Immanuel, God with Us

We talked yesterday in church about being asked “Are you ready for Christmas?”  It seems to be the question of the day.  My thoughts usually go to shopping or cooking.  I’ve been buying gifts for a couple of weeks now, and they are wrapped.  Mostly.  The baking starts today, and I will cook for the next several days.  But am I ready for Christmas?

Isaiah 9:6 says “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  The truth is, we are getting ready to celebrate a birthday.  So perhaps the answer to the question “Are you ready for Christmas?” should be “Yes, I have Jesus in my heart.”  When you plan a birthday party, you invite people you know.  You don’t, as a rule, invite complete strangers.  So will I be invited to His birthday party?  Do I know Him?  The answer is YES.  I know Him.  I have a personal relationship with Him, and He is all those things to me.  Wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace.  But there is more.

Isaiah 7:14 says “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  So, while Jesus is all those other things in my life, my favorite name for Him is Immanuel.  That is what I celebrate this Christmas.  God is with me.  He’s not just a baby in my nativity scene.  He’s not just a person I sing about in church.  He is real, and He lives inside my heart.

So I rejoice at Christmas about God’s perfect gift to us, His Son, Jesus,  Immanuel, for He is with me.  May you celebrate not only His birth this Christmas but the fact that He is with you.  As you exchange gifts with friends and family, remember that perfect gift given so long ago.  May His birth and life fill you with joy this Christmas, and may His resurrection fill you with hope and promise.

Merry Christmas.


Be You Bravely

Scripture for the day:  Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I am a mentor mom for MOPS, and our theme this year is Be You Bravely.  This scripture from Isaiah is our Bible text.

Bravery is defined as courageous behavior or character.  Some synonyms are courage, valor, nerve, daring, audacity, heroism.  Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, pain, evil, whether real or imagined.  To me, it is the opposite of bravery.

I read last week that the Bible says “do not be afraid”, “fear not”, etc. 365 times.  I don’t have 365 scripture references to back that up, but I know there are many in the Bible.  I like the number 365 because that means there is one reference for every day of the year, and I need to be reminded daily.

The Bible says in Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  To me this is a good place to start.  This requires learning about God and having a reverential awe of Him.  Ultimately, we are to exchange our attitudes and will for His.

Fear can be a real hindrance to spiritual growth.  Sometimes we are fearful because of previous mistakes, and we get stuck in the past.  We become rooted in our failures and are unable or unwilling to move forward.  It takes bravery to stop looking in the rearview mirror and start moving ahead in God’s grace.

Sometimes we are literally paralyzed by fear.  I remember one such time in my life, and it is still very vivid to me.  I was in my teens and was watching TV with my grandfather.  Suddenly, I had the feeling that someone was watching us.  I got up and went to look out the front door.  As I did so, the figure of a man streaked across the porch.  At that moment, I was paralyzed by fear.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t move.  I just stood there for a few seconds before I was able to alert my family to the potential danger.

Just recently, I went out in our garage early in the morning.  I was barefoot at the time and felt something under my foot as I stepped out of the house into the garage.  I looked down and realized I was standing on a snake!  I was not paralyzed by fear!  The next thing I knew I was up in the air between the car and a table, yelling to my husband!  Two scary situations.  Two very different reactions.  I did not exhibit bravery in either situation!  But my reactions were completely normal.

I can think of a couple of times in my life when I exhibited bravery.  In 1984 I was asked to be director of Vacation Bible School at my church.  I felt totally unqualified for the job, but I said yes anyway.  The main reason I was hesitant was because I would have to speak in front of everyone on parent’s night.  Public speaking almost kept me from accepting a job that brought me so much joy and pleasure.  God called me, and He equipped me every year.  I am so grateful that I didn’t let fear override my desire to serve.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I was too sick to be fearful, and so I raised my fist in anger at the beast.  I looked cancer straight in the eye and said “bring it on”.  The fight was neither easy nor pleasant, but God was with me all the way.  Because it was His will, I survived.  I volunteer at a cancer support facility to give hope to those newly diagnosed.  I am alive.  I can smile.  I am the face of hope to those fearful beyond words.

So how can we be brave?  Scary situations, evil intentions and calamities are all around us.  For me, I embrace Isaiah 41:10-11 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish.”

Quite simply, God is with me.  He will uphold me, help me, strengthen me.  He will enable me to be brave.

Song for the day: “Fear Not for I Have Redeemed You”



Heavenly Sonlight

Scripture for the day:  Proverbs 23:7  For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…”
My pastor gave an excellent sermon Sunday about our thought life.  It was very relevant for me.  Sometimes in my mind I am critical of something someone does or says, but I just smile and say nothing.  Sometimes those little thoughts take over my mind and multiply.  It’s pretty obvious they don’t come from God but from satan.  They are poisonous to me, but too often I don’t run from them.  I tolerate them.

They start innocently enough, small, seemingly harmless but quite deadly.  From that little thought comes a decision to act on the thought or not.  I usually don’t act on them, but the poison is there.  The problem is they can grow, become a habit.  Once they are habitual, they have a home.  I become comfortable with them, hardly notice them, and they settle in.

I spent some time in prayer and decided it was time to clean!  I took out my broom and dust pan and got busy .  I not only swept the main hallways of my heart, but I checked the nooks and crannies.  There were several nasty thoughts hidden there, and I caught them off guard.  I swept them into my dust pan and tossed them into the trash.

I took a look at the windows of my heart.  They were a little cloudy from negativity, so I started cleaning and polishing the windows.  Soon, they were clean and glistening, and the heavenly sunlight was flooding in.  In 2 Corinthians 4:6 it says “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Negative thoughts are sneaky little critters, though.  They’ll climb out of the trash and try to sneak back into my mind.  They will cover my windows with a gray film and block the light.  I’m armed now, though, standing on God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  I want God’s peace in my life, and I want to think on His things.  My cleaning today was good.  I will keep my Bible handy, though, just in case any of those negative critters try to make a comeback.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”  A stronghold is simply a devilish idea and I must attack it with the sword of the Spirit and fight. It is an ongoing battle, but I will be victorious in Him.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”  I will win.  I will bring my mind, heart and soul under the control of God.  Those little dust bunnies can just stay in the trash.

Song for the day:  “Heavenly Sunlight”

God’s Will or My Will?

Scripture for the day: Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

I strive to do God’s will, but I sometimes struggle with His call on my life. Is it His will or my own? Am I listening to the voice of God or the crowd? Am I being obedient or self-serving?

I have learned through experience that I am happier when I am in God’s will than when I am not. I tried life without Him after my father died, and I was miserable. I was happy at times, but the deep abiding joy that only comes from a relationship with the Father was missing. I returned to Him on my knees and will never leave again.

Through my cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery God has given me a special purpose. I am able to understand, at least partially, what cancer patients are dealing with. Some patients have it much worse than I did, but I have a better idea than someone who has never been diagnosed with cancer. I thank Him daily for my restored health and the ministry He has given me.

Sometimes, though, His will for my life is vague. I don’t have a clear sense of direction or purpose. It is at those times that I remember this scripture and go to His Word. On a daily basis, I am to love the Lord my God. I am also supposed to love my neighbor. Not just the neighbors I like, but all of them. He also threw enemies in the mix, although I’m not aware of many of those in my life. I’m to be generous with my time and my talents, my money. I’m to let the Holy Spirit work in me, control me.

Goodness. Maybe I don’t need a specific task! I think I have enough to do just from His Word. Maybe I just need to study my Bible more and be obedient to what I find on those pages.  It seems like a good place to start.

Song for the day:  “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”

How Great Thou Art

Scripture for the day:  Matthew 11:30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This has been my summer of busyness.  I’ve had volunteer responsibilities and the joy of keeping my granddaughter two days a week, in addition to trying to feed us well and stay healthy.  This week is quiet, with only one obligation at the end of the week.  I am needing this quiet time to rest my body and my soul.

Last night was not meant for sleep for me, so I got up at 4:00 a.m. and went outside.  The super moon was so bright that I could see everything around me, and yet it was very quiet.  The chairs were illuminated on the deck, but no one was sitting in them.  The hummingbird feeders were by the deck, but there was no humming and buzzing about.  Even the crickets and cicadas seemed to be taking some time off from their normal chatter.  I simply stood and looked up at the heavens.

Psalm 46:10 says:  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  I took some time in the quiet of the morning to just look at the majesty of the heavens.  Psalm 8:1 says it well, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!”  I was transfixed by the beauty of His creation, and I praised Him that I could be a part of His majesty.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”  In the quiet of the moment, I wondered why God would care about me.  But He does.  He wants a relationship with me.  My life matters.  My soul matters.  He cares.  Deeply.

And so I humble myself before Him today.  I thank Him for his countless blessings, past, present and future.  I thank Him for sending Jesus, His only son, to die on a cross to save me.  I thank Him for His divine intervention in my life and for the forgiveness of sins.  I give Him praise, honor and glory.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Forever.

Song for the day:  “How Great Thou Art”

My Therapy

Scripture for the day:  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created . . .”

I went outside early this morning and watched the sunrise.  I listened to my world slowly awaken with the sounds of birds singing, calling to their mates.  The crows were loud, shattering the silence with their piercing caws.  The hummingbirds were quiet as they came to feed, their only noise a whirring of wings.

The grass was sparkling with dew, each blade dressed with shimmering gems reflecting the new-day’s light.  The flowers were fresh and bright, enjoying their overnight respite from the sun and wind.  I sat still and listened.  I breathed in the fresh, cool air.  For the moment, I just was.  No need to talk.  Just inhale, exhale, enjoy.

My yard became busy with breakfast.  Cowbirds came to the feeders, eating hurriedly, with great commotion.  A turkey hen came to scratch and eat under the feeder, turning occasionally to look at me .  The chickadees, titmice, sparrows all took their turn at the feeders, but then the real show began.  It was time for the buntings and finch to eat.  First came a male goldfinch, all dressed in his bright yellow plumage, ready to brighten any day.  Next came a pair of Lazuli buntings.  They are not supposed to be in my area, but they’ve been here all week.  Apparently they didn’t read the book.  Then, right on time, came a pair of Indigo buntings.  All that was missing was the painted bunting, but he was elsewhere today.  My eyes feasted on all the beauty around me.  What a glorious way to start my day!

I read the first chapter of Genesis about creation, and I was so humbled, so thankful, so blessed by all God gave to me.  I’m thankful today for every blade of grass, every flower petal, every wild creature, every weed.  As God said repeatedly in Genesis “It is good.”  Take time today to sit outside and take in the beauty of God’s world.  It is the best therapy in this world.

Song for the day:  “Majesty” by Michael W. Smith

The Pencil

A few weeks ago, I read a blog that touched my heart.  The author was anonymous, so I am unable to give credit.  I would like to share the thoughts and expand on them a bit.

A pencil maker told a new pencil there were five things he needed to know before he was sent out into the world.  If he never forgot them, he would become the best pencil he could be.

1.  You will be able to do great things but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.

2.  You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time but you will need it to become a better pencil.

3.  You will be able to correct any mistakes you make.

4.  The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.

5.  On every surface you are used on, you will leave your mark.

Now, let’s replace the pencil with you.  Remember these five things and you will become the person God designed you to be.

1.  You will be able to do great things but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye.”

God has a plan for each of us, and He will guide us in the right direction if we allow Him to hold us.  He has given each of us special gifts, and it is His desire that we use those gifts.  If He is holding us in His hand, we will develop those gifts and use them to His glory.

2.  You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time by going through various problems and difficulties, but you’ll become a stronger, better person because of it.

Proverbs 3:12 “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.”

We learn and profit from the hard times in our lives.  God uses difficulties to sharpen us, make us better, stronger.

3.  You will be able to correct any mistakes you make.

Psalm 37:23-24 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”

We all make mistakes.  We stumble at times, perhaps even fall, but through His grace we can stand up and start again.  When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in our lives, we can go to the throne of grace, confess and be forgiven.  God doesn’t remember our mistakes and neither should we.  Learn from the mistake but don’t dwell on it.  Move forward in God’s grace.

4.  The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

Proverbs 31:30 “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Focus on what is inside you because that is what matters.  Charm, beauty, outward appearances are all fleeting. What remains is the heart, and that is what God sees.

5.  On every surface you walk through, you will leave your mark.

John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 I will make my mark every where I go today.  Will my mark be one of love or disdain?  I am a disciple every day, not just when I feel like it or want to show His love.  Everywhere I go, I either show I am a follower of Christ and honor Him with my life or I don’t.  Do I take the time to share the gospel with others?  Do I witness, share my testimony, tell people what Jesus has done for me or do I stand still, quiet, uninvolved?

I will make a mark today.  It is my prayer that He will hold me in His hand, show me the path to take.  If I need to be sharpened, I pray that I will take it graciously and learn from it.  When I stumble, I pray that I will recognize my sin and give it to Jesus.  I will make my mark on everything I touch today.  I pray it is for Jesus.

Song for the day:  “Living for Jesus”

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