Thursday, December 28, 2017

We, Too, Shall Seek Him

As we pack up our Christmas treasures for another year, it is good to reflect on the rest of the story of Jesus Christ, born in a stable. I don't hurry to take down all of our Christmas. I'm just not ready to move on yet. I want to linger around the Christ Child. Everyone loves babies and I'm sure Christ was the best baby ever. I want to hold Him and gaze upon His Holy face a while. Too soon He will be grown up and gone.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." (Matthew 2:1-12 NIV).

The wise men traveled thousands of miles in search of the Messiah. They saw a star placed in the sky by God and they followed it to the east, possibly from Parthia, a country second in power to Rome. It is suggested the Magi had traveled for a year or more, following the star. They must have known the Old Testament predictions or studied astrology or received a message directly from God, to begin such a lengthy search. It was an important journey for them. They were on a mission and they weren't going to give up until they found Jesus.

After stopping to pay respects to Herod in Jerusalem they traveled on to Bethlehem to find the Messiah, again led by the star. They brought with them treasures worthy only of a King: precious gold for a worthy Ruler, incense for the highest Priest or Deity, and myrrh - a burial spice for a Savior. All signs they knew more than they revealed. They were wise men, indeed.

As they approached Bethlehem they were filled with joy and presented their gifts to the Child. But as they began to leave, they were warned by God to change their travel plans. They avoided Herod in Jerusalem and took a different route home.

As believers, we too, are called to leave behind our old sinful ways and pursue a holy pathway by following Jesus' light and leading. Let us remember the Magi and their persistent journey and take up our own mission to find Jesus once and for all. Let us bring along the precious gifts that only we can offer. We, too, shall seek Him.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Zeal of the Lord Accomplished It!

Merry Christmas!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne, and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. 

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this," (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).
The bloom of my Christmas cactus
opened quickly with its brilliant
color. So far there have been two
blossoms to enjoy.

Are you filled with zeal today? I love that God was filled with zeal as He prepared the way for us to be in a relationship with Him. What is zeal? Since we don't hear that word very often I checked the definition: enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal or goal. So what would the zeal of God look like? Perfect, without flaw, righteous, holy, angelic...Jesus.

God sent His Only Son as a special baby Who would bring light to our darkest sins. God put on the flesh of man and came to experience all of our joys and sorrows but with a perfect sin-free nature. Then He carried all of our sins - every single one - to the cross where He laid them down to be forever forgiven. If we believe in Him.

Isaiah references zeal two additional times in the NIV: each time when he talks about God.

"For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion, a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this," (Isaiah 37:32 NIV).

"He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak," (Isaiah 59:17 NIV).

On this day, God brought forth a Savior. Out of His enthusiastic devotion to one perfect goal came Jesus, Messiah, Immanuel - God with us, Son of God, Son of man, Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

On this day, the Zeal of the Lord Accomplished It! Amen.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Light is Coming

I love Christmas lights. We drove through town last night and I noticed so many beautifully decorated homes. I am partial to blue lights, but I don't think there is anything more elegant than a house trimmed completely in white lights. A neighbor across the pond from us put up a tall Christmas tree in the middle of November and we have been enjoying its light twinkling - day and night.

The lights remind me that Jesus is the light of the world - yesterday, today and for all of our
tomorrows. His coming was announced long before His birth by prophets:

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you," (Isaiah 60:1 NIV).

"The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory," (Isaiah 60:19 NIV).

Until Jesus came to earth as a man, the Word of God was given so we would know all that God had planned.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

Jesus arrived as a baby, born of a virgin, in a humble stable in Bethlehem; a brilliant star announced His birth and led the shepherds and wise men to bow before His manger bed.

As Jesus began His ministry, He explained to His followers, both then and now, that His presence has an everlasting affect and effect on our lives. Once we are believers in our Savior, we are forever changed.

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ""I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life"," (John 8:12 NIV).

"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world," (John 9:5 NIV).

I especially love the light that glows from a candle. The flickering movement of light makes it seem alive, just like the light of life we have in Jesus.

Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven," (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).

The scriptures tell the whole story of Jesus: how His life and light was predicted by prophecies, how He came to earth in the light of a star, how He became the Light of Life for His disciples and for us - still, over 2000 years later! Jesus is our long-awaited Light. Let that warm glow of love and life in Christ Jesus show through us to spread the Good News so others can know His Light in their lives, too.

Monday, December 18, 2017

He Chose Shepherds

(You didn't think we would get through the Christmas season without me talking about sheep and shepherds, did you? I couldn't let you down.)

One of the most iconic pictures on a Christmas card for a hundred years or more is the image of sheep on a hillside with the shepherds and their crooks standing at attention of the brilliant star shining over Bethlehem.

Though shepherds look rather refined on a Christmas card or in a crèche, the reality of shepherds is more like the dirty, smelly chore clothes my husband hangs in the garage. The sheep of Bible times were rarely, if ever, in a barn. They found shelter in caves or just huddled together in a spot out of the wind, with their shepherds watching over them to protect them from hungry coyotes, or mountain lions.

I'm sure the shepherds rarely bathed or brushed their teeth. The men probably had long unruly beards and their hair was matted from lack of attention. Their faces may have appeared dusty and wrinkled from exposure to the hot sun. Shepherds were shunned by the village-folk, yet they took their jobs quite seriously.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night," (Luke 2:8 NIV).

Luke presents the shepherds as dutiful, dedicated servants. Isaiah presents the coming Messiah in the same way.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young," (Isaiah 40:11 NIV).

Though I am partial to shepherds, when I read the description of Jesus as my Shepherd I would drop everything to run to His arms and be held close to His heart; wouldn't you? There is nothing as wonderful as resting in the strong, loving arms of my Savior.

Just as God chose the lowly shepherds to be the first ones to hear about the birth of their Savior, God also chooses us to be His servants to fulfill His will from right where we are - shepherds of a flock or not.

"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV).


Thursday, December 14, 2017

God's Plan to Save Us

...Started with Baby Jesus. From the beginning of time - Creation - God had a plan for us. He desired man and woman to be in a relationship with Him. A loving, perfect relationship. But humankind quickly disappointed Him with sin. One sin after another. He forgave them and they sinned again. And again. Just like you and me. Man sacrificed flawless animals before God as he sought a remedy for his sinfulness. The altars became covered with the blood sacrifices, staining the ground below, again and again.

David wrote this prophecy of Jesus, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, "Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." (Psalm 40:6-8 NIV).

God had to send a Savior who would come into the world and begin to fulfill every prophecy written about Him for hundreds of years. Throughout the Old Testament Jesus was revealed as a Savior King who would rule the world and bring us eternal salvation so we could live with Him forever.

Immanuel, meaning God with us, would come as a baby born of a virgin. The most perfect infant, created without sin by the Holy Spirit. God in human form. Solus Christus. Christ alone.

"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--I have come to do your will, O God.'" (Hebrews 10:5-7 NIV).

There aren't enough fireworks, fancy decorated cakes, noisemakers, piñatas, or solemn candlelit nights to properly celebrate the arrival of our Savior.

We must give Him our total being. We must be all-in for Jesus... His worshipers, His followers, His believers, His glorifiers in all that we are, all that we say, and all that we do. It is His will.



Sunday, December 10, 2017

Walking Toward Bethlehem

We began the Advent season fresh, with energy and anticipation of what was to come. We made plans for all the ways we would make the Christmas season meaningful and Christ-filled. "It will be the best Christmas ever!" we said. Our goals seemed realistic at first, but soon the list became lengthy and elaborate and time passed too quickly. We didn't get started on the "to-do" part soon enough, and maybe we forgot what was most important: to put our trust in God. Maybe we rushed out the door without our shopping list, or we forgot to check the calendar we are on December 11 with a broken sandal, 35 miles to go, no hotel reservations and the eminent Deliverer's arrival imminent.

The Advent season is a bit like the walk Joseph made from his hometown of Nazareth to Bethlehem, the town of his family line and of Mary's - the line of David. Joseph and Mary must have been very realistic about their travels. They had 70 miles to walk from their hometown of Nazareth to Bethlehem of Judea to report for the census as ordered by Caesar Augustus. It was a long, slow walk and Mary was, it turns out, very pregnant. She shouldn't walk so far in her condition so Joseph presumably put her on a donkey to ride the distance. I wonder if they packed for the baby King, just in case? From what we are told in Matthew and Luke, Joseph and Mary put their trust in God - there were no motel reservations made in advance and no doctor on standby for delivery.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times," (Micah 5:2 NIV).

Micah prophesied that the little town of Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the ruler over Israel. The long-desired Messiah would be born as a baby from the ancient line of David, just as God had planned hundreds of years before. And Micah predicted it again, still hundreds of years before His holy birth.

As Bethlehem becomes visible, down our road to Christmas, we must remember that the story only begins in Bethlehem. Jesus' life took Him back to Nazareth, on to Cana, Tyre, all around the Sea of Galilee, over the road to Emmaus, and ends in Jerusalem at Calvary. We must walk all those steps with Jesus so we can see with our own eyes how and why Jesus came to dwell on earth as a baby who grew into the One, the Only, perfect and sinless Man sent by God to give us salvation from our sins, through His death on the cross and His resurrection.

"He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace," (Micah 5:4-5 NIV).

SDG: Glory to God Alone

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Discovering the News

"Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel," (Isaiah 7:12 NIV).

Back in the olden days (40 years ago) finding out about a pregnancy usually happened by a visit to the physician. I'm not even sure there were pregnancy test kits yet. The woman may have had an inkling or may have received a surprise. But, no woman other than Mary received such a big surprise, not even if the doctor pronounced twins or triplets.

Mary had no idea that she was the virgin who would be chosen to carry and deliver the Blessed baby
Jesus. Mary was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of David, but they had never been together. Luke tells the story of the Angel's visit to Mary in Luke 1:26-38 NIV, as follows:

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth...The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

I can't imagine Mary's emotions at this time. Her head must have been spinning with questions, concerns, and most of all, praise to God for this amazing blessing! She expresses her feelings in song, often called the Magnificat, Mary's song reveals that she believes what the Lord has told her would happen, and that she would praise God and give Him the glory!

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name," (Luke 1:46-49 NIV). Mary's song continues to list the many attributes of God that she has seen.

December begins with the proclamation of the coming of Christmas Day. We cannot let the trivial tasks of the season overshadow the real story of Jesus' birth. Let our hearts fill with the joy and wonder Mary must have experienced as we anticipate the day of our Lord's birth.

Monday, December 4, 2017

December Celebrations

The Christmas season blues have found me again this year. I am obsessed with the desire to be with my parents and those who have gone before me. My heart aches for the childhood kitchen filled with the wonderful scents of Mama's baking. When every surface was covered with wax paper topped with delicious and beautiful treats like luscious fluffy white divinity, homemade cherry mash candies, creamy chocolate fudge, coconut macaroons topped with red and green maraschino cherries, chocolate dipped Ritz crackers filled with peanut butter, and so much more.
This is a start from one of my mother's Christmas cactus plants.
I've had it for several years, thanks to Nurse Barb Hilleman who
nurtured the slip from a plant my mother gave to the doctor's
 office in State Center. I'll share the progress of its first blooming
year during this Christmas season.

Mostly I miss Mama, sitting in her big recliner, trying to get comfortable, struggling to breathe, yet giving me the greatest gift of her presence and motherly love that radiated through my soul. And I miss Daddy, sitting in his wheelchair with a beautiful welcoming smile for me, calling me 'Glory' and offering me an undeserved proclamation of pride.

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out,"Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir," (Galatians 4:4-7 NIV).

You are an heir of God! Your treasures are waiting in heaven. No more worry about finances or 'stuff'; no more shopping for gifts within the budget; no more filling that emptiness with buying more. God will provide it all. God's awesomeness will fill the air with completeness and satisfaction and unending joy. We will not want for anything. We will have it all: the goose-bumping, bone-shaking, cuddly warmth of the softest blankets, pore-filling perfection of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and Father of us all!

Who can imagine such utter and complete joy? It will be blow-your-socks-off, knock-us-off-our-feet wonderful!

Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Fill us with the glory of your presence in the manger. We wait expectantly for the celebration of Your arrival. But, You are already here, Lord! So, surround us with your glory now so we can feel the celebration in our hearts. We love You, Jesus. Come...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Goodbye, November

Where did November go? I'm in awe of how fast time goes by as I get older. I've also come to realize that I waste way too much time. So as we prepare to enter a new month I feel over-stressed by the things that should get done. How was it that I was able to get ready for Christmas when I was working lots of hours?

I'm swallowed up in a to-do list that only I think is important. I have a pile of unwritten Christmas cards, addressed and stamped. My office and our closet are heaped with boxes and bags of gifts that wait to be wrapped. There are three red and green tubs in the middle of our living room, calling for me to take out the decorations and set up my nativity collection. John even put up the outside lights and our shepherd and sheep display for me. One of the first times ever that I didn't do it.

Even the preparations and Thanksgiving didn't feel right this year. I needed time with family all seated around me telling of their busy lives and sharing what is important to them. Instead I feel overcome and rushed by the details.

All of a sudden I feel the same sadness that clouded the Christmases of the past. It came rushing back as if it never left. How can that be? I'm missing my mother and father; I'm angry with myself for not making time to call my sister; I'm missing my childhood church and church family; I'm missing what can't be ever again.

I'm tired of hearing about the mess our country is in; the big mess. I  wonder what in the world we have done to our country and what our grandchildren will inherit. There are missiles flying overhead and elected officials fighting and men degrading women in the news.

Instead of focusing on the important stuff: the scriptures that remind me of how Christ came to this earth, and all the prophesies that He fulfilled; and the wonderful truth that must be told in this season.

"I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear," (2 Timothy 4:1b-3 NIV).

Goodbye, November. I'm sad to see you go. Hello, December. Bring us news of a new baby born in Bethlehem, coming to save the world.

Oh, Lord, how badly we need Your good news. Heal us with Your nail-pierced hands. Love us with Your gracious heart. Guide us with Your living Word, each day; we pray. Amen.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Still Thankful

Thanksgiving is past but our thanks-giving shouldn't stop now. We may feel we are all "prayed up" as far as giving thanks to God goes, but we are so far behind that I doubt we can ever catch up or be even. Everything in our lives is from God, created by God, and/or because of God alone.

In every moment we could give thanks for the blessings that fill our lives: for the breath of air that fills our lungs, for the beating of our heart that moves blood through our veins, for the powerful tool of our brain that tells us to move and thinks somewhere between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day (this is highly debated on the Internet so choose your own number), for the recognition of sounds, and the ability to see the words on this computer or phone screen. And that just scratches the surface of what our physical bodies do for us! Think about it.

"We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds," (Psalm 75:1 NIV).

(First, apologies to my Catholic friends, I do not intend to offend you.) Yesterday our pastor completed a sermon series on the Five Solas of the Reformation, corresponding with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 1517 nailing of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Church door. The five issues that are considered nonnegotiable in the reformed church are: "sola Scripture: Scripture alone; sola gratis: grace alone, sola fide: faith alone; solus Christus: Christ alone; and soli Deo gloria: to the glory of God alone. On this we stake our lives and our eternity," (Rescuing The Gospel, last paragraph of Chapter 16 by Erwin W. Lutzer.

Pastor Adam showed a picture of a musical score by Johann Bach that revealed Bach signed each piece of music with the letters: SDG - soli Deo gloria - to the glory of God. Isn't that how we, too, should sign everything that we do in life? Should not every cookie we make be the best it can be; every sales call we make be as good as we can do it; every moment we spend with our children be filled with love and understanding; every leaf we rake be to the glory of God?

Truly it is to be our goal in all of life, to strive for perfection - or as close as we individually can get. Not all of us can achieve the perfection that Johann Bach reached in writing music; or that Michelangelo did in art; or Bill Gates reached in software architecture; or Albert Einstein achieved in physics; or whomever you consider the top of any category. However, we have our own gifts that we (me and God) polish and shine each day that we work at or use the gift.

I am still thankful, each day, for the blessings God places in my life. I'm thankful for the gift of writing; it is what God is molding and shaping me each day. I'm thankful I enjoy writing and I'm thankful I have the desire to grow and learn and be better and bring glory to God with each message I pen or type.

You can also read Psalm 136 whenever you seek to give thanks to the Lord God Almighty.

"Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen," (Psalms 72:18-19 NIV).

SDG soi Deo gloria - Glory of God alone!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful For Jesus Christ

Blessings of Thanksgiving to you all!

A wonderful tradition at many Thanksgiving tables is for each individual to share one thing he/she is thankful for. Most often we hear "family" and "friends", "my job" or "retirement", or "our home". And these are all excellent answers. But of course there is so much more if we get down to the details. I've done some of that in my other November blogs. But today, instead of focusing on enumerating my blessings, I've chosen to pull back and take a big picture view and I saw Jesus Christ over the whole of my life.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

Truly, it is God's will that we dwell in Christ Jesus our Savior. Jesus came to earth as God in human form. As a child he studied and lived among man. He was baptized, taught, performed miracles, healed the sick and even brought the dead back to life. Jesus became a friend to all and showed His love to all, yet there were those who rejected Him. They sent Him, wounded and beaten, to the cross where they crowned Him with a crown of thorns to mock Him. Yet, Jesus knew the cross was His to bear and He took His place for you and me so that our sins could forever be forgiven and so we could once again come into a relationship with our loving God. Jesus Christ's blood wiped away our sins and made us clean again. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song," (Psalm 95:2 NIV).

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name," (Psalm 100:4 NIV).

Today, I give thanks to God for my Savior, Jesus Christ. For without Him, my life is worthless and empty of joy. May our thanksgiving be pleasing to His ears today, in all the blessings we share.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV).

Thank you Jesus Christ for giving Your perfect life as a sacrifice for my sinful one. You are my blessed Savior and I give thanks for You today and every day. Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Four Steps of Thankfulness

The week of Thanksgiving has arrived and as we approach Thanksgiving Day, between the thawing of the turkey, the baking of pumpkin pies, the setting of tables, and the stirring of gravy, we need to schedule some time to contemplate our thankfulness.

My Life Application Study Bible offers four "Elements of Thanksgiving" that I'd like to share in this blog. "1. Remembering what God has done, 2. Telling others about it, 3. Showing God's glory to others, and 4. Offering gifts of self, time, and resources". Thanksgiving Day can be a perfect example of these steps.

1. What has happened in 2017 that you are grateful for?
    John, my husband, retired! What a blessing that has been. We had time for our granddaughters' basketball games, and a drive to Oklahoma to pick up a sheep. We were able to babysit for Piper and Graham a little more often and enjoyed Payton playing the flute in band, the violin in orchestra, and Bailey playing her cello, and Piper dancing in her first recital. Calvin showed the Grand Champion sheep in Central City and there were many more shows to follow. Paige graduated from Ogden High School and she has nearly completed her first semester at Iowa Central Community College. There was a Springer reunion, and the Boone County Fair. Then the Polk County Fair and on to the Iowa State Fair. The grandchildren excelled in our eyes. We visited a new church and joined the Lakeside Fellowship Starting Point group, and their Bible studies and Growth Groups; gaining new friends and Bible knowledge that keeps growing. There was a vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina and Savana, Georgia. We enjoyed learning about rodeo in North Platte, NE, then more in Fort Dodge and at Iowa State as we proudly watched our granddaughter Paige compete. We found a new doctor in Ankeny, and have successfully passed all the old age tests, so far. That is just a scratch on the surface of a great year of blessings. There are so many more I could share.

2.  I told you about the top things I am thankful for above.

3.  I'm so thankful that God has allowed us to share another year with our family. We thank God for the gift of time to visit with friends and family; to play the Snoopy Dog House game with Piper; to go bowling with Graham; to experience the wonderful way our grandchildren are growing up with talents and good health. Thank you God for allowing us these gifts of joy. We give you the glory for all of these blessings, for we know they all come from You.

4.  Finally, we are able to share our gifts when John helps set up for church and I help with childcare; I can cook up lamb and turkey, potatoes and gravy, and home-frozen corn, and pumpkin pies for our family gathering; and occasional ham balls, pies, cookies, and cakes for those in need. John helps Brady with chores to try and lighten his load, or when he is away. I give blood as often as I am able. We can babysit so family members get a break, and I write letters, and blogs, hoping to bring joy or comfort, and love to those I care about.

Perhaps you can walk through these four steps of thankfulness this week. May you realize just how blessed your life is and that all of your gifts come from God.

"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done...Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced...Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens...Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever," (1 Chronicles 16:8, 12, 23-26, 34 NIV).


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankful For Family

During this month of thankfulness I cannot help but make note of family. I am blessed with a wonderful family: my husband; my three sisters, their husbands and their children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; two sons and their wives; six grandchildren ages 4 to 19; a sister-in-law and brother-in-law; two aunts; and many cousins. How can I want for family?

Well, at this season of holidays, especially, I mourn the absence of our parents. I'm so thankful for the years we had with them but I still long to sit with them again. I long to hear those often repeated stories once more, and I wish I could ask the long list of questions I've thought of since their passing. I want to tell them the latest antics and successes of our grandchildren. I want to hear their words of encouragement. And bow down to embrace them and never let go.

I didn't intend to go that direction today, but perhaps God is reminding me to focus on the value and blessing of the family members I have. And I am so thankful for each person who has joined our family, through birth or marriage, because each person has brought a unique blessing to our family. I cherish memories we share and look forward to making more.

But most of all, I pray for each member of our family to establish their own relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior. Because I want to be with them eternally. I want us all to be together in the presence of Jesus, sharing His joy, unlike anything we can imagine. What a day that will be!

Paul's prayer written to the Ephesians, is my prayer for members of my family and for my extended family of God, of which I include you:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God," (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).


Monday, November 13, 2017

Thankful for God's Word

Today I am reminded of an image of my Grandmother Springer sitting at her desk with her Bible and her journal. I have that white, King James Version Bible on my bookshelf. Grandma has a notation inside that she purchased the Bible at a book sale at church and that "it goes to Gloria," dated Nov. 25, 1970. Though I don't use it, I pulled it out today to see if, by chance, she had any markings in Psalm 119. She did not, however, she had marked with parenthesis Psalm 118:29, the verse just ahead  of 119. "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever," (KJV). Perfectly appropriate for this blog.

"I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word," (Psalm 119:15-16 NIV).

I have nearly 20 Bibles on that book shelf in numerous versions that I have studied through the years. I always have mixed emotions when I switch to a new Bible because I lose whatever notations I've made in the previous version. It would be fun to be able to compare them all and see what scriptures stood out to me at different times in my life.

"Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word," (Psalm 119:33-37 NIV).

I grew up using a Revised Standard translation, and in youth group we used a Good News For Modern Man New Testament. Then I received a Living Bible translation that I used when I first joined a neighborhood Bible study group as a young adult.

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103 NIV).

In 1993 I switched to a red-letter edition, NIV Women's Devotional Bible that is very well used. In 1997, I got The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV. I believe this was purchased for a college course I was taking and when I got to Iowa State, one of my religion courses required using the same Bible only with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, so I had to get another. The second Bible shows lots of wear and reflection through many of the books.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

In 2006 I purchased a Life Application Study Bible NIV, and I have read it through twice and used it for many different studies. It is the one I use now.

"Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures," (Psalm 119:89-90 NIV).

No matter which Bible I use, the Word speaks to me as a message from God. I love that God's Word will stand for generations. I am so thankful that the Word of God connects me to my Heavenly Father and provides me wisdom and guidance for every day of my life.

"May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight," (Psalm 119:171-174 NIV).

May the Word of God speak to you today and guide you and bless you all the days of your life.

Thank you, Lord, for your Word. Amen.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thankful for Friends

I am so thankful for friends. I have been blessed by many friends, some I have know since grade school, others I got to know as co-workers, some I met in college. Some friends I got to know because our kids went to school together, others from organizations I belonged to, and others became friends through church or Bible studies. Throughout my life, friends have been my supporters, encouragers, mentors, confidants, and prayer warriors.

"A friend loves at all times," (Proverbs 17:17a NIV).
Lavon, Gloria and Garla - Friends Forever 

My friends have shown love to me in so many ways. But those friends I share my faith with are the closest friends. There is a special bond that draws believers together and that is knowing Jesus. It occurs to me that I don't have many pictures with my friends. During this age of technology and selfies, I really need to make a point of taking a picture when I'm with friends. I'm going to make that a goal in the future.

The picture I'm sharing is so precious to me. Lavon and I drove to Illinois to visit our close friend Garla in September 2012. We lost our dear friend on Feb. 27, 2013. I met Garla in a Friendship Bible Coffee when our sons were in preschool together. We shared countless hours together in prayer,  sitting on hard bleachers during baseball, football and basketball games, in the car, in a volunteer group at our boys' elementary school, and especially in our neighborhood Bible studies.

When I was so depressed that I couldn't live my life any more, Garla prayed for me without ceasing and called me every day. Even when I couldn't speak and all I did was cry, she would encourage me with her love and her faith. When I was in the hospital for weeks, she sent cards and letters to me. She didn't reject me or shun me. She stood at my side and helped me re-enter the world.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you," (John 15:13 NIV).

Lord, please watch over each of my friends today. I am so thankful for the friends you have placed in my life and I am thankful for the faith that we share and for the love of Jesus Christ that we have in common. Amen.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thankful for Music

I added thirty items of thanksgiving to my notebook list of blessings since my blog on Thursday. There is so much that I tend to take for granted in this life. Journaling my blessings helps me develop a mindset of thankfulness. I'm so glad I started this practice again during this Thanksgiving month.

Yesterday at church I was reminded how much I am touched by Christian music. The worship and praise team led us in several of my favorite songs. The words were so uplifting and beautiful. I was especially touched by the song O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship. The words state a message I wish I could share with everyone I meet. The words lead the hearer to Jesus. Let me share just a few stanzas:

O Come to the Altar
Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling. O come to the altar. The Father's arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. Come today there's no reason to wait. Jesus is calling. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy. From the ashes a new life is born. Jesus is calling. By songwriters: Christopher Brown / Wade Joye / Steven Furtick / Mack Brock.

I just love the promises given in this song. They are the promises revealed in scripture about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and what He alone has done for us. For me and you! What a blessing and gift it is for someone to be able to put together the words and music and create such a beautiful message! I am so often amazed. I even have chills or goosebumps when I listen to the gift that God has given the author and musicians.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness," (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV).

One modern song that touches me especially during the Thanksgiving season is simply called, "Give Thanks" by Don Moen. This song states so simply the life as we should live it: thankfully. I will close with some of the stanzas and if you know it, may it repeatedly run through your mind all day long.

Give Thanks
Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. And now let the weak say, "I am strong". Let the poor say, "I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us". Give thanks. We give thanks to You." By songwriters: Kenneth Paul Barker / Andy Cloninger / Clairer D. Cloninger / Henry Smith.

We give thanks. Amen.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Practice Being Thankful

November is a month for giving thanks and what better time to count your blessings and start a gratitude journal. Several years ago my Bible study group read Ann Voskamp's book, "One Thousand Gifts" where she was challenged by a friend to write a list of one thousand blessings. We, too, began our own lists of blessings or gifts that we were thankful for. I started my list in January 2012 and continued it through our study and occasionally beyond. Mine surpassed 1000 and it is at 1,145 today with room to continue in my composition book.

I think I will continue my list this month. Voskamp introduced me to the word Eucharisteo which means thanksgiving. Jesus initiated the Eucharist, the Christian symbol of remembering Jesus' body and blood that was given for our sins so we could freely come to God in a personal relationship. How can we reflect on this greatest gift, given for our salvation, without being thankful?

David wrote in a psalm of thanks: "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done," (1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV). My Life Application Study Bible says this song offers four elements that are common to thanksgiving: 1 - Remember what God has done for you. 2 - Tell others what God has done for you. 3 - Show God's glory to others. 4 - Offering your gifts to others. If we are truly thankful, others will notice it in our lives.

Another interesting correlation Voskamp makes with thanksgiving is that throughout the Bible, thanksgiving always preceded a miracle. One example is the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from death in John 11:41-44 NIV: "So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go.""

It is a good practice, to practice giving thanks. And November is a good month to begin. What are you thankful for today? Write down three things you are thankful for right now. I am thankful for my husband, the fragrance of leftovers being warmed in the microwave, and for God's guidance in writing this blog. I never really know what I am going to write about until I pray for God's direction.

Thank you, Lord, for being our God, for loving us so much that you sent your Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior. Fill our hearts today with gratitude for the many blessings you have placed in our lives. Open our eyes and ears to be alert and aware of just how many ways you bless our days. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, God!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Disappointments and Heartbreaks Happen

Life isn't all sunshine and birthday presents as we discovered yesterday. One grandchild celebrated a birthday with all the special accessories for a Star Wars theme. The excitement was building through dinner and the blowing of candles. It was time for the opening of presents. One younger child watched as the gifts were unwrapped until finally the desire was just too much. The child's face burst into tears against my shoulder, "I want to play with the new toys. I want it to be my birthday."

I remember feeling the same disappointment as I was growing up. As the youngest child I always compared myself to my sisters. I watched as they were talented singers, dressed up in pretty dresses and heels, dated, married, had babies and lived happy lives. I was left at home, without musical talent, and unsuccessful in school. I failed to find my own niche until much later in life, so for a long time I sulked in the shadow of disappointment.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18 NIV).

God always opens new doors for us when we are down in spirit and heartbroken, but we must get up and take action. It is important that we take advantage of the setbacks and use them to propel us forward into a new kind of success. Search for your passion then rush toward it with all your heart.

My passion for writing and one positive comment by a high school English teacher (that I stored in my heart for twenty years), led me to pursue a job at the local newspaper. I gained confidence that allowed me to begin college at age 40 and earn a degree in journalism and mass communication with academic honors.

If God can change my life from the pits of depression and self-hatred, He will help you change your life, too. Just trust in Him, believe in the power of Jesus Christ's salvation, and allow Him to lift you up to heights you would never dream possible.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Inner Beauty

When I consider beauty at this time of year, I immediately think of the glory in color on the October trees. They are especially brilliant this week, it seems. I imagine after the predicted hard frost of this weekend, the leaves will begin to fall by the mound, or more likely they will be blown away in the chilling wind.

But, today I will focus on the beauty I see in others. There is nothing more beautiful than a face adorned with a smile. It radiates warmth and kindness and touches my heart. When I searched for 'smile' in the Bible I was surprised to find three of the four scriptures with 'smile' were from the book of Job. It is in the middle of a discourse by Job, as he is remembering how good his life used to be. Job is nearly prideful as he tells how others looked up to him and were so thrilled to be smiled at, by him.

"When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them," (Job 29:24 NIV).

But, in everyday situations the inner beauty that is expelled by a smile is truly priceless. Remember the first time you saw your baby's smile. His whole body seemed to work together in a wiggle to burst forth in a smile. It instantly brought a smile to your face. That is one of my favorite things about a baby; that huge glow that radiates happiness throughout the room and is contagiously adopted by each person who sees it.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight," (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).

The Bible is quite clear that inner beauty is much more important than an outer appearance that dazzles. As I grow older and enjoy retirement, I find it is much easier to leave my closet-full of professional attire hanging while I grab a pair of jeans or sweats. I've even been known to run to the store or babysit without any mascara on!

"I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God," (1 Timothy 2:9-10 NIV).

These scriptures reveal that the key to inner beauty is a gentle, quiet spirit and the good deeds that result from beauty within. I'm going to add that a smile is also an outward result of a beautiful inside.

May you share your inner beauty with a smile for the world today.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Take The Time

Life is busy. We have alarm clocks and calendars to remind us what to do next. There are timers on our iPhones, on our stoves and microwaves, and pop up messages on our computers. We have Post-it notes to place where we need them and clocks in nearly every room and even wrapped around our wrists.

Our human days are filled with standing in line, "take a number", "have a seat", take turns, make an appointment, "please hold", "your wait time is approximately 23 minutes", "leave a message at the tone", "just a minute" and "I'll get back to you".

With God there is no "time's up", no final buzzer, no green light to move ahead, no end to our appointment, no running late, no closing time or office hours. We are blessed with God's presence whenever we need it. In fact, I am convicted of my busyness as I visualize Jesus sitting in my favorite quiet spot, waiting for me to take time to come sit with Him. He waits patiently for me but too often I find myself rushing past the door, ignoring His beckoning call, missing out on the best moment of my day.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me," (Revelation 3:20 NIV).

This image of Jesus anxiously waiting for me to take time to sit with Him was impressed on me while one of my Bible study groups worked through Joanna Weaver's book, "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World". Weaver introduced me to the idea that my quiet, worship time with Jesus is as precious to God as it is to me. I'd never thought about it that way before. That concept sticks with me, saddens me, and humbles me to the core.

I don't want to leave Jesus sitting alone in that chair, waiting for me to come. I want to be there soaking up all the love and attention He has for me. I want to hear what He wants to tell me. I want to gain the wisdom He wants to share with me. I want to feel His tender touch and look into His beautiful eyes and understand.

Joanna Weaver spelled out a clear formula for having true intimacy with God in chapter five of "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World":

PRAYER + the WORD + TIME = INTIMACY with GOD - Joanna Weaver. 

I'm going to post this formula where I will be reminded of it often. I desire that intimacy with God and I am so thankful that He is accessible to me always.

Today I will take the time.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Precious Words

I grew up in a small country church that was established by my ancestors in the timber along the Iowa River. My faith is rooted in the history and tradition of this church. One thing that I treasure is a prayer that my father's grandfather, Carey E. Arney, shared at the communion table as an elder. My father, Corwin Arney Springer, shared these same words when he was an elder. I cherish a handwritten copy of this prayer that I carry in my Bible:

"May the day be hastened when the knowledge and glory of the Lord, shall cover the whole earth as the waters do cover the sea."

This prayer is based on Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:4; verses that are repeated in Galatians 3:11, Romans 1:17 and Hebrews 10:38. I grew up hearing this prayer hundreds of times, yet I am only beginning to experience its meaning through study. Perhaps this is common for Christians; to cherish a verse of scripture yet only vaguely understand its meaning. So this morning I set out to change that for myself on this special prayer. I went to scripture first.

"...for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea," (Isaiah 11:9b NIV).

"...but the righteous will live by his faith--" (Habakkuk 2:4b NIV).

"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17 NIV).

"Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Galatians 3:11 NIV).

"He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith" (Hebrews 10:38 NIV).

"May the day be hastened" must be the language of the early Christian pioneers, probably influenced by their Bible. 'Hastened' is used several times in scripture, though I couldn't find this exact phrase. I believe the prayer is asking God to hurry the time when the Word of God, and His knowledge and glory are spread across the whole earth, just as thoroughly as the waters cover the sea.

What a good prayer, even for today; no, especially for today. I long for the day when the gospel is spread wide through all continents, to every nation, every town and village, into every home, to every individual.

Lord, thank you for the knowledge of Your Word that we are given for today. Speak to us Your truth as we wait anxiously for the day when everyone knows Your Son and can experience His gift of salvation. Guide us today to those who don't know You yet. Let us be a reflection of Your love that warms their hearts and leads them to seek and know You. We pray in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Depend On God Alone

It is a brilliantly sunny Monday morning. Though it is a chilly start to the day, the sunshine offers a promise of warming. And I love to be warm. Yesterday we were outside in a very brisk northwest wind. The sun's power didn't seem strong until we got in the car. The wind was blocked and the heat of the rays penetrated the glass to offer a toasty shelter. It was so appreciated!

My personal thermostat is fickle, if not completely haywire. The house can be the same temperature day in and day out but sometimes I shake with chills while other times I break into a sweat or feel perfectly comfortable.

Weather is one of the most changeable things I know. Especially when you plan something outdoors. In Iowa. Or on vacation. It seems whenever we plan a vacation in some warm climate we end up with  the rainiest, grayest days they have ever experienced. There was the time we left for the Wisconsin Dells before sunrise and drove through a flash flood in Cedar Rapids. Or when we visited Montana in July and it snowed in the mountains. We spent several rainy, cool days in San Francisco last year and this year it rained daily on the beaches of South Carolina.

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV).

I am so thankful for Jesus who is my constant, unchanging, perfect Savior. I know Him and I can come to Him in any state and He will receive me with open arms, ready to offer correction, forgiveness, and unmerited grace and love. Who else is as trustworthy as our God? Certainly not the weatherman. There is No One like Him.

Father God, I ask You to spread Your unwavering love over us today. The world is in such a mess because it tries to function without You. Help us to seek You first every day. Draw us near and hold us with Your warm and loving arms. We need You alone, God. In the Name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

God's Powerful Touch

Last month we took a vacation to the to the east coast of South Carolina and Georgia. I wanted to experience the ocean. We had seen the ocean on trips to Boston and points north; the Gulf from west Florida and Galveston; San Diego, San Francisco, and along the west coast in California and Oregon. I had touched my toes in the water a few times but never taken a full body dip.

The first night we took a long walk along the beach, listening to the repetitive rush of the water, feeling the sand between our toes, watching the frothy waves curl up and then diminish and fall away as they teased the shoreline. The next day we dressed for the water. We strolled into the water up to our knees, watching others run into the waves, jump over the caps and stand in the depths. It took one more time for me to be brave enough to enter the ocean's expanse.

I wanted to experience the waves and feel God's power. I was not disappointed. Hand in hand we advanced past the foamy waves, into the apparent stillness of the water that stretched to the infinity of the horizon. Suddenly a wall of water lurched up and crashed onto our heads and shoulders. Besides the element of complete surprise, we instantly shared the taste of salt water on our lips as we wiped the water from our smiling faces.

"You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me;" (Jonah 2:3 NIV).

It was amazing. Out of the calm came such power and force that we were knocked off our feet and swept toward the beach. We learned to brace ourselves for the next wave, but even so, we were no match for the forceful surge of the wall of water that smashed into us. We would barely recover before another crest appeared, over and over and over; a marvelous wonder of God's creation.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me," (Psalm 42:7 NIV).

Father God, all around us Your creation touches us: the pounding waves, the gentle breeze, the changing leaves, the bountiful harvest...You are in them all. Thank you for giving us these beautiful hints of Who You Are. We are so blessed. We offer You, O Holy One, our honor and praise, for You Alone are our God. Amen.

Monday, October 9, 2017

God's Masterpiece is You

As I looked out at the beautiful sunrise this morning and noticed the beads of moisture on the brilliant green grass, as the north wind moved the branches in a resistant sway, I thanked God for the wonder of His Creation. I heard the geese honking overhead as they glided onto a nearby pond and my heart swelled with love for my precious Lord and Savior. Thank you for this day, Lord.

"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 hard for me to think about being God's workmanship when I am so often alert only to my flaws and my failures. Yet, God considers us worthy and valuable to His Master plan. He has prepared good works for us to do in our lives. He has given us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ that makes our sinful selves acceptable to our God who requires perfection.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the gift of grace and salvation. We are forgiven of our sins and Christ's blood covers our imperfections. We are given the freedom to stand before God with our arms lifted in praise and thanksgiving and He sees us as His very own Masterpiece. It is God's workmanship that makes us unique individuals who are integrated into His eternal plan.

Today I will try to view myself as God sees me - without blemish, in the best possible light! Then I will have confidence in God as I move forward to do the good works He has prepared for me to do. Because the Gloria that God sees has the energy, the ability, the strength, and the holy direction to do anything He says to do, very well, indeed.

Lord, use me today. Help me to see myself through Your eyes. I want to be that "better me." I want to be Your Masterpiece. Amen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Appreciation for Leaders

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I believe. I don't know who established this or how it came to be, but it was a good idea that I almost forgot about. My home church always made a big deal of this, reminding the congregation and encouraging acts of kindness toward the pastor and family.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he recognized the need for leaders of the church to be respected and appreciated for their work in bringing the Word of God to the people. We have recently been studying the history of the church Reformation so the role of early church leaders is fresh in my mind. We have seen how many church leaders sacrificed their lives to make the scriptures accessible to common man and ultimately to you and me.

I am aware of the true privilege it is to live in America where we can line our shelves with Bibles of every translation and read the Word whenever and wherever we desire. I am so thankful for the opportunity to worship my Savior and hear the Word of God from the pulpit. My heart is grateful for the many pastors who have taught me in the past and those who continue to enlighten me today. Without the truth of the scriptures in my life, I would be lost, confused, and without purpose.

"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," (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 NIV).

Paul's closing comments in 1 Thessalonians remind us to revere our pastors and church leaders, but also to follow the teachings in scripture, modeling Jesus Christ in all our actions with others. We are to be encouragers, helpers, and kind representations of the church.

This month I plan to pray for my pastors and offer encouragement and appreciation to them for all the ways they bless me with the teachings of scripture.

Thank you, God, for the pastors who share Your truth and help the church grow in their relationship with You. Amen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Heavy Hearts and Hope

I am so tired of disasters. That's a foolish thing to say but my heart is so heavy for the burdens of this world.  I am anxious to be free of this world and enter my heavenly home where there is only joy, giving praise to God, worship and music for the Lord!

We awoke to another story of terror - the Las Vegas shootings. There is no explanation for this man's anger or evil this morning. There is no reason for the deaths and injuries of those country music fans who chose to attend an open air concert last night. The shooter didn't even know those he killed and injured. They were random victims of horrible terror. Those who survived will be forever haunted by the sound of a machine gun's shots and the possible danger of gathering with large numbers of people. Will they ever feel safe and innocent again?

Our continent has been ravaged by natural disasters repeatedly throughout the past months. Hurricane Harvey sent destructive flood waters over Houston and the surrounding area. Wildfires have been burning all summer in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and beyond. An earthquake destroyed parts of Mexico. More hurricanes hit the resort islands in the Atlantic, followed by Hurricane Maria hitting Florida and devastating Puerto Rico.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God," (Psalm 42:11 NIV).

Lord God, I pray for all those who are hurting today: physically, mentally and spiritually. May they search for Your peace and comfort and may their physical needs be met by the love of caring givers and volunteers. Lord, in the middle of these disasters may You be present to bring them hope in the name of Jesus.

"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near," (Revelation 1:3 NIV).

Lord, we know Your return is coming someday, and it seems like the signs are appearing more and more frequently. Keep us alert and help us draw others to You, so they can be with us when Your time of Glory is near.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, 
who was, and is, and is to come," 
(Revelation 4:8c NIV).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Be Lifted Up!

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my sinfulness. I feel so inadequate when I stand before God and reveal my mistakes and shortfalls. But the burdens of the past get too heavy to carry around every day. I need to drop them at His feet and pick up His forgiveness and accept the freedom Jesus Christ won for me when He went to the cross.

But, it isn't always easy. My feet get tangled up in the bag's strings and I end up dragging my burdens behind me. That is exhausting. So, I end up sitting down to mope.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up," (James 4:10 NIV).

My personality has made it easy to humble myself before God and everyone else. I grew up with a low self esteem and it was incredibly hard for me to believe that God could love me. I had to realize that God created me. He made me to be the way I am. He knew before I was born what my life would entail. He saw the mistakes I would make. He knew I would have struggles and He knew I would seek Him. And He knew that I would find Him.

God does the same for you. He wants each of His children to come to Him, to desire Him, and to live their lives for Him. On bended knee I come to Him, begging for His forgiveness, surrendering myself before Him, asking Him to lead me in His will today, tomorrow, and every day I may have to live.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you," (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV).

God will reach down and lift you up to your feet so you can walk ahead and live the ultimate life He has prepared for you with Jesus Christ.

May you realize His truth and His love in your life today and always.

Monday, September 25, 2017

First Place in Your Life

Who has first place in your life?

Oh, come on. That's not a fair question to ask on a Monday morning. When there is a list of things to do a mile long and the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day outside...and I'd rather be taking a walk, enjoying the weather than going to work or writing this blog. I went to church yesterday. What more do you ask of me?

I read a devotional this morning and I prayed for the readers of this blog, asking God to give me a message that will speak to you today. But, I'm asked, "Who has first place in my life?" Ouch. If I'm honest it probably isn't even my husband. It is probably me. I do what I want to do most often.

When I put Jesus first in my life, everything changes. My priorities are different. God comes first. My thoughts are completely God-centered. I am God-motivated, love-infused, kindness-filled, and service-focused. That would be a different woman than I am most days. Because I am a sinner I will always fall short of the goal. What I strive for and always fall short of is the perfection of Jesus.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

This scripture is within a passage where Jesus teaches about worry, so that theme may be the subject for another day. However, this one verse deserves to be the focus today. It sets up a pattern for us...put God first in our lives. Before we do anything else, our focus needs to be on Jesus/God. We must make a choice to give God first place in our lives. And we need to make that choice new every day, especially on Mondays!

When we worry, we are to go to God first for the answer. When we need help, God is the One to turn to. If we do, He will help us set priorities, according to His desires and His will. He will be our Guide throughout the day. He will be our Comforter, our Protector, our Wisdom, our Conscience, our Worship Leader and our Encourager.

Who has first place in your life today? Make it Jesus and you will have a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autumn Opportunities

The signs are all around us: cool nights, foggy mornings, and changing colors; grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders; mums, straw bales, and bundles of corn stalks; apples, squash and pumpkins. It is a beautiful time of year. The time of transition between summer and winter blesses us with some wonderful days to enjoy and to complete the work of harvest. We are reminded of what is ahead (winter) and we are given time to prepare.
Nebraska Farmland

I grew up on a farm and I will always be a country girl at heart. Just like my boys when they were young, I could watch the combines, tractors and wagons, and pickers move through the fields for hours on end. The dust gathering in a cloud overhead as the powerful machines strip the fields of their produce. Liquid gold gushing from the combine fills the empty vessels with mounds of treasures, all from some tiny seeds planted carefully in the rich soil five or six months ago.

There is a thrill in watching the bounty be gathered. The successful result of good seed, nutritious soil, proper rains, and sunshine, all from God's hand. The heart swells with gratitude to the Lord for His blessings. The farmer does all that he can and leaves the rest to God. Sometimes the rains don't fall, or the wind blows too hard, or hail beats the plants to mush; but when a good crop is harvested it is God we have to thank.

"A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers," (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV).

What opportunity will present itself to us today? Let us not give up doing good today, or tomorrow. God is giving us a chance to reap the harvest that is ready. During the season ahead, every time you see a combine or wagonload of soybeans or corn, may you offer praise to God for the glorious riches He has prepared for us to reap, and may we share the truth of a blessed life with others as we have the opportunity. Praise be to God forever and ever, Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Cowboy Prayer

We had the great opportunity to watch our first grandchild, 19-year-old Paige, ride in college rodeo competition in North Platte, NE, on Friday and Saturday. I am not very knowledgable about rodeos and I have much to learn, but this weekend was a great introduction to the very challenging and sometimes dangerous sport. Yes, rodeo is a sport. Paige is housed with other athletes at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. And after watching 11 hours of rodeo in two days I have a deep respect for the athletic ability of rodeo participants.
Paige ready for goat tying, with rope in her teeth.

Paige keeps herself athletically fit by running and weight lifting, plus the endless hours of practice riding and roping, and doing chores. Paige competes in Goat Tying and Breakaway. The order of competition is determined by draw, as is the selection of calves for roping, or bulls or horses for Steer Wrestling, Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Saddle Bronc, and Bull Riding.

There were 12 college teams participating from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Each team consisted of 15-40 members with an equal number of horses and tack. That equals a lot of horse trailers in the parking and bedding down lot. On Saturday alone there were 89 women competing in Breakaway. Each team wears a vest in their school colors. Paige's is gray with a blue logo.

Rodeos always begin with the presentation of the Rodeo queens, the American Flag, The Star Spangled Banner, and some variation of The Cowboy Prayer. It is impressive to see all the show hats come off to cover hearts and all the heads bow down.

"Our Heavenly Father, we pause at this time, mindful of the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. We ask, Lord, that you will be with us in the arena of life.
We as cowboys do not ask for special favors. We don't ask to draw around the chute fighting horse, the steer that won't lay, or to never break the barrier.
We don't even ask for all daylight runs.
We do ask Lord, that you will help us live our lives here on earth as cowboys, in such a manner, that when we make that last inevitable ride, to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green, and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear, and deep, that you'll take us by the hand and say - 
'Welcome to Heaven cowboy, your entry fees are paid.'" 
by Clem McSpadden, popular rodeo announcer, (1925-2008).

No matter what we do in life, our faith must go with us. Be it a farmer, a carpenter, a cook, a lawyer, an office worker, or manager, whatever we do needs to bring us closer to God in our daily walk.  This MSG version of Psalm 143:8-10, reminds us of the need for God's constant presence at our side:
"If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you...Teach me how to live to please you, because you're my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland."


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Press On

One of my favorite verses was written by Paul while he was in a Roman prison. I think I could write about this scripture every day for weeks and have a different topic each time. There is just so much that he says here that I need to hear and ponder. I hope as you read this again, something new jumps out at you and that thought sticks with you all day long, giving you a conversation topic to share with God.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,"
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV).

During a recent Bible study the assignment was to rewrite the scripture above in my own words, as a prayer. My version follows. Perhaps you would like to write your own version.

Lord God, please give me strength to keep working toward the purpose for which You have chosen me; I am not complete yet. Help me to leave behind my past mistakes and keep moving toward Your light, so that one day my sinfulness, which is covered by the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ, will be replaced by eternity with You, as You have promised.  God, I surrender myself to You and Your call for my life, and I trust in You and Your gift of the Holy Spirit and Your Holy Son, as I seek to follow Your lead toward forgiveness and perfection in Heaven. Thank You, Lord. Amen. (Philippians 3:12-14 Gloria's Version).

Press on, faithful friends, press on.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reality We Can't Forget

The world changed forever on September 11, 2001. It was an unforgettable day. We want to forget. We want the memories to go away and never return. But, we see the images in our minds, with our eyes shut. We cried. We still cry. The mourning will never end.

Only the youngest of generations is free of the video loop that plays over and over in our heads. As we stood watching the impossible happen at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, in rural Pennsylvania. The awful sick feeling that overtook us that day returns with the memories. Only the disbelief was replaced by the reality of the darkest, most dreadful pain that just grew worse with each passing day. The stories that were told broke our hearts. The connections to someone we knew kept being made. The Iowans. The firemen and policemen. The fathers. The mothers. The sisters and brothers. Our heroes. Taken from us by a devil.

Life will never be the same. Terrorism attacked us at home. Now it seems to happen any day. But,  2997 people died; more than 6,000 were injured; $10 billion in infrastructure damage was incurred (according to Wikipedia). Security was tightened. Inspections were implemented at airports. Safety plans were initiated at nearly every business, school, and building. Fear was sprinkled around the country like candy from a giant piňiata. Suspicion entered hearts and minds. Our knees became calloused and sore. Our country's military was on alert for a stranger named Osama bin Laden.

9/11 Memorial & Museum
"If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God," (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NIV).

We hugged our children tighter when we tucked them into bed. We kissed our spouse goodbye and welcomed them home with relief. We read the newspaper pages of names of the deceased and wept. White crosses. Flags. Photographs. Flowers. Waterfalls around a reflecting pool. And names. Endless, beautiful, carefully-picked names for lives ended so brutally.

Lord, I pray today for the hearts that were broken on 9/11/2001. May you bring peace and comfort into their days. May you touch us all with Your nearness, and Your blessed promise of eternal life when we trust in You. Thank you for helping us through painful times and fearful times. Be our strength and our shield each day. In the Holy Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Storms of Life

Wow. Have you seen the radar views of the Atlantic Ocean recently? There are three hurricanes spinning red out there: Irma, Jose and Katia - all on the heels of the mighty Harvey that hit Texas!  We happened to be in southern South Carolina and Savannah, GA, when Harvey hit land. I was impressed by the deep compassion expressed for Texas by everyone we talked to. They had been through hurricanes before and they understood the fear, the loss, the physical disaster and lengthy rebuilding process Texans were facing.

We watched the news coverage of Harvey and thought a lot about the area we were in and what it would be like if there was a hurricane. And now sadly, that exact area is in one possible path of Irma. We spent a day touring historic Savannah with its beautiful Southern homes and architecture like the Armstrong House shown below. Their beauty has been preserved since the 1800s, somehow being spared storm damage and a huge city fire.

"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:23-27 NIV).

We, too, become fearful when an unexpected storm catches us off guard. The people in Florida and along the eastern coast have been warned that a storm may be coming their way this weekend. They will be prepared and most will take reasonable safety precautions. But others may fall asleep.

Only God can control the oceans and the waves, the winds and the rains. If He does not calm the storm in your life, or in the world, it may be a message we need to hear. We need Jesus, only Jesus, for guidance in this life. No matter how strong we may build our structures, or how securely we protect our possessions, God is in control. These hurricanes may be God reminding us that He is the One we need in our life; and in this country. Everything else is just stuff. May we each refocus our trust in God as we watch His powerful reminders around us.

Lord, bless these readers with confidence in You, the One and Only God of All Creation. Protect those who seek You in their storms and strengthen their trust in You. Thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Perfect Son to take our punishment for our sin upon the Cross. Amen.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Last Holiday of Summer

It is sad that the last holiday of summer, Labor Day, has arrived. Newsweek shares that, "According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Labor Day is a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”"

The national holiday unfortunately doesn't help those whose jobs are 24/7. Our doctors and nurses, caregivers, cooks and cleaners keep working right through the holiday so others receive the care they need. And our demanding society keeps many stores, hotels and restaurants open on holidays so others have access to their 'wants' for the day. Thank you to all of you who are working today, by choice or by force. Hopefully you will be compensated well for your time and you will receive another day off as a substitution.

God knows we need time to rest. He created Sundays as a day of rest.

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done," (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV).

God established a day of rest because we all need it. Our minds and bodies need a time of refreshment and calm to restore our strength and revive us for the work we are created to do. Take time today to let go of the pressures of your world. Schedule time for a nap. Sit in a chair and observe nature. Savor the taste of a cold glass of tea or a hot cup of coffee. Allow the sunshine to warm your skin. Talk to God about your concerns, unload them at His feet and walk away, free of the burdens. Watch the clouds move across the sky. If not today, plan another day to pause and rest.

Loving God, I ask you to touch each reader today with Your peace and grace. Fill their day with blessings. Hear their prayers and lighten their heavy load. Thank you for sending your Perfect Son, Jesus, to save us from the punishment we deserve for our sins. Continue to help us be more like Him as we walk with You each day. Amen.