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."

Amen.


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 piƈiata. 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.