Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Angels Along Our Path

                                                         

       God places certain people in our lives to guide us along our path.  I was blessed to be able to once again see one of these special individuals, recently.
     Sr. Nora Brick is a Franciscan nun that has been working with the migrant community for many decades.  I met her 30 years ago when she was working in Wauchula, FL.  She lived in a small "convent" (house) with two other sisters.  I was contemplating becoming a nun, and it was arranged that I would spend one weekend a month with the sisters, and do what they did.  I would eat, pray and work alongside of them and see how they lived their lives.
     She had a wonderful rapport with the people.  They knew that she loved and truly cared for them, and they loved her, too.  She is a wonderful example and role model for how to love and respect God's children.
     Sr. Nora is now in her 80's and still enthusiastic about working with the poor.  Because of health issues, she now has to retire.  My dear friend P.H. met her a few months ago, and brought me over to see her before she moves to the retirement home.
     I haven't seen Sr. Nora in almost 25 years.  Although older, she was the same sweet lady that I knew so long ago.  With a little bit of help, but she remembered me.  She held my hand as we sat and talked with two other sisters and P.H..  I was able to share with her what a blessing she had been in my life, and an influence in my walk with Christ.  What a gift it was to me, to be able to tell her that.
     The sweet nun began to tell us of how she believed that God's angels are all around.  I hadn't thought of angels in a long time.  She was right...they are.  The Bible speaks of angels among us.  Although we can't see them, they are there, protecting us and defending us against the forces of evil.  God sends us these beings of the heavenly realm to bless our lives.  To me, He also sends us other 'angels'....people with heaven in their hearts.  They are there to guide us to our Creator and help us to know Him in a more personal and intimate way.
     I had asked the sisters about a particular nun...Sr. Mairead (pronounced Mah-rayed).  She was my directress for almost 4 years.  What a special and godly woman.  She was one of the strongest influences in my adult Christian life.  She was the one that taught me about having a relationship with Christ, and how important daily quiet time and prayer were.  The sisters told me that she was now living in the retirement home, due to a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease. I ask that you please say a prayer for this wonderful woman of God.  She was indeed an angel in my life.
     How many 'earthly angels' has God placed along your path?  Was it a parent or grandparent?  A teacher or coach?  Take time today to think of them, and say a prayer of thanks for the influence they've had in your life. 
                                           
Philippians 1:3  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Hebrews 13:2  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
       

  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Loving the Unlovely

                                                              

     What makes a person considered lovable?  Is it their personality?  Their attitude? Their looks?  Some people just have that aura about them, that everyone seems to connect with them.  Wherever they go, they seem to have people smile at them and nod.  Maybe it's not anything they do...it's just in how they are perceived.
     To look at their life, you may consider their life blessed.  All things seem to fall into place for them.  Everything they touch turns to gold.
     What makes a person considered un-lovable?  Is it their personality?  Their attitude?  Their looks?  Some people just have that aura about them, that everyone seems to disconnect with them.  Wherever they go, they seem to have people shy away from them and look away.  Maybe it's not anything they do...it's just in how they are perceived.
     To look at their life you might  may consider their life cursed.  Nothing seems to go right.  Whatever they touch seems to fall apart.
     In reality, everyone is a mixture of both of these people.  No one is all bad...and no one is all good.  It is up to us to determine what we see in someone else.
     It takes two to love.  The lover and the....lovee.  The recipient of that love.  The recipient doesn't have much choice in the matter...but the lover does.
     Love is a choice.  We choose each day, whether or not we want to love the people in our lives.  We choose whether or not we want to look for the good in the people we meet....or focus on the unlovely part of them.
     Therein lies a problem.  What if an 'unlovable' person we meet only comes across people who choose not to love them?  What if no one chooses to look at the good within them?  What tends to happen is that the person begins to BELIEVE that they are in fact, unlovable.  Are they?  Of course not.  But they believe it, because if you are told something often enough, you begin to regard it as truth. 
     Since they think that no one cares, they may become withdrawn and skeptical.  Others may try so hard to find someone who will like them, that they develop unusual behaviors that can cause others to think they are strange.  Still others will look for acceptance in the wrong places...and with the wrong people.
      At the core of our being, God gave us an innate sense of needing to be loved.  Loved for who we are as a person.  We are all created with the same desire for connecting with other humans.  When we choose not to love another person because of how they look or act, we are depriving them of that connection.  If we feel that we are too good to love that individual that society has chosen to label "unlovable" we are only fooling ourselves if we think we are better than them.
     God tells us to love one another.  He doesn't put conditions on it...just to love.  He doesn't say "only if they are pretty, or smart, or just like you".  He said to love...because He loved. 
     He even summed up the Commandments into two catagories:  Love God and Love others as yourself.  He said that there are no commandments greater than these.  (Mark 12:28-31)
     I think I know why God made this such a top priority.  Because if we loved others as He wants us to...there would be a lot less unlovable people in the world.  The need that He created in each of us would be filled. 
     We are His Hands to reach out to those who need love. It's our responsibility to lead them to the One that Loved them first.  The One that created them to be the unique individuals that they are.  The One that is waiting for them to turn to Him for the Love that will never end.
       It's your choice.
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lesson From A Bunch of Demons

                                              

    Yesterday we had a guest missionary at church preach a sermon on Mark 5.  It was an inspiring talk on how we all have a choice to make in life, whether or not to follow Christ.  Something else in the verses caught my attention.
    The passage was about a man that was posessed by several demons.   He lived in a graveyard, and came out to meet Jesus and the disciples as they arrived in the country of the Gerasenes.
   6Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;
   7and shouting with a loud voice, he said, "(D)What business do we have with each other, Jesus, (E)Son of (F)the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"
   8For He had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"
   9And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Legion; for we are many."
   10And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
    11Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.
   12The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."
   13Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
     I've heard this Bible story many times, but for some reason on this occasion I noticed that Jesus not only felt sorry for the man, He seemed to have felt something for the demons.  Was it sympathy?  Empathy?  Compassion?  They begged Him to basically "have mercy" on them, and not to send them out of the country.  No one can know why they asked this...but Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs and they were drowned.  They knew that Jesus had power over them and could do as He wished.  Did they want to be put out of their misery?  Perhaps.  We do know that the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and the first thing they did was defer to Him.  As they controlled the body of the Gerasene man, they bowed down before Him. 
     The demons bowed down before Jesus.  They, who were "running the show" knew that when it came to the Christ, they didn't have a chance.  They didn't even put up a fight.
     How often do I put up a fight?  How often do I want to "run the show" and control my life and what happens to me?   Do I immediately defer to God and silently let His Will be done...or do I want to stand firmly and debate Him on what is best for me?  Are a bunch of demons smarter than me?  Apparently so.  Can I learn a lesson from them?  Yes...if I allow myself to.
   Lord Jesus, thank you for Your mercy and grace.  Please remind me to bow down to You each and every day.  Help me to let You be LORD over my life.  I give it all to You.
    
 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What Are YOU Looking For?

                                                                
                                                             
     Have you ever had one of those mornings?  I had one yesterday.  I got up, ready to do some vacuuming.  As I've stated before, we are staying in my mother-in-law's home.  I found the vacuum the other day, and then found the attachments stored in another closet, due to the lack of space.
     A few days can make a difference with my memory.  I located the bag of attachments, and the seperate carpet attachment.  Question was:  where was the long metal pole they attached to?  I looked all over the place.  I kept going back to the place where I found the bag...all I found was the attachments...no pole. 
     For hours I looked for them, going over the same closets with a fine tooth comb.  Steve called in the early afternoon to check in.  I asked him if he had seen the metal piece...he said the last time he saw it, it was on the carpet attachment.  "Men are so brainless." I thought.  If it were on the carpet attachment, I would have seen it.  Yeahhhh.......
     I walked over to the attachment...and there, hooked to it....was the long metal pole.  Right in front of my eyes!!!  I had moved that thing a bunch of times!  Because it had a cord attached to it, it looked different...not like what I expected.  Once I looked at it in a new light, it made perfect sense.
     As I was vacuuming, I began to think.  How often do we look for things in our lives.  Many times we waste so much time looking and searching for something that is right in front of our eyes. 
     We look for love, acceptance, peace, or freedom from financial woes. Many times we look for them in the wrong places. While all of these things are important, we can find them all when we find God.  Sure, that's too simplistic, you might think.  God didn't think so.
     Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that "You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart."  While that sounds pretty easy...it can be hard.  It's the all your heart part that can be tricky. Most times we don't want to search with ALL of our hearts...we'd like to keep a section reserved for "ME, MYSELF and I".   God can have the rest...   The Omnicient One knew all about our fickle hearts.  That's why He said "ALL YOUR HEART".  Many times if we are looking for God, and can't find Him, we give up.  Or maybe we don't recognize Him, because we are in an unfamiliar setting or He doesn't look like we expect Him to.  If we look at a situation in a new light, we could find that He's been there all the time, just waiting for us to notice Him.
     I find when I get caught up in the 'Me's", and can't find God anywhere; I need to step aside and give all of my being to the LORD.  Let Him direct me, and lead me, where HE wants me to go.  Then sure enough...He is right there..right in front of my eyes.  Can YOU see Him?
   

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Are YOU Full Of?

                                                   

     Certain things may come to mind, but we won't go there!  I'd like to take a different look at a few common words that have been used to describe people.  What do these words REALLY mean?
     Are you thoughtful?  Full of thought for others. If given a choice between yourself and another person...who would you choose?  Would you automatically think of yourself and what you want, or do you consider the other person, and what they may want...or need?  How about in your conversations?  Do you think before you speak?
     Are you prayerful?  Is your life "full of prayer"?  Do you talk (and listen) to God throughout the day....or do you only give Him a shout out when things aren't going well?  Do you read His Word on a regular basis, or grab your Bible as you go out the door on Sundays?
     Are you thankful?  Do you have a heart full of thanks?  Do you look at what you have, and are grateful for it?  Or do you mostly focus on the things you DON'T have, whining that life is unfair? 
     Are you graceful?  I don't mean are you ballerina material...but do you have a heart full of grace?  Do you realize that all you have is a gift from God?  Or do you think that you have earned all that you have and you deserve every bit of it?
     Are you careful?  Are you full of care about things, or care-less with them?  Do you do your best at work or in school, or do enough to barely get by?
     Are you joyful?  Is your life filled with joy?  If it is not, the Bible tells us that we can obtain that joy. Psalm 16:11 states:  'You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy.'  How can we have that??
     Through prayer, the Lord guides us and lets us know the path that He wants us to go down.  The grace of God brings us into His Presence. We cannot be in that Presence if we only call out to Him when we feel like it.  It takes thoughtfulness on our part.  We have to put God first...not our wishes or desires. We have to treat our relationship with God with tender care.  It takes time and effort to keep that relationship alive.  It is then that we can have the fullness of joy.  We can be joyful in hard circumstances, knowing that God is with us through it all.  With thankful hearts we can know that God will never leave us or abandon us.  He is our Fortress and our Shield.
     Jesus says that He came so that we can have Life and have it to the fullest.  Thank you, God!!  Fill me with your Love today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Heartbeat






And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding yo
u.
                          By Your Side - Tenth Avenue North     If you have ever tried to hold an animal or a child that didn't want to be held, you know how difficult it can be. Arms and legs flail wildly, as they arch their back and try to get away.  In most cases, you are trying to hold them to calm them down. Sometimes you are trying to hold them as they are going through a painful experience. Emotions take over their senses, and they don't realize that in your arms they can find solace and comfort.  If they get away from you, it can be difficult to get them to return.     The Bible tells us that God is like that loving parent to us.  Deuteronomy 33:27 states: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
     As a child runs to their parent for security, God tells us that HE is our refuge.  He wants to hold us in his Everlasting Arms.  The Arms that will never let go of us. 
     Over and over again, His Word declares that the Lord is our refuge.  He uses that word specifically for a reason.  A refuge is a place to go for protection from outside forces.  A safe hiding place.  When we are hurting or in trouble, where would be the best place for us to be?
     At times we haven't got a clue.  We can find ourselves in a dark place in our lives, and we don't know where to turn to.  We can get so caught up in our emotions....they take over our senses, and we don't realize that it is in the Everlasting Arms of God that we can find solace and comfort.  Like that stubborn child or animal, we run around, refusing to listen to reason.  How often do we tell God, "NO!" and go our own way?  In order for Him to hold us, we have to let Him.
     God is waiting.  Isiaih 40:11 says that God is like the shepherd that picks up the lamb and holds it close to His Heart.  That wild, crazy lamb is comforted by the sound of His Heartbeat.  Thump, Thump, Thump.  Soon it settles down and allows the Shepherd to carry him through the rough terrain, as it listens to the soothing, rhythmic sounds of His beating Heart. 
     Listen to the Heartbeat. Let God hold you in His Arms, today.    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Plan

                                             

     I held the phone in my hands, not believing what I was hearing on the other end of the line.  My surgeon was asking me to let him just go ahead and give me a hysterectomy.  He didn't think I would be able to carry children anyway.  I had had 5 major surgeries in a year and a half.  It was just inevitable, to him. 
   "No way!" I exclaimed! "I want children, someday!"  At 25 years old, I wasn't dating anyone, but knew that when God put someone in my life, I wanted to have the option of having a baby. 
     The next year I met Steve.  He had two girls, Mandy and Valerie, from a previous marriage.  When we decided to get married, I assumed that this was how God intended for me to have children.  Steve and I really didn't plan on adding to the family.  God had other plans.
     When we had been married only about a month and a half...I woke up really sick.  It wasn't the flu...!
With no problems at all, I carried our baby to term.  Stephen Gabriel was born a month before our first anniversary.
     When Gabe was about six months old, that same nauseous feeling woke me up.  Nine months later, along came Timothy James.  Did I send my old surgeon birth announcements?  No...I behaved myself!  :)
     When human thinking looks at logic and makes plans, I've heard it said that God laughs.  I'm sure He was having a good chuckle when I was on the phone to the doctor that day!  He knew the plans He had for me.  He had the same plans for my mother.
     My mother, Nora was born in 1938.  When she was 9 she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.  At that time they treated new cases very differently than they do today.  She was in the hospital for about a year.  They taught her how to give herself shots of insulin.  They advised her family that she should not carry babies.  My mother knew in her heart she wanted two children, a boy and a girl.  She met my father, and despite all of the cautions, she had two children....a girl and a boy.  After each birth she went into a coma for a short time.  Yet she had what she wanted....a family.  She was a mother.  God knew the plans He had for her.
     God knows the plans He has for you.  Perhaps it is through parenthood...perhaps not. Either way, we have influence on others by how we live our life and the choices we make.  Some of those we influence are children...and some are adults. 
     Jeremiah 29:11 states "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".  The plans that God has for us are good.  We are the ones who mess those plans up, at times by not listening to His voice and going our own way.  Some of those plans include pain.  That is inevitable in life.  Because sin is in the world...we can't avoid it.  But God's ultimate plans are to enrich and benefit our lives...for us to have life to the fullest.
     As my mother and I could attest to, life isn't easy.  The fulfilling of our dreams involved difficult times and unclear paths, but God gives hope.  He has plans to give us a HOPE and a FUTURE.  He gives us hope when the road ahead is dark...He has plans for a better future that we could never imagine.
     My mother passed away at the age of 52. She was given the grace to not only have two children, but she was able to see four grandchildren.  Although my mother has been gone for 20 years, she has left me a legacy of love that I have passed onto my children...and now my grandchildren.  We have been blessed with three beautiful granddaughters. 
      Does God have a plan for me?  Yes.  He has one for you, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why Bother?

                                                                

     While watching my granddaughters today, we were watching "Olivia", a children's cartoon about a little girl (pig) who has two younger siblings.  Olivia was bemoaning her lot in life, at how she had to put up with her little brother, whom she called her little "bother".
     When A.(3) woke up from her nap, she looked down at her little sister who was still asleep.  She informed me that J. was a "bother".  She was always "bothering her".  A. told me that J. was always following her around, and messing with her.  She would bug her when she was putting her puzzles together, and grab the pieces.
     I had to smile, as memories of Gabe complaining about the same issues with their father, Tim flooded my brain.  I asked her if she knew why J. did that.  She didn't know, so I told her.  "J. does it because she loves you.  She wants to be like you, and do the same things you do.  J. thinks she is as big as you are.  She doesn't do it to be mean...she thinks she is playing with you. (I was kind of hoping that last statement was true...)  She loves you." 
     "I love her, too!", she said.
     Isn't that how it is?  They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  Those that we admire, we try to be like, and conform to how they act and think.
     There are those who say, "I don't imitate anyone!  I am comfortable in who I am.  I don't HAVE to act like someone else!!"
     While that is true, it does not pertain to believing Christians.  The Bible states many times that we should "be like Christ".  That's where the word 'Christian' comes from...'little Christ's'.  We should adapt our lives to live as Christ did. 
     In our day to day life we should think of the decisions we make in the light of what Christ would do.  In the 1990's, Dan Seaborn came up with the term W.W.J.D.  What Would Jesus Do?  It became a grassroots sensation that spread worldwide. It almost became a flip saying.  In actuality, it is a real question.  What WOULD Jesus do in the situation you are in? 
     If we love Jesus, we would want to be like Him..to make the same decisions that He would.  Do we have to?  Is it that important?  I believe it is.  For Christ's Love to be spread to others, it can only be done through human hands...and hearts.  Who will help the brokenhearted?  Who will bring aid to the helpless?  Who will love the unlovable?  If we don't do it...who will?
     Why should we bother?  Because that's what Jesus would do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Changes

                                                        

                    If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.  ~Author Unknown

    
Over the last few weeks, Steve and I have had to make some major changes.  Now, as we can all attest to, that can be about as much fun as swimming in the ocean as they are filming "Shark Week"...
Change is hardly ever easy.
     In order to help Steve's mother with her home., we have had to move into her house. Gabe and Valerie are living and keeping up our house.  This is a big change for the two of us, as we have lived in our home for 20 years. It is strange to be dwelling in another home...even though it is very familiar to us.
     How do we react to change?  It is inevitable that change will happen to all of us.  Some people don't mind it one bit.  They are quite flexible, and adapt quite easily to new situations.  These individuals are able to move frequently and meet new people with no problem.
     Others don't care for it, yet they try to make the best of it and adapt as best as they can.  Many people are in the third catagory.  They hate change.  Keeping things the same is a comfort zone for them.  Like a security blanket, consistancy envelops their life.  Their unaltered world involves no risks...no uncertainty...no chance to get hurt.  It's safe...but is it a good thing?
     The Bible encourages us to welcome change.  Matthew 18:3 it says that unless we change and become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We must be trustful and dependant as a child on our Father in Heaven.  That can be difficult for a jaded, independant adult to do; but if it were an impossible task, Jesus would not have required it of us.  We have to let go of ourselves and our wishes and will, and let God control the direction that our life is going.  If we are in the driver's seat, we can easily get distracted by detours and fancy exits. We must relinquish control, and prayerfully let the Lord take over.
     It can be hard to let go.  Anatole France said, "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."  That is the key.  To die to self.  There is no other way to truly follow Christ, than to let go...and let God.    
     So that's what we're doing!  Steve and I have no idea what the future holds, we have to take our directions day by day.  Listening to the voice of God speak to our hearts and guide us in what He wants us to do.  Listen to the voice of God speak to YOUR heart...come join the adventure!!    


    
    

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