He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, January 8, 2018

Preparing My Field

          It’s a New Year, and like every year, I sit and re-evaluate my goals, plans and ideas for the coming year…..  and attempt to understand what held me back in given areas last year! With pen in hand and paper (or sometimes the computer) in front of me, I analyze the eight to ten categories in which I’d like to excel.  There are areas where I can indeed see progress. Others, well….  Not so much!

            It seems life takes on a spirit of its own, whether it’s a class in college, changing careers, moving to another part of the country, involvement in family life, health issues, or a hundred other things!   Each of these areas can be huge steps and cause us to be busier than we ever planned, and usurp time we’d planned for other areas.

Yet some areas like marriage or having children are enormous decisions, and steps in our lives that can be intimidating, especially if we aren’t ready for it. Of course, not all areas listed here affect me directly in this time in my life, but the premise is the same.  Whatever it is we do, we want to be successful! 

            A line in my favorite all time movie, “Facing The Giants,” “Prepare your field,” stuck me the first time I heard it and has reverberated in my brain ever since.  It’s easy to think of the farmer who readies his field for planting, well before the first seed is placed in the row.  But I wonder how much “ready-ing” we do for other areas of our lives? 

Certainly, many of us go to college, and take all the required courses in our field of interest.  Yet, often, when we graduate we are still at a loss about what to do next.  Even if a job is waiting for us, sometimes we flounder and change directions at least once and sometimes are still left unsatisfied with the direction our lives have taken.  Sometimes we just give up.  This leads us down roads we likely otherwise would not travel.

            We must have a vision if we are going to succeed.  That vision includes “preparing our field.”  When we put God first, pray for His will to become clearly apparent in our lives, we can move forward.  Like the farmer, we have to “till the ground.”  It takes some effort in preparation, whether its spiritual, physical, financial, or personal labor – and sometimes it’s all four!  Further we must plant the seeds, and again, this falls in several categories!  Life doesn’t “just happen.”  We make it happen! 

            When we have done our absolute best and all things we can do are in place, we must challenge ourselves to believe in God for the impossible to happen in our lives.  This is where faith, hope and love grow.

            I encourage (and challenge) you to consider the opportunities before you and further, decide if you are on the road you want to travel.  Is it time for preparing your field---including your area of spirituality? If so, are you ready to take the leap to the next level?

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Blessings

           I’ve read the story, “A Christmas Carol,” before but had never seen the movie.  Today, that changed.  I watched the classic tale with excitement, fear (somehow the ghosts managed to scare me with all their antics), and anticipation of a change in Ebenezer Scrooge.  I completely knew what to expect given I’ve read the book and knew the story plot.  Still, I found myself completely drawn in by the special effects of the movie which will, no doubt, leave a lasting impression!
            What I take away most from the story is how much like Scrooge we can be, even if unintentional.  Scrooge was “owned” by his money.  While there may be people who are possessed by the funds they’ve accumulated, it doesn’t have to be specific cold hard cash that claims us. 
            Our society has fostered the ideals of “work” so you can buy anything and everything you’ve ever wanted and accumulate wealth greater than your neighbor.  Our possessions bought with the funds we’ve worked so hard for can occupy a greater place in our lives than anything else.  Careers and the need to work so much has created the tag “work-aholic” that is not an uncommon term in our world.
            Aside from material goods, there are other “things” in our world that can be all consuming.  Sports or Hollywood stardom has claimed many victims who’ve fallen prey to the call of worldwide fame.  Food, oddly enough, can be a culprit that overshadows all else in our world as can substance abuse in a variety of forms.
            Scrooge found his Christmas Spirit at the end of the movie because he was finally able to see the cold, bitter man he had become.  While this is certainly important, there is a greater reason to find the “Christmas Spirit” and a better way than having to be visited by ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
            The Messiah came over 2000 years ago to give us the “Christmas Spirit” of love, goodness, understanding, kindness and everything good!  Christmas is all this and more!  The Messiah brought salvation to the world!  He is the Christmas story! 
            As you celebrate this year, I encourage you to reflect on your Christmas’s Past, Present and maybe even Future.  Remember everything you do today has a ripple effect on everyone around you, even those people you pass by and do not know.  Be someone’s Christmas gift today and show a kindness, love, and gratitude as you recall your Christmas Blessings!
The message of Christmas may be best said by Charles Dickens through Ebenezer Scrooge, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”  We do this best when we remember Jesus, the Child born in a manger, who is the Savior of the World.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The First Newsletter

I finally put all my Christmas cards in the mail!  I, like millions everywhere, updated my address list from last year, bought stamps, sorted the cards, signed them, stuffed them with a newsletter, sealed and stamped them!  Are you, like myself, one of the many people around the globe who sends newsletters with their Christmas cards each year?

Some detest the task since writing anything seems like a daunting chore, while others relish the idea of putting their last year’s events down on paper.  It’s exciting to re-visit the memories from places traveled, company received, new little ones born, accomplishments and awards, weddings and engagements, moves and career changes, or any other exciting news.  Some believe it’s an archaic idea with all the social media available to anyone who chooses to use it; while others love the tradition.

There are all kinds of ways to get the job done, from writing a simple note in a Christmas card, to sending detailed pages of text interspersed with photos capturing every moment.  Some write it newspaper column style, while others may omit paragraphs completely and just give the bare bones of the “happenings” in their family.  I’ve even received the “news” in poetry.  How fun!  Even if the poetry doesn’t rhyme there is something about giving the effort and having rhythm while reading.  There is no wrong way to share your news.  It’s a message of joy!    

Can you imagine the FIRST “newsletter” that was shared by the angels? It had a single theme.  Christ, the Messiah was born, followed by a simple statement, telling them where they would find him.  While I tagged this event as the “first newsletter,” there had been messages years before.  There was great expectation of the Messiah coming.  People had been waiting for generations.

People had waited and wondered about their new king, who would save them.  Most never expected a little babe in a manger.  They pictured, instead, a great warrior riding a magnificent steed purging the land of their enemies.  Because of their perceptions, many completely missed the “big event!”  They never saw their deliverance, despite the Word given to the prophets, years before!

That mentality, sadly, still remains.  People are so caught up in what they believe Christmas is, they miss the Joy that is The Christ.  Even when attending a worship service and hearing the message, singing the Christmas Carols, and hearing the prayers, they still don’t get it.  Instead they focus on the celebration of the tree and the glittering ornaments that adorn their landscape and home.  Extravagant gifts are purchased, parties are attended, Santa is visited, and foods prepared.  But the “Joy” that is Christmas remains fleeting.

True Christmas Joy can only be obtained by accepting the most extravagant, yet most humble gift ever given: The Christ Child.  He is the Messiah, the Savior of the World.  Just as the Angels proclaimed over 2000 years ago, this is the greatest news!  This is a message worth proclaiming.  But just as the Shepherds had to believe and “search” for the Child, we too, must believe and “search” our hearts to find Him.  He’s there, just waiting for your acceptance and worship!

 Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Asking For Forgiveness

            A friend of mine tells the story of a time, while in elementary school, who did something that hurt another.  This episode must have really made an impact because my friend, nearly forty-five years later was still searching for the person whom she offended.  After continued seeking over a period of nearly fifty years and several states, she located him.  Due to the circumstances of the event, my friend wanted to apologize.  Once she found out where her “friend” lived, she drove to his home unsure about what she would say. 

            Knocking on the door, she prayed God would give her the courage to carry through to completion the journey she’d been on for so long.  Her “friend” opened the door, and she recognized him to be the person she was looking for and immediately shared her heart with him.  He forgave her and a new friendship was forged.  They shared coffee and conversation for the next several hours.  Walking away from his home, my friend knew she’d done the right thing.

            It struck me that this seemed so dramatic.  Who even remembers what went on in grade school?  I admit, I haven’t a clue what the offense was, but that it bothered my friend is significant.  How often do we, even if inadvertently, hurt someone through a negative comment, a slip of the tongue, or gossip?   Or worse, what if words were said in anger?  Sometimes the words we speak when angry are cruel and emotionally damaging.

            When we speak in anger or deliberately hurt someone, it is sinful.  We, as Believers are supposed to build each other up, not tear down.  The Bible discusses sin in absolute terms.  Sin cuts us off from God.  Our moral and spiritual conduct are relevant to our relationship with Him, just as loyalty and love in marriage to our spouse here on Earth.  It is what cements the connection with another.  When that trust has been broken there is separation.

            So my friend’s efforts at making things right with her friend, even though it had been many years ago wasn’t an extreme position after all!  Forgiveness is vital to building bridges.  When we let anger and resentment build, it is we who are hurting.

            I have another friend who has chosen to break the ties with his family because of lifestyle and choices that has hurt his family.  It’s a sad thing to watch as it rips the relationship apart.  But this friend has chosen his path and will have to deal with the consequences, if not now, then later.  The time will come when “family” may be no longer of this world, and forgiveness cannot be asked for or granted – on either side. 

            As we move into another week of the Christmas season, ask yourself if there is someone who needs forgiveness or someone who needs to forgive you.  It’s hard to swallow pride and admit a wrong, and sometimes it’s even hard to grant forgiveness, because the pain was so intense.  But it’s what we are called to do.  It’s what Jesus taught.  We all make mistakes and even bad decisions.  We can, however, make things right, if we want to.  To not make things right is sinful.  That sin can not only separate us from those we care about here on earth, it also separates us from the Father.

            Forgive someone, even if you can’t make an immediate connection with them…..  or ask forgiveness, if you are the offender. Make your Christmas joyous!

           Merry Christmas, everyone!