Confidence During Quarantine

Confidence During Quarantine

Many viruses with new adaptations have emerged in the past twenty years but none as insidious and deadly as the Covid- 19. This virus has spread world-wide and caused chaos-signextensive damage and loss in its wake which is still ongoing. We were not prepared for a pandemic and all of its loss. Loss of loved ones, jobs, connections and vacations to name a few but the biggest has been loss of control.  I am glad to know that our God is in control and nothing is a surprise to Him.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Prov 16:9

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

Human beings have always been able to adapt even though we do not particularly like change. As a New Englander I often comment on the changing weather but I can’t do a thing about it except adapt. It took awhile but most of us acclimated to the new “virtual world”.  How great to know that God never changes.

I am the Lord, and I do not change.       Malachi 3:6

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever       Hebrews 13:8

When the shutdown started – everyone started cleaning cupboards and closets out DSC_0927 (1)because they had extra time. What we learned is that we all have too much “stuff” lurking in various places in our homes. Many of my friends have “down-sized” and I know I have way too many hoarded treasures, my husband labels “junk”. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable or owning nice things but when do we say, “enough”?

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.        Matthew 6:19-21

We still are not sure what this “new normal” will look like. Acceptance gives us a better family gamespicture of what needs to be or can be done.  Acceptance changes our perspective from what I can’t do or don’t have to being thankful for all I have and looking for new opportunities.  We can’t actually go very many places but we are grateful for our neighborhood and take walks to enjoy the flora and fauna around us. We have played more board and lawn games. It’s important to be mindful of the good things and enjoy life everyday.

 So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!8 Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!9 Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.              Ecclesiastes 9:7-10                                                                                        (Solomon had become a bit jaded when he wrote this.)

 We are so unprepared for the unexpected yet predictable.  For example, how many adults have a will, have written or even spoken about possessions and final wishes? Yet it is inevitable that we all will die someday. We need to be better prepared for the possible and inevitable whether it is an illness, retirement or caring for children and aging parents. The most important question is are you prepared for eternity? Where does your hearts’ desire lie? Have you nourished your soul? If today were your last day would you be ready?

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.          John 14:6

 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.         1 John 1:9

 13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.        1 John 5:13-15

Dear Reader – I hope you are confident in the faith and in your future.  If you have any questions, please write to me – I would love to share more.  All verses are in the New Living translation.

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The Garden of My Heart

The Garden of My Heart

gardenbloomMy flower gardens bring my husband and I great joy. They were planted strategically and have spread over time. Easy care perennials bring color at various times of the spring through late summer and annuals show a more consistent pop of color. A bonus to the flowers are the birds and butterflies that have come to our back yard. It is amazing to watch the little hummingbirds flit about, giant butterflies visit and we watch the brilliant goldfinches in our birch tree. Several neighbors have been beneficiaries of bouquets of flowers for their tables.

Taking care of a garden and keeping it healthy takes a little TLC and a watchful eye. My neighbor has a huge vegetable garden that has tripled in size this year. We watched as he built new raised plots, carefully planted, staked and screened in the new beds. He has invested a great amount of time and energy in protecting, watering and weeding .  If it’s so much work why do Gardeners garden?  The answer is, FOR THE HARVEST!

Living the Christian life is like a garden. We need to invest time and energy to nurture our souls and be careful of the things we allow into our hearts and homes.  Social media lacybybugscan steal that precious time and allow a lot of anxiety, negativity and even anger to creep in and eat away. I was not watchful while some insects quietly munched away on my hibiscus bush leaving the leaves looking like lace. Weeds are subtle because they grow slowly and often look like the plant they are next to. To be our best selves we need allow God to work in our hearts, carefully dead heading the things that don’t belong. If we are not careful to read “The Master Gardeners manual” we cannot tell the difference when Satan’s lies blend with the truth.

I think God loves gardens. He placed Adam and Eve in a garden with many kinds of foliage and fruit- not at a seashore resort. Jesus told the parable of “The Sower and the Seed” (Luke 8) to warn against the condition of our hearts and other scriptures are filled with life giving encouragement to help us grow strong.

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Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.2 But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.              Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?       Matt 6:26-30 

What is the Kingdom of God? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds,32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.        Mark 4: 30,31

Despite the circumstances we are now facing, we all  have a job to do. We can be water bearers to those who are dry and weary. We can give shade and assurance to those who are confused and angry. Let us share the flowers and fruit of compassion and kindness and be a beautiful bouquet drawing others to Him.

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All Lives Matter

All Lives Matter

I grew up in a family that accepted people of different color as all part of the same human race. We were taught to care for those less fortunate than ourselves and that all life held great value. God created the heavens and earth and filled them with diverse and wonderful creatures.  But mankind was specially created in His own image, male and female. God breathed life into them and they became living souls.  (Gen. 2)  God also gave us free will and the ability to love and be loved. Animals were given to us for food but it has never been acceptable to kill another human being.

Protesters in our streets are carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter” and I agree they do!  But Asian, White and Native American lives matter too. Unfortunately in our society and around the world there are many castes, hierarchies and prejudices that pigeon hole a person into what they can do or become.  We in our own wisdom decide if life is valuable or not in quality and quantity of years.

The very definition of infanticide is the crime of killing a child within a year of birth yet we have legislators that feel it’s ok to kill a living infant in a failed abortion attempt or “partially” birthed. How cold, cruel and unfeeling we have become to life!  Eighteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2017 ended in abortion – that’s approximately 862,320 in the USA.  Didn’t their lives matter?  Or do we think somehow they don’t matter because they were an accident, a mistake, unplanned and unwanted.

A well beloved surgeon I worked with learned that I had a son with disabilities. He said, “Well, you’re a better person than I am. My wife and I decided that if we knew anything would be wrong with our baby, we would abort.”  I smiled and said, “It’s hard sometimes but so worth it. We have gone places we never would have dreamed of and have met the most amazing people.”  Our son’s life matters and so do the lives of his cognitive and physically disabled coworkers and friends.

Everyone enjoyed the story of P.T. Barnum glamorized in the musical “The Greatest Showman” because “ it fosters hope in dreamers and a sense of inclusion in outcasts, projecting a message that is desperately needed in today’s society. Barnum saw possibilities and beauty in the misfits and outcasts of society and gave them a sense of family.”*** The movie crosses barriers of all kinds and the powerful lyrics to “This is Me” topped the charts. Why?  I believe we want a world of inclusion and peace deep down in our hearts. We want to belong and feel like our life matters.                                                  **quote from Jen Piekarz review

God Himself declares all life to be sacred and planned for a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15  My  frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.            Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)

The gospel is the most inclusive doctrine in the world and has an open invitation for all. While Jesus was on earth he lived the greatest example of sacrificial love, compassion and inclusion.  He healed untouchables (ex. lepers), ate with “sinners” of all kinds and hung out with a mixed group that included uneducated fishermen as well as a tax collector. He was not afraid or too proud to speak with half breed Samaritans or Roman Centurions.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life     John 3:16 (ESV)

 Jesus came for ALL. If we could love each other like Jesus there would be no more hatred, inequality or dismissing people as less than. Bullying would cease and understanding would increase.  If only we could grasp the truth that ALL LIVES MATTER.

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A simple song I learned as a child says it all.

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red and yellow, black and white

They are precious in His sight

Jesus loves the children of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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