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not a clue, as usual


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The Coming of Peace

peace on earthIt’s an interesting paradox that the ability to give something away ultimately gives you mastery of that thing. So to claim a mastery over fear, you have to stop clutching your fears so closely to your heart. Not a simple task, to be sure, but I am finding my grip loosening on all the things that cause me fear and anxiety through simple acts of obedience.

There have been major upheavals this past year in my church and at my job at that church. It has left me feeling anxious, a bit scared and a lot confused. But my prayer for the past six months has been, “Lead me on, Lord, I will follow”. This is a very scary prayer because He will lead you to where you need to be which is not usually where you want to be. Yet, through obedience I have allowed God to lead me to an unlikely new church home and found that I have a new found ability to roll with all the uncertainties of changing job responsibilities. Lately, I have been experiencing peace that has allowed me to let go of all the fears and anxiety that I had been holding onto. I’m not sure when this sense of peace started, but I am living out what is described in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though the same issues surround me, I am coping much better simply because I asked God to lead me. I did not ask for the problems to be solved, just for the strength to follow and peace entered into the picture.

Peace often feels like a distant dream that we will spend our lives reaching for. The world that we live in has always been a cause for anxiety and always will be. Can you imagine the fears and doubts felt by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi 2,000 years ago? The job before each of them was daunting.

An unwed motherjesus_mary_joseph

A man told to take in that unwed mother

shepherds-1Illiterate peasants told to deliver a grand message

Wealthy kings told to cross a dangerous desert.

All were being asked to leave their comfort zones, and they all did. Relying only their obedience to God through faith, they changed the world in those long ago years. And in their obedience, they found peace. Considering their circumstances, I can only think that they must have been as surprised by the appearance of peace in their lives as I have been. This is a peace that has the ability to steady knocking knees and shaking hands, allowing you to move forward into an unknown future.

Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 and promises to give that peace away freely (John 14:27) to all who ask for His leadership in their lives. Your fears and doubts will still be there. His peace helps you to gain mastery of them and in that process – let go of what you once held, mistakenly thinking that those fears were security for you.

But even with an inner peace that is spreading within me, where do I see the peace of Christ in the world today? Can we have peace in a world at war? Or in a life in turmoil, in hurting hearts or misspent lives? Yes. That peace is available to all through that little baby born in Bethlehem. I’ve found that the more that I trust Him, the more I am able to be obedient; the more I ask for guidance, the closer I am able to follow and do it all with a growing sense of His peace. I am not saying that I have become a better person (not even close!) but I have become a more dependent (upon God) person.star

We all struggle but as you continue to struggle through this fallen world, reach for Christ and feel that inflow of peace. Let that peace be like a river (Isaiah 48:18) that flows over all the rocks in our riverbed and gives us a smooth surface to float on.

This is true Peace that will give you mastery to let go of all the anxieties that come with the problems of our lives.

True Peace gives you the ability to give away the things that fear made you clutch so tightly – old habits, prejudices and prideful attitudes.

Peace in our hearts will lead us to peace with our world.

Peace while here on earth comes from peace with God.

This is the essence of Peace.

peace of Christ

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A Glimmer of Hope

hopeBetween the Old and New Testament stretch four hundred years of uncomfortable silence. During that time, Isaiah’s words would have brought the first inkling of the idea of Hope.

The people walking in darkness

Have seen a great light;

On those living in the land of the shadow of death

A light has dawned.

Isaiah9:2

This is the beginning of hope; that first glimmer of the idea of a Savior for all people. It would have been a foreign thought, though. When you hope in human terms, it starts very small. Just a flickering of light in your dark surroundings. Only if the situation improves will that flicker grow steady and brighter.

But hope, from God’s perspective, bursts onto the scene with “a great light”. What I love about this verse is that it shows the sheer size of Godly hope with a God who has even the scariest of situations in already in hand and will walk with you through whatever fears, doubts, sorrow or anxiety you may be facing.

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The darkness must come first in order for hope to shine against it. Our trials become a mere backdrop for God to work. Hope appears in the midst of darkness and gives us a target to aim for, a goal to strive for. It forms itself into an anchor that you can cling to.

This is the essence of Hope.

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Advent 2017 – week one


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unexpected beauty

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We were driving along a little country road between the farms and a few residential houses on a gray drizzly fall day. I had my camera out but the fall colors that we long for here in the northeast had been deadened by warm weather and no rain. Disappointed, we drove on not quite sure what to do.

We had actually passed the tractor before its colors registered on my brain. I asked my husband to turn around and go back. I was attracted by how the crisp reds and yellows of the tractor contrasted with the muted colors of the trees and the dullness of that cloudy sky.

You have that beauty about you too, even if your surroundings are ugly. You, too, can P1030649shine even when life seems to have lost its glimmer. Without even realizing it, you stand out from the backdrop of this world because of a strength within that is at odds with the weakened culture around us. You will shine with a strength that manifests in many strange ways.

You shine with:

Your love against waves of hate

Your joy when there doesn’t seem to be much to smile about

Your peace when winds are swirling

Your patience against an immediate gratification mentality.

Your kindness in the face of cruelty

Your goodness where evil abounds

Your faithfulness even when there seems to be nothing left to believe in

Your gentleness in a rough neighborhood.

Your self – control when it’s so much easier to give in

What I would normally call a perfect fall day is not to be this year and yet I can see a different sort of beauty as the heat of summer fades. A quieter pallet of colors is being painted but it is no less beautiful. And as I find myself in different season than I expected, I can still find beauty in the unexpected places along the way.

Galatians 5:22-23

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Sharing the Luck

 

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Walking through the woods last week, my friend and I came across some 4 leaf clovers. I considered myself to be extremely lucky but she told me that it’s only lucky if you give it away to someone else.

“Oh man”, I thought, “Christianity in a nutshell”.

We may not always live like it but being a Christ follower means that we have been freely given grace, mercy, forgiveness and most of all love. Yet, what is it worth if you hoard those things and tuck them away only for yourself?

He gives us grace – a gift of life eternal20171001_114735

He gives us mercy – no punishment for repentant sin

He gives us forgiveness – He’s not going to keep bringing up past hurts (like I tend to do)

He gives us love – a love without strings attached, wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean

But there is a catch. If you have been forgiven, forgive others. If you have received mercy, extend it to others. If you have experienced grace, give others a chance to experience grace. Then, and only then will you have the chance, maybe even the right, to tell others about God’s unending grace, mercy and forgiveness that is so beyond our feeble human limits.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 John 15:13

And love…..did I forget love? No, it’s just that it is the hardest one to live out in our society. Can I love the one with the gun in a high rise window, or the one driving a truck on a crowded street or the one in the pilot’s seat of the jet streaking towards a tower housing multiple offices and thousands of employees?

Too much to ask?  Let’s bring it down a bit. Can I love my coworker whose snippy comments are driving me crazy? How about the one loud mouth relative who has the capacity to ruin every family gathering and often does? Can I still reach out in friendship to the person down the street who plastered his yard with political slogans last election year that I disagreed with? It’s not going to be easy but He tells me that with His help, it is possible.

And so I keep trying.

I will share the next four leaf clover I find so I can share that luck. But every day I can share love. Whether it is accepted or not, I can share love. And grace, and mercy and forgiveness, but most of all love.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

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a touch of grace – finding beauty even on a rainy, foggy day


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Having a Hard Time Listening

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sometimes you are just listening for that one special song

 

Thirty years after the inception of the Contemporary Christian Music movement it seems ridiculous that so many are still divided over this issue. It speaks volumes of the health (or lack thereof) of the Christian church today that we allow such petty issues to divide us when there are so many other issues that we should be grappling with.

Having said that, someone tried to pull me into just such a discussion recently. His objection to modern praises was that he felt the songs focus on ourselves while traditional hymns focus solely on God. My first reaction was that perhaps he should go back and revisit the lyrics of both genre of music. But I resisted the urge to be sarcastic and tried to listen. Problem was I was only allowed to listen. He just wanted to vent and was not expecting a response other than agreement and sympathy.

But I did have an opinion that I wanted to share. This is the fun part of having a personal blog. I can vent all I want. It’s my blog and I’ll vent if I want to.

As a music lover, I have a deep respect for the music of the church, from the old hymns to the repeated praise choruses to the more thoughtful and varied songs of today. Of course, I have my favorites but I love a wide range of styles of music so I am comfortable and able to respond to a wide range of worship styles.

I’ve been listening to an old Todd Agnew song lately, “Written on the Wall”. The chorus cries out:

‘Cause the sound of this world’s deafening, and I ‘m having a hard time listening, and I wish your will was still written in the walls.”

To me, helping me get back to a place where I can hear that one special song that God sings for me is the essence of a solid worship service. When I come to church on a Sunday morning (or whatever day/time your service is) I am coming with the dirt and grime of this world on the soles of my shoes, worked under my fingernails and ground into the fibers of my clothes. It will take me a moment to refocus.

‘Cause the sound of this world is really deafening and I’m having such a hard time listening.”

I’ve come running into church dragging a bleary eyed toddler behind me. I’ve trudged up the front steps after spending the day before with my dying father and couldn’t wait for service to end so I could get back to his bedside. I’ve been so tired after a rough week at work, a night out with friends, a fight with a rebellious teenager.

The sounds of the world…I’m having a hard time listening, Lord.

But then I hear the strains of music from within those four walls that aren’t meant to be walls at all. Sometimes the sound of a keyboard or piano, or maybe the sound of voices greeting each other after a hard week out in the world where it can be so hard to hear. As the congregation starts to sing, I join in. The world begins to fade. It slips gradually away. I love when that first song gently pulls me before the throne. A song about me. A song about myself and Christ. I guess my friend would have disagreed with me on this.

But don’t let it end there. Subsequent songs need to refocus us on the One who is the whole reason we are there. I allow the music, the prayer, the choice of Scripture leading up to the sermon help me to tune out the noise and tune into Christ and who He is – grace, love, mercy and peace.

And I’ll find that I didn’t even notice if an old hymn was sung or a praise chorus. It was simply my being led away from the world which is deafening and into His presence of peace. And the next time someone tries to start that some old argument with me, I’ll just let the music I hear in my heart play while the storm surges around me.

Zephaniah317_1920x1080_1The LORD your God is with you,

He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

He will quiet you with his love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

 


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Life Lessons From the Garden

 

 

P1030614We have been planting a vegetable garden in our backyard for the past twenty years. About 5 years ago we noticed that the neighbor’s trees had overgrown to the point where our little garden was not able to get enough sun to sustain tomatoes and such. This year we decided to plant a few tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini in a fresh patch of ground which would get more sun but still use the old garden area for the flowers that I love so much. After all, why waste a nice fenced in plot of land when you could be growing sunflowers. The veggies loved their new home and have exceeded our expectations. I have enough refrigerator pickles to last all winter. But my flowers struggled. The first seeds that I planted were eaten by birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Undaunted, I planted another round of seeds only to feed the birds once again. The third planting took root, sort of. A few plants made their way to the surface and half of them got munched as P1030600soon as they peeked a leaf above the dirt. Still they continued to grow. Then a few other plants appeared. Even though a few leaves were eaten, probably by groundhogs and rabbits, the plants continued to rise higher each day. I watched in amazement as the few tortured looking leafless stalks started to show some buds.

This has to be the strangest garden that I have ever had the privilege to tend. As the summer wore on, two things happened. The rabbits and groundhogs seemed content to eat other greens around the yard and leave the gardens alone. Even the weather has cooperated. Very mild temps with a nice mix of sun and rain. These plants with their munched up leaves wouldn’t have been able to stand the stress of a heatwave, drought or too much rain. I was glad that I had bought extra seeds and persevered with a second and even a third planting.

“Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly,P1030534

and whoever sows generously will reap generously”

2 Corinthians 9:6

20170729_131951I am so glad that I didn’t give up after the first planting. I didn’t sow sparingly but continued to pour more seeds, fertilizer and sweat into that soil. And now I can sit back and soak in the vibrant colors and watch hummingbirds, butterflies and bees benefit from my labor.

Give generously with all you do and watch for that generous harvest in all things.

 

“…he who sows in righteousness reaps a sure reward.”

Proverbs 11:18

God has not allowed you to toil in vain as Solomon would have us believe (Eccl. 1:3). Be patient and rest in the confidence of a loving God whose plans are higher than ours. Your reward may not be what you were expecting but it will be just what is needed and in the P1030615time that it is needed. My favorite sunflowers are little teddy bear sunflowers. I planted 4 packets of seeds but it seems that the bunnies are especially fond of them. Only one has survived, yet that one flower is so beautiful to my eyes.

“A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will come eternal life.”

Galatians 6:7-8

It has been a difficult summer for my family. Major upheavals in my church has left us battered and bruised and searching for a new church home. But we have consistently asked God for guidance and now as we look back over the past two months, we can see His faithful Hand. We have found friends in unusual places and comfort in stranger’s prayers. We have tried to sow seeds of faith and found comfort in His overwhelming provisions each Sunday as we venture out on new roads. We went from tears of sorrow at what could have been to tears of joy, wonder and gratitude as we explore different houses of worship. The sowing had seemed so fragile, yet the harvest has been incredibly rich and it’s only getting started!

 

Thank you, to the God who is faithful even when we are not. To the God who receives whatP1030606 little we have and returns it tenfold even when we do not deserve it. Thank you to the God who loves me more than I can ever imagine. Though the sowing was so difficult, His harvest is abundant.

Amen

 

 


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Good Night, Sweet Prince

17155323_10212514174588571_3581718803438938048_nSince my kids were very young, we have always had pets in the house. A dog, 4 cats, 4 guinea pigs, gerbils, chameleons and fish. A lot of fur, a lot of pine bedding, and I could have done without the weekly purchase of crickets. But they learned compassion in caring for another living creature. It was so worth it all to see my kids playing with the dog or snuggling with a cat. Over the years we have had to say goodbye to them all and each goodbye brought the tears of grief that spring from a heart that has loved much.

Today we said our goodbyes to our last fur baby – a 14 year old grey and white cat 20170414_094941named Smokey (whom I came to call “the Prince”). He was your run of the mill domestic short hair cat but he had the softest fur you can imagine. He was very shy when all the other animals were around but as each one slipped away we would see Smokey’s personality change and he would become more outgoing. He spent the last 18 months of his life as an only fur baby and during that time he was the most affectionate sweetie you could imagine. It turns out that he was one of those animals who do not like to share their people and he should have been an “only cat” all along. I am so grateful that we got to see his true personality come out in his senior years.16473075_10212257314687234_3889801842831162922_n

Today, as I mourn the loss of a beloved family pet, I cannot help but think of the church service that I will be going to later this evening to contemplate the death of my Savior. And out of that death – new life.

 

 

Out of sacrifice – another chance for us all.

Out of pain and sorrow – the sweetness of promised salvation.

Today, I mourn. But in three days…….

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