Thursday, January 29, 2009

Faith~~ Focus~~Finish~~

I have been spending time thinking about these three important words.

Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved by faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God..."

Faith:We begin our journey with Jesus by Faith. Believing that Jesus is the son of God and that he died for our sins.....accepting Him as our Savior. Our FAITH is our solid foundation, and we build our entire lives upon this foundation of faith.
One of my favorite hymns starts out...

Our faith is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' love and righteousness.....

We nurture that faith in many ways, such as through worshipping, studying God's word, and serving others. We also "exercise "our faith so it grows stronger by believing, trusting, and keeping our focus on God and His plan for our lives no matter what comes our way.

Psalm 121 "I lift my eyes up to the hills ~ where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.........."

Focus: Faith gives us the strength to keep our focus on our Lord. With every trial we encounter in our life we have a choice to dwell on the problem or dwell on God. Many things get in the way of our focus, such as fear, selfishness, busyness, etc. The list is endless...but the answer is clear. Our help comes from the Lord!

2 Timothy 4: 7 " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Finish: The day will come when our journey here on earth is over. We come to the finish line and we step over into eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith~ Focus ~ Finish~
Our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior gives us the strength to be able to focus on His plans for our life and rely on His help to persevere to the finish of our journey.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dream Big

"When God puts a dream in your heart, you and God are a majority."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Amazing Day!

No matter how you voted, or if you did, I believe that today is an amazing day for our country, for our world, for our family. Today is the inauguration of our first President of African American descent. A President who blends the races not only in his ancestry but his beliefs. I believe that our country has taken an enormous step forward and I am not so sure I expected to see this happen in my lifetime. For me it means we are one step closer to having equality for all people.
If you have looked closely at my family in this photo, you will see that we are a rainbow of God's people. Five of our seven children, their spouses and significant other, and a happy mass of grandbabies gathered for this photo at Thanksgiving. Our family represents several countries, a variety of races, and 3 political parties! There are no others that Joel and I love more. Our family, and especially our children, have at times experienced first hand the racism that can exist when people cannot look past the color of one's skin. Today we are rejoicing in seeing our country move forward in the journey for peace here and in the world. It all begins with acceptance, love, and hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Faith Expressed: Beware of Garbage Trucks

Beware of Garbage Trucks!
Today I heard an analogy comparing negative, unhappy people to a truck full of garbage. They fill up their truck with alot of garbage by focusing on the negative in life and having a bad attitude about what life has brought their way. They carry around their garbage in this truck, getting frustrated and angry at everything and everyone in their lives. They often look for someone to dump their garbage on!
We have all experienced this I am sure. You are in a store and the customer is rude to the clerk...or vice versa. Drivers scream and shake their fists at others who get in their way. Nurses take out their frustration on patients, and doctors take out their frustration on the nurses! Lest we feel exempt from these scenarios, how many of us have had a bad day and taken it out on those we love? It is human nature it seems to want to draw others into our negativity.
How do we avoid being the victim of someone else's garbage? How do we avoid being the garbage truck looking for someone to dump our load on?
It takes effort to not succumb to our problems, our "bad days". It takes more effort not to respond to others in a negative way when they dump their garbage onto us! It is hard not to take it personal, but that is one of the keys I think....don't take it. I don't mean that you fight back, although at times it is certainly appropriate to set firm boundaries and express our feelings.....I mean that you don't take on someone's stuff and get upset by their negativity. We can choose where to put our energy.
There is always something we can be upset about....always someone who is going to "rub us the wrong way". We just can't let anyone steal our joy. Make a conscious effort to let go, move on, and keep smiling. We can't usually control what happens to us, only how we respond or react to it.
And when we find ourselves collecting garbage....take it to the Lord in prayer and leave our negative feelings at his feet. If we do find ourselves dumping our load of garbage on someone...make amends!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking Back in Order To Move Forward

"We need to look back in order to move forward".....
I read these words today in a devotional I received and realized that this is what we do at the end of every year as we set "resolutions" for the new year upon us. We look back and see what we did and did not accomplish..what we still want to do better....what changes we want to make...what goals we want to achieve. This is not a bad thing ~ setting goals and working to achieve our dreams give us incentive. But what gives us peace and hope for all the tomorrows ahead in 2009?
Maybe, when we look back over 2008, we need to be able to see the many blessings that God has bestowed on us. The way things have worked together for good, the prayers that have been answered in His wisdom. Seeing how God has worked in our lives over the past year, gives us the hope and strength to be able to walk forward in 2009.
I keep a gratitude journal. One ritual I have is to look back over the year that has past at what I have been grateful for. It is a testimony of how God has blessed my life and the lives of those I love and care about.
Being able to see the blessings that God has showered us with may be more important than ever in 2009. Our country is still at war, the economy is the worse in too many years to count, and life seems to get harder and harder for many people.
And yet, we can look back and see what God has done. Next year we will be able to do the same. No matter what is ahead, we are not alone, for God walks with us and He holds our lives in His hands.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Praying With Tenacity

Ephesians 6:18 "Prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters." (The Message)

Same verse in NIV: "And pray in the spirit on all occasions, with ALL kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert, and always keep on praying for the saints."

I was watching Rick Warren's church service yesterday, "live" on my laptop ~ I am old enough to really be amazed by modern technology....I also feel very blessed to be able to participate in worship from my recliner. Being housebound, this is a very good option!
Anyway....Rick Warren spoke about prayer and mentioned a very good idea~ writing down our prayers...which I have done in the past, but he also suggested making 4 columns that give you an overall view of your prayers and God's responses to them.

Date~~~ Prayer Request~~~ Date Answered~~~ How God Answered

Pastor Warren also spoke about praying with tenacity....relentlessly....with determination.....
This gave me food for thought. I find that when I have a prayer request that I repeat and repeat, I either get discouraged when I don't see an answer OR I wonder if I have been oblivious to God's response because I did not get the answer I had hoped for. Hmmmm
I am not able to say that lately I have prayed with
tenacity...relentlessly...with determination .... or with alot of consistency. I need to confess that my structured prayer life leaves much to be desired. I certainly throw up prayers off and on throughout the day, but this realization is really a bit surprising to me because I used to have a very dedicated prayer life...and slowly it has ebbed away to just a quick morning prayer with my husband before he leaves for work and a few quick prayers throughout the day and night.
I have now added at the top of my intentions for 2009 list a prayer journal and structured Bible study. I am looking forward to seeing how my prayers are answered in 2009.
Praise God for His goodness and willingness to hear and answer our prayers. And praise God for laptops that bring pastors like Rick Warren into my living room "live"....on Sunday morning!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Never Early, Never Late

Almost every morning my husband Joel and I have devotions together before he heads off to work. We read from the Daily Guidepost devotional and at this time we are also reading one of Max Lucado's books, "Safe in the Shepherd's Arms". Today on January 6th, ~ Epiphany~ we found comfort in these words from the Daily Guidepost reading ....

"Teach us Lord to trust you and wait...
Your timing is perfect, ne'er early or late"

It feels like we have waited so long for our other home to sell, for my health to improve, for God to resolve our situation. We have been blessed beyond measure during this time, but every once in a while we lose our focus and the worry starts to creep up behind us and whisper words of fear and doubt in our ears. It seems that quite often during these times we are blessed to hear just the right words of comfort and affirmation. Today we needed a double dose, I guess, because when we turned to Max Lucado's book and continued reading a chapter we had started yesterday these words jumped out at us!

You are a great God ~ Your character is Holy~ Your truth is absolute
Your strength is unending ~ Your discipline is fair
Your provisions are abundant for our needs
Your light is adequate for our path ~ Your grace is sufficient for our sins
You sent your son in the fullness of time and will return at the consummation of time
Your Plan Is Perfect
Bewildering~ Troubling~ Puzzling
But perfect

Lord, we come before you with humble hearts asking for your forgiveness for doubting your plan for our lives. Give us the patience to wait for your are never early and never late.
Give us the strength to bear the burdens we carry and let us be a witness to your goodness.
In Jesus name

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Faith Expressed

"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Faith Expressed: New Beginnings!

I get very excited about new beginnings. I love opening a new book and cracking the cover for the very first time to explore what lies within. Reading something new sets my juices flowing! So does writing in a brand new journal or notebook. I used to like moving to a new place and having a fresh start, too, and would take great enjoyment in decorating a new house, meeting new people, and experiencing a different culture in a new area of the country or world. I like having a fresh new start!

Realistically, though, time passes quickly and January moves into February, a book comes to an end, and moving gets old. I make this statement after moving 22 times in 40 years of marriage! New beginnings eventually are no longer new....
There is one new beginning that does not come to an end. That most~important~of~all~new beginnings is when we accept Christ as our Savior. The Bible tells us that our old nature goes away and we are given a new nature. A new nature that gives us the desire to live a life as God's child. As a child of God, His love, forgiveness, and grace is available for us each and every day giving us a fresh start when we come before Him desiring His will, or bowing before Him in repentance. Through His love, forgiveness, and grace ~every day is a new beginning.

We may find ourselves on a journey today that is not one of great joy. Circumstances may have come into play and we may be dealing with the loss of a loved one, an illness, a financial crisis, unemployment, or more. We don't know what 2009 holds for us and we may be looking ahead with fear instead of excitement. What will the new pages of 2009 bring? Who can we turn to if things are tough?
We can turn to our Lord, the Creator of this world...Creator of new beginnings and of old endings, the Creator of hope.

When Christ is our Savior we can live in HOPE for a new beginning...a new day...for this day! We can open the pages of 2009 with HOPE. We can have HOPE for what God will do in our lives to bring us new beginnings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Intentions

No goals or resolutions for me this year....With goals there are only two outcomes....success or failure and not much inbetween for me...just alot of pressure and if I don't succeed I end up feeling pretty bad about myself. So this year, like some of my online friends, I am writing out a few "intentions" for myself..

I am gathering together a list (as a dear friend did) and seeing if a reoccurring theme arises . This will help me to prioritize, filter, and decide where I am going this year ~2009~! WOW!