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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Resolution - The year of Gratitude

“What if you only had the things today that you thanked God for yesterday?”

I’ve seen this quote several times lately.  Hmmm, I wonder why?  Maybe it keeps popping up because God is trying to get my attention?  Whether this is mere coincidence or a divine wink from God, it has worked.  This little phrase has really impacted me lately, especially over the holiday season. 

So, what if?  What if I only had the things I thanked God for yesterday? Well, sadly, I’d be sitting in my good parking spot at Wally World drinking a Coke Zero, that’s what!  But, that would be it!  Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit – I know that’s highly uncharacteristic for me – but I did thank God for more than a good parking spot and a Coke Zero yesterday.  However, I’m ashamed to say, not for much. And unfortunately it was as I was drifting off to sleep…and I found myself just ticking off the list of all the things I want to have tomorrow, you know…just in case?  And…wait…did I even finish thanking him before my date with Mr. Sandman? 

I do, however, clearly remember grumbling a lot this week.  I lost $15.00 out of my pocket, the dryer quit working, the garage door quit working, and we still haven’t replaced the broken microwave yet, causing me to do Neanderthal things like heating leftovers in a pan on the stove!! 

Those things I remember well.  But did I remember to thank Him for lunch with my cousin and family, the joy of caring for two amazing toddlers in my home, having all three of my kids around my table, the birth of great-nephew?  Did I? Did I, huh?

This holiday season I’ve known of 3 different families who spent the days designated to “Comfort and Joy” in “Grief and Suffering”.  They all lost loved ones over the holiday season forever filling this season with a sense of remembrance.  I’ve spent much time petitioning God on their behalf, for sure. But, did I thank Him for our health, for our safety, for His provision over us?

Today is New Year’s Eve, prompting me to think of my New Year resolution?  Yes, all the regulars apply – more exercise, better diet, yadda, yadda, yadda – but this year I resolve to be thankful!  Not just for those things that I hope to have tomorrow (you know, just in case that actually is how the Big Man works), but for the big and little things that I take for granted every day.  Actions of others, kind words spoken, groceries in my pantry, and the list goes on and on. 

Several years ago I kept a gratitude journal.  Why I stopped this I don’t know, but in 2017 I resolve to keep the gratitude journal again – physically writing down each day what I am grateful for.  In 2017 I will be intentional in my gratitude to the Big Guy – who gives so abundantly whether we are thankful or not
                                                Whether we deserve it or not
                                                                        Whether we need it or not

In 2017 I shall be thankful!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Today I choose Peace

Today, I took a break from the news.  Today, I took a break from reading articles online that have anything to do with politics, protests or bitterness.  Today, the words of this song resonated with my soul. 

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our father
Brothers are all we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment
And live each moment
In peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

Today, I’m focusing on peace.  Today, I’m choosing not to look at the world with disgust, disbelief and discontentment.  Today, I’m choosing peace.  Today, I’m choosing it for myself.  Today, I’m praying for peace for my family, my country, the world.  Today I’m setting my sights on the one who grants peace that passes all understanding.  Today, I’m praying that His peace penetrates hearts of stone, bitter seeds, loneliness, sadness, destruction and strife. Today, I trust His PEACE can do this!

“For I have told you these things so that, in ME, you may have PEACE.  In this world you will have trouble, but TAKE HEART, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Today, I choose to stake my claim in the soil of this promise!


Monday, July 11, 2016

It’s County Fair time here in my hometown.  My favorite part of fair is sitting around in the food tent dining on Fair cuisine and catching up with friends from the community.  Last night as I was doing just that a lady walked by with this shirt on….

 All of us at the table got a good chuckle out of it.  Since I’m a church secretary and one of the ladies at the table attends my church we got an even bigger chuckle out of my suggestion that I buy one for me and the Pastor and put our church name on the back.  I thought it would make a good “staff uniform” so to speak. 

We were coming up with all kinds of funny situations with the shirt and laughing about it. 

It was humorous and some could argue that maybe the shirt suggests that “cussing” is okay as long as you love Jesus.  Others might say that the shirt speaks to all of us as Christians – we are imperfect.  That’s how I choose to see it.

The shirt really impressed me.  I thought about it a lot.  What if we all, as Christians, had to wear a shirt that testified to our love for Jesus but also announced our flaws to the world as well? I thought about what my shirt would say.  What would your shirt say?

I love Jesus…. but I gossip

I love Jesus…but I pass judgment

I love Jesus… but I drink

I love Jesus…but I have road rage

Can any of you relate to any of the above.  I’m guessing most can relate to some if not all.  But would you dare openly confess to those things on a daily basis.  To a stranger? To your church family? To your pastor?  To your kids?  Most likely, if you’re like me, those ungodly characteristics I carry are not something I boast and brag about. In fact, as I work hard at being as Christ-like as possible, it’s very hard to confess that I screw up many times over.   But chances are (and I love Jesus…but I like to take a gamble now and then J) that people already know those things about me even if I am trying to keep them to myself. 

How many times have we sat through a church service where we’ve had opportunity to secretly write down a sin we need to give over to Jesus, or to sit quietly in our seats and confess those to God, or lay it down in an altar call.  Let’s face it, who would be the first out of their seat if the pastor asked us to write those things on our shirt and come face the audience?  I know I wouldn’t be the first in line…. or tenth for that matter.  It would be humiliating to admit all my imperfections to all of you in public.   

The message God is preaching to me from this shirt,  is that, in being a Christian, it is so important to be real.  Perhaps if I were to re-create the shirt I would have a slogan on the back that would say – “Work in progress” or something to that effect.  I’m not perfect but God and I are always working on that. Or maybe I’d put 1 John 1:9 on the back that says,” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Gee I wish the creator of the shirt would have gotten my input here!

The biggest gripe by those that are unchurched are that Christians are hypocrites.  They say we follow Jesus but we don’t act like Him.  But what if I just lived my life in a way that let them know, “Hey, I’m a Christian – but I’m not perfect.” Perhaps I’d just be “real” to them and  not someone they feel is too difficult for them to be. Maybe by being real I’d show them that God uses all kinds of cracked pots for his glory.  I like the Message version of 2 Timothy 2:20-21 that says, “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets – some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage.  Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.

One of those containers could be the container of confession to someone who only sees the “prim and proper me.” One of those containers could simply just being real. To someone who feels hopeless, unloved or incapable of having Jesus love them; the confession of my imperfections, as a Jesus lover, might be the best sermon I could preach to them.  Perhaps the confession of my imperfection would be the long cool drink for someone’s dry parched soul.  Maybe if they know Christians aren’t perfect and they are willing to admit it, being a Christian themselves wouldn’t feel like such a tall order to fill.

After all God has used those with imperfections for his glory all through his word.  And they all admit to it somewhere along the line.  

Moses – I love God – but I stutter.

Gideon – I love God – but I’m afraid

Abraham – I love God – but I’m old

Rahab – I love God – but I’m a prostitute

Samson – I love God – but I also love the ladies

Thomas – I love  Jesus – but I’m a skeptic

Peter – I love Jesus – but I don’t want to admit it sometimes

There’s an old proverb we’ve all heard “Confession is good for the soul”.  Maybe if we are confessing our sins to each other, whether we go to the extreme of putting it on our shirt or just taking a friend in confidence, we would be less likely to continue in sin because someone else knows now and is holding us accountable.   Maybe we really need to take this verse from James to heart... I'm just sayin'!  James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

What a witness I would be if I could say to that person that needs to feel Jesus’ grace in their life; “Hey you know what?   I love Jesus but I’m not perfect.  I screw up.  Sometimes I gossip. Sometimes I cuss. Sometimes I____ (you fill in the blank).  But here’s the good news – HE became sin who knew no sin, so that in him, all of us imperfect people, might become HIS righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:21).  Only HE is perfect! His love covers a multitude of sins.  I am always a work in progress – and He always has my back, provides a way out for me, offers his hand.  What relief!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start putting my sins on my shirt nor do I suggest that you should either.  But I do challenge you to think about what your shirt might say.  Where is the weak area that you need God’s power to eradicate?  His grace is all we need. (2 Cor. 12:9).

I love Jesus but sometimes I forget how much He loves me!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Faithfully Following

Faithfully Following

Last week I had a biopsy done for some issues I’ve been having.  Needless to say I’ve been a little nerved up and freaked out as all the research I did pointed toward cancer.  I’ve been in the “Holding Pattern” the last few days awaiting results from my doctor. 

While I’ve been waiting…and praying…and trusting…and occasionally freaking out– God has taught me much!  He’s just real awesome like that

  •    He’s made me aware of all the little things around me that I take for granted        
  •   He’s showed me what courage and complete trust in Him really looks like through the eyes of friends who truly are suffering through cancer or illness.      
  •    He’s really brought nature alive for me making me aware of every flying bird, blossom or fluffy white cloud! 

Feeling a bit anxious again today in my holding pattern, I chose to go down a very hilly road here in Amish Country on my way to visit my mother in law at the Nursing home.  It’s a pretty drive with lots of farms dotting the landscape.  As I was driving and wondering about things God used another sight along the path to teach me about faithfulness.

 Up ahead was an Amish buggy.  It was what the Amish call a “double buggy” used for bigger families.  I don’t know how long they had been on the road, but I’m guessing they lived nearby because their two loyal pooches where running after them.  The slower one was a shaggy breed and he gave up a little bit easier and headed back after a time.  But, the little terrier mix was in it for the long haul!  He was going to follow his people all the way – he was that loyal.  So follow he did; and he kept up alongside the buggy at a really good pace.  The scary part was that he did not stay in their lane but he ran alongside them on the other side of the road! Remember how I said this is a hilly road?  So this scenario had danger written all over it.

I stayed at a slow pace behind them.  I couldn’t pass anyway because of the double line and the hills, but neither did I want to.  I was mesmerized by the loyalty of this faithful little fellow.  When we started to crest the hill and puppy remained in the oncoming lane my heart started to race a bit and I wanted to pull over and call him to the side for fear he was going to get creamed as I watched.  Fortunately, no vehicle came up the hill.  At this point, he’d gone a couple of miles faithfully following his people with his tongue and tail wagging. 

And then….it happened.  A semi loomed up the next hill and I closed one eye in horror thinking how devastating it was going to be when their beloved companion got creamed by the big truck as they watched.  But, Beloved Companion was pretty smart, and when he saw the truck coming he crossed over to the other side of the buggy. Even then, he kept up, didn’t slow down for even an instant. He continued to chase after his master.  Once the traffic was clear he went back to the other lane, running alongside the buggy, following his people, keeping up with them no matter the risk.

When I felt it was safe to go around I did and left the family with their side kick faithfully following as far as I could see in my rear view mirror!  I wondered how many miles he followed them.

I did not see his carcass on the road on the return trip so I assume he met his destination safely whether it was with them or back at the family farm.

I was very impressed with poochie!  He was loyal and faithfully followed His master no matter the risk!  I sized it up alongside my current situation.  What if I get that call that I have cancer – will I continue to faithfully follow?  Am I loyal enough to clip along at His heels on the “hills” of danger?  Will I continue to trust Him even if it means there are risks to my personal being?  And most importantly will I do it with such uninhibited tail wagging exuberance? Poochie didn’t care what loomed ahead – he didn’t even give it a second thought.  He simply did not want to lose sight of His master…..and neither do I! 

No matter what looms ahead, what risk is involved – I want to keep my eyes on my Master!  For the remainder of my drive this was my focus and it felt good.  Total surrender to Him and knowing that no matter what the future holds – He holds me in the future!  Just like that buggy full of people was Poochies reward – HE is my reward!

I had a wonderful time with my mother in law.  We held hands and I read her poetry and looked at pretty pictures.  We went for a walk and shared some laughs.  I decided to go the same route on the return trip home.  And guess what?  It was on that route home that I got the phone call from my doctor’s office.  There is no cancer….I am thankful…humbled, overwhelmed…grateful…and determined to live each day faithfully following with tail wagging exuberance no matter what lies ahead!