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Just for today

Day 26 of 31 Days of October – Roses Among The Thorn

Just for today let someone love you.

Just for today laugh deep and long.

Just for today count your blessings for they are many.

Just for today receive grace, embrace it, wrap yourself in it like a warm blanket.

Just for today give grace to someone else because it has been lavished on you.

Just for today enjoy the life God has given you, every single second of it.

And when tomorrow comes, start all over again.

Sunday grace, friends.

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For a list of the days of October, go here please.

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December is here

“I can’t believe it is already December.”

“Where has this year gone?”

“Only 25 more days until Christmas!”

“Three more days left to purchase at this price.  Buy now.”

Maybe you have heard some of this comments.  Maybe you have made some of them.  Maybe you are already feeling the stress of the coming holidays.  Maybe, like me, you have a number of Christmas parties and events on your December calendar along with some appointments you are not anticipating with joy, like a doctor’s visits, or medical procedures, or a root canal.

It can be overwhelming.

And so I think of Mary and Martha, which is not exactly a Christmas story (Luke 10).  But perhaps it can apply to the busyness of our lives at this particular time of the year.

There have been too many years when I crammed too many activities into a too full schedule.  Some years were spent in frantic “I can do this, I can do this” auto-pilot mode.  Those years blur in my memory.

The mere fact that I am older, and hopefully wiser, makes me consider the way I spend my time, plus my energy level is not what it used to be.   Maybe I  have come to understand a bit more what is really important in living my life.

Back to Mary and Martha.  Martha was a busy woman with food to prepare for a crowd, much like me sometimes.  Jesus and His disciples had come to her home expecting to eat something, I’m sure.  She was only doing what was expected of her.  She was doing a good thing by filling up hungry tummies.

In her desire to do a good thing, she became distracted, frustrated, irritated, and stressed.  The Amplified Bible says she was “over occupied and too busy.”  Anyone identify?

Jesus became the focus of her frustrations when she confronted Him, asking Him “Don’t you care . . . ?”

My initial response is shock at her audacity.  How could Martha be so bold to ask the Lord of all creation if He cared?”

I have asked the question myself, maybe not in those words. 

Jesus response always touches me because He addresses her by name, “Martha, Martha.”  It is as if she is whirling about so much that He has to call her twice to get her attention.  I’ve been there, too.

Jesus told Martha, and He tells me and you today, that Mary chose the better portion, the only thing that was really necessary.

I perceive from this story that resting awhile by sitting at the Lord’s feet to hear what He has to say is more important than anything else I think I need to do.

Everything else comes after that.  

There are lots of good things we can do this December, lots of people we can remember with a gift, an act of service, or a kind word.  There are lots of places to go and friends to celebrate with and programs to enjoy.  There are parties, shopping, decorating, shopping, wrapping, shopping, and entertaining to do. 

If just the thought of it all begins to stress you out, choose the best activity of the day all through this month of December.

Sit at the Lord’s feet with the Bible in your lap and listen, really listen to what He has to say about it all.

Make some wise choices this month.  Remember it is OK to say “no” to something that is good so that what is better can be part of your December.

Ask the One who is the reason we celebrate Christmas to direct your steps.  And have a happy, slowed down, best Christmas yet.

Blessed are they who give and receive

 

Walking beside my Sweet William during his open-heart surgery experience has been an interesting ride, running the gamut of emotions from anxious to joyful.

In the midst of it all, we have been on the receiving end of lavish love, care, prayers, and the comfort of the physical presence of friends and family.  I truly believe all of that has contributed to Bill’s healing process.  For me, it has been like a balm to my soul.

Now that we are home from the hospital, and I am back to a partial work schedule, people are offering to bring us meals, to run errands, to come help us in some way.

My nature is to say, “Oh that’s OK.  We will manage.” It’s not that I don’t want what friends have to offer.  It is that I don’t want to put them to any trouble on our account.

I learned to be a giver a long time ago.  My dad taught me to tithe when, as a child, all I had was a dime.  I watched  mother and dad give time and money to missionaries, ministers, and people in need.

But I learned a valuable lesson about receiving a number of years ago.

Bill had been out of work for months.  There was no income coming in except a meager amount I was making from housecleaning other people’s homes.  We were regularly dipping into what reserve we had to pay bills despite the fact that we had eliminated all but the necessities.

At that time, we attended a church with a small congregation.  One Wednesday night after service, the pastor of the church came to our house with an envelope full of money.  It had been collected as an offering for us, given by the people of the church.  They were not rich people, just plain folk like us.

I immediately protested to the pastor saying “no” we could not accept that kind of charity.  I don’t recall his exact words, but his message was clear.  If we didn’t accept the gift, we would be cheating these dear people of the blessing of giving.

That made me halt my verbal protest.

Scripture says the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  I guess I needed to know how He deals with a humble receiver.

It came from the story of the great prophet Elijah.  The Bible tells how God withheld rain from the land of Israel because of the idolatry in the land.  After Elijah delivered this message to the people, the Lord told him to go to Zarephath where a widow would provide for him.

What if Elijah had argued with God and said, “What?  A widow woman is to take care of me?  Why, I am your prophet, Lord. I should be taking care of her.”

But Elijah didn’t even twitch a muscle.  He just obeyed.  He found that widow and her son.  She cooked bread for him out of her own need.  Through her act of giving and Elijah’s act of receiving, they had oil and meal enough to last until the rains returned (I Kings 17).

Being on the receiving end is a humbling experience.  It sort of purges the “I can take care of myself, thank you very much” stuffing right out of a person.

An independent spirit can be a good thing.  But the truth of the matter is we are all one body as Paul the Apostle said. When one of us hurts, the whole body hurts.  When I hurt even the smallest toe or finger, the rest of my body responds quickly to relieve the pain.

So it is with the Body of Christ.  Its members come to the aid of one of the least of these when they are hurting.  Members like me, like Bill.

We then are blessed to be on the receiving end of such kindness.

And what about the givers?  They have an eternal reward awaiting them for giving just a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:41).  Imagine what the reward is for home-made chicken noodle soup and cornbread!

So when someone asks to bring a meal or to help in some way, I’ve learned it is OK to say, “That would be nice.  Thank you so very much.”

And it is an incredibly pleasant experience.

A fresh word

 

This is my first week of the new Bible study, No Other Gods, by Kelly Minter.  I admire this young woman who writes Bible studies and is wise beyond her young years.

Today, as I was reading a verse from the study, I had an epiphany.  I know I have read 2 Corinthians many times. Why is this verse is not highlighted, circled or in some way marked as choice tidings like so many other verses in my Bible?  But it wasn’t. It lay there on the page as a fresh Word to be discovered and assimilated.  Perhaps it struck a resonating chord today because of the conversation I had last night with two sweet young friends.

After Little Flock Celebration Choir practice last night, two young women came into my office where I was gathering my coat and bag. They came just to chat with me.  I can’t began to tell you on paper, I mean on computer screen, how very dear these young friends are to me.  At my grandmotherly age, having young women who want to hang around and talk is a treasure I hold close to my heart.

As women will do, we talked here and there and everywhere.  It was one of those conversations that would be hard to keep up with unless you possess the xx chromosomes of femininity.  (Please guys, don’t take offense.  It’s just the way we girls are made.)

The conversation turned to trials and troubles, our own and those of others.  We all have them.  Problems are no respecter of persons or age categories. And we wondered why they come and must be endured?

Don’t you wonder why sometimes?  I certainly have wondered and questioned and felt the frustration of not getting the answer.  I’ve had to settle with knowing my God has His reasons and that one day, in a place far better than I am now, He will explain, or either I will be so overwhelmed and delighted in His presence that I won’t even care to know anymore.

And so I wake this morning to find a nugget of gold in my Bible study.  Second Corinthians 1:9 records Paul’s counsel to the church and to me, and perhaps to you.  Under inspiration from God, he wrote:

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God  who rasies the dead.” (NIV, emphasis mine)

An answer to my question has been right there all the time.

I can attest to and confess that I have tried relying on myself quite a number of times, only to realize I was not up to the task.  When I turned to my Father, after attempting and failing, I found He was more than able and His grace quite sufficient.

I am encouraged this morning by the words of a loving God who cares about my quandaries.  He spoke directly into my heart today. I won’t say much more except to give one more companion verse I found while looking for the other one.  I looked in First Corinthians 1:9 before I realized I was in the wrong book.  It is equally good, and for me, follows on the heals of the other one.  It says:

God, Who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Faithful! Oh that word conjures up memories of His faithfulness to me in the past, time after time after time.

Wow, I just want to shout “glory” this morning!  There is a purpose in my trials and troubles.  He has not left me alone to struggle by myself.  He has called me into fellowship with Jesus.  And He is the faithful God who will do what He has promised.

I am filled up with courage today. I hope you are too.

 

Please leave a comment.

Tell me how God has been faithful to you in your trials. I want to rejoice with you.

I’m a living blog!

  

Since starting this blog in September 2010, I often wonder who is reading it. Some people leave comments; others write to me on Facebook about a blog they have read.  Once in a while WordPress.com sends me a message that says, “someone has subscribed to your blog.”  It’s a nice surprise.  I may recognize the email address, but sometimes I don’t.  And again I wonder, who out there in cyberspace is reading my words?

Words. I told you a blog or two ago that I had been thinking a lot about words, the words I write and the words I say. One of my life goals is to speak words that will help others become stronger.

So it was with much interest that I read a devotion from Our Daily Bread sent by email from my sweet friend, Sharon. She usually sends a short inspirational thought each day to her email friends.  But this day she sent the full message.

The Scripture referenced in this devotional was the apostle Paul’s startling message to the Corinthian church.*  He said:

Clearly, you are a letter from Christ . . . This letter is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”  (New Living Translation)

There was also a quote by Lewis Bayly, a chaplain to King James I in England.  In his book, The Practice of Piety, he said, “one who hopes to effect any good by his writings will find that he will instruct very few . . . The most powerful means, therefore, of promoting what is good is by example . . . living excellence to those around him.”

Wow!  I had to ponder that for a moment.  Me, a letter to the world. Who is reading, and what are people reading in me? A book of fiction, a mystery, an advice column, the latest gossip news?

Now I’m beginning to realize I am a walking blog, a modern version of a letter, or as they say in King James Version, a living epistle. The words are written and read by people I see every day.

And I pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, may people see the Word that became flesh written on my heart and lived out in my life.     

* 2 Corinthians 3:3

Please leave a comment. Now you know how much I want to know you are out there.

A gentle reminder

 

This week I randomly picked the book of Ephesians to read at my early morning quiet time.  

When I’m not in a group Bible study with a particular passage to survey, I am free to go where the Spirit leads. I came to a halt at verse 12 of chapter 1. This is how it read in my Amplified Bible:

So that we who first hoped in Christ – who first put our confidence in Him – have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory.” (emphasis mine)

I was struck down by those words and began to meditate on them. Right there at that very verse, I had penciled in a date, 1-23-10, almost exactly a year from this day.

Hum, the same book of the Bible and the same verse captured my thoughts in January. Something is up. I wanted to go back to last year’s journal writing and see what was going on with me then.

Sure enough, on January 23, 2010, I had recorded my thoughts. Here is a portion of what I wrote:

What would it look like if I lived out my daily activity for the praise of His glory?

I’m stumped and stymied by that heart question this early morning. I try to be pleasant and put on my best face and behavior at work and with my piano students. My work and performance evaluation reflect my attitude for sure, and I want a good reflection. Even one of my goals is to ‘leave them smiling’ whether that’s a checkout person at Kroger or the optical assistant at Lens Crafters. What if I did that in the deeply intimate confines of my home – with Bill each day? What if I determined to leave him smiling each morning and came home with my most cheerfulness each evening. What if he so looked forward to my home-coming because I reflected the joy of the Lord within me?”

It would seem that I am still a work in progress; otherwise why would the Holy Spirit bring me back around to that mountain again?

I must confess there are long days at work, and I come home weary and worn out. I’ve given the best I have to other people. Sometimes when I come home, I’m just given out. I’m not sure that is a good enough excuse to allow me to grump and grumble as soon as I walk into my home.

Home should be a refuge, a safe place, a sanctuary for Sweet William and me. Admittedly, sometimes it’s a tilt-a-whirl and a roller coaster.  

So once again in January 2011, I pray a prayer from last year.

Oh, Father, I pray for a Son-shiny day in my heart today. I can determine all I want to, but unless Your strength is exerted in me, I am helpless and hopeless. I am asking for bread this morning, not candy or frivolous stuff. Bread that gives strength and nourishes my very soul. Bread that only You can supply. Bread that will make my inner woman strong and able to live a life pleasing to You all day long.”

And I add one last request this Janaury 2011.

Let me live for the praise of Your glory!

2011 is here! What now?

 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Bill Vaughn said, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.  Middle age is when you’re forced to.”  I’d like to add my two cents worth:  Old age is when you sleep through New Year’s Eve.

If the shoe fits, wear it.

This is my last day for organizing tips.  I hope you will let me know if you plan to try any of them.  Or even better, share your tips with me.  

Limit your social networking time.   Facebook is fun, no doubt.  And I guess it’s a legal way to snoop, to be the ultimate nosey neighbor.  If we are not very careful, however, it can eat up our time.  Be aware.  Set a timer.  Limit yourself.  If necessary, be accountable to someone.

Don’t buy so much.  This is a no-brainer.  I can be tempted to buy what I don’t really need because marketers are so good at their jobs.  The glitz is enticing.  The price may be right.  But if I don’t need it, it really isn’t a bargain.  Ask yourself these two questions:  Do I really need it?  Where will I put it? 

If something comes in, something must go out.  This is an appendix to the above.  If you make this a rule when you shop, it might help curtail some impulse buying. 

As I continue with my January organization (begun in December), I am serious about paring down.  It is difficult.  Simplicity is a  far off destination, it seems.  But I’m on the right road.

I remember a quote attributed to WIlliam Morris (1834-1896):

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

I’m not sure I am there yet.  I can easily pick out the useful and the beautiful items.  What stops me dead in my tracks are things that I might need in the future.  I just never know when I will find a use for all those popsicle sticks, the boxes of fabric, a half set of mittens, the clothes that will fit when I lose 20 pound, or old scarves that are sure to come back in style.   Sometimes I think I’m a hopeless keeper of stuff. 

I encourage myself that even the Bible mentions people and their stuff.  Genesis 31:37 is talking about Jacob.  Applying it to me is a bit out of context.  Actually, it is very much out of context.  But here is the verse anyway:

Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff?  (King James Version)

That’s me in a nut shell.  

One thing for sure about this brand new year.  I will be held accountable for the way I spend it.  I’d better spend it wisely.

Happy New Year and Good Organizing to you.