Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725-1807). It is an immensely popular hymn, particularly in the US, where it is used for both religious and secular purposes. It has been estimated that the song is performed about ten million times annually in various forms.

The story behind the author and his words is fascinating and has been produced as a movie and Broadway play. John’s mother died before he turned seven and he joined his father on a merchant ship as an apprentice at age eleven.  He was well known for his headstrong disobedience and incredible profanity. After being flogged for desertion from the Royal navy he joined the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy. That moment marked his conversion but he continued slave trading, considered a respectable vocation at the time, for several more trips until he left the sea for good at age 30. Newton began studying Christian theology and began preaching about the grace of the cross which saved him and later he became an abolitionist. Shortly before his death at age 82 he preached, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!”

An amazing story of a changed life but what does grace mean?  In Christian belief it means “God’s free gift of unmerited favor manifested in salvation and bestowing of blessings”. I was always taught the simple acrostic; God’s Riches At Christs’ Expense. 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.      Eph 2:8-10 (NLT)

John Piper wrote; “Well, it  appears that the word grace in Paul’s use not only refers to God’s character trait or disposition or inclination to treat people better than we deserve, but the word grace also refers to the action or the power or the influence or the force of this disposition, which produces real, practical outcomes in people’s lives, like being sufficient for good deeds or enduring the thorn in the flesh or working harder than everybody else, which Paul says about his own apostolic work.”  

Throughout the pages of the Bible we see story after story of men and women, rich and poor, powerful and unnamed, failing God by disobeying His law and turning to temporary gain or satisfaction. By God’s grace these people saw God at work in their circumstances and the power of changed lives. Their stories are much like ours. God’s love never fails. He faithfully waits for us to turn back (repent) so we can enjoy a living and growing relationship with Him.

If you fear you’ve written too many checks on God’s kindness account, drag regrets around like a broken bumper, huff and puff more than you delight and rest, and, most of all, if you wonder whether God can do something with the mess of your life, then grace is what you need.      Max Lucado

I may not have a history like John Newton but I need God’s grace just as much. I want Him to work on my heart and through His enabling power to live in grace. Grace extends forgiveness and kindness by overlooking others faults. Grace carries on when people misjudge you. By God’s grace our lives are put into order with purpose and meaning. God’s amazing grace never runs out.

 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.      Heb 4:16 (NLT)

Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

We all know the Holiday season can be stressful and exhausting!  Approximately 6 weeks of non-stop advertising and extra to-do’s added to the calendar. This year the media added the stress of not “getting what you want” and running out of supplies due to the backup of cargo ships . Plus we are still feeling the lingering effects of the pandemic. We can get caught in the trap of consumerism so easily but building memories and caring for people is more important than things. I believe we really need to re-evaluate what is truly important. Everyday we have choices and can control the chaos this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What are the most important traditions for you and your family?  Put those at the top of the list!  Carefully consider other events before saying yes to others.  Don’t try to do it all or you won’t enjoy anything yourself. If Mommy (or Daddy) isn’t happy then nobody is happy!

Have limits and lower expectations that everything will be Hallmark perfect. If you have  small children and especially if you have children with special needs, you may have to say no to too many extra activities.  Don’t feel guilty. No time to bake? Buy cookies. Limit the visiting hours and try to maintain a regular bedtime. One year we just couldn’t get our family Christmas letter done and didn’t send any cards. Nobody died because of it (but I did get a reprimand from an elderly friend).

If this is a particularly stressful or financially tight year for you then only decorate the Tree, the mantle or table and the front door. The tree represents – eternal life and Jesus the Light of the world.  The mantle or table decoration is right in view for you while the front door is what others see and where you enter and exit everyday.

Plan and limit your shopping. It is too stressful to push through the crowds of people to “find the perfect gift”. I have been so happy with online shopping but watch your spending and set limits there too. Getting into debt over gifts does not leave a satisfying feeling afterwards.

tired shopper

Stop and take a deep breath – seriously. Breathing helps clear our minds, calms our racing thoughts and lowers blood pressure.

Make sleep a PRIORITY –  Take cat naps if necessary – I am finding a great benefit to it. Have a coffee or tea and take a 5 minute power nap – it really will refresh you!

I love the idea of  “no politics” at the table. Sharing funny stories or remembrances is a much better way to enjoy and connect even with difficult relatives. Take a walk, play a board game or watch a classic movie together instead.

group-of-friends-and-family-thanksgiving

Take advantage of FREE things. Driving around the neighborhood to view different lights and displays is fun!  Enjoy a local holiday parade (or Macy’s on TV).  Play music: slow to relax or fast to pump you up to finish a task. Music is the international language that speaks to the soul and that’s why everyone loves Christmas music!

Most important DO NOT neglect your time with God!  Read a Christmas devotional or one Chapter of Luke each day for the month. Read the real story of  Thanksgiving. Learning about their first winter and harvest meal will make you grateful! Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday and the reason He came.  Ask God to help you count blessings and not focus on difficulties. He will fill your heart with peace, wonder and the joy of the season.

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy – O tidings of comfort and joy!!!

Keep Your Tools Sharpened

Keep Your Tools Sharpened

I recently bought a new set of steak knives and a vegetable peeler. I really can’t remember how old the ones we were using were. Not a big deal, right? But oh what a difference they made! Cutting through steak was easy and not like sawing through rubber and oh how quickly the carrots were peeled! Over time and with use the wear and tear affects their sharpness and effectiveness. It’s a gradual decline in the cutting edge that isn’t noticeable until simple tasks become difficult. All chefs, carpenters and gardeners know how important it is to keep their tools clean and sharpened to avoid injury and get the best results.

Many of us have not been careful to guard our minds from the constant barrage of adds telling us what we need and what to believe. The immoral and often untrue drone of the media feeds into our subconsciouses. We believe the lies and fall into the trap of mediocrity as our souls become dull to the decline in the very fabric of our society. There aren’t many ways to God – Jesus said ,”I AM the way”. There can’t be a “my truth” and “your truth”, there is only THE TRUTH. We shouldn’t be tied up and confused by all the jargon being spit out by the world. God’s word tells us that it doesn’t need to be this way. It’s NOT supposed to be this way for His children. Jesus was quick to answer Satan with Scripture. The value of memorization is incalculable as the Spirit will bring verses to mind in our need.

 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Eph 6:13-18 (ESV)

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)

We keep our focus sharp by reading His word, prayer and being in fellowship with other believers. How can we encourage each other if we don’t know what is going on each other’s lives? God has always called His people to corporate prayer and worship. We sharpen each other by discussing God’s word and how to apply it to our daily situations. The blessing of having services online during our national shutdown has caused some to stop the habit of coming together at all.

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 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25 (ESV)

 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov 27:17 (ESV)

I believe we are in the beginning of the End Times. Keep looking up and your tools sharp!

The Majesty of Autumn

The Majesty of Autumn

It is officially Autumn in New England. Autumn brings a change in the air; warm days and cooler nights.  The treasures of harvest time bring feelings of excitement and gratefulness.  The most beautiful wave of color is beginning to surround us as summer comes to an end. Locals and people from all over the world come to New England to see the colorful countryside brought on by a large variety of trees but notably the maple. One maple tree by itself can display a gorgeous array of color from green to yellow to fluorescent orange and reds.

In the past few years I have intentionally tried to take notice of and enjoy all the little things. I refuse to hit the crazy squirrel trying to cross the road. I purposefully slow down to look for turkeys and deer even if the person behind me hits their horn. I encourage you too to not miss the sights and sounds  and smells all around us. We are in too much of a rush, too glued to electronics, too tired trying to multi-task and we are missing out on the simple joys of LIFE!

My family walks to a nearby stream where there are approximately 100 ducks ( the neighbors feed them) but they will be migrating soon. My hummingbirds have already taken flight and butterflies will leave also. How do they know where to go and when? Kids today don’t even think about it because there is no interest in what is happening in their own backyards. There is so much to learn from nature but we and our children are losing something precious – the gift of imagination and wonder.

Enjoy the beauty of the autumn colors while walking or driving or even when stuck in traffic .  No matter how bad the day or whatever the season we can choose to see and enjoy God’s beauty. A big buzz word we hear is mind-fullness but it really means purposefully using our senses to lift our heads out of the mundane and refresh our souls. Take time to smell the last rose, eat a fresh picked apple and take a walk in the park. Watch as the birds form a V pattern on their migration to warmer areas. Our hearts can be soothed in knowing that God is providing for them and will take care of our needs too. A reminder that we shouldn’t worry about the little things.

… look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. 7 Nobody has to tell it what to do. 8 All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions. Prov 6:6-8 (MSG)

“Therefore I tell you, 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.  Matt. 6:25-26 ESV

Majesty is not a word we commonly use unless referring to the British monarchy. Majesty is the quality of being beautiful, dignified and impressive. How else can you describe a mountainside splashed in all the brilliant colors of a 152 count Crayola box -the largest assortment they make. It is awesome, breath taking and inspiring. The old hymn “How Great Thou Art” comes to my mind with the phrase ,”then sings my soul”. My wish for you in this season is to slow down and enjoy His beautiful masterpiece.

On Tuesday I Quit

On Tuesday I Quit

You might have heard the story about the husband who comes home from work to find his wife sitting on the sofa reading a magazine. Looking around the house he saw the sink and counters were filled with dishes, toys were strewn all over the place, laundry is sitting in the basket unfolded and the kids were loudly banging something in another room. “What in the world happened?’ he exclaimed. To which she replied, “Every day you come home and ask what I did all day. Well, today I didn’t do it.”

Some days are like that. On Tuesday, I quit. Not my work as a nurse. I am already retired. I came home after dropping my son off at his work and looked around the messy kitchen. “Why in the world had four cutting boards been used for making two lunches? Why can’t the other humans in the house put their mugs and glasses in the dishwasher?” I said to myself. “That’s it. I quit. I am only doing what I absolutely have to do.”

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.     Eccl 2:11 (ESV)

King Solomon was right!  If I do the laundry, there will be more. When I pull the weeds, new ones grow. I am not being ungrateful. I truly love my home and appreciate all that God has given us. God sees my mess but doesn’t care about it. He cares about my heart.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy …   Eccl 2:24-26

 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Phil 2:14-15

My light cannot shine very bright if my energy is low. Maybe it was the crazy weather but I was just plain weary. We are admonished to do all things without complaining but we get cranky if we are tired or hungry. I needed to take my own advice and rest. I needed a nap. I needed to hydrate. I goofed off on social media. I prayed and sat outside. Despite having a full refrigerator, we went out for dinner.

Although we shouldn’t let our family run around in dirty underwear, most household tasks are not urgent. People are more important than chores. Maybe you feel like I did and need to just quit and recharge. After all it is summertime. Tomorrow is another day and I can begin again with a better attitude and a renewed spirit. Besides the laundry pile will only get bigger.

SOUL RESTORATION

SOUL RESTORATION

My husband and I like to watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS.  It is interesting to watch as people bring in their various collections, yard sale finds and family heirlooms to be appraised.  Sometimes you can just tell that the Appraiser is very excited by a particular piece.  He will begin to explain the origin and history of the find but then declare that the article is quite valuable but if it is properly restored it will be worth far more than ever dreamed.

We have an old bureau that had belonged to my husbands’ Great Aunt.  It was usable but in sad shape. The top was worn and veneer broken. We didn’t think restoring it to the original finish would be worth the work since it was not an expensive wood. Instead, my husband carefully sanded down all the surfaces several times and patched the broken places. It took several coats of paint as the wood was very dry and I ordered new special knobs and handles to replace the old plain ones. It was a process that took time. It is still an old vintage piece but looks better than before inside and out.

The biblical meaning of the word “restoration” is to receive back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition.  The point is that someone or something is improved beyond measure.

Peter had really blown it by denying he even knew Jesus while standing in the courtyard while Jesus was inside “on trial’. But today you can visit Tabgha, a quiet cove on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. There a church was built called “the Church of Peter’s Primacy” to commemorate Peter’s restoration. He was not restored to go back to fishing but to move forward as “the Rock”, the chosen leader for the disciples and early Church. 

Humans were created in God’s own image and are of great worth in His eyes. No person can stray so far away that they cannot be restored by His grace. Jesus explained that to us clearly in the parable of the prodigal son. God wants to use us for His service and glory despite our faults and failures.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.          2 Cor 5:17 (ESV)

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.      Eph 4:22-24

Maybe you can’t identify with the “prodigal son” but you are more like his brother.  Life didn’t seem “fair” and he was angry. Has your Bible gotten dusty or is your thought life rough around the edges? Are you stuck in old habits and patterns of life that make it difficult to function properly?  Maybe your joy has lost its luster? The past year and a half has been very difficult.  Wherever you are or whatever situation you find yourself in, let God do some deep cleaning in your heart and restore your soul. As long as you have life, God has a plan and a purpose for your life.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.                     Psalms 51:10 & 12