Thursday, April 19, 2018

What Does It Mean To Be Blessed?

On Monday I talked about counting blessings. I think it is an important act for Christians to help keep them feeling positive and to acknowledge the constant presence of God in their lives. When we count our blessings we are uplifted by the many ways God touches us with His perpetual love and care.

"Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods," (Psalm 40:4 NIV).

This scripture tells us to keep God as our trust - our Confidant, our Hope, the One we rely on - and if we do we will be blessed. But, what blessed mean? Jesus defines being blessed in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3-12. But let's look at the dictionary meaning first. The American Heritage Dictionary says blessed means, "worthy of worship; enjoying happiness, being fortunate; or bringing happiness or pleasure."

To bless someone means "to make holy or sanctify, to invoke divine favor upon, to honor as holy; to confer well-being or prosperity upon; to endow as with a talent" (also, from the American Heritage Dictionary). To me that says generally the only one who can bless is God; however, I can think of several instances when people bless others, can't you?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says the blessed are: those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted and insulted. (See Matthew 5:3-12). My Life Application Study Bible notes say,
"to Jesus, 'blessed' means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost."

To be blessed is to be filled with that wonderful hope and joy that comes from having Jesus live in us - no matter what is happening in our outward life. To be blessed means to be able to take one step in front of the other even when the road we must walk is hard and rocky or along the dangerous mountain cliffs. No matter the cost - be it sacrificing our lives for our faith or standing up for what we believe in and being ridiculed or shunned.

Lord, fill us with your mercy and grace, so we can stand tall as Christians and face any trial that comes our way.

Blessed are believers
who depend on God
for their well-being.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Counting My Blessings

Sometimes I just have to start writing until God shows me what my blog topic will be. I was thinking about the snow we received this weekend and it seems like last year we had a really early spring.
Snowy April 15 with a cactus bloom.
Every year is different.

I was also thinking about the women's conference I attended Friday and Saturday and the blessing of worshipping with so many women, hearing powerful testimonials, and Susan Heck's message on the power of committing scripture to memory. I had just accepted that I couldn't memorize scripture, or anything else for that matter, but she gave us some really practical steps to use to help us. She made it seem like even I could memorize, so I just may give it a serious try. The benefits of knowing the Word so well definitely make it worth the effort.

I'm thinking about my grandchildren. How Paige was disappointed that her second rodeo of the season got cancelled because of the wintery weather in Spearfish, SD; how Calvin attended a prom in Ames and will attend his senior year prom next weekend in Gilbert; how Payton spent the weekend working with sheep (is her broken leg healed?); how Bailey has an orchestra concert this week; how Graham loves to spend time with Grandpa when he is working on the farm; and how my sweet Piper is so big and will be in kindergarten next year. My heart just swells when I think of them and I miss them; I love them so much.

Truly, this is a day to pause and count my blessings.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord," (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV).

My home is warm and my pantry is full; my children and grandchildren are healthy; the snow is adding moisture to the ground that will promote growth and healthiness in the plants and trees; the sun is shining; I love my husband; I have new friends and a new church family; I cherish God's Word and bless the Lord with all my soul. Truly, God has lifted me out of the slimy pit of depression that I was once drowning in. I sing a new song of praise to my God.

"Count your blessings--name them one by one; Count your blessings--see what God has done; Count your blessings--name them one by one; Count your many blessings--see what God has done," (When Upon Life's Billows by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897).

God, you have done wondrous things in my life and I lift my voice to praise You! Let me use this day to give you praise for each blessing I count. I am so thankful for Your unending love and mercy. May all I do today bring you glory and honor. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Let Heaven and Nature Sing

Last night when we came out of our Growth Group meeting it was trying to rain. The air was filled with the wonderful fragrance of rain hitting the semi-dusty earth. It was heavenly. The birds were singing, and the deer were running about like rabbits. This morning the geese are flying over our house and making quite a ruckus as they fly in to land on the nearby pond. Yesterday morning there was quite a sight as I looked over the pond. A goose was perched on the rooftop of a building. It looked like a statue as it stood proudly at the peak probably contemplating its next move.

Iowa is experiencing one of the most mixed up springs ever. Today and tomorrow are to be in the 70s, then Saturday and Sunday may bring snow, again. Just like last weekend. God is in control, while the rest of the world wobbles around in near chaos.

With the two days of beautiful weather I plan to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, do some spring clean-up in the yard, and just plain enjoy being outside. I want to see the signs of life returning to my perennials and I'll be saddened if something died. If nothing else, I will walk around the neighborhood looking for tulips, daffodils or forsythia, wishing I had planted bulbs last fall.

My heart sings: "Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and heaven and nature sing." (Isaac Watts, 1719).

"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth," (Psalm 96:11-13a NIV).

What a blessing spring is to the tired, dreary soul of winter - even when it refuses to leave, we know spring will come and stay, one of these days.

May you count your blessings today and be filled with joy as "Heaven and nature sing!" Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Daddy's Face

It is curious what you claim as a memory when a small child. My parents were in a horrific car accident when I was around 5 years old. I still can visualize standing in our kitchen where the wall phone was and seeing my adult sister answering the phone. I heard or understood something bad had happened. Something very bad. That instant is frozen in my memory. But, even now I don't know the whole story.

It was a terribly rainy night and my parents and another couple were going to a meeting. There was a long curve in a road and Daddy was probably driving too fast for the conditions (because he was late); he crashed the car. All four of them were seriously injured. I don't remember how long they were in the hospital but Mama came home with a neck brace for what I understood was a broken neck - a result of being thrust into the top of the car. She wore the brace for a very long time and suffered pain the rest of her life. Daddy came home later, I think, in a wheelchair with a broken leg and his face wrapped in gauze; his mouth wired shut. His face broke the windshield.

I remember my Daddy's face as a series of remaining scars and stitches that over time became invisible to me. I remember him pulling out wire stitches that would work their way out of the maze of his broken face. Eventually his mouth would be reopened so he could speak. And at some point he began to sing again. It was truly a miracle. I know that God saved my parents and the other couple that night.

It just occurred to me that Daddy has his handsome face back in heaven. The scars will be gone and he will be able to smile as before. I have always been comforted to know that Mama's pain was gone but I believe heaven has restored them both fully. Hallelujah!

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known," (1 Corinthians 14:12 NIV).

What a wonderful day when we see our Savior face to face! I imagine we will be so overwhelmed that we can't take our eyes off our Lord. But, in time - which won't matter in heaven - I imagine we will be rejoined with those we loved here on earth and what a beautiful day that will be.

Thank you, Jesus.

When we close our eyes to this world
we will open them to pure majesty!


Thursday, April 5, 2018

"I Am With You Always"

For many years my father sang the song, "The Holy City, Jerusalem" during the Resurrection season, often on Easter morning. The music still rings in my mind as the story culminates in "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Sing for the night is o're! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna forevermore! As he grew older and weaker, the high notes became more difficult for Daddy. I often held my breath for him as the high notes approached in the song. I think the congregation was still blessed by his singing, even if he struggled.

The last words that Matthew shared from Jesus were the Great Commission, as follows:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age,"" (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

Jesus promises to be with us always "to the end of the age." After Jesus was resurrected He was with the disciples on earth until He ascended into heaven. Luke tells us that after Jesus ascended the disciples immediately left Bethany and returned to Jerusalem and to the temple where they praised God (Luke 24:50-53). 

To be honest, until I read the song lyrics as printed below, I hadn't thought about the last stanza which talks about the world we will experience when Jesus returns. Until then, the Holy Spirit is within us believers, giving us wisdom and understanding, guidance and counsel, strength and God's power. Yes, Jesus is with us always. He is here as we wait for His Second Coming and the new Jerusalem. Hosanna forevermore! Amen.

May you always know that Jesus is with you, whatever you face today or in your tomorrows.

Music by Stephen Adams;
words by Frederick E. Weatherly
Song Lyrics "The Holy City, Jerusalem"
Last night I lay a-sleeping
There came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing,
And ever as they sang
Methought the voice of angels
From heaven in answer rang,
Methought the voice of angels
From heaven in answer rang.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!
And then methought my dream was changed,
The streets no longer rang.
Hushed were the glad Hosannas
The little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery,
The morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! How the angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna to your King!
And once again the scene was changed,
New earth there seemed to be.
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea.
The light of God was on its streets,
The gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter,
And no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night,
Or sun to shine by day;
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away.
Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er!
Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna forevermore!

Monday, April 2, 2018

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Today and every day forward we are filled with the blessing of Jesus Christ our Risen Savior! 

Somehow, for many years, I did not understand just how alive Jesus was after He was raised from the dead! The sections of stories about Jesus meeting with the disciples, Mary Magdalene and Mary, two believers traveling on the road to Emmaus, a crowd of 500, all went over my head. 

The facts that Jesus met with believers at the tomb; in the locked room; on a dusty road and over dinner; on a fishing boat; in Galilee; in Jerusalem; and on the mountain; didn't sink in. 

I knew Jesus gave the Great Commission after He was Resurrected. And that Thomas felt His Savior's wounds. 

But Jesus went fishing after He arose! He broke bread with believers! Jesus traveled about 80 miles after His Resurrection! Jesus was ALIVE. He spent weeks on earth as the Resurrected Savior and somehow, for a long time I imagined it all happened in one day. 

It isn't all over on Easter. Read what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also," (1 Corinthians 15:3-8a NIV).

Risen Lord Jesus, hear our prayers today: Help us to keep you alive in our hearts and our lives every day forward. There is so much of your story we need to share with others, guide us to those who need to hear; give us the message to deliver; fill us with Your power and Your love. This we pray in Your Holy Name. Amen.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sweat Like Drops of Blood

On a few rare occasions I work hard enough to sweat. Those times are mostly limited to the gym during this cushy life of retirement. But during my lifetime I really have done some heavy-duty sweating. When we lived in the country near my parents our yard was one huge slope. We had a push mower and we mowed the acre by hand. I remember mowing that yard when I was 9+ months pregnant; two days before our son Brady was born.

I used to help load hay and straw and stack it into the hay loft; the heat of July/August and the hard work always made me sweat from head to toe. Mowing the yard is still up there as one of my top sweat-producing activities. Hoeing the garden, painting the house, even picking up limbs in the timber would make me sweat, especially after a summer wind storm when the humidity was around 90%.

"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground," (Luke 22:39-44 NIV).

The only sweat that even minimally resembles Jesus' might be the sweat of childbirth. But, that sweat usually produces a beautiful, healthy baby.

Chapel of the Holy Cross - Sedona, AZ
Jesus was faced with an agony that we will never understand. Only Jesus, God's Only Son, the Son of Man, King of Kings and Lord of Lords had to die for our sins. Only Jesus' blood could wipe away our dirty transgressions. Jesus is The Way. The Truth. The Life. The Lamb of God. The Word. The Bread of Life. Man of Sorrows. Savior. The Perfect One.

On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus observed the Passover Feast with His disciples in the Upper Room. Jesus established Communion, a memorial meal of broken bread representing Christ's broken body hung upon the cross, and the cup of wine representing the blood of the covenant which was poured out for our sins.

How can we not bow in prayer this week, full of gratitude for the life Jesus gave up to be placed on a cross. If we imagine ourselves in the Garden of Gethsemane, near the Mount of Olives, we can remain alert with Jesus as His sweat falls like drops of blood. There is so much to be thankful for.

"Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary." ("King of My Life, I Crown Thee Now" hymn by William J. Kirkpatrick and Jennie E. Hussey 1921).