FRESH

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Grandma Ferne

My beautiful African Violets remind me of Grandma Ferne, who raised and propagated them in her home for many years. I love the fresh touch of nature, especially when the new year commences with frigid temperatures as it ushers out the old.

In the last few years, I’ve chosen a word to focus on each year that will hopefully help keep me centered on a path of growth in my faith. Two years ago, the word was “trust” which was put to the test as I saw several friends pass through the veil in God’s timing, not mine, and as we answered the call to move several hundred miles from the place we called home for 35 years.

Last year the word was “Submission”. When most people hear that word, they first think of the biblical submission of a wife toward her husband. For Christ-followers, it goes beyond that definition to the goal of submission to the will of God in our lives. I am consciously aware of my daily choices and seek to bring honor to Him in my decisions.

This year my focus will be “Onward” by placing the past in its rightful place: a stepping stone to learning new, honorable, and productive ways while putting my weaknesses and the less admirable behind. I want my work and words to flourish with the encouragement and love of the Lord. For the benefit of others, I want the barriers of the past to dissove.

The beauty of a fresh start in a new year doesn’t cover the ugliness of the previous, but it does spark the hope of new beginnings.

Count your blessings every day, for they are a spark of hope with each new sunrise.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

JESUS

Jesus.

Too many, even Christians and Christian leaders, rarely speak His name.

Meals eaten without thanking Him.

Days are begun and end in silent weariness.

There are trials trudged,lessons learned, and decisions are made without calling on His name.

Christian songs are written without His name and Christmas celebrations void of Jesus.

If there is one good thing that can come from social media, it’s using the keyboard to speak the name of Jesus.

We who call ourselves Christ Followers could do better to acknowledge our Savior, even at the risk of offending.

JESUS is our HOPE.

Our soul waits for Adonai
He is our help and our shield. Our heart rejoices in Him,
because we trusted in His holy Name.
Let Your lovingkindness, Adonai,
be upon us, as we have waited for You. Psalm 33:20-22

KIND

Reprinted by approval of author

“Just be kind”.

What does that mean? Maybe it would be better to list what it isn’t. I know I need a reminder myself sometimes

Impatience
Sarcasm
Namecalling
Humiliating
Disrespectful
Ridiculing
Speaking over without listening
Hating
Rejecting
Shouting
Apathic
Harshness
Oppressing
Unrighteous Anger
Unrelenting Criticism
Lack of Remorse
Blaming
Shaming

Some people think unkindness makes them better, stronger, funnier, more effective, and well-rounded, but it doesn’t. They already know that, because most people tend to reflect their upbringing and life experiences whether they intend to or not, and they know how it feels to be treated unkindly by others.

It’s easy to spread pain along a path of apathy, but it’s better to do the hard thing and be who we know we aren’t, putting the feelings of others ahead of our own emotional needs because it’s the kind thing to do.

What if we skip the knee-jerk impulse and first ask ourselves, “Why do I feel the need to hurt another person? How can I be kind instead?”. Would the results be far more beneficial to everyone? Loving discipline doesn’t create malice. It creates honor, respect, and wisdom. Pain isn’t a requirement to teach life lessons for those who have known love.

Let kindness have a shot. Kindness softens the blows of the world and will soften your heart in practice.

In humility, let love prevail.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

STORIES

I can tell people sometimes think I am long-winded by their glazed eyes and staccato “yeah, yeah”s, but I prefer to make myself clear by way of an example. Kind of like a parable.

I wonder if people got impatient with Jesus. He often used parables when trying to get a point across. On the other hand, life didn’t seem so rushed back then.

I get it.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” Matthew 13:24-30

LIFE

Life can be messy sometimes.

Have mercy on those who are living their testimony of faith in real time.

There is always something to learn and challenges to overcome. It’s not over until it’s over.

The power of love conquers all.

Have mercy.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

RESPECT

We don’t kill the Wolf Spiders. They are big and scary looking but they kill the deceptively dainty and venomous Black Widows.

“Every living being deserves respect, but children, animals, and the elderly deserve protection.”

Someone commented this and I considered the words carefully. I often hear that respect must be earned and I ask myself, “Do I respect every living being”? How can I respect a person who does heinous things on purpose, or harms people while lifting others, or abuses the innocent?

I think this is the dilemma a lot of people struggle with. When is the line crossed that allows for protection over consideration? When does one man’s need and wants override the need and desires of another? Whose family comes first? Is it biblical to have respect for everyone? I went to the Bible.

Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
1 Peter 2:17

I learned that honor is a fundamental value placed upon each person as a child of God created in His image. It’s SOUL VALUE, knowing we all started the same with no physical restrictions or definitions, but having an intrinsic need for a Savior. We all have this need. At about the age of one, it starts to become subtly obvious.

The brotherhood is the body of Christian believers. You will know them by their fruits. Not that they are perfect and sinless, but because they know they aren’t. They turn away from sin. They don’t give up and live their lives in the flesh because perfection is impossible, and they don’t abuse God’s patience. They feel their need for a Savior intimately and don’t take His forgiveness, mercy, and grace for granted.

Children, let no one mislead you! The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Yeshua is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. Ben-Elohim appeared for this purpose—to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God practices sin, because God’s seed remains in him. He cannot sin, because he is born of God. Loving Children Emulate His Actions.
It is clear who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil by this—anyone who does not act righteously or love his brother is not of God. 1 John 3:7-10

Fear in this context means respect. Respect God and be obedient to His Precepts. God’s commandments are the way of wisdom. Hindsight can be very painful when we choose to ignore and disrespect God.

We honor authority because God has placed those in power by way of His allowance. Trust the Lord’s all-knowing wisdom, but keep in mind that those in leadership also come under God’s authority, and His commandments cancel orders against them. Our opinions and wishes are powerless in the grand scheme of God’s plan, but He hears us!

That’s why we pray that His Will be done and for the strength to accept and follow through on our part in a way that is pleasing to Him. That’s our choice.

What if we don’t know what His Will is? For now, we do, because we trust Him.

Praying.

HOLY

God is holy. We are not.

Never has it been brought home as clearly to me when I was a caregiver that people are closest to seeing the holiness of God when they are in a fragile state, and Satan knows it.

Twenty years ago, after trudging through a mucky decade of my life, I came out on the other side and felt a calling to give back to the world out of gratitude to the Lord. My church had a Stephen Ministry program that trained caregivers to biblically minister to the grieving, hurting, confused, and sick. I prayed about this because, mind you, this was a massive step of faith for me. I was used to being the needy one, not the one called upon to help. But I learned worldly neediness is diminished in helpers who rely on the Lord for their strength and guidance.

After interviews, two other women and I began the 40-hour training that included monthly continuing accountability and support meetings with more seasoned Stephen Ministers. As caregivers, we “ministered” to the people matched to us by the coordinator. Over the next three years, I helped a new divorcee, a woman raising her grandson because his parents were addicts, and a mother navigating the world of teenagers. All were angry and fearful, and some felt guilt. I could empathize.

Later, I spent five years volunteering in hospice care. This ministry also was a calling I would never have chosen for myself because I had minimal experience with dying people close up, only from a distance. 

I wondered why God led me to do this? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I’m repulsed instead of loving? Fast forward 3 1/2 years to Mary, my last hospice care receiver, a tiny black woman with a sweet smile. I wrote about Mary in this 2018 blog post titled “Blessed Are The Merciful”. 

On the day Mary left to be with the Lord, she was lying in her bed, wide-eyed and confused. Her daughter was there along with her husband and the chaplain. After visiting Mary almost every Saturday for a year and a half, Mary’s homecoming day was when I first met her family. As soon as she saw me, she reached out and smiled. Even if she didn’t know who I was, she knew I was the one who played her favorite 40’s music, decorated her room, drove her outside and around the hallways in her wheelchair, and sat with her while she ate lunch. She knew I was there for her. I loved her, and paid my respects at her funeral a week later, sitting conspicuously in the back. No one knew who I was.

Mary went to be with the Lord in August 2011. In 2012, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and died in November 2017.  In His sovereignty, God knew what was ahead.

I learned through volunteering that we could teach and bless others and learn and be blessed by those abiding in the most vulnerable of places.  

God prepares us and orchestrates for His highest good. He makes sure everyone has something to give, even if it’s to warn us how NOT to live our lives.

In our humble condition, we are the closest we will get to holiness on this side of the veil without the Holy Spirit to help us.

If you are questioning and wondering why the Lord is leading you in a direction that seems strange and impossible, trust the Lord. Even if you are being discouraged, lack encouragement, and have no confidence, trust the Lord. Read God’s Word. Ask a trusted, biblically-sound friend, and continue praying for clarity. That ‘yes’ may actually contain a ‘wait’ clause.

 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

TIME

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A friend once said that when couples marry, one family is usually more dominant than the other. I can see the truth in that statement, especially when blended families are involved. One family has close extended familial relationships, and the other doesn’t. Some have the means to travel, and others all live locally. People get along, and people don’t. It happens.

Holidays are trying for families who jump through hoops to accommodate everyone’s plans. I remember. Still, sometimes it seems like one family consistently gets the short end of the stick. It’s not fair, but how they handle their slighted feelings is the difference between being considered or left behind. We know.

Hopefully, we’ve raised our children to grow into considerate adults who love their parents and want to spend time with us. Even if the gift of time isn’t offered, a simple note or phone call on a special occasion or holiday can heal wounds, intentional or not. Some people have done everything right, had loving relationships with their children, and been surprised at how quickly and efficiently they were left coughing in the dust. Nothing makes sense to explain it. My heart goes out to them.

If you are a member of the favored family, think about how it would feel to be on the other side of the fence and how you would respond. Could you resolve to share these precious people with others who love them? Inviting the other family to your home is kind and generous. But please remember every family deserves to keep their own traditions alive and spend time alone with their loved ones in their own way.

The gift of time is precious. I know it’s hard to hear when you are already stressing, but it’s like slapping your family in the face at Christmas to eat a meal that took hours to prepare, open presents, and run in two hours. It’s even more hurtful to forget your family completely. If you can’t spend a few hours, maybe it would be better to choose another day to celebrate. It really doesn’t matter when, you know, because the Spirit of Christ is alive in the love you share together. Parents’ hearts are full when they are gifted with your presence (not presents), and when that’s not logistically possible? Please call!

For those who are feeling forgotten and alienated for any reason, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out and look for ways to serve in the lives of others. You are not alone by any stretch of the imagination. By focusing on others, the pain in your heart will be lessened, and healing can commence.

In those instances when the situation seems permanent, leave the door ajar for those who shut you out because, in their absence, their lives are a mystery to you. Someday they might need you to be the hand of Jesus if they come calling. What an honor that would be.

In the meantime, live righteously in body, mind, and spirit. Keep praying. That peace you crave will come.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are doing good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do this. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to take, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same.” Luke 7:31-34 TLV

PRAYER

Dear Lord, thank you for this day.

We are blessed because You are a forgiving and understanding God. You have already done so much for us, and yet you keep on blessing us.

Help us start the day with a new attitude and plenty of gratitude, and let us take the best of each day to quiet our minds so we can hear from You.

Let us not whine about things over which we have no control. Let us continue to see sin through God’s eyes and acknowledge it as evil. And when we sin, let us repent, and confess with our mouths our wrongdoing, and receive the forgiveness of God. Please heal us, Father.

Continue to use us and bless us that we may be a blessing to others. Keep us strong that we may help the weak. Uplift and inspire us that we may have words of encouragement for others.

We pray for those who are lost and can’t find their way. We pray for those who are misjudged and misunderstood. We pray for those who are caught up in religion and don’t know Jesus intimately. We pray for those who don’t believe, but we thank you that we do. You never give up on us.

We pray for those who don’t know their worth. We pray these fragile folks don’t listen to the stinging disregard and evil lies flung at them to bring them down. May they accept to their very core that they are precious in your sight and worthy of all the good things you have in store for them.

We pray for the church and the fellowship and every member of their households. We pray for peace, love, and joy in their homes and that you provide for their needs. You are the most excellent Provider, Lord.

We pray that those who cause strife and discord within the body remember that we are all one in Christian unity, none better than another, and called to encourage, exhort, disciple, serve, and love each other.

When this world closes in on us, remind us of Jesus’ example; to slip away and find a quiet place to pray. It’s the best response when we’re pushed to our limits. When we can’t find the words, you already know our longings. Help us to be patient as we wait for your answer. May we learn to accept all things according to God’s will.

We pray that every eye reading this knows there is no problem or circumstance greater than God, and every battle is His to fight when we hand it over. What a relief it is to realize that He has already won!

As we go about our day and into the night, bless us, Lord, with your peace and presence and the wisdom that only comes from knowing You intimately.

Thank you, Heavenly Father.

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