How Much Do I Love?

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This morning during worship, in between praise songs, a question was asked. One of the young men very simply said, “Would the people that I love in my life, know that I love them, if I treated them the same way I treat my relationship with God?”

Only a moment long question, before we started singing the next song. I’ve been thinking about that question ever since. Words versus actions.

How can I show God this week, how much I love him? How can you?

Just something for us all to think about.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 NIV

 

 

Peace For A Parent’s Heart

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The day broke in vibrant pinks and purples, against a cold, crisp mid-January sky. Crawling out from under my electric blanket was difficult, as I could feel the air nip at me, even in the heated house. Today’s high temperature is to be 9 degrees. Single digits involves dressing in layers, that and a good cup of hot coffee.

My son left this morning to go back to college. Packing his car with his freshly laundered clothes and winter sports equipment in 1 degree temperature was not fun, but he is a trooper and got it done. He has only been gone a couple of hours and I miss him already.

I had a friend post yesterday about her three sons growing up and how it was hard for her. I can relate. All my children are young adults now. Two working full time, one at school and working part time, and one working full time and attending school. It is hard on parents when their little kids, aren’t little anymore….when their lives are truly their own, and they make all the choices about their days. For better or for worse.

As a parent it has always been my job to raise my children to eventually let them go. Love them, teach them, comfort them, reach them.  As the years went on, I had to learn to release my grip on them. My mama’s heart is feeling a tug today. Sigh.

I find comfort on the difficult days of being a mother, in the words of my Lord…..

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 The words that have been etched into the heart, won’t be forgotten…even if the path has lots of bumps in the road.

And, Romans 8:37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. I know that I am not always going to be there for my children. I am not all knowing, and all present, but I know the One who is. Christ loves my children, as He loves me. He will never leave them, nor can anything that happens to them, ever separate them from His love.
That gives this mama’s heart, peace. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

The Silent Killer

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I am a first born who is organized, sure I am right, and sometimes bossy. I tend to be a perfectionist (more with myself, than with others). In some ways that tendency has helped me as I continue to strive to do my very best. Other times, it eats away at me. Silent and deadly. The details always get me, I want everything to be orderly, to be on the list so I can check it off, and no surprises! When I have too much going on, too many things to keep straight, my to do list does not have as many checks as I’d like, or if something goes wrong……I become frustrated and tense.

I currently have a lot of “balls in the air” right now. That is just life. You’d think being in my late 40’s life would be a little less hectic, but that is not the case….at least not for me. I won’t go into the up’s and down’s of my life, I know you’d understand, you probably have the same things going on in your own lives. Maybe not exactly the same, but close enough!

The other day as I was roaming around the kitchen with a million things on my mind, I read something from one of my devotion calendars. The author talked about being still, trusting God, remembering He is in control. I stopped. I took a deep breath. I exhaled.

Breathing. That is not something I am in control of. Not really. I do it, but I don’t think about it. It is not on my to list each morning. I don’t think to myself, “Dawn, make sure you remember to squeeze breathing into your schedule today.” God doesn’t forget. He knows every breath that I take. He knows every hair on my head. He knows (knew) each of my days before even one of them came to be.

I breathed again. Slower this time. I concentrated on my deliberate inhaling and exhaling. Just as I trust God for my very being…..shouldn’t I trust Him for all the minutes in my days?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

In The Days Leading Up To Christmas

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The mantle is filled with vintage Putz houses, a glowing Christmas tree takes center stage in the house, and beautiful cards are displayed on the door. The nativity is in a prominent place on the dining room table…a visual reminder of God’s love to the world. The gifts under the tree are no comparison to the gift of Jesus, Himself.

The sky outside is the color of slate, and branches of the bare trees scrape against it. The smell of wood smoke is in the air, a neighbor must have their fireplace in use. Icicle lights glitter in the evening dusk, reminding me of the glorious appearance of the angels on that night of Christ’ birth so long ago.

Sweet treats, warm cocoa, and marathon Christmas movies on television. Thankful for so much.

Quiet peacefulness settles in……. in the days leading up to Christmas.

 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”   Luke 2:8-14

What Is Man, That You Take Thought Of Him?

Today my husband asked me to watch a Louie Giglio video with him. I wasn’t feeling all that great, and didn’t know if I really felt like taking the time to really pay attention, but it is difficult to hear this man speak and not be drawn into the message. I was glad I tuned in. In this particular video he was discussing the physical universe that we live in, more so about how small our planet is in the big (very big!) scheme of things. The scientific facts alone, that he mentioned, were thought provoking. The pictures of the stars and how immense they actually are, the light and heat of the sun in space, and where we are in the context of our galaxy and all the universe. Yes, over the years I’ve learned about space and astronomy, but as I listened, the thought struck me…..this is what Psalm 8 is all about.

 

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When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!”

Psalm 8:3-5 

 

 

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Stop.

Reread those verses again. Let it sink in. God created it all. He created the very elements that are the building blocks for all other things. The sun burns hotter than any nuclear reactor we have ever witnessed. We are in the exact spot to not be too hot or too cold to sustain life. The Earth is really not more than a speck in the vastness of this incredible universe. And on this tiny speck, we live.

He made us, humankind, in His image. He tells us over and over again, in scripture, of His love for each of us. Even after the darkness of sin permeated this world He created, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. He is not, nor has he ever been, a God who created us and then left us alone. His love is amazing, glorious, fulfilling and overwhelming.

My God is big…it is He that created everything, out of nothing. The vastness of the universe is filled with His creative glory. The stars show the story of His love.

My God is so intimate, that He knows the count of the hairs on my head. He knew me while I was still being created in my mother’s womb. My name, among others, was on His mind, when the words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, were uttered from his lips.

Yes, my God, the Lord of all heaven and earth…..knows me. This tiny speck in all of the cosmos….and He calls me by name.

I continue to stand amazed.

 

 

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The Darkness Can Not Overcome It

The seasons have changed, and with that the night time comes earlier, no more staying light until 9:30 or 10pm. Although, I had already fed Jazz hours earlier, I wanted to let her into the barn for the night. I grabbed my flashlight and headed over for our night time ritual.

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My LED flashlight gave off just enough white light for me to see where I was stepping. One foot after the other. Some nights the moon shines brightly and I can see perfectly without the aid of a man made light source. I live in the wide open country, no street lights, and at night it can get very dark. I often hear dogs barking in the distance, and occasionally, coyotes. I hear geese,  frogs, and owls and often times, the llamas across the road. Llamas hum to each other….it sounds kind of weird, if you don’t understand what it is that you are hearing in the pitch dark.

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When we first moved here, the night seemed very, very black. Scary, even. After being here for several years, it is no longer that way for me, although I remain cautious. I don’t want to run into a opossum, skunk, or raccoon and so I try to be aware.  In the complete darkness out here, I am thankful for my light.

When we can’t see, and we’re scared we need the light.

Jesus already knew this. That is why He came.

For a dark and broken world, Jesus is that light.

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“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5