No More Resolutions, Excuses and Regrets

No More Resolutions, Excuses and Regrets

I stopped making a “new years’ resolution” several years ago because they just didn’t stick. We all know in January the gyms are full and so are Weight Watchers and other dieting programs. Memberships start to dwindle in March. (I know, I have tried several gyms but I don’t enjoy going to the gym…) The intentions are good but often the goals are fuzzy or not worth the effort to follow through.

The noun resolution has a few related meanings having to do with being firmly determined about something. If you lack determination, you’ll never fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. . If you approach a task with resolution, you do it with determination. And if you make a resolution, you make a firm decision to do something or meet some goal. ( from vocabualry.com)

Because many of our resolutions are just wishful thinking, what follows is a terrible cycle of excuses with all the reasons to justify why we quit moving forward and even going backwards. This in turn can lead to regret if we do not learn from the experience. The Bible refers to regret as a way for Satan to get inside you mentally. Regret can be devastating if we don’t keep it in check. The apostle Paul addressed the root of the problem.

Romans 7:15–25 (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.

How can we fortify our resolve to be better, do better? First we need to recognize our strengths and weaknesses before making plans. It is all too easy to let the tyranny of the urgent to take over. The newest crisis or “important” activity bumps what we know we should do. Sometimes I find myself living by the boxes on my calendar without leaving margins for health and soul care if I don’t prioritize and ask for God’s help.

We all need to begin the new year and every new day with a the right attitude for a fresh start.

Psalm 51:10 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold (sustain) me with a willing spirit. ( NIV reads : renew a steadfast spirit within me)

Philippians 4:13 (ESV) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Psalm 37:5 (ESV) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

Instead of making a “resolution” try to form specific goals for the month or year. Ask yourself how important each goal is. What will it take to start moving in a positive direction to reach the goal? What are some action steps to take? How long will the goal really take to complete or see a difference? This is a more thoughtful process to get things accomplished. Blessings are in the new year my friends if we look to Him for guidance, discernment and determination.

A riddle for the new year: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

What Does Advent Mean and Why Do We Celebrate?

What Does Advent Mean and Why Do We Celebrate?

When I was growing up, my Church did not observe the season of Advent in a formal way. It is not in the scriptures but neither is Christmas as we celebrate today. The tradition of focusing on a season of prayer, scripture readings and lighting candles throughout the month of December goes back to the 4th century. The word “Advent” means “arrival” or “coming” and symbolizes the waiting for Christ’s birth but also His final return as was prophesied.

Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

There are many different traditions around the world but the wreath as we commonly use today first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission fashioned a wheel with twenty small red candles and four large white ones to teach the children the importance of waiting for Christmas. One red candle was lit each morning and a large white candle on Sunday. Today our wreath usually involves four candes around an evergreen wreath and many add a fifth candle in the middle which is lit on Christmas day.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting. 
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace–He came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent pure light and victory. Copied from Crosswalk.com

The green wreath (and tree) symbolizes eternity, life and hope. A ring shape is used to remember Jesus is the King of kings and would one day wear a crown of thorns for us. In this darker season (in the northern hemisphere) the candles and lights represent Christs’ coming to bring light and love into a dark and cold world. We are to be like lights to show others the only way to peace of heart and mind.

Another popular tool to help children count the days until Chrismas is an Advent calendar which was first printed in 1908. There are many creative versions and I have seen some very elaborate heirloom quality wooden boxes with a small drawer for each day.

I believe we should focus our attention on the reason for the season to keep our hearts centered on what is important. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in all the commercial trappings and lost in busyness. There are many tools we can use to enhance our observance from devotionals to ideas on Pinterest. But first we must purposely choose to keep Christ in Christmas in our hearts and in your homes.

Have You Heard the Pumpkin Gospel?

Have You Heard the Pumpkin Gospel?

A story of a new start with God!

My big round pumpkin shows me God gives us a clean heart.

He will forgive our mess-ups. He offers a new start.

The slime that fills the pumpkin, all stringy slipp’ry goo,

reminds me of my insides before God makes me new.

I scoop the mushy gushies like God cleans out my sin,

When He says “I forgive you,” I smile a great big grin.

Come look into my pumpkin: he is all clean inside.

And outside he is wearing a smile that’s big and wide.

God’s love is like a candle that shines from iside out.

It’s beaming deep within me, and so I now can shout.

To glow like my big pumpkin and have a nice clean heart,

ask God to please forgive you. You’ll have a brand new start.

By Mary Manz Simon

Matthew 5:14–16
14You are the light of the world. A city located on top of a hill cannot be hidden,
15nor do they light a lamp and place it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it shines on all those in the house.
16In the same way let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Dear Readers, This delightful story, “The Pumpkin Gospel ” can be found in boardbook style on Amazon and at Christianbook.com for your children and grandchildren.

Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus Care?

When you are facing a crisis of any kind, do you wonder if God cares? When you feel lost or alone and think , “can’t He see I’m struggling here? ” When you watch tragedies unfold on the television do you wonder if He hears our prayers? I can tell you dear reader that yes, He cares. From cover to cover the Bible reminds us of Gods’ love and faithfulness to individuals as well as groups of people.

Reading through the Psalms of David gives us insight into this “man after God’s own heart.” David was called as a young man to serve God and was anointed to one day become king of Israel. But most of his life was filled with difficulty – running from a crazy man(Saul), family disfunction and wars to name a few. That is why his words so often reflect the feelings and questions of our own hearts.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18. ESV

A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and he takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD supports him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24 CSB

Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you …. Psalms 42;5&6 CSB

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3 CSB

One time when the Lord Jesus travelled across the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, a great storm arose. In terror, the men roused their sleeping Master. “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mk. 4:38). What a question! The irony of it is striking. Why had He come to this earth? To save those who are perishing and destined for eternal ruin (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 3:16). On another occasion, the Lord was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at His feet, absorbing His teaching. But “Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’” (Lk. 10:40). If the first example represents fear’s mastery over faith (Mk. 4:40), the second strikes at the root of values and priorities (Lk. 10:41-42). by Robert Cottrill in Wordwise Hymns

Frank Ellsworth Graeff (1860-1918) was a Methodist minister who was well known for his sunny disposition and story telling abilities especially with children. However he struggled deeply with a number of losses, pain and testing experiences in his life. He often turned to Scripture for strength and solace and 1 Peter 5:7 “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”, became especially meaningful to him and spoke to his need. It was during a time of great despondency and doubt that Rev. Graeff penned the words to the hymn, “Does Jesus Care?”.

It is only human to to experience times in our lives when we have doubts and question the nearness of God. Our struggles can leave us feeling defeated and depleted of joy when we lose sight of who God is and His loving care for us. It is in these moments we need to read in the Bible about the character of our God and cling to His promises.

God is Eternal, Faithful, Holy, Just, Loving, All Powerful, All Seeing, All Knowing, Always Present, Unchanging, Prince of Peace…

God is our Advocate, Counselor, Healer, Provider, Protector, Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and Friend…

You can bring all your concerns, petitions, shattered dreams and wounded hearts and give them all to Jesus because YES He cares!

Remember Who You Are

It has been 27 years since Disney’s The Lion King premiered in its animated form but is still a globally loved film and musical. Strong messages of love, friendship, hope and responsibility are wrought throughout the story. Although critics complained about the violence, terror and stereotypes within the film, isn’t that real life? In the past year and a half we have been overcome by things we do not understand. How can a tiny virus shut down the world? Our planet is feeling the impact of climate change from massive forest fires, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes causing much catastrophic damage. Violence and terror both locally and globally have increased. But for the Christian, one thing has remained unchanged. God is Sovereign and in control.

I believe there are some life lessons we can apply from The Lion King.

Simba said, “As you go through life there is so much that I don’t understand. And the only thing we know is things don’t always go the way we planned.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.         Prov 3:5-6 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer 29:11

Rafiki said, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”  “Look beyond what you can see.”

  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.     1 Cor 16:13-14

Mufassa said, “While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.” “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba, you are more than what you have become,”

Often I think we, “THE CHURCH”, have forgotten WHO we are. We are sons and daughters of the King of kings but some don’t behave like it. We have taken our spiritual armor off and haven’t protected our hearts and minds. The division over mask wearing has wreaked havoc in some churches. I am not saying we should be foolish and carry on with our lives as if nothing has changed. I am requesting that we please follow proper guidelines and stop fighting the government because Satan is our real enemy. God wants us to grow and be more than we are.

We are the adopted children of God and therefore sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ and carry the only message of reconciliation with God and promise of heaven. We need to walk wisely and wear our armor.

“Clothe yourselves with God’s truth, put on the breastplate of God’s righteousness (not our own) and your feet should carry the gospel of peace. Hold the shield of faith before you to be protected from the arrows (lies, deceit, hate etc) of the evil one. Wear the helmet of salvation and carry the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Pray at all times and be alert.”  From Gal. 6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  Deut 31:6

We have a message of hope and peace to share. And thanks to technology we can find newer ways to reach out and help others. Remember this world is not our final home. Remember who you are.

Confidence During Quarantine

Confidence During Quarantine

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

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

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope      Jer 29:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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