Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Story

 The greatest story is best told directly from the Spirit of God himself. This is as it was recorded by Matthew:

 

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 

 

The Visit of the Magi

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6 " 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 

 

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

 

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

 Thanks be to God!


                  Merry Christmas!

                                   In His Peace - 
 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Journey to Bethlehem

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)


Imagine you are a young teenage girl, heavily pregnant with your first child and the Roman government requires you to travel to register for a census. There is no opting out of the journey, and perceived act of defiance toward the Romans is very dangerous.  Your parents have to register themselves, so your mother can't travel with you. You can't register via e-mail or drop into your local post office, the government requires your presence in person.

You and your husband have to travel eighty miles through harsh terrain, cold weather and unfriendly territory. You ride on a donkey, your husband walks. You are thankful for the beast that carries you, but that doesn't make it any more comfortable of a ride. It takes you nearly a week to travel the distance. You are frightened, exhausted and in labor when you arrive in Bethlehem. 

You long for the comfort of home, a mat to sleep on an your mother to hold your hand. Unfortunately, you are far from your desired comfort, and the town of Bethlehem is crowded to overflowing with others registering for the census. Your labor pains are coming more quickly now and your husband is frantically rushing through the streets of Bethlehem pounding on doors asking anyone and everyone if they can find a place for you. "Please, sir, my wife! She is having a baby! Do you have a bed for her?" Over and over the answer is no. The pain of your labor is beginning to take your breath away, yet you and your husband still roam the darkened streets of a town that is not your own seeking for a place to rest and give birth. 


Finally, when you had given up all hope a man grants you permission to sleep in his sheep fold. It is carved into the hillside behind his home. Your husband hastens the donkey along into the fold and you collapse from his back into the straw below. The birth pains are right on top of each other now. You have witnessed childbirth, but never experienced it. Your husband has no experience with childbirth at all -- not even with animals-- as he is a carpenter by trade. The location is smelly, messy and cold. The pain is terrifying and you really, really want your mother! Yet, by the Grace of God you are able to deliver a healthy baby. Suddenly the pain and fear are gone. You are exhausted but in awe. 


This is the baby God promised. Immanuel, God with us. Your husband was instructed in a dream to name him Jesus. You are holding the son of God himself in your hands. The tiny clothes you stitched for the newborn are all back in Nazareth. Your husband finds cloths from your traveling gear to wrap the newborn in to keep him warm. You kiss his smooth forehead, count his fingers and toes and gaze upon him with wonder.


Gaze upon him with wonder. Okay, now you aren't that teenage girl in Bethlehem anymore... you are you. Keep gazing into the face of that precious baby. Still have your wonder? Are you in still in awe of God? Go about the rest of your day full of wonder. God came here for YOU. In the hustle and bustle of the days ahead don't lose sight of the wonder of God's love. 


In His Peace --

Sunday's Family Circus



Just in case you missed this from Sunday's paper. I thought it was perfect.
Thank you Bill Keane!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Hope of Christmas





And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  (Luke 2: 8-12)


This morning my son asked me why there was a crown of thorns on top of one of our Christmas trees. "Well, son,  you can't have Easter without Christmas. If Jesus Christ was never born we would have missed the glory that is Easter morning. The two are intertwined, much like the twisted crown that rests on our tree."

God came to earth as a helpless child and walked some of the same roads that we do. He experienced pain, hunger, distress, exhaustion, happiness, joy, love and despair just like you and I. Fully God, yet fully man, a concept that is very difficult to wrap our brains around. He humbled himself to live here and relate on a human level with you. He loves you so much that He came to die for you. The greatest gift ever given came on Christmas.

I understand how many people struggle over the holidays with financial trouble, depression or sadness over love ones who have passed away. I don't want to minimize that at all, but we have ultimate victory over death in Christ! The most amazing gift arrived on Christmas! Christmas is a time of joy and hope - joy because we are loved by God, loved so much that he came to earth and died a horrible death for us. We have hope because life on earth, as difficult as it may be, is not all there is. We have the promise of eternal life in heaven with God through the gift of Jesus.

I get very emotional at Christmas and have very few Christmas carols I can sing through without tearing up. The gift is so HUGE. God came here to be with us.
 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)  (Matt 1:22-23)
If you are feeling a little blue this holiday season, a little rushed or scattered take a minute or two and focus on what Christmas means for you. Focus on what it means beyond the tree, the packages and the parties. Focus on the greatest gift ever given: Jesus, God with us.


In His Peace--

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What a Pain!

Two years ago my life changed drastically. Initially in a fairly dramatic way, but over time in a myriad of small ways. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I was with my children at my father-in-laws house decorating for Christmas. We we finished decorating and were just about done cleaning up and I noticed a stray piece of garland on the floor. I bent down to pick the offending fuzzy up off the ground and felt a strange snap in my back, almost like a rubber band snapping.

It didn't really hurt, but was oddly uncomfortable. We were getting our family pictures done that afternoon and we went home and got all prettied up to go. By the time we got in the car to drive across town uncomfortable had reached painful, at the end of our portrait session painful had reached very painful, by the next morning I was in such pain I could hardly move. Every time I see that family picture I think "That was the day everything changed". Strange to have it frozen in time.

Sticking with family tradition, the kids wanted to decorate the tree that weekend. Not wanting to miss out I on all the fun I crawled, quite literally, on my hands and knees up the stairs to try to help out. Not realizing that once I got up there that sitting up to hand out ornaments would be equally agonizing as negotiating the stairs. It was one of the worst weekends of my life. Fortunately, it has never been as bad as that first four days, but I have never gotten back to where I was before.

Over the last two years I have had countless chiropractic appointments, massages (which are not a hardship!), acupuncture, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots. None of these methods have gotten me to a pain-free state. It is always there, like an unwelcome guest. Lurking around, lying in wait to pounce on me, to move another notch up the scale from a bearable level to a place that takes much more mental energy to handle. It can be quite wearying. 

Why am I sharing all this? Well, I guess because it is a big part of my day to day life, and I know that there are millions of people who suffer from chronic pain. It can be a very dark and hopeless feeling to be in pain - it isolates you from other people because pain often limits what you can and cannot do. My suffering is minor in comparison to others, my heart breaks for those who can't even find a way to keep their pain levels manageable.

Where is God in all this? He is ever present - he has not forsaken me! He may not choose to have this pain removed from me. That doesn't mean I am going to quit praying for it! My choice is to feel sorry for myself or trust God knows the purpose behind the pain. Remember Paul and his thorn of the flesh?

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

I suppose I should feel honored I have been given a thorn to bear. Frankly, most days it doesn't feel like an honor, but a burden!  "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." (Psalm 119:50)
God is still God, on my good days and my bad days. My discomfort does not indicate a lack of love or caring on his part. Sometimes I have no where else to go but to Him. I pray that others who suffer can find strength in our Savior.

 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1Peter 4:12-13)

In His Peace -

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving



On this ultimate Thankful Thursday I would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. It is my hope that you have spent the last month focusing on all the blessings in your life, large and small.

We only have five more days for our month of thankfulness. Has it been an eye-opening journey for you? Has it been difficult or easy to find something each day for which you can be thankful? Looking around with an attitude of gratitude can make a huge difference in how we view the world around us. It is my desire that you carry your month of being thankful with you for many days beyond this particular November.

My prayer is that in looking at how rich your life is you will extend yourself toward others who do not live in the same abundance you do. You merely have to open your hearts and minds to the opportunities to help another. There are broken, hurting, lost, hungry and cold souls in your community, perhaps even in your neighborhoods. Look near and look far. Don't simply look and shake your head and think you cannot facilitate change. You can. One person can make a difference. As Max Lucado says, "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something".

As we step into the holiday season, keep your heart of thankfulness open to the possibilities of how you can make a difference in the life of someone else.

You are blessed --- pass it on.

In His Peace --

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Parents


Thankful Thursday is here again!

This morning as I blogged about my own struggles as a parent, I realized again how some of my choices, behaviors and attitudes must have been not always (ahem) pleasant for my parents. I have apologized and hopefully been forgiven.When my first child arrived in the world I had this sudden whoosh of realization, a revelation of sorts, of how much my parents loved me. It was an eye-opening experience.

So, on this Thankful Thursday I would like to officially be thankful for my parents. Aren't they cute? My mother is going to fuss about that picture, but it makes me smile.

I am thankful that I still have my parents, so many have already lost theirs.  I do wish that we lived closer and could spend more time together. I am thankful that my mother can operate a computer and we can send e-mails, IM for a quick chat or Skype and actually see each other. Now, if she'd just learn to text....  : )

I am happy the two of them have stuck together for so many years. I know it wasn't easy. I am happy they have each other and can golf, travel and enjoy their lives together.

I am thankful for the many hours they have spent on the road to come to Iowa to visit or driving to the airport to pick us up. I am thankful for the years of tear-drying, hand-holding and listening to me vent. Although I certainly wasn't thankful for it at the time, I am thankful for the discipline and boundaries, I know they were issued with love. I am thankful they put up with me and didn't just duct tape me into a closet until I quit being sassy. Hmmmm.... I suppose that means I would still be there!

I am thankful for the relationships my parents have worked to cultivate with my children even across the miles. My children love them dearly and that warms my heart.

Thank you, Mom and Dad,  for being who you are and loving me for who I am. ILYAM. XO. Me

You Lead... I follow?


"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. 
 


I had to laugh at the Family Circus cartoon -- this is so us with God. How often do you say you want to follow and desire to do his will and then turn around and do whatever you want? Probably more frequently than any of us would like to admit.

We are currently struggling with some behavior issues in our nine year-old son. He seems to be under the impression he can do what he pleases regardless of what we tell him he should be doing. I cannot even begin to explain the frustration and strife this is causing in our house. I am at a loss as to how to make this situation better because so far everything I have tried is making him just dig in his heels in defiance. Frankly, it makes me want to scream and tear out my hair. You would certainly not be wasting prayer if you were to pray for us. I am in great need of guidance, clarity and patience.

As I showed up for my quiet time this morning with my jaw clenched and my frustration level somewhere around Jupiter I wondered how often God feels that way about me. Does he shake his head and roll his eyes in frustration at my stubbornness and refusal to listen? I shudder to think of all the times I have dissappointed him. Certainly makes me ever more thankful for the Grace of God. He is so good.

How many times do you suppose my parents wanted to wring my little neck? I wonder if I should call them and apologize -- again. Sigh.....  Parenting is not for sissies. I am convinced it is the hardest job there is. We try to lead to the best of our abilities. There are days the children follow us in compliant obedience and others days are spent feeling like you are trying to put a leash on a tornado. I have been in a tornado situation for many days now, guess it is time for me to stop trying to lead and to give it up to the one who is really in charge: God..

 
Help me as a parent, Lord, with my weaknesses and imperfections. Give me strength and godly wisdom to raise my children. Please supply what I lack. Help me keep my tongue and my frustrations in check. Guide my children every day, protect them from evil. Help them to overcome the temptations in this world and the sin that would so easily entangle them. I desire for each of them to have a wonderful relationship with you that will endure for eternity. Please keep me from doing anything to stand in the way of that. Lead me every day, Lord, so I can parent them in a way that is pleasing to you. In Jesus name. Amen.



Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Emily

Today is my oldest daughter's golden birthday. Emily is sixteen today. I am not even sure how that happened. I must have blinked. They grow up so fast. I swear it was just yesterday we were dressing up and having tea parties with Pooh Bear.


I will admit I miss the simple times of Playdough and Barbies. No one warned me that MY life would get crazy when my daughter entered high school! It is a good crazy for the most part. I am happy she is involved in activities she enjoys. I am so amazed at the young woman she has become and I am anxious to see what her future will bring. All of the sudden her being all grown up and out of the house is not such a far off day in the future, but a day that will arrive far sooner than I am ready for. I almost can't stand the thought of it.


This morning I took a nice stroll down memory lane looking at pictures. Emily has another added bonus of being the firstborn -- there are a LOT more pictures of her than of her siblings. If you will indulge my mommy moment here and check out sixteen snapshots of a young woman who grew up in just a blink. So much more yet to come...






















Happy Birthday, Emily! Wishing you nothing but wonderful things in your sixteenth year. Thank you for being such a blessing. Your Dad and I love you oodles and bunches!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Happy Veterans Day!

A couple hours ago as I spoke with my father-in-law, he was delighting in the free lunch he had today at Subway. I think Veterans Day has become his favorite day of the year. It is wonderful that Veterans are honored not only on Veterans Day but soldiers, sailors and airmen are generally respected and appreciated in this era. I feel horrible for the young men who returned from Vietnam and received nothing but disrespect from so many who hated the war and took it out on the wrong people. I pray that those men have found forgiveness for those who hurt them either in word or deed.

I am so thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America. It is such a blessing to live here. I am thankful for every man who has every fought to maintain the glory of this great country. I have ancestors who have fought in every war back to the War of Independence. I am honored that you would stand with all you have for all of us. Thank you to the families who spend countless days and hours without their loved ones near by. Thank you for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Please help me be a citizen worthy of that sacrifice.

I hesitated to do two video blogs in a row, but I love this song. I sit here with tears streaming down my face as I have listened to this song several times trying to find the right video mix for today. I almost had to post two! The only time I ever cried at a middle school concert was when a 8th grade special needs student got up and sang this song. The lyrics are always a killer, but this young man had such an amazing voice that I was a blithering idiot by the time he was finished. One of those moments that will not easily be forgotten.

Without further ado, Lee Greenwood with God Bless the USA:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Communication?!?

Have you ever worked on a project with someone of the opposite gender?  I have noticed more and more that we can discuss a project and think we are absolutely clear and in agreement on how things are going to go...until the project starts. You can be a few minutes in or up to your eyeballs and realize that you two may have been saying the same words, but you were not at all meaning the same thing (much like the cartoon above, which made me laugh!).

If my recollections are correct, this phenomenon has occurred on every project my husband and I have worked together. Today I was working on an irrigation project with my father-in-law, Clair. We were discussing how we should lay out the lines to reach all the plants efficiently. We reached an agreement and started following our plan. However, when we got to one of our directional points, Clair says, "I thought we would go around the other way". Which was fine and totally doable, but not at all what we decided on when we were coming up with our plan. It just made me shake my head and chuckle considering I have had similar conversations with his son over the years. Perhaps it is genetic?

Do you suppose God shakes his head over us? If we are far apart from God and have lost our way only one of us has moved (hint: it is not God). I would think the conversation with God could go something like this:

"Dear child, we have covered this before, I thought you were clear on my instructions for your life. I left you all you needed to know written in the Bible. Have you read it lately?"
"Sorry, God. I thought I understood what you said, but then it seemed better to do it my way."
"How did that work out for you, child?"
"Well, everything started out smoothly, but then I got busy and quit reading my Bible, dropped out of Bible study and couldn't even find time to pray. Sleeping was way better than church on Sunday morning. But then everything in my life seemed to just fall apart! Now I don't know what to do!"
"I am glad you came back to me. I will always be here for you (Matthew 28:20). Fix your eyes on Me (Hebrews 12:2) and I will keep your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). Trust in me and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths (Proverbs 4:11).

I am grateful that the Jensen men I work with are good at talking things out and coming up with a compromise when we are trying to take different paths to the same destination. Men and women throughout time have communicated differently and we have learned to roll with the blips and bumps along the way.


We never have to worry if the meaning of our words are misunderstood by God. Romans 8:26 (NIV) promises the Holy Spirit will help us communicate even when we aren’t capable of speaking the words. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. “


I cannot even fathom how many times a day God must shake his head and wonder how long it is going to take me to figure out that MY way is not the right way! What amazes me more?  Even if I have done the same stupid thing repeatedly He will still be there waiting for me to figure it out and turn back to him. Waiting with open, loving arms, rejoicing at my return.  God is so good! Makes me just want to shout from the rooftops.

I pray that you will have a week filled with clear communication. If you don't, remember: God understands you and loves you even when no one else seems to.


In His Peace -

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life is but a breath


You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.
(Psalms 39:5 NIV)

Look down at your hands. A handbreadth is the width of your hand, or about four inches. That is the comparison used in the verse above to measure our days of life here on earth. In the overall scheme of things our handbreadth of time allotted to life on this planet doesn't seem all that significant, but it is. We matter. What we do matters. How we treat others matters. We may not even see it in our lifetime, but choices we make and actions we take can create ripples of response through generations of folks we will never meet.

Our women's Bible study group is finishing up Kelly Minter's "Ruth" study. It has been a wonderful study and we have all really enjoyed it. Using Ruth as an example, she was foreigner with no position among the Israelites. Ruth was faithful and kind to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth's actions and noble character caught the eye of Boaz and eventually they marry. Ruth ultimately became King David's great grandmother and is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Matthew. This humble woman with no status, no husband, no money and no hope persevered through some amazingly tough times. Her obedience and faithfulness to both God and Naomi created the line that birthed our Savior! She couldn't have known that at the time, just as we will never be sure what our short lives will create for future generations.

We are given such a short time here. Use it wisely- try not to fritter it away, squander it or take it for granted. Take time every day to love on your family - hug your kids and your spouse and give the dog and extra scratch behind the ears. Any day could be your last... or theirs. We are given a finite number of days here to make a difference, create a legacy of love and to leave memories that will last a lifetime. Bitterness, anger and indifference should not have control of our days. Life is too short to hold on to all the ugly stuff. Embrace joy, love, laughter, kindness and peace!

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:31-32)

 

This is currently one of my favorite songs. I would like to share with you. It is by the group Revive and it is called "Blink" and has some very powerful lyrics.  I hope you enjoy it. 

 In His Peace -  




Friday, November 5, 2010

Mama is Running on Empty!


Ever have one of those weeks where you feel like you are running all the time, but never getting anything accomplished? Wow,  am I having one of those weeks-- for like the third week in a row! I need a physical and mental break. I just feel like hollering "Calgon! Take me away!" (remember that commercial?)

Even my God time has been done in a rush. I hate that! Tomorrow our Women's Ministry Team is facilitating a Sweet Life Cafe' retreat. We have been prepping for this for many months and I am really looking forward to spending the day focused on God. I don't know about y'all, but I  NEEEEEDDDD a God day. I love attending a Christian event and leaving feeling like my batteries have been totally recharged.

It should almost be mandatory for women to take a God day once a month. Wouldn't that be nice? You could use it to attend a Women of Faith event (love them!) or some great speaker like Beth Moore (love her!) or Lysa TerKeurst (love her, too!). Simply take a day to spend  time surrounded by Christian sisters and get all your life wrinkles ironed out by the Word of God.

What if you are like me and have to travel a long way to attend a big event? Not fiscally prudent or responsible to spend large amounts of money to attend on a monthly basis. Why don't we make our own monthly or weekly mini retreat? Why don't we put an appointment with God in our date books and schedule ourselves an hour or a day off? I am seriously considering instituting this at our house just so I can stay sane.

I imagine a large poster with something on it like this: 

I hereby decree that mother needs some time to regroup. The best way to do this is to spend some quiet time with God. I am going to turn off my phone, turn on some worship music, take out my Bible and lock my door. Unless you are vomiting, bleeding or the house is on fire, please leave me be. I promise I will be a much better person when I come out. Love, Mom.

Do you think it will work for more than 30 seconds? I can try, right? I am thinking I can hole up in my room, but that doesn't mean it will be peaceful on the other side of the door!

How do you keep your cool when life gets crazy?

I pray you all have a wonderful, recharging weekend. For those of you attending our retreat this Saturday I pray you will be blessed. You won't find any big-name Bible teachers, but you will find five women with big hearts for God ready and willing to serve you.

In His Peace -

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday





Thankful Thursday is upon us again! I would like to say thank you to all my friends who have risen to the Thankfulness Challenge for November. They have committed to use either Twitter or Facebook to post something they are thankful for each day of the month. It has been such a delight for me to watch the Thankfulness Challenge spread throughout my friends and their friends. If you have missed the challenge it is still early in the month - feel free to jump in. If you use Twitter, use the hashtag #Thanfulness to track the challenge. We have so much to be thankful for that we take for granted. I hope and pray this month of thankfulness opens your eyes to all you have and perhaps even opens your hands to help others who are not so blessed.

This week I would like to be thankful for the gift of color. Our world is so full of amazing colors in such a wild variety of hues - I don't think we could name them all if we tried. Yesterday morning I was taking my son to the bus and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. The sky was a lovely mix of pink, purple and gray. As I looked to the top of the hill I saw a strikingly fire-red Burning Bush (no, it didn't talk to me!). These are lovely in broad daylight, but it really stood out in the early morning colors and was stunning.

What about the brilliant red of the male Cardinal or the bright blues of the Blue Jay? Or the fantastic display of colors on the tail feathers of a Peacock? We could be here all day talking about the awe inspiring colors of birds alone. God did not skimp on providing visual gifts for us to enjoy every day. Isn't He awesome?

As you run errands or work outside during these lovely fall days we have been experiencing, take a minute to enjoy the beauty in the colors around you and be thankful for them.  

"You are worthy, our LORD and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."  (Revelation 4:11 NIV)



 
In His Peace -  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday!

Friendship is a wonderful gift. The Bible talks about the value of friendship in the book of Ecclesiastes:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Friendships grow, change, cool and even end. I am thankful to have friends that have known me for what seems like forever and newer friends that know my heart, even if they don't know my life story. I  have friends scattered all over this fine country as well as a few across the world. Although are contact is not daily, they will always be a part of me. You share your joys, fears, fun and tears with your friends, they become a part of who you are as you share your days.

I am thankful that God designed friendship. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had to walk through our days alone? I shudder to think of it. We were designed for relationships. I am thankful for friends that I can call to blow off steam regardless of the time of day.  I am thankful for friends who jot off a text message or send a card just to say hi.  I am thankful for the internet that allows me to keep in touch with my friends who are physically far away, but still near and dear to my heart.

 Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the friends you have brought into my life. Thank you for the friends who have remained through thick, thin and everything in between. Thank you for laughter, tears and great memories. Thank you for the friends you will place in my life, help me be a blessing to them. Please bless all whom I love, place your hand of comfort and peace over my friends who are struggling today. Keep our eyes and hearts open to new opportunities to befriend someone in need. In Jesus name. Amen.

 What are you thankful for this Thankful Thursday?

In His Peace -

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Delays -- Curse or Blessing?

Delays can be frustrating - many of us are not good at waiting. Whether it is cooling your heels at the doctor's office, the line at the grocery store or stuck in traffic we don't much care for the wait.

I read somewhere that you can really tell someone's personality by how they handle delays. We may be sugar and spice and everything nice until someone messes with our finally tuned schedule.  Suddenly sugar and spice turn into claws and fangs and things get ugly very quickly. We are called to shine the light of Jesus into the world. If we are behaving badly through our daily scheduling bumps it might be time for an attitude adjustment.

Do you suppose if we look at delays as opportunities we would behave differently? Now, don't roll your eyes at me! Think about it. Could you use your waiting time for prayer? If you have a smart phone you could use your time in line to read a Bible passage or daily devotional. You could pray for the people around you at the doctor's office, they may be carrying heavy burdens and you could be their prayer warrior. Rather than a total waste of your time, waiting could become precious time spent with God. What if you are stuck standing in line because the person near you needs to hear a kind word or see a smile? You could use that time to be a day brightener. Can you see how a minor shift in attitude can change waiting from a curse to a blessing?

What if a traffic delay is being utilized by God to keep you out of a certain situation? Would you think of your delay differently? Maybe you were meant to miss that flight. Perhaps that long freight train is keeping you from an accident or erratic driver on the other side.This brings to mind the multitude of stories I read after the tragedies of 9/11 of people who experienced delays that particular morning. One woman got a blister walking to work in new shoes and stopped to get bandaids, another one stopped to pick up the donuts for the office, one man left a folder at home and returned to get it. There were many others, but these few stuck with me. These minor inconvenient delays, that were probably frustrating and annoying at the time, literally saved the lives of these individuals. Had they been to work on time they would have been in the Twin Towers when the airplanes struck. Makes me all goosebumpy to think about and certainly puts being delayed into a whole different light.

If you schedule is going awry due to a delay look for ways to turn that into an opportunity to be a blessing or receive a blessing. Your light will shine much brighter as a result!

"You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)

In His Peace -

Friday, October 22, 2010

Listening

Listening is defined as: 
1.to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2.to pay attention; heed; obey (often fol. by to): Children don't always listen to their parents.
3.to wait attentively for a sound (usually fol. by for): to listen for sounds of their return. 
 
We are all familiar with listening. We listen every day to the radio, the television, as well as our friends and love ones. We have the ability, but do we have the skill? Did you know that listening is a skill? People take courses on effective and active listening skills. Couples will often learn listening and communication skills when going through pre-marital or marital counseling. It is a vital component in our ability to communicate with one another and an often forgotten component in our communication with God. We talk-talk-talk-talk to Him, but never quiet ourselves long enough to listen for His answers. 

There are 332 occurrences of the word "listen" in the NIV Bible. I found it interesting that many of the occurrences of "listen" are connected to the word "understand".  Listen and understand. If we aren't listening we cannot understand, can we? How do we listen and understand God? Read your Bible! He has left us all these wonderful instructions and life lessons and most of us never read it. We are listening to his instruction by reading the instruction manual. We can also listen with our hearts. I believe that God speaks to us. Not necessarily in a booming voice from above or by a burning bush in the desert, but in our hearts. When we are inexplicably driven to do something kind, when we are moved by conviction to change our behaviors, or when we have the need come over us to pray for someone right now - we are hearing God. When we heed to the good things that are available for us to do - we are listening to God. The Holy Spirit is directing us and nudging us to act every day. Unfortunately, we are so busy running full speed ahead through our days that we ignore or don't even feel the nudging and opportunities are lost.

The Bible tells us that we aren't suppose to just read the Bible and let all that information lay stagnant in our brains. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22). We can't just know it -- we have to live it. We can't live it if we don't know it.

Take some time this weekend to listen, really listen. Listen to your spouse, your children or to a friend in need. Listen to some worship music (one of my favorite pastimes). Of all the listening you need to do, be sure you are listening to the most important voice of all, that of your Father God. 
 
Heavenly Father, you have placed great value on listening - there is a reason we have one mouth and two ears. Listening must be twice as important as talking! Guide us each and every day to heed the important things in life that you are trying to call to our attention. Lead us to times of quiet where we can study your Word and listen for your voice. Help us to become more effective communicators with you and with each other. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen. 

In His Peace -

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thankful Thursday

As thankful Thursday rolls around again I am sitting in front of a blank computer screen with a blank mind. I have zillions of things to be thankful for, but am having a hard time focusing.

Today I am going to be thankful for Grandmas. Galen's grandma, Lorene Noble, died last night. She was ninety-eight years old. The oldest resident in the nursing home. She left this world very peacefully and we are all very thankful for that blessing.

Grandmas are a wonderful thing, very few people get to experience a great-grandma. I am thankful my children were able to know their great-grandma, who they called grandma-grandma. I never knew any of my grandfathers. I can see now with my children what a special relationship exists with grandpas as well. My Grandma Brown lived too far away for me to know her very well, but it didn't make me love her any less. My Nana I loved dearly and enjoyed spending time with her. She has been gone many, many years, but I still remember her fondly.

Lorene, was the true matriarch of her family. It seemed to me, particularly in my earlier years as a member of this family, that Grandma was the centerpiece of family events. Lorene was feisty and opinionated and you never had to doubt where she stood an an issue. She remained in her own home until she as 92. Lorene enjoyed having people come and visit her and she loved to play cards with her friends. It was sad to watch as she progressed into her older years. She slowly lost the ability to do the things she enjoyed and visits often left her more confused than anything else. 

I am thankful she has been reunited with all the friends and family members who left this earth before her. If you live to be 98 years old the list of folks you have mourned is very long. I remember years ago Lorene wondering why God was keeping her here. She didn't much feel useful to Him anymore. I am thankful that she is healthy in both mind and body, fully restored and no longer frail and confused.

Ninety-Eight years old. Consider the sheer volume of new technology and amazing events in history that happened in her lifetime. The Titanic sunk the year she was born. Air travel and televisions became commonplace.  Computers went from non-existent to room filling behemoths to pocket sized power houses. Man conquered space- unheard of in her youth,  but a space shuttle mission barely garners any press time today. Lorene lived through both World Wars and sixteen different Presidential administrations. The sheer volume of change in our country alone over the past 98 years is mind boggling.

I am thankful for the many years I knew her when she had a clear mind and a desire for conversation. I enjoyed and remembered the stories she shared about some of the items in her home that she cherished. The silver spoon given to her parents at her birth - that had her name spelled incorrectly. The little table with the curvy legs she picked up at a farm sale when they were first married - she loved the table, but felt bad she was gaining something beautiful from a fellow farmer who was losing everything. The two dressers she and Hollis purchased from the Montgomery Ward Catalog in 1937. The swirly green plate given to her by a dear friend when Hollis died. Just stuff to most, but it was stuff that held little tid-bits of who she was.

Although I was only related to her through marrying her grandson, she always treated me with kindness and respect, and I am thankful for that, too. I look forward to hearing more stories from other family members this weekend as we gather to share memories of Lorene.

Grandmas are a good thing. If you have one, be thankful for her and go give her a big hug.

In His Peace -

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Deal or No Deal?

A am not a huge fan of television. I might watch two hours a week, if that. Although the show, Deal or No Deal, has been around for several years, I had never seen and episode until recently. My husband, like most men I suppose, is happiest with the remote control in his hand. He has recently discovered the Game Show Network and has been watching the last half hour of Deal or No Deal after the conclusion of the late evening news.

In case I wasn't the only one who hadn't seen the show I will attempt to summarize.  The show begins with the contestant choosing a case that contains a unknown dollar amount.  The case is chosen from a group of 26 cases (each case held by a beautiful, identically dressed woman), with the monetary amounts inside the cases ranging from a penny to a million dollars. The contestant has opportunities to open more of the 26 cases to try to determine how much money is in the case he or she originally chose. After a few cases have been removed, the contestant is offered a sum of money to stop playing. The amount the "banker" offers each time varies with which amounts are still left on the board to represent the amounts still available in the cases. The contestant has to hedge their bets against what they believe to be in the case. This usually ends up in a nail-biting situation when they try to decide to take what is being offered or continue with what is in their originally chosen case. The worst part is, after they fold and make their deal, they then have to play out the rest of the game to see if they made a good deal or not. Sometimes they come away with more than was in their case and sometimes they don't.

Agonizing decisions are made at every turn, drawn out by the host and commercial breaks to make them even more unbearable. I wonder if each contestant was hooked to a vitals monitor if their blood pressure and stress levels would be off the charts. Frankly, it stresses me out watching it. I don't think I could stand the pressure. Could you?

The contestants on this program are all seeking to change their lives through financial gain. How long they stay in the game is tempered by how desperate for money they are. What if they win and they are still unsatisfied with their lives?? Then what?  

God is the real deal. He has offered to wipe the history of your past mistakes away for you. He has offered you eternal life in heaven. What do you have to do to earn it? Be the best? The smartest? Never make a mistake? Find the cure for cancer? Pick a case and make a nail biting deal? None of those things! The amazing thing is you can't earn it. What happened for you was far more dramatic than anything that happens on Deal or No Deal. 

Jesus Christ, the son of God, fully man and fully God, humbled himself to live on this earth as one of us. He died a horrible, painful, hideous death at the hands of people who were afraid his teachings would change the status quo. In that single, dramatic, dark moment Jesus took the full punishment for all the wrongs you have committed; past, present and future. He did this so that you and I could be found worthy to be called children of God. He died so that we can live. Now this is the deal of a lifetime --  and all you have to do is accept the offer. Your acceptance of God’s gift, your admission that you have made mistakes, your repentance (changing of your mind) of those mistakes, along with your faith in the Lord can bring eternal and abundant life.


Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Lord God, thank you for loving me enough to send your one and only Son to die for me. I know I am a have made mistakes and have sinned in your eyes. I understand that Jesus was crucified and raised to life to pay a debt I was unable to pay, in order that I may live with You forever. I want to turn from my way of life and follow Jesus. I invite Jesus into my heart as the Lord of my life. Help me to find safe places to learn about you and worship you. Please lead me to Godly friends to guide me in my faith. Thank you, Father, for giving me new life in the name of Jesus. Amen!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thankful Thursday


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
(Colossians 4:2 NIV)

 

Thursday is almost over and I am just getting to my thankful blog at 7pm. Thankful Thursdays are good for me because Thursday is my busiest day of the week. Since I am always talking about slowing down to spend some time with God, it forces me to practice what I preach!

 

 I am thankful for fall. As I gaze upon the picture above with the amazingly colorful foliage reflected upon the clear waters I feel more peaceful than I have all day. In Iowa the fall days tend to be chilly in the mornings and evenings with beautiful clear blue days in between. Today was one of those picture-perfect fall days. A few varieties of trees here have lost their leaves, but some are absolutely glorious. The Amor Maples, Burning Bushes and Sumac are spectacular this week. 

 

Fall is the time for good soups and hot tea (both I enjoy immensely), crunching in the leaves with your kids and enjoying the last spectacular days before the weather turns cold. 

 

 What are you thankful for today?

 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Working or Spending?

Would you say you feel more comfortable working for God or spending time with God? 

This question was posed on the Facebook page for Sharon Jaynes a few weeks ago. Sharon is a devotional writer for Girlfriends in God. I enjoy her writing immensely. This wasn't part of a devotion, just a question she tossed out. It got me to thinking -- this thinking can be a dangerous pastime!

 

Do we get so busy doing things for God that we forget to spend time with God? Do we serve in our churches and communities until we have nothing left to give to our families?  Does Satan confuse us into thinking that working for God and having a relationship with God are the same thing? Do good Christian people fall because they fail to spend quality time with their Creator? How is that for a large parcel of questions? I don't have the answers to any of them, but it is something to seriously think about.

 

We shake our head in wonder at folks in ministry who get caught committing acts that go totally against everything they have been preaching, teaching or doing for years. Did they get so busy doing that they forgot the One they are truly serving? How many warnings did they hear from the Holy Spirit that went unheeded? For every bad choice out there to make, God gives us opportunities to make a good choice - we just have to be willing to see it and take it.  I love this verse from 1 Corinthians 10:13 -  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  

 

God has provided a way out for ever temptation you may come across. Sometimes the way out is a simple "no". Many of us are horrible at "no" and run ourselves ragged trying to accomplish all the things we said "yes" to! Churches need workers. Communities thrive on volunteers. I will never discourage anyone from serving, BUT I will encourage you to take a good hard look at your schedule. If you find you have no time left for your family or for prayer and Bible study time, it may be time to reassess and refocus. Keep running and Satan may just put out his big, ugly foot to make you trip and fall flat on your face. The good news is when you are down and out you have nothing left to do but cling to the foot of the cross. Make time for Jesus, you won't ever regret it. 


I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (Jeremiah 24:7 NIV)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thankful Thursdays


Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28 NIV )


Last year, during the month of November I challenged my Facebook friends to post something they were thankful for every day for the entire month. Most of my friends really enjoyed doing this, but some struggled to come up with something on a daily basis. I think we all get so caught up in living our lives that we neglect to appreciate all the amazing things we have and experience every day.

A couple months ago I came across a blog that had  a Thankful Thursday post and I thought it was a super idea. I wish I would have bookmarked the blog so I could give proper kudos to whoever it was for the idea I am now borrowing. Every Thursday that I can get my act together to write a sentence, I will post a thankful blog. I encourage you to post what blessings come to mind for you in the comments section below.

On this first Walking the Walk Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for my son, Cameron. He broke his arm on Monday and he has been such a trooper. He has not complained even once, not about pain or missing school or trying to manage with one functioning hand. He is happy he gets more time to read.

Along the same line I am very thankful for Dr. Bryce Robison and his staff who got us in right away and took care of Cameron's initial assessments over what should have been their lunch hour. Their kindness and compassion were much appreciated by a scared little boy and his Mom.

As Madame Blueberry said in VeggieTales "A thankful heart is a happy heart".  What tops your thankful list for today?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dehydration

Did you know that your body is almost 75% water? The majority of us are walking around on the verge of dehydration because we don't drink enough water. Headaches, joint pain, fatigue and dulled thinking skills are all physical signs you need more water. Surprisingly, you may feel one of these symptoms before you actually feel thirsty. I read an article the other day that said the first thing we should do in the morning is drink a full glass of water to rehydrate ourselves. This made sense to me, I would imagine very few of us get up and drink water in the middle of the night. Our bodies need to replenish right away to function properly. 

What about spirit? Do you replenish your spirit on a daily basis? Much like our dehydrated body cells, we need to refuel our spirit to function at our best. What are the symptoms of a dry spirit? Well, if the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), your signal to drink up is when you are feeling anything outside of these attributes. Snap at your spouse? Losing sleep? Feeling down? Is chocolate your main food group? Perhaps these are signs you need to spend some time at the feet of Jesus. 

Are you familiar with the story of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well? Jesus was traveling through Samaria and was sitting at the well having a rest from his journey during the heat of the day. The woman was an outcast in her community. She came to draw water in the middle of the day when all the other women were long gone. The Samaritan woman had been involved with a long string of men, five she had been married to and she was living with man number six. Jesus did not condemn her. He said (and I paraphrase): Come to me, I am the living water. Drink from the well of life that exists in me and you will thirst no more. (Read the full story in John 4 1-26). Jesus knew she was trying to fulfill herself with these men. What she really needed was to complete herself through a relationship with her creator. How many people spend their lives chasing after things that will never fulfill them? This Samaritan woman filled up at the well with the living, refreshing, cleansing water that is Jesus and she was filled to such a state of overflowing joy that she ran through the town spilling the same refreshing water over everyone else. Through the love of Jesus Christ she changed from being an outcast to being an ambassador for Him in one conversation. Imagine what daily communication can do for you!

You cannot share what you don't have. We cannot act out in joy, peace, kindness and gentleness if our wells are dry. Spend time every day at the well. Study your Bible. Spend quiet time in prayer and conversation with your creator. He will sit and listen to you, just as he listened to the Samaritan woman at the well. If you allow it he will fill you to overflowing and you may just find yourself running through the streets proclaiming the love of Christ.

Heavenly and gracious Father, I come to you today parched in mind and spirit. You are the only one who can refresh and renew me. Pour your spirit over me like cool, clear water. Flow to every broken and empty place; fill me up with your Holy Spirit so I can live my life in a way that truly reflects your love. Amen.

In His Peace -