Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bags, Bows & Hope

So, here we are again at the start of the Christmas season. My halls are completely decked and my shopping has started. I look forward to the coming days that will be spent with family and friends. i  wonder what the world might look like during Decembers if our Savior had not come. Of course there wouldn't be the festive trimmings that brighten up our homes inside and out. There wouldn't be the beautifully wrapped packages that sit under our sometimes "overly ornate" Christmas trees. There wouldn't be the Christmas dinner that serves up usually a beautiful ham or roasted turkey. No egg nog, no candy canes no chestnuts roasting on that open fire. All of these things are truly wonderful and they bring us the sense of warmth, home and family during the season but they are not the things that would even be thought of if the Christ child were never born. I can imagine the days of December to just be cold and empty as we would sit around and wait on Spring and flowers to bloom again. The meaning of winter " blues" or "cabin fever" would be the norm for most people. It would feel cold, empty and meaningless without our God given gift of that little baby boy! The hope, the light of the world, the Savior of us all was born that night in a cold, primitive and probably smelly animal stable. He was sort of like that homeless person on the street in the cold of winter who had no place to lay his head. He wasnt born in a warm, comfortable home or hospital and the smell of cinnamon or pumpkin pie didn't waft in the air. The fireplace was not crackling with a toasty fire and there were no stockings hung for treats and packages. It was another winters night just like any other but. . . . Was it? I think not! I think it was the night that "changed the world"! It was the night that our hope came into being. It was the night that started all of the wondrous celebration that we have today! It was that night that gave us silver and gold and tinsel and lights and bags and bows. It was that night that gave us the greatest gift that we could ever have received. You see, we mustn't get caught up in the sparkle and glow of Christmas because of what the world has spun for us. We must get caught up in the hope that was born into this world on that very special night. So, as we give our gifts this Christmas and as we gather around the fireplace with family and friends and as we sing our songs of the season, let's celebrate the bundled package of hope that we all sometimes forget about in the midst of our celebrating. Merry Christmas, not "happy holiday"! May the gift of Hope remain in our hearts as the best gift that we have ever received! And, may the sparkle and shine of the season remind us of how very dull and hopeless our lives would be without him. Merry Christmas.

Insight Insert: Take time this holiday week and all throughout the season to bless someone that you may never have blessed before. Take time to pick up the phone and call someone you know is alone for the holiday and take them out for coffee and a pastry.when you're in the drive-thru picking up a quick coffee, pay for the persons order that's in line behind you.  In short, don't get so caught up in your own routine of shopping and wrapping that you forget about unselfishly sharing the love for others as that baby ultimately did! Be Jesus to someone you've never met. That's Christmas!

Scripture:  Philippians 2:3,4.   Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  NIV

Saturday, December 2, 2017

In The Waiting

So, let’s talk about waiting! There’s the waiting room in the doctors office, the waiting on the birth of a baby, then there’s waiting on a favorable response to all of the job interviews you’ve probably been on, and the waiting for a much anticipated visit from loved ones who are far away and lastly, there is waiting for Christmas morning as a small child. The anticipation runs wild! However you are waiting, the honesty of the waiting can be grueling. Our hopes, our want tos,  our ardent desires and longings can cause our hearts to strain at the bit while reality pulls back on the bridle to hold us suspended. We can think that the waiting will actually be our undoing at times. But in the anticipation there is a lesson I think. There is occasionally the lesson of self restraint or maybe  the lesson of selflessness and quite often the lesson of patience. Whatever the outcome we must always believe that God has a purpose and a plan in the waiting. Waiting, I believe, according to God’s Word affords us way more benefits than we could ever count or realize. “Waiting” renews our strength; waiting   produces endurance and character and hope; waiting helps us to become compassionate and merciful; it produces joy. In the waiting God hears us and pulls us up out of our trouble. In the waiting God hides us and shelters us and delivers us. In the waiting we are made better. So, “in the waiting” is where we walk in the blessings of the Lord for our lives. So, even if it’s hard, even if it seems unimaginably painful and even if we think we will burst, “ the waiting” is the reward. The waiting and your response to it are where your victories lie. In the whole plan of our lives Gods blessings alone make “waiting” something worth enduring. In your waiting I pray that you find the treasure that Christmas morning holds for a child and in the waiting I pray that you see and experience the gift of love that your Father has for you. It’s sooooo worth “ the waiting”.

Insight Insert: I challenge you to make a list of the things that you are waiting for. After each entry, when your waiting is over, write down a prayer of thanksgiving beside that entry and date it. I’ll be waiting to hear how many moments of anticipation are met with good news. I’m thinking it’s a sure thing!

Scripture:  Psalm 27: 13-14  “I believe thatI shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Friday, November 10, 2017

How Green Thou Art

I love road trips! There, I said it! I have a longing to see every square inch of Gods big, beautiful creation that I can before He calls me home. On a humorous note, my dad used to tell my sister that he thought she must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle because she loved to talk, well, I think I was vaccinated with an automobile speedometer needle because I love to travel in the car. Now, I know in my relatively short life on this planet that I will never be able to come close to seeing even half of the wonders of God's creation but when I can, I love to jump spontaneously into the car and take off for unseen destinations. My husband has a bit of the adventurer in him too as he is almost always my traveling companion or "co-pilot" on my flights out of town! Wherever we go we almost always have an "adventure" that has imprinted itself on our hearts and minds each time.
On my most recent adventure/business trip we traveled to the Pocono Mountain area of my home state of Pennsylvania. We had an auction to hunt treasures at and the weather was a cool 58 degrees in the middle of the summer. Well, around my neck of the woods that kind of weather was unheard of and we were usually seeking shelter inside somewhere in the air conditioning, but not this day! I had a sweater on and sat outside with the breeze blowing and the sun having only enough warmth to make it absolutely "perfect". Business was good and the day proved to be very profitable and we drove away with our van filled with new inventory. The trip home was approximately 3 hours long and about an hour and a half into the journey I spied an exit sign for a State Park and I couldn't resist. We drove 6 miles off of the main interstate into an area that was heavily forested. As we entered the State Park there were so many trees that it appeared to be getting a little dark but it was only 3:00 in the afternoon. I pulled my van over to a quiet picnic area that was in the middle of the woods and while my husband rested his eyes I walked over to the weathered picnic table and sat down. It was so quiet and still that the only sound was my husbands heavy breathing in the car behind me where I had parked. It was such a beautiful scene that the only way that I could describe it was " something from a woodland fairy tale"! The woods appeared sort of dark because the trees were so close together that they allowed very little sunlight to penetrate the area. All over the forest floor were lush green fern that looked so feathery soft that they almost beckeoned me to walk on them, but I resisted. I couldn't take my eyes off of that scene because something didn't seem quite right! As I sat staring at the lush green forest floor it dawned on me what was puzzling me. How could so much lush, green growth exist with so very little sunlight to aid its growth? The ground was literally carpeted with fern in every direction for as far as I could see. As I sat there and pondered the wonderment of it all, I asked the Lord how it could possibly be so green and lush without the necessary amounts of sunlight that most plants need for healthy growth. Well, silly me. . . . . . What was I asking the Lord of the Universe? You know He always has the best answers! Here's what He asked me. . . . . "Jean, how much of my light needs to shine on something for you to see how it's affected?" What? He continued, "How soon after you asked me into your own life were others able to see me in you?" Good question Lord! I hoped that others could see the change in me right away! I saw the change, not just in my heart but in the attitude of my heart, especially when it came to other people! The Holy Spirit of God whispered to me at every turn and my heart was changed! My dark, hardened, lost in the woods heart had changed. The light of truth and love had shown down on me as I was in my darkness and that light caused new, green lushness to spring forth in me. It didn't take years and years before the evidence of His effects on me were seen. It happened in a relatively short period of time!  "So, how long do YOU think it took for me to grow these fern that carpet my woods?" I wondered no more! He can do whatever He wants and the mystery of how He does it, well, I think I'll talk to Him a lot more about those things when I see Him face to face! In the meantime, I'll keep "road tripping" and discovering everything that I need to know!

Insight Insert: Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? If your answer is "yes" then the light has already shone down through your heavily forested life of darkness! Is there evidence of green growth in your life? If you have been truly changed by the light of salvation and love then there can't help but be change in your life! If you don't think so then my challenge for you this week is to dive into the Word of God and fill yourself with its truth. Go and be Jesus to someone who needs some love, understanding or care in their life. You are sure to notice just how "green" you will become with just a small amount of His light shining on you and through you.

Scripture:  Psalms 1: 1-3.  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and it's leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Access Key

I clearly remember the day that I was given the keys to the first house that we ever purchased. It was a feeling that I won't ever forget. It spoke to my heart and said, " you have access to your hearts desire". I will also remember the day that my friend gave me the key to her house and told me that I was "family" and I could come over whenever I liked and have a way to get in if I needed anything. I likewise remember the keys to my first car. What a feeling of freedom! Daily the keys on this computer give me the freedom to tell my stories and the access to the World Wide Web of knowledge. The keys on my daughters piano allow me in to the glorious sounds and world of music which makes my soul sing. It accesses the deepest parts of me allowing me to worship and sing about what stirs my heart. Keys. . . . . .  They are everywhere and constant reminders of the access we have been given to places yet to be discovered. Gifts. . . . . . Keys are gifts to us to allow us in, into places that would otherwise be restricted. The most important key that I have ever been given though came on a dark day and there was an earthquake, it was about 3:00 in the afternoon and when Jesus took his last breath. . . . . ..that's when I was handed the key. The most important key anyone will ever have. The temple curtain was torn from top to bottom and access was made into the very holiest place. The key that I now have, that we all have gives us access to the very holiest of places. The very presence of God, the feet of Jesus. You see until that veil was torn I was unfit to be in the presence of God. But now, because of Jesus and what he did on the cross for me and all of us, we have opportunity to have access to Gods presence to open the door and dwell with him. Best key ever! Access to the freedom, the hearts desire and blessings, all the knowledge and wisdom that He can give, and the key to the place where worship and music permeate the atmosphere always. A key to our "family" dwelling and access to come inside if we ever need ANYTHING,  I repeat, " best key ever!". How do you get this key you ask? The answer is in the question. . . . . . . you ask!  "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12)  Ask and he will forgive you of all the things that have kept you from being in His presence, ask and He will change your life forever and give you access to a freedom that you have never known. Ask. . . . . . .He will give you the key, the key to it all! Once more. . .. .. .BEST KEY EVER!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Morning Goal

There have been many days, too many for me to admit, that I have awoken from my nights sleep
with the thoughts of "what do you have for me today Lord?" All in all that is a natural sort of thought

but I began to examine what was at the root of my thought process. It seems that because we live in a sinful and self-centered world that we can way too often find ourselves caught up in the 'what is there for ME' mentality. It's not always selfish, so please hear this kindly I pray. But take time to examine your deepest motives and see where they lead. Are your thoughts towards, "what can I ask of God today so that he can meet my greeds? OR What can I ask of you God that will bring you glory?" Now, He already said that He would take care of our needs so walk in the trust that He will do what He says He will do but change up your hearts question perhaps to point it away from you and towards the one who made you. That goes for our attitudes towards others as well. "What can I do for others today to represent you well my God?" I so loved what I heard another wise woman of God say about thinking of others before yourself. . . . .  " it is the cure for the disease of self-centeredness and the antidote for pride"! So, may we all begin to wake up and make the prayer on our lips each day to be "What can I do for you today Lord that will bring you glory?" Psalm 115:1 "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Islands In The Stream

I love nature walks! I really do. I find that it's the one thing that will definitely slow me down and force me to stop and inhale all of the beautiful things that made my God very happy to make. They were, of course, made for His pleasure but I too take much pleasure in standing in the middle of it all. Today, while on the path with a friend I walked past a patch of honeysuckle in its glory and had to stop to allow my other senses to catch up to the distraction that my nose was in the middle of. No honeysuckle candle, air freshner or perfume can come close to capturing the real thing. While stuck in that moment I noticed that there was a small, fast running stream just over the bank. We walked a little further to get a closer look and there right smack dab in the middle of the stream was a large rock. Oddly, there was a bit of moss with a wildflower growing quite nicely on top of the rock. Now, I'm sure there wasn't much, if any, soil on top of that rock to support that plant but it was thriving there nonetheless. It made me wonder how something could be doing so well without what I had always believed was essential for plant growth. Silly me cause what do I know in the big scheme of things! How does a bumble bee fly? According to physics, it's weight and its wing size, it's impossible for it to fly but nobody told the bumblebee, so it just flies. And then there's the beautiful Monarch butterfly. All of them migrate south to one certain valley in Mexico for the winter. How do they all know how to get there and when to leave from their different locations all over North America? My simplistic answer would most probably be "God gave them all the best GPS systems out there"! But in reality, I just don't know. I don't know how that plant was thriving on a rock right in the middle of the stream but it was! There are many many things that we may never understand fully but the lesson of the day, at least for me, was to "trust". Trust in the one who made that rock and put that plant upon it to live. Trust him to take care of its life and survival and to allow it to get everything that it needs to thrive. It certainly had the water it needed and even when the rains took the water levels up and over its leaves, I'm certain its creator took care of it. Lots to be found in my little observation of a plant on a rock. Trust! He will take care of me. Should my troubles rise up all around and even when I feel that I just don't have enough to sustain my life, he will give me everything I need to carry on in my stream of life. And the moral of my nature walk story is . . . . Be planted on the "Rock, He's all you need"!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Way

Have you ever encountered a stubborn, set in their ways, unbending, haughty and all knowing  negative grumbler? What a brick wall huh! If I could say there was one type of person that was the most difficult for me to communicate with it would be a stubborn grumbler. I'm very sure it was one of the most disdainful attitudes that even the Lord God had to deal with. Oh, and he dealt with them and it wasn't always pretty. When the children of Israel were grumbling and complaining in Numbers chapter 14, the Lord looked at their grumbling and complaining as contemptuous. They had forgotten all the wondrous miracles that the Lord had performed bringing them out of the land of Egypt such as the cloud in the daytime and the pillar of fire at night, the parting of the Red Sea, the raining of manna down from the sky and the striking of the rock that gave them water to drink. Still they grumbled and complained. Their sorry selves wanted to go back to Egypt where they said they 'Had it better'! So quickly we forget where we came from and what we are brought out of!   It's hard to imagine given so much again and again, in a very miraculous manner I might add, that they would still be so unhappy and ungrateful. You may think to yourself, " I would never complain if I saw the miraculous hand of God move like that on my behalf"! Really! Well. Let's just think about it for a minute, but just a minute because I don't want this to seem like a condemning rant to those of you reading this because it is not. You see, people are people the world around and we are all born with a sin nature and a perpensity to grumble and complain. But it's where the close walk with Our creator comes in and changes everything. You see when the Israelites grumbled and complained and the Lord was ready to strike them all dead, it was Moses who came to their defense. He pled for mercy for them and begged the Lord God to pardon them. They had an advocate, someone who stood up for them. I believe it was someone like Moses who had stood in the very presence of God and had himself been forgiven much, that showed his love and mercy towards the Israelites. Did they deserve to be pardoned? No! But God ended up pardoning them anyway ( Num 14:20)  but they still suffered the consequences of their stubborn grumbling actions. They were not allowed to enter the land of promise. Their children would after 40 years but none of the grumblers would get that beautiful promise. Here's an interesting side note for those who like a bit deeper thought process. In that particular chapter when it talks about "complaining" the Hebrew word for complaining means "lodging or to lodge". When they were grumbling and complaining they were in essence saying "I have reached my destination, I'm lodging here and I have no plans to go any further. This is as far as I wanna go"! Isn't that so true of the nature of grumblers and complainers. They sit down in their spots and take residence in their own opinions and self will and refuse to move from it. Hence the "stubborn" attitude. I have been met with people like that and I don't have to tell you that they can be unmovable in their own way. It does bring that song by 'ole blue eyes" himself, Frank Sinatra to mind, 'MY WAY'. A couple of verses go like this: " I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway, and more, much more than this, I did it MY WAY. . . . . To think I did all that and may I say, not in a shy way, oh no, oh no not me, I did it MY WAY".  What a thing to proclaim! Our way is never gonna work nearly as wonderfully as Gods way. When we get in close fellowship with our creator, like Moses, and sit and spend time in his presence, it can change us, it can turn our hearts of stubborn stone into hearts of flesh that are filled with mercy and love beyond our comprehension. And, when our stubborn hard and unchanging hearts take over, well, we have an advocate, his name is Jesus. He stood up for us and pled, bled and died so that we could see the promise, the promise and the hope of something far better than OUR WAY! So if you find yourself sitting down hard on the ground or in your dirty little mud puddle and taking residence there saying, "this is as far as I'm going", you may want to remember the Israelites. They didn't get struck down but they certainly didn't get all that was good and promised to them either. Have it your way if you like but I'm thinking that there's a whole lot of "wonderful" to see if you pick yourself up and move on and forward into some other way besides your own. And if not, well, the words of Dr. Phil might apply here. . . . "So how's that workin for ya?"