Wednesday, December 31, 2008
This time of year is usually time of reflection for me as well as looking ahead to the future and planning for things I would like to do differently. As I look back over this past year I notice that it was a difficult year for me. Despite that, I have managed to do much better with taking care of our finances - recording, filing, balancing checkbook, etc. I also have consistently worked at keeping my kitchen sink clean and shining. It always makes me smile when I see it in good shape and not filled with dirty dishes.
I haven't done as much writing as I would have liked to this year and hope to improve that in the coming year. I have been organized in some areas and totally disorganized in others. Hopefully I'll be able to have a better balance for 2009.
This next year will bring a son going far away to college as well as a possible mission trip for my son and husband to China. We already know about oral surgery that one son will need as well as some extensive dental work for my husband too. I would love to go to the She Speaks conference in North Carolina this summer but don't know if we'll be able to handle it financially with everything else, especially with the way the economy has been.
I think this is the first time that I don't have a definite plan or written thoughts of what I want to do differently. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. I just pray that God will be with us throughout the year and that He will guide us each step of the way.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Worship means different things to each of us. A lot of Christians just think of worship as singing songs in praise to God. But worship is so much more than that. The dictionary defines it as “reverent honor and homage paid to God.”
When Jesus was born several took notice and came to worship the King of Kings. The first to worship were the angels. Next in line were the shepherds, and finally the Wise Men. All took notice of the significance of this baby that was born.
As we celebrate the birth of our King I pray that you will follow the words in the song, “Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King.”
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I only asked my husband for two things this year for Christmas. One was calendar pages that we have in the computer that he just needs to print off for me. The other thing, I already have received from him. I asked him to take off work between Christmas and New Year so we could just have some time as a family. It has been a very stressful year for all of us. With being my eldest son's senior year, I really wanted some concentrated time that we could spend time watching movies, playing games, and just enjoying each other's company.
Now I know that time off from work was not a huge sacrifice for him, but it did mean adjusting our schedule from what we normally do. It probably wasn't a big deal for him, but he knows how much it means to me. I can honestly say that my husband has sacrificed many times for us through the years. In two days we will celebrate our 21st anniversary and I continually praise God for this wonderful man.
As I contemplate sacrifice, my thoughts linger on the sacrifice that Jesus gave to each of us when He chose to die on the cross for our sins. He paid the ultimate sacrifice for you and me.
I know that most traditionally think of the baby Jesus in the manger when it comes to the Christmas season. But in my mind's eye I picture the stable with Mary, Joseph and Jesus as well as a silhouette in the background of the cross. You can't have Jesus without the cross. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will accept Him into your heart and allow Him to be that sacrifice.
Spend some time contemplating the sacrifice that Jesus paid for you!
Dear Lord, I thank you for the sacrifice you paid on the cross for me. Help me to be mindful of that this Christmas season.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
I have done a lot of waiting lately. I wait for my son when I take him to physical therapy and doctor appointments. I wait on both of my sons, five days a week as they finish up swim practice. Each day it seems that I have an opportunity to wait. Perhaps God is trying to teach me something.
Today is one of those times when I have a lot of things I want to accomplish at home but find myself not having a lot of time to actually be home. I waited for my son at physical therapy for an hour this morning. This afternoon I will have several hours of waiting as I watch my sons' swim meet.
Sometimes I do well with waiting. Other times not so well - I guess it has to do with not being gifted with patience! :) This morning as I waited I worked on addressing my Christmas cards. We still have not mailed them because we have been waiting for a chip to arrive in the mail for our printer. Without the chip, we have been unable to copy our family newsletter which we include in our cards each year. It finally arrived in the mail today.
After I finished my cards I still had time to wait. I kept thinking about the things at home that were needing my attention. I tried not to fret about it. I did manage to go back home for about two hours and was able to get a fair amount accomplished with the help of my two sons. I couldn't have done it without them.
Later as I sat waiting for the swim meet to start, I started thinking about waiting. I know that the Israelites had a long wait between the Old Testament time period and the New Testament. They went many years without hearing any word from the Lord. But yet they never forgot the promise that was given to them. A line from a previous cantata that I sang in said, "Waiting, waiting, waiting for Emmanuel to appear. Always believing the Savior will soon be here." They did not give up. They continued to hope and believe that the Messiah would come as foretold.
Then one night in a quiet little stable Jesus came into the world as a newborn. Not many people took notice. A few shepherds from the surrounding countryside. Little did the world know that the Savior was finally here! It was worth the wait.
As you find times when you have to wait, stop and thank God.
Dear Lord, thank you for your faithfulness in providing Jesus at the perfect time. Help me to be patient and wait when You ask me to.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Colossians 1:9-12 "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
Last night I had the opportunity to just sit and talk with my youngest son for almost an hour. We talked about a wide range of assortment of topics. It's been a while since we have had a heart to heart talk. The circumstances have to be just right in order for him to feel free top open up and talk. It was a blessing to spend some time getting to know him a little better.
One of the things that he brought up was how much he has been growing spiritually the past year and a half since he entered a leadership training program. I have noticed a change in him as well. Part may also be because he is just maturing physically as well. But I know that a large part of the program he is involved in encourages the students to be intentional about their faith.
I have been thinking about that as this year soon comes to a close. I need to be intentional each day about making sure that my faith is growing, changing and improving. I need to make a point of not getting stagnant. I need to not just go through the motions, but seek to learn more each day about how I can be a better woman of God.
How are you doing with growing in your relationship with the Lord? When was the last time you took pleasure being in God's presence? This Christmas season is a perfect time to start.
Examine your heart to see how much you are growing spiritually.
Dear Lord, help me to continue to grow in my faith. Don't let me get stagnant. Amen.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Philippians 2:6-8 "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!"
Being a servant and thinking of others may not come easily to us. I heard one of my nieces today comment to her sister, "It isn't all about you." To which her sister replied the same statement back to her. Both of them knew the right thing to say in the sense of looking out for the other person, but yet they twisted it to get what they could out of the situation for themselves instead.
I too was faced with multiple opportunities to be a servant today. Some of them I faced well and had a good attitude. Others I didn't do quite so well. I did what was asked of me, but sometimes grumbled in my heart. To God that is no different than outright saying it. At times I forget that. I think that as long as I respond or act right on the outside, then it is all right. But it isn't.
To truly be a servant, we need to follow Jesus' example. Can you think of how humbling it would be being God, but still choosing to come to this world as a defenseless baby? He served others his whole adult life, even to the point of his death. He didn't do the right thing just on the outward, but did it in his heart as well. It's easy to say and do what is expected when others are watching, but how do you do when you are alone. How are your thoughts? Are there times when you outwardly help and serve people, but it doesn't carry through to your heart? Are you willing to consistently have a servant's heart? This season is a great time to start.
Make a conscious decision to work on having a servant heart this Christmas season.
Father, help me to know what it means to serve others in all I do, not just in my actions. Amen.
Friday, December 19, 2008
When I hear the word 'merry,' it always brings to mind the line in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Bob Cratchit has come into work late the day after Christmas.
Ebenezer questioned him, "What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?"
Bob tries to placate by saying, "It's only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir."
This crossed my mind today as I left my friend's house this afternoon to head to a doctor appointment for my son. You see the past two Fridays my two friends and their kids and mine have gotten together to bake cookies. Both days were filled with a lot of joy and laughter as we worked hard to make cookies, but also had a lot of fun in the process.
As I was driving I was thinking about what I could blog about for today's advent devotional. My mind took hold of the idea of having a merry heart. I know before I left the house this morning I was feeling weary and overwhelmed by things I still would like to get done, as well as need to get done. But as I left this afternoon, I realized that I had been refreshed. Our time together was like a dose of good medicine.
I also thought about Jesus when He walked this earth. I can't help but picture Him with a twinkle in His eyes as He told stories to His disciples. I'm sure there were many times that He had a merry heart. As we are down to just several days before Christmas, I pray that I will hold onto that merry heart.
Spend sometime doing something that will give you a merry heart.
Thank you Lord, for friends that help to give me a merry heart. May I be that for someone else as well. Amen.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."Just a little while ago I dropped my son off at a local restaurant to catch a ride to work. The last time I did that, he was in a car accident. It was with a little fear and trepidation that I let him go. It has been almost two months since he has been able to work due to his injuries. It was one of those moments when I had to consciously say, "Lord, I trust you with the safety of my son."
I must admit that as soon as I got back home I made sure there were no phone messages. I have just puttering around, just in case I received that phone call again.... "Mom, I've been in an accident." I guess I haven't fully trusted when I have been hovering near the phone. But like Jesus said, worrying does not get us anywhere. It doesn't change anything or make any difference. So I guess if we can't change anything, we might as well just let go and trust that God knows what is best for us.
How about you? Do you have something that you are worrying about or causing you grief? Do you keep going over and over in your mind how you could possibly change things, but know there is nothing you can do? Are you willing to take that leap of faith with me? "Lord, I believe you can take care of my problem. I know I can trust you. Help me with my unbelief."
I think of the young Mary who was very much pregnant with Jesus when she chose to travel with Joseph to Bethlehem. It had to cross her mind, "What if I have the baby on the way. Will there be someone to help us if the baby is born when we get there." But yet she did not allow fear or worry to take hold of her. She chose to trust and believe that God was going to provide for their needs. Even when they arrived, she was in labor, and there were no rooms to be found. In the face of incredible opposition she still chose to believe that God knew what was best for her.
If you have something that you are worrying about, write it down on a piece of paper. As you do, consciously pray and ask God to take care of that situation. Then throw the paper away, knowing that it is in God's hands.
Dear Lord, help me to trust you and not to worry. Give me your peace. Amen.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
All right, I admit it, this hasn't described me this morning. We woke up to several inches of snow on the ground and ice on top of the snow. It's a beautiful winter wonderland. Fortunately as we got ready to leave for the day it wasn't too difficult to clear off our van because the temperatures were slightly above freezing.
Our first stop was Wal-Mart so my sons could finish their Christmas shopping. My eldest son went off on his own while I helped my younger son. We quickly go through his list and I even had time to do some of my grocery shopping for our Christmas meal as well. We finished within an hour and then headed for my oldest son's physical therapy appointment. While he got worked on, my younger son started on his school work.
The next stop on our journey was the post office for stamps to send the Christmas cards and to drop off a prescription refill at the drug store while on the way to my oldest son's orthodontist appointment. My youngest son continued to work on his school work while we waited. Then back home to meet my youngest son's mentor for a luncheon appointment for him. We did all of this within three hours.
It's been one of those rushed mornings and the afternoon and evening won't be much better. There are more errands to run this afternoon as well as swim practice and two different choir rehearsals. When I'm in these types of situations I am not unhurried. I typically am stressed, on edge and quick to snap at my kids. Not a pretty picture.
I couldn't help but think of the stark contrast between how I felt today and Mary's reaction in Luke. She sat at Jesus' feet and listened to what He was saying. Her sister was stressed out, but Mary chose to sit calmly at Jesus' feet.
I failed to do this for the beginning part of my day, but I pray that having an unhurried heart will be more characteristic of me in the days ahead. I pray that I can make a conscious choice to sit at Jesus' feet more often. May I follow the example of Mary as well as the shepherds when they chose to go visit the newborn King.
Choose to rest at Jesus' feet even in the midst of a hurried schedule.
Dear Lord, help me to choose an unhurried heart. Help me to rest in you. Amen.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Dear friends of ours have been going through a difficult time lately. He has a small hole in his heart that allows small clots to go through from time to time. Because of it he has experienced strokes on several occasions. They recently learned of a surgery that could correct the problem by putting a plug in the heart. It is still an experimental procedure. He had a 50/50 shot of being in the group for surgery or else he would just remain on blood thinner throughout the study.
Recently he has developed complications from being on the blood thinner, so we all had been hoping and praying that he would be in the surgery group. Yesterday after weeks of waiting for an answer they learned that he will not be having surgery, but instead will remain on medicine. We were disheartened with the news.
As I talked to my friend I could hear disappointment in her voice. It wasn't the answer they were hoping for. But yet, there also was acceptance in her voice as well. She knows that we serve a God that we can trust.
Both she and her husband are strong believers. They have served several times as missionaries around the world. Before this recent stroke, they had plans to serve in Kenya as short term missionaries in January through March. But God changed their plans. It is hard to understand why they are facing this situation, and why they can't go to Africa. But yet, we know that we serve a God that knows what is best for us - even when we don't understand the answers.
Sometimes we may feel betrayed, but yet we must cling to the truth that God is faithful. He isn't surprised by our situations and struggles. Even when we don't like the way things go and are disappointed by life from time to time, we can trust Him. We need to accept that He knows what is best for us.
Do you fight against the answers that God gives you or do you accept them? Work harder at being accepting of those things you face.
Dear Lord, help me to accept the things that I face each day. Help me to always know that I can trust you. Amen.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Mark 10:14 "When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
Last night our church held a special program called 'Service from the Heart'. Every year at this time various kids, teens, and some adults give their talents back to the Lord by performing. A lot of times there are the kids that have learned the special Christmas pieces for school that they have learned on their instruments, decide to share a song. Other times it can be a poem or a testimony.
We had something new last evening. Our children's director called all of the little children forward at the end of the evening to sit around her as she read them a story about the night that Jesus was born. Most of the kids sat quietly as they listened and looked at the pictures. There was one little exuberant guy that was eager to answer whenever she questioned the kids.
She asked the children who it was that was trying to find room at the inn, he was quick to respond that it was Mary and Joseph. He had a sparkle to his eyes as he anticipated the part of the story when Jesus was born.
I couldn't help but look at him and think how touching that must be to our Heavenly Father. This little guy that had been trained from a very early age the foundations for our faith. I remember when my own boys were that age and had that child-like wonder. Unfortunately it is something that we often outgrow as we get older. But I think God delights when we still have that childlike heart and faith - when we can wonder with wholehearted excitement about the birth of our Savior. When was the last time you had a childlike heart?
Read a Christmas story with a child that you know and take notice of their childlike wonder.
Dear Lord, help me to have a childlike heart. Amen.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
From time to time my husband and I have watched the TV show The Amazing Race. The premise of the game show is that teams of two race around the world following clues and doing different activities along the way. Their goal is to arrive in time without being eliminated.
Often they are in countries where English in not spoken very much. It always amazes me that despite the language barriers, people in other countries are quick to help someone that is in need. I can't help but compare our country with others and wonder if the same thing would happen in the United States.
I also saw advertised on TV last night a new show that will be coming out in January. It's entitled something about What You Do When People Aren't Watching. I guess they have different situations that arise when someone is in need - a woman getting her purse stolen, someone picking on someone else, etc. It looked like a variety of situations will be presented with hidden cameras to see what happens when one person sees what is going on - will they just look away or will they choose to intervene?
How about you? If you were in that situation where you saw someone that was in need and you are the only other one around, would you just sit back and watch, intervene, or what?
Our kindheartedness can be used to point others to Jesus. He showed the ultimate kindness when He came into this world as a newborn babe. He showed kindness when He died a horrible death on the cross. He showed kindness when He arose from the grave. He showed kindness when he ascended to heaven and promised to go to prepare a place for you.
Look for a way that you can show people kindness this holiday season. With the economic situation we are in right now, there are many around you that are in need.
Dear Lord, help me to be kindhearted to those that I meet. Help me to notice the needs around me. Help me to choose kindness even when it isn't convenient. Amen.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them."
Last night my husband said something that hurt my feelings. I knew that we should talk about it before we went to bed but I didn't. I was tired and had a headache and decided it was more important to get some sleep. This is unusual for us. Whenever we have some type of disagreement, we have always tried to talk through things before we go to bed. Now we don't always do this, but it is a rare occasion that we do not work things out. Last night was one of those.I awoke this morning knowing that we needed to talk. I knew that if we continued to let things go, it would be unhealthy for our relationship. It's like when you have an open sore that hasn't been cleaned of debris and dirt. If it is left that way it will begin to fester and become infected. If we choose to harbor things in our heart and not deal with them our hearts become unhealthy.
So how do you maintain a healthy heart? One of the first things to do is to make sure that it is clear of sin. Just like I could have chosen last night to deal with the miscommunication with my husband, I also need to choose to deal with the sins of my heart on a daily basis.
Jesus came into this world knowing that he would ultimately be a sacrifice for our sins. Even as a young boy when he was found by his parents talking with the religious leaders in the temple, he knew that he would one day die on the cross. He was already going about His Father's business.
How are you doing with maintaining a healthy heart. What do you need to do to clean house?
Make a point of dealing with things right away. Don't allow time for things to fester.
Dear Lord, help me to maintain a healthy heart. Rid me of my sins and help me to desire the things that bring glory to You. Amen.
Friday, December 12, 2008
All right, I admit it! I often crave chocolate. Apparently so do some furry creatures that have taken up residence in my house over the past couple weeks - a mouse family. At least one of them has gotten into a carton of hot chocolate that I had in a cabinet. He chewed through the plastic lid to get to the tasty powder. On another occasion we found evidence that the mouse had visited again, and also noticed that it had helped itself to my basket of chocolate that I had put out for the Christmas season. It had gone to all of the work of pulling a piece out of the basket, and then left it in the middle of the counter. It must have gotten scared and abandoned it's tasty treat.
I would like to say that this is the first time that we have had problem with mice getting into our chocolate, but it isn't. This is at least the third occasion. Now we are in the process of ridding our home of these pesky critters.
I thought of this as I was preparing for my day this morning. I thought about how I often crave chocolate, and apparently so do mice. As we go throughout our day there can be many things that we crave. Sometimes it can be a certain kind of food. Or perhaps you find yourself craving things of this world - like prestige, power, and significance. Now I'm not saying that any of these things are bad in and of themselves.
However the problem begins when 'things' start to take priority or precedent in our lives over people, specifically our relationship with the Lord. When was the last time that you remember craving to have time with Your Heavenly Father? When did you crave to be in His Word and sit at His feet and just bask in His presence?
It is so easy to find ourselves caught up in our daily routine and ‘to do’ list that we forget to crave Christ. We forget to spend time with Him, we forget how important it is to grow in our relationship with Him and other believers. When was the last time that you were excited to share with others what God is teaching and showing you? When was the last time that you were honest with someone about the struggles you are facing and asked if they would join you in prayer together?
As Christmas gets closer, why not take the time to crave after Jesus. He won’t disappoint you.
Look for areas that you find yourself craving something. Before you indulge, stop and pray about it.
Lord, help me to earnestly crave after You. Show me the areas that I crave something that isn't godly. Make me more into Your image with each new day. Amen.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
1 Timothy 5:14-15 "So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan."
For several weeks now I have been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to get done around my home, and also things I would like to accomplish before Christmas. Before we left for a few days of vacation, I had gotten behind on keeping up with things. When we got back home, things have gotten worse. Part of the problem is that I haven't been home a lot. I am often in the car taking my sons to swim practice, doctor appointments, college classes, physical therapy appointments, etc. I feel like I am forever in the car, or soon needing to leave.
My piles have been seeming to multiply. I don't know if they are related to bunnies or not! But every time I turn around there seems to be another pile of paperwork that needs to be gone through.
Our house is mostly decorated for Christmas. We did get our Christmas tree over the weekend, and actually have it in the tree stand, but that is all the further we have gotten. So all the boxes that hold decorations, ornaments, balls, etc. are sitting in my living room waiting the time when we will actually all be home together so we can decorate it. Then there are the boxes in the basement that I figured I would get to after vacation, so I could decorate down there. That still hasn't happened either. Then there is the Christmas letter that needs to be written and eventually the Christmas cards..... The list goes on and on.
I find that the more cluttered the house gets the more I have trouble thinking straight and then just find myself spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere. I seem to have highs and lows when it comes to keeping ahead of the clutter. Right now I'm in a low. Yesterday was my first day to be home most all of the day until late afternoon when I took my boys to swim practice. Home school was finished by mid morning so I had a few hours to just devote to de-cluttering. I actually managed to get two rooms in decent shape. I suddenly felt that some of the cobwebs were being cleared from my brain.
I still have a ways to go, but at least now I feel that there is some hope. As I thought about this last evening I was reminded of the things that we tend to have cluttering up our hearts - unconfessed sins perhaps. You know, the times when you haven't been completely honest to someone, or the time that you drove faster than the speed limit, ran a red light, spoke an unkind word to your spouse or children... The list can may be long. Each of these 'little' things can clutter our hearts and draw us away from the Lord.
Jesus came into this world so we have a way to God. Don't let these 'little' things stop you from enjoying His presence.
Take a spiritual broom to your heart and remove those cobwebs that are separating you from God.
Dear Lord, unclutter my heart from those things that separate me from You. Make me in Your image. Help me to have a heart that is pure and clean. Amen.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Christmas is a time of joy and celebration for most people. But for some, it is a bitter reminder of what they have lost or a fresh reminder of their needs.
On December 27th it will be eighteen years since I lost my father to lung cancer. He died just months before his first grandchild was born - my oldest son. For many years Christmas was a sad time for my mother, because of missing him. I think too of the people I know that have lost husbands this past year. I know holidays can be a fresh reminder of missing their loved one.
There also are those that are going through difficult times financially or experiencing medical problems. With today's economy, many are facing the need to cut back and do less than they normally would be able to do. For them, Christmas is a grim reminder of the things they will not be able to provide for their families this year.
I encourage you this year to look for those around you that are hurting and are in need of a helping hand, whether financially or just a dose of encouragement.
This also is a good time to open your heart to Jesus if you never have before. He came into this world to provide a way for you to go to heaven. He is standing at your heart's door, knocking and just waiting for you to ask Him to come in. He desires to fellowship with you. Won't you ask Him into your heart this Christmas?
Look around you to find someone that is hurting and see what you can do to reach out to them.
Open my eyes to the needs that are around me Lord. Help me to show others Your love, through me. Also open my eyes to my need for You in my life, on a daily basis. Amen.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Matthew 1:18-25 "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."
Yesterday we talked about Mary's willingness to do what God asked of her, despite public humiliation. Today let's focus on her response as well as Joseph's. We find in the scripture from Luke that Mary was considered blessed because she believed what was told of her by the angel. We also see Joseph's response as well. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. He believed what was told him in his dream and he acted on it - right away, without hesitation.
How do you do with believing? In most situations I do well. But there are times when I am praying and believing for something to happen....and I find myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. During those times I may begin to question. "Did I really hear God telling me to do such and such?" or I wait for a time and think that perhaps I need to step in and do something to help get the answer a little faster. My husband would say that I struggle with patience.
I look at Mary and Joseph's response. They both believed. Mary wouldn't have seen evidence of her pregnancy right away, but she still believed. Joseph could have just thought his dream was simply that - a dream, and ignore the prompting of the Lord. But instead, they both chose to believe - to trust God with the outcome.
Perhaps you are in a situation right now where God is calling you to just trust and believe Him. For the past six months my husband has been facing a rough experience on a daily basis. From time to time we think there might be relief in sight. We have to trust and believe that God has us where He wants us, even when the future is unknown and uncertain. I pray that we will be blessed by our faithfulness of believing and trusting in God.
Talk to your children, or someone you know, about your experiences with believing and trusting.
Lord, help me to learn more in the area of believing and trusting You. Help me to remember that You have my best interest in mind for me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Monday, December 8, 2008
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her."Yesterday when I was in Sunday School we were talking about Mary as a young girl. If someone came up to you and asked if you would be willing to do something for the Lord, what would your first response be? I hope that mine would be an immediate "Yes, Lord."
What if you also learned that your decision would likely entail public humiliation, disgrace, shame, being an object of scorn, ridicule and gossip, would your answer still remain the same? When Mary said yes to what the angel said, she opened herself up to all of these possibilities. There is a good chance that she went through all of these scenarios. In her day and culture, a woman found pregnant outside of wedlock was subject to public stoning.
Mary knew all of these things, but still said "Yes" to God. She had a willing heart and yet she still said, "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."
Perhaps you are in a difficult situation right now where you are fighting against God and His desire for your life. I challenge you to seek to have a willing heart, particularly during this Christmas season.
Make a point of being willing to do what God asks you.
Dear Lord, create a willing heart within me. Make me in your image. Amen.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Having a gentle and quiet spirit is something that I desire. The scripture says that it is of great worth in God's sight. Sometimes I do really well with it. I remember many years ago when I was in the midst of a very difficult situation. I was sitting in a meeting where I was being verbally attacked and my character questioned by the person in authority. The things he said were untrue as well as extremely hurtful. I was dumbfounded because this was a Christian setting. There was nobody there to stand in my defense.
I had prayed before going into the meeting and asked for God's words and love to shine through my life. Much discussion went on before I finally spoke. I don't remember the words I said, but I know that I didn't speak for very long. I did not point any fingers but simply said a few things that explained my position. I remember feeling God's peace and presence even though on the inside I was crying.
I never anticipated such a nasty attack from a spiritual leader. Funny thing is though. His accusations and finger pointing backfired on him. People in the meeting felt more sympathetic toward me instead of him. I think it was because in the midst of an awful situation God's spirit and a quiet heart shined through the lies.
This memory was painful for many years. Now I can look back and realize that God used it to help me to grow in the knowledge and understanding of having a gentle and quiet spirit. Do I always have it now? I wish! But I continue to strive to be more like my Heavenly Father.
When we think of Jesus coming into the world, we see Him with a gentle and quiet spirit. We also see that as He interacted with healing people and reaching out to their needs. May you follow His example.
You need to be intentional about cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit.
Dear Lord, make me more like you. Help me to have a gentle and quiet spirit, especially during this Christmas season. May I be able to touch others because of You. Amen.
Friday, December 5, 2008
When I read this passage of scripture I often find myself cringing as I realize the many ways that I fail when it comes to loving the way the Lord intended. I have heard it said that in place of the word 'love' you should substitute your own name. "Elizabeth is patient, Elizabeth is kind. Elizabeth does not envy..." When we personalize the scripture it is perhaps easier to notice the areas where we fall short.
If you have ever been around a toddler, you probably heard the phrase, "Mine!" They can be very demanding. Sometimes as grownups we haven't outgrown that toddler stage. We just perhaps word things a little differently. "You need to do such and such...." "That won't work for my schedule..." Perhaps you make demands of your husband and children and expect them to comply with your wishes. Do you resemble the adage, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy?" Are there times when you need to remind yourself, "It's not all about me."
As we edge closer and closer to Christmas it is easy to get wrapped up in the things that we want, instead of focusing on why we celebrate. You may find yourself slipping into self preservation mode as many things and people make demands on your time and schedule. It is easy to get caught up in the situation.
I challenge you this Christmas to let go of your demands. Be open to situations where God wants to use you to point others to Him. Will they see Jesus in your eyes even in the midst of a stressful trial? Will they hear Jesus' love shining through as you choose to turn the other cheek? Will they see patience as you handle an awkward or unforeseen situation with ease? How can you make a point of sharing Jesus' love this Christmas?
Make a point of not demanding your own way over the next few weeks. See how you can reach out and be a servant.
Help me Lord to be undemanding in the things I face over the next few weeks. May others see You in my life. Amen.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Almost six weeks ago my oldest son was in a car accident on his way to work. He had no noticeable injuries at the time, but we still had him go to the emergency room to be checked out. My husband opted to leave work for the day so that he could take him to the hospital while I came home to do home school with our youngest son.
I had plans for later in the day to get together with a friend. I called to let her know what was happening and how our plans had changed. She didn't think twice, but chose to come for the entire day and brought food as well. She did not want me to be waiting for news about my son by myself.
I often think back to that day and am blessed all over again. My friend chose to show me her love and support in a tangible way, by being by my side as we awaited my son's return home. It meant so very much to me.
These verses give us specific instructions on how we can show love to those around us. First of all, your love must be sincere, if it isn't it will be easily recognized. Demonstrating love requires that we put others before ourselves. It's being willing to be inconvenienced.
In today's society you don't see evidence of love as readily as you used to. We live in a time where "me first" is lauded. It's easier to text someone, or send an email instead of the personal touch. I'm glad that God chose to love us personally. He sent His only son into this world, knowing His death would provide salvation for us all. He showed us the ultimate gift - love.
Today see if you can show love to someone that you wouldn't normally think of during this holiday season. Go out of your way to demonstrate love through your personal touch.
Dear Lord, help me to be loving to all that I come in contact with today. Help them to see You through me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Over nine years ago, my youngest son was just five years old. While I bent down to put fresh sheets on the bottom bunk bed, he was sitting on the top bed, leaning over watching what I was doing. I cautioned him to move back from the edge and I continued with working on the sheets. Within seconds I heard a loud thump as he fell to the floor.
After taking him to the emergency room we discovered that he had completely shattered his spleen and was needing to be flown by medi-vac helicopter to a bigger hospital a little over an hour away. In the midst of all of the excitement we had not had time to call anyone to be praying about the situation.
I remember his tiny body being strapped to a board as they prepared him for transport. As he left, we did not know what would await us when we saw him again. We did not know if he would be in surgery, or even be alive, because the situation was that grave. He had some internal bleeding as well. If he remained at the current hospital, the only option was surgery and being on antibiotics the rest of his life.
As my husband, oldest son and I watched the helicopter take off, I was overwhelmed by the peace that God gave me. I knew that it was a potential that I would not see my son again on this earth, but yet I felt at perfect peace and knew that God was in control. I knew I could trust Him no matter what the future outcome held. I experienced Philippians 4:7, " And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
After a week in the intensive wing of the hospital, he came home and had to have limited activity for at least a month. Not an easy job for an active five year old. When we returned back to the hospital at the end of the month for a follow up appointment, we were able to see the before and after MRI shots of his spleen. The first was completely in pieces. The organ wasn't even distinguishable. The second though, showed the spleen completely repaired and back in one piece again. We knew it was the power of prayer and God that healed him.
Even though it is many years later, I still have not forgotten that peace that God gave me that day. I can't help but think about Mary so many years ago when she saw her son die on the cross. She saw the brutal way He was treated. Even though she was completely distraught, I can't help but wonder if God didn't give her peace as well. Perhaps God whispered to her heart to be at peace and just trust in Him. She couldn't see or know the outcome, but God could.
Perhaps you have something going on in your life right now that is giving you worry or grief. I encourage you to seek out the Lord and ask for His peace in the situation. He gives peace that the world can not understand.
Look for a way that you can reach out to someone this holiday season that is having a difficult time and is in need of some peace.
Dear Lord, I pray for your peace when I am in the midst of trying situations. Help me to see things through your eyes, and not my own. Amen.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
We just returned from our mini vacation to Kentucky. We had two days of travel and two days of enjoying the Creation Museum. The few days away was a time of renewal for me. It also was a time of encouragement. Last night as I unpacked, I was feeling weary but also more at peace than I have in a while.
Then today hit with problems of its own. At times I became caught up in the situations and no longer felt that renewed heart. I felt distressed and burdened. As I contemplated the 'ups and downs' over the past couple days I realized that having a renewed heart is something I can choose daily.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, "That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." (NLT)
Jesus came into this world as a baby, but yet He still had the knowledge that His death on the cross was in His future. He still chose to come into this world for us - for you. Each day He chose to spend time with His Heavenly Father. He chose to renew His heart.
Spend some extra time in prayer and devotion to God this Christmas season. Ask Him to renew your heart each day.
Dear Lord, renew my heart and spirit this day. Make me more like you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
James 4:10 "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
Today we had our first experience at the Creation Museum sponsored by Answers in Genesis in Hebron, KY. One of the first things that we chose to observe was the planetarium show. It was an astounding array that put into perspective the size of our galaxy in comparison with the entire universe. The further we got away from the Milky Way, the more our system was just a small speck in the expanse of the sky.
I had tears rolling down my face as I contemplated the vastness of God's creation, and the intricate details it took in order to sustain life on Earth, as well as the billions of stars that God spoke into existence. The Bible almost mentions the stars as an afterthought. In Genesis 1:16 it says, "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."
For me the show was a humbling experience. Of all of the things that God created, He also chose to make me. I felt very small and insignificant. But yet, I know too how very much the Lord loves me and delights in me. If I were the only person in this world, He still would have sent Jesus to go to the cross and die for my sins. I felt so unworthy.
Later in the evening, we walked around the outside gardens. It was dark outside and the place was decorated with Christmas lights. In a few weeks they will be having a special program for the holiday. We saw dinosaurs that were lit and looked festive. As we passed the building on the highway as we left, there was a single decoration in the shape of the star that was a reminder of the one the wise men followed so many years ago.
Jesus chose to come in this world and be born in a humble stable. He chose humility when He stooped to wash His disciple's feet. He chose humility as He was crucified on the cross.
Humility is a trait that scripture encourages us to emulate. As we go into this Christmas season I want to choose to a humble life and a simple faith that brings glory and honor to God. May I be more and more like my Daddy each day.
Find a way to serve someone in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Choose a humble heart and attitude. How can you be a servant today?
Dear Lord, I praise you for creating our world. I am small and insignificant in comparison. I pray for a humble heart that will bring glory to you. Help to make me more like you. Amen.
Friday, November 28, 2008
We are on a trip that we have planned for quite some time. We had been unsure if we would be able to go or not due to our oldest son's health issues. Just four days ago we received the news that we would be able to vacation. Itinerary and hotel stops were figured out weeks in advance, with the hope that we would be able to leave.
Over the past few days I have made a series of lists - things to pack, things to accomplish before we left, as well as reminders for when we return home again. We were actually ready early this morning and I felt assured that everything was packed and ready to go.
As we played a game while traveling, and later ate lunch, I realized several things I had forgotten to bring. Even though I had well planned and prepared for the trip there still were things that I missed. They weren't major things - just some food items that were desired. We can do without them and make do.
Every day we make plans in one way or another. We plan what we will eat, what we will wear, where we will go or what we will do. We plan and prepare as much as we can. Ever since creation God had a plan. He knew Adam and Eve would sin. This caused separation from God. The only way to bridge the gap was through Jesus.
Through the many years of history, God was preparing and planning for the day when He would send Jesus into the world as a baby. God also planned for the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. He planned for Jesus' resurrection from the grave. Jesus promised before He left this earth, that He was going to plan and prepare a place for us in Heaven. Praise God that He plans for us and doesn't forget anything.
As you plan and prepare for the holidays, don't forget the reason why we celebrate Christmas.
I praise you Lord that you are a God that plans for my future. Help me to have a healthy balance of planning and just trusting in you. Amen.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As we celebrate Thanksgiving today our thoughts turn towards the things and people in our life that we are grateful for, especially during this past year. Each day often has troubles of its own. The challenge is to look for ways to praise God.
Today's Our Daily Bread reading by David McCasland said the following statement: "True thankfulness is more than being grateful for what we possess. It's an attitude that permeates our relationships with the Lord so that we may serve Him with gladness and joy."
I love that word 'permeate'. The dictionary defines it as "to pass into or through every part of; to penetrate through the pores, interstices, etc., of." I want to be so saturated in my Heavenly Father's love that it just oozes out of me - that others see His love in my eyes and hear His praise on my lips - no matter what I face.
I know that I can trust Him that whatever happens in my life has been hand filtered by the Lord. He knows what is best for me. Even though I face discouraging times I know that He is trustworthy.
The birth of our Savior began with the angels giving praise to God. We need to follow this example, especially as we are in the midst of a season that tends to be very 'busy'.
Spend a few minutes each day giving God praise for what He has done in your life.
I praise you Lord for the gift of your son. I praise you for the many blessings you bestow on me daily. I praise you in the good times as well as the bad. May I live a life that gives praise, glory and honor to you. Amen.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
It's been a long and weary day. Many things were accomplished - like home schooling, completely decorating the main floor for the upcoming Christmas season, taking care of some bills, meals, etc. The dishes were washed and put away. The kitchen was fairly tidy. I had a few minutes before leaving for the community Thanksgiving service being held at our church.
I was feeling tired and a little overwhelmed with the things that need to be accomplished before leaving for a mini vacation. As my husband was getting ready for our soon departure I asked him, "Do you love me?" I have to be honest, my mind started whirring on my "To do" list and I didn't hear his answer. So a minute later I asked him again, "Do you love me?" He replied that his answer hadn't changed from the previous minute. I then realized that I had not heard his first response. I was too busy thinking about everything else.
All day I have been 'busy' getting all the things done that needed to be done, or at least what I thought needed to be accomplished. All throughout the day I have been in prayer about what I should write for today's advent devotional. I was having no direction or leading. I realize that most likely God was already speaking to me, but I was too busy to hear what He had to say.
Do you ever get like that? Too occupied with things that you don't really hear what is going on around you. Maybe you are so focused on your thoughts that you miss out on a conversation. It's easy to be the one talking, but harder to be a good listener.
I think about the night that Jesus was born. The shepherds listened to the proclamation from the angels, and immediately went to see the Messiah. I'm sure they would have been overflowing with joy and shared with other people about the wondrous things they had witnessed. But scripture doesn't make mention of anyone else other than the wise men that heard about the birth of our Lord. Perhaps they weren't listening.
As our thoughts focus on the things that need to be done, make sure you take time alone with God and really listen to what He is trying to tell you. You just might be surprised.
This holiday season make a point of stopping what you are doing and really listen to what someone may be trying to say to you.
Lord, sometimes I get distracted by all that needs to get done that I forget to just spend time with you and listen for your voice. Help me each day to seek your face. Amen.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Most of us do not enjoy hearing the word "wait". In the society we live in it is hard to be patient. But yet this verse in Isaiah encourages us that as we wait on the Lord we will have our strength renewed. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.
Lately this seems to be a continuing theme that God is trying to drill into my heart, in many areas. I recently shared that our oldest son has been having a lot of struggles with his health. While running cross country this Fall he was injured and unable to finish the season. Since then he has had continual pain in his hip. After numerous doctor appointments, x-rays, etc. we finally have a diagnosis. He has hip flexor strain. Which basically means that all the soft tissue that supports his hip is inflamed.
Now this may not sound like good news, but it was to us because it looked like he could possibly end up having to have surgery on it. Praise God he won't have to go through that. What will help the strain to get better? Time. He was given exercises to do twice a day to help strengthen it, and also he will be on ibuprofen regularly for a while to help with the swelling, but it will just take time to heal.
Being told to wait, wasn't the answer my son anticipated. If anything I think it was frustrating for him, because it already has been almost two and a half months since the injury. But for some reason this is where God has him (and us) right now. In a holding and waiting pattern.
As my thoughts turn toward Christmas, I realize how difficult it must have been for generations as the Jews to wait for their promised Messiah to come. And when he came, he didn't come as they anticipated. He came quietly in the middle of the night as a fragile baby. He wasn't born in a fine palace but in a humble stable. The years of waiting came to full fruition when Christ was born.
What things have you been fighting against God's timing lately? Are there areas in your life where He is telling you to wait on Him. Go to him for patience as well as strength. Only He can satisfy.
Practice being patient and waiting. This week as you are waiting in line either at the grocery store, gas station, etc. make a point of letting someone else go in front of you. Not only will you bless them, but it also will allow you the opportunity to practice your skills at waiting.
Lord, teach me how to be patient and wait upon you. Help me to seek you for strength and not things of the world. Thank you for all the years of waiting the world experienced so we would have Jesus. Thank you for Jesus. Amen.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Luke 10:38-42 "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
A couple days ago our family celebrated Thanksgiving a little early. This will be our last year to celebrate together for several years since my oldest son will be off to college in Florida next year and they only get the day off, which doesn't allow time to travel to Pennsylvania to be with the rest of us.
With being our last time together I wanted to make it special and meaningful. My thoughts were on that all day until it actually was time to do final meal preparations. You know, when everything needs attention at the same time - setting the table, carving the meat, making the gravy, browning the sweet potatoes and potato filling. Normally these are things that make me very frazzled as I'm in the process of trying to make it all by myself. But this year, I did things differently. Not because I planned it that way. I just knew if I continued on the path I was heading I would end up getting grumpy and affecting everyone in the process. It must have been the Lord, because I called in my three guys to help with various jobs. One was setting the table with the special dishes, the other was getting out the turkey to carve as well as the drippings to make gravy, and the other helped wherever I needed it.
Within a short time we had the meal prepared and were ready to sit down together, and for once I wasn't frazzled in the process. Because I was still in a good mood, so was everybody else. We ate, laughed and shared together. We actually stayed sitting at the table long after the food was consumed, just talking and enjoying each other's company. When we finally did get up from the table, we set about cleaning up the kitchen together. One son dried and put the dishes away while I washed. My husband and oldest son worked on getting the turkey off the bones and put into packages to freeze for later.
We all worked together to get the job accomplished. When we were finally finished it was 9 PM. I couldn't believe how quickly the time had passed. Even though it was late we still sat down to watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving special. It was a wonderful and hopefully memorable evening together as a family.
As we look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas it is so easy to get caught up in the preparations that 'have' to get done, or so we think. I encourage you this year to evaluate what things are really necessary and not to get caught up in the busyness of the season. Remember that less is often best.
Take time throughout each day to ask God to prepare your heart for this Christmas holiday. Allow time to just have some time of rest and not always doing something.
Dear Lord, help me to not get caught up in all the preparations that need to be accomplished in the weeks ahead. Open my heart and prepare me for the things you want to show me this Christmas. May my heart be prepared for whatever I face. Amen.