He Is Faithful

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Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me! —Thomas Chisholm

God is faithful. He doesn’t let me down, or disappoint.

So many times I overlook the gift of His grace. I find it easy to get caught up in the moments of the day, blindly overlooking all the ways that He is faithful. Not only has he been faithful to be today, but each morning brings new mercies.

Grace abundant.

Today I am thankful for: 

*crisp winter morning *bright sunshine * petting the horse’s muzzle *the smell of fresh coffee * warm sweater * smiles from friends * church family * lunch with my husband and daughter * good conversation * school assignment turned in! * quiet afternoon * Super Bowl fun * looking forward to some snow tomorrow *a new week ahead

O Night Divine

 How often do we take the time to listen to the lyrics of the beloved Christmas carols? When do we stop singing from rote memorization and start singing with the realization of what the words truly mean?
O Holy Night 
O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
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Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
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A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
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Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
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O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine

 The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:1-20 NIV

 

The Words Are Still Relevant

This is a post that I like to share each year at this time. The words are just as relevant today, as when I first posted it.

THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL

Even though I love Christmas….I am aware it is a difficult time of the year for many. So many who have suffered a loss, struggle through Christmas. Trying to smile. Wanting to celebrate, but are in too much pain to enjoy it. I want to help them….just like I was helped so many years ago.

FLASHBACK to Christmas 2000.….my husband had died the month before. My 5 year old son and I would be spending Christmas in a different way that year. I tried to keep things as normal as possible. Unknown to me at the time, when I got up on that  Christmas morning, I would have a surprise.

A mysterious phone call. Caller unknown was on my phone’s ID. “Check your front porch”, the voice said.  I peered out my front door at 7 am in the morning. My front porch was filled with presents addressed to my son and me. He and I had so much fun opening the gifts that were so lovingly left on our front porch, early that Christmas morning. I later found out that my church’s Sunday School class had collected gifts and wrapped all of them…just for us. Then one of my dear friends and her husband secretly, and quietly delivered the gifts to my house at daybreak. I should have known. These were the same people that prayed for my husband throughout his illness. Held my hand at the hospital. Girlfriends that slept on the couch at my house, my first night alone…they stayed so I wouldn’t wake up to an empty house. Brought me meals. Bought me a dress for the funeral. Stood by me at the services.  Men that changed the oil in my vehicle. Ordered pizza to my house and visited with me while we all ate. I had people willing to babysit if I needed it, and fix food when I didn’t feel like it. I had a dear friend mow my yard during my husband’s illness and afterward. They showed HIS love through their numerous actions.They were real. Their love was practical. They were Jesus hands and feet to me.

What might have been one of the worst days for me, turned out to be a wonderful memory. A memory that still warms me all these years later. That special Christmas morning was a gift to me. I loved all the thoughtful presents, but even more was my love for my friends who had not forgotten me as they all celebrated on that Christmas morning. That is what warms my heart, over a decade later.

Flashback over 2000 years ago… A dark night. A man and a woman who needed a place to stay. No one could help them out. The city was busy and there was not one room available. They were bone tired. The young woman was not feeling so well, she knew that this child that she had been carrying for the past 9 months, was ready to be born. But where?  The man managed to talk an inn keeper into allowing them to sleep in his stable, which was really not much more than a cave.  A literal hole in the wall.

In the stench of barnyard animals, the greatest gift to mankind was born that night. A night where people were running to and fro, busy with their lives. A night where no one was really paying much attention. A night not so unlike what we have now. God came into the world. Jesus left Heaven to come to this earth in human flesh. AND THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME SINCE. A divine gift. A gift of love to humankind. A light to the world. Light that split the enveloping darkness of that night, as well as all the days and nights to come.

For all those people that I mentioned earlier…those in pain, those that are hurting for whatever reason…my desire is that they would know the greatest gift of all. Because He lives you CAN face tomorrow. This life we all live, is never easy. Most days it is hard. Some days life downright hurts. This is nothing new. Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect, or problem free. Anyone that says that is a liar. We live in a fallen world, and that alone brings sadness. But the good news is this:  Jesus didn’t stay a baby in manger. He grew up. He touched lives. People were changed. He explained the scripture. He attended weddings, and family get togethers. He hung out with his friends…and he hung out with the outcasts of society. He gave sight to the blind both literally and figuratively. He was every bit human, as He was every bit God.  Decades after His humble birth in that cave, on a bed of straw He walked a road to the cross. Where His gift to you (Yes, YOU!) was given. Your name was on his mind. He knew that one day you would be born and live a life on this earth. He knew. He laid down his own life–in your place. He took the punishment for your sin (the bad things we all do). He did it because He loves you. Really loves you. And He knew that we weren’t capable of ever paying that price on our own. Impossible. The gap was too wide. We’d never make it. So, He did it for us. The gift of salvation just needs to be acknowledged and  accepted. (John 3:16)

I realize I have a lot of people that read my blog…people from all over the world, actually.  Some people  know me personally and some only know me through my blog. I will be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect. I have good days and bad days just like everyone else. I tend towards selfishness. I like my own way. I’m too stubborn for my own good. Yep. That’s me. Sure, I like to think I have my good points too. But, some days are better than others. On a beautiful spring day in May of 1979 I accepted the gift. Life didn’t suddenly change for me. I didn’t start skipping through meadows of daisies with a perpetual smile on my face. Life can still be gritty at times. I’ve gone through great joys and intense tragedies. Even in the midst of all these things, Jesus has never left me. He promised me he’d never leave me, nor forsake me. Not ever. And He hasn’t. I want to share that gift with you. I want you to know, what I know.

I want you to have the greatest gift of all. IMG_1236

A Matter Of Life And Death

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I was sitting at a table at the library, working on my computer. It was fairly quiet until an elderly woman walked in and sat down right behind me. By my guess, she looked to be in her late 70’s and early 80’s. (note: I heard her say later, that she is indeed, 85)

Now, I am not one to normally eavesdrop on a conversation, but it was difficult to not hear what she was saying. She was loud and the library was quiet…so nearly impossible to not hear every last word. I found myself smiling at how animated she was in her conversation and in how she interacted with other patrons of the library. She was a real hoot.

She was talking to one of the librarians, with whom she appeared to have a friendship. The part of the conversation that caused me to pause, is when I heard her say something to the effect,”I don’t believe in the afterlife. I think this {life} is all there is. Won’t people be surprised when they die and find out in the end Jesus isn’t there?”

I breathed in, and slowly let the air out. My first thought was to turn around and say something to her, but that would have been rude, for me, a complete stranger, to interject myself into their conversation. Plus I didn’t want to admit I was indeed eavesdropping (although she had to be aware everyone in the place could hear her).

She has since gotten up and left the library, but her words linger. I am saddened. When she got up to leave (talking the entire time) I had opportunity to look at her. She looked like (and I’m sure she is) someone’s grandma. At 85 she probably doesn’t have many more years left on this earth. Although she would probably not admit it, she is lost. Blindly, lost. She doesn’t know Jesus beyond a familiar historical character. She seemed educated and intelligent, but completely ignorant of who God is and the amazing grace we are all shown through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Today was an example, a tiny sliver of a reminder that there are those that we see regularly, maybe even every day, that might be good and moral people, but are lost. They don’t know or understand the love of Jesus and what that means for them personally. These individuals will one day take their last breath on this earth and be faced with their eternity. It is then they will be face to face with God and there will be no illusion of who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords…. except, at that point it will be too late. Their life on earth is over, and their eternity is just beginning. An eternity that is to be separate from God, because of the choice they made to turn from Him when they were still alive.

I should have said something. I should have stepped out of my comfort zone, before this woman steps out into eternity. Maybe I could have started a conversation with her, and maybe she would have thought I was nuts….regardless, she couldn’t have said I didn’t care. It would have given her something to think about. Maybe I will get another chance to share the greatest news a dying world could ever hear……because it really is a matter of life and death.

For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 NLT

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 NIV

The Struggle Is Real

We live in a world that is broken, where the fissures in life often leak uncertainty. For many, fear is just under the surface. The routine of days can seem so normal… until they’re not.  IMG_1702

Last Friday I spent a sunny, November afternoon, grocery shopping. It wasn’t very exciting, but it was still great. I am one of those people that enjoys being able to stroll the aisles and look at what is new on the shelves, plus I always like a good deal. After the grocery store, I went to Tractor Supply to pick up food for the myriad number of pets my family owns. On the way back home, I listened to the radio and sang out loud. On that day, at that moment, life was good. The mundane was indeed, magnificent.

After getting home and unpacking the groceries I began to make dinner. I remember what I fixed that night. Salmon. Weird how one remembers the small details. As I was in the kitchen cooking, my husband said, “Mom, just emailed me that something is happening in Paris”. We flipped on the TV, like so many others, only to hear of the tragedies as they unfolded. Suicide bombers, mass shootings, hostages. There were people herded out of venues, attempting to get to a safe place. A place that was anywhere, but where they were at.

My heart broke for these people. People that had gone out to eat, to watch soccer, or listen to music. Individuals just like so many of the rest of us. They didn’t know…..how could they have known? That this day, this night, was to be their last?

And the earth spun crazy, on its axis, making us all dizzy with despair.

This life we live, this world we call home, can be scary. There are no promises about tomorrow. We wish we could see into the future, to make plans, to neatly tie up loose ends, to say the words that need to be said, to get things right. We want to be in control, but that is just an illusion. None of us is in control, we never have been.

That is a sobering thought.

But, in the midst of the hard parts and the sharp edges of this world, there is good news. There is One who does know the future. He is in control. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is…..unchanging, undeniable, and unstoppable.

God. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end…..and all the days in between.

So, when my days are scary, or the moments turn hard, I lean into the only One who can bring true peace in a world gone mad. My hope is in Jesus.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13 NIV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.             Hebrews 13:8 ESV

I’m More Than The “If Only”

This blog post is from my archives…..I think I needed to read it again today.

The paper was yellowed with age, and it was deeply creased. I gently unfolded it and was taken back to decades past.

Electronic typewriter - the final stage in typ...

The report card(s)made me smile, as former teachers faces flashed before my eyes.  I was an A and B student for most of my school career. Grades were important to me, I always wanted to do my best. If my grades didn’t match what I thought my effort deserved, then I was disappointed in myself.

There is was. My eyes caught that dreaded letter. “D”. One of two that I received in my entire school career. It was in typing of all things. Yes, typing. It was my sophomore year in high school and it was a mandatory class. Computers in the early 80’s were still not “personal” and most people didn’t have one. This was the pre-social media age. (haha)  I learned to type on an electric typewriterwhose size took up an entire desk. The timed tests are what got me. Too many mistakes. Oh, how I teared up when the teacher told me the bad news! I was devastated.

I wasn’t good enough. How could I let this happen?

Almost thirty years later, I still struggle with the not good enough. Oh, not the “D”…that has long since melted into history…but, the underlying question remains, “am I good enough?”

How many times do I set the bar in my life, only to fail? To come up short. At times, not even be in the game?

I am guilty of believing that I was the one in control. That when bad things happen I could have, should have, done something. Done better. Tried harder.

I was never in control. Never. Not once. Not, really.

That is a profound statement, isn’t it? So many times we think about the “if onlys”.  If only I was smarter, faster, prettier, skinnier, more organized, more outgoing, more capable……more. more. more. If only I met all these requirements, then everything would be alright. I’d be in control of my circumstances.

It is a struggle. I wish it wasn’t. I want to see myself, like Christ sees me.

Redeemed.

“But, Lord……if only I’d pray more often. If only I did my devotions every day. If only I loved more and forgave more. If only I was more of a reflection of you in my daily life.”  And the “if onlys” widen the gap between me and the One that calls me worthy.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 NIV

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— Colossians 1:22 NIV

And the tears fall, as the words sink in.

There Will Never Be Another Quite Like It

As October comes to an end, and November is a mere few hours away, I thought I’d repost a blog entry from a few years ago. My words came back to me, reminding me that time slips by so quickly.

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

This afternoon the gray sky is moist. I feel the drops on my face as I rush to unload the groceries.IMG_0718

The wind is biting, and my thick sweater is not enough to protect against the late Fall temperatures.

I hurry to get inside to the warmth. The kitchen lights leave puddles on the counter top, as I quickly put groceries away.

Life is a blur, but I want to slow it down.

It’s Friday. November 22nd. 2013. This day will soon be gone, and there will never be another just like it……

Oh, how I wish I could live each day remembering this fact.

When the merry-go-round goes wild and the moments make me dizzy….

Slow down.

Yesterday, while making dinner I watched Ann Voskamp and Liz Curtis Higgs, “Christmas at the Farm”. (If you too,would like to see the Webcast, go here. ) These two ladies are inspiring. They gave me a gift. They took my hand, frazzled and worn, and led me to the Savior. Towards the end of the visit, Liz spoke of Luke 1:37. “Nothing is impossible with God.” That happens to be my very favorite Bible verse and I just knew she was talking to me personally.

Nothing. Not anything. Nothing big. Nothing small. N-O-T-H-I-N-G is impossible with God.

How many of us need to hear that today? At this very moment? Every day, a reminder?

The darkness is creeping around the edges of the late afternoon sky. 4:30 seems much later….almost time to start dinner.

But, even as the darkness descends, and the temperature plummets, I know this…

My moments are here and now, and God sees them and feels them all.

I can rest in the knowledge that there is no such thing as impossible with Him.

For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37  KJV

The World Was Not Worthy Of Them

“THEY CALL ME CHURA… GOD CALLS ME DAUGHTER.”

Those words are Shafia’s.  Shafia was kidnapped, raped, family members killed….she lost so much. But she did not lose her faith in Jesus Christ. Her world could take everything that she had, but it could not take away her Jesus.  Scripture tells us,       ”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 37-39

I got my Share Their Voice kit from Voice of the Martyrs yesterday.  Stories of Christians around the globe…modern day martyrs for their faith. Stories of Christians in China, Turkey, North Korea, and Sudan. Christians in Pakistan, and Columbia. People that are kidnapped, raped, tortured, imprisoned, lose their families, their homes….everything. Some people even lose their lives. All this because they refuse to deny Jesus Christ. Their love for Him far outweighs what mere man can do to them. When I read their stories, stories that the main stream media will never tell us, my heart cries out! Lord, forgive me in my selfishness, my excess, my ambivalence to those brothers and sisters in Christ that suffer around the world for You. I am so ashamed that it is easy to forget them as I go on with my daily life. Help me to share their stories with others, so that their voices won’t be silenced. Father, I know that You will never forget them…. that You know each of these souls intimately.

These countries are considered restricted nations: Cuba, Belarus, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, northern Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E, Qatar, Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,  Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, China, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh.  In these countries there are government policies and practices that deny Christians the ability to obtain Bibles or Christian literature, also laws against Christians that cause them to be harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of their possessions or liberties because of their witness.

These countries are considered hostile areas: Chiapas (Mexico), Columbia, Turkey, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Mindanao (Philippines). These countries have large areas where governments consistently attempt to provide protection for the Christian population, but Christians are victims of violence because of their witness.

Remember the Christians in these countries mentioned. Even if you don’t know them by name, God knows them. Many times pain cannot be avoided by these warriors for the faith, but you can pray for them to have  strength and determination until their journey is done. Pray that no matter what may befall them, that they will be found faithful.

“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”  Hebrews 13: 3

http://www.persecution.com

Her Last Words

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It was the last word on her lips before she was murdered. The only word that mattered.

Jesus…. 

The name above all names.

Blessed Redeemer. Emmanuel.

A moment of Holiness in the midst of the heinous.

Witnesses to her murder said she was smiling. Yes, smiling…as she whispered, “Jesus”. Then she was beheaded. Her crime? She was a Christian in Syria. She identified as a follower of Jesus Christ. Her love for Him sentenced her to death.

But, something she knew, that her killers did not understand…..could not understand…….her faithfulness to her Savior meant that death could not separate her from the love of Christ. To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. I have no doubt that she is with Him right now, in His presence….now and forevermore. She is more alive today than she ever was here on Earth.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 

As a Christian in the United States of America, my faith has never been a life or death matter. I don’t know what it feels like to be persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, to lose all my possessions, and yes, to be murdered for my belief in Jesus Christ. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but one day it might. I used to think being a Christian was safe……..

“What is your religion? Do you believe in God?” Yes. I’m a Christian. “Good, because you’re gonna meet Him in one second.” What started out as a typical school day at a local community college ended in tragedy. I daresay that none of those murdered expected that, that day was going to be the day they died. When they got up that morning, none of them knew what lay ahead for them.

But, when it came down to it, when their very lives were on the line, they said, “Yes”.  I’m sure they were scared….terrified. I don’t know what it was like in that classroom in Oregon, but in their final moments I have to believe they knew. They understood that identifying with Jesus meant their death. Rather than deny their Savior they said, “YES”.

Christians murdered on foreign soil. Christians murdered in my own country. All of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Although the thought of this is scary, if I should ever be put to the test, I pray that I would remain faithful to the very end.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 ESV

Article on the Syrian Christians is here. Article on the Oregon shooting.

So Wrapped Up In Everything

This week has been busy, good, but oh so busy. Last night I was so exhausted by the time I made it into bed, I could barely function. Laying my head on the pillow never felt so sweet. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in everything that is going on, that I allow myself to become overwhelmed. In the midst of substitute teaching, appointments, conferences, a new business, a presentation, making contacts, a Masters program, daily chores and errands, and a charity event to attend….. Many times, throughout the week, I had to remember to breathe. I didn’t even have the energy or inclination to mop the muddy dog prints that “decorated” the floor of my house this week! Anyone that knows me, knows that mess only added to my chaotic craziness.

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Just when I would start feeling like I was on a never ending treadmill, God would give me reminders. Reminders of His love. Reminders that it is in my weakness, He gives strength. When my life is rushed and harried, He brings calm. When I feel nervous, scared or unsure, He gives peace that passes all understanding.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.     Philippians 4:7