Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…    – 1 Peter 1:3-4

You’ve heard it said that to everything there is a season. That saying comes from Ecclesiastes Ch 3.  Seasons were promised by God in Genesis 1:14.

We have Calendar Seasons:

  • Spring – new life
  • Summer – warmth, long days
  • Fall – changing colors, waning days, cooler temps
  • Winter – cold, bleak, longer nights, end of year

We have Seasons of Life:

  • Spring – birth and young life (babies, children, teens, youth)
  • Summer – prime of life
  • Fall – physical changes, slowing of life,
  • Winter – final stages of life, death

In the Seasons of Life, winter is associated with death, but is winter really about death?  Winter is actually a season of preparation for the spring to come!  During winter the landscape might look stark and bare, but underneath the ground, trees and shrubs are growing stronger by extending and deepening their roots.  Seeds and bulbs are establishing themselves by sprouting new roots down in the soil.  When spring arrives, sprouts will push up through the ground, and soon the new plants will bud and bloom.  Winter is also the season with longer nights that gives people and animals time for rest.  In God’s created world, winter is not a time of death, but a time when God is at work in ways we can’t see to make His creations stronger and prepare for new life.

The picture on my calendar is the perfect metaphor for winter.   It is a cheerful image of colorful wildflowers with butterflies flitting around against a beautiful blue sky.  There’s a quote that says: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”   (2017 Lang Calendar, artwork by Debi Hrom)

Yeah, just when winter looks like things are dead and dying, spring comes again and the world bursts forth with new life!

That’s how it is in this season of the church.  Christians are in the Easter season, the time when we celebrate Jesus as our resurrected Lord, Whose death was the payment for our sins, that we could not only be forgiven of our sins, but also given new life here on earth and life everlasting for those who confess Jesus to be their Savior and Lord.  Jesus offers us a new season, the Season of Hope, taking us from a season of darkness to that of new life!

Those who followed Jesus back in the day were given hope – hope for healing, ending oppression, being cured, and most importantly, being saved.  Crowds came by the thousands to hear Jesus teach the scriptures, and to seek His miracles.  Then came a dark day, when Jesus was crucified as a criminal – an innocent Lamb led to slaughter. He was hung on the cross and died.  Scriptures tell us the mid-day sky became dark, and the earth shook.  How terrifying that must have been, and how tragic for all whose hopes died with Jesus  on that cross.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

That wasn’t the end of the story, though!  No, the best part of the story was just beginning!  Jesus arose from His grave, fulfilling scriptures and the promises He made to the disciples, and ushered in a new Season of Hope for all who follow Him!

The caterpillar and butterfly are often used to symbolize the life of Jesus.  The caterpillar represents Jesus’ life and ministry, the cocoon represents the three days He was in the tomb, and the butterfly symbolizes Jesus as the resurrected Christ.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Just when the “Christ Ones” thought all hope was lost, Hope was born anew through Jesus!

In the verse above, Peter is speaking to the early Christians, reminding them that Jesus’ resurrection is a gift from God the Father to give us the opportunity to be born again!  To be forgiven,  freed.  Peter is telling them, and us, that we can be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of  Jesus. (1 Peter 1:3).  Jesus gives us the Season of Hope.

Peter goes on to tell the early Christians that they will be tested in their faith, that times of trials will come, but that the genuineness of their faith is more valuable than gold – that even though gold is tested by fire, can perish – but our faith will not let us perish, but bring us to rejoice with inexpressible joy, through the revelation of Jesus the Christ, which will give us salvation for our souls.  (1 Peter 1:5-9 paraphrased)

As word spread about the Risen Jesus, Christ followers rejoiced, became stronger in faith, and grew in number.  Then a great persecution began.  It felt like their world was over, so Peter reminded them that just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.  Christians always have the promise of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus the Christ.  It is Jesus that gives us a Season of Hope.

Sometimes the Seasons of our lives are marked by the stages of our lives.  When things are going well and we feel good, we are in the Spring and Summer seasons; but when trials and challenges come, when we are suffering, feel hopeless or oppressed, we are in the Fall and Winter of our lives.  From what we see around us, the winter season can seem cold, dark and bleak, but remember that God is at work in the winter season in ways we cannot see to strengthen us, help our roots of faith grow deeper and prepare us for the Spring to come, beckoning us to the Season of Hope.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

The Season of Hope isn’t a limited to just a few weeks every year.  It is available all year long, 24/7/365.

My prayer for you is adapted from 1 Peter 1:1-2

To followers of Jesus the Christ, wherever you may be, and in whatever situations you might face, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:  May grace and peace be multiplied to you.    Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After visiting a friend, I was trying to find my way out of a large hospital, from the top floor to the main entrance.  The first elevator only took me part way.  A hospital employee directed me to another set of elevators.  As I walked, I overheard a man, clearly agitated, also ask for directions.  I told him to come with me, we’d find our way together.
He was an older man with a long, unkept beard.  He wore old clothes – a baggy fleece jacket, flannel shirt, t-shirt, jeans and old shoes.  He was carrying a white plastic bag with items inside.  Yes, he was definitely agitated, his eyes darting around and his brows drawn tightly down.
I said something to make small talk while we waited for the next elevator.  His darting eyes then focused on me, and looking me straight in the eyes, he told me he just lost his son.  “Oh, sir, I’m so sorry,” I said as I put my hand on his arm.  He went on to say that “it happened on Thursday and they pulled the plug today.”
By this time a few other people were waiting with us.  I shared that the man had just lost his son.  Another man offered condolences and asked how the son died.  Attempted suicide.
Then the father’s agitation turned to anger and he told us that no one had come to see his son.  Only his sister and her family had come to Charlotte to be with them.  Then he pointed upward and said at least now I know my son is ok and he’ll be up there.
“I’m glad you had time with him,” I said. Yes, he replied, still angry, but the others didn’t come, and in his anger he vowed to “take care of them” next time he sees them.
“Oh, sir,” I said, “I hope you’ll give these things to God.  Please give your anger and grief to Him.”  At that time the elevator arrived and our small group entered.  The others kept their distance, but my heart went out to this hurting man.
I asked if the bag held his son’s belongings.  “No. These things are for me.  I live on the streets.  My sister brought me a fresh change of clothes.”
(Grieving and homeless?  Could his situation be any worse?)
Just then the elevator door opened.  We were finally on the ground floor.  I silently prayed asking God what I could do, should do for this man – buy him food, offer money?  The man hurried off the elevator and got ahead of me.  His sister was waiting for him, so I went on, saying silent prayers for him as I exited the hospital.
Tonight there is a homeless man on the streets, carrying a bag of clothes and a heart full of grief after losing his 31-year old son, whose death he witnessed when life support ended.  I pray he’s in a shelter with people to help him through this difficult time.

My problems seem so small.

All I could do was pray, but I trust God will make good on my prayers.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  – Matthew 5:4

There’s a big celebration with parties and parades going on in New Orleans today.  It’s called Mardi Gras, and it happens every year for Fat Tuesday.  Most people know what Mardi Gras is, but what about Fat Tuesday?

Fat Tuesday is actually a Christian-inspired day.  It occurs every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the Season of Lent; and Lent is the season that leads up to Easter.

For many Christians, Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, moderation, or modification of behavior with goals to grow spiritually, draw closer to God, and try to better ourselves as Christian as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.  Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  His death on the cross served as a sacrifice for our sins.  It was a mournful time for His followers.  However, three days later it was discovered that His tomb was empty!  As He had foretold, Jesus had risen from the dead!  He remained on earth for 40 days before ascending into heaven, where He awaits to welcome all who claim His as their Savior and Lord, into eternity.

When Christ died on the cross, He did so to offer himself as the payment for our sins.  Through Him, all can be forgiven, slates wiped clean, and new lives begun, for all who confess their sins and strive to change their ways.  However, despite being ransomed from shame and guilt, we are still imperfect humans.  We still face challenges and temptations, make mistakes, and fall short of being perfect in any way.

The Season of Lent is a time to reflect on all of these things:

  • To acknowledge the sin debt Jesus paid on our behalf so that we could be freed from our sins
  • Celebrate that Jesus is the Risen Lord who overcame death to offer of us eternity in Heaven with Him – that we will not die spiritually, but find life everlasting
  •  In choosing life with Jesus, we overcome death to sin (hell)
  • Recognize our need for a Savior, that we even the most faithful among us are prone to sin.  That every day, as the Bible says, “We fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Lent is observed as a time to dedicate ourselves to Jesus, making an offering of ourselves for Him.  For me, this offering is a way to acknowledge the offering Jesus made for us when He died on the cross.  The Season of Lent also reminds me of my need to be focused and intentional every day in how I live out my faith, and in my personal relationship with God.

Christians observe Lent in various ways.  Some choose to fast by denying themselves particular foods and/or drinks (i.e. sweets, chocolate, snacks, meat, coffee, alcohol, etc.).  Others might try to undo habits like smoking, bad speech (cursing, gossip, negative comments), watching too much tv, etc..  Some people minimize or give up screen time and use that time to read the Bible or pray. ( If reading the Bible or devotions online, it would probably be ok to use screen time for that. 🙂  )   Other people set aside dedicated time for prayer and devotions, find ways to serve in their communities, or take their lunch to work and give the money they would spend eating out to their church or charity.  There are many ways to observe Lent – no specific rules, just the suggestion that the time spent or sacrifices made be done for the purpose of honoring Jesus, growing spiritually, and drawing closer to Him, recognizing our need for Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Lent is not Biblical.  It is not commanded or even mentioned in the Bible.  It is a Christian tradition that has evolved over time, and that brings us back to Ash Wednesday and Fat Tuesday!

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, literally.  Many Christians attend an Ash Wednesday service during which the sign of a cross is marked on their foreheads with ashes.  In both Old and New Testament, ashes are a sign or mourning and repentance.  People humbled themselves before the LORD by covering themselves in ashes. Why ashes? Because man was created from ashes, and to ashes he will return.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.  – Genesis 2:7

God says to Adam and Eve: “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We are humbled by our humanity (being prone to sin), and also by our mortality.  Ash Wednesday reminds us these things.

Since Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, which will be a time of sacrifice and denial for those who observe the tradition, Fat Tuesday evolved as a way to have one last day of indulgence and revelry before Lent begins.

There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, so the 40 days of Lent can be observed by fasting or sacrificing Mon-Sat and taking rest from the fast on the six Sundays, or  offerings fast or sacrifices for 40 days straight.

Since Lent is intended to be a time of spiritual growth, I hope you will pray about it and see if you feel God leading you to observe Lent in some way, or perhaps in a new way if you have observed Lent before.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. – Colossians 3:23

For more about the observance of Lent, you can go to http://www.BibleGateway.com and   GotQuestions.org.

God bless you.  May you be blessed and be a blessing.

Renee

 

 

 

REPLACING “WHAT IF’S” WITH “WHAT IS”

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

I often find myself worrying about “what if” questions.

What if this happens, or that? What if this situation doesn’t get better, or that situation gets worse?  What if things don’t work out as planned?

Recently I asked many of these questions as my 16-year old son battled illness for several months. Due to complications from an auto-immune condition (CRMO), a sinus infection led to months of extended illness for him.  Despite being an otherwise healthy, strong and athletic young man, his auto-immune disease and compromised immune system were working against him, causing his body to “catch everything going around” his doctor said.  He was sick with one viral illness after another, running fevers and becoming weak. Eventually the auto-immune condition itself flared up.  When the first viral illnesses set in, we were worried, but thought surely he’d get well soon.  However, as illnesses continued for weeks and then months, and his condition worsened, I worried about many “what if’s”:

What if he doesn’t get well soon? What if he’s sick for the rest of the semester, or entire school year? Will he be able to play baseball in the spring?  What if his grades suffer?  He’ll be applying for college next year and this will affect his GPA.  Oh, no, college! What if he’s sick in college?  How will he manage then? If he continues to be sick, will he be able to go to college? What if this affects him as an adult?  The jobs he wants are physical – construction, engineering or agriculture.  What if illness prevents him from being able to do his job?

This was all too much.  My “what if’s” were getting way ahead of things – worrying about my son’s ability to work as an adult when he’s just a sophomore in high school! I needed to pray. As I prayed, the Spirit of the Lord began to reassure me, not by answering all my “what if’s,” but by reminding me of “what is” –  bringing the following scriptures to mind:

Jeremiah 29:11    God created Jackson with His own plans and purposes for him, plans not to harm him, but to prosper him.   God knows who He created Jackson to be, and He has good plans for Jackson’s life!

Psalm 139   Before Jackson was a physical being, He was conceived in thought by God, and then intricately formed in accordance with those plans by the God of the universe.  God knows what is going on with Jackson, for God knows his strengths and weaknesses.  God intricately formed Jackson with the skills, abilities, talents and gifts to become the person and do the work God has planned for him – whatever that work might be.

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8    God is with us in this situation.   The Bible clearly says the Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  He doesn’t pull away from us.  We pull away from Him.  Even when we are too bogged down or overcome by a situation to sense the Lord’s presence, it is there.  Sometimes God reveals Himself directly.  Other times He reveals Himself through the words and actions of others, leading them to act on His behalf to give us comfort and encouragement.

 Romans 8:28   God works all things for good.   Challenges and set-backs can be the result of consequences for our actions or part of God’s plan for us.  Regardless the reason, when we give our situation to the Lord, and trust in Him, we can be reassured that God will work through our situation for good.  We may see results immediately, or maybe not for years to come.  The good might be for us to witness, and often I think God works in ways that we will never know.  Knowing God can harvest good from even the worst of times helps us tolerate the tough times better, and more importantly, enables us to continue finding joy and strength in the Lord.

Matthew 6:25-34 Do not borrow worries from the future.   God’s got this today!  

Being reminded of these Biblical truths changed the anxiousness of my “what if’s” to assuredness of “what is.”

What is: God knows the plans and purposes He has for my child. Illness may seem to be a set-back, but it’s part of who Jackson is, and God knows all about it.  Dealing with illness has shown me much about Jackson’s character – his ability to persevere, be strong, and overcome discouragement and disappointment.  God knows what He wants of Jackson’s future, and surely he has a good future planned because He has gifted Jackson with many interests, skills, abilities and talents.  It will all come together as it’s supposed to if we trust God, allow His will to be done, and follow the paths He puts before us.

Matthew 6:25-34  says:

25 (A)“Therefore I tell you, (B)do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 (C)Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (D)Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his (E)span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, (F)even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, (G)O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For (H)the Gentiles seek after all these things, and (I)your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But (J)seek first (K)the kingdom of God and his righteousness, (L)and all these things will be added to you.

34 (M)“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  

 Regardless of what causes our worries or anxieties, we can be assured that if God provides for a single blade of grass, tends to the sparrows, and gives beauty to fleeting lilies of the field, then surely He will provide and take care of us, too! When God says not to be anxious about tomorrow, we can trust that He knows what we are going through today, and He’s saying, I’ve got this. Don’t be anxious about all the “what if’s.”  Be assured with “what is.” 

Yes, as Psalm 34:4 says above, I sought the Lord and he delivered me from my fears by replacing my “what if’s” with “what is.”  Praise be to God. 🙂

Are worrisome “what if’s” on your mind?

How can God’s promises and truths from the Bible help when we feel worried or anxious?

Do you have particular verses that help you when you feel anxious or worried?

Need to know “what is” for you?    Go to www.BibleGateway.com and enter keywords that address what you’re feeling or what you need. i.e. hope, fear, plans, purpose, courage, strength, joy     Then read through the verses that come up and take note of the verses that seem to speak to you. Those are the “what is” assurances that God is sharing with you.

May the assurances of God’s truths strengthen your faith, fill you with hope, and bring you peace.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen. 

Renee Myers 1-31-17 (revised 2-2-17)

Not for Christians only.

If we put aside race, religion, politics, and issues that divide, I think many would agree that what we seek most from the world around us is love, respect, grace and peace.   If we get back to basing our hearts, thoughts and actions on those things, we can move forward in a way that will promote what I’m thinking of as Civil Unity.

Civil means applying to individual citizens and citizens as a whole.  It also speaks to public order, being peaceable in behavior, mannerly and polite.

Unity is about oneness, harmony.

Civil Unity speaks to all people about striving for public order, being peaceable and mannerly with others for oneness among us.

Civil Unity doesn’t mean we have to agree on all the issues. Differences of opinion can be good, and ultimately bring us to the best outcomes; but for that to happen, we have to approach things with an attitude of love and respect, showing grace and seeking peace.

Doing so requires something our society and many leaders lack – humility.  Humility is something I have to work on every day, for my human tendency is to be about self.  Humility teaches us to put others first, serve others, put others’ needs ahead of our own, and being more about the greater good of our community and the world around us than what we personally want from the world.

When we stop trying to make ours the loudest voices heard, we can listen to what others have to say, too, and listen with respect.

When we can offer grace to others by letting go of anger, frustration and personal grudges(those things hurt us more than the other person), we will reduce the tensions around us and create an environment that allows everyone to find their place and have a voice.  Thus, bringing about peace.

This will never be a perfect world, but if we humble ourselves and strive for civil unity among us, we can make it a better world.

Yes, I write from a Christian heart, and these are common themes in Christianity for they are what Jesus taught, how He lived and why Christians believe He died for us.  However, even those who do not claim Jesus as Savior and Lord, can benefit from His teachings.  We all benefit from those who live with love and respect for others.

Borrowing from the words of Paul:  Grace and peace, for all.

NOTE: If you would like to learn what Jesus taught, I encourage you to read about Him in the Bible, perhaps starting with the Book of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (the first four books of the New Testament).  Some Bibles have red print indicating the words Jesus spoke.  You can read the Bible online at Bible Gateway.  They also have a great app!

My message at Waltonwood today will be about Christian Unity (for Ecumenical Sunday).

This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan 18-Jan 25).  It is perfect timing in response to all the division happening in our country and around the world – especially in light of recent events surrounding the Presidential Inauguration here in the United States.

Are we still the “United” States?  Even our elected officials can’t come together for the goal of common good.  More than 60 stated their intent to boycott the Inauguration to express their disapproval of Donald Trump as President.

As Christians, we are called together in unity.  Paul warned against division amongst us in 1 Corinthians 1:10-18.

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Jesus prayed for our unity in John chapter 17 (The High Priestly Prayer). Twice Jesus prayed that we (His believers, followers) would be one, just as He and the Father are one.  Unity.

 

In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I speak not just to Americans, but to our brothers and sisters around the world. With readers in the Philippines, Europe, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, India, Asia, Canada, and all other countries, let us join hands with Christians around the world.

Quote by JK Rowling: “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of  Fire – #4)

(We are only as strong as our weakest links.  We should be lifting others up, helping them along.  When others succeed, we all succeed.)

Quote by Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers – All for one and one for all, united we stand, divided we fall.

Quote from John Lennon’s lyrics from the song “Imagine”:

Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and  no religion, too.  Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

(He isn’t saying there shouldn’t be any religion at all.  He’s saying religion shouldn’t interfere with faith, looking to the day when we are united in faith.)

Quote of A W Tozer, The Pursuit of God:

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

How can we show and share the love of Christ when there are divisions among us?

Unity begins with us.

May we, as Christians, put aside religious denominations, political affiliations, and nationalities to unite in our Christian beliefs and the teachings of Jesus, to model the practice of coming together in unity to promote love, respect, justice, mercy and compassion.  We pray these things for the glory and honor of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Waking up early, while the morning was still dark, I was tempted to sleep a little longer, but then my mind jumped to the day ahead of me.  Thoughts started coming quickly – I can’t go back to sleep because I have to wake Jackson early for his semester exam, but he was sick last night, so if still sick, I’ll have to contact school.  Zach’s coming home today! Clean his room and get it ready for his arrival.  Doctor appointment for Jackson at 11:50.  Finish Christmas decorations. Clean house.  Puppy proof house for Marley (Zach’s dog).  Prepare food – lunch, bake cookies, cut up fresh fruit…what to have for dinner?  Zach will be home for dinner!  Will it be a problem if Jackson is too sick to take exam today?  I hope the doctor can help him…

Then my alarm went off.  Ugh. It was tempting to snuggle down in the covers and give myself snooze time.  Instead, I hit the snooze button and used the time to pray.

Good morning, dear Heavenly Father.  Please be with me in the day ahead.  Help me accomplish the things that need to be done.  What do You want me to do today? Your plans are more important than mine. Please be with Zach as he drives home from college.  Please be with Jackson to help him get well.  I pray he’ll be well enough to take his exam this morning. I pray also for Rex, that he can get to the doctor about his cough.  Please comfort Sheryl and her family after recent losses of three loved ones, and help them through Christmas.  Please also be with Colby’s family (Jackson’s 15-year old friend who recently “finished his race” after battling brain tumors).  Lord, what an inspiration they’ve been, choosing to live life through faith in You, not bow down to the darkness of death. I pray they will find joy in Christmas while still grieving their loss.  How painful it must be to be missing a child at Christmas.  Yes, Lord, please be with them.  Lord, I pray for all who are sick, hurting, healing, struggling, that Your presence will bless them and make a difference in their lives, that they will be drawn closer to You.  I pray for my parents and our families, …  Then the “ripples” sound of my snooze alarm called me out of prayer and into the present moment.  My mind had transitioned from planning to praying.   I was ready to get out of bed and begin my day.

It turned out that Jackson was still very sick (he has the flu and Rex has bronchitis), so while he slept, I sat down with a cup of hot tea.   Beautiful colors were spreading across the sky in the twilight of dawn. I checked my phone for my daily “Verse of the Day” from Bible Gateway.  It was perfect:

(Mary’s Song of Praise) And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  (Luke 1:46-47,49)

Reading the words of praise from Mary, I was inspired by her faith.  After after finding herself with child out of wedlock (as a virgin, no less!) putting her engagement and future at great risk, she was still so full of faith that she wanted to magnify the Lord and praise His holy name!  Wow. The Lord reminded me that He has done great things for me, too, and I’ve witnessed His greatness in other people’s lives, also.  Being reminded of God’s goodness, especially at Christmas when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,  gave me confidence for the prayers I just prayed, and hope for whatever is to come.

Brilliant colors of orange, pink and purple lit up sky ahead of the rising sun.  It was a beautiful morning, and surely would be a blessed day.  Magnify the Lord, and praise His holy name, indeed!

CHRISTmas blessings,

Renee

To read more of the story of Mary, or read about the first Christmas when Jesus was born, go to http://www.BibleGateway. com     Search for Mary, or read about the birth and life of Jesus in the Gospels – Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

 

Yep, it’s Christmas, so it’s that time of year again!  Time to be Candy Cane Crusaders for Christ!

Bothered by the fact that businesses were forbidding employees to say, “Merry Christmas,” I decided to make sure that I said, “Merry Christmas” to them. However, just saying “Merry Christmas” wasn’t enough.  Remembering the Candy Cane Poem that tells how the candy cane was created to be symbolic of Jesus, I decided to start handing out mini candy canes wherever I went.

Several years and thousands of candy canes later, I’m still handing out candy canes and saying, “Merry Christmas!”  Others are doing the same!

Every year I stock up on boxes of mini candy canes, say a prayer that they will bless those who receive them, and then arm myself by filling a quart-size baggie that I keep handy in my purse. I hand candy canes out to those I see throughout my day while saying, “Merry Christmas!”

The first candy canes I gave out this year were to two entertaining little boys while we waited in line. (I discreetly asked the mom if it was ok to give them candy canes before doing so.)  Yesterday I gave a candy cane to an older lady who was beside me at a cash register.  We were buying Christmas decorations.  She’d been very cheerful and seemed to be enjoying the holidays, so as she turned to go, I said, “Excuse me, ma’am.  Would you like a candy cane?”  I expected a big, cheerful smile, but instead she looked like she might cry.  Then she said, “Yes, please.  I really needed that.  Can I give you a hug?”   She gave me a big hug right there at the registers while she thanked me and I said, “Merry Christmas.”  Then she smiled again and left with her purchases in tow.  When I turned back to the register to pay for my things, I saw that the people around us had been watching.  They just looked at me, not saying anything at first.  Then someone said, “That was really nice of you.  You really made a difference for her.”   I gave everyone else candy canes, too.  They were delighted!

Who can you give candy canes to?  The people who take your order and serve you at restaurants and drive-thru service, and people at registers.  When they give you your receipt, you give them a candy cane and say, “Merry Christmas!”  Candy canes are great for coffee baristas, the person who bags your groceries,  for cheering up cranky children and grumpy grown-ups.  They’re also a good reward when you catch kids being good!  I give candy canes to friends, strangers, whoever I run into throughout my day.

Often I attach the Candy Cane Poem to the candy canes I give out. The poem is a great way to share the story of Jesus.  I’ve prepared thousands of candy canes with the poem for children’s charities and gift baskets for shut-ins.  I’ve also filled a large zip-lock bag with them to put in our newspaper box with a sign attached that says, “Help yourself” as a way to offer them to passers-by, the mailman, etc.  I also keep a basket of candy canes with the poem by the front door to give to delivery people and anyone who stops by.

Look at the Candy Cane,  What do you see?

Stripes that are red, Like the blood shed for me.

White is for my Savior, Who is sinless and pure!

“J” is for Jesus, my Lord, that’s for sure!

Turn it around and a staff you will see,

Jesus, the Shepherd, born for you and me!

What do you think?  Would you like to be a Candy Cane Crusader for Christ?

If you’d like to use the Candy Cane Poem, just send me an email and I’ll reply with a document that has copies of the poem ready to cut out like small tags.

How are you giving out candy canes?  I’d love to hear from you!

CHRISTmas blessings to all!

 

 

 

TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF ‘MERICA:

I am sorry for the way things are in our country. When I was your age, the future looked good, promising and bright. The only worries I had were for my own personal goals.  Our nation seemed to be solid and secure, a place that offered promise for young people pursuing their hopes and dreams.  We had leaders who set good examples, not just in politics, but also in business, entertainment, sports, churches, schools and in communities.  We were starting to see the coming together of races as the nation moved on from racial tensions.  Christianity was still an important part of the American society; and the moral fabric of our nation was still intact, not yet eaten by moths of disrespect, arrogance, greed, self-serving attitudes, and other ills that plague our nation today.

I am sorry that mistakes made by my generation are leaving great problems for you, and those behind you, to solve and fix.

I am sorry that, when asked about the future, young people say they are worried. They are concerned about serious issues posed by both sides of politics, not feeling confident about either candidate running for President.  I am sorry that, when you should be looking toward your future with hope and promise, you feel worry, concern and discouragement.

I pray for you. I pray that God will raise up great leaders, thinkers and doers from among you.  I pray you will be a generation who learns from the mistakes we have made, and works together to find solutions and ways to turn things around.

I pray that God will bring forth for you good leaders, teachers, parents, family and friends – and Presidents! – to inspire, encourage, and help you along. I also pray your generation will find its way to God and church.

In this world of change, violence and instability, there is only one constant, one true hope, and that is our hope in God through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Did you see that word “Savior”?  Only Jesus can save us from the sins of our past and be our hope in times of injustice and unrest.  God loves you and those around you.  Thousands of years ago He started making a way for you to follow when He set aside a Holy nation and taught them how to live together in righteousness.  He sent His only Son to live among us to teach us how to love and live before offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins we had committed, promising salvation and life everlasting to all who come to Him and claim Him as their Savior and Lord. All the Lord asks of us is that we live righteously for Him, putting Him before all else, turning away from sins, and loving others as He loves us.

With God on our side, the future is still promising and bright! My hopes and prayers are for you, the young people of America.   Have hope for the future, and trust in God.

May God bless and keep you.  🙂

The Lord loves the just (righteous) and will not forsake his faithful ones.  – Psalm 37:28

For Biblical inspiration and teaching, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com

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

I took the month of August off from leading Bible study so I could take a breather before school starts and focus on some other tasks. However, unexpected things keep coming up, instead!  I haven’t had a breather and I have not gotten to do one thing I planned, but you know what?  I’m not frustrated.  I’m thankful!   Because of the break, I’ve been available for the other things that came up – the things that God intended for me to do.  That makes me happier than fulfilling my own plans.

This is the day the Lord has made, for sure, and as my dear friend Kendra quotes from her Mom:

This is the day the Lord has made, so don’t mess it up!           LOL.

Praise be to God for each day, especially the ones that go His way instead of mine! Amen.  🙂 

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