One Word for the New Year

The practice of choosing one word  for  the  New Year  has been an    inspiration for me. Last year my word was gracious, and having this word in mind I was more conscious of my conversation and actions. I paused a little more, seeking kind words. I have been thinking and praying about one word for 2016.

Relationships are on my mind.  I would like to see greater depth in   relationships and openness to new relationships.  Could I grow and  assist others to grow? In the book of Ephesians Paul writes about good work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.            Ephesians 2:10

The key words in this verse are in Christ Jesus. The good work is possible through Jesus. And so my life needs to be centered on Jesus, drawing strength from a vital relationship with Jesus. Jesus tells us:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. John 15: 1-2

Images from my garden come to mind. The fruit produced by the raspberry bushes in my yard is a delight.

Red Raspberries 2

In my relationships I desire positive growth, willing to be pruned. This means more time in prayer.

With these thoughts in mind, I have chosen the word fruitful. Have you chosen a word for 2016?

Linking with Sharing His Beauty,  Weekend Whispers,  Essential FridaysSitting Among FriendsGrowing in GraceA Little R & RWholeHearted Wednesday,  Hope in Every SeasonTitus 2sday,  Monday Musings and Word of God Speak

We went to see Star Wars

Star Wars

Who is your favorite character in Star Wars? When Han Solo and then R2– D2 made their appearance in the new movie the audience gave them a round of applause. The first Star Wars movie came out during the first year of my marriage. I saw it with my husband. The scenes were amazing and we were engrossed in the story. Later we watched episodes with our children.

When my husband suggested that we see episode VII on opening night I realized that the evening was open. The local theater had a continuum of times available. So we went. How would this movie compare with the others?

Leia and Han Solo have aged—as we have. Young people, a new generation, carried the action. They wondered at the old stories. Were they legend or true?

The narrative of Star Wars is based on the truth that  good  and  evil  exist. The quest for truth  and  rightness is tucked deep in our soul. Sometimes we have to fight for it.

The grief and pain of “the dark side” is also true.

While Star Wars refers to “the force”, the Bible teaches us about our God. The prophet Jeremiah lived through a tumultuous time on earth and clearly stated the source of truth and rightness.

This is what the Lord says:

Cursed is the one who trusts in man and who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

He will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”                 Jeremiah 17: 5-10

Jeremiah suffered physically.  He did not have material gain  but he   understood spiritual life. God is the source of our strength and joy.

We went to Christmas concerts and programs this December—and Star Wars. Our joy and strength comes from God’s great gift. Jesus came to redeem us! We have much to celebrate this Christmas season.

Linking with Words with WinterA Little R & R,  Titus 2sday, Tuesdays with a Twist,  Word of God SpeakWeekend Whispers, WholeHearted HomeGrace & TruthEssential Fridays, Friendship Friday , Faith Filled Friday and Faith & Friends.

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A Rose, Love and the Savior are in this Old Carol

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming

The violins, piano and voices of the choir gave a beautiful rendition of an old German carol. I was swept away from the news reports and troubles in our community. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Here are the lyrics to this carol, Lo How A Rose:

Low, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As saints of old hath sung.

It came a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter.
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah foretold it.
The rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it
The virgins mother kind.

To show God’s love aright
She bore to us a Savior
When half spent was the night,
When half spent was the night.

O Rose, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.

True man, yet very God.
From sin and death now save us
And share our every load.

Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sing alleluia

A Rose, Love and A Savior

The apostle Peter knew much about the troubles in this world. He had walked with Jesus and had seen the crucifixion. He saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. He had shared a meal with Jesus after the resurrection. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples to make disciples of all nations. Peter had been in prison for his faith and from his experiences he wrote:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxious cares on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6-7

We have so much to celebrate! Tomorrow night we will go to our grandchildren’s Christmas program. Each year adds new memories. I still remember the Christmas programs that I participated in as a child.  It is a blessing to see the grandchildren singing carols  and     reciting scripture verses.

Linking with Grace & Truth,  Essential Fridays,  Titus 2sday,  Hope in Every Season,  WholeHearted WednesdayA Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a TwistInspire Me Monday,  Soul Survival,  Reflect, the Art of Homemaking and Word of God Speak

Christmas Cards for the Persecuted Church

 

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Do the images of refugees fleeing Syria tug at your heart? Have you seen news reports of churches destroyed in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and other countries?

We are blessed in the United States although the tragedies taking place around the world touch us too. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and the horrible massacre in San Bernadino are a grievous loss of life.

But we don’t have the level of persecution that is taking place in Africa and the Middle East. Is there anything we can do?

On Sunday morning we had a speaker from the Voice of the Martyrs. This organization provides support to the persecuted Church. We can pray for believers that have been imprisoned for their faith by name. Click here to go to the site provided by VOM.

Next Sunday members of our church will devote an hour to writing Christmas cards that will be sent to prisoners.  The site mentioned above takes you through the process of writing a message in the      prisoner’s language and provides addresses.

credit: antiqueclipart.com
credit: antiqueclipart.com

I am pleased that Voice of the Martyrs also has a website with items that can be purchased as gifts. Buying items from the store or giving a donation supports the work of this organization. Click here.

It was a blessing to hear stories about the people that are turning to the Lord in the face of persecution. An article in the current VOM newsletter is titled, Great Evil, Great Revival.  The article describes the persecution AND the revival taking place in evangelical churches. Our speaker told us about an ISIS soldier that has become a Christian, about Moslems that are reading the Bible and seeking truth.

We can pray for many more to be saved, for God to be glorified and for the endurance of all believers!

Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-3

Linking with Essential FridaysThought Provoking Thursday,  A Little R & R,  Worshipful WednesdayWholeHearted WednesdaySoul Survival,  Reflect and the Art of Homemaking

Did Mary Have a Midwife?

Chicago Nativity
Nativity in Chicago

As I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter I was reflecting on gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke. It is apparent that the people of Judea lived in fearful times under Roman rule. Injustice, corruption and violence were common. A young woman lived in Nazareth, north of Judea, during this turbulent time.

My thoughts turned to Mary—and the grace shown to her by God. God sent an angel to speak directly with her. The angel gives her an amazing message.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 30-33

Wow!   Mary asks how this is possible, and then responds with          obedience.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 38

We know that Mary was encouraged and guided by her cousin         Elizabeth. ( Luke 1: 39-56) God’s timing for the pregnancies of these two women was a provision and a gift. The two women spent three months together. Elizabeth gave birth just months before Mary.

The time spent with Elizabeth prepared Mary for her own labor and birth—not that it was easy.  She was away from Nazareth and her      family.

And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.                             Luke 2:4-7

As a labor/delivery nurse I have worked in hospitals with all the technology and interventions that are common today. I am pleased that God chose to send Jesus to a young woman who would give birth      simply. The design of her body was enough.  Perhaps she had a      midwife with her. The scripture doesn’t tell us.

My experience with home birth helps me get an idea of the birth of     Jesus. Birth can be a natural physiologic process. I saw the way endorphins (natural pain relief hormones released by the body) assisted women during labor. With position changes they were able to cope with contractions that gradually became more intense. I also saw women and their husbands lean in to prayer, seeking strength from God. It was both refining and empowering.

Virgin Mary
Painting by Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) Public Domain

Mary is an example for us. She was obedient and resilient. She knew the scriptures and the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel. She trusted God.

God is good. He is sovereign. The birth of Jesus is a magnificent chapter in God’s plan of salvation.

Linking with Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings,  Word of God Speak, Weekend WhispersEssential Fridays,  Thought Provoking Thursday,  A Little R & R and WholeHearted Wednesday

Thanksgiving and Ancient Questions

 

Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am aware of so many things to be thankful for—family, church, blogging community and home.

On Thanksgiving my husband and I will have one of our daughters and her family, our son and his wife, at our home.  I have ideas for   activities for the grandchildren and a couple new recipes from fellow bloggers. I am looking forward to this day of celebration.

We will read some Bible verses together.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exalt in you;  I will sing praise to your name,  O Most High. Psalm 9: 1-2

God’s greatest gift to us is the offer of salvation.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.        Ephesians 2: 4-5

In the midst of preparations for Thanksgiving, I am aware of difficulties among extended family and suffering that is happening in many places around the world. Perhaps you see things that prick your heart.

Praise and gratitude is mixed with questions and doubt.

The Psalmist was able to give praise and thanks in one moment. And then later wonder how God allowed some things to happen.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1

There are no answers except the character of God.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13

God is just and righteous.

As I give thanks, I will also pray for mercy and grace, lifting the circumstances beyond my control to the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4: 4-6

Bible

Linking with Essential Fridays,  A Little R & R,  WholeHearted Wednesday,  Titus 2sday,  Words with Winter and Word of God Speak

Promise of Spring as Winter Approaches

The mild fall that we have had has allowed me to spend more time in the yard. I have been planting and transplanting and raking leaves. My husband was working also, creating piles of branches.

He has a chain saw and after he took down one tree he found lots of branches to trim. Something about climbing ladders and using the saw—I saw the boy in my husband. The clean-up was not as interesting, so I became involved.

As I cut up branches and filled yard bags I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before. All the branches had buds for the spring. I looked at the cherry tree and the maple tree and saw the promise of spring already on the limbs.

Promise of Spring

I walked around to the cottonwood tree. The buds weren’t as noticeable, but they were there. When winter comes, God is already planning for spring.

The promise of spring is in the Bible. Can you imagine what it was like to be a disciple at the Last Supper with Jesus? After Judas left Jesus     explained that he was going away.

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord where are you going?” Jesus        answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow me afterward.”  John 13: 36

The winter was coming, but not without the promise of spring.

“Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14: 1-3

We may become depressed with the chaos in our culture. It may be like winter.  God is still sovereign, and Jesus asks us to be obedient. God has planned the seasons of life and the return of Jesus Christ.

Let us always look for the signs of spring!

Promise of spring

Linking with Weekend Whispers,  Essential Fridays,  Thought Provoking Thursday,  Words with Winter,  Word of God SpeakFriendship Friday and Faith Filled Friday

Country Road with Unknown Destination

When I visit my sister in Michigan, we frequently have an adventure.

Last weekend we had both driven to a community college event.
When we left the event her car wouldn’t start. So we hooked up jumper cables from my car to her car, and after a half hour her car was running. She needed to keep the engine running so I followed her to her place of work. She had to pick up some files. She left her car running while I parked next to her car.

After another half hour we were on our way to her home. Or so
I thought. I followed her car, passing by the expressway
ramp that I thought we should take. My sister was going down
a country road that I did not recognize.

What's Our Destination?
photo credit: pixabay.com

It was a beautiful day. She kept driving and I had no idea where we were going. I thought about pulling out my cell phone, but I’m trying to avoid using the cell phone while driving.

I was a little irritated, but she’s my sister. We are family and so I just followed. We finally stopped at a cider mill. It was worth it. The cider and doughnuts were delicious. Why didn’t she tell me? She had the idea while driving. We used to go to a cider mill with our parents when we were kids.

In the bigger picture, I sometimes don’t understand the path that God has for me. Some things don’t make sense. My brother has had a     tragic struggle with mental illness over the last 47 years. His health is    fragile, and I am his guardian. It is difficult.

My son was just eight years old when he lost his battle with cancer. It doesn’t make sense now. But I believe I will see him again someday. The puzzle pieces of this life will make a complete picture in eternity.

God’s plan of salvation is woven all through the Bible. The prophecies and promises have been fulfilled, are still being fulfilled. I have seen answers to prayer. I have a relationship with Jesus. I have faith in God.

So if I can trust my sister on a puzzling drive down a country road, I can trust God with all that I encounter in this life.

Linking with Word of God SpeakWeekend WhispersThought Provoking Thursday and WholeHearted Wednesday

Hope in Chicago and at Home

For Chicago baseball fans, the Cubs are symbolic of hope. The excitement over the National league playoffs was vibrant this fall. Then four straight losses to the Mets.  Once again the refrain is wait till next year.

Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field: Wikimedia Commons

In my garden I have many opportunities for hope. I have been      struggling with brown rot in my cherry tree. This year showed some improvement. With additional treatment will my cherries ripen      without rot? I’m looking forward to next June with hope.

Hope in the Garden

I transplanted some peonies and raspberries. Will they take well? The bulbs for three purple prince lily trees and some guinevere pink tulips went in the ground this fall. I will wait with anticipation for them to grow, looking forward to the spring.

Tulips for the Garden

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.     Hebrews 11:1

Family circumstances are a challenge. (Perhaps not more of a challenge than hoping the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series! lol)     Illness and problems that we lift in prayer through the years require trust in the Lord to sustain hope.  Maybe God gave us the seasons of the year and the seasons of life to teach us to trust Him, to illustrate hope. God has given us guidance in the Bible.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our      instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.     Romans 15: 4, 13

Linking with Words with WinterSunday StillnessWeekend WhispersGrace & Truth and Faith Filled Friday

Lovely Aroma in a World of Conflict

A Sweet Aroma
Last rose in my garden

Are you discouraged by the conflicts and moray decay all around us? I am. The study of the book of Acts is giving me hope. I am glad that this book was chosen for the fall Precept Bible study.

Sometimes political issues stir my emotions. Can political action groups solve the problems? They may have a place, but the problems in our country are spiritual.

It is not wrong to stand up for a point of view—in fact we must pursue truth.  Every life is valuable.  God designed marriage as one man and one woman. This truth comes from the word of God.

As I spend time studying the Bible, I realize that God’s plan of            salvation is woven through the scriptures and this message is most important. The gospel changes hearts. The apostles spoke about Jesus:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.      Acts 4:12

The apostles and early church were focused on the message of the gospel. Even when persecution began they prayed for boldness.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.       Act 4:29

Followers of Jesus, the church, have a specific role for this time. We are called to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Through our words, our    attitudes and actions we have a responsibility to have a message that points to Jesus and salvation. Sometimes we fall short. We need to be in the Word, in prayer and dependent on the Holy Spirit. Jesus has     given the Holy Spirit to be our helper.

I know that I am more sensitive to the Holy Spirit when I am studying my Bible, spending time in prayer and joining in fellowship in my home church. These are necessary activities. I encourage you to       embrace these practices.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the        knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God, among those who are being saved, and among those who are     perishing. 2 Corinthians 2: 14-15

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank-you for completing the plan of salvation. Thank-you for forgiving my sins and giving us your Word. Guide me by the Holy Spirit to be a witness for you.

Linking with Thought Provoking ThursdayWholeHearted Wednesday,  A Little R & R,  Titus 2sday,  Hope in Every SeasonWords with Winter,  Sharing His Beauty,  Sunday Stillness,  Grace & Truth and Faith Filled Friday

Beauty in His Grip Button