Faith and Hope for 2021

On New Year’s Eve I wrote the following words. As 2020 slips into sunset, I look forward with hope that the new year will bring a revival of faith, renewed health and joy.

And yet, just a few days in, the pandemic continues and the political tension is increasing. I wake up in the morning with a heavy feeling. What should I do?

I must begin the day with time in God’s word and continue to pray. And then these thoughts come to me: Encourage my family. Participate with the church—in person or on zoom as circumstances allow. Ask the Lord for opportunities to reach out to others.

God can use this time to increase my faith.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
Psalm 3: 3-4

In the sermon on the mount Jesus calls us to be a salt and light in the world. He will help us. 

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: TIME . Also sharing with Heart Encouragement.

Beyond the Sunset

Beyond the Sunset is a hymn that I remember from childhood. My Dad had a good voice and sang this with joy. Here are the words to the first verse:

Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning,

When with our Savior heaven is begun,

Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning;

Beyond the sunset, when day is done.

Blanche Kerr Brock, Virgil P. Brock, Albert K. Rowswell

As Christians we have a balance to keep. We hold God’s promises dear and look forward to the return of Jesus. At the same time we have a job to do. We are called to be servants of our Lord.

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

During this challenging time with the pandemic and political unrest, we may wonder what our role is. Is a global reset coming? We can pray for our country, for our family and for the church worldwide. After we have prayed we can stay alert, paying attention to the Holy Spirit for our words and action.

Kate’s prompt for the Five Minute Friday writers is: BEYOND Join the fun and visit the link-up here.

Also sharing this post with Crystal’s Heart Encouragement.

Present in Advent

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent. With joy we turn our attention to God’s gift of love. Jesus came as an infant to fully participate in our human experience, and then provide a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus as newborn baby and Son of God was presented at the temple in Jerusalem.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22

In a letter to Timothy, Paul gives instruction to present ourselves before the Lord

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Our children attended Awana clubs. The purpose of Awana is to teach Bible verses to children, encouraging them to memorize. The letters in Awana stand for: Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. The Bible verses that they committed to memory have been a blessing in their lives.

Our son, Steven, memorized 2 Timothy 2:15 and commented on it in the little journal that he kept. In the last days of his life the truth of the Bible guided his thoughts and comments.

As we approach Christmas let us recognize God’s gift with awe and seek to come to Him, continuing to learn and grow in our faith. 

Every Friday Kate gives a one word writing prompt. Today’s prompt is: PRESENT Visit the writing community here.

Linking this post with Heart Encouragement .

The Cherry Tree and Martin Luther: Life Lessons

My husband has offered to cut the cherry tree down. Several times.

I was thrilled when the tree offered a bountiful harvest of cherries, sweet with a little tartness.

Then came the year of brown rot and mold. We spent a week picking all the rotten fruit and cleaning up the mess. 

Another year a late snowfall came while the tree was in blossom. There were no cherries that year.

Over the past few years Japanese beetles have discovered the tree. They eat the leaves on the tree, weakening it. So I tried picking them off, dropping them in a bucket of soapy water, as some fell down my shirt. Last year I treated the tree with neem oil.

This year is a recovery year, but the robins honed in on the ripening fruit. I have to admire their zealous pursuit of the cherries. I hung a couple of garden shop owls in the tree and also shiny CDs.

The cherries were of such great worth to the robins that they played out a dramatic scene.  I can see the tree—it is just outside my kitchen window. 

The robins showed acrobatic moves, twisting their necks to reach a cheery hanging below a branch. They would fly in with a focus on a cherry, see an owl and flutter like a hummingbird. Then they would seize a cherry and speed away.

I picked a quart of cherries. The robins consumed the rest. I have been thinking about the focus and determination of the robins (and also my determined attempts to save the cherry tree lol). What are the things of great value, deserving my focus? //

During this time at home I have pulled some books off the shelf that had intimidated me by their length. Currently I am reading Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and changed the World by Eric Metaxas. 

Martin Luther was totally focused on understanding the Bible, learning the true meaning. He pursued faith in God with his whole heart. Luther demonstrated in his life the most worthwhile goal—an example for us to follow. The greatest treasure in our lives is a relationship with God through Jesus.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: WORTH

How to Have Hope

The Bible does not shrink from telling us the ugly side of human history. God’s word tells us the truth, and clearly states that God’s desire for us is good. We need to seek God and His ways in every aspect of our lives. 

“How you have helped him who has no power!
How you have saved the arm that has no strength!”
Job 26: 2

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
Psalm 31:19

O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104:24

During this time of unrest and turmoil we have the opportunity to spread the hope of God’s word.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

photo courtesy of unsplash

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: HOW

Lessons from History: Esther, Adams & Jefferson

My days are spent in the garden, in the kitchen and with a book. I begin with Bible study—currently the book of Esther. The drama of King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther, Mordecai and Haman is colorful, frightening and humorous. But I am most struck by the steadfast calm and faith that Mordecai shows. The effect of prayer and fasting. Esther’s courage and her plan for the appeal to the King. 

The other book that I am slowly making my way through is John Adams by David McCullough. It has 656 pages. Perhaps because of the stay at home orders, that have been in place for months, I am fascinated by John Adams’ travels. 

John Adams made several trips to Europe in an effort to get support from France during the Revolutionary War. His first trip was in February of 1778. The ship he was on encountered a fierce storm and the mast of the ship broke. The trip took six weeks.

On another trip the ship sprung a leak and all hands, even passengers, were required to help pump the water out. The ship reached a port in Spain. John Adams did not want to wait for the ship to be repaired and against advice went by mule from Spain to France.

Adams traveled throughout Europe. He did not have much success in his appeals to France, but did much better with Holland. Holland was the first country to recognize the United States.

The other aspect of the book that has caught my interest is the relationship of John Adams and  Thomas Jefferson. They worked together on the Declaration of Independence and enjoyed a great friendship when both were in France.

Later that friendship was eroded by politics. Jefferson was working at cross purposes to Adam’s policies while serving as Adams’ vice president. In 1800 Jefferson and Adams were pitted against each other in the presidential election. The author shows the human flaws of both men.

Nations led by flawed human beings will always have inner conflict. I am reminded of the importance to pray for our country. We always need to pray. At this time in our country we must seek God’s help as we listen to each other.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday Writing community. Today’s prompt is: STAY

When I Observe the Robins

One of the things I miss most during the current shutdown is my weekly trips to the local library. I know, I could get e-books, but I prefer the book that I can hold in my hand. I also like to check the library shelves holding new releases.

So, instead I have been going through the books that I have. 

I am blessed to have a little cache of books loaned to me by a good friend. But I also have books that I had bought and placed on my book shelves, planning to read someday. I found the book, The Table Talk of Martin Luther, translated by William Hazlitt and edited by Thomas Kepler.

The book covers a variety of topics in short sections. Each section is a from a conversation of Martin Luther, his perspective. The first topic is God’s Word.

That the Bible is God’s word and book I prove thus: All things have been, and are, in the world, and the manner of their being, are described in the first book of Moses on the creation; even as God made and shaped the world, so does it stand to this day. . . . And ’tis no small miracle how God has preserved and protected this book . . .

Yesterday I was observing a couple of robins and discovered their nest. We have a large bush in front of our house. In the past week I have noticed rustling sounds and the flight of a bird.

Then yesterday two robins flew to a nearby tree. They twittered in a flustered fashion, and I was motivated to investigate. I peered into the thick branches of the bush. In the center of the bush, well hidden, was a nest. 

A little later I discovered that I could see the nest from my dining room window–and a robin settled in the nest.

I thought about the behavior of the robins; the ability to design a nest, nurture new life and protect the young. Have you ever watched a parent robin coaching a young robin as it learns to fly? God’s design is evident in all creatures.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: PERSPECTIVE I’m also linking with Inspire me Monday and Heart Encouragement .

Living Word

In A.D. 64 the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome. The Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and Paul was facing execution.

It is hard to imagine being in these circumstances. What would I do?

Paul wrote a letter to Timothy whom he loved like a son. He gave instructions for going forward in faith. Paul believed that life went beyond physical life on earth. 

Paul once wrote to the church at Corinth: So we are of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

Throughout the letter to Timothy Paul anchors his instructions in the scriptures. Paul has completed his role and is passing the torch of faith to Timothy.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

This is a wonderful reason to spend time studying God’s word.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: LIFE

Success, Obedience and the Word

The women in our Bible study group were amazed (and amused) by the account of men being circumcised after they crossed the Jordan River and before taking possession of the promised land. We are studying the book of Joshua.

God instructed Joshua to circumcise all the men that had not been circumcised while they wandered in the desert. Before beginning battle they were to be consecrated and reminded of the covenant God made with Abraham.

What is the relationship between obedience and success? The book of Josua gives some perspective.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night . . . Joshua 1: 7-8a

These verses remind me how important it is to know the Word of God. We are blessed to have the Bible available to us in so many ways—online, in book form, audible readings on CD. It is an encouragement to meet with other believers to study the Bible.

In our Bible study group we acknowledged that we don’t always understand God’s ways. And His interpretation of success or His timing might be different than ours. Yet God’s desire for us is good and best.

Do you find time to study the Word?

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: SUCCESS

A Truth Beyond Measure

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: MEASURE

I usually think about the prompt over night and then write in the morning. In bed I mused about all the ways I have made measurements.

As a mom I measured the height and weight of my children as they grew, the ingredients in recipes. I counted the candles on birthday cakes.

As a nurse I measured many things: the medications for each patient, the rate of intravenous fluid, urinary output, the cervical dilation of a woman in labor.

The Bible gives us many measurements: the length, the breadth and the height of the ark, the dimensions of the tabernacle, the number of men (20 years old or more) in each tribe of Israel when they entered the promised land.

Measurements inform us and provide order. They can guide our actions.

But the Bible tells us that some things are beyond measure. 

He [God] does not deal with us according to ur sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103: 10-12

The wonderful news is that God’s love and grace are beyond measure.