Spring of My Heart

Spring of My Heart

Spring is a time of renewal, new birth and HOPE. During this Lenten season we are often challenged to examine our lives and our hearts.

animal-sheddingWinter is receding, days are longer and buds are forming on the trees and bushes – a sign of beauty and or bounty coming soon.  I look in my garden for signs of growth – the fulfillment of hope when I planted bulbs in the fall.  We (especially in the North of America) long for warmer weather and look forward to shedding layers of clothing. Our furry friends are shedding too!

I’ve begun my “spring cleaning” and maybe you have too. The heaviest of coats and sweaters are cleaned and packed away as well as winter boots.  Soon it will be warm enough to clean up the gardens.

What about some spring cleaning in my heart?  Maybe it’s time to get rid of the old dead cleaning ladyleaves of discontentment or disappointment.  Over in the corner are cobwebs of  unforgiveness that need to go. Maybe underneath the furniture there lurks some bitterness, jealousy or fear.

The word spring, besides being the name of a season, is an action word meaning to leap. You can only spring up or open and you fling things away from you.  The apostle Paul wrote a long practical list, in the book of Colossians , about  negative feelings and actions to get rid of and positive ones to “put on” or into our lives. He used the analogy of taking off clothing like our Winter to Spring/Summer wardrobe.   He uses terms like “put to death” and “get rid of”’. That sounds like serious business to me!

TAKE OFF:    *sexual immorality, impurity, greed, anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, lying and dirty language.

 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.      Col 3:10 (NLT)

PUT ON: *hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, make allowance for other’s faults, add forgiveness and love

Jesus said, 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander .    Matt 15:18-19 (NLT)

After reading verses like these we tend to think, “Oh but not ME– I’m a good person.”  But honestly, we all have evil thoughts, we tell little white lies or share gossip and put others down so easily we don’t even call it what God calls it – sin.  If we could be clean enough on our own then Jesus would not have had to die.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.9 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.10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.             1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)

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This is our promise of renewal and cleansing from within! God promises to make us a new creation. I can clean my house and change my wardrobe but I need God to clean my heart! It’s time to do some spring cleaning!!!

    Change my heart, Oh God. Make it ever true,

Change my heart Oh God, make it be like You!

Just a Touch of His Robe

Just a Touch of His Robe

She was exhausted, out of resources, rejected, alone and in deep agony of body, mind and spirit. Three of the gospels re-tell the story of a woman who suffered for twelve long years and they don’t even give her a name.

25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and told him what she had done.34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”         Mark 5:25-34 (NLT)

Twelve years of pain,weakness and suffering from expensive “cures” that failed over and over.  The Law, found in Leviticus 15, demanded that anyone with a discharge was to live separately and considered unclean. That meant if anyone touched her or sat on the same furniture as her, would also be ceremonially unclean. She could not go to the Temple or celebrate the feasts. She would be ridiculed and scorned because she would bear no children and was considered an outcast. What a miserable life.

womantouchrobe2She overheard about a Great Teacher named Jesus who was doing amazing miracles and that He was in town not too far away. “The villagers will not even let me near enough to hear him”, she thought. “Maybe if I can sneak in close enough to just touch His robe, I might be healed”.  Somehow she did manage to get close enough to do just that and immediately she knew she was completely healed.

Jesus called her out of the shadows. The woman shakily came forward and told her whole story in front of the crowd. Jesus looked at her and lovingly called her Daughter, sending her home with complete healing and peace. Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace means wholeness.  Jesus gave her wholeness of body, mind and spirit. There was a whole new life of community, happiness and possibilities ahead of her now.

Whatever your current circumstances, no matter where you have been or what has happened in life – reach out to Jesus.

 

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Reach Out to Jesus by Ralph Carmichael

Is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone?
Does the road you travel harbor dangers yet unknown?
Are you growing weary in the struggle of it all? 
Jesus will help you when on His name you call.
He is always there, hearing every prayer, faithful and true.
Walking by our side, in His love we hide all the day through.
When you get discouraged just remember what to do.
Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.

I Can Do It…

I Can Do It…

My son is participating in Special Olympics speed skating competition this weekend.  Remy proskateYes, the son that had open heart surgery at six months of age, born with club feet and cognitive disabilities. He started with a tentative shuffle and learned how to step and glide with the boots holding his ankles firm and secure. The doctors had said not to shelter him but instead let him try to do whatever he can.  It has been a long road to get to where we are. I could never have dreamed of the places we would go or the people we would meet in our journey with special needs.

Special Olympics involves a huge community of family, friends, coaches,volunteers, and sponsors that come together for sport, encouragement, healthy living and teamwork with a positive attitude.  There is no “I can’t” and lots of “you can do it”. Milestones are recorded and progress is acknowledged.  Everyone tries their best but many strive for the gold!

race-marathon The apostle Paul used the analogy of  sports and “running the race” several times in his letters.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.26 So I run with purpose in every step.   1 Cor 9:24-26 (NLT)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.      Phil 4:13 (NLT)

There are many things in life that can be challenging.  Studying for exams is one example.  Beloved evangelist and professor at the Word of Life Bible Institute, Wendell Calder,  challenges and encourages the students every year by having them memorize this rally cry,

  I will not quit. By God’s grace I can do it.”  

What would our churches look like if we all worked together as a team? What if we all church memorialdisciplined ourselves in reading and studying God’s word – our rule book and guide to life?  What if we encouraged each other during the highs and lows of life with compassion and persistence?    Would our congregation look and feel different if we welcomed people of all abilities?

What if I tried my best everyday? What if instead of making excuses I looked up and trusted God to be there in the middle of my mess.

There’s a joke about a lady praying, “Lord, its been a beautiful day so far and I am so grateful. But in a minute I will be getting out of bed and I don’t know what’s going to happen so I’m going to need your help…”

college-football-crowdTherefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus,   Heb 12:1-2 

We can transform the place where we live by the power of God’s spirit. We can share His compassion, faithfulness, mercy and hope for tomorrow with the people in our lives.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.     Heb 10:23-25 

Each day is a new start……Run well…..

 

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Holding on to Grace

Holding on to Grace

I’ve just finished a long season in life caring for my Dad. When he passed away in December I realized I don’t have to pay his bills, check his clothes and advocate for his care.  Someone has already taken his bed at the nursing home and I don’t belong there anymore. I no longer will bring him a Dunkin and a muffin. I guess part of what I feel is grief in saying goodbye but also a loss of my position as daughter and caretaker.

My children are grown and are trying to establish their own lives in this world. Jeremy – our special needs son – lives at home and will always need supervision and support to manage life but he too has a job and daily routine that doesn’t include my direct care.

Not quite 60 I have retired from my career as an operating room nurse due to health concerns. Although I mostly worked part-time it has been a challenging, highly skilled and exciting part of my life and meaningful part of my person-hood.

I am a person that likes “to do”, be busy and be involved. But at this juncture in my life when I should feel free and relaxed, I started hearing an old voice of insecurity!  “You are too young to retire, you are lazy, nobody cares, what are you going to DO with your life?”  A friend hit the nail on the head when she commented , “I think you are under spiritual attack .You’ve got to give yourself grace. You have been through a lot the past few years!”

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.       Eph 2:8-10 (ESV)

I’ve always been told Grace means “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. Jesus paid it all for gracerockmy salvation and I don’t do anything to earn it. So what does grace look or feel like?  What are some of God’s riches for me at this point in my life?

It is FREEDOM –

  • no regrets in how we cared for my Dad or my Mother-in law – no guilt.
  • to rest – I don’t have to work a very physically and mentally demanding job .
  • to choose – I don’t have to beat myself up for not going to the gym or whatever lie the inner voice says

My IDENTITY is not defined by what I do!  It is WHO I AM.

  • In Christ, I am a daughter of the King! His Princess! His beloved Child
  • In My relationships – I am a wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend and neighbor- I can focus on, enjoy and pray for them all!

37 And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”     Matt 22:37-39

My RESPONSIBILITY in this new season

  • is to love God first and foremost with heart, soul and mind. I cannot do that without daily spending time reading His word and in prayer.
  • right now is to just BE and to WAIT for Him to show me what the next step is. He isn’t finished with me yet!

“Be still, and know that I am God”.       Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

 “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”    Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

   Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.       Heb 4:16 (ESV)

 My PRAYER

  • Dear God, help me to stop striving and just hold onto GRACE.

 

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I Choose Joy

I Choose Joy

Several of my friends choose a word to focus on for the New Year and I chose JOY. Joy is a major theme of Christmas but it isn’t the same as happiness. Events or experiences that

have been hard earned or long awaited for bring a sense of joy.  Examples like the birth of a child, good news from a doctor, a college graduation and a wedding day bring a joy to remember. Joy is not fleeting or a superficial and soon forgotten feeling. Oh no, joy is a deep inner emotion that lasts and is remembered.

In the middle of a dark and ordinary night, angels appeared to ordinary shepherds with “good news and tidings of joy for all people”.  Frightened at first but then reassured they were told to go into the city and find the newborn Messiah. The shepherds quickly left birth-of-jesus-1150128__340their flocks and ran to see if this was true or a dream. They found the baby Jesus in a very humble place just as the angels had said and they worshiped him.  These humble men were filled with awe and wonder and joy. The long awaited Messiah had come and they shared with everyone what was told to them. They went back to tending their sheep but their lives would never be the same!

There are dozens (maybe thousands) of books, songs and quotes about joy. I found, The Gospel of Joy, Christmas Joy, Quest for Joy, The Chemistry of Joy and the rock group Three Dog Night’s, “Joy to the World”.  What is true joy?  Russell M. Nelson stated it best, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives”.

My husband and I chose Psalm 119:24 for our wedding day. During my last year of college I had become very ill requiring surgery and a postponement of our wedding day. This was a very difficult time as you can imagine! We trusted in God for my healing and celebrated April 2nd all the more.  

           “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps.119:24

                       “for the joy of the Lord is your strength”      Neh 8:10 (ESV)

                 “ Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice “        Phil 4:4 (ESV)

My father passed away on December 15th but this Christmas I chose joy. He loved God and believed that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of his sin so he could enter heaven for eternity. Not a perfect man by any means but Dad tried to live a life pleasing to God.

I explained to friends that if I say I believe that Jesus died so we can have eternal life with Him, I need to act in faith.  I am grieving but my Dad has gone to celebrate Christmas with Jesus.  Imagine what an awesome birthday party that must be!  We don’t really know what heaven will look like but we are told,

1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s oldwomanheavenhouse are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also       John 14:1-3 (ESV)

     Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.   Psalms 116:15 (ESV)

 OR       When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him. (MSG)

 My focus this year will be on JOY. I will try to find joy in good times or bad. I will search for God’s promises instead of focusing on my problems.  We do not have a choice in many of the circumstances that come our way but we always have a choice in the way we respond. Joy comes from an inward peace and contentment.

What is your word for the New Year?  How will you respond to events in 2019? Will you choose JOY?

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WELCOME HOME

 

 

Joy of the Shepherds

Joy of the Shepherds

adventjoyJoy and happiness are both emotions where a person has feelings of contentment or satisfaction. But both of these feelings differ from one another.  Happiness is an emotion in which feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material objects and is often expressed by outward elation. It is often temporary and based on outward circumstances.

Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion or feeling spiritually connected to a god or people. It is caused by spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude and thankfulness. Joy is felt as inward peace and contentment.  It is lasting and based on inward circumstances.  ( definitions from Diffen website)

For the past month we have been hearing and singing about Joy. The familiar passage in the book of Luke chapter 2 tells us that ordinary shepherds experienced the most incredibly terrifying experience that somehow turned into great joy.

shepherdangels28 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God …….16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.shepherd17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,…     20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.   Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

 During the time of Jesus, shepherds in general were near the bottom of the social status.  They were ceremonially, physically and spiritually unclean. Only during King David’s reign did they enjoy a higher recognition. Even though sheep were needed for sacrifices, food and clothing, it was a dirty job. They couldn’t leave the fields to attend the Tabernacle or participate in many of the feasts. So why did the birth announcement of the long awaited Messiah come first to a group of poor Shepherds?

birth-of-jesus-1150128__340The shepherds anxiously went to find this newborn King as the angels had instructed. They were not afraid to approach Him small and in such humble circumstances. Baby Jesus was the One who would shepherd our souls as David had written in Psalm 23.  “Do not be afraid” the angels proclaimed, “this is good news for all people”.  Messiah had come! They saw the glory of the Lord but could not understand that this child would one day be the final sacrificial Lamb for all our sin.

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.        John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The rich and powerful were not looking for Messiah and liked things the way they were. Most of us are like shepherds, ordinary working folks. They didn’t get cleaned up or go to the Temple first….they came just as they were. We too can experience a deep, personal and lasting inward peace and contentment in our soul by approaching a holy God because of what Jesus did for us. Come to Him just as you are and find His JOY.

 

 

 Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King:

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

 

 PS – If anyone has any questions or comments, email me and I would love to get back to you personally. I wish you all a happy, healthy and joyful New Year!

 

 

 

Parking Lot Prayers

Parking Lot Prayers

We were unloading our groceries into the back of our cars. I casually remarked, “I’m trying to finish shopping and get home before it rains again.” The woman next to me womentalkingreplied, “I wish this was all but I have to go to the hospital to be with my sister. Her Dad had a heart attack and she’s a mess”.  She continued to tell me that it has been a bad year – she herself had open heart surgery in January. I had stopped loading my car by this time and focused on her. I told her she looked great and then thoughtfully asked “Could I pray with you?”  She reached out her hand as I asked her name and we prayed right there in the parking lot.

In the book of Acts chapter 3 we read that Peter and John were heading to the Temple to pray and preach the Good News.  A man lame since birth sat at the gate begging for money….

4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened.8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.      Acts 3:3-8 (NLT)

AB-Simpson-quoteThis woman was a total stranger. I simply listened to “H” share what was going on in her life. I couldn’t solve her problem but I offered what I had…a listening ear and a connection with The Father.  As she got into her car I reminded her that God would be with her…she replied, “God is good all the time”.

I sat in my car and thought, “what just happened?”  Was I just used by God to lift up a sister in Christ?  I didn’t ask her about her faith. The conversation went so smooth and natural. This interaction was a Divine appointment.  It wasn’t something I specifically prayed for that morning but God used me as an instrument of His grace and peace.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.                   Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 I’ve always appreciated the power and privilege of prayer. When I was in college, I had friendspraying.jpgan open door policy. The girls on my dorm floor knew I was willing to pray with them about their concerns.  Over the years I’ve had opportunities like praying with a co-worker going through a divorce and another caring for a sick parent. My neighbor appreciated my praying with her when her husband had dementia – though years  before she had said, “I have my religion”.

My previous blog expressed how God is available 24/7. We can come to him in a break room, at a kitchen table or in a parking lot.

Be Ready

Be Able

Be Willing

Be Blessed!