Look back to learn how to move forward

Today is both a day for looking back and a day to look ahead. In my prayer this morning, I had to be honest with God and tell him about some things I was glad to put in a box with the lid slammed shut, but there were others that I will remember as some of my best moments. Then I poured out my heart to him about the days ahead that are unknown and well – – – unknown. Everyday is a step into the unknown, but on this last day of 2014 with the possibilities ahead, this is what I need to remember.

My fear doesn’t come from The Lord. 2 Timothy 1:7 God does not give us a spirit of fear but of power, of love, and a strong mind.

If I am going to be effective and productive, there are a few best practices I need to remember. 2 Peter 1:5-8 Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly love; and to brotherly love, kindness.

I need to remember that training myself spiritually and physically are both important for a balanced healthy life. 1 Timothy 4:8 Physical exercise has value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.

I need to remember too that I will make mistakes, life isn’t perfect and I have to forgive myself and forgive others, then put it in the past to move on. Philippians 3:13, 14 forgetting those things that are behind and striving for those things that are ahead, I press in toward my calling, my purpose, the reason I am here.

And all of this applies to you. Press on!

The season of joy …. where does it go after the holidays?

Well … here we are. Monday. After a weekend. After a holiday. After. After. OK stop! It’s tough, isn’t it? We’ve just been through a month of anticipation, weeks of excitement, days of planning, and hours of celebration with people we love, all special moments etched in our memories. Maybe you’re glad it’s over and can’t wait to get back to your routine.  Maybe your idea of a quiet weekend spent at home really means q-u-i-e-t and Christmas holiday festivities does not qualify. Whether you’re tenaciously hanging onto the season with firmly cemented memories or eagerly shaking it off, ready to break free and get back to normal, here are some thoughts to take with you.

If there’s a topic that’s got everybody talking it’s about boxing up Christmas and along with it, the 2014 year. My inbox is overflowing with ‘Tips to wrap up 2014’, ‘How to finish the year strong’, ‘How to make 2015 better than 2014’, ‘2014 in Review’. I think about that too. I wrote our Annual Letter last night, always timed to be delivered after January 1st of the New Year. There’s no reason other than it’s the best way I know how to send JOY to get the year started. Like right now, for example.

You know, Third John, as a go-to scripture is pretty obscure. I don’t think anyone has ever directed me to any of the 15 verses, but there is something about this heart message that seems meaningful for this new day, this new week, this day when we say good-bye to the weekend and merge back into normal. You can read the full chapter of 3 John, but I hope these few excerpts touch your heart with joy and give you hope.

Dear friend[s], I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. You demonstrate faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers, even though they are strangers.  They have told everyone about your love … We must support people like them, so that we can take part in what they are doing to spread the truth. Don’t copy the evil deeds of others! Follow the example of people who do kind deeds. They are God’s children. I pray that God will bless you with peace!

It’s funny that in verse 13, the writer (probably the Apostle John) writes these words “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink.” I guess that’s what I’m thinking too. I have so much more to say to you, but here’s what I really want you to know. The way to joy isn’t through reading what other people say. All the articles on ending the year strong, or planning for success in the New Year, will not bring joy. Devouring devotionals written by wise Bible teachers is admirable, but that will not bring you joy.  Joy isn’t a feeling we get when everything is going our way. Joy can be a feeling of happiness, but real joy is having an attitude of contentment, gratitude, and yes, even happiness that is not dependent on circumstances. Joy is complete trust in God and freedom from fear. Joy is recognizing God – just recognizing God for who he is. Whether you read this at 8:00 am or 8:00 pm, I hope it brings peace to your heart and joy to your spirit.

And Then There Was Christmas

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸ ¸♥¸*♫*•.¸¸♥Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸¸♥¸*♫*•.¸¸♥

Christmas Eve! How that brings back a season of memories to me! My dad was a minister of a small church in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Village picture 2There was never any dream of a white Christmas. We dreamed of actually seeing green grass by Memorial Day. But a white Christmas was guaranteed every year. I remember … the teenagers from the youth group with clunky boots, layers of wool, all wrapped up in knitted scarves driving miles between houses to stand outside in the cold and sing Christmas carols; those same kids grabbing sleds, toboggans, and hoods of old cars to go sledding on hills with ungroomed runs; I remember the Christmas program practice with angel costumes created out of white sheets tied with garland and bathrobes with binder twine belts and kitchen towel turbans to dress shepherds and wisemen; I remember playing ping pong in the living room and shuffle board in our hallway because we didn’t have a basement or family room; after hours of clearing snow from the frozen lake, we were able to skate for less than an hour because by then everyone was frozen; back to a warm house for hot chocolate and singing around the piano while my sister, Janet, played Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night. I remember the season leading to ‘the day’! I remember going to bed filled with wonder of what I would get for Christmas. Anticipation…on Christmas morning I would open two gifts, one from my grandma and one from my mom and dad. I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep. By 5:00 Christmas morning my brother, David and I were ready! We couldn’t wait for our older brother, Vance and sister, Janet to get up and help us wake mom and dad. Christmas was here!  Come on already!  Up! Up! Up! OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸ ¸♥¸*♫*•.¸¸♥Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸¸♥¸*♫*•.¸¸♥

How about you? What do you remember about Christmas?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8bJHrprDmA  Michael W. Smith & Jennifer Nettles – “Christmas Day”

 

Advent Week 3 Theme: Joy – Time to get our faith act together

If you’ve been touring the Bible with us over the past couple weeks you might remember that Zechariah was given joyful news from an angel that he and Elizabeth were going to have a baby even though they had given up on that idea years before. Zechariah didn’t believe it, even though the angel was delivering the message straight from the only infallible and omnipotent God. What happened? Because of his lack of faith, Zechariah had to deal with lack of voice for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

You also might remember the days of abundant joy expressed by Elizabeth and Mary as they celebrated the unique blessing of being mothers to miracle babies. We have discovered the joy factor in our readings this week.  Today real joy returns to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah with the birth of their baby.  Because of tradition, the friends and family were ready to name the baby Zechariah but by now daddy Zechariah figured out that he needed to get his faith act together and do as God told him. That’s all it took …. Read how it all came to pass.

Luke 1:57-66

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”  They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”  Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

 

Advent Week 2 Theme: Hope – The Real Reason Jesus Was Born On Earth

The advent reading for today expresses the entire reason for Jesus’ leaving heaven and coming to earth.  Notice the last few lines. In the Old Testament days of Moses, people had to live by the law. God gave Moses the 10 commandments that covered everything people would need to do to live in harmony with God and each other. Then the legislature got together and started the add-on process and well – we know how that turned out.  But back to our story.

God sent Jesus to Earth for one purpose, to live a life of grace and truth among the people, do good,  and then die on the cross for the sins of all people regardless of race, color, creed, status, office, wealth, or (get this) religious denomination. All people, everyone, everywhere.  This was so the path to heaven no longer came through following the law, but through acceptance of Jesus.  It’s so easy, we have a hard time believing that we don’t have to worry about God sitting up there in heaven with scales that tips toward the bad if we don’t do everything right and tips toward good when we do. That’s not the way it is, friends.  There are no weights and measures in God’s law. He says His grace is sufficient. He sent Jesus from heaven to take care of all the sins in the world – age 33, Calvary, the cross.

Jesus came into the world and nobody recognized who he was. He was rejected by his own people. And even though he never did one thing wrong, his destiny was rejection again by his own people and cruel death on the cross.  That’s why Jesus came to Earth. There are no scales in heaven. The question is – do you worship the baby in the manger, but reject the Christ of the cross?

 

John 1:9-18  (NIV)

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgcGmgrNuLM Joseph’s Lullaby by Mercy Me

Encourage or Inspire?

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You ¸•♫¸.•.¸ Have you ever thought about our English language and wondered why we have so many words that mean the same thing but sometimes aren’t used interchangeably? Have you seen a thesaurus? OK – so maybe I’m the only one who wakes up in the morning wondering about the difference between encouragement and inspiration. OK … I hear you already. What got me started on that? Someone wrote to me yesterday, “I’ve noticed you are an encourager. Does anyone encourage you?” Earlier in the day, I got an invitation to meet two friends who are very dear to me and who have been an inspiration to me. There was a point last week where I had an opportunity to cheer someone on through a frustrating issue. Later a friend sent me an instant message with words that encouraged me.  Someone out of nowhere commented on my blog to encourage me; a friend I’ve never met sent me a beautiful message through LinkedIn, and another friend, sent me an inspiring note. Does anyone encourage me? What do you think? Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says “Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  Am I inspired? Of course!

Dictionary.com says encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. Sometimes we don’t feel like encouraging, we are just plain weary, or we’re out of ideas. Um – have we ever heard of re-cycling? It’s totally legal – even promoted. It’s OK to recycle a sincere compliment, a random act of kindness, a hug, a smile, a written sentiment – what inspires you? Recycle it for someone else and encourage them.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  Practice …. Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul], or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Remember what Vince Lombardi said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” What can we do to spread encouragement and inspire each other today? Think about it … then act it out. Practice. Hebrews 3:13 “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’….”  If we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.  It doesn’t matter if we encourage or inspire ….as long as we act! Ready? Let’s get out there while it’s still ‘today’.

“I Wonder As I Wander” – A Haunting, Beautiful Reminder at Christmas

I’m often intrigued by stories of how songs came to be written. I’m reblogging this from The Artistic Christian. This is the song he refers to in his post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RbX6jW5YSk

The Artistic Christian

Snowy Ski Trail and Trees

What is the most haunting Christmas carol you have ever heard? There are countless Christmas songs and carols being trumpeted over the airwaves this season, but none capture the poignancy of Christ’s birth as well as the old folk song, I Wonder As I Wander.

So where exactly did this song come from? That story is even more intriguing than the song itself! Here is how Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, tells the story of the way John Jacob Niles, a historian and song-writer who spent most of his life traveling across the Appalachian Mountains in search of new folk music, discovered this Christmas favorite:

“On a cold December day in North Carolina, Niles observed people from a poor community going about their daily lives. From his own experience, Niles knew that just a few hundred miles away in New York, people crowded…

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