Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fitting the Pieces Together

Winter is often a good time to set up a card table and work on a jigsaw puzzle. My sisters do this and often exchange puzzles with each other for a little variety in their pass time. There are different ways to go about putting the puzzle together. Some start with the straightedged pieces first. Some work on gathering all the pieces of a certain color and work on a specific part of the puzzle. There are many ways to put together a puzzle but the goal is always the same: to complete the picture using all the pieces.

Life is like a puzzle. The pieces are spread before us and we work with the pieces, slowly creating a unique picture, unlike anyone else's. Certain areas of the puzzle require extra effort and seem to never be quite finished. Others fit together quickly and are complete so we move on to something else. Some areas we keep going back to, trying to find the right pieces.

Throughout the Old Testament we are given parts of the story of Jesus Christ our Savior. The prophecies foretell the events of Jesus' life and the New Testament documents the way his life fulfilled all that was predicted. The Bible works a lot like a jigsaw puzzle. We read scriptures and process them and the more we learn, the easier the pieces seem to fit together. Even though some prophecies remain to be revealed, we begin to understand how in the end everything fits together.

"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21 NIV).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Unusual Places

I've seen scripture verses written on billboards, on signs in sports arenas, on shirts and pictures but on Saturday night I saw an unusual sight. Perhaps it is just because I do not normally spend time watching boxing; yet I was intrigued when John pointed out that one of boxers in the ring had the scripture Acts 2:38 stitched into the waistband of his boxing shorts. His shorts were red and white and the boxer eventually lost the fight by decision.

I wonder how many others noticed the scripture reference and how many people actually took the time to look it up. Obviously I know nothing about this boxer, his personality or testimony but putting this scripture in a very visible place seems to show that he wants others to read the verse and be blessed by it. I don't usually do a good job of remembering scripture or memorizing verses. But I did remember the boxer's verse and I looked it up this morning.

"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 2:38 NIV).

What a testimony for this boxer to proclaim! This verse meant enough to him to broadcast it to the world of boxing. I watched his actions through the rest of the fight and was most struck by what he did after the winner was announced. He congratulated the winning boxer with sincerity, it seemed. He really appeared joyous for the other boxer. Then as the winner gathered up his infant daughter and put a miniature trophy belt on her and paraded around the ring in his championship belt, the boxer who lost came up and admired the little girl and her daddy, congratulating them again.

Signs of faith show up in lots of unusual places. I wonder what I can do today to turn others toward Christ Jesus? Lord, help me show love and kindness to others so they will seek you in their quiet moments and grow in a relationship with you. Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fear of Heights

I have always had a fear of heights. As a child the only place I felt this fear was in the hay loft of the barn and the bridge that crossed the creek that ran through the pasture on our farm. My real fear was of falling from the heights. So I would always stay away from the edge or creep carefully as close as I could get before fear overtook me. I had some daredevil friends, I discovered, who had no fear and challenged me to jump with them. From the hay loft I could see the mound of loose hay below that seemed it would cushion my fall quite effectively. But the process of jumping still challenged my fear. Even after watching other kids jump and live, I still had fear that made the first try very difficult. After much time and internal debating, I did finally jump into the hay and lived to tell about it.

The bridge however was a different story. Below were rocks of all sizes and a shallow stream of water. Even this naive kid knew it was not a good idea to jump off the bridge, Though the bridge wasn't very high, perhaps less than 20 feet from the creek, I knew it was dangerous and I warned my friends not to jump. One threatened to, but the others agreed with me that it was not safe. I remember one of my friends climbing all over that bridge, and that was dangerous enough. Thankfully they all went home uninjured.

As an adult I have experienced many higher places that still give me the chills to think about. Often the most beautiful places feature amazing peaks and valleys. I've been blessed to view the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Mesa Verde, the St. Louis Arch from the top, and flown in airplanes many times. But to this day when  I see a commercial where the view suddenly goes over the cliff or off the top of a skyscraper, my heart skips a beat and it takes my breath away.

It seems that to be able to try something like sky diving or bungee jumping, or being a wind turbine repair man you would have to convince yourself that there was no danger; that you would be safe. I need to know that God's loving arms are there to catch me, no matter what danger I face.

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV).

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Frozen Tundra

Iowa was in the deep freeze this weekend and the ground creaked and crunched as we walked upon it. The cold wind that steals your breath away has calmed again to stillness and the temperatures begin to rise ever so slowly. The earth seems barren and lifeless, covered in snow and frost. Yet, it is beautiful as it reflects the glimmers of a sunrise and sunset, waiting like an artist's canvas to be transformed in the light.

At night the snow cover glows in the light of the moon and stars, eerily lighting your path and allowing you to see as in daylight. The stars seem to glow in brilliance, reminding me of the light the shepherds and wise men must have seen so long ago. It makes me want to stop and study the constellations that God has set upon the night sky. The earth seems so small and the world so vast in God's creative hands.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord's renown,  for an everlasting sign which will not be destroyed." (Isaiah 55:8-13 NIV).

Hope lies beneath the frozen tundra, awaiting God's voice to awaken the earth into song of new life. So we will wait impatiently for the warmer days to return and watch closely for the signs of new life which God has promised.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Searching for the Glimmer of Hope

"For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you. I have come like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge" (Psalm 71:5-8 NIV).

Sometimes life is just hard. You feel weighted down by sadness or pain. It is hard to function as normal and it would be easier to just stay in bed. Few of us have that luxury so we keep going, one foot in front of the other, one task at a time. And eventually the cloud of grief or pain lifts, slowly, and hope is restored. 

Somedays I would rather wallow in my sufferings, dragging my feet through the murky mud and madness. But that has no benefit but getting my shoes dirty. 

Instead, I must lift up my chin and keep my focus on Jesus. This morning I was greeted by the most beautiful red eastern sky. It seemed only to last a moment and it was gone. I could have easily missed it, but I did not. Thank you, God, for lifting my eyes to You. For showing me Your beauty and grace for today.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Monday, January 11, 2016

Saying Goodbye

I don't like goodbyes but often in life they must be said even when we aren't ready or willing. My favorite goodbyes include a big strong embrace and an "I love you". I share these moments with the special people in my life and I cherish the memories and the warmth and love that seems to come with me as I leave.

Today I'm remembering the Sunday morning goodbyes shared with a special friend whom I've admired since childhood and come to love with all my heart. She was my mother's friend first. I remember the kindnesses she showed to my mother, coming to visit her when she was ill and bringing something homemade and delicious to brighten her days. And the laughter the ladies shared so often as they chatted was delightful.

She is so easy to love because she always makes you feel so cared about and loved. She is interested in your life, what you are doing and how you are doing. She shares tears with you and that wonderful laughter she overflows with. A month or so ago she gave me a photograph of my parents greeting her at her retirement party. Each face shows the joy that seemed to surround her personality.

She always shared newspaper clippings with the church youth, her family, and anyone she knew. She made you feel special and valued. Even when she felt alone and sad as she watched her friends fail in health. Life was especially painful for her as she suffered loss upon loss through the years. Yet she sought to understand God's purpose for her life and how to cope with the sadness.

God is calling my friend home so it will be her many precious friends and dear family who will seek to cope with the sadness when she is gone. Selfishly, I wish she could stay with us, because she was such an encourager. But, I try to wish for her the peace and rest she so deserves. God bless you, my friend.

"A friend loves at all times," (Proverbs 17:17 NIV).

Thursday, January 7, 2016

In the Beginning

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3 NIV).

It's a new year and a new chapter of life is underway. It's a foggy January day after an icy coating was left on the ground last evening. It's hard to get fired up about a new day when the sun is hidden by the low floating clouds. I try to visualize the sun breaking through the fog, revealing the beauty of winter in the sparkling sunshine. Even though I know the sun is there, above the fog, it is hidden from me now.

There is something optimistic about beginning something a new. There is a blank slate in front of you ready to receive whatever you choose to create or do. The past is behind and can be forgotten while you focus on starting fresh. Just like the blank calendars that were hung on New Year's Day, we can start to fill our days with whatever we decide.

On a gray, gloomy day I can choose to feel the light of Jesus shining in my life, warming me with His love. I can allow his light to guide me in doing what is good and right and meaningful. I can follow the path that is illuminated for me by my ever-present Savior.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:1-5 NIV).

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Year - 2016

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

The calendars have changed and birthdays are transferred to them. All are neatly hung where needed and the new year has begun, ready or not. Where did 2015 go? It is surely true that the older you get the faster time flies by. It seems like yesterday that I wrote about it being the year of the sheep. I don't even know what symbol 2016 is under. All I know is that this will be a big year of changes for us. I'd like to stop the calendar or put it on pause so life could slow down a bit and I could soak it all in.

I usually spend time during Christmas and New Year's updating my photo albums with pictures. Didn't get that done. I usually like to leave our Christmas tree and nativities up through the middle of January at least, just to enjoy them at a relaxed pace, but this year I feel an urgency to take them down and put them away. I did get some new red and green totes to store everything Christmasy in-but the work is yet to be done.

Did I even see baby Jesus in the manger this year? Did I rejoice with His birth and celebrate the blessing of a life with salvation? Or was it all such a rush of madness to 'get things done' that I missed the most important part? That makes me sad to realize another season of worship has passed. Where did the joy go? I want it back.

I just know that this year I'm going to have to work extra hard to stay focused on my Jesus or the days will escape me. Our church is doing a daily scripture reading that will give us a common thought for each day. I have my "Jesus Calling" devotional that helps me feel the relationship I have with my Savior. God has plans for me that include hope and a future. It feels good to know God is in control of what lies ahead.

May 2016 be a year that brings us closer to our Lord and Savior.