Seasons of Refreshing

Seasons of Refreshing

The ladies at my church recently held a day retreat to come together and share some hard things as well as how God has worked throughout the past year and a half. Now that restrictions have been lifted here in Massachusetts it felt so good to be with sisters face to face. I am an extrovert and love to chat with people and I didn’t realize how much the “Covid rules” affected me until after our retreat. My soul needed this time of spiritual refreshment; the fun, food, laughter, prayer, singing and reconnecting with friends.

In 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 we read about the prophet Elijah having showdown between God and the prophets of Baal. In a nutshell, God won and the false prophets were all killed. Now the wicked King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel were furious. Elijah is burnt out and very afraid so he runs to the wilderness where God provides a nap and some food. Refreshment. God had another assignment for him but first he needed some physical and spiritual fortification.

The word refresh means “to give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate”. With technology we refresh our devices – we restore their settings and clean out clutter so they function better. We need to refresh and restore our souls so we function better. Everyone around me is looking forward to having vacation or family reunions but now that we are free to enjoy life “as we think it should be” how will you refresh your soul? We dare not jump back on the hamster wheel of life.

Here are ten of my favorite suggestions to refresh your soul I gathered from the internet.

  1. Get outside and enjoy some vitamin C – God’s feel good medicine.

2. Now that we can (with consideration of others feelings) give your family and best buddies a huge hug.

3. Cut out the background noise and the distractions including the phone.

4. Put some uplifting music on.

5. Take a walk and stretch your body.

6. Read a good book and get lost in the words.

7. Take time for your hobby or try something new. Being creative feels good.

8. Pamper yourself.

9. Check Your Attitude! Have you allowed negative or false thoughts to invade your soul? Ask God to forgive and cleanse your heart and mind.

10. Make a list of things you are grateful for.

For a season of spiritual refreshing get your soul into a place where you can receive God’s peace and renewal. Spend time reading scripture, calm your spirit and pray.

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

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, Acts 3:19-20

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

…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)

God’s promise to us,

Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 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.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

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.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.

Christmas Catastrophe

As we look forward to celebrating Christmas and saying goodbye to 2020 it is okay to acknowledge that 2020 has been a disaster in many ways – the media has bombarded us with earthquakes, fire, floods, pandemic and political unrest. But remember the narrative of our Saviors’ birth happened under Roman occupation, forced to travel miles for a census and not being able to find a proper Inn, Mary gave birth in a stable. That seems pretty awful to me but it was part of God’s plan.

It seems an appropriate time to share one of our stories. It was early Christmas morning when my husband awoke to the smell of smoke.  The alarms hadn’t gone off yet. Thankfully it was not a fire but our furnace had “puffed back” and oily black soot was infiltrating the house. Paul shut off the heat, opened the bulkhead door and later at a decent hour called our oil company.

The children were up and opening their presents with great joy when “Dennis” arrived tool box in hand. They were wearing their footsie pajamas and had blackened little noses and toes but barely paid attention as the stranger entered the house. They didn’t notice the chill in the air or soot on their toys. I asked them to stop playing and wave good bye as we thanked him profusely and apologized for ruining his Christmas morning. While I was greatly dismayed thinking about the clean up that would come afterwards, the children were focused on their gifts. 

What takes away our attention from God’s gift? There was great joy at Jesus’ birth despite the difficult and humble beginning. If you remember, Joseph and Mary didn’t plan any of their circumstances! Maybe it will be good for us that our celebrations will be “different” this year. Missing family members, downsized celebrations and maybe a quieter day will give us time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Day will come – whether there is a pandemic or your furnace has trouble. Most of our problems are temporary and can be cleaned, fixed or healed. Christmas is the day for remembering that God came down to earth to make His home with mankind and later to lay down His life for us. Knowing Jesus brings peace to our hearts, hope for the future and true joy. Make sure your focus is on His best gift today.

 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

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

Covid-19 and the Plagues of Egypt

During this Lenten season the much beloved movie, “The Ten Commandments”, staring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner will be on television at least once.  I could not help but compare our current situation to the plagues that infected Egypt and our responses today.

Pharoah430 yrs. after Jacob and his family came to Egypt in good standing, a Pharaoh rose to power that did not know of Joseph or His God. God saw the oppression and cruelty the people faced and commissioned Moses to face off with Pharaoh. There was no way Pharaoh would let his slave labor force just walk away. So God sent a succession of plagues to annoy and exasperate all the Egyptians into letting the people go. The first two plagues affected everyone in the land. Can you imagine having frogs in your bed or to open your cereal cupboard and have frogs jump out?

The next seven plagues were sent to make a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptian people. The last plague – the death of the first born – showed God’s ultimate Sovereignty over all life. Passover is a remembrance of His power, presence and the protection of His people.

The Egyptian gods were silent. They could not help, heal or protect from any of the plagues.  Pharaohs’ heart just became harder as he refused to believe and bow to the true God of Heaven and Earth. Out of grief, anger and frustration he finally ordered the Israelites to leave the country.moses part red sea But he later recanted and sent his army to chase the people to the edge of the Red Sea. (My favorite part in the movie)

 

 

The succession of plagues may have lasted up to a year. As soon as one plague got better God sent another. God’s people survived all of the plagues, took riches with them and walked through the Sea on dry land. But after all these incredible miracles we read that it didn’t take very long for them to start complaining.

I do not believe God sent Covid-19 as a punishment but does He have your attention? During this National crisis the gods of this world have been silenced. Our celebrity sports precautions hospitalare closed down, mega star musicians silenced, meeting places emptied and we are left with a lot of unknowns. Our God is not silent! His Word has a lot to say about trusting Him for today and the future. We are facing an unprecedented worldwide crisis. This virus and its global spread was a huge surprise to physicians and governments but is not a surprise to Him.

One of my favorite scripture passages tells us to be reasonable, focus our minds on the good and not negative media. We will experience true peace when we pray about our concerns and leave them with Him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.    Phil 4:4-7 

 

Our friends and family are watching to see how we face this crisis.We can share that we are not alone and God is in control. Let us share the hope we have because of Easter- the ultimate love of God.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.                                                                                                                                                     Isaiah 43:1-3 

No matter what restrictions may be put in place and the uncertainty of the future economy, our God is in control. Especially during Lent, let us thank God as we remember His faithfulness  recorded in The Bible for us. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 26:3 

 

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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.

When Crisis Strikes Your Town

When Crisis Strikes Your Town

Our town is in mourning. Four teens , all friends and athletes, were returning from a birthday party when a dark road, a big tree and excessive speed ended their ride and futures. A fifth teen lies in the hospital – his life hanging in the balance.

church memorialFriends of the victims called the local parish and organized a memorial service.  “It’s cathartic because you have to name it,” said Pastor James Mazzone. “You have to put it out there. You have to say, I’m grieving, I’m angry maybe, I’m confused. And when you do that when you share it with other people, it makes it easier.”

A local evangelical church also held a community service to pray for the families, the 5th young man who is in critical care and all the first responders. They offered their Pastoral and counseling staff to be at the high school to meet with grieving students.  A parent group has organized a go fund me page and gathered people to make ribbons to show support as a town for the families.

One of the definitions of community is, “a group of people living together in one place, especially one practicing common ownership”. We come together to mourn the loss of promising life, to remember and comfort one another. These boys were “our” kids.

Where do you go when tragedy strikes? What fills the hurting and questioning heart with peace and comfort? Tragic accidents happen – especially this time of year when young people feel invincible and carefree.

The Psalms echo what our hearts feel…

1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer!2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed       Psalms 61:1-2 (NLT)

Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, hug-grief“Where is this God of yours?”   4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be….: 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 and my God!          Psalms 42:3-6 (NLT)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.    Psalms 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalms 147:3 (NLT)

I wonder about the young man in the hospital and his family. Their names are being protected from the press.  They are grieving too.  Since he was the driver, if he recovers from his physical wounds, his life will  be forever changed. Will people offer him forgiveness and support? His life matters too.

We cry out “WHY?”  Wasn’t God watching? Doesn’t He care?

jesus-wept2In the book of Luke we are told that Jesus wept. He wept because His friend Lazarus died. He wept because His friends were so distraught. They said – if you had been here sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died!  He cried even though He knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead.

So, yes dear one. God is watching and His heart is crying out for us to come to Him. Oh how He longs to comfort and restore us. He understands our pain.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.16 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 4:14-16 (NLT)

Jesus promised a gift to those who believe. So come to Him.   “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.       John 14:27 (NLT)

             Give Them All to Jesus   (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 sorrows into joy.

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