Monday, February 29, 2016

Believe In The Word

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14 NIV).

What a blessing those words are to us if only we believe. Our pastor shared a story yesterday about a missionary in Africa who went to encourage new pastors. He asked for a show of hands of those who had witnessed a healing. There were two hands that went up so he asked the first pastor about it. He said, "it says you can heal in the "Book" and I believed it." He touched a man and the man was healed. The missionary then asked the second man who raised his hand about what he had seen and that man said, "I was the man he healed."

I can't tell the story as Pastor Scott did but I was so moved by this that I had to share it with you. If only we would have the faith of those new pastors every day. They were new to their faith and had been trained to be Christian pastors in a very short time. But their faith was complete. They believed what they read in the Bible and were ready to live out their life serving others and teaching about Jesus Christ. If only we would believe with such conviction and trust in God to be healed in the way those in the Bible were healed or the pastor in Africa was healed.

Just believe. It sounds so simple, yet we seem to struggle with our rationalizations or attitudes of undeserving, or questioning God's will. The Word remains true and ready for us if we will just seek out what it says to us.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-2 NIV).

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Be An Encourager

When you feel down and out, drug through the mud, and totally discouraged, it's time for 'Super' Encourager to save the day. And sometimes we need to be our own encourager. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 is filled with ideas. It is too easy to let the slugs of life drag us down when indeed we need to be doing just the opposite to free ourselves from the storm. Pull yourself up by your boot straps and start doing good for others (Thank you Joyce Meyer).

Though the scripture in its entirety is overwhelming to try to accomplish, we can choose to focus on one morsel at a time. For we must remember that we have God's power available to us through the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is ask.

Today, I ask the Lord to give me an awareness and a mindfulness to see the opportunities that appear for doing good and encouraging others. Allow me to touch another's day with sunshine and a smile. Show me how to leave my burdens buried behind me and step out in faith as I walk with You, hand in hand. And at the end of the day may my actions, my words, my ways all bring Glory to Your Holy Name. Amen.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 NIV).

Monday, February 22, 2016


"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

I was somewhat surprised to find this verse immediately following the Lord's Prayer in Matthew. It fits perfectly there but it also says to me that forgiveness is a highly important aspect of that prayer. The Lord's Prayer is Jesus' model for how to pray. It seems that Jesus realized how often humans need to practice forgiveness in their lives and thus included it in the most familiar prayer of all.

The Lord's Prayer speaks of forgiving our debts as we have forgiven our debtors but the reference is to far more than monetary debts against us. It speaks to the need to forgive wrongs against us. Even to wrongs perceived against us. Sometimes humans just get it wrong. We walk around with our feelings on our sleeves and allow even the most innocent brush with others to cut us to the bone. There are other times when people truly hurt us and we feel crushed. The key to healing is still forgiveness. The wound will remain raw and festering until we kneel before God and allow Him to help us forgive.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).

Jesus brought healing to many through forgiveness. He forgave the paralytic in Matthew 9:2-8; the adulterous woman in John 8:3-11; the woman who spread expensive oil on Jesus' feet in Luke 7:47-50. But he also forgave Peter for denying he knew Jesus; the criminals on the cross in Luke 23:39-43 and those who crucified him in Luke 23:34.

No where in the Bible does it say that forgiving is an easy task. Our own forgiveness required the torture and crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But it is in that great sacrificial gift that we are shown what is required of us.

"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Matthew 18:35 NIV).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tax Time

"This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another" (Romans 13:6-8a).

It is about halfway through tax season so probably if you have simple forms you have long ago filed your taxes, gotten your refund and maybe spent it already. Those were the good old days. Our taxes became complicated when we started the sheep business. Shortly after the first of January I began to gather all the past year's paperwork together in a box, making room for the new year's receipts. I sort, make lists, and add numbers together so we will be ready for a tax appointment with a professional.

It becomes a time to reflect on the activity of the past year and evaluate how we spent our money. It is a time to consider the new year's budget and what changes need to be made. For us, 2015 was the final year for the sheep business. That was a big change for our budget.

The scripture in Romans gave me a lot to think about. I'm not sure I've ever contemplated those verses before. It provides a new perspective on debt that I haven't considered. Only the debt to love one another is ongoing,  never fully repaid. Wow, that's powerful. It also makes me wonder how much I owe others in respect and honor. I'm sure the tally is longer than I would like to admit. It also makes me sad that the government servants in America seem to fall so short of being "God's servants". Prayer for them is definitely needed.

"Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22:17-21 NIV).

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Morning Valentine

Looking out my windows this morning I see an icy landscape that reminds me of a lacy valentine. God has put his touch on all the trees and bushes giving them a delicate trim of white. After a few inches of snow yesterday and some drifting from a new direction, the ground is again dressed in a fresh white winter coat.

The view reminds me of making valentines out of doilies and red construction paper and creating decorated shoeboxes to use as mailboxes in my elementary school days. Do children still do this to celebrate Valentine's Day? I'll have to check with daughter-in-law Laura to find out the latest trends. She hosted Graham's preschool party last week and I know she made it special for them.

I didn't even send valentines to my grandchildren this year. I missed the boat with my sisters, too. I'm not sure what happened except that February arrived and moved forward a little too fast for me.

I can remember getting boxes of valentines for the boys to distribute during their special parties at school. I'm not sure boys really get into valentines like girls do. I do remember them coming home with their 'mailboxes' and blushing as they showed a few of the special ones to me. The biggest hit were those that included candy treats inside.

My Mama always made special valentine food to celebrate the holiday. She often baked mini angelfood cake hearts that she would frost with pink icing and give to family members, especially the grandchildren. She had heart shaped cake pans that she used, too. She had such a giving heart and her home baked goodies were wonderful gifts. Those treasures still bless me even in my memories.

"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound" (Psalm 4:7 NIV).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Sheep Collection

I wish I could remember the very first sheep that started my collection. But when I got the first sheep, it wasn't a collection yet; it was only one. Little did I know that some thirty years later I would have too many to count. John counted them five or six years ago and they numbered well over 300. Since that time I have discontinued actively acquiring more but I continue to receive a few gifts of sheep.

I fell in love with sheep long ago when my daddy began raising them. For me sheep are symbolic. I've read and reread the scriptures on sheep and shepherds and for many years I made my own Christmas cards featuring them. In time, we began raising our own sheep and showing sheep so the collection quickly morphed into a house full of sheep while John built sheds and filled them with the living variety.

"He brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert" (Psalm 78:52 NIV).

I have sheep statues made of wood, plaster, china, yarn, cotton balls, plastic and twine. Some are carved, molded, folded or puzzles. I have sheep that light up, that whistle, that store money and there are sheep picture frames, plates, pictures, and planters. Our Japanese exchange student still sends a box full of sheep every Christmas. There are sheep candles and soap, crystal and paper, cookie cutters and kitchen towels. Plus, I have a full box of sheep ornaments that decorate our Christmas tree.

Each one of my sheep reminds me that the Lord is my shepherd. I don't need to fear what is ahead, for He will lead me, provide for me, and protect me. I no longer need the many visual reminders that surround me in my home, yet my heart is warmed by the knowledge that I am a lamb in His care.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

Monday, February 8, 2016

Loving Yourself

On Saturday I attended a seminar on "Loving Yourself" hosted by my health coach and her associates. I discovered something quite surprising. During an activity with one other person we were to name off all the things you dislike about yourself, then after the other person did the same we were to list all the things you like about yourself. For at least 50 of my years the list of negative things about myself went on and on and on. The list was nearly endless of things I disliked about my self.

On this day I was surprised to find that my old list of personal inadequacies has grown shorter. Maybe it is because I turned 60 this year and magically became someone who no longer cares what other people think of me, or maybe it just took me that long to learn to accept that I am okay, just the way I am. This was truly a revelation to me.

Perhaps it is because I have lost weight and I'm feeling better about my appearance; I'm sure that is part of it because I can still hear all the old negative self talk rattle around in my head. But now it isn't so true. Perhaps I have finally reached a point in my life where I need to live in the moment instead of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.  

It is true that you can't fully love others until you learn to love yourself. 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).

It is my hope that you will take time to love yourself today. God created you as a unique individual with a specific purpose. May you wrap your arms around yourself and rejoice in this day.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Junk Drawers and Other Accumulations

"Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Matthew 19:20-22).

I have too much stuff. I've been trying to sort through all this stuff and I've discovered I've become my mother. She was a keeper by necessity. She lived through the depression years and hard times on the farm. Nothing was ever wasted. She recycled long before it was the 'in' thing to do. If anyone in the family needed something they turned to Mama and she would come through. She had bread sacks, gently used aluminum foil, and cool whip containers for the whole neighborhood. She would bake you a pie and put it inside a cereal box for safe travel.

I have that same 'save it' mentality. If something is still good but I never use it, I have a hard time throwing it away. Someone could use this. So how do you find that one, someone? I've delivered carloads of stuff to Goodwill in hopes that it will end up in that someone's hands. Sometimes I think about a garage sale because it is really good stuff that someone could use. But then I think about who would come to a garage sale in the middle of the country, let alone pay for any of my old stuff, and I laugh at myself.

So, I open a drawer and pull out an old Velveeta box and in it I find a half a dozen Wet Ones, a Walgreens pill container - empty, a Weight Watchers key ring, a lens cleaning cloth, and my magnetic name tag from Iowa Valley. None of it is worth anything, but I might use some of it, someday. The name tag is useless, yet it represents 12 great years of my life. And it all goes back in the drawer.

In another drawer I find my Iowa State University photo ID, an expired Driver License, two ISU Library copy cards, my Phi Kappa Phi membership card, an Iowa Newspaper Association press badge, and a bundle of auction tickets from my dad's estate sale showing I paid $2.50 for my Grandma Hilsabeck's washer stick, as well as everything else I purchased. Inside a baggie I find a clipping of my birth, "Mr. and Mrs. Corwin Springer, Albion, are the parents of a girl born at 5:30 a.m. Sunday at Evangelical Hospital." There is a hand written note by my Mama that says, "This was Mama's planter - she loved brass things." And a note that I wrote to my Grandma once when she was sick.

It is all just stuff, representative of something in my life, or too good to throw away, it seems. One day my boys will get the job and quickly toss all this stuff into a dumpster and wonder why I kept it all.

"Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (Psalm 2:8 NIV).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Calm

Last I heard we are expecting a snow storm in Iowa tomorrow. This morning it is a beautiful, calm winter day. We had some thawing over the last few days so the sidewalks and driveways are clear of snow and just the mounds where snow was piled up remain. The birds are singing, almost like a spring morning and the branches aren't moving. It is a lovely quiet morning.

It is February so we are a step closer to spring. It is funny how much difference a day can make as we look toward the future. The weather changes so quickly, just as it did for the disciples when Jesus questioned them about their faith.

"Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." (Mark 4:39 NIV).

When it is calm you can hear the quiet and distant noises. The train as it rumbles on the tracks a couple of miles away. The traffic on the highway that you can't see. The banging of feeders on a farm across the acres of farm ground. The cawing of birds as they seek prey from the barren land.

The calm is the perfect time to quiet your mind into meditation and prayer. Take this one moment and experience it through awareness of the present, not worrying about tomorrow or fretting about things of the past. Consider what really matters to you and choose to do things that complement it.

Relish the presence of God and allow yourself to delight in Him. Sharing your thoughts with Him and listening in the calm for the answers He shares with you. Rest in His open arms.

"Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs" (Psalm 100:2 NIV).