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.

donuts -filled

 

 

 

The Hope of Easter

The Hope of Easter

Spring brings the promise of renewal and new life. Even here in New England while we 1stcrocusare enduring our 4th Nor’easter, we know Spring will come. We long for warmer weather and outdoor activities. We look for the buds on the trees and bulbs poking through the ground. The birds have returned from their southern migration and daylight is lasting longer. Despite how things look right now, we have hope.

egg-innestNature burst forth in expectancy and hope. We plant seeds and wait for their growth with a promise of flowers or food. We watch the birds as they lay their eggs in expectant hope of new life. Easter is celebration of remembrance and thanksgiving because God is all powerful and keeps His promises. Easter is about hope. It does not matter who you are, where you have been. Because of God’s great love He offers a new life through faith in His Son.

 “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.  John 3:16 (NLT)

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”   Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)jesus3crosses

Jesus forgave that repentant thief and promised him peace and a place in heaven.  He also had told His disciples that He would be leaving but come back for them.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house 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. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” … 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.    John 14:1-6 (ESV)

But on that day – we call it black Friday – The disciples were horrified and devastated as they watched Jesus die. All their hopes and dreams seemed gone. Many ran and hid in fear. He had taught them so many things but they just didn’t understand what went “wrong”. A few friends hung around to do the only thing they could…give Him a proper burial. When the women arrived at the tomb, the stone was rolled away and an angel greeted them;

 “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead,      Matt 28:5-7 (ESV)

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Surprise, joy, wonder, awe, hope… ran through their hearts and minds!

Later the apostle John wrote,   …but these (scriptures) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  John 20:31 (ESV)

We believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died for our sin on the cross, was buried, rose from the grave on the third day and is alive and coming again. This is our promise. This is the hope of Easter.

“Pardon for sin, peace that endures, His presence with us to comfort and guide, Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”   (from the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness)

Because He Lives by Gloria Gaither

Because He Lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow:

Because He lives all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives.

 

Broken and Uprooted

Broken and Uprooted

DSC_1100Last weekend’s storm left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. For some that meant no heat or water and flooded basements .The damage from the wind to the trees and power lines was extremely widespread.  Walking around our neighborhood we were awestruck as we surveyed damage to a roof and a car with two trees on top of it. A massive tree had been uprooted and was blocking the main road while other trees were snapped in half. There is really no way to fully prepare for a storm of this nature.

The journey of life contains storms of all types and sizes. During this N’oreaster storm, we felt out of sorts and uprooted.  We were able to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights and had the money to buy hot food, for which we are very grateful. Staying at a hotel is good but not home and we were not on vacation.  But this was just an inconvenience.

Have you ever felt uprooted by a change of job? Uprooted by a move far away from overturned-treefriends and family? Uprooted by loss of health or a loved one?  We live in a broken world. These experiences are hard and painful but God’s Word tells us that He will never abandon us.

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak,      Ezek 34:16 (ESV)

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.   Psalms 34:18 

Friend, how deep are your roots of faith?  The answers to our many problems and guidance for each day are found in the Bible. So many people who call themselves Christians do not even read His Word on a regular basis or at all. How can we find strength and peace of mind if we don’t even know Him or seek His help?

  “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord. 8  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”        Jer 17:7-8 (ESV)

  Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.   1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

 The Bible gives us so many examples to follow. The Psalms are a type of poetry full of raw emotion.  David praises God and cries out to Him.  He complains about life not being fair and the bad guys seem to have it all. He cries out when his heart is broken and his life is in danger. He also praises God for provision and protection. David was known as a man after God’s own heart.

 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.   Psalms 1:1-3 (ESV)        pohutukawa-trees-

We too can hold on in faith no matter what the circumstance. It does not mean that everything can be fixed or will turn out the way we want. But it does mean having a life of peace, contentment and purpose.

GIVE THEM ALL TO JESUS    by Phil Johnson

1.  Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?

Are you tired of spinning ‘round and ‘round?

Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life

And at the feet of Jesus lay them down.

  Chorus

Give them all, give them all,

Give them all to Jesus

Shattered dreams, wounded hearts , and broken toys.

Give them all, give them all,

Give them all to Jesus.

And He will turn your sorrow into joy.

2. He never said you’d only see sunshine;

He never said there’d be no rain.

He only promised a heart full of singing

About the very things that once brought pain.

 

           

 

 

Finish Strong

Finish Strong

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The 2018 Winter World Olympics are set to open this Friday night in Pyeong Chang, South Korea and literally the whole world will be watching. These athletes are the best of the best. They have practiced innumerable hours, training hard to get their bodies and minds in optimal condition and studying every detail of their sport.

World class athletes are teachable, dedicated and focused.  They do not quit when the circumstances are hard or even when they fail.  These athletes, like many others learn from mistakes and try again because they have a goal to achieve, a dream or a mission to pursue.  Their eye is on the prize…the gold medal…. and their desire is to finish well.

The academy award winning movie “Chariots of Fire” is based on a true story and is set chariots of firein the post WWI era at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Harold Abrahams a determined Jew and Eric Liddell a devout Christian, are both naturally gifted fast sprinters, but approach running and how it fits into their prospective lives differently.  Liddell learns that his 100 M race will be held on a Sunday – which he refuses to run based on his religious beliefs despite pressure even from the Prince of Wales.  Instead he preaches a sermon in church and quotes…

 31 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)

 A team mate switches races with Liddell so he can race the 400M -4 times longer – on Tuesday. The odds are against him but Liddell defeats all the American favorites and wins the gold medal. But winning an Olympic race was not his ultimate goal. Liddell returned to China to be a missionary along- side his parents, where he was raised.  He later died in a Japanese prison camp in 1945. At the end of the movie we read, “and all of Scotland mourned”.           ( info copied from Plot summary –IMDb)

Some would say, “What a waste of potential” but others understand that everything on earth is temporary and Liddell chose to run the race of life with conviction, passion and the dedication to glorify God.

The apostle Paul often used a “racing” metaphor in comparison to the Christian life. The city of Corinth was a melting pot of cultures and a massive seaport full of every kind of evil. It boasted an outdoor theater that accommodated 20,000 people which held athletic games second only to the Olympics. He wrote:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor 9:24-27 (ESV)  

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 The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint. We need to stay connected to our Source of strength through reading the Bible and prayer. Practice is an everyday event! In a culture that increasingly dismisses our Christian principles and values we need to be dedicated to standing strong.  The Bible is full of examples to follow – people just like us – and most notably Our Lord Himself.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.      Heb 12:1-2 (ESV)

There is a cost for following Christ…It takes discipline, focus, faithfulness, time and may cause pressure, pain, misunderstanding, even failure…you fill in your own blank_________.    But the prize set before us is eternal peace, joy and to hear Our Father say “well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”

 Charles Billingsley – Finish Strong lyrics

Lately I’ve been feeling
Like this race is running me
And I’m fighting to stay focused
On all that I believe
And somewhere in the distance
There’s a prize that I can win
And I’m more determined now more than I’ve ever been

CHORUS
I want to finish strong
Faithful to the Father thought the road is long
Crossing that line and still I’m pressing on
Oh, I want to finish strong
Oh, I want to finish strong

I can still remember
What it felt like at the start
When the passion for the mission
Was a fire in my heart
And the further that it takes me
It gets easier to see
The best part of the journey now
Is still in front of me

BRIDGE
It’s not about how fast I run
It’s not about how far I’ve come
It’s all about the moment

When I hear My child, well done