Friday, January 31, 2020

When I'm... God is...

At my lowest, God is my hope. At my darkest, God is my light. At my weakest, God is my strength. At my saddest, God is my comfort.

No life is perfect. We all have our ups and downs and I have found that, when I've been at my lowest, there is always someone who is worse off than me. So I know that things can be really rough sometimes. Like the woman I talked about who was so overcome by grief, she just wanted to die. Or the man with terminal cancer who knew he'd soon be leaving his wife and children. Or my friend who lost a series of jobs and was on the brink of homelessness.
Life can really seem unbearable sometimes.

But there is help. Real help. We all have a lifeline through God. Our God, who loves us more than we can imagine, wants to help us through the times when we don't know which was is up.

The Bible gives us proof, over and over, of this help.

At My Lowest, God Is My Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Even when you hit rock bottom, you can be assured that it won't last; it's only temporary. 

The hope that you have in God's promises can fill you with peace. It doesn't mean that you've given up. It just means that you trust God to keep you from harm.

I have a friend whose husband recently told her that he doesn't want to be married any longer. It's pretty complicated and she is anxious about finances, but, at the same time, she's filled with more peace than she's felt in a long time. She knows that God has her back and is working overtime to protect her. Her finances are falling into place and she is giving God all the credit.

At My Darkest, God Is My Light

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. John 8:12
When I was in college, I spent a couple of summers as the director of a residential camp for girls. I had been a camper there, too, and, after several years, I knew just about every inch of that camp. It was a beautiful setting and I always felt comfortable and secure as we went through our daily activities. 

Nighttime, however, was a different story. Things looked so different in the dark. My favorite quiet place, overlooking the Mississippi River, looked sinister in the dark. I always scurried from my cabin to the bathroom because who knew what was hiding behind the trees? The worst was having to walk down a hill in the dark to lock the gate each night. Even though nothing bad had ever happened as I performed that simple task, I was so scared because I didn't know what might be lurking in the woods, waiting to jump out and grab me. 

Shedding light on those ominous-looking woods brought out their beauty and made me feel safe. Such it is with Jesus. He sheds light into the dark places so you can feel safe and secure.

At My Weakest, God Is My Strength

So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Strength comes in several forms: physical, mental, emotional, intellectual.

When you are feeling weak - maybe you're being tempted to do something that you know is wrong - stop and ask God to give you the strength you need to withstand the temptation.

Or, perhaps you are clinging to that last strand of a rope, like the kitten in those "hang in there" posters that were popular several years ago. But your struggle isn't cute or motivational poster-worthy. It's real and your emotions are raw. Trust Jesus to give you the strength to carry on.

At My Saddest, God Is My Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort
Like many pregnancies, my second one ended abruptly in a miscarriage. Even though we had barely confirmed that I was pregnant, I was already madly in love with the life growing inside me and so I was devastated when my obstetrician confirmed that I was no longer pregnant.

I felt so strange when I returned to work after a short recovery. It was apparent to everyone that I was incredibly sad. Most of my coworkers acted like it was nothing and I was being too dramatic. I heard more than once "You can always have another." There were a few friends who offered me comfort. They let me talk about the baby, hugged me, and offered tissues to dry my tears. Still, I ached inside.

I had questioned why it happened. My OB gave me a medical explanation, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear. My friends said things like "it was just meant to be" and "the baby was probably deformed and wouldn't have survived". That also was not what I wanted to hear. I turned to my pastor and, if you can believe it, he was one of those who told me I could always have another. He was young and childless, so I forgave him.

I finally started praying about it. I didn't ask God to take away my sadness or to give me back my baby. Instead, I asked why He would let it happen. How could the God of love allow such a horrible thing to happen? God didn't answer that question. Instead, a peace started coming over me. I never did find out why it happened, but I remember that feeling of loving comfort and I knew that God was hurting as much as I was. 

I suppose the old adage "misery loves company" is true because, knowing that my loss made God sad, too made me feel better. I knew that He understood my pain.

I pray that you can experience God's love and compassion when you are at your lowest. He wants to provide that comfort. He's waiting for you to ask.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matt 5:4

At a recent Bible study, we were discussing Matthew 5:4, the Beatitude that states "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I've always puzzled over that Beatitude in particular for the way it's worded. I don't know anyone who is mourning a loss who feels blessed by their grief. Sure, they will be comforted, but that's little consolation when you're heart is breaking. I would venture to say that they would gladly forego the comfort if they didn't have to experience the loss.

As we discussed the meaning of the Beatitude, I was reminded of a previous Bible study I'd enjoyed by James Moore called If All Else Fails, Read The Instructions. In it, Moore explains that the Greek word makarios has been translated as "blessed" in the Beatitudes, but it means much more and is difficult to translate into English. He suggests a better translation in these Scriptures is "close to God" or "near to the heart of God". So, the second Beatitude would read "Close to the heart of God are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

I can relate more to this version and I think others can, too. I shared Moore's translation with the group and that Jesus loves us so much, it breaks His heart when we mourn. One of the women in the group gasped and then slowly shared her story. There was a time in her life when she wanted to die. She was extremely depressed after a series of losses of family members ending with a miscarriage. She was so depressed, she was incapable of doing anything but lay in bed, curled up in a fetal position, praying to die. She didn't want to hurt any longer. She told the group that, besides the grief, the only thing she felt during that time was God's strong, continuous, loving presence. And not just His presence, but she could feel that He was hurting because she hurt.

I pray that you never have to mourn a loss, but, if you do, remember how much God loves you and how much He wants to take your hurt away. Open your heart and mind and you will feel his comforting arms around you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

God Only Sees Beauty

You may look into your mirror and see flaws, but God looks at you and only sees beauty.

I am reminded of the movie about Nanny McPhee. She becomes the governess for a family with children who have chased away previous nannies with their mischief. She is an incredibly unattractive, snaggle-toothed woman with warts, a uni-brow, and a lumpy body. She is a no-nonsense nanny and is not afraid of the children. As the children begin to behave and they grow to love her, her appearance magically changes, bit by bit, until she is a beautiful woman.

I don't know what caused her transformation, but I like to think that she didn't change at all. As the children got to know her, they were able to look past her physical flaws and see the beauty within.

That's how God sees us. He doesn't see the crooked teeth or the crow's feet or the big ears. His love for us is so strong, all He sees is the person we are. Isn't that what really matters?

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Ephesians 3:16

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources 
he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 
Ephesians 3:16

How do you eat an Oreo cookie? These days, I don't eat too many as I try to watch what I eat, but when I was younger, my friends and I would have endless debates about the right way to eat those yummy circles of chocolate and creamy goodness. Some would eat them just as they were, creating a crescent moon with one bite of the whole cookie. Most others would pull apart the two chocolate cookies. The creme inside would usually stick to one of the cookies, so the next step was to a.) eat the cookie without the creme first, b.) eat the cookie with the creme first, or c.) scrape the creme off the cookie with your bottom teeth so you could savor the decadent inside creaminess by itself. I usually went for the last option because I care more about the inside than the outside of an Oreo.

God cares a whole lot more about our insides than our outsides. I mean, He wants us to take care of our bodies so we can stay healthy, but it's our heart that's most important to Him. He wants us to be happy, but He knows that lasting happiness doesn't come from material things. It comes from knowing and having Jesus in your heart.

When you accept Jesus as your Savior and you invite Him into your heart, your whole world opens up to a myriad of feelings: joy, peace, confidence, strength... With Jesus, all things are possible and you have the confidence to stand up to the sinful world that fights hard to keep its grasp on you. Jesus is stronger than sin. He, alone, can save you.

I'm praying for you to claim that inner strength that come from Jesus.

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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Better To Be Thought a Fool

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

You probably know someone like my friend, Barry. I use the term "friend" loosely because, frankly, he can drive me crazy. Barry doesn't know when to quit talking and he has an opinion about everything. The trouble is, he states his opinions as facts and so I never know what to believe. I find him interesting in small doses because he is well-read, pretty smart, and kind of funny. After a while, though, I tend to tune him out because he's just too much.

I have another friend, Michael, who is pretty quiet. He doesn't usually say a lot but, when he does, those who know him listen because he's also a smart guy. I've noticed, though, that people who don't know him tend to discount what he says because he is so quiet.

It reminds me of the saying "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." This quote has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but that can't be verified, so I chose to leave attribution off of the graphic above.

No doubt, Barry falls into the latter category. I really have very little respect for him because of his incessant talking and how he often pretends that his opinions are fact.

On the other hand, Michael is a member of the first group, unfortunately. I do wish he'd share his thoughts more often because he always seems to be spot on when he does. Still, I think I'd rather be in his company than Barry's.

There are a couple of proverbs that address this as well. "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." Proverbs 17:28 and "The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words." Proverbs 10:19.

In this world of a constant barrage of talking and opinions and "fake news", which kind of fool would you like to be?

Personally, I think we need to find a middle ground between Barry and Michael to really be effective. We want people to respect what we have to say and the best way to do that is to know what you're saying and speak the truth.  As Proverbs 15:23 says, "Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time."

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.

Pinterest graphic for quote: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2 Timothy 1:9

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

Long, long before you and I were born, God already had a plan for us. For each of us. Sometimes, when I stop to contemplate that, it gives me goosebumps. He knew me even before I was formed in the womb. That makes me feel special. But does it make me sound self-absorbed? I mean, He was busy creating universes and planets and animals and a bazillion people - did He really have time to develop a plan for my life, my purpose?

At the risk of committing heresy, I believe that God's plans for us are remarkably similar. We are to obey Him, worship Him, love Him, and love others. Deuteronomy 10:12 says "Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you except to revere him, to obey all his commandments, to love him, to serve him with all your mind and being,"  Jesus reinforced that by telling his disciples "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-40)

How we do that is what makes our plans unique. Not everybody is meant to be a missionary in some third world country. But everyone has talents and gifts that are meant to be used to serve God and serve others.

If you're still asking God what His plan is for you, perhaps you're making it too complicated. Instead of expecting some grand and glorious revelation, maybe you should be following the Great Commandment and then asking God how you can use your gifts to serve Him.

God saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

1 Thessalonians 3:12

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Do you know people like this? They are so filled with the Holy Spirit, they exude joy and love and you just can't help but feel it, too.

If you're a dog-lover, you understand why they are often used as therapy animals. Unlike any other animal, they are capable of unconditional love and have a sense of what a human needs, especially in difficult times. As they quietly give sick or lonely people comfort, it's nearly impossible not to smile and feel better.

That's how God's love is. His love will never run out, so don't hesitate to ask Him to "fill you up". And when you are so full of God's love, you can't help but share it with others.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Build Up

Building someone up is much more important than winning.

Disclaimer: I am not a competitive person.

Don't get me wrong. I like to win; but, if I lose, that's OK too. Whether I'm playing a board game with the family or coming up with an amazing idea at work, it's more important to me that everyone involved have a positive experience.

I realize that's not so with everyone. There are some people I avoid when playing a game because they not only have to win, they have to make everyone else lose. If you've played with someone like that, you'll understand what I mean. There are others who get upset if they lose. They pout or get angry, which casts a shadow over those who win. OK, maybe I'm painting these competitive people in a bad light, but here's a recent example.

The other day, I experienced the second type of competitive person. We were playing a card game with partners. One of the partners on another team was hesitant to participate because he'd never played the game before. We talked him in to playing and partnered him with the strongest player, hoping he'd feel more confident with an accomplished partner. To be honest, I don't think I've ever seen anyone play the game so poorly and, of course, his team lost. We all praised him for playing and pointed out some of the few good plays he had. Well, all of us but his partner who grumbled and sulked. I could tell that his partner's response to losing was deeply affecting the new player. He apologized repeatedly and said he'd never play again. 

I pulled the sulking partner aside and encouraged him to make sure his partner knew that there were no hard feelings. I said "It's more important to build someone up than to win." Thankfully, he agreed and made amends with his partner - so much so that the partner ended up smiling and laughing at his silly mistakes, vowing to do better next time.

Life is like that, too. We should deal with everyone we meet with the goal of building them up. We receive enough beat downs; we don't need to add on. Just as the saying goes, people may not remember what you said, but they'll remember how you made them feel. 

Make everyone you meet feel valued and respected.

Building someone up is much more important than winning.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Light Drives Out the Darkness

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12

I love my country; though, I haven't always been proud of it. Racism is such a dark part part of our history. On this day that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., I have to pause and think about how I, as one lowly individual, can make a difference.

I grew up in the northern Midwest, so I wasn't aware of segregation, and I was too young to remember much about the Civil Rights movement. And all I know about Martin Luther King, Jr. is what I've read in books and seen on TV and movies, but he has taught me so much about loving others as Jesus does.

I am one of the privileged white, having lived a typical middle class life. I've never been rich and there are times I've had to do without because I couldn't afford what I wanted, but I've never gone to bed hungry and I've always lived where I wanted to (within my means). My parents both held college degrees and they expected me to do the same. I was never told I couldn't do something, other than wanting to wear pants to grade school (yes, I'm that old and went to grade school back when girls had to wear dresses!). The only significant discrimination I've experienced was based on my gender. I tell you all of this so you understand that I can only imagine what it's like to be treated like a second-class person; to be told I couldn't drink from that fountain or go through that door or sit in that seat. And even my imagination will fail, I'm sure, to capture the full impact of that treatment.

The discrimination I've experienced as a woman has made me angry and frustrated at the time, but I quickly found other successes, so it was easy for me to move on. I doubt I would have been able to rise above so quickly if the discrimination was incessant. I think it would be easy for me to become bitter and hate those who mistreated me.

And that's why people like Martin Luther King, Jr. amaze me. He saw the destructive force behind hate between races and he chose to confront it with love. As he said in his book Strength to Love, "love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." Notice he didn't say that it transformed enemies into "acquaintances" or "colleagues" or even "tolerated people". Friend is a strong word in this context. 

When you think of your friends, you probably come up with a list of people whom you respect, value, and enjoy spending time with. Is it really possible to change a hated enemy into someone you respect and value?

Yes, it is. Through God's redemptive love. That kind of love starts with forgiveness. In order to love our enemies, we must first forgive them. And that's not the "OK, I'll forgive, but I'll never forget" or "I'll forgive, but never have anything to do with you". Nope. It's the "I forgive you because you are a child of God and have failings just like me." It's the "I know you have redeeming qualities and I will fight to find them." 

When you can see your enemy as just a person that God loves as much as He loves you, it's easier to accept that their actions are rooted in experiences or how they were raised or even fear. Once you can see them in that light, it's so much easier to find qualities that you respect and value. The power of your love and forgiveness can change that person's attitude toward you and put you on the path of becoming friends.

So, on this day that we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and that enormous impact he's had on American history, I challenge you to love your enemies until they become your friends.

Pinterest graphic for Martin Luther King Jr quote: Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Psalm 5:8

We may not think of them as "enemies", but the things that pull you away from Jesus are just that. We have so many distractions in our lives - adults spend an average of four hours a day on their phones, we binge watch TV shows, our children have every minute of their lives scheduled with sports and clubs. With all of those distractions, it's no wonder people are turning away from the church and from the Bible. 

We need to constantly strive to follow the path that leads to Him. But why? We need our daily dose of God. Not because His influence "wears off" like the perfume that your mom used to dab behind her ears, but because we need to develop a healthy habit of spending time in the Word and in prayer. If we don't make it a daily habit, it will be too easy to let a day slip by and then two and three and, before you know it, it's been weeks since you last took the time to talk with God. You've probably heard that one-liner that's often seen on church signs "7 days without God makes one weak." It's a silly saying, but there's truth to it. Without His guidance and wisdom, you are more susceptible to falling for Satan's (definitely one of your enemies!) lies. 

So cultivate a strong relationship with the Lord through daily prayer and meditation. Ask Him to lead you in your daily walk.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make your way straight before me.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Psalm 100:3

Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His.

God is God and we are not. We are His creation and He loves us each individually. I believe what the psalmist wrote, but I know not everyone does. They may feel that they don't need God in their daily lives. They think they can carry on their lives without any help. And, who knows? Maybe they can. But why should they?

Our God loves us and wants to be a part of our lives every day. He wants us to understand that we can accomplish great things through Him and He yearns for us to reach out to Him. 

We are His.

Ephesians 4:3

Even today, Paul's words ring true. As a church, we need to bear each other in love. Not easy sometimes, for sure. Church congregations are filled with different personalities, different view points, different needs, and different priorities. With all of the differences, it's easy to have tension and disagreements from time to time. 

Recently, my church created a Social Covenant, which describes the way we should treat each other to avoid disagreements and to deal with disagreements when they occur. Our document lists a number of behaviors that, if boiled down, would look much like what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. We can look to God's Word for guidance in treating each other with respect and to empower each other rather than tearing each other down.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Psalm 40:1

Have you ever been in such a miserable place that you literally cry out to Jesus? I have. Many times. I think most people have. Or, at least most people have been in such a miserable place, though not all reach out to our lifeline, Jesus. Can you imagine how desparate they must feel? To be in the "pit of despair" (as Psalm 40:2 says) and have no hope of rescue. 

So, I am very thankful that I have Jesus to hear my cries and to lift me out of my pit of despair and onto solid rock where I can stand steady. Full disclosure: I have to work on waiting patiently, even though I know He hears me and is working on it. But that's a topic for a different day...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

More Engaging Post Graphics

Here are some more graphics you can use to increase engagement. If you use any of them, let me know how it goes!

What is a familiar Bible verse you return to in times when you need it most?

What is the best thing about being your current age?

What was your favorite childhood show growing up?

What is a favorite faith message you have from childhood?

You went to the year 2050 for a period of three minutes you have access to an internet search engine. What do you look up?

What is your favorite video game?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

You Were Made to Make a Difference

You were made to make a difference.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the types of people that fill the Bible. Lowly shepherds like David. Simple fishermen like Peter. Hated tax collectors like Zacchaeus. Men like Moses, who didn't speak eloquently. 

When I was younger, I thought that God should have chosen more powerful and worldly people to serve Him. That was because I didn't yet understand how God uses every day people, like you and me with our faults and foibles, to do amazing things. 

Sometimes they are little but amazing things like lending a needed hand to a neighbor to make her day a little brighter. Other times, they are huge amazing things like freeing a nation or curing polio. Most of the time, though, we make a difference doing things that fall in the middle. 

But, whatever the size of our impact, we can be sure that we do have a purpose for our lives. If we listen as God speaks to us and understand His will for us, through Him we can do amazing things that make a difference.

Why don't you take a moment right now and ask God how you can make a difference?

Monday, January 13, 2020

Psalm 19:12-14

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Another Monday. Another work week. Sometimes Mondays are hard to face after a weekend filled to the brim with activities and errands. All you want to do is hit the snooze and roll over for a few extra minutes before the craziness begins.

What if, instead of dozing for a minute, you recite The Message translation of Psalm 19:12-14? It is the perfect prayer to start your week off right.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stop Trying to Impress

You'll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be.

One of the best things about getting older is that you care less and less about what others think of you. I used wear those spike-heeled, pointy-toed shoes that had to have been designed by a man because nobody who actually had to wear them would have ever created such pain-inducers. I would take them off whenever I could - when I was sitting at my desk, my shoes would be off until someone came in my office and I'd quickly put them back on. When I thought I could get away with it in a meeting, I'd slip those torture devices off and wiggle my toes to get some life back in them. I dreaded walking very far because I knew that my feet would be killing me before I reached my destination. Why oh why did I put myself through such misery?

Finally, in my 50's I had had enough. My feet were constantly aching and, frankly, I wasn't 20-something anymore and didn't need to prove anything. I felt a little odd when I first wore my "sensible" shoes to work but my feet felt so much better, comfort gave way to vanity. It was a relief to let go of what I thought I needed to do and accept what I really wanted to do!

Since then, I am concerned less with what people think, whether it's about my appearance or behavior. I realize what's really important and what's not - I suppose that comes with experience and maturity - and others' opinions about me is definitely not.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Engaging Posts

What is something that you've done that you re fairly confident you're the only person at our church to have ever done.
I've been busy creating some graphics for posts that are sure to increase your engagement. I used the first one on my church's group page and we all found out some very interesting things about each other. It was so fun! 

You can use the second one to compile a playlist with all of the responses. 

More to come!
What is something you've done that you are fairly confident you're the only person at our church to have ever done.

Name a worship song that has helped you feel closer to God.

Name a worship song that has made you feel closer to God.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Hebrews 13:6

The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

    What can mere mortals do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

What gives us the confidence to have such faith? The previous verse (Hebrews 13:5) states, in part, "God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

God made that promise to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5. Over and over in the Bible, we see examples of God's faithfulness. He is always with us. Even when we don't feel His presence, He's there; often times working behind the scenes for our benefit.

My friend, Amber, was having a really tough time at work. She had a new boss who seemed to have taken an instant disliking to Amber. No matter what she did, Amber couldn't seem to please him. He found fault with everything she did. Amber feared that she would lose her job and she turned to God, asking Him to change the boss's opinion of her. Her pleas were met with silence. She felt as though God had abandoned her, just when she needed Him most. As the constant criticism of her work continued, Amber began to lose confidence in her abilities. She dreaded going to work, to the point that she felt sick and anxious every morning. As the weeks went on without any improvement, Amber also began to lose her faith in God. Why wasn't He doing anything to help her? Why would He let her go through this anguish? She couldn't afford to lose her job, but she was beginning to think that quitting was the only way to end the stress of the constant criticism. That was, until a former co-worker called to encourage Amber to apply for an opening at her company. The work was similar to her current job, with more autonomy and more pay. She hadn't considered leaving her current job, but this sounded like an ideal opportunity, especially given her current situation. The interview process went smoothly and quickly and soon Amber was enjoying her new employer and responsibilities. It was only then that Amber realized that God hadn't left her. He knew the boss would never change his opinion of Amber, so He'd been working on something better for her. Amber dropped to her knees at this realization and thanked God for his faithfulness and asked forgiveness for her unbelief. 

When darkness seems to envelope us, it's easy to lose sight of God's promises. It is during those times that we should hold tight to God and trust that He is working for our good.

Monday, January 6, 2020

What Would You Give Baby Jesus?

The three wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. What would you give baby Jesus?

Today is Epiphany. In my church, we recognize this as the day the three wise men reached Bethlehem and worshiped Jesus. Other denominations celebrate the baptism of Jesus on January 6th. In Tarpon Springs, Florida, a town near where I live, the large Greek Orthodox population celebrates Jesus' baptism with a huge festival that is highlighted by a group of teenage boys diving into the water to retrieve a cross. It is believed that the boy who retrieves the cross will enjoy blessings and good luck for the year. 

But, back to those wise men. Yesterday, my pastor talked about the wise men's gifts, which are odd for a baby, but probably pretty appropriate for a king. He also talked about what we might give Jesus. I liked his message so much (as I usually do!), I thought I'd base today's post on it. 

Like the little drummer boy, we might feel that we have nothing of significance to offer our Savior. Most of us certainly can't afford gold or expensive incense or oils; but Jesus doesn't want that. He wants us. Just as with the little drummer boy, we have God-given gifts and talents that we can give freely. There could be a whole sermon series on this topic but I'll just leave you with a couple of thoughts to ponder... what can you give to Jesus? All he wants is you. To love and serve Him. To love and serve others.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Countdown Videos

I have been playing around with making countdown videos that we run before the service begins at my church. I'm sharing 3 of my latest here. We use a 3-minute countdown but it appears that most use 5-minute videos, so I've included both. They are too big to load here, so I've put them on my Google drive.

5-minute waves countdown video
3-minute waves countdown video
3-minute Palm Sunday countdown video

Let me know if these are useful - if so, I'll share more of them. 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

James 4:8

Come close to God and God will come close to you.

I love Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam for his depiction of the connection between God and His human creation. Adam lifts his hand and God rushes toward him. That's how I imagine it is for everyone.

God is always with you, working hard in the background. He is yearning to be a part of your life, but He's not going to force Himself on you. Instead, He's creating opportunities to open your heart and make it easier for you to turn to Him. The minute you reach out to Him, He will come rushing to your side.

If you've felt that God is distant, it could actually be you who is out of touch. Reach out to Him and feel His presence.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Deuteronomy 10:15

Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today.

I have two brothers - one older and one younger. Growing up, we fought all the time - it always seemed to be two against one. I don't know how my parents managed to stay sane after saying for the bazillionth time "quit fighting with your brother!" Miraculously, we are great friends as adults and, even though we all live in different parts of the country, it's always wonderful spending time with them. Our years together, shared genetics, and common experiences have given us this comfortable familiarity that allows us to be goofy, serious, sentimental, argumentative, and even unreasonable with each other. I love them and they love me. I hope that everyone has siblings or cousins or even friends who they can just be family with.

That's the way Jesus wants us to feel about Him. Yes, He is Lord, but he's also chosen us to be his family. He wants us to feel comfortable enough to be ourselves with Him. He wants you to share yourself with Him.
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