Archive for January, 2012

Blessings in the Storm

Psalm 121

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Life can be difficult at times. Many times we are all faced with unknowns. There are some days when we wish we could look into a crystal ball and get our answers.

But, God did not create us to know everything and especially know our future.  He places the unknowns into our lives so that we will learn to trust him more. It is through the unknowns where we learn to  see the smallest of blessings.

Growing up in a Methodist minister’s home, my family faced an unknown every four to five years. The unknown was would we still be at the same church next year or would we move. Then, if we were going to move, there were days of the unknown of  location of the new assignment my dad would receive.

All of us face unknowns at some point in our lives. Fellow blog writer,  Linda Kruschke posted the other day about how she was facing unknowns with health related issues. She shares how she was reluctant about even writing because of the frustrations she was facing of not getting answers. Yet, she knew that she had to look up, keep on sharing her faith through her writing and just hold on tight to God’s hand.

After reading Linda’s blog, I read comments that were posted sending her well wishes, lifting her up in prayers and simply encouraging her. I also left a comment telling her that I would be praying that she received answers soon and reminding her that God is there walking with her.  I also  shared with her one of the things that got me through my valley of unknowns. It was Psalm 121,.I lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” A scripture of reassurance  that God is always walking with me.

Along with Psalm 121 being the scripture that reminds me that God is there in the valley’s of life, I began counting blessings. Each evening, I would write down at least five blessings that happened during the day. Some of the blessings were just thanksgiving that God woke me up that morning, acknowledging that God had provided me a home, food, and a loving family. As each day passed, despite how bad I felt physically, my blessings list became longer.

Even in the storms of life, God continues to bless us. It is in the valley’s where we experience God’s greatness all the more. Yet, we get so caught up in the circumstances of the unknown that we miss out on the blessings that God has planned for us.

Linda, wrote a follow-up post on Psalm 121. In that post, she added the Casting Crowns song, “Praise You In the Storm.” I smiled as clicked play on the Casting Crowns video. For, it was that song that I played repeatedly day after day as I walked through that valley of the unknown. To Linda, I thank God for nudging her to post the song. For it was a wonderful reminder to me that God is there all the time.   I know that there are more unknowns yet to come to me. And, as these unknowns happen,  I will count my blessings and praise God in the storms.

Are you facing an unknown? Whatever your unknown may be, know that you have a loving God who is walking right beside you. I encourage you to pay  close attention because he has placed blessings along the way. As the old hymn tells each one of us;  “count your many blessings and see what God has done.”

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Don’t Just Give Up but Get Up!

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

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It seems time continues to rapidly go by and seems to go even faster as I get older. I feel like it was just this last week, we were in worship celebrating the birth of Christ. As I sit down to write this post, January is almost over. “Where is the time going?” I say to myself.  On Wednesday of this week, along with all of you, I will be flipping my calendar over to February.

When looking ahead into the month of February, I already see the days being marked with commitments for me to attend. Among the things I have placed on my calendar include Ground Hog’s Day where we will find out if we will have an early spring or six more weeks of winter. Another date is Valentine’s Day where we send expressions of love and affection to those important in our lives. But, the most important date on the calendar is Ash Wednesday.

What is Ash Wednesday? It is the beginning of Lent on the Christian calendar. This marks the time in Jesus’ life where He was “led by the  Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And, He also fasted for forty days and forty nights.”  Can you imagine going forty days and forty nights without food? Then, on top of not eating, dealing with the devil himself face to face. I don’t know about you but when I am tired and/or hungry I am definitely not on my ” A” game. Yet, Jesus set the example for us in resisting temptation and following the call of God.

In honor of this time of fasting for forty days and forty nights, many Christians give up something they enjoy during this season. It is a a time of self-denial and self-reflection.  Yet, when I think of Lent, I not only think about giving up something I enjoy but I reflect on my own personal walk with God.

On February 22nd, along with many other Christians I will attend a worship service where my minister will place ashes on my forehead. As these ashes are placed, these are the things I will be asking myself and praying over during the forty days.

Am I obedient to God’s word?

Does my lifestyle demonstrate the life of Christ?

Where do I need to improve in my walk with God?

Where is God calling me to serve?

Where do I need to seek reconciliation?

Am I always in tuned to the whispers of God?

Most of all, do I always put the world behind me and follow Jesus?

"The world behind me. The cross before me. I have decided to follow Jesus."

As you mark your calendar of appointments and activities. circle February 22nd. As you circle this date, begin to reflect on Lenten Season and its meaning for you. This may be a good time to begin a journal and write your own personal reflections and conversations with God during this most holy of seasons.

My personal thought and summary on Lent: “It is not about what you give up but it is about what you get up and do to follow and  live the life of Christ.”


Blessings

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Guest of Honor

When when we look through the scriptures, we will find prayers said before meals are partaken. These prayers are prayers of thanksgiving for God’s provision, and  reminders of God’s presence. When reflecting on prayers before a meal, I think of Jesus when He blessed the five loaves and two fish to feed the crowd that had gathered to hear him teach. God not only provided enough food with this small amount but he provided to the point that they had leftovers.  Along with the abundance of  food, I am sure that there was an abundance of fellowship and Jesus enjoyed every minute of it.

This week,  a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook in the midst of preparing his lesson for his Sunday School group. The question was; “Why do we pray before meals?”  As I read this question, I realized it is the simple questions about what and why we do the things each day that make us dig deep within our souls.

For me, I was raised in a home where blessings were said before meals. My husband, Jim was raised in a home where blessings were said before meals. Jim and I have raised a son to say blessings before meals. Thus, saying a blessing before a meal is a tradition, a habit, and something that we just do without question.

But, to answer my friend, Reg’s question; “Why do we pray before meals?”  My answer to his question was; “I pray before meals because it is a time to thank God for his provision.” Then, I went to share that for me when the blessing is said before a meal that we are asking Christ to come join us at the table. We are wanting Him to be center of our family, friends and fellowship that is gathered around that table. Yes, at each meal when we pray, we have a guest of honor in our midst. This guest of honor is Jesus.

So, “why do we pray before meals?”  is a simple question with a soul-searching answer. The next time you are seated at the table and about to offer up your blessing to God, think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Then, as you pray, realize that in that moment you have extended an invitation to Christ  to join you at the table for food and fellowship. You see, it is at every meal that we have a guest of honor.

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Blessings

Reflection of Prayer

Prayer. For me it is one of the essential things in my daily walk with Christ. It is through prayer, where I surrender what is on my heart, give daily praises to God for the smallest of blessings like waking me up each morning. I am a true believer in  1 Thessalonians 5:17; “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”   It is through prayer that we build our relationship with our Creator,God and walk through every minute of our day with our Lord and Savior.

When Jesus was with his disciples, He gave instructions of how to pray and how not to pray. In Christ’s  teachings in Matthew 6, Jesus gives us a model prayer. This prayer is best known as the Lord’s prayer.  To me, there nothing more beautiful than hearing a group saying the  Lord’s Prayer together.  I also remember as a child my father would come to my brother’s room and then to my room to say bedtime prayers. As we said those prayers, we always ended with the Lord’s Prayer.

This afternoon, I was reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer and what each line in the prayer meant to me. Then, as I began to reflect more and write, my fingers thumb through the Gospel of Matthew to the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lucado Life Lesson’s Bible, Max Lucado has questions of application on the Lord’s Prayer. He asks the reader to take the Lord’s Prayer and re-write it into their own words. Before seeing this application, I had already been reflecting on the Lord’s prayer and had already began writing the reflection down.  I would like to share my reflection of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,

My Creator, my Father who has an eternal home for me,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your name is the sweetest name in all the world.

When I hear Your sweet name, I feel Your mighty presence.

Your kingdom come.

Your kingdom lives in my heart at this moment. 

But, one day I know I will be with you in Your eternal Kingdom.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Today, I will share the good news of your Kingdom that is here for everyone.

I will extend Your invitation to others to be a part of Your kingdom.

To my best ability, I will show others Your kingdom through my words and my actions.

Give us this day our daily bread.

God, I know you will provide what I need to get through the day.

And forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors.

God, You forgive me when I fall short 

Help me to forgive others and not keep records of wrong doings.

And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from evil one.

Lord, each day we are surrounded by temptations.

Walk with me, guide me and protect me from giving into the temptations of the world.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

I am Your creation and all that is around me belongs to You.

You have ALL dominion over ALL things. 

Earthly rewards mean nothing compared to living for

Your glory and one day being in the presence of Your glory.

For this, I will always sing praises to You.

            AMEN

Your Child,

April

Today, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to create a “God Time” where you seek His presence, surrender your heart and where you stay in constant relationship and communication with Him.  I also  encourage you to read the Lord’s Prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer and reflect on this beautiful model of prayer. What do you hear God speaking to you through the prayer His Son taught us all to pray?

Blessings

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

Rain, Rainy weather

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Cast your cares on the LORD 
   and he will sustain you; 
he will never let 
   the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 55:22

Ever since I started sharing my words and thoughts about God’s love for us, healing and leaning on Him in the difficult times, I never remember from one post to the next what I have written. My dad says he is the same way when it comes to writing his works and poems. It is like God fills me up to write the words He wants written. Then, He moves me on to His  next assignment.

There have been times when I have written something and then something in my own personal life happens. In these moments, I go through my archives and most times will see words that God gave me to write looking at me and talking straight to me. There are moments in my own personal life where I experience the whys? the how comes? and the hurts of life.

It is in these moments when I see the hand of God at work even more.  God speaks to me once again with the words that He once filled me with to put on paper on His behalf. Today has been one of those days.

This morning, I awoke to stormy skies. “Ugh!”  I thought to myself as I got up to shower and get ready to meet my small group at Panera Bread. It was the fact I was meeting my small group that made getting out in the rain a little more bearable. I knew once I had my favorite spinach Quiché, ice tea, sharing and prayer time with my small group gals, I would be able to conquer the list of things to do for the day with ease.

My small group met.  Not all of us could make it but the ones of us who did laughed, shared what we had done over the holiday, had devotional, prayer time and just uplifting fellowship on such a dreary day. As we begin dismissing to go on with our individual agendas for the  day, we hugged one another and wished one another a great day.

After leaving Panera Bread, my list of  tasks and goals for the afternoon were accomplished without any flaws. As I drove home, the clouds began to gather in but it didn’t bother me because I had a song in my heart and a smile on my face. I thought to myself of all the blessings of the morning as I traveled to the house. My thoughts as I pulled into my driveway were; “it may be raining but life is still good!”

Then, that is when it happened. My cell phone began to ring as I entered the house. I didn’t recognize the number but I answered. It seems as I answered that I knew that this was not a phone call one wants to receive. It was one of our small group gals. She had bad news. One of our members had lost her life in a car accident this morning. She was traveling to the next town over to take care of her mom.  “Oh no!” I said as I received the news. My stomach felt like I had been kicked really hard.

Not long after receiving this bit of horrible news, I receive another call. This time from someone in my Sunday School group. One of our members has been fighting lung cancer. It seems that the end is quickly coming near for her. “We have been asked to be honorary pallbearers at her funeral when the time comes” was what this member was calling to tell me.

Phone rings again! It is Jim this time. (I had called him earlier to tell him of the news of the loss of our small group sister. But, he could not talk because he was walking into an examining room for a consult with his physician).  I bring Jim up to speed on all that has happened in the last half hour. Then, I ask him about his appointment. His response was “doctor said I could lose a more weight and my blood pressure was high.” Jim goes on to tell me more about his appointment and follow ups to be scheduled.

As I sat in front of my computer to email small group friends and attempt to notify my Sunday School group on both fronts, I was at a loss for words. “God, I am your vessel. I am always the encourager and the one telling people to draw strength from you in the difficult times. Now, I am having to practice what I write.” “God, wrap your arms around me right now. Give me what I need to walk through these storms that have occurred today.”

A few minutes later, I got my email written in the best way I knew how. Then, I cruised over to my web site and began surfing my archives. As I cruised through past posts I had written and I saw God’s divine intervention. Words, music, quotes and scriptures began to appear on my screen. There were words of comfort and words of peace. At this moment, I saw that not only has God been using me as His vessel but I saw that through the words he has whispered in my ear over time were appearing to me and bringing comfort.

Then, as I write this post, I remember our devotional from group this morning. It was about adversity, trials in our lives and God at work in all things. We shared about angels at work around us, God’s divine intervention and how we must be in tuned to His voice at all times.  It was probably at that very moment of time when God was welcoming one of our dear sisters in Christ home. You see, God was at work. He knew what we would need later in the day. It was the words I heard read and shared this morning that began to hug around me, comforting my soul and bringing me peace.

Then, I remember a post I had written a while back. It is calledWhen There Aren’t Words”.   After scrolling through the archives I found it and read it. Again, another hug from God. You see, the words I write are not my words but they are God’s words. It was His words before me in that post that brought even more comfort, peace and another hug.

Now, as I bring these thoughts to a close, I remember a phrase that came to my mind this morning as I was getting ready for my day. The quote was “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass…but it is learning to dance in the rain.” It is raining today literally and figuratively.  However, I know that my small group  sister in Christ is in heaven with our Father. I can see her sweet smile looking up at the face of Jesus. With this vision in my head, I can say that I now can go on with my day and take a ” dance in the rain.” 

Storms happen. When they do, just askWord of God Speak. Won’t You fall down like rain.”Mercy Me}  Then, feel the warmth of God  wrapping His arms around you and giving you a hug. Once you do this, I know you will be able to go “dance in the rain.”
 

Blessings and  Peace-

This is written for a very special group of ladies, Potter’s Clay. It is also dedicated in loving memory of Margaret Cavitt whose smile will be dearly missed but we know she will always smile down on us from heaven.

We Are Not A Perfect People

it's in the waiting

“Each day we make decisions that move us closer to a life of virtue or vice. We face decisions whether to be greedy or generous, self-centered or self-sacrificing, condemning or forgiving, cursing or blessing.  No Matter who we are, we must choose the narrative we will practice daily.”

 [Taken from The Good and Beautiful Life; page 27]

In my last post,  I shared a letter that I wrote to God expressing to him what I want most in life. In concluding this post, I shared the phrase that is written above from the book The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. As I read this phrase more and more, it really made me search my inner soul.

100

In the searching and examining of my soul, I realize that there have been times when I have chosen not to live the virtuous life that God has intended me to live. There have been times when I have acted out of selfishness, and wanting immediate happiness and satisfaction. There have been days when my narrative has probably been  far from a blessing to others.  Yet, in realizing that there have been days that I have fallen short of God’s glory, I know that I must place these things and days of the past at the feet of Jesus. When I place these actions and/or thoughts at the feet of Jesus, I know that is where they will stay.  I am then able to walk away forgiven with a new slate and another chance. Over time, I am craving even more to live a life of Christ’s example and not a life of man’s example. In the midst of this  experience of realizing my stumbles and seeking God’s forgiveness, I find that there are some things in this world that once looked appealing and no longer have that appeal. Instead, I see these things as ugly, sometimes hurtful to others and they can lead to loneliness.

holding God's hand

Nowadays, life is hard. There is so much being thrown at us of what  a person needs to be happy, to survive, and to make a good impression. As these things are thrown at us through media, peer pressures and other means,  we must realize that these things are of man’s world and not of God’s world.  It takes getting up every day and putting on the armor of God and purposely deciding that Christ will be the center of our day and of our decisions.  And, yes, we are still going to stumble at times, but when walking with God we know He will pick us up. He will forgive us and will continue to walk with us on our journey.

Is there something or some things that weigh your heart down? Are you unhappy with past decisions? I encourage you to lay them at the feet of Jesus. It is when you lay the things that burden you, the vices that you know are not good for you at the feet of Jesus.  At that point, you begin to experiencing inner peace and joy.  You begin to crave living a virtuous life, a life of putting on Christ each day and keeping Him in the center of all the choices we make each and every day.

emmaus Jesus

Yes, there will be days you will stumble. On those days, go back to the feet of Jesus, confess to Him and allow His forgiveness to work in  your heart and life. After all, we are not perfect people, we are people working towards perfection.

love overflowing

Here is a wonderful reminder to take with us on our daily journey; But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue the righteousness, godliness, faith,love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, , lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” I Timothy 6:11-12

Dear God…what I want most is ……

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Last night, I began a new study with my Wednesday evening group. We are reading and discussing together the book The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith. This the second of a series of James Bryan’s Smith’s books with the first being The Good and Beautiful God  and the third being The Good and Beautiful Community.  I read the first book, The Good and Beautiful God  with my small group last year. In reading and working through this book with the group I gained  a better understanding  that our God is a forgiving God. Also, it was opportunity to examine the heart and understand  God’s love and what he desires for all of his children.  Just as I shared in my blog post Parachute Pants and Big Hair, God molds you and I day by day, event by event, and by placing many people in our paths along our journey.

After only reading the first chapter in The Good and Beautiful Life, I am excited about the adventure I am about to take in the weeks ahead in learning more about me and what real, pure joy means for me in my life. We are already examining the heart of how and why we make  the choices we make each day. Do our choices reflect living a virtuous life or a life of vices and misgivings? Along with the examining of the heart and our choices, we learn more of the difference between happiness and true joy. Happiness is on the surface and can be  temporary. Whereas, true joy goes deep within, it is eternal and it influences how we look at life and make the choices we make each day.

Before our session concluded, we were assigned to write a letter to God.  We had to tell God what we wanted most in our lives.  Below is the letter I wrote to God last evening and I wanted to share it with you.

Dear God, 

The life I want most for myself is a life of knowing real joy, experiencing inner peace and experience

your love on a daily basis. I want to experience you  in all relationships. I want to be your ambassador of sharing with others your love, forgiveness and your way of living  a virtuous life. 

Along with these things, I want most in my life is when I get up in the morning and look into the mirror that I not only see myself but I see a child of God. A child that God will not abandon but will be with me every minute of that day. In the evening, I want to be able to look in that same mirror and know that I did the best I could for you.  If I messed up along the way that day, I will ask for your forgiveness and acknowledge that you will give me another chance.  

God, what I want most in my life, is that at the end of my journey, when I meet you face to face,

I want to be able to look straight into your eyes and say; “I did it!” “I lived a life that shared your love and grace.” Oh, what joy!

Your Child,

April

How about you? What do you want most in life? When is the last time you examined your heart and the daily choices you make? Have you experienced that eternal joy? I encourage you to check out these books that are excellent reads and wonderful spiritual formation. Not only do I encourage to read these books, but I also encourage you to journey through them with a small group. Along with these suggestions, write your own letter to God. You don’t have to read the books to let God know what you want most in life.

“Each day we make decisions that move us closer to a life of virtue or vice. We face decisions whether to be greedy or generous, self-centered or self-sacrificing, condemning or forgiving, cursing or blessing.  No Matter who we are, we must choose the narrative we will practice daily.” [Taken from The Good and Beautiful Life; page 27]

Blessings-

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