Psalm 143:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peppermint Mocha Musings

I stopped for a coffee this morning on my way to work.  I love walking into the coffee shop...seeing the faces of those sitting and enjoying their cuppa - some serious, some laughing, some quiet, some curious; the smell of coffee floating on the air.  I waited for my drink and listened to the sounds - the coffee machine, the quiet chatter, the girl at the cash register chatting with a regular customer, the quiet music in the background.  I received my cup, hot and full of flavorful coffee...the smell of peppermint drifting up...that first sip, ahhh.  Lovely way to start the day...

On the way to work from the coffee shop, I passed a church with this Bible verse on it's sign:  

"Behold I am making all things new."  Revelation 21:5

Lovely words for this new day as we look toward the new year that will soon be upon us.  As we put to rest 2011, and wake up to 2012, let's let God make us new.  Cleanse our hearts, clear our minds, open our ears and our eyes.  Let's allow Him to take hold of our lives and show us His way...His dreams for us...His hopes...the life of abundance He will provide.  Let's trust Him.  Only and wholly Him.  Let's open our hands, palms up, to receive what He has to offer to us.  Let's give Him control of our thoughts, our words, our actions.  Let's see what He has in store.  Let's live our lives for Him...shining His light, His love, His truth for all to see.  Let's be NEW in Him and SHINE for Him! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Emmanuel...God with Us...

Here it is...almost Christmas.  The day we are waiting for...the day we have been so "busy" preparing for...the day we celebrate...the day hope and life and love came down from heaven....

I look back on this past year and some things make me laugh, some things make my eyes fill with tears and my throat grow tight and my heart aches, some things fill me with wonder and awe and thanks, some things make me think.  But, everything points to how God works in my life.  Everything shows how much He loves me, how He provides, how He cares about even the littlest details. 

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
   28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I read these verses and I know...I know how much He cares.  And then:

John 3:16
 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Yes, He sent his a tiny babe, a miracle, a life of perfection to take on all the imperfection of the world.
Matthew 1:18-25
  18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
 20 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. 21 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.”
 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 

And they will call him Immanuel...God with us.  He walked the earth for three decades...fully God, and yet fully human.  He felt our pain, our temptations, our joy, our love, our fears, our happiness.  He experienced our lives.  He knows.

Matthew 28:20
 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

And there it is....the fulfillment of his name...the promise...He is with us.  Always.   Trust it. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday.  44 years ago today I started this journey called life.  I remember parties, and gifts, and family and friends over the years.  I remember how I always liked having my birthday in gifts got to sit under the Christmas tree, my mother made me birthday cakes with a miniature nativity scene on it (I still have that!)  My family always made sure my birthday didn't get lost in the holiday was always a special day.  I appreciate that.

As I look over my 44 years, I see many things...things I would change if I could, many moments I cherish, accomplishments, mistakes I made, happy, sad, bittersweet.  Looking back, though...there is one part of my life that remained constant...even when I put it in a box, or a corner, or out of mind....

God has loved me throughout.  Have I lived the best life for Him? No.  But He loves me anyway.  Have I always obeyed Him?  No.  But He loves me anyway.  Have I kept all His commands and loved others the way He would have me love? No.  But He loves me anyway.  Have I turned from Him, forgotten Him, ignored Him, pushed Him away?  Yes.  But He loves me anyway...and He has not turned from me, forgotten me, ignored me, or pushed me away.

He has taught me, lifted me up, held me when I cried, laughed with me, given me strength and patience, provided abundantly for my needs, given me family and friends who are there for me.  He has loved me anyway.  He gave His Son for me - the light of the world.  And as I look from my the birthday we will soon celebrate...the birth of my beloved Savior and King, Jesus....I know the best gift I ever received was God's grace.  His Son.  His love.  

I grew up going to church.  I grew up learning about Jesus. We prayed at home, had family devotions.  I was baptized when I was 15 years old in a beautiful church in Oak Harbor.  I remember that moment that I became God's daughter - adopted into His family.  I remember the flood of peace as the pastor said those words..."I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen."  And even though I was active in youth group, and loved God so much...a few years later, I let the world come between so many kids do when they go away from home.  It wasn't until my first son was about 5 years old that I started to question my life and my beliefs and my commitment to God.  I had promised Him as each of my boys were baptized that I would teach them about Him, take them to church...I wasn't doing that.

So we started looking for a church home.  Started taking our kids to Sunday school.  Growing in faith.  It was good to get back to God.  Good to surround myself with other Christians.  Good to get back into His word.  I still stumble in my walk with Him.  But I look back at my growth since my Baptism birthday, and I am astonished at what I have learned and gone through.  I am proud to call Him Father, to be His daughter.

My birthday wish is that I will continue to grow in Him.  That I will be better at looking to Him in all things.  That I will be able to fully trust Him in all areas of my life.  That I will live my life for that His love will shine out through me to bless others.  I continue on in this journey, with open eyes, heart and mind to see His works, hear His word, share His love.  I am grateful for grace...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rethinking Christmas - Love All

Here it is...the last in the series of Rethinking Christmas.  There has been so much to ponder and reflect on in the last few weeks.  Worship fully made us think about how we come before our God in praise and worship.  Spend less really focused on how to be not only good stewards, but how to build relationships without money and gifts being a driving factor.  Give more got us thinking about different ways we can give to our families, our church, our fact, all those around us, while shining God's light and sharing the blessings He has given us.

And now, love all.  Not just family.  Not just friends.  Not just those who like us.  But ALL.  Love all.  God wants us, commands us, to love one another.  It's not a mushy huggy-kissy kind of love.  But a love borne of the same compassion with which God loves us...sinners who fall short.  He loves us without condition, with great patience, with kindness.  He loves us no matter how we succeed or how we fail.  He loves us even when our hearts are dark and ugly with sin.  He loves us so much that He sent His son, a part of Himself, in the flesh to live amongst us, to feel the pain we feel, the love we feel, the frustrations we feel, the joy we feel, the angst, the die for us.  For our lies, our mistakes, our ugly sins that we hide from the world, for our bad attitudes, for our unkind words, thoughtless actions...all those things that would send us straight to the depths of hell.  He came to raise our faces, to lift our hearts, to cleanse us from the dark ugliness of sin to a purity and a beauty that shines because of His grace.

He loves us with a love so great that Jesus came as a precious infant, grew into a man, and died a horrible, painful, torturous death to free us.  He loves us with such a great love that our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west.  He loves us!  And asks us to love others....

We are to make the choice to love.  To reach out to those around love all.  Easy?  Not always.  Some people are just not easy to love.  Sometimes our own attitude puts up a wall that we choose not to break down.  Sometimes we look away and decide to let others love in our place.

Look around you.  Take a look at the people you see each day.  Make a choice to love...because God loves you.  Let this Christmas be the time when you rethink how you treat people...rethink how you love others...think about what you can do in the future to shine the light of God's love into the world, even just your little corner of it.... 

What does Christmas mean to you? Let's make it a time of giving of ourselves, giving God's love, spending time with others in such a way that gives Him glory.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Knowing and trusting

Trusting someone is naturally easier when you know them well.  When you know their characteristics, their values, the way they deal with different issues, how they treat you and other people....are they honest, do they keep their word, do they take their responsibilities seriously?  Relationships can be made or broken based on trust issues.

It's the same with trusting God.  It's far easier to trust Him if you know Him!  So how do you do that?  How do you get to know the Creator of the universe, our Heavenly Father, His Son, Prince of Peace, Messiah, Emmanuel, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter?

Isaiah 9:6b
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Open your Bible and read it!  It is the Word of God!  In it you will find His personality, His love, His abundant grace.  You will find that He always keeps His promises.  That His love is unconditional, always there, and abundant.  You will find that He is merciful and protective of His own.  He is ever present, all knowing, all powerful, unchanging.  He wants to be in relationship with you.

Joshua 21:45
45 Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. 
John 1:14 

14 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. 

Psalm 3:3
3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 

Pray.  Daily....hourly...all the time.  Give thanks.  Give adoration.  Tell Him your needs.  Tell Him your feelings, your thoughts, your hurts, your happiness, your disappointments.  Tell Him everything...even your anger.  Tell Him.  Worship Him, praise Him.  Talk to him....and then watch for Him to answer.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Find a church home where you can worship and fellowship with other Christians.  One that has values that are Biblically based...where the Gospel is spoken, where the commandments to love God, love others, and spread the gospel is lived out through the members. Go to worship, go to Bible study groups, take part in activities.  Be a part of the Christian community.

Matthew 18:20
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Get to know Him...and get to trusting Him! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rethinking Christmas - Give More

In the third week of this series, we are looking at how to give more....which may seem a little weird after last week's message of  "spend less."  It doesn't necessarily mean to go spend money and give more gifts, however.  What are some ways we can give more?

How about giving more encouragement?  Give a smile, a kind word, a bit of support.  Give a pat on the back, a hug.  Give a supportive shoulder, a listening ear.  Find a way today to encourage just one person...share a blessing.  You may are also blessed.

1Thessalonians 5:11

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 

Give more forgiveness.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies...what does this mean?  Forgive them, pray for them.  Easy?  No.  But expected of us...

 Luke 6:27-28
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Give more time.  Maybe you don't have money to give...but you have time you can spend helping others.  Maybe you could volunteer at your local mission.  Teach Sunday school - share the story of the Good News with the children, youth or adults at your church.  Volunteer at a nursing home - reading, playing games, or simply chatting with residents who don't receive many visitors.  

There are so many ways to give more....what will you do?  What gifts has God given you that you can share?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shine in 2012

So a couple mornings ago, I was getting ready for work.  Clear as a bell, I heard the word "Shine" spoken to me.  I looked up into the mirror and it hit me...that's my word for 2012.  Shine.  A couple minutes later, a song came on the radio...with lyrics about shining God's light....

Then after that, this verse played through my mind:

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

And I knew, without doubt, that this is my word for 2012.  A little early perhaps, but it gives hope and peace to the new year ahead....I'm excited!

And here is one of my favorite Christmas songs....sung by Kutless...