Social Distance is an Oxymoron

Social Distance is an Oxymoron

I am sure that I am not the only one who has been clearly confused at how we can be alone together. Being in small crowds as our only choice has left us feeling weirdly normal and in some ways like the walking dead. Another side effect of the quarantine has been overeating as I now look like a jumbo shrimp.

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The word social by definition means; someone or something that enjoys being with others or has to do with people living or gathering in groups.  Distant means separated, far away or not immediately connected.  The very definitions are opposites and don’t belong together but are a new social phenomenom .

As a registered nurse I understand all the rationale for quarantine and precautions and I do comply. My heart has a hard time seeing empty churches– they were built for corporate worship. Playgrounds were built for playing in, beaches are for swimming and exploring and parks to picnic in etc…. Isn’t it amazing that a tiny virus – invisible to the naked eye – has temporarily turned the whole world upside down?

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From the beginning of time God created us for community. He states in the book of Genesis that, “it is not good for man to be alone”.  God created us for a relationship with Him and each other. Adam and Eve also tended The Garden – maybe that’s why I love spring.  He also created the Sabbath for rest and in today’s culture – we don’t often take it.

It has been so easy to be distracted and depressed during this time because it is not normal.  The dreary weather did not help our state of mind.  Our usual schedule has been disrupted by restrictions and additions. Now we have the extra time we always wanted but can’t go anywhere! Frustrating!

King Solomon stated that nothing is new under the sun.  He was right! There have been plagues throughout the centuries and various responses to them. Economies have risen and fallen while people groups have been separated and humanity has lived in fear and uncertainty.  But fear is a great energy gobbler and serves no purpose if we do not do something.

We cannot change our circumstances but we can choose to change our response and attitude. We cannot be alone together – it’s an oxymoron – but we can keep in contact due to technology (zoom zoom). But be careful, I know that I am guilty of wasting too much time with electronics. We also need to be very aware of what we read and repost on social media because it is not all true or unbiased!   It is important to choose wisely what input is allowed into our over taxed brains.

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What have you learned?  I learned that most of us have far more than we need (like hoarding toilet paper) and I do not have to be on the go all the time.  I am trying to be grateful and content in all circumstances (it’s hard).  I have enjoyed walking more and playing board games and alternative learning. I enjoy watching the birds return and plants grow. What have you enjoyed during this shut down?

God is in control – He sees us, hears us and knows us by name. Hold tight to His promises and trust in His love and faithfulness for He will guide you through this amazingly awful and bittersweet time.

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Second Chances

Second Chances

Have you ever felt as if you missed an important opportunity?  Have you had a falling out with a friend and feel it is now a lost cause? Maybe you said or did something that cannot be taken back. Sometimes by grace we are given a second chance.

Our Pastor just finished a series on the book of Jonah. Jonah liked when things were going well and his way. He rejected the assignment God gave him to preach to the ruthless pagan city of Nineveh. He refused to go, hopped on a ship going the opposite direction and as weJonah know got thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. Vomited by the fish – Jonah was given a second chance. He did go and give God’s message of repentance to the city and they responded. What preacher gets angry when people do what he tells them to do? Jonah did!  Sadly, the story ends with God questioning Jonah because he had received great mercy and compassion but his heart for others that were different had not changed.

The disciple Peter had been one of the three closest to Jesus. He witnessed most if not all of Jesus’ miracles and Jesus spent a lot of time at Peter’s house in Capernaum. Best buddies, right?

After following the crowd to the court yard to watch what was happening, Peter ended up denying even knowing Jesus. Why?  Fear can cause us to do terrible things. Peter’s guilt and shame was overwhelming but there was no way to take it back. Later he was with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them and understood there was more to learn. But in the meantime, he and some of the others went back to what they knew best – fishing.

It was in the fishing village of Tabgha that Jesus greeted the disciples with a cooked

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breakfast on the shore.  Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love ME?” and Peter each time replied Yes Lord – you know my heart. The reply to “feed MY sheep” was his mission. God was not finished with Peter and was giving him a second chance.  Peter had been told he would be the “rock” of the Church, one of the founders –and that had not changed because he messed up.

That little beach has an eighth century church built on the rock where it is believed they ate.  It is called “Mensa Christi” – “Our Lords’ Table”.  The Church is known as “The Primacy of Peter”….Peter was forgiven, restored and called to special service for the Lord as Head of the early Church. He obeyed God’s calling with great courage and fervor. We have copies of his letters to the early believers which hold great teaching and truth for us today. Peter used his second chance to change the world by preaching the Good News.

This should be a great encouragement for us. No matter how far we have gone or what we have done, God is full of love and mercy. We can come to Him with humble hearts and ask for forgiveness. No, not everything broken can be fixed. God often gives us something new and better to reach for with our second chance.

From Veggie Tales – Second Chances

You see God’s a God of mercy

God’s a God of love

And right now, He’s gonna lend

A helping hand from up above

Praise the Lord, He’s the God of second chances

You’ll be floored how His love your life enhances

You can be restored from your darkest circumstances

Our God is the God of second chances!

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The Recipe for Life

Does anyone still keep a cookbook and or a recipe box? I do. With Google we can look up a “ba –jillion” variations in a second but it is impersonal. My box is a form of heirloom.  _20200311_122104 It is filled with scraps cut from magazines, hand copied family favorites and shared recipes from friends. I also have handwritten recipes from my mother and mother-in-law. No big family secrets; favorites yes! I keep these for their handwriting because it brings memories.

God’s Word holds the recipe for life.  Hand written by many authors over centuries it contains history, stories, encouragement and wisdom passed down through the ages. Within its pages are “recipes” for every issue we face and my Bible favorites are well marked.

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The basic rules for successful and civilized living are found in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. But the Bible is alive and gives very practical advice such as:

 

Friends and Neighbors – get along

You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.    Lev 19:18

Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.                                                      Prov 27:10

Live in harmony with one another.    Romans 12:16

Loneliness – never alone

 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?                                                                                                                   Psalms 139:7

I am with you always, to the end of the age.              Matt 28:20

Marriage – committment

 Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and bride-1837148_1920female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”                                                                                           Matt 19:4-6

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your life     Eccl 9:9

 Parenting –  responsibility

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.                                                                                                                                Prov 22:6

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.  Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.                                                                                                                                              Prov 29: 15 &17

 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2  “Honor your father and mother” —4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.                                                    Eph 6:1-4

Peace  vs. Worry

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.                      John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                      Phil 4:5-7

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  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?                                                                                                                                                Matt 6:25-26

Speech –  wisdom for today

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.                                                                                                                                                                James 1:19,20

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.    Prov 21:23

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.           Prov 15:1-2

 

Of course there are many more “recipes for life” within the Bible’s pages.  I encourage you to look them up for yourself.  If you do, life will be more savory and satisfying!

 

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Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Our Daily Bread is Not on a Menu

Once in awhile my husband and I like to dress up and go out for a fancier dinner than table-3018151_1920our usual Mexican Cafe.  We go for the ambiance, white tablecloths and candlelight, expecting good food and good service.  The waiter comes out with a large menu to delight our palate…Oh so many choices! We sit and contemplate each section while picking and choosing what we want to fill our senses and satisfy our hunger.

Our Pastor mentioned in a sermon that we might be guilty of treating prayer that way.  I think I am sometimes.  Prayer becomes just a daily duty when we only ask for what we want and thank Him for what we have.  We treat God like a Heavenly Waiter.  We Thank Him for the food and great service while we leave our leftovers and dirty dishes behind for Him to clean up.

God is not a waiter, Santa or a magic genie just waiting to fulfill our wishes.  Prayer is direct communication with Our Heavenly Father, Our Creator – the One Who sent His only Son to die in our place! Since the very beginning of time God has longed to have a relationship with His Creation. Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer that we can follow too.

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Our Father in heaven –  Our Heavenly Abba or Dad, unlike our earthly fathers  He is the One Who knows everything about us and promises to always be with us.  He is all powerful and can never fail.

Hallowed be your Name.  – Holy, praise and glory to, reverence and awe to, your Name above all Names.  We fail to worship Him for Who He is.

Your kingdom come – Are we building His Kingdom (sharing the gospel) and looking for His return?  It could be soon!

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  –  Recognize that He reigns over Heaven and earth. It’s not what I want but trusting that He knows better than I do. He sees all our circumstances and is Sovereign and in control.

Give us this day our daily bread – He provides daily for our every need; food, clothing, shelter, friends, family and way beyond.  Make your own list of blessings not just wants.

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors – Forgiveness is freeing and powerful. We do not deserve having Someone die in our place! We mess up every day.  But we also have to forgive others to have true peace in our hearts.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – be mindful of the things that trip you up. Stay away from temptation and ask for that way to escape and overcome.                                                                Matt 6:9-13 (ESV)

 

Jesus taught a lot about prayer.   First we should make sure our thoughts and motives are pure when we pray and keep short accounts with God. He does encourage us to ask for our hearts desire because God longs to give His children good gifts. He hears us, sees us and knows our pain and every need and we can trust Him in all situations.

During this Lenten season let us be more mindful of how we pray. Let us not be complacent or so casual as to treat Him like our personal waiter. If we follow Jesus’ model we can pray powerful prayers that make a difference in our lives and those around us.

Praise God from Whom All blessings Flow

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A Clean Sweep

A Clean Sweep

The beginning of a new year gives a chance to look back at the accomplishments and struggles of last year and look forward to the new and hopefully better one. I change the calendar, the checkbook register and get a new “planner”. My husband and I sit down and discuss home improvements needed, taxes and vacations… but not at the same time!

_20180126_094451 (1)January is known for its “white sales” – new appliances, linens and storage containers.  Decluttering, downsizing and organizing guru’s share the latest tips to contain the mess.  Every year we make the same or similar new years’ resolutions because we want to do better, be nicer and feel healthier.

We often deal with the stuff around us but what about dealing with the “stuff” in our hearts? The classic booklet “My Hearts Christ’s Home” by Robert Boyd Munger weaves a story of inviting Jesus in and giving a tour room by room of our “house”. Each room represents a place in our lives but the host balks at letting Jesus see the hall closet.  The stuff in that closet is old and smells bad ; like bitterness, bad habits, past secret sin we hang on to. Only Jesus can help us clean, reorder and restore this closet of our heart.

DSC_0927 (1)  It’s easy to ask God to forgive us for “little sins” of omission or commission. But what if we are honest and go a little deeper? We can try to justify our feelings and actions – but that doesn’t bring peace of mind. The Bible has a lot to say about unclean hearts.  God sees and knows it all and yet we often try to sweep our “stuff” under the rug or hide.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you Psalms 69:5 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

Only God can wash our hearts from all the hurts and hang-ups. He says come – let me remove the “dirt” and cleanse you from the inside out. God desires to restore a right relationship with Him and promises us a new beginning. He is the God of second chances! Even if something seems impossible to forgive (like trying to get red ink out of a white shirt) there is nothing impossible with God.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.       Psalms 103:11-12 (ESV)

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Start the New Year off by spending time in prayer and reflection. Let’s open up the closet of our heart and ask God to do a deep cleaning. Sometimes that deep cleaning takes a long time because first we need to recognize our fears, failures and faults in order to let Him work on those areas. The process isn’t easy but it is freeing and satisfying. Let this prayer of David be yours :

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.        Psalms 51:6-10 (ESV)

 

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Weary Travelers

Weary Travelers

According to AAA, an estimated 115.6 million Americans were expected to travel this holiday season. That was a 3.9% increase from last year and includes plane, train, automobile, bus and cruise travel. AAA expected that more than 853,000 would call for some type of help. On an average there is a one out of five chance of a delay but on December 26th you can expect a 66% chance of delayed service. And for the 21st year in a row, Atlanta, GA is the world’s busiest airport! That is a lot of travelers for one season.

Throughout the Advent season, without realizing it, we have heard a lot about travel.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.              Luke 2:1-5

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The Bible is not written like a novel so we don’t have a detailed play by play of the actual travel but we know that every Jewish household had to register in their tribal capital. That equals a lot of people traveling by foot, donkey, camel and wagon caravan. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be a grueling 90 miles up and down some treacherous mountain roads.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”              Matt 2:1-2

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These wisemen from the East were astrologers that had obviously studied the Hebrew scripture possibly left by Daniel.  They may have come from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Southern Turkey. The distance from Persia to Bethlehem (maybe up to 9000 miles) traveling over varied rugged terrain for months would be so long and tiring. Yet they journeyed on in their quest to seek the Christ Child.

Friend, in the past year did you become weary in your journey?  Did life take unexpected twists and turns that made you feel weak and vulnerable? Do you feel like you have lost your way or that somehow your dream is just too far off to ever reach? God never promised an easy carefree life but He did tell us that we are never alone.  He does promise to give us a renewed vision and the strength to reach our goals step by step when they are in line with His word.

Here are just a few scriptures to hold onto as we begin the New Year:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Josh 1:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.     Prov 3:5-6

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.     Jer 29:11-12

It is my prayer that we all start off the New Year on the right foot and step by step journey into 2020 with confidence and strength in God’s power, protection, and provision for the way.

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All Scripture quotes in this blog are taken from the New Living Translation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Seasons Ahead

Changing Seasons Ahead

Leaf “peepers” come from all over the country to view the fabulous array of color in New England every fall.   “Look at the leaves”, “Oh, aren’t the leaves pretty”, the speaker said with a grin.  “Friends, what is so great about fall? I’m afraid to tell you everything is dying!”  Everyone replied with a groan.  IMG_6478

Autumn is such a wonderful time of year and yet it is an annual swan song.  While we are enjoying the harvest we are also preparing for winter.  Shorter and colder days require a change of clothing and preparation for the months ahead.  We also need to be prepared for changing days ahead – life is not static. It would be boring if it were!

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.   Eccl 3:1 (ESV)

Besides changing the calendar, what is changing in your life?  Are you in a new season of life?  Maybe you have a new career, new home or new status? You may be in a good or very difficult season of life. We can trust in our loving and faithful God to lead and guide us through every change and challenge we face.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.          Prov 3:5-6 (NLT)

I am in the midst of change.  Our daughter is married, our parents are all gone, I retired (my husband plans to keep working – yay)  and I have health issues that sometimes slow me down.  However, it has been confirmed that He isn’t done with me yet.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?                                        Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

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There is more time for my  ministry of speaking and writing.  I need to be a little more flexible and a lot more tuned in to hear His voice by not being so “busy”and that is not so easy for me. Change happens whether we are ready or not! And so you see dear readers that my new blog is not completely ready to go live.  Please stand by because He’s still working on me!