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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Changing The Pattern

          I am a quilter, when time allows.  It gives me immense joy to leaf through all my quilt books looking for the quilt pattern I’d like to use next.  I’m often amazed at how different a quilt can look when you change one shape in the block, change colors or when you rearrange the pieces in a block.  With each change, you have the potential to make a whole new quilt!  The possibilities are endless!

            This same principle can be applied to our lives.  When we change a bad habit for a good one, we’ve changed a “shape.”   When we change a sinful lifestyle to a Christian lifestyle, we’ve changed a “color.”  When we fellowship with Christians instead of those who would lead us down a sinful road, we have “rearranged the pieces” in the block.  The sum total of all these changes creates a “new person” in Christ.

            We are told not to conform to the patterns of the world but to be transformed.  This transformation may take time.  With the “renewing of our minds” through reading God’s word, the transformation comes in each of us, just as the quilt changes when we change colors and rearrange pieces of the block.  Our potential for possibilities becomes endless! 

            As the new year approaches, many of us create “New Year’s Resolutions.”  The idea behind the resolutions is to make changes.  Often, however, our goal is so dramatic, we learn almost instantly (sometimes it takes a whole week!) to find out it’s not going to happen.  We immediately reach for the leftover snacks from the holidays, (after all we can’t let it go to waste, right?) or we realize getting up an hour earlier is nearly impossible with the already hectic schedule we have or even in our very specific business worlds huge, dynamic changes (like promising myself I’ll write 2,000 words on any specific project every day) are just impossible for follow through.

            The best way to make changes is a little at a time.  It’s like eating a slice (or bite) of pie rather than eating the whole thing in one sitting!  If we create a plan of “pieces” instead of “entirety,” our goals are much easier to see through!  Instead of dieting through starvation or eliminating all snacks we know we’re going to eat, choose to eat half or even reduce by a quarter.  Instead of getting up an hour early to exercise, arise only ten minutes early.  Rather than promising to write 2,000 words on any given project every day, choose to reach 1,000 words.  Each of these goals are much more manageable.  We can then increase the increments as we adjust to our now “new normal.”

            Another area we, as Believers, often hope to improve is our Spiritual life.  Instead of reading three chapters every day from the Bible, choose to read one.  Rather than choosing to pray for a half hour for all those on the prayer list, choose to break it down into smaller increments during the day.  Instead of planning to deliver food to the needy every week, begin with every other week. 

Do you see a pattern here?  Like the quilt which has shapes that can be re-arranged, colors that can be altered or shapes that can be completely changed, we can change our lifestyles and patterns that hold us to this world. 

I encourage you to ask for God’s guidance on ways you can become “a beautiful quilt” for Christ as you change your personal patterns, one small piece at a time.

Monday, December 19, 2016

No Greater Love

            A good friend, some years ago, died from cancer.  She left a poem to be read by those who loved her.  It was a poem of peace and acceptance.  It spoke to our hearts and allowed us to both grieve for her, yet let her go because she was ready.  She was tired of the battle that raged havoc on her body and ultimately her spirit, as she dealt with the pain and reaction to all the medicine, radiation and chemo she had to endure while “waiting for the end.”

            Another friend passed from the disease about ten years later, and while she didn’t leave us any specific message to be read regarding her situation, those who knew her could picture her relieved that her painful journey was over.

            Not long ago I learned another friend has this affliction.  She’s a strong woman who loves the Lord, people, cares about the world she lives in and gives of herself unselfishly.  The news, it matters not how often I hear it, always breaks my heart.  The word “cancer” in some ways is like hearing a “curse word” given the way it affects my ears---and my heart!  It creates a battle not only for my friend, but for those who want nothing more than to spare her of the battle she is sure to endure.

            I’ve wondered how I’d react if I were told I had a terminal disease.  Since cancer runs in my family, I’ve accepted the possibility that I may contract this vicious illness.  The doctor says outright that I am at high risk.  I usually just try not to think about it and attempt to retain a positive attitude.  Will that save me from the problem?  Probably not, but it’s, in my view, the only way I can deal what might happen.  Besides, why borrow trouble and put myself in a pit of despair of something that hasn’t even happened…..yet!

            How must Jesus have felt knowing he was going to die a cruel death?  His feelings must have been intensified with the knowledge he would have to travel this road alone.  Even his disciples would desert him.  Despite these things, He also knew it was his Father’s will.  What a great love He had for us. 

It’s Christmas.  God gave his Son to reconcile his people to him; and did it in such a way many people waiting for the blessed event, missed it.   Jesus left his throne in Glory and willingly came as a tiny baby to be the salvation of the world!  I can’t even imagine what that must have been like!  Imagine---  Jesus;---  God; ---  God’s Son ----  became a human child, carried inside a mortal woman to be both man and God!  And we have the Holy Spirt---who is also part of the Triune God with Jesus, who had not yet been revealed to the world, was given to us by Jesus before he returned to the throne as a means for comfort and guidance when He would no longer be here. 

            Intermingled with the loneliness and pain Jesus must have felt when he went to the cross, there was also joy and peace that comes with acceptance.  He knew he was giving his life for us.  What an incredible act of love, this man, Jesus demonstrated.  What an incredible act of love our God demonstrated. He gave us the greatest Christmas present ever possible.  Can we do less than give our hearts in return?  This must be the greatest Christmas gift God can receive!

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Reason To Celebrate

         Holidays are wonderful!  They bring an excitement of celebration that causes little ones to be giddy with excitement, have sparkling eyes with faces showing toothy grins, while their adult counterparts smile and are joyful, as well. It seems to be a human characteristic to want to celebrate something.  We decorate, make cakes, give presents or cards or go somewhere special.  It helps imbed the event into our memory.

            It doesn’t need to be Christmas, Valentine’s Day, an anniversary or birthday to have a reason to celebrate.  Every day is a gift.  Just to be able to wake in the morning, look out across the mountains as the sun begins to peek over the edge of the trees is reason for celebration!  To hear the birds sing a tune in spring, feel the soft breeze on my face in summer, see the leaves turn color in autumn, and be dazzled by the white sparkling snow in the winter, is reason to celebrate.  There is joy in hearing children giggle or sing a nursery rhyme, while pure delight rises in my heart as I see my dog and cat playing in the yard.  There is peace as our family sits at the dinner table holding hands saying grace before the meal.

            Still the reality is many of us face trials and tribulation every day, as well.  We face moments of sadness and distress as economic woes threaten to bury us.  We grieve at the loss of a loved one and worry over the alienation of one or more of our children.  We are tormented as families are divided, and disappointed, as life seems to do nothing but be a huge burden, much to large to carry.

            It is times like this when we must seek His Kingdom.  Christ offers to bear our burdens if we are willing to place them at his feet.  Very often, however we tend to hang onto our troubles hoping somehow we can do something about them, or somehow fix whatever is wrong.  Very often we can’t.  Our problems must be placed in the hands of a Higher Power.

            Each day has reason to fill us with exultation, if we but capture the moment.  This gift of life, given by our Risen Savior is reason to celebrate.  Even when life throws us those horrible unsuspecting curves, we can find reasons to fill our heart with gladness, even though sometimes it takes effort.

            As Christmas approaches, I challenge you to take a moment and focus on the Lord.  Focus on all the good He has provided.  Bring to your mind all the positive things that have happened not only today which includes waking, eating, shelter, children, a song, a thought, a word, a smile, but yesterday’s gifts, and the day before. Remember how He came as a tiny infant to become Savior of the world and then died on the cross to take our sins.  This is huge; it’s life altering!  Take as long as you need, remembering.  It is in this remembrance you will be able to embrace God’s goodness.  Seek Him and the rest will fall into place.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy Holy-Day

        Holidays are wonderful!  There are all kinds: summer vacations, New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving and many others that we celebrate all year long.  Our “holidays” may find us at the ocean relaxing in the warm sunshine while wriggling our toes in the hot sand.  We may choose to visit other countries, or National and State parks to enjoy nature’s bounty.  Or we may choose to visit monuments, cities, or even choose to stay in a quiet cabin in the country.  Whatever our desire when we want to get “away” we choose to take a “holiday.”

There is much discussion in politics and between friends and neighbors about the use of “Happy Holiday” verses the familiar “Merry Christmas!”  Let me begin by saying I prefer Merry Christmas, but was calmed when I understood that “holiday” actually can mean “holy-day.” Now that said, it doesn’t necessarily have that definition anymore.  In fact, as the word has changed over the years, it has acquired a much more secular meaning.

Because of the way we look at what a holiday is in our world today, it’s hard to connect the idea of a sacred “Holy Day” --- Christmas --- by simply saying “holiday.”  The word holiday holds no sacred meaning, given the way we use it.  This is likely why so many people are outraged that while Happy Holidays is somehow politically correct, the term “Merry Christmas” carries the connotation of sacredness, which is important to Believers!

            Originally the word had more to do with a religious festival or a hallowed day.  Now the word has more to do with a “free day” off from work or school because it’s a federally designated day.  People today, usually don’t even equate “holiday” with the original “holy-day” meaning at all.  For the business world it’s another “big money day” while for shoppers it’s usually a discount day!  We’ve even created a day called “Black Friday” because following the day after Thanksgiving, it’s become the biggest shopping day of the year!

            So we come to an impasse.  We have holiday stamps and wrapping paper.  There are holiday greetings and celebrations. And we have been instructed to say “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas so we don’t offend anyone; staying “politically correct!”

            Does it matter to my faith that we say, Happy Holidays?  It does only in the sense that I am being singled out as a Believer, implying that my faith doesn’t matter, because someone else is offended by the term.  Yet we can say Happy Kwanza or Happy Hanukkah.  Yet to say Merry Christmas is unacceptable. 

            I love Christmas!  It’s the most “wonderful time of year!”  It’s a time when people seem to put most of the prejudices aside and are collectively kind and caring for each other.  I love the music, the magic, decorations, movies, snow (yes, I love having snow this time of year!), gift giving (getting is fun too!) and the general time of love.

            So I encourage you to look beyond the expression of Happy Holidays, say Merry Christmas when you can, and share the wonder of Christmas with everyone you see.  When you do, it truly is magical, as we celebrate this special Holy Day!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Feeling Inadequate

Christmas is right around the corner!  Thanksgiving has passed and now all the stores  will bring out their Christmas decorations and products in full force, although many had already started.  Music will fill the air no matter what mall you enter and television has all the cute specials on, and Christmas movies abound! 

When Jesus came into the world, he came in as a tiny infant. Who would have thought this tiny baby who was son, brother, uncle, woodworker, friend and student would become the Savior of the World?

I am a wife, mother, writer, student, and many other things to different people and usually confident in whatever “role” I am performing at the time.  While I am all these different things to all these people, I am also a Christian; a servant of God.  I am a servant who wants others to know about God’s love and salvation, but herein is my problem.

I feel horribly inadequate when I want to share my faith with someone. I feel unqualified to explain the details.  I know how I feel and why I feel the way I do, but trying to explain it unsettles me!  I’m afraid if I don’t quote it just right from the scripture verse, I’ll goof things up and completely confuse someone or just tell them wrong. 

How wrong I am when I feel that way!  The death of Jesus paved the way for my Salvation.  I now belong to Him.  As the Holy Spirit leads and directs I can know with absolute certainty, that what He really wants from me is to listen for His prompting; speak the words in my heart, even if they aren’t said the same way the Pastor or Bible scholar might say them!

My “job” is to be the person God made me.  I am to live my life so that others can see His Light!  Certainly as a child, there are those who wondered what made this boy, Jesus, so special.  He lived a perfect life!  He was set apart; different!  

It is the same with our lives.  We are set apart; different.  As we live our lives, conversation can be held with not only friends, but strangers.  As we share our “story,” of our love of Jesus through our lives and words, we are witnessing.

God promises that the Spirit of truth will guide me.  All God wants is for me to share my faith by telling how good he’s been to me, about his love for me, and that he died to save us.  Scriptures help, but I tend to make it more complicated than is necessary.  I need to rely on God’s Spirit to “guide me into all truth.”  When I do this, it will bring Jesus, God's son, glory.

So I challenge you to communicate your “story” to those around you!  It doesn’t necessarily mean “preach a sermon!”  Allow the Pastor that right!  Be yourself, share your testimony by simply sharing with someone else how Jesus changed your life and what He has done for you!