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Sunday grace

What are we searching for?

Yesterday I searched through the house for a present I knew I had purchased and wrapped but could not find. I looked under the tree, in closets, in reasonable and unreasonable places, to no avail.

By day’s end, I decided to check one more time and found it sitting undisturbed right where I’d put it.

There’s a lot of searching going on in our world.

The last-minute gift for that hard-to-buy for person on our list. The daily on-line discount with free shipping that will arrive in time. The Pinterest project that will be beautiful and easy enough to finish before the deadline. The organic, non GMO, all natural ingredients needed for the food dish we always prepare for a family gathering.

What are we really searching for?

A bunch of shepherds went searching for a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a feeding trough.

The far-eastern astrologers traveled a long distance inquiring about a king.

The old man Simeon, expecting God to keep His promise, looked for the consolation of Israel.

The widowed Anna was faithfully serving when the Spirit led her to Joseph and Mary with their newborn.

We are we really searching for in our frantic-busy, traffic-clogged, worry-filled world?

Could it be what we are really seeking is a compassionate, understanding heart?

Are we looking for peace in the atmosphere of chaos?

Do we need forgiveness for all we have ever done and the lingering guilt that torments us?

Is there someone who will be there for us and never leave us alone?

Can there actually be a love that will not let us go?

Could it be that the one thing that will fill our emptiness is what filled the manager?

What are we really searching for?

Our heart’s cry will only be satisfied with One and Only. His name is Jesus.

Sunday grace.

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Permission to rest

Rest has not always been on my list of things to do. More likely in years past, I tried to see how little of it I needed. But no longer. I have wised up. I value a good night’s sleep. I enjoy sitting with afternoon coffee. I relish time at the table with friends and loved ones.

In our face-paced living, perhaps we need to rethink rest and give ourselves permission to do it more often. We might live longer; we might be happier; it might improve our relationships; and just possibility, we could experience a whole different kind of Christmas.

I enjoy Holley Gerth’s writings, and today she speaks to my heart. I hope you will read her wise words, posted here, and allow yourself and those around you to have a restful holiday season.

HOLLEY GERTH: What Can You Give Yourself this Christmas?

Rest can be an act of worship.

On being content

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Christmas is not usually a season of practicing contentment. Advertisers do their job well in making their wares look enticing, like I just can’t live without it.

It’s very likely children and adults are making lists and checking them twice to make sure everything is there. We will leave the list in an obvious place so the powers that be will find it.

When our son was young, we had the Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalog. It was a special day when it arrived in the mail. He would sit and look through the colorful pages for hours it seemed. I later found page corners turned down and big bold circles drawn around the item he wanted on each dog-eared page.

We didn’t get everything he requested, but we tried to quench his hungry, child heart with what we hoped would make him happy.

The thing is, it’s not the stuff that makes us happy.

At Christmas I find it challenging to think of gifts for friends my age. We have lived years gathering, and our homes are full, running over even. In a day when off-site storage units are popular, obviously, in our United States, we are a people who have much and want more.

The young people I know are much the same, well-dressed with lots of tech gadgets and plenty to occupy them in the way of books and games. One mom confided that toys scattered on the floor of their modest home for their only child can be overwhelming.

We live in a land of plenty. Why aren’t we content?

Thus, The Marvelous Mud House was a book I wanted to read.   Image result for images the marvelous mud house

Written in a child’s format by April Graney, the book is beautifully illustrated in bright colors by Alida Massari.  The author tells how the story came to be here.

The Marvelous Mud House first takes us to Kenya where we meet George and his mother. They live in a mud house and work daily for their sustenance. Mama George sings a song of thanksgiving during their daily trek up and down the mountain to sell corn and mangos at the market.

On the other side of the world lives an affluent American family who have a home for all seven of them, a big car, lots of toys and a dog. Yet the children bicker and whine, despite the plenty in which they live.

All George wants is to be able to go to school. But his mother doesn’t have the necessary fees. She tells him with profound faith, “Let’s keep working, George. God will provide.”

The Smith family in America decides to travel to Kenya where they meet George and his mother. They are affected by the simple lifestyle and the joy within the hearts of two who have so little in comparison to the Smiths.

When the Smith family return to America, they are changed for the better. The rest of the book tells how their heart change is put into action.

Toward the back of the book is a Parent Connection page with Scriptures to read and questions to encourage conversation between parent and child.

We may need to consider our true riches in Christ and to be joyful for what we have.

Contentment is something we can learn. We begin to acquire it when, in our bounty and in our scarcity, we realize we hunger for what truly satisfies. We discover we can trust the Provider who gives exactly what we need.

I want to pursue contentment in my present circumstances, and like Mama George, to say with a profound faith, “Let’s keep working. God will provide.”

B&H blogger icon

NOTE:   I received a copy of The Marvelous Mud House provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

A Christmas prayer

Reading the first few chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke are a yearly tradition for me in December. The words are ancient and familiar, yet like a drink of pure spring water they quench my thirst. And this morning I was parched.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah the aged priest who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again, the one for a child, a son from his loins.

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

What prayer? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I quit hoping to be answered in the way I was expecting? The prayer that would have been in a timetable right for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it by my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would be answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not go unheeded.

After so many years they became resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs must have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

 

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He says He answers when He gets good and ready, because He alone knows when the time is right and all things are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep being faithful. Keep going on your knees. Keep trusting that your God hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

See the source image

 

Sunday grace

 

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Through my window, I watch the sun’s red glow rise over the trees. We call it day break, when the morning rays burst through the dark of night. Sunrise pushes against the night, and night cannot hold it back.

God said, “Let there be light,” and brightness exploded suddenly into the blackness over the surface of the earth.

Light broke through when the Creator spoke it, His words full of power.

“The evening and the morning were the first day.” In Jewish culture, a new day begins at evening. It starts with night and moves into daybreak and a new morning.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. — Isaiah 9:2

Isaiah prophesied the coming Messiah, and Matthew proclaimed it fulfilled in Jesus.

The long dark night was about to be broken open by the Morning Star. And hope rises.

I have endured my seasons of nighttime gloom, wondering how long, and when will the day come. I longed for the light when my world would appear brighter, when I could see more clearly, when clouds of darkness would part and the rays of the sun would shine warm.

Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We watch for, we hope for, we pray for the light of day.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. — Isaiah 60:1

Hope rises at the first sign of dawn, and Jesus, the Light of the world, is a darkness breaker.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, — Isaiah 61:1

It is for this He came, to release us from the dank, shadowed depression of our prison cells, to open the doors wide and invite us into the presence of the Holy God where glory shines brighter than a thousand days. And with Him there is no night.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Colorado, by travis

Changing of the holidays

On the last day of November, a Christmas Pentatonix CD  played as I move to their rhythmic a cappellas. I am a closet dancer in the safety of the home. I don’t know any real moves. I just make them us as I go along, feeling the freedom to do what I always wanted to do – dance!

Thanksgiving with all the trimmings is a sweet memory for me. I love being with my extended family. I’m not sure anyone does food like we do.

My body has finally begun to adjust to the time change. That first week of Daylight Savings Time “fall forward” had me in bed yawning at 8 pm and up at 5 am, wide-eyed and ready for coffee. The early mornings offer me the window view of beautiful sunrises as I sit in the rocker by the fireplace and sip the second cup from my “Baby it’s Cold Outside” mug.

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Believe it or not, I planted four perennials in November, the ones left in pots that I put off over and over. A warm sunny day had me digging in the dirt yet once more. And now, really, I’m done with gardening for 2017.

And so it is December, the Holiday Express Train already loaded and moving fast. As it picks up speed, we either get on board or get run over. The enticement is to rush through the next month, loading it with a plethora of activities. You and I are the only ones who can set limits and control how we will spend the days of December. We can decide to enjoy the ride or even take the next stop and get off, lest we speed through it and not remember how we got to January.

What if we stood on the side and watched that train leave without us? Could we really do that without the guilt of not doing everything just like we’ve done it for years and years?

Let’s be honest, some of the traditions we continue to do are just not fun any more and no one would notice if it fell off the list this year. In fact, those we love most might be happy to spend more quality time with us rather than see us rattled and ruffled with too much to do. We could actually use our energy on the important rather than the less-than.

I down-sized my decorating this year and finished on the first day of December. Unheard of for me. I just decided enough is enough. When people come to our home, they aren’t looking for a supurbly designed Christmas theme, they are wanting a welcoming heart and a listening ear.

ornaments

I have avoided Pinterest, though full of great ideas. I’ve not looked at any December magazines yet with the trendiest decorating ideas, easy cookie recipes, and the how-tos of a memoriable holiday gathering. I’m also not watching commercials with their enticing perfection. We do know that scenes are staged in magazines and on TV, and that it isn’t real, don’t we? It’s not real, people!

So here we are in the last month of the year, the one that will be the busiest and most stressful because of expectations that it will be picture perfect, that everyone will be  jolly and nice, and that all of our strained, uncomfortable relationships will suddenly evaporate into congenial, happy family gatherings.

Perhaps we’ve made Christmas into something it isn’t, something in our own image.

As Advent begins, the season of preparing for Jesus, we could be looking for the Savior’s activity in the world. We could pray for ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that will understand.

I long for the glory, the glory that is Christmas.

Greg Gilbert, in his small book called Who is Jesus?, says this:

“. . . for all that, you still had to stop and pay attention to see just how beautiful it really was. 
So much of life is like that, isn’t it? In all the hustle and bustle of work, family, friends, bills, and fun, things like beauty and grandeur sometimes get squeezed out of our minds. We don’t have time to appreciate them, because doing so would require us to stop and pay attention to something besides The Urgent.”

Christmas is beauty and grandeur, blessing and grace, the greatest love come down to us in an astounding way and in the finest of details. All of it was to show us who God is and how much He wants us to know Him, to love Him, to have a relationship with Him.

Don’t miss it this year. Look for the glory of Christmas. It’s everywhere if we will just take time to notice.

Love came down

 

Sunday grace

The air is cold on my face, the rest of me bundled in flannel, corduroy and fleece. This is what I call a crisp fall morning.

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Maisie is cloaked in her cozy jacket with fake fur around her neck, and we walk, she with her nose to the ground as if scrolling through a news feed. I observe the earthy browns of autumn, what is left of the colors. The tree branches are stark against the backdrop.

Overhead a hawk calls and flies toward the tall electrical pole. I hear a second hawk in the distance and stop to see what will happen. The two land precariously on the same pole, fluttering to balance and stay together. Then they fly off swooping and calling, a game of catch.

The sun announces itself with a red blaze across the lake. Soon its brightness begins to appear. It is a new day, and there are fresh mercies stored up for it.

We don’t know what a day brings, but our Father has already seen ahead of us. He has prepared for it. He is not caught off guard by sudden circumstances that knock us to the ground, send us to the hospital, bend us low in weeping.

He is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. He is the Ancient of Days who goes before us into battle and with us through the valley. He marches as Captain of the Lord’s host, always victorious, and we are clothed in His righteous armor.

The season of joy approaches, and we will sing the songs of a Baby who changes everything. Some of us will still carry burdens along with our gift boxes. Sometimes we will smile through tears and say, “I’m fine,” when we really aren’t.

God sees. God knows. He who feeds the birds of the air and watches with gladness as they swoop and play, also knows me and you.

God hears us, our prayers, our praise, our weeping. He answers with a love that will not let us go, with peace that passes understanding, with joy in spite of a heavy heart.

He came to us. He became flesh and lived among us, experienced life as we do. Who can be compared to One like Him?

Make Him welcome in every part of our lives, this season and always. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Come Lord Jesus.

Sunday grace.

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