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“Keeping His Presence Among the Presents” will be a series of posts about ways to keep Christ in Christmas.  I’d love to hear your ideas and traditions for keeping His presence among the presents, too!   You can respond at this site with a comment, or reach me by email at ReneeMyers@carolina.rr.com  

“Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”   ~ Ephesians 6:18

A wonderful way to keep Christ’s presence among the presents is to devote a few minutes to Him each day by making a paper prayer chain.  This is a wonderful familyactivity, and can be done individually, too. 

Paper Prayer Chain Supplies:

25 strips of paper (construction paper works well)  *  markers, crayons, or pens    *   stapler or tape   *  basket, container or envelope

Gather as a family and think of 25 loved ones, friends, neighbors, pastors, teachers,  etc.  Write each name/family/group  on one of the strips of paper.  Put the strips of paper in a basket, container or envelope and keep it near the Christmas tree or in another special place.

Beginning December 1st, gather your family together, draw one strip of paper, and pray for the person(s) whose name(s) is on that strip of paper.  Then connect the ends of the paper together with a stapler or tape to make a loop.  Continuing doing this each day, looping the strips of paper together to form a paper chain.  The paper chain can be used as a decoration for your Christmas tree, placed on a mantle, hung in a doorway, or however else you choose.   By Christmas Day, you’ll have a special paper prayer chain representing all the people you prayed for throughout the Christmas season.  

Presents won’t be the only thing piling up!  Prayers will, too!  

 Merry CHRISTmas!

Renee

“Keeping His Presence Among the Presents” will be a series of posts about ways to keep Christ in Christmas.  I’d love to hear your ideas and traditions for keeping His presence among the presents, too!   You can respond at this site with a comment, or reach me by email at ReneeMyers@carolina.rr.com  

“Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.”   – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

Too often we become so focused on the things we don’t have, we think we need, or strongly desire to have, that we lose sight of the things we do have!

This past Sunday our pastor reminded us to be thankful even when times are are tough.  These are tough times for many people.  In our church, neighborhood, and schools we’re aware of so many people who have been affected by unemployment.  Daily they face the uncertainties and fears of living with no paycheck, praying each day for a job prospect.  Others were able to hang on and eventually found employment again.  Amazingly, it was the people hardest hit in recent times who were knowingly nodding their heads when our pastor reminded us to be thankful even in the tough times.  Those who seemingly had the the least for which to be thankful, were the ones who seemed to feel the greatest thanks in their hearts.  They’ve come to know what really matters in life.  They’ve grown closer to God through their dependence upon Him, and through their experiences have come to know what true blessings really are.

A  few years ago I drove past a home that had been destroyed by fire during the night  just hours before.  The owners of the home were sitting in the yard and saw me drive by.  I couldn’t just drive by and not stop to offer help, so I turned around and went back to speak with them. 

It was a hot Charlotte morning, only 8:30 a.m., and already the thermometer was pushing 100 degrees.  The owners were waiting for their insurance rep to show up, doing their best to tolerate the heat and humidity.  Neighbors had provided them with chairs and a cooler of drinks, but sweat dripped from each of us as we talked.  The fire started while they were sleeping and spread quickly.  They barely escaped with their lives, having to climb through a window to do so.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help them, provisions I could gather, or calls I could make.  They refused those offeres so I asked if they’d like  me to contact our Pastor for them.  That’s when we discovered we were members of the same church!  In that momemt we were no longers strangers, but church family!  It was wonderful.  We embraced and prayed before I left. 

The very next Sunday they were in church.  They went to the altar to pray, and they were crying.  I knelt beside them prepared to offer them comfort, but to my surprise they were praising and crying tears of joy!  Despite the tragic loss of their home and belongings, they were thankful for what they did have! 

I often get so distracted by the things I want or think we need, that I fail to see God’s presence and blessings in the things He does provide for us!   So before I get carried away in the frenzy of shopping for presents, and before I make a list of presents I’d like to have, I’ll keep His presence among the presents by being thankful for the many wonderful gifts and blessings God has already bestowed upon my family, our church, and me.   In fact, with those things in mind, I don’t need to make a Christmas list.  I already have more than I need.  Thank You, Lord!!

“Keeping His Presence Among the Presents” will be a series of posts about ways to keep Christ in Christmas.  I’d love to hear your ideas and traditions for keeping His presence among the presents, too!   You can respond at this site with a comment, or reach me by email at ReneeMyers@carolina.rr.com  

Well, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, and since the local schools are out on Wednesday, this just gives us two days to get ready for Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season!  Let the busyness begin!  

With only two days and much to do, our weekly prayer group opted to pray at home on our own instead of gathering like we usually do on Monday mornings.  With schools out on Wednesday, our Bible study is canceled, too.  Already the busyness of the holidays is affecting our usual schedules and routines as we excitedly prepare for the holiday season to come.  And this is just the beginning!!

Sooooo…..Before we get too far into the holiday craziness, let’s stop for a moment to gather ourselves and put things in proper perspective by taking a moment to pray.  The first thing to do to keep Christ’s presence among the presents, is to seek His presence through prayer.  Before hurriedness overcomes helpfulness; cleanliness becomes more important than godliness; and we go from being people of grace to acting more like runners of a race –  let’s pause to pray. 

Slowly close your eyes – start taking slower, deeper breaths –  and allow yourself to push all distractions, worries, mental to-do lists, stresses and anxieties from your mind.  Let the thoughts of your heart take over the thoughts of your mind, and lift your heart to the Lord.  Years ago I was taught to pray by ACTS.  I’ll share that way of praying with you, too.

A:  Adore    Begin by giving adoration to God, exalting the Lord, praising Him!   “Dear God, You are so awesome!”

C: Confess    Confess your thoughts, worries, admissions of guilt or wrong-doing   “Lord, forgive me.  I try to do too much on my own (sometimes I simply try to do too much!), and put my will before Your will.   I get distracted and lose focus of what really matters.  I get frustrated and act more of my ‘self” than of  ‘the Spirit’.  I love my family, but find myself getting impatient and taking my frustrations out on them.”

T: Thanks     Give thanks to God for your blessings, His provisions, His presence in your life, for being a forgiving and loving God    “Thank You for being there for me.  Thank You for hearing my prayers, tending to my needs, helping me through my days, and most of all for being so merciful, gracious, loving and forgiving.  Thank You for Your provisions.  May we learn to be content knowing You give us just enough, and not strive for things that are beyond Your will for us to have or do.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Savior, that above all else we can be forgiven of our sins, and through Him be welcomed into a glorious eternity with You. 

S: Supplication    After humbling yourself before the Lord in adoration, confession, and thanksgiving – go before Him with your hopes, needs and desires, confident in knowing the Lord hears and answers our prayers, and confident in knowing you can put your trust in Him.   “Oh, Lord, You know I have a crazy day ahead of me with much that needs to be done.  Please be with me in all that I do.  Help me to follow Your lead, even when Your way takes me away from what I had planned.  Help me see the beauty in the blessings all around me and not get hung up on people and things that frustrate me. Help me to just let it go when drivers are rude and inconsiderate.  Help me make situations better when I can.  And please be with my family, loved ones, church family and friends.  Protect us from harm and evil.  Be with my husband in his tasks and my children in their schools and personal lives.  Help me to be a woman of grace; and please be with me that I might bless You by blessing others. In Jesus precious and holy name I pray.  Amen.”

 “Amen” is not fancy prayer-speak for “the end”…like I used to think.  lol.   It means, “I agree” or “It should be so.”   It’s a way of verbally sealing the prayerful letter you just mentally penned to God. 

And speaking of prayer-speak…there is no such thing!  Just speak from your heart.  Some people are eloquent in their prayers, others are more ‘ordinary’.   Some people pray endlessly.  Others accomplish their prayers in brief, succint, to-the-point ways.  Some pray out loud.  Others are silent.  It doesn’t matter how.  There is no right or best way!  God just wants you to pray! 

An added note on that, though…if you find yourself praying while you drive, please pray with your eyes open!  

Whatever your situation, whatever your day, take care of first things first by taking time to pray.  – Renee  (hey, even my name rhymed!) 

And don’t let busyness be an excuse or distraction to keep you from prayer.  I think it was Martin Luther who said something like this:  When I am busy, then I pray two hours instead of one.   

God bless you! 

Love,

Renee

“In the same way, encourage young men (others) to live wisely.  And you yourself must be an example to them…”     – Titus 2:6-7

In Disciple Bible study this week, a video presenter was teaching about how to live in the presence of sinful and immoral behavior.  Referring to ancient Biblical times, he used the chariot as a metaphor and said that we’re not to enter the chariot, but are to keep pace alongside it.   The speaker was telling us that we, as Christians, are not to ‘enter’ or take part in bad behavior or situations that are sinful or immoral, but we’re not to turn away from them either!  We’re to ‘keep pace’ and stay alongside the chariot so we’re aware of the issues and problems around us, and also in an effort to lead the chariot  in a better direction. 

I was reminded of that teaching when I thought about someone whose behavior bothered and concerned me.  I decided to avoid particular situaitons by avoiding the person who caused them.   I was wrong to do so.  I need to “keep pace alongside the chariot” to remain aware of the issues and maybe even help lead it in a better direction.

Dear God, Please forgive me for choosing to avoid certain situations because they made me uncomfortable.  Help me stay alongside the chariot in hopes of leading it as You would have it to go.  In the precious name of Jesus I pray.  Amen. 

I had an interesting chat yesterday with my attending physician about the H1N1 flu and wanted to share his comments with you. 

The Bottom Line:  He recommends the seasonal flu shot for everyone who is able to take it.  He only recommends the H1N1 vaccine  for those who are ‘at risk’.   Discussion follows:

Q: Are you still seeing as much H1N1 flu? Or is it getting better?  A: It’s not getting better. It’s still spreading.

Q: Do you recommend getting the H1N1 vaccine?    A:  Not if we can’t get it until Dec or Jan.  By the time it’s available for the general public, it will probably not be needed for most people because the general public will most likely have already been exposed.   If they didn’t get sick by that time, they probably won’t.  Their bodies are putting up their own resistances.   If it’s Dec or Jan and you haven’t been vaccinated for H1N1, then it’s probably not necessary  UNLESS YOU’RE CONSIDERED AT RISK.

Q:  Who is at risk?   A: Pregnant women and children who are considered ‘at risk’ (those with pre-existing conditions like asthma, blood disorders, and other conditions that make them more at risk for illness).

Q: What about the older people?   A: In general, people in their 60’s and older are not at risk for H1N1.  Flus cycle on average every 20 years.  Older generations have been exposed in previous cycles and have their own natural anti-bodies which is the best form of resistance. 

Q: So will we see this flu again?  A: Most likely, yes.  I worry about all the people taking the vaccine now because it won’t allow them to develop their own natural resistances.  Then when they’re exposed at an older age, when their age will put them at risk, they won’t have the resistances they need and the flu could be more serious for them then.

Q: Should those who have already been sick with H1N1 get the vaccine?    A: NO!  They have the best resistances now – their own natural anti-bodies.  My children and I got H1N1 in the spring when it first started.  None of us need the vaccine now.  We’re producing our own natural anti-bodies.

Q: I’ve heard that if the H1N1 vaccine had been made in time, it would have been part of the current seasonal flu vaccine and we wouldn’t be having all the debates about it.  We’d just accept it as part of the general flu vaccine.   A: That’s right.  This vaccine has been created just like all the others.  

Q:  What about the deaths associated with H1N1, since just last week 19 deaths were reported?   A:  It’s tragic that anyone has to die, and I’m sorry for those people.  However, the death rate with H1N1 is concurrent with the average death rate for all flu.  If the media reported all flu deaths it would be like the others.  The flu is the flu.  People die every year of the common cold, too, but we don’t hear about it in the news. 

Q: I felt I should get the H1N1 vaccine to help stop the spreading of the illness, as somewhat of a civic duty since it’s so contagious.  It seems to me that if fewer people catch it, fewer people will spread it.  Some days I see a lot of people (including children and moms who have children at home) and know that I could be unknowingly exposing them to the flu for 24 hours before I realize I have it.   If I get it, then they get it, and then they expose the flu to other people, too; then it seems to me that I could possibly prevent a lot of other flu cases by getting the vaccine.    However, after hearing your comments about the vaccine,now  I wonder if I should. 

A: If you’re around a lot of people, have that concern, and feel the vaccine could make a difference, then get the vaccine; but keep in mind that if you get the vaccine now, you might not have the needed resistance to it when it cycles back around and it could be more serious then. 

A:  The only exception I have to that thought would be if this strain continues to mutate.  If it continues to mutate (change) then the anti-bodies we form toward this strain might not be effective in the future. 

(end of discussion)

I’m not trying to influence anyone on their decision about the H1N1 vaccine.  I just wanted to share a medical professional’s thoughts with you.  You can form your own opinion from there.  I’m sure there are many who will agree with his thoughts and others who will not. 

I hope you make the right choices to live well and stay well!   God bless you. 

 

 

Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and moved, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it.  But if the cloud stayed, they would stay until it moved again.  The cloud of the LORD rested on the Tabernacle during the day, and at night there was fire in the cloud so all the people of Israel could see it.  This continued throughout all their journeys.       Exodus 40:36-38

PUTTING THE VERSE IN PERSPECTIVE:  After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they became a nomadic people on their way to the Promised Land.  During their nomadic time of wandering God told them He had chosen them from among all nations and tribes to be His Holy people.  Because they’d lived for 400 years as slaves in Egypt, God had to teach them how to be Holy.  Part of His teachings included how to properly worship Him.  Chapters 35-40 of Exodus detail the blueprints and construction for the Tabernacle God instructed the Isrealites to build.  Not only did the Tabernacle serve as a place for the Israelites to worship and make their sacrifices to the Lord, it was also the place for the presence of the LORD to dwell among them. 

God appeared over the Tabernacle as a cloud by day, and as a fire in the cloud by night, so that any time, 24/7, the Israelites could see His physical presence and know He was there with them.

The verse above tells us the Israelites learned to follow the Lord, literally, by moving with the cloud.  When the cloud moved, the people gathered the Tabernacle and moved.  When the cloud stayed, the people stayed. 

APPLICATION FOR US TODAY:  When faced with decisions, uncertainty, or new opportunities, do you ‘follow the cloud’?  Or do you forge ahead in your own way?   Do you seek the Lord’s presence and allow yourself to ‘stop when the cloud stops’ having the faith to trust in His plan and destination for you? 

Many times in our lives we excitedly embark on new journeys.  The journey might be entering a new phase of our life, starting a new job, becoming a parent, making a major purchase, taking on a new interest, starting a new business, moving, or even answering a calling from God!  We’re eager to begin new pursuits, full of hope and ready to make dreams come true!  However, sometimes we find our dreams must be put on hold.  Sometimes life doesn’t move along as fast as we’d like or in the way we expected.  Sometimes, like the Israelites, we’re led out of Egypt and into a time of wandering before we can get to our intended Promised Land.  Sometimes we have to hurry up and wait.

I have two friends who’ve been called into minstries.  After affirming the call, each eagerly moved forward, anxious to answer her call and begin serving in ministry.  However, God didn’t lead them directly into their Promised Lands.  They had to spend a time of wandering, constantly seeking the Lord’s presence, until His desination for them was revealed. 

Another friend was desperate to adopt.  Her desire to adopt was consuming her thoughts.  Unfortunately the adoption process was consuming the funds set aside by her and her husband.  They needed another loan in a short period of time or they would have to give up on their adoption plans.  We met during this anxious time through a prayer request she sent to Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She had prayed so much for this adoption and worried that if she and her husband lost the opportunity to adopt, she’d lose her faith, too.   With great anxiety, she’d been forced to hurry up and wait.

As I read her prayer request, I felt God speak to my heart that He didn’t want her to give up and that He had a child for her.  My friend desperately wanted to believe it was true, but time and money were quickly running out.  Sadly, time and money did run out – but her faith did not!   In the process of ‘wandering’, while trying to get to her Promised Land of adopting a child, she began trusting God again, renewed her strength in the Lord, and was able to accept “Thy will” over her will, even when “Thy will” led to great disappointment.  I rejoiced that her heart had grown in faith, but was disappointed and confused that God hadn’t led them to adoption.  I’d felt sure He said He had a child for them, but it appeared I’d been mistaken.

Time went by, and later I received a new prayer request from my friend.  She wanted me to pray that their adoption would go through!  Yes, indeed, after a period of time when it seemed there was no longer a way, God found a way!  He rewarded their time of ‘wandering’ by presenting them with a wonderful opportunity to adopt!  Praise! 

God had called her ‘out of Egypt’ months earlier when He led my friend and her husband to the desire of adopting, but He didn’t take them straight to their Promised Land of becoming adoptive parents.  He led them through a time of wandering first, during which time they grew in faith.

Like the Israelites, all of us find ourselves called to new endeavors in our lives.  Sometimes God leads us directly to where we’re going.  Other times we have to learn to follow the presence of the Lord.  He might not appear as a visible cloud, but if we stay prayerful and seek His guidance, He will lead us just as He did the Israelites.  Often we’re so anxious to get where we’re going or to achieve our goals, that we fail to follow God’s lead.  We fail to move when the cloud moves and to stop when the cloud stops.  It’s hard to hurry up and wait!  Yet that is often what God leads us to do.  We must maintain faith that even when God isn’t leading us forward, He’s still with us and there’s a reason to stop and wait.  At the right time, and for the right reasons, God will lead us forward in the right ways. 

It was more than a year after being called into ministry before one of the friends mentioned above was finally led to her place of service.  To her surprise it was in another city with another denomination!  My other friend is in her time of wandering, learning to move when the cloud moves and stop when it stops.  The friends who wanted to adopt can hopefully look back now and see how wise and wonderful God was being, even during their times of great disappointment, for eventually He led them to just the right adoption situation, and one in which much good was done.  All praise be to God! 

I’ve certainly experienced many times of having to hurry up and wait.  I have to admit, the wandering and waiting are much easier when I keep my focus on the presence of the Lord, trusting Him to lead the way that’s best for me. 

The best part of the verse above is the ending where it assures us the Lord’s presence will continue with us throughout all of our journeys!

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