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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy NEW Year


Happy NEW Year!


It's a New Year All Around the World
I'm always glad when a NEW year rolls around. It means I have survived all the challenges and joys of the previous year. Out with the old and in with the NEW!

New can apply to many things. Consider these examples:

1)   Solomon said, "There's nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). If you just finished a season of Hallmark movies you might tend to agree. Writers know there are basic life themes and what keeps any story going is giving it an unexpected twist. So, don't be a cynic. Just look for some new favorites.

2)   As a care giver, I opened each new day by quoting the promise in Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV): "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." I'm happy to say my personal experience proved this to be true.

Share a Little Kindness
3)   Remember singing What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love? It sounds good,doesn't it? But how many of us put it into practice? Too many people write love off as being mushy and emotional. Not true! Read First Corinthians Chapter 13 for a practical definition. In this new year, let's show love by simply being kind to one another. It's a choice, not a feeling.

Consider these definitions of new: 1) Something that existed before but is now known or discovered for the first time, and 2) something uncontaminated, unspoiled or undecayed. In other words, it's still fresh.

I'm facing the new year with fresh hope as expressed in Psalm 33:22: May Your unfailing love rest upon (me), O Lord, even as (I) put (my) hope in You.

That hope can be yours, too. Best wishes for a happy NEW Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Community Christmas


COMMUNITY CHRISTMAS


Poinsettias are Christmas Beauties
I spent many years, along with my husband, rehearsing choir Christmas productions. They required a lot of energy and commitment from everyone involved.

My husband had many responsibilities besides music, so he just enjoyed our Christmas productions. I, on the other hand, always wanted to explore other events.

No matter where we lived, I pursued Community Christmas.

I’m still reveling in the events I’ve gotten to attend this year:  
·        *A Women’s Christmas Dinner with a pottery demonstration by the speaker
·          *Christmas Indoors and Out, hosted by a church from 4 to 9 p.m.
·          *Christmas Fantasia by a University’s Music Departments
·          *Combined Christmas by a choir, orchestra, bell choir and pipe organ
·          *An Irish Christmas Cantata
·          *A Christmas luncheon hosted by a member of my women’s Bible study group

What makes Christmas for you? 

This poem came from one of those events. May you have a blessed Christmas!

IF YOU LOOK FOR ME AT CHRISTMAS
(I was told it came from the internet, author unknown)

If you look for me at Christmas,
You won’t need a special star.
I’m no longer just in Bethlehem;
I’m right there where you are.

You may not be aware of Me
Amid the celebrations.
You’ll have to look beyond the stores
And all the decorations.

But if you take a moment
From your list of things to do,
And listen to your heart, you’ll find
I’m waiting there for you.

You’re the one I want to be with.
You’re the reason that I came,
And you’ll find Me in the stillness,
As I’m whispering your name.
Love, Jesus

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Choice in Time


A CHOICE IN TIME


December---Last Month of the Year
End-of-year holidays have arrived, ready or not. Perhaps you are thinking we just completed Thanksgiving---give me a break!

The calendar just keeps turning its pages and the holidays get closer and closer. It’s time to make some choices. Will this be a year of holiday blahs, or blessings?

I once attended a Christmas holiday workshop. The topic was How to Reduce Holiday Stress. I attended as a skeptic, but came away with some helpful ideas.

One main idea---it’s OK to share. That means, as adults, we must be willing to let others know we would like some help. That’s not always easy, for a couple of reasons: 1) You have always enjoyed doing it all, and 2) people have enjoyed letting you do it.

But it’s a change for the better---pursue it!

Every Family Has Their Own Traditions
Holidays put undue stress on family dynamics. Children may have grown up and moved away, or perhaps there’s a new child to celebrate. Newly married couples try to decide which in-laws get them for which holidays. A loved one may be seriously ill or in the hospital.

Life’s losses also create new challenges. A loved one may have died, or someone decided to divorce or separate. No matter how it comes, changes in life are inevitable. Anyone choosing not to be flexible only makes life harder for themselves.

Do you make Christmas, or does it make you? How many cultural traditions, family expectations or community events can you handle? How many gifts do you need to keep giving? How many favorites do you need to keep baking? How many ways can you simplify Christmas cheer?

From You to You
Christmas is a time of giving. God started it by giving His Son, a baby full of promise and hope for the world (John 3:16). The wise men also exemplified giving by honoring Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

This choice in time is positive and personal. Just remember---while giving to others, gift some time to yourself.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Has There Always Been a Christmas?


HAS THERE ALWAYS BEEN A CHRISTMAS?


Sights and Sounds of Christmas
For several years I collected books about Christmas. I enjoyed learning about cultural traditions around the world and reading a variety of Christmas stories and folklore.

My favorite book is Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. On the cover the author is listed as Ace Collins, but I’ll give you the inside scoop. The publisher is Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the copyright date is 2003 by Andrew Collins.

The Introduction shares a short history of how Christmas came to be on December 25th. That is followed by information on twenty-six Christmas traditions from Advent to Yule Logs.

I found many surprises. For example, in 320 A.D Pope Julius 1 declared December 25th to be celebrated as Christ Mass. Prior to that, churches celebrated Christ’s birth on any day they chose.

December 25th gained acceptance when Constantine The Great, a Roman Emperor, declared it the official day to celebrate the birth of Christ. He also declared Sunday as a holy day on the first day of a newly-created seven-day week.

Candles Add Christmas Cheer
Prior to this, almost every culture had festivals to celebrate the rebirth of the sun during the shortest days of the year. December was the month for these Mardi-Gras-like celebrations.

Have you ever wondered why We Wish You A Merry Christmas contains the line “oh, bring us some figgy pudding” and “we won’t go until we get some?” Commoners in England would go to palatial homes, stand outside and sing. The owners knew if they did not respond, the singers would riot and break in, taking what they wanted.

Even in America “The Lords of Disorder” took over the streets of New York in the early 1800’s. Germany was the first country to honor December 25th as the second most holy day in the year, after Easter.

When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Germany, he brought the reverent and German-oriented family traditions with him. English citizens started to copy the royal family, but Christmas as a holy day was still not established worldwide for many more years.

St. Nick Has Helpers
Two authors had a great influence on December 25th traditions. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, minister and educator, wrote a poem for his children called “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now known as The Night Before Christmas. Printed the next year in The New York Sentinel, it reshaped the holiday as one for children to enjoy.

In 1843, the already famous author, Charles Dickens, penned A Christmas Carol. Written during the Industrial Age, when men worked twelve hours six days a week and children were put to work for long hours at age eight or nine, it made people take another look at their values. It still does.

Celebrate The Holiday & Holy Day
In the next twenty to thirty years in America, states gradually declared December 25th a holiday. Moore’s poem started a commercial tradition, but churches also began to celebrate it as a holy day in honor of Christ’s birth.

Christmas has now become a season. It’s easy to become jaded by all the sights and sounds so many weeks before December 25th. This year don’t just grit your teeth and wish it were over. I challenge you to be purposeful in your celebration of both the holiday and the holy day.  

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Avoid the Fence of Offense


AVOID the FENCE of OFFENSE


Along with Settlements Came Fences
Have you heard the old western song Don’t Fence Me In? Being fenced in by others is one thing, but fencing ourselves in is a different story.

Offenses are solid fence-building materials. They are easily produced through words or actions.

What is an offense? It can be something that makes us feel hurt or angry, insulted or resentful. It causes us to want to retaliate, or even cut that person off from our relationship.

Since none of us are perfect, we will either give offense or take offense. Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1, NKJV).

Barred Windows Separate People
Solomon pictured it this way: “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Proverbs 18:19, NKJV). Think of such bars as quarrelsome or unfriendly attitudes and you see how easily they separate people.

We have been forewarned that offenses will come, so how should we react when they do?

I’m not always aware of offending people. I do, however, seem aware of when people offend me. That’s when I ask myself, “Will I take offense at this?”

When, upon careful consideration, I choose to forgive or let it go, peace comes quickly.

I've Forgiven Forty-Six Times Already
I think Peter asked the next best question: “How often should I forgive one who sins against me? Seven times?”

Jesus didn’t let him off the hook that easily. He replied, “Not seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22, NKJV).

Seventy times seven equals four hundred ninety. In our computer age we might actually be able to keep track of such forgiveness, however, I do not see that self-centered action as a source of peace.

Fences have their place, but not in relationships. That’s why I remind myself not to build a fence of offense.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Count to Ten


COUNT TO TEN


We Are Born With Ten Fingers
Surprise! This is not about counting to ten to calm your temper. It has a much happier meaning.

I have a new reason for you to count your ten fingers. Of course, you can count your toes if you wish, but fingers are easier.

When I was fighting cancer in 2007, I discovered something that medical articles are acknowledging today: Being thankful is a positive part of being healthy.

When it comes to being thankful, no one can do it for you; it’s personal. But your example of being thankful can encourage others to do the same.

Thanksgiving Day comes once a year and is celebrated in many ways. For some it’s a big family holiday. Others look forward to a church or community dinner. Football games reign on TV. But many forget to give thanks of any kind.

Just Be Thankful--No List Needed
It’s really not hard to be thankful. You don’t have to think about it for hours. You don’t even have to make a list. Just sit calmly and count silently to ten, using your fingers to keep track.

Is there anything that makes you smile? Anything that brings you joy? A very special memory? Anyone you are thankful to have in your life? Any personal gift or talent you like to share with others?

When I was growing up, many churches had a service on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, I helped organize a few of them. But now days most people are left to give thanks on their own.

Sunrise and Sunset Show God's Faithfulness 
Old One Hundred, (Psalm 100) reminds us that it is important to give thanks to God. Even just one verse can turn our thoughts in the right direction: The LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100:5, NKJV).

That’s three things out of ten. Keep on counting!


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Something We Can Trust


SOMETHING WE CAN TRUST


Let's Go Camping
Today’s inspirational thought is best shared with a little camping story. Let’s pretend it’s about you and a friend.

You’ve agreed to go camping, though you don’t know much about it. You only agree to go because you know you can count on your friend’s expertise.

The tent trailer is finally loaded, so you head to the campground. You’ve got your reservation but you mark your spot.

Campfires Are Fun
Out comes a plastic cloth for the rough picnic table. The ice chest comes next. Wood for the fire ring comes last.

You decide to read. Your friend says he’ll try out the kayak. When the sun lowers, you fix dinner together.

Almost too soon, it’s bedtime. You each take one end of the rig. Snuggled in a sleeping bag, you leave a tent flap open. Feeling cozy, you fall asleep to the whisper of wind in the trees.

Bright sun shouts, “Wake up!” After pancakes and coffee your friend says, “I’ve decided to go on a major hike alone. But here’s a map to a hike I think you would enjoy.”

 As he hands you the map, he points to the nearest edge of the woods. “Start over there, follow this map, and I promise you’ll find a most heavenly view!”

Since he’s an experienced hiker, and you’ve never known him to lie, you head off with faith in his words and the map.

Maps Can Be Very Helpful
The day gets hotter, your water gets low and food is gone. You wonder how much further is this heavenly view? You check the map again and remind yourself to stay focused.

You think, he didn’t give me a time frame. He just promised I’d get there.

You take a deep breath and plod ahead. Suddenly you stop in wonder---the breath-taking view! Your friend was right. The hike was worth it!

Each of us have challenging life trails that sometimes seem endless. But there’s a map filled with words we can trust. It was put together by the Friend who knows us best.

Psalm 119 says this map is God’s Word. The psalmist even considered it a treasure map! (See Psalm 119:162, NKJV)

But it has a couple of other important qualifications: (1) We can count on it because God’s word is forever settled in heaven, and (2) His faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:89).

There you have it. Something we can trust!


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Puddle-Jumping Praise


PUDDLE-JUMPING PRAISE


Oh, Boy! A Mud Puddle!
As a child I enjoyed rainy days. After a storm I would put on my rubber boots and go puddle jumping. Of course, part of the fun was not always missing the mud.

I used to laugh when I saw the TV ad about the little boy stomping through mud puddles. Then he’d track up the house and his grandpa would clean up the mess. Mom did that for me.

Rain can be both a blessing and a curse. To farmers about to harvest crops, it’s a curse. To forest fires it can be a blessing. But there’s something to be said for that child-like joy and freedom found in puddle jumping.

As we become adults, we generally become more subdued. But isn’t it refreshing to meet people who freely express their joy and delight in life?

What surprises me is when this joy is expressed by people dealing with major mud puddles caused by life’s storms.

A great example is David, the shepherd boy who became king.

Rain and Mud Bring Challenges
Early in life he dealt with the puddle of being discounted by his family. God sent a prophet to David’s home to anoint a future king (1 Samuel 16).

All David’s brothers were brought before Samuel, but he did not get a yes from God on any of them. He asked, “Are there any more sons?”

David’s father replied, “Yes, the youngest is tending sheep.” Samuel said, “We’ll wait. Bring him in.” When David, arrived, Samuel got a yes from God and anointed him with oil.

David had more rainy days and lots of mud before much puddle-jumping praise. He spent years running for his life from King Saul (1 Samuel 22-24). He also created a muddy problem by committing adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).

Mud Is Not A Barrier to Joy
Anyone who has read the Book of Psalms knows David shares both his muddy experiences and his puddle-jumping praise.

Here’s an example: “Praise be to the LORD, for He has heard my cry for mercy . . . my heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song (Psalm 28:6-7).

No one gets through life mud-free, but puddle-jumping praise can be a life-changer.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Be Glad We're Not Copies


BE GLAD WE’RE NOT COPIES


There Is No Variety Here
I know we’re physically the same. Regardless of color or culture, we all have five basic senses. We hear, see, taste, touch and smell.

In Infant and Preschool classes, I learned that our body is called a trunk. From it grow appendages like arms, legs and head. I’m glad we’re alike in those ways.

What intrigues me most is the differences in our personality traits. Some people call that temperaments. There was a time when I researched it. My favorite author, then and now, is Florence Littauer.

There Is A Lot Of Variety In These Tags
She wrote a book called *PERSONALITY PLUS, How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself. 

Humans have enough common characteristics to create four different temperament charts. Then Florence continues to explain how each temperament varies due to endless combinations of strengths and weaknesses. 

I’ve been reading the Book of John. Chapter twenty really intrigued me with its description of three people who came to check on Jesus’ tomb.

Sunrise Can Be Enjoyed By Early Risers
Early in the morning, Mary of Magdala arrived firstWhen she saw the open tomb, she was shocked. Her immediate reaction was to run and tell Peter and John.

When they heard her report, both men took off running. John outran Peter, but when he got to the tomb he only bent over and looked in.

Peter came running up and barged on in to see for himself what was there. John followed him in.

Matthew Henry, Bible commentator, noted that John could out-run Peter, but Peter out-dared John. Not only that, perhaps John motivated Peter to run faster, while Peter’s boldness gave John more courage.

I’m glad we’re not simply copies of one another. Our differences make life interesting. They even encourage us to grow and spread our wings.
Calmness Has A Beauty All Its Own

Yes, I know differences also cause anger and disagreements. But there’s a characteristic available to ALL temperaments: Self-Control.

If you have worked on developing that trait, I’m sure you've seen how it leads to tranquility.


*PERSONALITY PLUS, How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself, Florence Littauer, Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992.

Other personalities material by Florence Littauer is available from CLASServices.com or www.thepersonalities.com 






Sunday, October 27, 2019

How Sorry ARE You?


HOW SORRY ARE YOU?


It’s never easy to say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” If it does come easy, it may not be fully sincere.

We have to humble ourselves to say, “I’m sorry.” Who but us knows our inward battle to get to that point?

A Good Movie Can Be Fun
I enjoy a Hallmark movie called THE MAKEOVER. Hannah is an educator and speaks with precise English. Being self-righteous, she doesn’t realize she's a snob.

She and her associate work with school systems; tutoring is not their business. But a less-educated man asks if Hannah will teach him to speak better. He would like to move up in his company.

Listening to him talk, Hannah is appalled. Only after prodding from her co-worker does she agree to take him on.

Hannah’s wit is biting and she's clueless about her effect on people. Her associate finally tells her she's been extremely hard on her protégé and she owes him an apology.

It’s funny to watch Hannah try to apologize without actually saying, “I’m sorry.”

Another Apology for the Same Thing?
Have you ever had someone apologize to you more than once for the same thing? I have, and by the third time I just let their words roll off. I think if they really meant itthey wouldn’t keep doing it.

Some people treat God the same way. They say, “I’m sorry, God,” when they regret something they’ve said or done. It takes more than regret, however, to bring about change.

That something deeper is repentance. That’s when a simple “I’m sorry” does not lessen your regret. Deep down you realize you must actually change your ways.

The Apostle Paul had a two-part message about this: (1)) Repent and turn to God, then (2) prove your repentance by your deeds (Acts 26:20).

Peter shared similar words: (a) Repent, (b) turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, and (c) times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19).

How sorry ARE you? 
Whether talking to God or to people, 
true sincerity comes from the heart, 
not just the lips.