watched my "I am Second" daily video. Tony Dungy speaks about how he encouraged his players to let the distractions around them disappear so they could concentrate on the goals ahead of them. He also made it clear to his superiors that although he would lead his players to win games and head to the Super Bowl, football and his job would NOT be first in his life. Tony learned to put God first and not let anything distract him for that goal.

I. am. distracted.

That is the biggest problem in my life right now. I am distracted by so many little things, such as my technological devices that it is much easier for me to take my eyes and my heart off the goal of putting God first. I am so distracted that I can't seem to stick to a healthy lifestyle, consistently make wise financial decisions, stick to a habit of quiet devotional time, or even spend quality time with my family. I used to be able to do those things...what happened?

Take a look in my family room in my home any given evening after my husband gets home from work. The TV is on, all three of us have a device of some kind in our hands and if there is any conversation, it is taking place simultaneously as we are checking Facebook, The Best Vines, sports scores, Pinterest or any number of other websites. It pains me to read back over that last couple of sentences because it seems very sad to me, but that is our currently reality.

Today, I am laying my heart and my prayers out on the table. I pray that I can work to change my family's current reality and encourage each one of us to put down all the technology for a period of time at home so we can connect with each other the old fashioned way. I pray that God blesses my efforts to put HIM and my family before my need to be "connected" by technology. Dear God, this issue has come into my consciousness for a reason and I believe I need to do something about it. Help me to know what to do and DO IT! I also pray for others who are reading this and feeling distracted as well. Lord, help us all to keep our technology in perspective and not let it run or ruin our lives. If we truly put YOU first, I believe you will bless our efforts. Amen.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Think the grass is greener?

Wayne Simien (click on the name to watch the video)





"All people are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever." -- 1 Peter 1:24

Don't we all sometimes think our lives are not what we want them to be and we long for better lives...like those of celebrities, sports stars or the very rich? We think about all of our little problems and challenges and think if we had THEIR lives everything would be better. We get the attitude that "it sucks to be me!" and we want something better. The old saying that the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" seems to lead our lives. However, I think we need to take a page out of an old book by Erma Bombeck who said that "life is always greener over the septic tank." The grass may be greener, but it took a whole lot of "fertilizer" to get it that way!

As Wayne Simien humbly said in the video, he did have everything that a 20 year old college basketball star could ever wanted and his future looked very bright. Even after he entered the NBA and had a very successful rookie year, he knew something was still missing. He found out what was missing after he put himself and his career second and God first.

By putting God first in your life and allowing Jesus to work in you and through you, life may not go exactly the way you had envisioned it, but it will be better! You may not have material success, but you will live a successful life. 

When my life isn't going the way I want it to go, or I am frustrated or disheartened by something, I cry out to God and once again put Him first and put my selfish needs and wants second. I find that when I do this, I end up finding someone else that needs a shoulder to cry on or needs some help. I put my needs aside and help someone else, but I get helped more than anything! I have also found that God sends His comforting message to me through other friends who put Him first in their lives. A note of encouragement from one, or a text of support from another at the exact moment I need it always seems to come, whether I ask for it or not! I believe that is because I am learning to put God first. He sees my efforts and gives me the reassurance I need. It is a "I am Second" cycle, don't you see? 

We don't need riches and glory in this life. Those things only wither and fade away. God wants us to see that by putting Him first and following his lead He will provide EVERYTHING we need! There will still be times when "fertilizer" seems to pile up on our grass. But when we realize that EVERYONE has "fertilizer" issues and leave it to God to spread that "fertilizer" around in exactly the right amounts, we will find that our grass will also be green and beautiful! 

I am Second!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Forgiveness can be freeing!

The Scruggs (Click on the name to watch the video)

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." -- Proverbs 3:5-6

All morning I thought about writing about forgiveness today. As I took my shower, words and sentences about forgiveness were taking shape in my mind. I thought about times I have been forgiven and times I have forgiven someone else. I thought of friends in my life who have forgiven loved ones and moved forward in their relationships. I thought of examples like the Amish community who reached out and forgave the man who killed their children in the school house shooting. Then, I watched today's I am Second video and was amazed that it was about how forgiveness and faith in Jesus saved and rebuilt a broken marriage.

Forgiveness when you have been hurt is so very hard. We naturally want to draw into ourselves and protect our hearts when we have been hurt. It is so much easier to hold on to the hurt and let it build walls around us than it is to let go of the hurt and leave ourselves open to being hurt again. If holding grudges were an Olympic event, some of us would have a mantle full of gold medals!

However, while holding on to hurt and anger is natural for us, letting it go and forgiving is so freeing and lets us move on and have our hearts open to more wonderful and amazing relationships. So, just how do we fight the natural urge to hold on to the hurt and learn to forgive? I believe in my heart that knowing Christ, believing in his forgiving and renewing grace for our sins, and relying on HIS power to forgive is the way to fight our natural tendencies to withhold forgiveness.  How can I know this? Because I have learned to let go and forgive people who have hurt me, and the only way I could have done that is by following Jesus. Jesus said we are to love God and love others, so that's what I try to do every day. 

I'm not saying I let others do whatever they want to me and walk all over me. Jesus stood up for those who were persecuted and I don't believe he wants to see anyone be weak and beaten down. BUT, when someone does hurt me, I ask Jesus to help me see that person through HIS eyes and try to understand WHY they did what they did. When you put yourself in the shoes of someone else, it makes it easier to identify with them and forgive them.

Has someone hurt you? Did a friend betray you? Did a spouse cheat on you? Did someone say something mean or untrue about you? Instead of holding on to that hurt, ask Jesus to help you let it go. Take a look at that person through Jesus' eyes and try to understand them better. You may never understand why they did what they did, but Jesus will help you learn to forgive. It may take time, but you will see and feel the difference in your heart when you let go of the hurt. God can do amazing things in a heart that learns to forgive! Just look at the Scruggs from the video.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What has God done in my life?

Whispering Danny (click on the name to watch video)





Because of vacation, I missed about a week's worth of I am Second video sharing. I watched today's video and thought that I wanted to get back to sharing! It is a good one. You should watch it too!

Whispering Danny, who whisper-talks because of tumors that grow on his larynx, tells the story of seeing the miracle of his buddy surviving a deadly motorcycle accident. The doctors were ready to harvest his organs when his mother asked for one more day. Danny heard someone come in a pray a prayer of healing a salvation over his dying friend, and then wondered what all this crazy "Jesus stuff" was about. He went searching for himself on the internet that evening and ended up praying to Jesus himself. The next morning, his friend woke up. Whispering Danny now puts God first and says that he finds that through Jesus, he gets guidance, support and help in his life. It is a very dramatic story, but one that speaks of the hope and freedom that loving Christ brings to one's life.

My challenge for today from the I am Second email I received this morning was not only to share the video, but to share what I have seen God do in my life. Mine is not a story as dramatic as Whispering Danny, but I can definitely see what a difference putting God first in my life as made. While I was raised in the church and knew about God, Jesus and the Bible, it was not until well into my 30's that I discovered what having a real relationship with God was. I began to study the Bible, pray daily and often, and I began to understand that life was easier with God in it. I still had problems...MANY problems and heartaches...but in my heart I KNEW I could get through those problems and recover from the heartaches and it was easier to move on. I learned to be so very grateful for the grace and forgiveness that God gave me through Jesus and am more able to show grace and forgiveness to others around me. You know, that makes life easier for me! Not letting anger and frustration with other people rule my life and being able to let go of those kind of things does more for ME than it does for the people that I am showing grace to! People notice how I USUALLY don't let things get to me and how I seem pretty "zen" about most things. When appropriate, I share that my ability to be "zen" about things comes from God and not from anything that I am doing. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love others. I try to live by those commandments each day. Like Whispering Danny, I find that I receive guidance, support and help in my life each day and I am sure it comes from my loving Father God!

I am Second!

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am Second - Day 2 - A Father's love

David McKenna (click on this link to watch the video)


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"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." -- John 15:12

David talks about how he thinks his father is a good illustration of what our Heavenly Father is to us...holding our hand and stroking our head and never giving up on us, even when we have done terrible things. I have always felt that way as well. My dad loved me and showed me that love all the time and always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. He encouraged me and supported me, and forgave me when I did things he didn't approve of.

When we put God, our Heavenly Father, first in our lives, we begin to FEEL that fatherly love, encouragement and support, even if we can't see Him. I can't explain it. I don't understand all of God's mysteries, but I know in my heart and soul He is there and loves me unconditionally. 

David also says in his video that there is not always a later. We think that we can put off our relationship with God until we are in a better place, until we kick the bad habits we have, until we become a better person, until we have time...there is not always a later. If we truly believe that God can love us unconditionally, then there's no reason to wait until we are "better." God loves you RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! If you reach out to Him, He will reach back and hold your hand and stroke your head and you will feel that fatherly love flow over you. I know this because I have experienced it myself.

If you already know this fatherly love, then you can share it with others. In the video, Dave explained that he needed love when he was weak. His parents showed him that love. However, there are people in the world who don't have loving and supportive people around them. If you see someone hurting in your life, reach out to them today. Or, just do something nice for someone you come in contact with. Buy a cup of coffee for the janitor. Call your mom. Pay for a stranger's lunch. Jesus commanded us to love others the way He loves us. We can show this love in very simple ways. Put God first in your life, and you will discover many ways to show His love to people you meet. I am Second!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

I am Second - Day 1


I am Second - Brian "Head" Welch (click on this link to watch the video)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28

A year or so ago, my pastor did a sermon series based around the "I am Second" concept. This is a movement of all kinds of people who are living their lives for God, instead of for themselves and telling their stories. There is a website where people from all walks of life tell their I am Second stories. They are very powerful. During my pastor's sermon series, he handed out "I am Second" bracelets. I still wear mine every day. Some people have asked me what it means, and that has given me a chance to tell them that I live my life for God and put myself second.

I recently went back to the I am Second website and  started watching some of the videos. They really touched my heart because there are some people who really lay their hearts right out there and tell how God saved them, brought them out of a bad situation, helped them accomplish dreams and made their lives so much better. I decided that I wanted to share these videos with others, so for the next several days, I would like to share an I am Second video here on my blog and hope that someone who really needs to see it will see it.

I am not perfect by a long shot, and I make many mistakes every day, but I KNOW that my life is better and even a little bit easier with God in it and with Jesus walking beside me. That may sound like a lot of bunk to some of my friends, but it is what gets me through the day and enables me to do all the things I do in my life! I am second!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Full of sap at 90!

"They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green," -- Psalm 92:14

"Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent." -- Psalm 71:1

"Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" -- Proverbs 16:31

Yesterday I wrote about treasured memories of my childhood. I so enjoyed and reveled in those memories and thought about how much better things were then than now. I longed for the simplicity of my youth. Then, last night, I went to dinner with a friend of mine who is celebrating her 90th birthday today. I could not help but think that I want to be HER when I grow up to be 90!

This woman, who may not be as spry as she used to be, is still so full of life!  A born storyteller, my friend loves to share her life with others through her stories. She wrote a book about her stories a year or so and those of us that have read her book adore this woman even more! But, I discovered last night, there are many more stories that didn't make it into the book. She has many life adventures and misadventures to tell about.

There is the story about her flagging down and riding with a trucker when her car broke down on the highway...did I mention she was well into her 60's or 70's at the time? This adventurous woman has driven the Yukon highway, went skydiving, as well as trying other daring escapades in her old age, after teaching in the classroom for 30 years. She knows who she is and is true to that person, not caring with others think about her. She enjoys people so much and people enjoy being with her as well. I would say that even at 90 years old, she is most definitely still full of sap!

She has inspired me to not just look at my wonderful childhood years with longing, but to make the last half of my life wonderful too! I will be 45 next month, so I AM exactly half as old as my friend. I want to remain full of sap for the rest of my life and do daring things and things that excite me every day. I want to spend time with people that I enjoy, tell stories and do things now that I can tell stories about when I am 90!

So, today I say Happy Birthday to my friend Mary Shrader! May she continue to tell stories and inspire people around her for many years to come! May I keep Mary in my heart as I grow older and remember her example the next time I look at my childhood with longing instead of looking at my present and my future with the same kind of excitement and hope!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Treasured Summer Childhood Memories...


"You who are young, make the most of your youth. Relish your youthful vigor. Follow the impulses of your heart. If something looks good to you, pursue it. But know also that not just anything goes; You have to answer to God for every last bit of it. Live footloose and fancy free - You won't be young forever. Youth lasts about as long as smoke" -- Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, The Message Translation

Have you ever had moments when you feel like you could just reach out an touch memories from the past? Lately, I have been in a nostalgic mood, thinking about my childhood. Finding old pictures, like the ones above, just reinforce this mood. I was so lucky and so blessed to have almost an idyllic childhood. I lived in a small little town until I was 16, but I spent most of my weekends and basically every summer on my grandparent's farm. My brother and I were expected to do our part to help out, whether it be pulling weeds in the garden, mowing the yard, helping in the barn, or...my "forever" job...doing the dishes! It wasn't always work we had to do. There was a lot of play time on the farm as well. Those are the moments I remember most.

My cousins, who lived out of state, would come home most summers and spend time on Grandpa's farm with us. Remembering back, there were endless things for us to do, and my cousins had such great imaginations, that I don't think we were ever bored. Sometimes we would put on our long sleeved shirts and go berry pickin'. (You can't say picking...it just isn't the same!) We would take those green and tan woven baskets that Bloomer's candy came in, or if the berry pickin' were a last minute adventure, we just strung the berries on a long stem of timothy hay. The big green "head" of the timothy kept the big, purple berries from falling off. Our fingers were stained purple for days, and we ended up eating more that we took home, but it was so much fun! Of course, we had to be on the lookout for snakes...my Grandpa always said if you smelled cucumbers, a copper head was near! I don't think I ever saw a snake on those trips, but I sure kept my guard up!

We would play a lot of make believe games. We pretended we were the family on the old show "Big Valley." I don't know why it was that show, except I think my cousin had a crush on "Heath" played by Lee Majors. Sometimes those make believe games would take place in the barn, where we made elaborate homes in the hay loft. We moved hay bales around so we had a living room, kitchen and bedrooms. One bale would be the refrigerator, one bale would be the stove. HOURS were spent in those hay houses! I'm not sure my dad and grandpa were pleased with the way we messed up their nicely stacked hay bales, but they never said too much. Being in the barn was also a lovely place to be in a thunderstorm. We would either hide out in our hay house, or sit in the big back window of the barn, watching it rain and listening to the steady rhythm of the rain hitting the old tin roof. 

Hay baling days were also a highlight of the summer! I'm sure for my dad, grandpa and uncles, it was a lot of exhausting work, but for us kids, it was the ride that we loved. We'd sit at the back of the wagon and watch the square bales kajunk, kajunk, kajunk out of the baler. It was a steady rhythm that could very easily lull you to sleep. My uncle would pull the bales out of the baler with his metal hook and stack them, starting at the back of the wagon. As the stack would get higher and higher, us kids would climb up so we were sitting on top. Riding around the hay field on that wagon as it filled up with that sweet smelling hay was such fun! We would sing and chew on a piece of hay and hate for the ride to be over. It was always stifling hot, but we didn't seem to mind so much! There was always a jug of ice cold water on the wagon somewhere, although we always made sure there was enough for the hard working guys!

Big family meals to feed all the workers always followed. So much food! Everyone sitting around the table, eating and telling stories about the day's work. There was always dessert! My favorite was cherry pie made from the sour cherries picked fresh from the tree. Oh, and the special days when we cranked homemade ice cream! It always took SO LONG to crank! We kids got to take turns turning the handle around and around, with our foot on the base to hold it steady. The salt and the ice on the top was cold and gritty, but we knew the sweet goodness that was waiting in that shiny metal can! It would get too hard for us to turn and the men would take over. Scooping out the pure white ice cream was a joy! Oh the headache I would get because I ate the super cold stuff too fast, but it was worth it! Grandma always got to eat the ice cream off the beaters in the middle of the can.

These memories bring joy to my heart and a tear to my eye. I long for the simplicity of those days I spent as a kid growing up on the farm. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything! I thank my parents and my grandparents for giving me those opportunities and the chance to live free and easy. I also thank God for blessing me so greatly! I treasure those memories and get them out in my mind from time to time. Youth does last about as long as smoke, but the memories of those days will live in my heart forever!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

...the kind of worshipers the Father seeks

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” -- John 4:23-24

"...the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" As usual, when I study or think about a certain verse in the Bible, it leads to more questions. We often talk about how we "find" the Lord, but who is HE looking for?  How does one become that kind of worshiper? What is God wanting to hear in my worship?

I have been thinking a lot about worship lately. I have been working with the kids at my church during KidsPraise to help them learn why we sing worship songs and helping them feel free to sing and dance and clap their praises to God during those songs. It is a struggle as many of the kids say they don't like to sing. Some of them don't follow along because they don't want to look silly. Some of my kids are very young and can't read the words to the songs on the screen. Some of the kids are 4th and 5th graders and it is just not "cool." 

Maybe I am just going at it from the wrong angle. Jesus is saying in the verse above that we are true worshipers when we worship the Father in spirit and in truth. There are have been many interpretations as to what this phrase means exactly. But for me today, it hit me that you cannot force or coerce someone into worship. It must be coming from inside and be honest and sincere. God is not looking for a "follow the leader" kind of worship, but praise that comes from the heart.

And who says that true worship has to come from songs? Jesus said that God is spirit, meaning that He is everywhere and all the time. We don't have to wait for the praise music and we don't even have to be in church to praise God in worship! The child that learns to thank God for his food before eating is praising God in worship. The little girl who thanks God for her Mommy and Daddy at bedtime is praising God in worship. The little boy who gets excited at the thunder and lightning in a storm and exclaims that God is powerful is praising God in worship!

Knowing that God is SEEKING those who are true worshipers makes me WANT to praise him more and makes me respect those who worship Him in different ways. A friend recently reminded me that he was one of those quiet worshipers who didn't raise his hands and shout and clap and sing loudly. He felt that perhaps I was thinking that those who didn't do those things weren't truly worshiping. You know, he might have been right. Because music moves me and creates an opening in my heart for the Holy Spirit, I just assumed that God works the same in others. That assumption was wrong. God is looking for people who praise Him and honor Him in worship that is real and true and comes from their heart. Only God knows what is true for each person.

Today, I praise and thank God for teaching me and expanding my heart. I want to be the kind of worshiper that He seeks every day. I know that God is real and very much alive everywhere around me! I praise Him in this moment with all that is in my heart.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Hope springs from our suffering...

"Through [Jesus] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we glory in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." -- Romans 5:2-5

I don't want to steal any thunder from my pastor's sermon yesterday, the topic of HOPE has been on my mind a lot for the last 24 hours.

There is a man who goes to our church and I have known him all my life. 27 years ago, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Tragic, frustrating, frightening and disheartening as I am sure that news was to Larry and his family, he kept plugging on. Surgery after surgery, disappointment after disappointment, he refused to give up on his life and relied on God to see him through and he is still alive and kicking YEARS after that original devastating diagnosis. Larry has been an inspiration to many people of the years, but yesterday, he became an even bigger inspiration to me.

This past fall and into December, Larry had yet another bad spell that left him very near death. Although we were all praying for him, most of us thought that this was finally the end to this sweet man's life. But, in typical Larry style, he just refused to give up. With his family and friends rallying around him, he has bounced back! Even though his doctors said he would never get out of the wheelchair, with the help of his walker, he walked across the stage yesterday morning to sing with the men's ensemble, the Plainsmen. And they sang TWICE! All that know Larry and his struggles were amazed and filled with hope for their own lives. Larry is the perfect example of the Roman's verses above.

Larry had expectations for his life. This brain tumor messed up those expectations and caused suffering his life. He and his family have prayed, yelled, cried and yet fully relied on God to help them through this suffering. Because of their faith, God sent the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen them and they made it through each step of this pain. It was not easy, but Larry, his wife, children and now grandchildren have all developed strong character. This character helps them look back at the struggle and see how faithful God has been to them. From this springs Hope. They can have hope in any situation that comes into their lives because they can remember the path that they have traveled to this point. I'm sure it is still not easy for them, but if you look at this family, you will see a lot of strength, a lot of smiling, a lot of laughter and and a lot of love flowing out of every one of them...all because of Larry's brain tumor and his amazing God-honoring life.

My life has it's own struggles, not near as dire as a brain tumor. When I am feeling low and wondering where God is during my time of pain, I hope I can picture Larry, up on that stage, singing his heart out. That picture in my mind and in my heart will give me the inspiration and hope I need to know that God is with me and will allow me to keep pushing and moving forward, never giving up. For without those struggles, I would not know the beauty of God's grace. I can stand in God's grace through my faith. I know that I am not alone in this thinking. What an amazing and inspiring legacy for Larry's life!


Friday, April 19, 2013

God's Promises...

" You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised" -- Hebrews 10:36

In the last few days, I have been thinking and studying about God's promises. There is so MUCH to think and study about; I don't even know where to begin writing today. I think I will write over several days on this topic.

What ARE God's promises? There are MANY listed in the Bible. Here is a sample:

* He will ever leave or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
* He wants to prosper you and give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
* He will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
* He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.(Isaiah 40:29)
* He will give us peace of mind so we are not troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)
* All who listen to God will live in peace, untroubled by fear and harm. (Proverbs 1:33)
* God will supply all your needs. (Philippians 4:19)
* Nothing can separate us from God's love. (Romans 8:38-39)

These promises sound pretty good, especially in the aftermath of the Boston bombings and explosions in Texas, not to mention the violence and discord in all other areas of our world. They sound pretty good, but can we believe them? Can we hold on to them? Can we REALLY stand on those promises?

In studying the verses above and many others, I am coming to realize that God has some unconditional promises, and ones that are conditional as well.

I believe that God loves ALL his children. That means those that follow him and those who want nothing to do with him. He wants ALL his children with him forever, but he knows that because of the free will he gave us, some will choose not to come to him. He promises to save anyone who asks.

Romans 10:9 states: "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." -- I believe that is unconditional, all you have to do is ask and you will be saved. Once you ask, God says that NOTHING can separate you from his love. THAT is a promise!

However, if you want the promised peace, joy, strength and power in the verses above, I believe God wants a little more from you. He wants you to abide in him. He wants you to follow him, he wants you to believe in him. He wants you to talk and walk with him every day. IF you do those things, then you will receive his promises. If God is just an afterthought, or someone you call out to only when you are in trouble, then you can't expect to feel the peace and rest he promises.

How can I say these things? How can I know?  I have experienced it! I HAVE used God as an afterthought. I HAVE ignored his teachings and warnings. I HAVE run away from his loving arms. During those times, I felt alone, lost, troubled and afraid. Those times lasted a LONG time! Did God love me then? Yes, I believe he did. But, I wasn't able to experience the joy of God's promises because I wasn't living up to his conditions. They are only conditions because he knows that when you do rely on him every day, his peace settles over you BECAUSE you are relying on him instead of yourself.

When I discovered the peace that comes when I talk, walk and live WITH God, I knew that he DOES keep his promises. Bad things still happen to me and I still have troubles, but with God in the picture every step of the way, the fear, worry and depression doesn't last as long or go as deep as it did before. I CAN show love to those who have hurt me. I CAN find the strength to do the things that scare me. I CAN give more than I receive. I persevere and try to follow God's will for my life instead of my own, knowing that God will keep his promises to me. I am standing on those promises today. I am not special. You can receive God's promised peace, strength and protection too. Just start talking to him and walking with him every day and you will begin to feel the benefit of standing on his promises as well!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A morning prayer

"Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and have himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." == Ephesians 5:1-2

All I have is a prayer today:

Loving Father God, help me to practice what I preach as I write. My writings are full of high and lofty ideals, all based on Your word and your love and Spirit that lives inside of me. I long to tell your story and touch the hearts of the people who read what I write, and I totally believe that You guide my mind and my fingers as I type. I don't want them just to be words. I want them to be actions steps in the way I live my life.

Lord, help me today to be a good friend, to speak in love and not anger, to see people as You see them, to be obedient to your Word and Your calling for me. When I am frustrated, worried and afraid, let me first run to you and lay it all at your feet and surrender those hurtful things to you. Then, help me to trust You enough to let them go and move on. When there is someone in front of me who needs to hear about you, give me the courage and boldness to speak of my faith and how you have blessed me.

May these not be just words on a screen, but living, breathing examples of how you have made me new. You bless me in so many ways. Help me to remember that and be the woman you are calling me to be.

In Jesus' name,
Amen

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

You've got a friend in me...

“A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” Proverbs 17:17

"Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

"Let us therefor make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." -- Romans 14:19

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." -- Hebrews 10:24

Let's talk about friendship. I say this because I am getting the feeling God really wants to talk to me about friendship. It is the virtue of the month in our KidsPraise program. We talked about being a good friend and an encourager at a recent small group meeting. I am contemplating the hard task of saying goodbye to very dear friends in the near future. I have new friends at work. And this morning, my Bible study lesson was all about friendship. I also feel part of the reason the world seems like such a harsh place is that many people don't really know how to be an encouraging friend.

Facebook is a wonderful tool to stay connected to our friends. I rely on it every day to communicate and share with many people I have met or am acquainted with in my life. However, being friends on Facebook is not where we should stop when it comes to friendship. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, and it is impossible to be real, true, life-long, encouraging friends with all of them! A true friend does more than give you a :-) on your birthday and a nice comment on the picture you posted of your latest Pinterest post.

By reading the verses above, you can see that being a real friend takes a lot of commitment and is a HUGE responsibility.
* loving at all times
* there in times of trouble
* encouraging
* building up
* bring peace
* work toward mutual edification
* spur on towards peace and good deeds

If you have a friend who does those things for you, than you have a TRUE friend! A friend like that gets you through life. A friend like that leads you to be a better person. A friend like that can save your life!

A friend like that thinks of others before themselves. In our society, that is not the norm. We are led to believe we have to look out for ourselves because no one else will. The "dog-eat-dog" world we live in leads us to superficial friendships that we use to get us to the next place we are going. We want influential friends. We want friends who are just like us. We don't want to WORK at our friendships. Our friends are for the fun times. And we certainly don't want to get into THEIR business. When our friends are in trouble, we are too busy in our own lives to help them.

In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons the world is such a harsh and ugly place sometimes. People really don't know how to BE a friend and don't know the blessings of HAVING a friend. Hebrews 3:13 warns us that we do not encourage others and get encouragement ourselves, we can become hardened by sin's deceitfulness. WOW! Doesn't that describe a lot of people in this world? They are hardened by life. Without a friend to encourage and soften those hard edges, our hearts become hard and we are even further away from being able to encourage others. The cycle just continues, and we end up in a cold, hard, and closed off world.

So, let's work at being better friends. What can you do today to encourage someone you are close to? It may mean using that Facebook tool to send an encouraging message to a friend who is having a hard time. Send a card. Send a text. Give someone a call. Go visit someone who you haven't seen for a while. What you will find is that when you ARE a friend to someone, you will RECEIVE the blessings of friendship as well. If each of us would be a better friend to just a few of the people closest to us, and really get invested in their lives, it will cause a ripple effect. The benefits of true friendship will make this world a better place!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Listening...He calls...


"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." -- 2 Peter 1:3

He has given us everything we need for a godly life...

He called us...

It's all about listening, isn't it? I mean what is the difference between the girl struggling with troubles and problems of this world on her own and the girl who relies on God to get her through those troubles and problems of the world?

God created each of us...he breathed life into us, no matter where on earth we were born, what religion we were brought up in or not brought up in, what we believe or don't believe...God created us. He gave each of us everything we need to live a godly life. He calls to each of us...

So many questions come to my mind from that statement, but all I want to do right now is focus on listening. I hear Him calling and I answer. Some days I need to listen harder than others. Some days I don't hear. Some days I ignore what I hear. Some days, like today, God seems to be everywhere, whispering through everything I come in contact with. I can't ignore it, even if I wanted to. God's plan for my salvation in Christ and the lessons that Jesus teaches us are EVERYWHERE today! I CHOOSE to listen and am reminded that he gives me everything I need to live the life he wants me to live. I don't need anything else...I don't need to look for fulfillment anywhere else or in anything else. My knowledge of Him who gives me strength and wisdom, clarity and passion, love and protection, hope and peace...THAT knowledge moves me forward to give back to him with glory and praise in everything that I do!

What is the difference between me and a girl who struggles with troubles and problems of this world on her own? I listened. I believe. I have everything I need.

Dear Father God,
I am so incredibly grateful to you today for calling me! I thank you so much that I am able to let go of the "stuff" of this world in order to listen and give you back the glory and praise that you so greatly deserve! Thank you for giving me everything I need to live the life you want me to live. Help me to give you glory in everything I do today so it is yet another whisper of your grace in the ear of someone else's ear today! Amen.