Faith

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see . . .  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,6

Faith is a difficult thing to express and define, isn’t it? Are there degrees of faith? Can you have a little? Or is it something you have to believe in with all your heart?

We speak of having faith in others and then they let us down. I speak of having faith in God, and then at times, it is as if I don’t have the deep faith I thought I had – at least not with 100% certainty.

If you were asked to express the meaning of your faith in God, what would your response be? I looked in several dictionary sources to see how Webster’s and others might define faith, and all of them seemed so inadequate and devoid of emotion. None of them seemed to describe in a heartfelt way one of the most foundational truths we as Christians have.

The common theme among all of them was: “a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” This definition of faith seems to imply that our minds can accept and believe in something that is totally unfounded, and just made by a conscious decision. For some things, that might be true. But, if you have ever tried to convince individuals to have faith, or more faith, in God, you have probably seen how difficult it is to get them to trust and believe. Their minds are filled with questions as they seek proof and logic. And if they don’t feel the need or have the emotions of the heart, having faith just seems senseless and unreliable to them.

Although I believe God has shown and certainly proven His authority and veracity with all of creation and with His presence in our lives and in our world, He has no need or desire to prove Himself. He asks us to accept him purely on faith. Faith is not dependent on a list of doctrines, or on how many times God has answered our prayers. Nor is it even based on our determination to believe in Him.

Our faith in God truly begins in the heart. When we can begin to believe in God – when we can come to the place where we can truly know that He lives in our hearts – when we can feel with all certainty that His presence is with us, when we see His faithfulness in difficult times, and when we truly understand how much He loves us, we can begin to trust in Him. Then the mind can begin to accept or become aware of His truths.

Our faith grows because of our own personal experiences with God, and we can and should help others to trust Him more with our own testimonies about His love and grace. We can never base our faith just on what God has done in our lives without basing it on who He is. We must see Him as our loving Creator and Sustainer of life.

Faith instills hope and helps us to understand the truths that give meaning and purpose to life. As much as we want to believe that if He truly loves us, He would answer our prayers in the way we want them answered, we also have to trust His promise that somehow, someway, He will work all things for our good. As difficult as that is, when we can finally wrap our minds around the incomprehensible idea that He loves us, wants the best for us, and will always be with us, then we can trust Him with all our hearts.

This beautiful definition of faith found in His Word sums it up much better than any dictionary ever could: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  

Don’t we all long to know that someone truly cares for us and is watching out for us? Wouldn’t it be so reassuring to know that we can depend on that “someone” totally, 100% of the time, with all assurance and certainty, and with no doubt whatsoever, even when we can’t see evidence of it? What freedom to be able to rest in God, to know and trust completely and undeniably in a God who loves us and has our best interests at heart!

We have that, right before us. But to receive that gift of His grace, we must believe IN God and trust IN His promises. To do so is a journey, a process, a “walk of faith”, and as we continue to travel it, His presence and truths will become even more real and precious to us, and our faith will grow if we “earnestly seek Him”.

 Prayer

Dear God, thank you for your promises and truths found in your Word. Help us to increase our trust in You, and to remember all the times you have been faithful to us with your presence, your strength, your comfort, and your love. What greater gift could there possibly be in this life than to know that you are with us and desire what is best for us. We are so grateful for your grace and the promise of eternal life with you. Amen

Sharpen One Another

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

I have some interesting questions for us to think about. Who would you say are the people in your life who have influenced you the most? Who has had the most spiritual influence on you? And who in your life keeps you “sharp” for being the person Christ would have you be?

If you are like me, my answers came pretty quickly. Undoubtedly, my parents were by far the most influential people in my life. My dad taught me the importance of hard work and through that work ethic, he taught me how to earn value and worth as a person through my efforts. He was the one who planted the seed that I should become a teacher. It was his dream from as early as I can remember, and it gave me confidence that he believed in that possibility. That inspired me to always try to do my best and make good grades. But it was when I was in Mrs. Edith Carson’s 5th grade class that she grew that seed even more with her love and enthusiasm for teaching. I knew then, that I wanted to be the teacher she was, and she became my inspiration throughout my career.

But, I would have to say that it was my mother who was first and foremost the most influential person in my life in every way. She was such an example of a loving, caring mother with the most unselfish and compassionate heart. But most importantly, she was, and has been a spiritual influence throughout my life. She had the most unwavering faith, the sweetest hope and joy in Christ, and a love for Scripture that has inspired me to read, learn, and appreciate His Word even more. Even after she left us, her love of God and faith still lingers and she “sharpens” me every day with her memory. I want her strong faith. I want her deep trust in God and her hope for all eternity. She gives me the courage and strength to face each difficulty or situation that comes my way, and I am so very grateful for the lessons she taught me.

Then, there are many others I could name who have “sharpened” me with their faith – family, friends, and church members, and I feel so blessed to have had such wonderful godly, Christian people walking along side of me throughout my life.

Food for thought, isn’t it, especially when we think about the people in our lives who continue to “sharpen” us like iron. The images of iron are used throughout Scripture in a number of ways, but it always represents strength and endurance.

All of us are impacted in some way by the people who pass in and out of our lives. Some give us strength and encouragement, help our faith to grow, and inspire us to be the individuals Christ would have us be. Others hinder our spiritual growth, distract us from God and our faith, and keep us from growing into who we could be. We become those we associate with and they help form our present values, convictions, morals, habits, and goals in life. We need people in our lives who will inspire, motivate, and help us to be faithful and loving individuals.

Then comes one more important question for us to think about – Are we one of those who helps “sharpen”, or one who “dulls” another person’s potential to grow in Christ?

 Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the people in our lives who have given us a heritage of faith and trust in you, and for those who have helped our faith to grow. Help us to be individuals who can help “sharpen” others with our encouragement and love to become the person you would have them be. Amen

Come and Rest

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6: 31

Is there anything more peaceful than just sitting and watching snow fall as it blankets the ground and fills the trees?  Yesterday as I did so, I felt guilty because there were so many things I should have been doing! Yet, these times are so rare to just soak in the beauty of nature, and I did so, just enjoying the stillness and God’s loving presence with me.

Why is it that we often feel so uncomfortable just resting, being still, and enjoying the quiet? The idea is even quite foreign to most of us who have never been conditioned to do so. Our lives are much too busy, too noisy, too preoccupied to even think of taking the time! Could it be that we actually don’t like the idea of being still, sitting in the quietness, and being alone? Do we fear the thoughts and emotions that might rise to the surface if we did?

Yet, we are weary and tired people, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are so many demands on our lives, so many expectations others have of us, so much to get done on our lists, so much to worry and think about, and so little time for any of it. We all seem to have “hurry sickness” – always on the go, “a blender brain” – with thoughts swirling around in our heads, and “mental chatter” – as we remind ourselves of all we have to do. Our bodies and minds are exhausted, overwhelmed, and often numb as we go through the motions of living.

Life can become mundane and monotonous, and our hearts can become so filled with loneliness, heartache, worry, shame, guilt, longings that haven’t been met, disappointments in relationships, hurtful experiences of the past, lost hopes for the future, and a deep restlessness of spirit, that there is little room left over for our loving God and especially no room for the joys of life.

He understands and He knows just what we need. He has a gift for us and that gift is rest. He longs to fill us with His calmness and peace. The words of this verse call out to us in such an intimate, loving way, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 

Can you imagine any more loving words than for our Savior and Lord to say to each of us, “Come with Me. Spend time with Me. Let me rest your weary soul.” Not rest as in sleeping, or reading, or listening to music, but quiet time spent alone with Him to refresh our spirits, quiet our souls, and renew our trust in Him to take all our cares away.

Jesus said these words to His own followers when he saw them pressed on all sides, being overwhelmed by prayer requests, and not even having time to stop and eat and rest. And He knows what we face in our present time and the fast-paced life we live. These are the same urgent requests He gives us today – stop, rest, find quiet, get away, refresh. Even He regularly withdrew to be alone and pray with His Father, and He knows we need it even more!

We need to rest in His stillness and feel His love. And in the quietness, we need to celebrate all that is good and beautiful. As we rest in Him, He will give us the assurance that all is well. Can you imagine the freedom of just letting it all go, freeing your mind of all the cares and worries of this world and spending time with our God who loves us so and longs to give us rest? What a gift He is offering us!

 Prayer

Our heavenly Father, we know of your deep love for us and of your desire for us to come to you for needed rest. Help us to take that brief period of time with you each day to forget the cares of this world so you can quiet our restless spirits and fill us with your love, grace, and assurance. Amen.

Fear Not For You are Mine

But now, this is what the Lord says – He who has created you . . . “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, their flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43: 1 – 3

Fear is such a basic human instinct. I recently read that it is “one of the most common and damaging emotions we can have”. 

But, thankfully, God understands that about us, and it may be why the phrase “FEAR NOT!” is found in Scripture over 60 times. He knows it is our nature to fear, especially the unknown – those uncharted waters we haven’t sailed through before, especially the future for some of us who tend to fret and worry the most. And then there are the dangers we worry about – the ones that we know we and our loved ones are surrounded by every day of our lives – things we can never foresee or prevent. The psychological experts tell us to face our fears head on, and then they are no longer so frightening. We are to deal with them, gain victory over them, and move on. Easier said than done, isn’t it?

I remember a Ladies Bible study that addressed this issue, and we were to write down our 3 biggest fears. Then we were to think about what would happen if those fears came true. Of course, the answer is that life goes on, and God will be there to help us get through those challenging times. We have His assurance that He will give us the mercy and grace to handle whatever they may be.

Yet, we question and don’t understand why they occur, or why they might come to some people and not to others. We have seen and heard stories of horrible, tragic events that have happened to individuals and families, and we may think to ourselves that there is no way we could endure such a tragedy. Yet, we have seen evidence of those who have, many with a deep, abiding faith, who have gone through enormous pain and have handled it with such strength, grace, and trust in God. And hopefully by the grace of God, so would we. The human spirit is amazingly resilient, and God makes it possible to do so, as He carries us through these difficult times.

I am so comforted by this verse and its message. We see that God cares for His creations, He knows us by name, and He calls us His. He tells us He will be with us as we pass “through the waters and through the fires” of life. The experiences in our lives may be painful and frightening, but we have His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us – no matter what we may go through – flood, fire, accidents, illness, and even death. What a reassuring thought to know that we, or our loved ones, may not make it through to continue life in this world, but we have His promise that He will be with us as He carries us into the next.

We may not know WHAT the future holds, but we know WHO holds the future. I try to remember these words as I get anxious and fearful. He cares for us. He claims us as His own and is very protective and loving of us. May the reminder of His love and divine presence help calm our fears and anxious hearts. May we trust in Him.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you that you carry us through the painful and frightening events in our lives. Thank you for your divine protection and for the mercy and grace you give us. May we place our fears in your hands and trust in you always. Amen

Build Each Other Up

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doingI Thessalonians 5: 11

Are friends not one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer! And if you are blessed to have really good ones as I do, they truly care about your well-being and they love you unconditionally for who you are. They can be so encouraging, supportive, and complimentary – even when we know that we don’t deserve it. And often, it’s as if they know right when we need them most and exactly what we need to hear!

And who else is more deserving of our encouragement and love than those who are most dear to us. Often we are so busy or complacent with our families that we don’t even take their need of encouragement into consideration – our spouses, children, parents, siblings, and any other relatives closest to us. We need to “build them up” each and every day by letting them know that we value and appreciate them and will always be there to encourage and cheer them on.

A kind word or a compliment can be the biggest blessing. As Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” When we are discouraged, doubting ourselves or feeling worthless, when we’re struggling or confused, or when we are in pain or facing a difficult situation, words can be so healing, strengthening, and renewing. God knows this is a harsh world we live in, and we need all the encouragement we can get – not from just our loved ones and friends, but from anyone and everyone. We all can use more kindness – in whatever form it comes!

Sometimes even our silence can speak volumes and can be so hurtful. It can make a person feel so insignificant or unworthy of our time or attention. God wants us to consider one another’s feelings or need for encouragement, affirmation, appreciation, and love. And yet, in our selfish natures, we often find ourselves more focused on “me” than on others. We don’t take the time or make the effort, or we purposely withhold words that we know someone needs or would long to hear. We need to make more of an effort to focus on others and be the affirming voice they need.

We recognize the power of our words to inflict pain, but they can also be equally as powerful in conveying love and concern.  God desires for us to edify and “build” each other up – not just those who are our friends or loved ones, but everyone around us – strangers and even those we find difficult to love, and in doing so, we are honoring Him. He sees into our hearts and our true motivations.

This statement sums it up well: “Words can be a window into our souls and our speech can reveal our hearts.” May we become better instruments of His love and grace and encourage each other.

 Prayer

Our most kind and loving Father, thank you for the gift of friends and loved ones you have placed in our lives. Help us to be mindful of their needs, as well as, those of all others in our path, and may we encourage them with our words. May we take advantage of the opportunities we have been given to share your love and grace to those who need it most. Amen

Worship the Lord of Heaven and Earth

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. Acts 17: 24 – 25

Today is a day of worship and many of us will be doing so in our own churches. But this verse reminds us that God is not confined to a temple or dwelling. God lives in our hearts, and as believers, we can worship Him anywhere.

For those who say they don’t find it necessary or important to be in church to worship God because they can sense His presence on a golf course, in the woods hiking, or sitting on their deck enjoying the beauty of the day, this passage confirms their beliefs. This may even take away some of those little “twinges of guilt” they may have been feeling.

But there’s more – if those who believe this are really more interested in relaxing their minds and bodies and enjoying nature, rather than on the true meaning of worship – it’s not a very strong position to take! For true “worship” has significance quite different than merely just sensing God’s presence and basking in our world’s beauty. True worship should be a time in which we are refreshing our spirits and spending time with our Creator in gratitude and praise.

Billy Graham, the much renowned and respected evangelist, has described it this way: “Worship takes place when we focus our hearts and minds completely on God. When we truly are worshipping God, our whole attention is on Him – who He is, how great He is, what He has done for us, how much He loves us. Only then can we praise Him as we should, and only then can we grow closer to Him. Our goal should be the same as that of the psalmist: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name’. (Psalm 103:1). Whenever our hearts are focused on God, then we can worship Him – whether we are walking in the woods He created, or reading our Bibles to discover His truth, or joining together with other believers in church.”

In other words, we can behold God’s beauty and glory anywhere, but to acknowledge it, appreciate it, and give Him honor and glory for it, is essential to our praise and worship. Everything that exists comes from His hands. We need to seek Him and come to know His loving nature through hearing His Word and spending time in His presence. We need to recognize that our amazing God has infinite knowledge that is the essence of His being.

Scripture tells us that His ways are unfathomable and unsearchable, and His character is perfect and compassionate. He gives us the gift of life and breath, and He lives in our hearts. We worship Him, not because He needs anything that we can give Him, but rather, because He is continually giving to us. He supports life and all of His creations with His divine providence. Since He is all sufficient, we can give Him nothing He needs, but we can and should give Him what He deserves, and that is our worship.

God loves us and longs to be with us. He cares about our lives, and He is aware of all things. What a comforting and wonderful thought!

Worshipping God should be about encountering Him, connecting with Him in a deep, personal, and passionate way and expressing our love and adoration for Him. God wants more than our presence in church with Him on Sunday mornings.  He wants all of us, all of the time – our minds, bodies, emotions, hearts, and souls. Our worship should be done with enthusiasm, joy, and gratitude and a desire to catch a glimpse of God Himself to refresh our spirits and renew our trust in Him.

What a gift it is to do so, for as we worship and praise Him, our eyes are taken off our own circumstances and the problems of this world and placed on Him, who will carry us through all life has to bring. Let us worship the Lord of heaven and earth in spirit and in truth always.

Prayer

Dear Lord of all creation, may we worship you with humble, loving hearts full of honor and praise for all the many blessings of life you give us. May we not look just to satisfy our own desires, but to have a personal encounter with you and worship you in spirit and truth with our entire being. In your most holy name we pray. Amen

Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23 – 24  

Years ago, Bob and I saw a movie in which a young man died in a tragic accident and went to heaven. Once he arrived, as he stood with Christ, he saw images and flashes of his life played out before him on a big screen. As he watched with sadness, he saw what effect his words and actions had had on others during his lifetime, and he felt such heartache for the pain and despair he had unknowingly caused.

I have thought of this scene so many times in the years since and have wondered about my own actions. Doesn’t just the thought of such a scene make us want to look into our own hearts, and try to see if in the deepest recesses of our souls, we might discover some unknown darkness or evil hidden within?

Do you think it would be possible to do so? Could we be objective enough about ourselves to see our own faults, perceptive enough to understand why they are there, and sincere enough to correct them?

David, who wrote so eloquently of his emotions in many of the psalms in the book of Psalm, knew only God could truly see. Scripture tells us clearly that sometimes we can’t trust our own hearts and they can be deceitful and lead us astray. Many of our experiences from the past or our own selfish desires can come into play in our heart feelings and decisions. David understood this all too well.

In this prayer, he is  humbly asking God to search his heart and his thoughts, to make him aware of any wrongdoing or misplaced motives that might be found and to test Him to see if he was found trustworthy. He didn’t want there to be anything to keep him from being who God would have him be, or from receiving the blessings that God wished to bestow upon his life. He fully understood God’s omnipresence (ability to be everywhere and there is nowhere He is not) and His omniscience (He knows everything and there is nothing to be known that He doesn’t already know).

He knew God had already seen into his heart and knew what was there. Yet, he recognized that he needed God’s insight and guidance to transform his heart into what God would have it be. He knew all too well that his thoughts, just like our own, could be too anxious, fearful, untrusting, and unbelieving at times. Yet, even his willingness to say this prayer and to ask God to reveal what He found, is evidence of God’s indwelling spirit in David, and of his desire to place his life in His hands. He had a loving heart for his God and longed to please Him.

We, too, need to pray for God to search our hearts and thoughts. We need Him to help us see through all the disguises and facades we may try to present to others. And even more, we need His love and grace to reveal what is found and to help us to correct it.

Would He find us to be insecure, arrogant, weak, greedy, revengeful, mean-spirited, angry, jealous, self-absorbed, prideful, fearful, or full of hopelessness or despair? What truly lies beneath the surface that we have to keep pushing down to keep it from flowing outward?

We need Him to help us keep our hearts pure and filled with strong faith and goodness, so we can be those individuals He created us to be. What a gift to be able to say, “God, my life is completely yours and I trust in you to lead me in the way everlasting.”

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving God, you know our hearts and what lies within. Search us and help us to abandon our own will to yours and trust in you completely. Help us to transform our hearts and be the individuals you fully intended for us to be when you created us. Thank you for your love, grace, and peace. Amen

Serve Him Only

Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the people around you. Deuteronomy 6:13

When I was a child, I loved my dad dearly, but I also had a healthy fear of him. My brothers, sisters, and I respected him, and if he told us to do something, we did it! I never wanted to disobey or disappoint him in any way. I honored his role as our father and I listened to his direction and guidance. He had high expectations for us, and they were to honor God, respect our parents, to work hard, and to be the best individuals we could possibly be.

God, our Father, deserves no less. He too has expectations for us. Among them were the 10 commandments that He gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai to give to the people, and in doing so, God made it very clear which one was of the highest priority.

This verse speaks to both the first and second of those commandments: 1) You shall have no other gods before you; and 2) You shall not make yourselves a graven image or idol. God again makes it clear that we are to respect (fear) and honor Him, to serve only Him, and to have no other ”gods” or idols before Him. When God created us, He intended for us to love, worship, and glorify Him, as He alone is worthy of our worship.

If we were to be asked if we have any others gods we worship besides the one true God, I am sure our first reaction would be to say, “Of course not, I know there is only one God.”

But yet sadly, we all do have our “idols” in this 21st century culture we live in. When we think of “other gods” we tend to think of statues and objects made of wood or stone, reminiscent of those of pagan worshippers of long ago. Yet, an idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives.

In thinking about where our hearts and our passions lie, we need to examine the things that take up most of our time and efforts and keep us from focusing on Him. What things separate us from God? These “modern idols” can be our possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol or drugs, fashion, pornography, or even our family and friends – anything can become our “god” if we are so devoted to it that it leaves little time or space in our hearts for Him.

Yet, as we come to know God more and trust Him with our lives, we learn that all other idolatrous pursuits will leave us empty and unsatisfied. If God is not placed first, it seems we are always searching for that one thing to fill our hearts and souls, that thing that will make us truly happy. But yet, it is only God who can fill the longings we have deep down in our hearts. Only He is worthy of our devotion. May we love and serve only Him. He alone deserves our honor and praise.

Prayer

Dear God, we know that we can become so distracted by worldly pursuits that we often take our eyes off of you. Help us to search our hearts for where our passions lie and to refocus our priorities on you. You, Lord, are the only one who is worthy of our honor, glory, and praise. Thank you for loving us even when we don’t live up to your expectations for us. In your most holy name we pray. Amen 

May God Bless You

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6: 24 – 26

God’s Word is filled with such beauty, wisdom, and grace that sometimes a passage can just speak for itself! This is one of those times!

You may recognize these verses as a benediction that is often given at the end of a worship service, and if you are like me, each time we see or hear it, we are in awe of His love for us and His desire to give us the blessings of life.

But if we take a closer look at these verses, a few questions come to mind. What does the word “blessing” mean to each of us? What images come to mind when someone says to us “God bless you”? What do we truly hope for or think of in terms of wanting God’s blessings for ourselves and others?

There are many Scripture passages in which God’s message is clear – He desires to bless His people who come to Him in faith and obedience. He wants us to know the joys of life and He graciously and lovingly gives His goodness to us.

To really understand the beauty and the significance behind these words, it helps to visualize the image in which they were given. Before the people of Israel were allowed to enter the Promised Land, God had provided them with priests to lead them in worship. He gave these priests specific instructions to carry out each morning – to stretch their hands out over the people as they said these words of promise in keeping with His covenant with them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;  the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

God knew His people would need the daily reminder to continue to be faithful to Him and to remember that if they did so, He would give them abundant blessings. These weren’t just words being uttered by men; this was a message directly from God Himself, speaking to them in a personal and intimate way, as He used the word “you” over and over again. It signifies the personal relationship He desires to have with each of us who is to receive His blessing.

As God did so many centuries ago, He is doing so today. He is offering Himself to us and promising to give us the things that all humans seek from Him in life, no matter the times in which we live or the circumstances. He knows our hearts. He understands our desire to live, to have the necessary provisions that we need to do so to be healthy, and to receive the fruits of our labor. He knows that we want His care to protect and keep us from harm and that we need His presence to carry us through the difficulties of life.

But our God also desires to give us more – joy, contentment, peace, His grace and love. In these beautiful words from God Himself, we see that He desires to be faithful to us in return for our faithfulness to Him. He vows to bless us and keep us. He promises His face will shine upon us when our spirits are burdened by the cares of life, and He will turn His loving countenance upon us in our time of need. What blessings He has to give!

Why some are blessed more than others, we can’t know or understand. Only God does. But as we pray these blessings upon others, may we be prayerfully inviting God’s involvement and intervention into their lives. Hopefully our blessings will offer encouragement and the reminder that God’s omnipotent hand is always ready to touch them in whatever way is needed in their present situation. He gives the blessings of life. May He bless you always!

  Prayer   

Dear God, we come to you with humble and grateful hearts for the blessings of life that only you can give – our family and friends, the provisions we need to live and abundantly more, the beauty of our world around us, the freedoms that we have, the fellowship with other believers, your presence in our lives, and for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. Bless those we care about, dear Lord, and let your face shine upon them. And may the hearts of those who don’t know about your love and grace, be opened to you. We give you all honor, praise, and glory. Amen 

We are the Clay and God is the Potter

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Do you remember the famous, romantic scene with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze at the potter’s wheel in the movie Ghost while “Unchained Melody” played in the background? I think pottery classes became the new sensation after its release in 1990!

If you have seen it, or have made clay pots, bowls, or jars yourself, then you understand the process and know how much work goes into it – kneading the raw clay to remove air bubbles, adding just enough water to make the clay stick together (it will crack from too much or crumble from too little,) planning the shape of the vessel, placing the clay in the middle of the wheel as you squeeze it to mold and shape it, baking it to harden it into a container, scrubbing off the impurities, and then painting and signing it, baking it again to set the glaze, and then proudly holding the finished product before you.

It is the same process that has been used for centuries, and we understand the importance of these clay vessels during early biblical times. How fitting that the prophet Isaiah chose to use this comparison in showing us how God molds, shape, and refines us into the individuals He desires us to be. What images that brings to mind!

In many ways, it is an amazing testament to God’s sovereignty over our lives – if we are willing to give ourselves to Him – to think of Him as the Potter and we, as the clay. He put much thought and planning into creating us, just as the potter does each vessel he makes.

How would our outward appearance look? What would our purpose be? If He placed us in the center of His love and attention, just as the clay was placed in the center of the wheel, would we remain there with Him, and let Him continue to mold and shape us throughout our lives? Just as the impurities were removed from the clay vessels to make them more useful, God will seek to remove our own, as He takes us through His “refining process“. He may test our genuineness of faith and commitment to Him, to see if we will be able to stand under undue pressure and prove to be useful for the work He has planned for us.

What a beautiful analogy of God taking the time to think about us, look upon us, work on us, knead us, place His hand upon us, lead us into and through the fire, glaze us with His anointing grace, and then place His name upon us, as His child. We can be assured that the “refining will come, and if we are found to be genuine, the Potter’s work will be done.

God has a picture in mind of who He created us to be, and if we will let Him make us into that being, He will give us unimaginable joy in this life and in the one to come. As he molds us, applies pressure in certain areas, and leads us into the “refining fires”, we may not like what we have to go through to become the transformed vessel He desires us to be. As painful and difficult as these experiences are, they are necessary.

Many of us may feel as if we have already gone through this process at some point in our lives, but others may lie ahead. One thing we can be assured of is that God will perfect us into His finished product. I pray that we can stay centered in Him and that He will be a constant source of strength, comfort, and love as He shapes us with His loving hands. A beautiful vessel will remain – deserving of His love and grace – one that will surely give Him honor and glory, and one worthy of an eternal home with Him.

Prayer

Dear God, you are our Creator and Sustainer of life. You have made us and you continue to shape and mold us into the individuals you would have us be for your kingdom. May we let you work in us, in our lives, to become the beautiful “vessel” of your love and grace that you would have us be. Amen

Rejoice in the Day

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118: 24

Some days I can feel so blessed and go through the entire day saying little prayers of gratitude, and then others, sadly, it’s as if I hardly notice. But yesterday was one of those I could appreciate! I think I smiled all through it, and caught myself saying over and over, “Thank you, God, for the joy of this moment and for this day!”  

Our little guys were out of school, and it had been much too long since we had seen them, so we surprised them with a visit. Seeing their excited faces was just priceless, and their hugs were warm and genuine. As they get older, we know the time will come when seeing their grandparents won’t be quite as exciting, so we take advantage of every opportunity we get!

As we get older, I think we all begin to realize just how swiftly life passes by. When I see parents exasperated by their kids, I just want to say to them, “This will pass. It will go so quickly. Just embrace it and enjoy the ride!” 

I guess this is the best explanation I have for why I want to hold on to these times with our grandkids and never take a moment of them for granted. It’s rare that I, or any of us, stop long enough in our busy lives to appreciate these times as they happen, but one thing I am learning in my “older years” is that life is made up of moments in time, such as these.

Some are so sweet and amazing that you can hardly take it all in, and you don’t want them to end. You grab hold of them, take every bit of the joy out of them you can, you remember and cherish them, and you relive them in your mind over and over again. They keep you hoping for and anticipating more.

Then, there are others that are so painful that they totally change who you are forever; they scar your heart and touch your soul, and you never forget them. You may painfully revisit them just for the truth they hold, or you may try to bury them deep inside. It’s not as if we wait for more, but we know with certainty that they will come again. Life, we have learned, can be very unpredictable and often unkind. How grateful I am for a loving God who understands our feelings and loves us through these difficult times.

And then, there are the peaceful moments – the ones you spend quietly with those you love, that you spend alone in reflection, or especially those you spend with God. In prayer, meditation, reading His Word, these moments refresh your spirit, rest your weary mind, and quiet your soul. Some of these times have brought me the most peace and contentment, and I long for more.

But then, there’s the remainder of the time that fills our lives, and it seems to consist mostly of pure FLUFF – stuff that fills up our days and nights. The time passes and you never really remember how or what really happened. The days are busy with work, responsibilities, and activities, and the weeks, months and years quickly pass by. And as you reflect on them, the only things that stand out in your memory are those moments.

Those moments, especially the good ones, we live for. Our spirits long for the happiness they bring. The bad ones, as difficult as they are, may bring the realization of how valuable they can be – they can teach us and transform us into more loving and much stronger individuals for the lessons learned about the value of life. And the quiet ones, they feed our souls and give us the strength to continue.

These moments make up our days, and we are more grateful for some than others. But shouldn’t we be grateful for each one? If only we could wake each morning with gratitude for the gift of life and go to sleep rejoicing for the day we just had?

Yes, some days are hard, stressful, anxious, or even bring sadness and despair, but every day is “a day that the Lord has made” and given to us. And each one brings blessings of its own. May we always remember to cherish, and thank Him for the gift of each one.

Prayer 

Our most gracious and loving Father, we thank you for the blessings of life. Instill in us a grateful heart and help us to see all the ways we can rejoice in each new day you give us. Thank you for the families and loved ones you have placed in our lives and for the love and joy they bring. Amen

God’s Gift of Grace

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is  the gift of God – not by works, so that no once can boast. Ephesians 2: 8 – 9

Yesterday afternoon Bob and I attended the funeral of a dear friend from our church. It was a wonderful service, so fitting for the faithful and loving servant he has been during his life. His favorite song, that beautiful old hymn, “Amazing Grace“, was sung, accompanied by a violin and guitar. As I closed my eyes and listened to those sweet words, the tears came – not only for the loss we all felt, but also for the way this song touches my heart.

What is it about this hymn that brings out so many emotions? It seems to be more than the melody or even the words. Could it be that it reminds us once again of God’s wonderful love and presence, and how truly unworthy we are to receive His gift of  grace?

But do we fully understand the magnitude of what has been referred to as “the greatest gift ever given”?  Phillip Yancey, one of my favorite Christian authors, in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? explains it this way:“God is the God of all grace” in the apostle Paul’s words. And grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make Him love me less. It means that I, even I, who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.”

What is this gift of grace and why is it truly so amazing? “Grace” can be defined as God’s goodwill, His loving kindness, unmerited favor, and His goodness to us, even when we have done nothing to deserve it. As if we ever could! It almost seems incomprehensible. Why would God do such a thing when we are so unworthy?

To understand, we need to look at the nature of God and realize it is because of His infinite love for us and His desire to give us a more abundant life. Along with His love, comes His amazing grace. To realize how truly undeserving we are, we should search our hearts and souls, our lives, the things that are significant to us and weigh what we find. How we all fall so short of His expectations for us. He longs to see something of His own image reflected in us, but how little He finds. The things of this world seem to fill up the spaces in our hearts and in our lives, and there is little room for Him.

Yet, He won’t give up on us. He continues to lavish His grace upon us, and all He asks in return is that in accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, we let Him into our lives. In doing so, God is bringing us to Him, with the hope that He can redeem us and make us into who He knows we can be.

It is by God’s grace we have been saved and given the abundant life He has to offer. It is not by faith, our own righteousness, or by any good deeds we have done. It comes “not from ourselves“, but from Him, and only He deserves the glory for the gift of His amazing grace.

Prayer 

Dear God, we know how unworthy we are to be called a child of yours, but yet you continue to love us and pour down your blessings upon us. We thank you for your amazing grace and for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. May we honor Him with our lives and give you all honor and glory for the gift of life eternal. Amen

The God of Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15: 13

Last night before our little guys went to bed, they called to tell us about their day! Miles, our 7 year old grandson, had his first basketball game of the season, and he was really disappointed that they lost! But he said he hoped they would play better in the next game, and then, he knew they would win! Cole, our 4 year old, told us he missed us and he hoped we would come to see him soon.

I love their sweet expectations for what lies ahead. The disappointments of life that we adults sometimes experience haven’t dampened their spirits. They live with such hope and enthusiasm for life. How grateful I am that in their sweet innocence, they go to sleep each night with the assurace that tomorrow is going to be just as wonderful as today, if not better!

Hope – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen – that human thread that connects us with God and His grace. What power His Spirit can give to sustain us and carry us through the difficulties of life.

But yet, there seems to be so much hopelessness and despair in our world. So many people seem to be living as if they can no longer dream and hope for a better future or have a life filled with meaning and joy. What can we do when those around us are beginning to lose that precious gift of hope?

Even those of us who know God’s love and grace can sometimes feel just as hopeless and full of despair as we face uncertain times. How can we, too, keep from losing the hope that our loving God longs to give us? How can we instill that message of hope in our children and grandchildren’s hearts and minds that they will need in the coming years, if we don’t have it ourselves?

This walk of faith is such a journey, a process, a path that can lead us in so many directions, as we go back and forth from strong in spirit to weak in faith. How weary and overburdened we can become as we struggle with life and its many problems.

God knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own, so He sent His Spirit to live within us. As we go through the peaks and valleys of life, we need this Spirit to fill us with His love and grace. We need our own spirits refreshed, our resolve to trust in Him strengthened, and our hearts lifted up to Him. We need to go to Him, seek Him, spend time with Him, pray, and read His Word.

We must know this amazing God for who He is. If we can’t sense His presence, feel His love, and tender mercy, comfort, assurance, peace, and joy, then we can never experience the power of His grace. But through truly knowing Him and understanding His unconditional love and care, we can trust in Him and live each day without fear.

What security His promises and love can give us. We can have the hope in Him that we need for the future, no matter what circumstances may arise. We can face an uncertain tomorrow, for we have Him today – and for all eternity. We must encourage others to look to Him and not give up on hope.

He is the God of hope. We can hold on to Him, and He will give us His mercy and grace, and fill our lives with joy and peace.

Prayer

Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for the hope you provide through the power of your Holy Spirit within us, but even more we thank you for your presence in our lives and the love and care we know you will always provide no matter what situations we may face. What peace and joy you can bring to our lives if we will only trust in you. Amen

Rest For Our Souls

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and  I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11: 28 – 29

Can you remember a time when you were a child and you fell or got upset over something, and your parent or another loving adult, called to you and said, “Come to me!” and you ran into their arms and your hurt went away? Don’t we as adults sometimes wish we could do the same – to just run to someone who would lovingly enfold us, comfort us, and take away all our pain and sorrow?

We all have our burdens – no one is immune, and there is no age limit or economic barrier to the burdens of life. They may be  physical, emotional, or spiritual ones, but no matter what they are, they bring deep and personal pain. It’s just simply a reality that life can sometimes be difficult and cause deep despair.

At times, we may try to share our feelings with others and they may offer their encouragement, strength, and love, and it alleviates some of our pain just to know they care. Yet, those feelings remain, and we still feel the weight of their heaviness. Some of us may even be carrying a burden that God never intended for us to carry, but we insist on doing so. And then at other times, we may try to shoulder them alone. We may even convince ourselves that this is what God would have us do, or it is what we deserve. And often these burdens can get so heavy, that we honestly think they are more than we can bear and that we can’t go on. Then where should we turn and what should we do?

Jesus’s words in this verse are some of the most comforting in all of Scripture. For He tells us exactly what He longs for us to do. When we get the most anxious, saddened, or deeply grieved, we should imagine that we are sitting by His feet, with His hand resting on ours, and then with all humility and sincerity, we should tell Him what is on our hearts and express our pain and despair.

Can you even imagine how He would lovingly listen to us, gently assure us of His love, help us with the burdens we carry, and then gently give our weary soul rest. What a gift He longs to give us, and that is for us to rest in Him – to let it all go, to turn it all over to Him, and to find quiet peace in His loving presence.

The truth is we were never meant to do it alone. When God created us, He knew we would need more than ourselves to handle the cares of this world. So He sent His Son, who gave us this loving message of hope: “Come to me. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. I will give you rest.” 

What a beautiful metaphor of His love and grace to help us carry the burdens of life. Jesus wants to help us with the heaviness of life. He asks us to take His yoke upon ourselves and let Him help us carry the load. God knew we would need a connection to Him, and that we would need direction to be able to move forward. He provides that guidance by saying, “Come to me. Let me take your burdens and give you rest.”   

He loves us, cares for us, and He will meet our needs. And it may be part of His sovereign plan to take the burden completely away from us, or He may lift us up and help us carry the burden through the journey He has planned for us. Either way, we will know that He is with us and our hearts will be lighter.

In order for Him to give us rest, we must come to Him humbly, surrendering our will to His and trusting in His grace. When we can do so, we will experience a freedom we never knew possible and then we can rest in His loving presence.

Prayer  

Dear Lord, we are so thankful that we can come to you when our minds and hearts are weary from worry. If we could only learn to turn our burdens over to you in the beginning instead of trying to carry them alone, we would find the peace that our souls long for. Thank you for your sovereign love and care. Amen

God Determines Our Steps

In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

As our kids were growing up, we always loved hearing their plans for the future. They changed many times through the years, but after they became young adults, they seemed to have a path mapped out, filled with hope and good things ahead.

We did the same – our plans were to get married, have kids, buy a house, send the kids to college, retire, etc.  But in all the dreams and plans I had, God far exceeded my own expectations. There was so much more joy, pride in overcoming challenges, unexpected surprises, the most amazing blessings, and more love than I could have ever imagined.

Yes, there were difficult, sad, and painful times, as well, that I could have never fathomed, but with God’s grace, we overcame them. And this, in reflecting back over those years has to have been the greatest and most unexpected gift of them all – God’s presence.

From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a teacher, one that could inspire kids to have a love of reading and learning. But beyond this plan, with all my heart, the only other thing that I wanted was a family to love and care for, and for us to be happy. Beyond that, I really didn’t care for wealth, success, or notoriety, nor did I plan on what that “happiness” would entail. Nor did I ever imagine that God would be such a significant part of my life and happiness.

I had my plans. I plotted the course, and I learned about God along the way, and the years slipped by. But the places he carried me, the steps He determined” for me were far beyond my own simple plans. How grateful I am that he directed my path and filled in the twists and turns and decorated” it with such color and joy along the way.

Life is good, and as for the future? The last few years for Bob and me have made it much harder to plan – unexpected heart issues seem to make all plans unpredictable and unnecessary. But it also puts much more emphasis on today and making the best of each one and just enjoying every moment. Besides, we have the confidence of knowing that God too will determine this path, and wherever it takes us, His grace and presence will be with us.

So my advice to my children and to anyone else would be to simply include God in your plans. When you chart your future, when you dream and plan, know that God has something in mind for you. He will determine your path and it will include more than you could ever hope for. Look to Him for guidance and direction, and no matter where He takes you, know that His love and grace will follow.

 Prayer

Dear God, how grateful I am that my life was never in my hands. What a mess I would have made of things, and how boring and predictable it might have been. Thank you for the path you have provided and for all the joy along the way, especially the joy of making this journey with you. Thank you for all the many blessings of life and for your loving care. Amen

Think About Praiseworthy Things

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8      

Attitude is such a key ingredient to being happy, isn’t it? The mind can put us in such a dark place if we let it. The thoughts we dwell on – fear, sadness, hurt feelings, regrets, disappointments, insecurities, jealousy, greed, pain, and anger can eat away at our contentment and keep us from experiencing true joy in life. Just waking up and feeling grateful for life’s many blessings can change the course of a day.

This verse tells us to think about what is “lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy”  and how many wonderful blessings that does include! We should concentrate on God’s goodness to us, take notice of the beauty of His creation around us, and appreciate the people He has placed in our path. How much we miss out on just by being so self-absorbed and pre-occupied with things in life that really don’t matter anyway.

Today is a gift, and we know we aren’t promised tomorrow. The years go by so quickly, and those we love leave us. Let’s enjoy the gift of time and those precious moments we can’t ever get back. May we never take one day of it for granted. Let’s cherish life and give God the honor, praise, and glory He so deserves.

 Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, help us keep our thoughts on things that bring joy and contentment to our lives – on the good things, on the blessings around us, and especially on you. We praise you for your goodness to us. Amen

All Wisdom and Knowledge Comes From Him

 If you look for it (wisdom) as for silver, and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear (respect and reverence) of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2: 3 – 6

“I love it when somebody sees me, screams my name and then runs to hug me! It’s called being a grandparent!” How true this is! There is no sweeter gift than to hear the words, “Nan and Granddad, we are so happy to see you!” What joy it always brings us to be so welcomed and loved by our little boys.

I saw this quote and many others on Facebook today, a social media website in which friends connect with each other by posting pictures, comments, and other interesting tidbits, such as these little “profound” sayings about life. And of course, they are seen not just here, but in many situations as others seek to offer encouragement, insight, and hope into life and relationships and all its complexities.

But so many times I smile as I read them, because a Scripture verse will come to mind with the same message. For God’s Word is filled with much wisdom about knowledge, discernment, love, charity, forgiveness, strength, faith, peace, hope, and meaningful ways to live a happy and productive life. As I read them, I wondered if most people even know where these wise sayings originate.

Do they even realize that they came from our Creator, Provider, and Teacher of all deep and profound knowledge? We may use different words, or catchy, cute little phrases to describe these truths, but the message is the same. God gives wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. These sayings aren’t “something new under the sun” – they are based on God’s love and desire for us to live the best life possible through Him.

As for the first quote above about being a grandparent, God understands fully how important it is for us to feel loved and acknowledged. He knows how we long to be called by name, for He has assured us that He knows each one of us and longs to surround us with His presence.

Others I read today included these:

1.   “You were given life because you are strong enough to live it!  

 I like this version in Philippians 2: 4 much better: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

2.  “Love is everything! Love with all your heart!”

John says it much clearer in 1 John 4:7“Dear friends, let us love one another,  for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

3.  “Never give up! Keep trying! These times will pass! Put on a smile and your dreams will come true.”

This one could be based on many sources, but here is one: Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4: 20 – 21

4.  “What a beautiful morning! What a beauty filled day! Forget your troubles! Go out and enjoy it!”

This verse says it best: Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 21 – 22

These “wise” little sayings are interesting to read and often very uplifting and encouraging, but it is reassuring and comforting to know that they came from God Himself, who truly knows us and understands what we need. He is the source of our real hope and inspiration, for no matter how strong and resolved we may become on our own, handling many of life’s situations requires more.

We need His strength, comfort, love and assurance that He will help us through whatever we may face in life. For who could understand what we need better than the Creator Himself who made us! His words give us understanding and knowledge about life – of more value and worth than silver or any hidden treasure!

 Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Father, thank you that we have more than an inspirational message we have heard or read. We are so grateful to have your presence, love and assurance that you will always be with us and carry us through whatever life may bring. Thank you for the knowledge, wisdom, and grace that you give us to understand, trust, and believe in you. We give you all honor, glory and praise. Amen

The Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

Sometimes life can just get too busy, and we don’t take the time to stop and enjoy the simple things of life. We are involved in so many things, and have so much to do, that even if we do have the time, TV, sports, entertainment, computers, I-phones, reading, and so many other things can occupy our minds.

January is especially such an opportune time to become distracted by these things, as it is usually cold, dreary, and uninspiring. But today, for some reason, I took notice.

It has been raining for days, and it was so good to see the rays of the sun once again! Yes, the trees are bare, the grass is greenish brown, and there is little color to brighten the landscape, but today the sky was glorious! It was the most beautiful blue, and a few white, fluffy clouds floated through the heavens. I noticed. I soaked it in. I basked in its beauty. The warmth of the sun felt good, even in the slight chill of the air, and the air smelled fresh and inviting. I even stopped long enough to not only enjoy the scene before me, but to give God praise for the beauty of His creation.

And then as God so often does, He gave me an unexpected gift. Beth Moore, one of my favorite Bible study authors, calls them “God-stops” – those little things that God knows will bring us pleasure or joy. They are never really miraculous or overwhelming, but they can stop you in your tracks, and you are reminded of His love and goodness.

Bob called for me to come to the bay window and look. And there in our backyard were 5 deer – probably a mother, father, and their 3 little ones. We stood there spellbound as we watched their quiet beauty and gracefulness. They seemed so content, as they even looked our way several times, and were totally unconcerned that we were close by watching. Time stopped. and we barely breathed, for fear we would startle them and they would run out of sight.

Then it was over, almost as quickly as it came. But it was a gift, and I saw the work of His hands, and I appreciated the beauty of His creation.

 Prayer

Dear God, Creator of the universe and of life itself, thank you for your glorious workmanship. May we never be too busy or too pre-occupied to stop and take notice and appreciate what you have so lovingly given us to enjoy. Thank you for all the blessings of life. Amen

Don’t Forget the Lord Your God

Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Deuteronomy 8: 11 – 14

How easy it is not to think of God when everything in our lives is going well and we don’t feel as if we need Him. We don’t pray as much, think about His presence very often, and if we do attend church, it can easily just become routine, and we really don’t feel the need to praise Him or seek His love and grace.

This verse reminds us of the story of the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land. After being brought out of slavery and wandering through the wilderness for 40 years, living in tents and harsh shelters, depending on God for their food – manna that fell from heaven each day – they were finally permitted to enter their new land. As they do so, God strictly warns them, that even though they will lack for nothing, they must not forget Him and His protection, the provisions He has given them, and His loving care through the years. But forget Him they did.

How easy it is to do so when things are going well, or in times of abundant blessings or wealth. He becomes irrelevant, no longer needed. We gradually allow Him less and less involvement in our lives. We don’t necessarily reject Him; we tend to forget all about Him. We become proud and think we have done it all ourselves. We even convince ourselves that we can get along just fine without Him.

But how can we ever forget the One who made it all possible, who is responsible for giving us the blessings we have? The One we will cry out to when difficulties arise? The One who is always there waiting for our return? He is the One who gives us life, and we should honor Him and give Him praise each and everyday. We must not forget Him, His commands, His goodness to us, and the promise of His saving grace for all eternity.

 Prayer

Our most gracious God, who rejoices with us in our good times and mourns with us in times of despair, help us to never turn away from you. Thank you for loving us even when we don’t deserve it. May our hearts be filled with love and praise for you always. Amen. 

Care About Others

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

Do you ever wonder if you are a self-centered person? Do you ever ask yourself if you are really interested in other people’s lives and truly want to help them, or make them happy?

These questions and this verse can really make us search our hearts. I like to think that I am a loving and caring wife, mother, grandmother, daughter-in-law, sister, friend, and neighbor. I am more than willing to do anything they ask of me, or what I feel they need me to do. And if you asked my kids, they would probably tell you that I am even a “little” annoying because they don’t want the offers of my help as much as I give them! I try to explain that I am doing so out of love and concern for them, and they explain how they don’t want me doing things for the same reason. I do really try to always show my concern, offer encouragement, and express my affection and love. I want the people in my life to know what they mean to me.

But what about those beyond the people I know and care about? I try to be mindful of what others are going through and share the blessings I have been given. I have done volunteer work in our church and community, and we sponsor a child in Ghana through Compassion Ministries. But other than these small gestures and helping my close circle of family, friends, and church family, do I really care about the needs of others? And if so, do I show it? Or am I just so self-absorbed in my own little world that I can’t even see beyond it? What a humbling thought and one that shames me to think about.

This verse is a good reminder that we as Christians have certain responsibilities beyond ourselves and our families. Paul is writing to the new believers in the church of Philippi and he gives them this message, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ, and you should be humble in love, spirit, and purpose.” (paraphrased from verses preceding this one). “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

God wants us, He commands us, to demonstrate a sincere interest in the happiness and well-being of others. He wants us to break beyond that narrow spirit of selfishness that we may possess and show kindness, love and benevolence, in whatever form is needed, to others. And one of the greatest gifts we can give someone is to pray for them. If we see or hear of someone suffering for whatever reason, or if they are going through a difficult time, even if we don’t know their names, we can lift them up in prayer to a God who does know, and who knows exactly what they need.

What a good reminder that we need to expand our “small circle” and reach out to others with kindness and grace.

 Prayer

Dear God, help us not to be so self-absorbed with our own lives that we fail to see those around us who might need our compassionate “interest” in their lives. Help us to share your love and grace with others. Amen

God Commands His Angels

 For he will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91: 11 – 12

“I believe there are angels among us/ Sent down to us from somewhere up above/ They come to you and me in our darkest hour/ To show us how to live/ To teach us how to give/ To guide us with the light of love.” 

 Do you remember these words from the Alabama song from the early 90’s, called “There are Angels Among Us”? What a comforting message, and I do believe these heavenly beings are here with us! And sometimes I even imagine their presence bringing protection and comfort.

For many years, Bob spent much time traveling, especially flying, for his job. For quite awhile in the beginning, I would get really anxious and fearful each time he left. I imagined the plane crashing, I would think of how I would never see him again, and how our 2 small kids and I would be left without their dad.

But gradually with time, I began to handle it differently. Each time I knew he had boarded his flight and taken off, I would begin to visualize angels beneath the plane, lovingly supporting it, carrying him to safety. Silly, I know, but it gave me peace and strength, and my anxiety and fear soon left. Each time he traveled, I became more confident that he would return safely.

I had forgotten this until a few months ago when Kelly, Drue, and our 2 grandsons were flying to visit friends. I was saying prayers as it neared time for them to depart, and suddenly this memory surfaced. It gave me comfort once again to think of them being delivered safely by these “ministering spirits” of God.

This morning I needed to visualize these heavenly beings once again as our 7 year old grandson, Miles, and his dad were flying to Philadelphia to watch a friend play basketball and to visit relatives. And gratefully those angels “carried” them to safety.

How many stories have we heard of people suddenly and mysteriously appearing to help someone in need? We watch movies and TV shows about these beings, and we may have images of angels in various forms in our homes. It’s as if we want to believe that they exist, and that they surround us, protect us, and keep us from harm, but we’re just not sure that they aren’t just some mystical, fantasy creatures.

Many books have been written on the topic and even some scholarly theologians have weighed in on the issue, but what does God’s Word say about the existence of these divine beings?  Surprisingly, there is actually much biblical basis that they do indeed exist. There are references to them in Scripture nearly 300 times, found throughout the Old and New Testaments.

I find it amazing that God wanted to give us such overwhelming evidence of their presence! His Word tells us that there are “armies of angels” serving God and doing His will, and that they are His messengers – sent to guide us, protect us, minister to us, strengthen us, encourage us, and deliver us. And there seems to be evidence to suggest that we may each have our own guardian angel who cares for us on this earth and who will lovingly escort us from this world into the next.

Mystical indeed, when we consider that sometimes they may be sent to us in the form of another fellow human being, or they may appear in unseen spiritual form, but we are told they are real; they exist. I believe in these divine messengers, and today, they are carrying some pretty precious cargo over the skies!

What love our God has for us to send His angels to walk with us and to keep us in His care.

 Prayer

Dear God, thank you for your angels who minister to us in ways that we can’t even imagine. Thank you for knowing that sometimes we need more than ourselves as we travel through this journey of life. Thank you for your Spirit who lives in us and gives us your guidance, strength, and peace, and for all the ways you keep us in your care. Your amazing love for us is incomprehensible, and we give you all glory, honor, and praise for it. Amen

My Times are in Your Hands

But I will trust in You, O Lord; I say, you are my God. My times are in your hands. Psalm 31: 14 – 15

Don’t we all have those dates on the calendar that can bring so many memories and arouse so many emotions! Today, January 10th, was one of those days!

Our kids, Kelly and Scott, called this morning to wish me a “Happy Anniversary” and to tell me how grateful they are that I am doing so well. I was surprised  and really touched that they remembered, and it is definitely not one of those days anyone would normally get excited about or celebrate! Yet, it is one in which I will always be reminded of how much God has blessed me in so many wonderful ways, and of how grateful I am for the gift of life.

Two years ago on this day, I had open heart surgery to replace my aorta valve, and a year and half before, I had an unexpected, frightening experience that resulted in a life-saving pacemaker. These were difficult and painful experiences for me and for our family. My nature has always been to become overly anxious and fearful in difficult situations. I imagine all the different scenarios that can take place and what effect it will have on our lives, but during these experiences, I felt such an amazing peace and calmness, an unbelievable quietness in my soul. God opened my heart to Him in a way I never could have imagined.

During each, I knew without a doubt that there was a possibility that my life could end and I would die, but for some reason I couldn’t even understand myself, I had no fear. I knew that He was with me and I felt His strength. He gave me a glimpse into His deep love for me, the power of His presence, and the peace that only He can give. I felt secure, wrapped in His love, and I was able to let go of all the emotions and fear, and just completely rest and trust in Him. I can say with the most grateful heart, that it was through His presence, His all-consuming love, and His precious grace that I was able to do so, and what a wonderful place to be.

It’s not easy to talk about life changing experiences, and I don’t do it often enough. Yet, I see things so much clearer. My understanding is so much deeper. And when we experience His loving nature, see His hand in our lives, and feel His presence in such a personal way, how can we not share our stories? We need to give that message of hope to those who don’t begin to understand what our God can do.

I love the beautiful words in this verse: “I will trust in You, O Lord;  I say you are my God. My times are in your hands.” You are MY God. What comforting, reassuring words! He is our God, yours and mine. He longs to show Himself to each of us. If we will truly trust in Him and believe in His love for us, He will give us His strength and amazing grace to face whatever life may bring. Our times are in His hands. We can have the confidence of knowing that we can always trust in Him.

 Prayer

Dear God, thank you for always being faithful to us, for carrying us through some difficult times, and for always being there with your love, mercy, and grace. May we encourage each other in faith, find strength in your Word, and live always in your most loving presence. Amen 

The Peace of Christ

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

These days I have found that I have much peace. Through the years, I have come to realize this feeling can be one of the greatest gifts we can be given – that feeling that all is well. Amidst all the anxiety and stress around us, this is not an easy “place” to find. We can always find something to worry about, to fear, to dread, to regret, to grieve over, to be insecure, or uncertain about. These things can fill the spaces in our hearts and leave little room for God’s presence and His love.

As I think back over my working days when my kids were small, Bob was traveling on business, I was trying to help care for my mother as much as possible, I felt such pressure to get everything done, and it seemed I never had enough time with my family, I now realize how much peace and contentment I missed. I shouldn’t have let my heart become so troubled, my body get so weary, and my mind filled with so much stress and despair. I should have depended on God, done what was necessary, and found more joy in the simple, quiet things of life. I didn’t always have to be so busy or feel so burdened. I could have placed those things I worried so much about in His hands and had the confidence and assurance that He was always with me and would carry me through. How much time I wasted worrying about things of little importance or fearing things that never came to be.

I am so grateful for these retired days. I have learned that I can actually rest and spend some quiet time with God. But I am even more grateful for the gift of knowing I can let go of so many of those things I use to worry about, even if I sometimes falter. Resting in Him can bring such a freedom from the heavy burdens and cares of the world – the need to fix everything and to be able to control the events in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

What a gift when we can finally come to the place of knowing God walks with us and all will be well. I pray we will find that place of peace He longs to give us and rest in Him.

 Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for the peace and assurance that only you can give. Help us that we can always place our cares and concerns in your hands. Calm our anxious hearts in difficult times and fill us with your strength, grace and loving presence. Amen  

On the Palms of His Hands

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before Me. Isaiah 49:16

Our daughter, Kelly, is so faithful to send us a brief text on most days to let us know how the boys are doing. Their Granddad is much worse than I am and gets very anxious to hear about their day! Tonight she wrote that the boys had a great day at school, but after having gone for a couple of days after the Christmas break, they were really tired. She said that Cole was especially excited to have a job in his 4 year old preschool class today. That made me smile because I know what a really big deal this is to him. I remembered going to his 3’s class with him last year around this time of year, and I had written this in my daily journal:

Today I received the sweetest blessing. I went with Cole to his 3 year old preschool class at his church. We listened quietly as his teacher called out the names ofthe helpers of the day”. Each child’s face lit up as his/her name was called. Cole’s wasn’t, and I wondered if that bothered him at all. He must have read my mind, because as we got up to go to the next activity, he whispered to me, “I didn’t get to be a helper today, Nan, but that’s ok. I will another day.” I gave him a quick hug and was so proud of him.

I remember wanting his name to be called so badly. I so wanted him to feel important and as special as I know him to be. We all want to feel unique, appreciated, and loved. It is a human need, and one so important for a child. This world is a harsh place, and it will get even more difficult for him as the years go by. I want him to feel so loved, so valued, so confident – ready to take on all the disappointments and difficulties that may come his way. But one thing I know with certainty, is that these little boys do always feel very much loved and appreciated by their family. But even more, I know they are growing up with the knowledge that God loves them. And what a gift it is for us, who love them so dearly, to know that God even knows their names.

What a beautiful comforting verse. I have you engraved on the palms of my hands.” Each of us is known by Him and are always before Him. How unique, special, and cared for that should make us feel! We may not always be honored enough or valued enough to have our names called by those around us, but we are called by name by the One who created us, loves us, and wants the best for us. He knows us. He thinks we’re really special! What great assurance that gives me to know that He knows and loves these 2 precious, little boys and that He holds them in his hands.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the knowledge that our names are engraved on the palms of your hands, and that our lives are ever before you. Life here on this earth can sometimes be difficult and painful, and our bodies and minds can become weary, but the assurance of your presence and love can carry us through. Thank you for always loving us so unconditionally. Amen

The Power of Our Words

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 7 – 8

I wonder how many of my hurtful words my kids remember me saying when they were young. The words that came out when I was tired, frustrated, upset over something that happened at school during that particular day, words that had power in them to wound, words that had nothing to do with them. Oh, how I wish I could take them back! All I can do is tell them, “I am so sorry and I surely didn’t mean them.”

Don’t we all have those times that we have said something in haste, with a little anger or sarcasm, using words that hurt, words that won’t or can’t be forgotten?

Isn’t it amazing what a small thing the tongue is, but what enormous damage it can do? Maybe we remember a time when we have said things about others in careless conversations, and those statements have gotten back to the person we said them about. What horror, shame, and regret we felt. Or can you remember when you heard something that someone had said about you? It hurt and it may have left scars.

Words can pierce like a dagger; they go deep. They don’t just bounce off of us and are forgotten. No matter how many times someone may say “I am sorry”, sometimes the wounds are still there. Words tend to stay embedded in our hearts and minds, and they can even change who we are, or who we are meant to be.

I read once that before you speak, you should consider the following: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it complete? (Do you know the whole story?)  3) Is it necessary? And 4) Is it kind?

Wow! If I would only remember those questions before I speak, especially the last one, ”Is it kind?” One careless word, one word spoken with harsh criticism, one arrogant, self-righteous or judging statement can set off a chain of events that can bring such sorrow and pain to the person spoken about and to the speaker. Words can damage relationships and cause problems far beyond the conversation, which is often even forgotten.

My very wise mom had so many good sayings when I was growing up, but all of them obviously didn’t resonate enough with me. Statements such as: “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”  Or, “If someone does or says something hurtful, respond with kindness – kill ‘em with kindness”, she would say. Or “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  (unless we let them – easier said than done)

Good lessons, when we consider that God intends for our words to be used as instruments of praise, encouragement, and love. “The tongue is a restless evil” and hard to tame! May God help us to think before we speak and season our words when we do! 

 Prayer

Dear God, help us to recognize the power of words and the harmful effect they can have on others, especially to those we love. Help us to remember to be kind, compassionate, and selective in our choice of words. Help us not to engage in gossip or hurtful conversations, but to speak with encouragement and love. Amen

The Mysteries of God

Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens – what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave – what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. Job 11: 7 – 9

It’s simply a fact that life is such a mystery sometimes, isn’t it? If we ever slow down enough to think about it, often it just doesn’t make sense. What is it all for? What is our purpose? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God not put an end to all the evil around us?

We all know the story of Job, “a blameless and upright” man who had been blessed with much wealth, but whose faith was seriously tested. After losing everything, including his family and all His possessions, and enduring a terrible illness, his friends tried to persuade him that surely he was suffering as punishment for his sins.

Yet, Job refused to believe he had sinned and he questioned God as to why He would let these things happen. But even while doing so, he continued to express his assurance and trust in God and in his devotion to Him. Finally, with much sorrow and shame, he admitted that God is just too great and wonderful for us to understand. And because of His faithfulness, God blessed him once again – with more than ever before.

What a lesson we can all learn from Job, for we too often question God. We are confronted with mystery all around us. There is so much about our world and about our Creator and Sustainer of life that we don’t understand, but yet this very uncertainty is what can often make life seem more fascinating and unpredictable.

Along with the difficult times, there is so much goodness, beauty, and a pattern to life that we can’t begin to comprehend. Yet we love the mystery of it all – without it, life could become mundane and boring. God knows us too well. He knows we like the hidden, secret truths that need to be discovered and revealed. How much knowledge He has given man to understand through the ages, but still there are few things we understand fully. There always seems to be some element missing – something we don’t or can’t understand. They seem to be the “sacred secrets” that God knows about life and which men desperately need to know.

But do we really? Isn’t that what faith is all about – believing even when we don’t see? But even with the deepest of faith, life can often seem so unfair and uncertain, and we long for answers to understand why things happen as they do. I am sure the questions so many of us have will never fully be answered until we stand face to face with God. Then it will become clear. The full picture will be before us, and God will fill in the “pieces” that have been missing.

God in His Sovereignty knows best and there are just some things we are not to know in this life. He will reveal them in His own time. Until then, He simply and lovingly asks that we trust in Him.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the mysteries of life and of your kingdom. Increase our faith and trust in you and help us to understand and accept that some things are just not meant for us to know. Your greatness, your glory will be revealed to us at the appropriate time. Thank you for your love and grace.  Amen

God Delights in Us

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. Zephaniah 3:17

In this fast paced, busy, technological world we live in, rarely do we have time to just spend some quiet time with God – in prayer, reading His Word, or just listening for His still, quiet voice. There are so many verses in Scripture that have such timely messages for us today. So many we have never read or heard that could calm our weary spirits and soothe our restless souls.

This is one of them, and it makes me smile to read it. What a comforting thought to know that God is with us, always present, and always available. He hears and knows the concerns and joys of our hearts.

But the next phrase is the one that “gets me” every time I read it: “He will take great delight in you.”  The word “delight” is not one we think would be associated with Scripture or with God’s feelings about us. Think of the images those words bring to mind. What could we possibly do to make God delight in us? But He does – just by our presence with Him. Just by watching us, seeing us happy, content, and appreciating the world around us and the people He has placed in our lives, we bring joy to Him. Each of us is His child and He cares for us just as we do our own children. I pray that today we may bring Him delight – that our words and our deeds may please Him and bring Him honor and glory.

And last, but not least, this verse declares that “He will quiet you with His love.” What a beautiful promise! How many times have we yearned for our anxieties, fears, and the stresses of life that seem so overwhelming to be quieted, and our minds and heart to just be at peace? He is present with us. He can offer a peace that can be found nowhere else.

What a love! One so powerful it can even quiet our storms. I embrace that love and am so very grateful for it.

Prayer

Our gracious Lord, what promises you have given us. What love you have for us. We know there is no way we could ever be worthy of your abiding love and grace. Yet, you pour your blessings down upon us. Thank you for your presence and faithfulness to us. Continue to come into our hearts and homes and help us to serve you in ways that would be pleasing to you. Amen

Guard Your Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

When I was a little girl, I lived on a farm and I loved walking through the woods behind our house with my dad, or by myself, after he became too ill, and then passed away. It was always so quiet and peaceful, and I had this “favorite spot” beside a small stream that seemed to always draw me to it. I would lie there for hours, listening to the sounds around me, looking up at the clouds, and dreaming about my future.

I remember that it was here that my dad always seemed the most peaceful and talkative. A deeply serious man of ill health in his later years, as I knew him, he could be temperamental and sometimes withdrawn. But here in this spot he would always have a story to tell, and as he bent down to clear away the brush and debris, one time he told me about a wellspring and its significance.

It is a spring that wells up – as the beginning or source of a stream, and as a little boy in the early 1900’s (he was born in 1902), it was his family’s life source, as it grew and flourished – a water supply was provided for his family – drinking, cooking, bathing, and for the farm – the livestock and crops. He told me how he would often have to take a bucket down to the spring and bring water back to their home, and he especially remembered how fresh and clear and clean the water tasted from the wellspring. But if this wellspring became clogged or polluted, no water could or would flow through their farm, so his job was to keep it clean and pure.

So we often did the same with this one spot at a stream near our home. We often picked up leaves, branches, and debris and kept it as clean as possible. It was important to my dad, and something we did together. I even continued to do it after his death for several years, and I will always have fond memories of these times.

In the same way, God has gifted each of us with this “wellspring” – the core of our being, that can be filled with goodness, life, and love, or it can become polluted with discouragement, darkness, evil, jealousy, and fear. We must guard our hearts and keep them pure.

As I thought of this verse today, I couldn’t help but think about our grandsons and their sweet, innocent hearts – filled with so much joy, love, and enthusiasm for life, and how those things just seem to overflow to the rest of us around them. How “unpolluted” and pure their world is at the present time. How unaware they are of the evils around us. How grateful I am for that gift, but we must guard our children and grandchildren’s hearts and keep them pure, as well as, our own. May we let God fill them with His love and goodness.

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for providing us with a place to store up goodness and joy, appreciation for life and love. Help us to guard our hearts from the darkness in the world and to focus on you, our source of hope and peace. Amen

A Time For Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. . .  Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 4

This is possibly one of the best known and most loved passages in Scripture for it describes so beautifully all the emotions and changes that life can bring.

There are so many appointed times in our lives in which we have no choice but to abide by and accept. They are totally out of our control and they rest in God’s hands. Then there are others in which we are free to choose our own direction, our own path. Either way, change is not always easy – some circumstances we embrace joyfully, and others we regret, dread, or mourn. For some of us who resist change, we find security in the regular routines, the rhythms and patterns of life. They are safe and orderly, and they bring us comfort.

Then there are the seasons of the year – those times in God’s beautiful creation that can bring about much change. These are ones I can embrace and look forward to. I like living in a location where we can enjoy a variety of weather and changes in nature. I love spring with its newness of life, summer with its warm temperatures and outdoor activities, fall with its blazing colors and cool breezes, and even winter with its cold, sleeping peacefulness in nature.  We all have our favorites and often don’t look forward to them coming to an end, but just as in life, we know these changes will come.

As I look back over the years, I realize that I too have gone through these “seasons”; many of them, which have brought about much change.  Some of them were welcomed, appreciated, and brought much joy. Others were difficult, painful, and they changed my life forever in ways I could never have imagined. These too were times that were set aside for something to take place and were completely orchestrated by our Sovereign Creator.

A season – a period of time, a change in circumstances, a loss of loved ones, the joy of new ones, a time of confusion and uncertainty, or days filled with unexpected happiness and peace. These too, come and they go.

On some occasions, we can be completely blindsided as they come with such fierceness or pain, and at other times, God graciously grants us periods of abundant blessings with few hardships or interruptions. Each will disappear with time, for most assuredly, we know each will return. It is the way of life, and in God’s eyes, both are seen as necessary and good. They become part of our spiritual growth and help us to keep our focus on Him. They build our faith and embolden our trust in the One who loves us more than we can imagine.

There may be such times, these “seasons”, ahead for us in this coming year. But whatever they may be or whatever they may bring, we can trust that God will be there with us, lovingly guiding us through.

Prayer

Dear God, we pray that as we enter this new year that you will be a constant presence and source of strength and peace. May we look to you as we go through the changing times and “seasons” of our lives and trust in your most holy name. We thank you for the assurance of your love and grace as we live in your presence. Amen

Plans For Your Future

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

How many magazines, newspapers, and news broadcasts show a “Year in Review” as we look back at all that has taken place around our nation and world in the past year? We might see and remember all the headlines, major stories, and short video clips that have highlighted the previous year.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could see the “headlines” or little snippets of videos about our own lives?  Can you imagine looking back at our own “year in review?”  What memories, good and bad, we would be reminded of! Then as we begin 2014, do you, like me, find yourself wondering what “headlines” the new year will bring?

How many New Year’s Eves I have spent reflecting on the previous year and thinking about the one that is to come! There are always so many special memories I want to hold on to, and then there are some I can’t wait to forget. Such is life, isn’t it?  Yet, it always seems as if I am a little saddened on this night instead of being full of anticipation and excitement over the one ahead.

I like holding on to life as is. I can’t help but wonder- what changes will come about in our family and in our lives, and it can be a little unsettling and even scary. But then, like always, when the New Year begins, and I open up a new journal with blank white pages, just ready and waiting to be filled in with the new stories of our lives, I become a little more open to the possibilities. What will these pages tell, and what does God have in store for us?

Isn’t it comforting to know that He has plans for us and that we aren’t just floundering about, trying to find our way? How reassuring it is to know that we are not alone, and that He is with us. His desire is that we seek Him and His presence. He wants us to come to Him, and we have His Word that He will always listen and hear our prayers, concerns, hopes, and dreams. He has a plan and those plans contain “hope and a future”.

These words seem especially reassuring this year as we think about our nation and world being in more chaos than ever before. How we all worry about how this will affect our own lives, and those of our children and grandchildren. But then, we just have to step back and remember that we have His loving promise that He will be with us, and I know from past experiences that His love and grace will always sustain us and carry us through.

In this new year, I honestly want to believe and trust with all my heart that our futures are in God’s hands. In His amazing sovereignty, He knows the plans He has for all of us and for the world He has created. Plans to give us “hope and a future!”

What a beautiful reassuring promise!  So I am striving to take Him at His Word – to not fret or worry about what is going on around us, or even what might be – but to trust in His Word, to trust in the One true God who loves us more than life itself. I place my family and loved ones in His care with the belief that He has plans for all of us and whatever they may be, His grace will be upon us. May we all seek Him, live in His loving presence, and call upon Him for guidance and direction, and trust Him with all our hearts. And in doing so, may the new year bring much love and joy!

Prayer:

Our Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings of the past year, for new beginnings, and for the hope we can find in you. Open our hearts to all the possibilities we can find through a life filled with you. Help us to seek you and look for your guidance and direction in all that we do. Be with our families in this new year and keep them in your care. We give you all honor, praise and glory. Amen

The Lord Has Done Great Things For Us

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126: 3

Happy New Year!  If you’re like me, you’re still feeling the afterglow of Christmas!  Was it not such a wonderful time with family and friends, and as for me, I wasn’t ready for it to end! What gifts God has given us of these special times together with those most dear to us.

It was so hard to say goodbye to those we don’t get to see very often, and how I am going to miss the Christmas tree lights, the decorations and candles, those favorite carols I love to hear and sing, the smells of hot cider and good foods, and even the presents under the tree. But there is much more if we truly know God and His Son. For Christmas is the celebration of His love for us in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to earth with His saving grace. And in celebrating His love for us, how that love flows out to others!

But for now Christmas is over and we have packed it all away until next year, and the beautiful reminder of God’s love for us has been tucked away, as well. If only it could live on in our hearts and we could continue to feel the same joy and gratitude for the goodness of life. If only we could continue to be in awe of our amazing God and the great things He has done for us.

Last night as I was thinking about 2013 and the new year beginning, I couldn’t help but think about my family and what a blessed year we all have had. I began thinking about what I would wish for them in the coming year – definitely good health, much happiness, peace, feelings of accomplishment and pride in the things they do, close friendships, and especially much love. But I also would wish for them to be able to see God in the small, simple and magnificent ways that He shows Himself to us each and every day – in the people we meet, in the places we go, and in everything around us as we go through our busy days filled with so many distractions. I want each of us to look for Him, to come to know Him more, to marvel at His goodness to us, to give Him much praise for His love and grace, and to honor Him with our lives. He deserves no less.

What love He has for us. How can we even begin to understand it, acknowledge it or appreciate it enough? We can be completely immersed in it with all His goodness surrounding us, and still it is just unfathomable for us to comprehend. It is a love so boundless and unconditional – not based in any way on our worthiness or our character. It is the deepest of affections, a desire to show the depth of His feeling, a loving commitment to be faithful to us, coupled with His tender mercy and compassion.

How amazing it is that He considers each one of us with such fondness and delight, and longs to fill us with His joy. May this new year bring a commitment in our hearts to truly seek Him and live in His loving presence always.

Prayer

Our most gracious and loving Father, our hearts are humbled and grateful as we begin the new year with the knowledge that you love us so much that you would send your Son with His saving grace. We thank you for the many blessings of life, for your presence with us, and for the joy that a life with you can bring. Be with us in the coming year and open our hearts in a way that brings us closer to you. Amen