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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Days Without the Sun

Days Without the Sun

Spring has been so dreary in New England this year.  April only had four days of total sunshine. Gray clouds and light sprinkles to pouring rain have continued to drag our rainyhandweary bodies and souls down. Oh how we long for the sun and warmth! Nature still takes its course despite the weather and the days grow longer. We watch the birds return, buds sprout on trees and flowers push their way up through the ground.

But what a difference the sun makes! I watched with gladness when my perennials shot up five inches after only two days of sunshine. I enjoyed coffee on my patio in the brief warmth and felt a sense of relief. It gave me a renewed feeling of energy and a better attitude.

sunny patioThis is true of our spiritual lives as well. A day without the SON is also a little bit dreary. Without spending some time in prayer and reading God’s word my day is not as focused and my spirit can sag.  

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus calls us to come to Him. We are to leave our worries and problems with Him believing that He loves us and is at work in our lives. Our God is not a harsh task Master but has promised good things to us. So many people misunderstand God because they don’t really know Him.

               My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.      John 10:10 (NLT)

We all have days in our lives that are gray and seem never ending.  I find a lot of encouragement in the book of psalms and chapter 42 is a favorite of many because it describes the weariness of the soul. If you are feeling blue, I encourage you to read the whole chapter.

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and6 my God!     Psalms 42:5-6 (NLT)

Even on the dreariest day I can have Sunshine in my soul.  Anyone who knows me or has read my blog knows I love music. I’ll end today with the words to a dear old hymn.

There is Sunshine in My Soul

There is sunshine in my soul today,
More glorious and bright
Than glows in any earthly sky,
For Jesus is my light.

O there’s sunshine, blessed sunshine,
While the peaceful, happy moments roll;
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.

There is springtime in my soul today,
For when the Lord is near
The dove of peace sings in my heart,
The flowers of grace appear.

There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope, and praise, and love,
For blessings which He gives me now,
For joys laid up above.

 

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Living in Gratitude

Living in Gratitude

Throughout the month of November we hear a lot about “Thanksgiving”, as in the holiday story and being thankful for basic needs being met. But peculiar to America, the day after we nostalgically fill our stomachs we have “black Friday”, a time of racing off to shop for the best deals and display full blown commercialism and greed.  What happened?

thanksgiving-2903166__340The words gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness  come from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’ , it is a feeling of appreciation . We can be grateful for something that gives us pleasure or contentment  and or supplies comfort or alleviates discomfort.  The definition of thankful is to be ; 1.conscious of benefit received or for what we are about to receive – makes us truly thankful – a feeling. 2. it is expressive or 3. we are well pleased

How do we live a life of gratitude? How we choose to look at life or our circumstances can be either dismal or hopeful. Being grateful comes from a healthier perspective. Here are some points to ponder:

  • It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. Be thankful that you have a perspectiveglass and there is something in it.
  • Be grateful for what you have already while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have , what makes you think you would be happy with more?                  Ray T. Bennett
  • Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessing, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

It is so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of “I want”, “I need” ,”I gotta have it too”, while comparing ourselves to others. The marketing and media industry wants us to focus only on temporary things but God wants us to value the eternal things.

16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.                           1 John 2:16 (NLT)

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.     1 Tim 6:6-8 (ESV)

Watching the news this past year has caused me to stop and count my many blessings more than ever.  Our country has suffered massive destruction coast to coast – storms and floods, volcanic eruptions, and massive forest fires. I pray for victims and first responders but also stop and thank God for my home and all the things I have. I have so much! We all have so much!

I believe that true gratitude comes from a heart that recognizes we deserve nothing but God gives us everything we need. We are given so many blessings every day but are entitled to none. I can learn to be content with what I have. I was recently challenged to write down one thing I am grateful for everyday over the next 30 days. Maybe that would be a good exercise for you and your family too because a thankful heart is a happy heart. Let us live with an attitude of gratitude.

 

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Look to the Mountains

Look to the Mountains

My husband Paul and I just returned from a “bucket list” trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, AZ to celebrate our 35th anniversary.  People from around the world make the journey to visit and explore these marvels of creation. We were amazed as we drove up… literally UP and UP from Phoenix to Williams. The vastly changing topography and increasing altitude were something in themselves. We even drove through a snowstorm!  From 7000 feet we viewed the Grand Canyon and all of its splendor from day through a sunset tour.

We learned of its ancient people, flora and fauna, geology, and of course its conservationIMG_1534 and preservation. At every vantage point we saw something new. It is true that you have to actually see this place with your own eyes. It is hard to describe to someone and photographs can only capture a small portion of the depth and breadth of the Grand Canyon. The colors change with the sunlight as you view high and low. How awesome is our God!

In Sedona, we drove throughout the Red Rock Country on our own.  Taking our time as we viewed this amazing landscape we were reminded of God’s infinite power through the beauty in nature.  Breath-taking.  Our favorite spot was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built to a twin pinnacle spur, about 250 feet high jutting out a thousand foot rock wall, solid as the “Rock of Peter”, the building was completed in 1956. It took 25 years from the dream of the original donor, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, and after much research, to find the place and gain permission to build this beautiful chapel. People from many countries were there. Many entered the chapel to pray, as did we.

redrock3A quote from the benefactor,  “When we consider that just as the soul inhabits a human frame, and the house is built to shelter that frame, it is the mission of the church to shelter and inspire both soul and body. It therefore should not be only be a monument to faith, but a spiritual fortress so charged with God, that it spurs mans’ spirit godward!”

In the bible, Psalms 120-134 formed a hymn book used by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Booths. As a child I remember my father reading Psalm 121 to us before we left for vacation each summer. We tried to do the same with our children.

Psalm 121     A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there?2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
5 The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
7 The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.          Psalms 121:1-8 (NLT)

redrock1As we traveled through the plains along the highway, the hills and mountains seemed small, grayish and distant. But as we drew closer to them we could see color and dimension and beauty as they towered above us. Sometimes our view of God is the same. He seems fuzzy and distant. God, our Father, beckons us to draw near and see Him in all of His splendor and majesty. We grow closer by reading His word, praying and building a relationship with Him.

The pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem often had a long hard journey to make. They planned and prepared but I’m sure they got weary. Reciting the psalms gave them encouragement and hope to continue on. We too can plan and prepare for life but often the twists and bumps in the road make it long and hard.  No matter what troubles you may be experiencing today – look to the hills and remember the Creator of heaven and earth. Our God is bigger than any mountain and greater than any sea and yet He cares for each one of us. He is our help and strength for every step of the way.

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What to Do About Worry?

What to Do About Worry?

A recent article in Reader’s Digest was entitled “What,Me, Worry? You Bet I Do”. A tongue worriedwomanin cheek tale by Donal Ryan on how he worries about everything from if he remembered to close the refrigerator door to nuclear proliferation. He finally oddly found a little peace when the plane he was on had landing gear trouble. Why peace? Because he let go and realized he could do absolutely nothing about the situation! Why do we worry so much? Especially in America where our most basic needs are provided for without much trouble and yet we are filled with anxiety.

Worry is like a rocking chair. You may feel like you are doing something but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

I read another article in Readers’ Digest, quite awhile ago, that profoundly spoke to me and I wish I had saved it.  A young intern was working a second job at night in the college cafeteria. He would often complain to himself about his difficult situation. He noticed the elderly janitor would sit quietly and contentedly eating a liverwurst sandwich every evening. So he took the time to talk with the man and learned he was a Holocaust survivor. In essence, the elderly man replied to the grumbling intern,  that life is a matter of perspective. “If you lose your job, then you have a situation. If you break your back, then you have a problem.”

I believe that by retraining our minds to evaluate our situation we can decrease a lot of unnecessary worry. We can do that by using what I call “God’s measuring stick” which is found in a passage in the book of Phillippians.    measuring-stick

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.         Phil 4:6-9 (NLT)

bubble-19329_960_720We can ask ourselves,   Is it (what we are anxious about) true? Is it a worthy cause? Is it the right thing to do,time or place? Is it pure, lining up with God’s word? Is it lovely, admirable or praiseworthy?  Will this matter tomorrow, next month or year? We often waste time worrying about things that really don’t matter.  How does the situation “measure up”? Things that do matter should be brought before God in prayer and left in trust and faith in His hands. When we do this we will experience His peace.

Jesus said,   That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than 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? …….“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.         Matt 6:25-34 (NLT)

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Life is Like a Donut

Life is Like a Donut

Eating fried dough as a treat has origins that date back to ancient Rome and Greece.  However, the dessert we call a “doughnut or donut” is credited to early Dutch settlers in America during the early 1800’s.

donut3Doughnuts took on a patriotic resonance on the front lines in World War I, when female Salvation Army workers known as “Doughnut Girls” would fry and distribute doughnuts to American soldiers fighting in France. They offered a taste of home to the soldiers during World War II as well.

And National Donut day, is the on the first Friday of June, it succeeded the original event created by the Salvation Army in 1938, to honor the members who served doughnuts to soldiers during WWI. I wrote that day in my calendar!

But near and dear to my heart is the story of “Dunkin’Donuts” which began in 1948 in a restaurant called “Open Kettle” in Quincy, MA.  A Dunkin’ shop can be found literally all around the world.  We found one while on vacation in Nassau and Key West!

In the 1990’s,  my children would watch a show called “The Donut Man”. It was created doughnut-singleby American Christian children’s songwriter and performer Rob Evans. His overall theme is “Life without Jesus is like a donut – it’s like a hole in the middle of your heart”. He teaches through various bible and real life stories that God wants to fill that hole.

Life is full of good, even delicious, things. But there is also a brokenness or emptiness inside. The Bible shows us over and over that we have a need God for in our lives. We were created in His image for a relationship with Him. But since the Garden of Eden that relationship has been broken.

1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?    Psalms 42:1-2 (NLT)

 I once wrote a letter to one of my sister–in-laws who was in the midst of some major life- changing decisions.  In general it said, “You have tried many things in life. You tried education and got a Masters degree. You have bought property and are a landlord. You have many different friends and are now trying to have a family. (She is single and was considering adoption.)  All of these are great accomplishments but there will always be a void in your life without a relationship with God. We were born with a God sized vacuum in our hearts that only He can fill and nothing else will satisfy.

  Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me.    John 6:35-36 (NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.       Matt 11:28 (NLT)

 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.    Psalms 73:26 (NLT)

I live with several chronic health issues and have faced many big “storms” in life. But God has always been there to give me strength, hope and a deep peace. I may feel sad or lonely but I am never alone.  That is why I chose Hebrews 6:19a for my ministry verse.

                     This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Friend, if you feel empty and weary today come to the Living Water that never runs dry. Only He can satisfy the longing of your heart.

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