Thursday, March 31, 2016

God's Treasured Possession

"Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."" (Malachi 3:16-18 NIV).

God's treasured possession is you. What an amazing realization this is!

For many years I based my self worth on things that I did and sometimes that wasn't much of anything.Those were painful and difficult years. I thought that being a stay-at-home mother made me unworthy, even lazy. I thought that because I didn't have a college education I was stupid and lazy. When I turned 30 I thought that everyone looked down on me because I had nothing to show for myself.

Once I was able to accept that God loves me just as I am, I was able to see that I had self worth; that I was worthy and worthwhile. I began to believe in myself and I was able to push myself to earn a college education and a profession. I know that stay-at-home mothers are of great value and immense worth. Even retired grandma's are God's treasured possessions when they are faithful to their Creator.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV).

We are chosen to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to live lives that reflect God's goodness to others so they can know Jesus, too. Remember that your value is set by God, not by what you do or where you live, or by what club you belong to. God loves you and treasures you. Lift your praise to Him.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Now What?

"The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all the faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 25:8 NIV).

Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! Our Savior has fulfilled God's plan for the salvation of His people who believe. Truly we must praise Him for His powerful gift that restores our relationship with our Maker. He has erased all our wrongs and clothed us in brilliant white. Alleluia!

If we truly are believers of Jesus Christ and celebrate His resurrection, all that we do in our lives will reflect the ultimate victory over sin. Everything we do has eternal results. Though we may often see no effects of our deeds, one day our lives will be measured against God's standards and we will be judged accordingly. It will be enough because Jesus Christ stands in the balance for us. And that is reason to celebrate!

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15: 55-58 NIV).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Week of Reflection

Holy Week for the Christian is a time of contemplation. It seems that life can't go on as normal; it must be put on pause while the thoughts of what Jesus Christ did for me are processed once again.

Last night a group of us joined to watch the Passion of Christ movie at the church. I think most of us had seen it when it was released in theaters but it was a new experience once again. Nearly everyone said the same thing, that it was different from what we had remembered of the first time.We were struck by the presence of God with us. It was powerful. As the movie progressed toward the crucifixion, the weather outside built up to a storm with lightning and thunder strikes perfectly orchestrated with the movie.

The total package of time spent in delightful fellowship, then solemnly taking in the portrayal of Jesus' last days on earth, then sharing together our responses, was truly moving.

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah". One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:33-39 NIV).

We must walk through this week of torture and shame, disappointment and betrayal, to experience the ultimate rejoicing of the Resurrection. The story doesn't end with the sadness; our Savior is Risen. He Lives!

May your walk through this Holy Week bring you closer to our Blessed Savior. Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Crosses on a Hill

As I looked out at the sky this morning I was surprised to see several vapor trails left by jets. I don't remember seeing any in quite a while, maybe the conditions haven't been right for them. I don't know the science behind them streaking across the sky. But as the paths connected, forming a cross in the sky, I was reminded of a sunrise service my church youth group planned 45-50 years ago. Oh my, that reveals how old I am. Admittedly my memory isn't the greatest but what I do remember of that very special day has stayed with me all these years.

We planned the Sunrise Service in Grammar Grove, a lovely park not too far from Bethel Grove Church. On a hillside as you enter the park we placed three crosses made of logs from the surrounding forest area. The image of those crosses on a hill as the sunrise shone upon them has been stored in my brain for a lifetime.

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:32-34 NIV).

It doesn't really matter that I don't remember anything else about the service, just that it was followed by breakfast cooked in the park and it being quite chilly. I don't remember how old I was, or whether I was part of the service, or who the pastor was, or the adults that helped us pull off such a logistically difficult event. I'm hoping others will share what they remember of the day, to refresh my memories.

This Holy Week brings many memories to mind as we walk through the last days of Jesus' life, His crucifixion, and His Resurrection. May every image of the cross you see this week remind you of the greatest gift God ever gave, the sacrifice of His Holy Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, and His rising to live again.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Our Helper

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you" (Isaiah 41:13 NIV).

What a comforting verse! No matter what I am facing, God will take hold of my hand and walk me through it all. I never have to face the unknown without Him. No matter what each new day holds, I have no reason to fear because I am blessed with God's presence and protection. He stands over me, sheltering me from the storm; He surrounds me on all sides so the enemy cannot knock me down. He covers me with a blanket of warmth when I am shivering; He moves the clouds away to reveal the sun. God is our Helper, our Guide, our Encourager.

John and I are facing some big changes ahead in our life and sometimes it feels a little overwhelming. The unknowns of changes always seem to hang overhead, creating concerns and stress. The little fears I feel grow a little larger when I lift my eyes off of Jesus. Thankfully, when I refocus on Him they deflate and fall away. But it feels like a constant battle inside that sometimes gets out of control.
It is then that I reach out and take God's hand and hold it tight, trusting in His strength to pull me through.

At the end of May 2016 John and I will move to a house in Ankeny. We will leave behind our beloved acreage and live in a city. John is getting closer to retirement but plans, at this point, to keep working for a year or two. We move away from our home church and are unsure what our role will be in the future. We trust in God to show us His plan for our future. We are depending on God, our Helper, to lead us through the changes and challenges ahead.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:1-6 NIV).

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Arrival of Spring

I realize I am seven days early to pronounce the arrival of spring. However, two things happened yesterday that are definite signs of its arrival: Daylight Savings Time and the bottom went out of Central Iowa's gravel roads. If you are city folk you are probably puzzled by what I mean. Consider yourself fortunate to not have experienced the spring phenomenon.

I laid in bed last night wondering why I couldn't get to sleep. I'm one of the lucky ones who never has a problem going to sleep or staying asleep; except when my internal clock has been messed with. Last night I tossed and turned for at least two hours before I fell asleep because my body wasn't used to the Daylight Savings Time yet. "Fall back, spring ahead" meant the loss of an hour yesterday at 2 a.m. It means I am typing this in the dark at 7 a.m. but it will be light outside when you get off work and beyond. I used to despise getting out of work at 5 p.m. when it was already dark out. All winter I am ready to go to bed as soon as it gets dark. Now I must adjust to the dark mornings, for awhile. The days are getting longer, thankfully, and there will be more daylight to go around.

Yesterday was also when the bottom went out of our county gravel roads. I, too, would have been oblivious to this event if it wasn't that our church lives down two miles of gravel. It was a muddy mess because the frost came out of the ground and caused the roads to become treacherous pits of mucky, muddy messes. Of course with lots of cars going down the road it just got worse and worse to the point of wondering if we would sink in and disappear. When the roads get like this you feel like there is no controlling where you drive. The mud pulls your car into the ruts and shakes you side to side while you try to keep moving forward. The scary part is meeting traffic going the opposite direction because the sides of the road are so soft that there isn't room for both cars to travel. Fortunately, I don't know of anyone who got stuck yesterday, though many used four-wheel drive.

We are so spoiled by our paved roads that we forget that just fifty years ago most of the roads were like this. One of my sisters got married on March 1, 58 years ago. The most common memory of that day that folks retell is the mess the roads were in. I believe there was a lot of pulling cars out of the mud that day. I'll be giving thanks for every paved road I travel on today and hope that those who live on gravel roads have four-wheel drive and patience.

"Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked" (Proverbs 25:26 NIV).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Blessed Pets

What would we do without our pets? Truly I believe God has a purpose for all of our beloved pets. Their constant devotion to us is one of the most appreciated expressions of love known to man. God gave us pets to calm us, to cheer us, to warm us, and to comfort us. And they do it very well.

When we moved into State Center from the farm Brady was about 10 and was very sad to be leaving the farm behind. Somehow we thought it would be a good idea to get him a kitten to take care of, in place of the sheep. I remember the day John and Brady responded to a free kitten ad and drove to Gladbrook to choose a pet. They came home with an adorable gray and white ball of fluff that quickly captured our heart. Allie became a friend and colleague, growing into a beautiful cat who had no limits in our homes. He especially loved high places and entertained us well as he surveyed the landscape from the top of the kitchen cabinets or the beams that ran across the room.

Dogs are just as special as cats, though many folks are definitely one or the other. We have never had an indoor dog, other than our grand-dog, Lou. We dog-sit on occasion and have grown to love her as well. Even though our dogs have been outdoor dogs, we have become just as attached to them as if they were living in the house. But the strangest connection is the affection we have for our sheep guard dog, Bella. We have never petted her yet she laid claim to our hearts from the moment she bit both of John's hands as he tried to get her out of a kennel. Bella was bred to be a sheep guard dog and for her to remain that, she must not be humanized. She remains with the sheep and protects them from any danger, including humans. Bella has softened over the years; she knows where to come for a treat - the front door or the pocket of my chore coat. She watches us come and go and trusts us to care for her sheep properly. But the line is drawn at touching her. It is hard to understand how we can be so attached to her, without ever smoothing her coat.

The day is fast approaching when we will have to say goodbye to Bella. She will move on to another flock of sheep and be perfectly content, I'm sure. But she will be missed by us. I believe God knew pets would become man's companions.

"Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal...All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 NIV).

I'd like to think they will be very nearby.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Precious Time

"Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:13-15 NIV).

When I was a child it seemed like life was spent waiting. Now as a senior citizen it seems like life goes flying by while I try to catch up. February seemed like the shortest month even though it had 29 days this year. Children often ask, "Are we there yet?" or "Now?" as their perception of time is in slow motion. It seems the more years you have lived the faster the clock is moving. That may change again as a person is very aged; I'm not sure.

Life is made up of increments of time that hold meaning to us. In high school I couldn't wait to graduate and move on with life. I couldn't wait to get my braces off. I couldn't wait to be married to the love of my life - John. I've come to realize how important time really is. Especially other people's time. My sons and their families are in some of the busiest of times for them. They have schedules that make my mind spin. Busy, busy, busy.

I think of all the times that I have wasted; precious minutes reading magazines or sitting and looking out the window or looking at Facebook. And I'm ashamed. I look back at times when I wish I could relive and really treasure the moments, especially those baby years for both my boys and my grandchildren. They grew up so fast! Those times of holding precious infants seem to be gone in an instant and I still didn't get enough cuddle time.

I guess time goes fastest when you begin to realize your life is coming to an end. The reality of mortality seems to hit and you realize your days are numbered by God. I wonder what I need to accomplish in that unknown period of time. I ponder what is most important or what is frivolous? I reflect on the purpose of my life; what does God want me to do with the rest of my life?

Time is precious. Help me, O God, to use it wisely and for Your Glory. Amen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Beauty of Color

I love colors. You can see all of my favorites when you walk into our house. Most of my favorite colors come from nature. The most prominent is blue. I love blue skies and blue water and especially cobalt blue. Although I have different shades of blue in carpet, drapes and pillows, I've never been brave enough to paint a wall cobalt blue.

I have however been bold enough to paint a wall the color of the mountains in Sedona, AZ. If you've never been there you won't understand. I fell in love with the beauty the very first time we drove through the area by chance, on the way somewhere else. Eventually we made a return trip just to bask in the beauty of the red-orange landscape and it became a favorite destination to return to again and again. In paint I chose a color called Ancient Copper. It is a warm and comforting color, to me anyway. It is the color of my office and the accent wall of our living room.

Now for many years we lived in an all off-white walls house, a nice change from 15 years in a mobile home with paneling on all the walls. But, I was ready for a change and old enough to no longer care so much about what someone else would think. So a couple of years ago we went for it and added color to our family room, kitchen and dining room. And believe it or not I have taken the colors into a brand new house - all freshly painted in neutrals - and transformed it into 'our' house, soon to be home, by adding color.

It instantly turned a house into our home, even without any furniture. I was pretty happy when the painter told me he loved the colors I chose. He said everything they paint these days is gray and he is tired of looking at gray. The Sedona color made him happy while he painted, he said. It makes me happy, too. Our new bedroom has an accent wall of "Naval" with the other three walls are "Caramel Kiss". The rest of the new house is a combination of neutral shades of taupe with white trim.

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him" (Genesis 37:3-4 NIV). Other versions say the robe was "brightly colored," or "of many colours."

May your world be filled with color to enjoy today.