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new yearIt is hard to believe that we are already on the thresh hold of a soon to be new year. As Christmas decorations come down, thoughts of the year gone by go through our minds. Within those thoughts are precious memories that have been made over the soon to be previous year. Then there are those thoughts of regrets, the could have’s, the should have’s, and opportunities that we know we can never go back and get.  In a moment we see a glimpse of what was important to us and what should have been more important to us and sometimes followed by an ache in our hearts and maybe a tear down our cheek.

reflecting

People are talking about the new year on the horizon. They are sharing their expectations, hopes, dreams and of course the list of resolutions. It seems the two top things of resolutions are usually people wanting to be disciplined on a better diet and exercise to obtain that perfect figure before summer vacation.

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Although my husband is already  in his 50′s and I will soon start that decade myself this year, life has taught us many lessons. Yes, there have been some missed opportunities that we will never get back but there are moments where we stopped and took that extra five minutes to help someone with a small task that would make their day, week or life a little better. Stopping to help may have made us a little late for something we had planned or completely miss a social gathering of sorts but in our hearts we knew what we did matter more than being on time to the next engagement or attending the next engagement.

actions express priorities

Years ago it was said that technology would become so advanced that it would make our lives easier. In a lot of ways that prediction has held true. However, in some ways I feel as though technology has been a thorn among the roses. Technology has caused people to work even longer hours and even work when they are away from the office. For a lot of people they can’t even take time to be with family, friends, or enjoy vacations without having to check in with the office. Back in the day, when you were out of the office, you were out of the office! Technology has even taken away the old-fashioned sitting in the living room and visiting with one another. It has become a vacuum and  a device that has in some ways changed our priorities, the way we look at life and how we look and treat each other.

enjoy the journey

The other day I heard the song, My List by Toby Keith. It is one of my husband’s favorite songs and has become one of my favorite’s as well. We like the song because Toby points out what is really important in life. He shares how easy it is to miss the opportunities that mean the most. The opportunities that we don’t take time to enjoy and then stand one day with a tear of regret rolling down our cheek.

life goes by in a blink

This song also got me to thinking about my resolutions for the new year. Typically, I don’t make resolutions because I know within a few weeks the very things I said I was going to do or not do are soon not to be in action. However, this year I have made my list.  

make a list

  • Each day I wake up I will say thank you God for giving me another day.
  • Hug my family a little tighter.
  • Seek joy in all things.
  • Laugh a little more. Seek the humor in life.
  • Capture ALL the moments I can with family and friends.
  • Be forgiving and ask for forgiveness when I mess up.
  • Let go of the past mistakes but learn from them and move on to new beginnings.
  • Respect other’s thoughts and ways of doing things. Just because they don’t think like me or do things how I do them mean that they are wrong.
  • Take time to take that loop by the park and river and absorb its beauty, the laughter and smiles of the people who are also enjoying the view.
  • Watch a few more sunsets and say thank you to God for walking with me one more day.
  • Go for more walks.
  • Say more thank-you’s.
  • Send more personal hand written letters to friends and family to let them know they are in my heart, thoughts and prayers.
  • Take that extra five minutes to stop and help that one person who may be struggling with something whether it be holding a door for someone, letting someone into traffic or simply listening to a story that want to share.
  • When  God places someone or a situation on my heart stop and say a prayer for them. If it is a person, try to give them a call or send a note that God placed them on my heart that day.
  • Seek God’s blessings in all situations especially in the storms.
  • Ask God to shine his light through me so others will see and experience his grace through my words and actions.
  • As I take down Christmas next year, to be able to look back with  very few if any regrets. To be placing the ornaments in the box with a smile, a heart of gratitude  and a heart full of memories that no one can take away nor money can buy.
  • Enjoy life!
  • Start living!

Praise the Lord, my soul!

I want to praise the LORD throughout my life.

I want to make music to praise my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:1-2

As we enter into a new year, it my prayer that each day that our actions will be that of praise, thanksgiving and worship to our Creator!

writing in journal

Listen and watch the video below. As you watch, I encourage you to make your list for the New Year. After you make your list, ask God to guide you through the New Year and through your list. Put the list in a safe place and then this time next year pull it out and seek where God has led you. My prayer is that your thanksgivings and precious memories will out weigh the could have’s and should have’s. May this be the year that you start living!

Live like someone left gate open

Have a Blessed New Year!

First Things First

There is a picture of a tear that has been going around on Facebook that says; “ever have a memory to roll down your cheek?” I recently had one of those moments. For me, it was hearing the song,  Don’t Blink and not some Christmas song that caused this gal’s dam to break.

tear

As I listened to Kenny sing about how life goes by so fast, I reminisced on Christmases past. As I reminisced, I looked about the family room and other rooms of little reminders of not only Christmases past but of those who have had a special influence and place in my life and heart.

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 In the picture there are four items that represent Christmases  past and the meaning for Christmas for me. The first item is the train under the Christmas tree. Growing up it was  a tradition  for Dad to set up the train under the Christmas tree. My brother and I would sit there for hours making up destinations of where the train would be going and we would also add a little cargo to the cargo cars as we played. Though the train only went around in one continuous circle my brother and I reached many destinations in our imaginations.

Christmas Garland

The other item in the picture is an elf. I remember the year Mom and Dad went to Sears and Roebuck to buy new Christmas ornaments. I was probably about six or seven at the time. Mom picked out candy canes, gingerbread houses, gingerbread men and these elves that would decorate our tree. Over the years these ornaments became damaged because of the wear of time and due to the moves they had to make as we moved from one place to another. However, out of those ornaments were two elves. One elf for me and one for my brother. This elf sitting on the ladder is the elf that has now gone with me from place to place. Each year I place it on the ladder going up the tree and each year I remember the Christmases from childhood. Oh, I could go on about the different Christmases and what made them so special but that will have to wait for another day and time.

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Beside the train lays a sweatshirt with a reindeer painted on it. This sweatshirt was a craft that my son, Drew made when he was in pre-school. On it is an old pizza stain that won’t come out but it does not stop me from getting it out year after year and having it on display somewhere in the house. When I reached into the closet to get this special shirt out the words; the secret to life is don’t blink  came to my mind. It seems like it was just yesterday where  Jim and I were out shopping for Drew’s first Christmas. And, this year we are Christmas shopping for  him  and his wife, Megan’s first home. It made me think of all the Christmases we have spent with Drew and I saw how time has really flown by. It is so true of what Kenny says in the song; “it’s important to put first things first” and “you can’t flip over the hour glass.”  A tear rolled down my cheek as I longed to have that little boy back but also another tear rolled down my cheek with pride knowing what kind of man he has grown up to be.

Christmas Garland

Earlier, I mentioned the ladder. Jim’s parents gave us that one year in our early years of marriage. Jim’s mom has had a ladder by her tree through the years  and she thought we needed one, too. Needless to say, I was excited to get it knowing that is was a part of bringing some of Jim’s Christmas past into our home. I don’t have them in the picture but there are snow flakes made by his sweet grandmother that go on our tree as well.

The train not only reminds me of Christmases growing up but it is a reminder that God sent his Son, Jesus and through Him there is a destination. The destination is heaven. By accepting Christ into my life, I have my ticket to heaven.

The elf on the ladder is a reminder that no matter where I go Jesus is there. Just like this elf being with me all these years and going through all the moves I’ve made, Jesus has always been there and will always be there with me. It is up to me to acknowledge His presence and make sure I include him in all that I do and invite him to go with me in all the places I go.

Love God

The sweatshirt reminds me of how time really does fly and the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL situations everyday.  There are opportunities put before us each day of being a witness for Christ. We are given opened door opportunities to invite people to join us on the journey and yet so many times we don’t embark on them.

The snowflakes are a reminder of family. Though we are related by blood or by marriage,just like each snowflake  we are each different and unique in our own way. Each one has something that they can and have contributed to the family and to the world in order to make things a little bit better for someone else.

ladder to heaven

The ladder reminds me of the story of Jacob. A ladder  aids us in being able to reach something.  Therefore, the ladder represents our connection to  God. The ladder being Jesus whom is the very reason for the Christmas Season.

mary did you know

As I  listen to the song, Don’t Blink  again, I think of the song written by Mark Lowry and composed by Buddy Greene, Mary Did You Know?. Can you imagine what was going through Mary’s mind and what her heart was feeling as she watched her son carry a cross that he would soon die on?  You know she thought about the moments of his coming into the world and  the hours she must have watched him at play. Just like any mother she probably reminisced about his favorite foods and stories they had shared around the table. As a mom myself, I know it had to be a moment in time where she wished she could go back in time but couldn’t. Mary knew first things were first. She knew that though she carried and gave birth to this child of hers that He was God’s Son He was sent so that we may obtain the ultimate ticket to the most wonderful destination.

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The secret to life is don’t blink.” This lyric holds true not only for those moments we have with our family and friends. It also holds true for us in our Christian walk. There are opportunities out there for us every day to be the hands and feet of Christ. Yet, there are moments we sit and look back and realized we blinked. It is when we blinked we missed the opportunity of being a true ambassador for Christ.

Christmas Memories

This Christmas as I look at photos from Christmas past, hear the same old  stories told like they have never been told before  sing the old carols from years past, I will not only be reflecting on my life of memories with family and friends but I will reflect on my Christian walk. It is in the reflection where I will see where I blinked and will be made more aware of the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL that I do.

This Christmas may you put first things first  and that is keeping Christ first in your life. May you capture all the opportunities put before you to be his witness. May you also capture all those special little moments that soon become memories with your family and friends this season.

Christmas Blessings

So Many Reflections

boy looking in telescopte

My Dearest Jim,

This week has been a celebration of lives joining together and becoming new families. On Monday, my parents celebrated fifty-one years of joining hands to walk life’s journey together.  Today, we celebrate the fifty-seven years of your mom and dad walking together in life’s journey. On Saturday, we will celebrate our  twenty-eight years of being married.

Jim and Louise Hawkins Celebrate 57 years together.

Jim and Louise Hawkins
Celebrate 57 years together.

dad party0018

CR and Jackie Hill
Celebrate fifty-one years together.

This past summer we celebrated meeting each other which was thirty years ago. We were blessed to celebrate  our meeting each other with the  many people we worked with thirty years ago at a staff reunion. In  this celebration of our hearts meeting, I see so many reflections.

Our wedding day... November 23, 1985 Conyers First UMC Conyers, Georgia

Our wedding day…
November 23, 1985
Conyers First UMC
Conyers, Georgia

The night we met we were  literally looking into each others’ eyes as part of an ice breaker game. At that moment and time, I saw a person with a lot of love and a heart for others.  It was at that moment I fell in love with you. Yes, it was love at first sight.

eye of love

Over the years, I have looked into your eyes so many times. Each time it is like looking into them for the first time.. When you look back at me I see God’s love shining through. I see a man of faith and a man who has a great love for his fellow-man. Your eyes reflect to me grace, hope and love in abundance.

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Reflecting back I remember not only the first time I looked into your eyes but I see so many special moments we have shared.  For example, the first time I flew from Atlanta to Lexington, KY to meet up with you. As I walked off the plane I saw your eyes smiling at me. They were saying; “I love you. I’m glad that you are here with me.”   I look back at certain moments I see the laughter in your eyes when I have done something totally goofy or said something goofy.

There have been times over the years when things have gotten tough and I look into your eyes and see hope. I see you saying; “I love you and we will get through this.”  A tear may fall from your eye but I know it is because you care and love so deeply that you want to what you can to make a situation better.

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Jim and I
Our dating years
1983

Most of all, I have seen and continue to see the qualities in your eyes  that are most important and don’t fade away with time. These qualities are integrity, a close relationship with your Creator and most of all sincerity. You love not just me out of the abundance of your heart but you love others with true compassion and sincerity. 

056Over the years, what I see in your reflection is a love that grows ever more beautiful with each passing day. I have seen and experienced a love that at all cost will make sure I am taken care of, loved and comfortable.  As I read through chapter two of the Song of Songs, I see in the footnotes of chapter one  that it is a remembering of the first day Solomon met the love of his life. They recall the dream his love had about meeting him. Reading this gave me chills because I dreamed about meeting you three days before I looked into your eyes for the first time.

On Saturday,  we will  celebrate twenty-eight years together. Again, we will look into each other eyes. Yes, it will be like the first time all over again of seeing that love, compassion and passion reflecting back at me but the difference is that it will be even more beautiful than the first time our eyes met. “For the first time I’m looking in your eyes; I can’t believe how much I see when I you’re looking back at me…Now I understand why love is….” (Kenny Loggins, For the First Time).

“How beautiful you are, my darling!

Oh, how beautiful!

Your eyes are doves.

Song of Songs 1:15

Music of love.

My dove in the clefts of the rock,

in the hiding places on the mountainside,

show me your face,

let me hear your voice;

for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.

Song of Songs 2:14

love

April

 

Extravagant Receiving

Child carry package

Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.

Christmas

Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services,  dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating  opening that first gift on Christmas Eve.  Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.

 As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out.  As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold,  the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.

Christmas story pajamas

In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.

leg lamp

 After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents.  This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”

little girl talking on phone

I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones.  These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.

Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.

There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver  like the following:

“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”

“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”

“I don’t like the color.”

This is NOT what I wanted!”

doesn't like the gift

I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.

gift

The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.”  Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver.  Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.

receiving God's gift

As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity.  God gave us his Son and  it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant  receiver  of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.

Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.

This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:

“Thank you for thinking of me.”

“You are such a generous giver.”

” I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”

I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will

for you in Jesus Christ.

It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has  in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.

Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!

Gratitude

Extravagant Giving

 

The Taj Mahal Built in 17th Century

The Taj Mahal
Built in 17th Century

When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated.  For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.

all inclusive resort

Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world.  This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.

Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.

Luke 7:36-50

Luke 7:36-50

When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home,  a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. “When a woman  who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”  This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.

Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.

If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.

Christmas preparations

The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.  It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.

God's gift

For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.

The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have”  product this year.  People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.

How about this year you give  not the  “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love  but  it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek  for forgiveness.  Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.

Perhaps God has placed someone in our  life who is longing to belong.  They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.

Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building”  but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.

love overflowing

Where have you experienced extravagant giving?

Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?

What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?

As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.

Related articles

Pack Lightly

Jim and I enjoying a football game and seeing old friends at Bowdon High School, Bowdon, Georgia

Jim and I enjoying a football game and seeing old friends at Bowdon High School, Bowdon, Georgia

A couple of weekends ago Jim and I headed to Georgia for a long weekend. This weekend involved in being at several different venues during the course of the weekend. As always I struggled to discern on what clothes I needed to pack and what really didn’t need to go.  Progressing into the weekend, I realized I didn’t need to take as much as I took.

over packing for a trip.

We have all been there. We are planning a trip and we over pack. We over pack because we are afraid we won’t have the right outfit for a dinner, or something could happen and we need that particular item. Thus, we pack everything but the kitchen sink and take it with us.

over packed car

The result in packing everything but the kitchen sink is that the room in the car is limited. Our car has been so packed full at times that I was not able to recline my seat back. When Drew was young and still in a car seat there were trips where there would be just enough space for his seat.  I look back on it and laugh and yet I see it as sad, too.  Sad because we got so caught up in the packing that we didn’t look forward to the trip.

We didn’t look forward to the trip because we were exhausted from packing.  And, we were dreading getting to our destination because we knew we had to unload it all and then pack it all up and take it back home. It makes me tired just thinking about it now.

let go of the world

In this world we are on a journey. On this journey we tend to over pack. We over pack by carrying burdens we do not need to carry. Our over packing involves living with not forgiving someone or even sometimes forgiving ourselves for something. In other words, we stuff our lives with baggage of shame, guilt, and with what the material world says we need to have.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30 that God wants us to pack lightly as we journey through life. He says:
Come to me all you 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

In other words, we don’t need to carry the burdens, unforgiving hearts, ways of the world and all other things that weigh our hearts down. I love what Rick Warren says in Purpose Driven Life “God created us for his enjoyment”  Do you think he enjoys seeing us continually stuffing things down in our souls and carrying it wherever we go?

worry fear guilt

We stuff these things down in our souls and hearts because of fear. It is just like over packing for a trip, we are fearful that we may need it at some point or we are afraid of what might happen if we leave the item behind.  Then, as we journey in life we are exhausted, we dread what is ahead of us and we miss the blessings that God has planned for us.

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Our journey is before us. May we begin to sort out what is and isn’t important. May we seek forgiveness where forgiveness is needed. Let’s no longer hold on to things with the fear that we can’t be without it. Instead, let’s lay our stuff at the feet of Jesus and begin to enjoy our journey and look forward to our destination.

Our destination is heaven. God says to pack lightly because all he needs us to bring is our hearts to him. There is no need to arrive exhausted and weary.

jeremiah

Until next time, may you enjoy the journey and experience God’s blessings.

enjoy the journey

 

 

Pretty Little Apples

English: Apples on an apple-tree. Ukraine. Рус...

This next week the small group that I participate in will complete a study called, No Other gods” By Kelly Minter. Over the years we have done many studies but this one really touched the heart of the matter for me. This study has shown what we may think are simple collections and likes can be in the way of being a blessing for God and God blessing us.

no other gods

In my previous post, Seek God’s Beauty,  I share how the material world gives us the superficial promise that certain products will make us beautiful. These products and their creators will change our lives. Yet, as Christians we know that the only ONE who can change our lives and make us beautiful is our Creator/ Father.

kelly minter quote

Along with the superficial promises of making us beautiful are the lies that we all buy into that promise to make our life complete. In Exodus 20:3, God does not beat around the bush by telling us that we should NOT have any other gods. Yet, we all have them.

receiving the appleWe laugh and say “if Eve had not listened to the snake and eaten the apple, we would all be better off.” Satan convinced Eve that pretty apple was good. He convinced her that she would have wisdom. “Oh, go ahead Eve, take that apple, take a bite and taste its sweet juices.”  Oh, go ahead, one more cookie won’t hurt us.” “Who cares if it isn’t on sale, I deserve this and I want this item.” “You know I have a collection of these and I don’t have this one particular one and I NEED it to make my collection complete.” ” I have worked hard and I have earned this shopping trip.” Any of these statements sound familiar? We have bought these items in hopes to be in with the crowd, to keep up appearances, to impress or because we are promised that life will be better.  Marketing experts will tell you that the biggest consumer in our society is the woman.

woman shopping

Look around your home for the pretty little apples you have bought over time. What are these things doing? Are they bringing you joy or are they an annoyance because you can’t walk into a room because it is so full of pretty  apples that you have bought over time? Are these items a dreaded item you have to pick up to move each time you dust? Maybe there are apples around you that now as you look at them you wonder what you were thinking when you purchased them. Last but not least, have these items brought you closer to God? Have they brought you blessings? Have they made you any wiser?

simple is the new black

I have noticed that my son and daughter-in-law’s generation is not into things. They seem to want the basics. My son and daughter-n-law are more interested in investing in other people. They invest by volunteering to help in the community through their church and work. They invest by spending quality time with family and friends.

lady cleaning

These days I have been cleaning out and getting rid of clothes I have not worn, items I have not used and things I hate to dust. As I do this cleaning out, I feel my soul being cleansed and my eyes are being opened to the greater picture of God’s kingdom and the blessings he has planned for me everyday. I have come across some things that at one time were a pretty little apple  and now I ask myself what was I thinking? It is no longer pretty to me.

the-glory-of-god-in-christ-jesus-271x300

As I worked on the last week of the study, No Other gods, a song by the group Kansas came to mind. The song is called The Wall.  For those of you who don’t know, Kansas was known for their Christian music/lyrics before they crossed over into the pop/rock scene. Today, I read some of the lyrics. These words struck a chord for me ( no pun intended); “blocking out the light and blinding me from what I ought to see.”  “Its a travesty.”

Butterfly God's Blessings

Things. Pretty little apples.Collections. Clutter. Eating in excess. All of these things are blocking what we need to see and that is the light of Jesus Christ. When we are caught up in our pretty little apples and busy collecting more, we miss the blessings God has planned for us. We miss the opportunity to invest ourselves in someone else. In those missed opportunities we potentially miss the opportunity of inviting someone to join us in God’s kingdom. We deny God of our blessing him.

I love the words of Psalm 17:8-15:

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me in the shadow of your wings

from the wicked who assail me,

from my mortal enemies who surround me. 

They close up their callous hearts,

and their mouths speak with arrogance.

They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

They are like the lion, hungry for prey,

like a great lion crouching in cover.

Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; 

rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, 

from men of this world whose reward is in this life. 

You still the hunger of those you cherish;

their sons have plenty,

and they store up wealth for their children.

And I-in righteousness I will see your face.;

when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness..

The next time you are tempted by  pretty little apples and think life will not go on if you don’t obtain it, remember that the only apple God is interested in is you. He is interested in your heart, and he is interested in where you are investing your heart. May we be more concerned with upholding our value of being the apple of God’s eye instead of seeking our value in the pretty little apples that the world tells us that we need to have.

apple of God's eye part two

Take time to listen to the video below. Listen and read the words carefully. What pretty little apples do you need to be rid of?  Ask yourself; what is more important obtaining things or spending time with God and investing in other people? Then, say a prayer or write a prayer to God asking him to help you to get rid of the pretty little apples and to open your eyes to the blessings he has planned for you. Then, go and seek where you can invest in his kingdom.

heaven

“The treasures I seek are on the other side.” There is NO loss.” (Kansas) In other words;

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.                                                                          Matthew 6:19-21

watch the video…..

Seek God’s Beauty

model of beauty

“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.”

I Peter:3:3 The Message

As I go about my daily activities around the house, the television plays in the background. Though the television is on, I find myself caught up in my own thoughts. Yet, I hear the words of a testimonial from an infomercial; “his product really changed my life, ” I feel better about who I am.” 

These testimonials echoed in my head and in my heart this morning. I thought about how we have put such emphasis  on outward appearance these days. Infomercials tell us what products we must have in order to look and feel better. Other social media avenues such as Pinterest and Facebook have all the different fashions all put together for us as a blueprint of how we are to look as we head out to run those errands.

fashion

It is my fear that we get so caught up in what society defines as beauty that we have forgotten the true beauty God created. Society telling us what to do, what to use and defining beauty is no different from the Pharisees were with their rigidity of the laws that they had added to God’s commandments in order to be right with God.

relationship with God

The Pharisees missed out on the relationship that God wanted to have with them because they were so wrapped up in the laws. We miss a relationship with God and with others because we get so wrapped up in how we look and assessing others on how they look. Not only do we miss the relationship, we miss the blessings God has planned for us when we are wrapped up in ourselves instead of focusing on him and those around us.

True beauty is a matter of the heart. It is allowing God’s light and Holy Spirit shine through us and sharing that light with others.  As we see others, we need to see them as Christ’s sees them. He sees beyond the outside and sees the heart.

seeking the heart

The words, “his product really changed my life” really hit a nerve for me today. The only one person who can change your life and make it more beautiful is accepting Christ into your heart. It is when you accept Him into your heart, walk in the footsteps of his grace and love, and begin to really seek the heart of others, we experience the beauty God meant for us to experience.

heavens gates

Think about it….when we reach those pearly gates, God  is not going to make sure we are in the latest suggested fashion before letting us into his kingdom. However, he is going to look at our hearts and how we shared His grace and love to others. God is going to see how we lived our love for his son, Jesus out loud.

I challenge you in the days ahead to look beyond the appearance of people you encounter. It is going to be in these experiences you are going to experience the beauty of God and his love and grace.

“Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray-and shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” 1 Timothy 2:8-10 The Message

Seek God’s Beauty. It is all around you.

audrey hepburn beauty

Our Journey

Different Directions

Jim and I have lived in the same town for twenty-three years. We have lived in the home we are in now for about eighteen years. Yet, when we leave the house to go to church, the grocery, out to eat, or whatever errand we must run, it seems we always have the same conversation when we start.

April: You know we are going to the grocery don’t you?

Jim: Yes, I know we are going to the grocery.

April: Then, why are you going this way. I always go down such and such 

street to get there. 

Jim:  Well, I like going this way to get there because there are less traffic lights.

April: Well, I like the other way because it has traffic lights and it is easier to get out in traffic.

Even though we have this conversation time after time, we still get to our destination. Jim has one way he likes to go and I have another way I like to go. Our Christian journey is pretty much like Jim and me taking different streets to get to the same destination.

Settle Memorial

One example of taking different directions are the choices we make in where we worship. Our son, Drew was raised Methodist. Yet, when he went out on his own, he chose another route to grow in his Christian walk. His dad and I encouraged him to find a church home and when doing so to make sure it stood on firm biblical principles. We also encouraged him to make sure that it was not only a place where he could/would grow in his own spiritual walk but a place where he could encourage others and invite others to join him on the journey.

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Not only are there different places and styles of worship for us to choose from on our journey. We all have different backgrounds, stories and experiences. It because of these experiences that we may see things a little differently from someone else who is  heading towards the same destination but on a different route. No one is better than the other. It is all a part of the Master’s plan in molding us and preparing us for that final destination. We are all different so that we can learn from one another, teach one another and see how the grace of God is at  work in many ways and  in many lives.

traffic light

On our journey, we have choices to make. Some of us take the streets where there are traffic lights that make us stop and look before merging into traffic. In other words, we stop and look to see where we need to go, who we need to help and see where we fit into the big picture. Then, there are others of us who simply like going on the streets where you don’t need to a light to merge into traffic. It is more comfortable for us to put the metal to the pedal and jump right in and go!

Young woman reading bible

As I sit with my bible in my lap, I turn the pages. In these pages I see the maps of the journeys that different ones took to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one journey was alike just like none of our journeys are just alike. Yet, we have the same message to share to those we encounter on our journey. The message is that God sent his Son so that all can experience and receive his marvelous grace. We must continue to share the message of how Christ died for ALL not just for some.

the journey

As we travel this road we call life, may we be ready to stop at the traffic lights and listen to the Father to lead us into serving God’s children. And, may we to be ready for those times when He doesn’t give us a light but He just says; “go!” and trust Him. Last but not least, let’s make sure we invite others to join us on the journey.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus

had told them to go. When they saw him, the worshiped him; but some doubted.

Then Jesus came to them and said. ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been

given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the

the name of the Father and of the Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey

everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the

very end of the age.’  

Matthew 28:16-20

May we feel his Holy Presence as we continue our journey.

do not go where

Blessings

 

A Little Bit Country and Little Bit Rock and Roll

music

In previous posts, I have shared the joy music brings to my heart and to my husband, Jim’s heart. Jim and I are music lovers and our interest in music is not one specific category. Yet, there are times when Jim will lean more into one direction of a particular artist and style that is not really my thing but I respect what he likes and will listen with him.  In return, Jim does the same with me. When these moments occur I recall the Donny Marie show where they would sing “I’m a little bit Country and I’m a little bit  Rock and Roll.”  

Donny and Marie

Jim and I have learned to respect each other’s heart and taste in music. It is through this respect of musical tastes we have learned more about each other and there are times when we will come to like a particular artist or song that the other likes. The times when we come to like one of the other’s favorite artist, song and/or genre comes out of that respect we have for each other. It is through the listening to the song that we learn about the other’s soul and what fills their heart up with joy or simply makes them happy.clarinet

In today’s time we have Traditional and Contemporary Worship Services. No one particular service or music is better than the other. It is a church’s way of offering to feed the many needs of the soul. When I think of the differences in worship, I think of the Donny and Marie show when they would sing; “I’m a little bit country” and “I’m a little bit rock and roll.” We have those who like the old traditional hymns and those who like the latest song that is hot on Christian radio. And, there are those who are like myself that just love it all.

Music of love.

It is in the feeding of the soul through music is where it is important to realize that as musicians who are leading in song no matter if it is Contemporary or Traditional that it is not a performance for the congregation to see but it is a leading of song from the soul. In other words, when we sing as musicians it is important that we are singing to praise God and it is from the soul and not a weekly performance that we feel obligated to get up and give. It is a time of  putting self aside and allowing the Holy Spirit fill us  up and to spill his wonderful joy and grace out in song and encourage those around us to lift their voice in song.

Tyler Perry

This past weekend, Jim and I watched two Tyler Perry plays at home. We love his plays because of the messages that he gives through his characters in unconditional, love,  forgiveness and simply that God is the Master of our life.

Not only do we love the message of Tyler Perry’s  plays,  we love the music. There were a couple of times when watching the plays this weekend and listening to the music in these plays  that Jim and I had tears in our eyes because the music spoke to our hearts and souls. Though the people were playing certain characters in the play when it came to singing it went beyond performing. The words they were singing were  written in a script for them to sing. Yet, they were singing from deep within the soul.  They believed what they were singing.

music is shorthand

As you journey in the days ahead, don’t look at the music leaders and/or choir in worship as a time of performance, instead, listen to the words they are singing. Allow the lyrics to touch your soul and fill you up with the Holy Spirit. If you are a worship leader and/or choir member, don’t look at that worship hour as one thing to check off your list. Instead, feel the lyrics you are singing from your soul, ask the Holy Spirit to shine through you so people will feel God’s mighty presence and will want to join you in song.

Ephesians

Realize that it doesn’t matter if you are “a little bit of country” or a little bit rock and roll.” What matters is that you know that you are standing in the presence of God and you are allowing him to feed your soul through music. Not only is your soul being fed but you are also witnessing to those around you your belief in a Mighty God.

“Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, praise his name;

proclaim his salvation dad after day.

Psalm 96:1-2

Watch and listen to this video from start to finish. Chris Tomlin does a beautiful job of incorporating the traditional in with the contemporary. 

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