Sore but blessed

I woke up this morning, sore all over.  What?!  Why?  the grands had gone home on Saturday, so why was I so achy, I asked myself?

As I pondered my sore back and legs, I remembered that yesterday we had volunteered for nursery duty at church.  Ah, ha! That explained it.

During our time in the nursery, we’d spent ninety minutes playing hide and seek, and singing songs, and doing yoga, ballet, and exercises of various types. We’d washed farm animals on the floor and sang more songs, and did a spa day, which included all kinds of things to beautify our little ladies.

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We’d read books, climbed on furniture, and built towers with Legos before smashing them down again. We sawed things and hammered other things, and organized and rocked, and looked out the windows, and sang some more, before cleaning up everything and getting ready to greet mommy and daddy once more.

All this we did with the help of a bevy of babes more precious than gold.

Last week I had a lot to say about the lack of help in church nurseries. You can read about that here. Today, I want to say how much fun I had with five little girls in the nursery over the weekend.  Much of the fun of that time is due to my sister-in-law, who is amazing with the wee ones. She doesn’t have any grandchildren yet, but I hope she gets some eventually. She would make a terrific granny.

As we played with the girls in the nursery yesterday, I was reminded that play is learning, and learning is growth; that mentoring is fun, and imaginations are incredible gifts from God, and that I was privileged to be a part of all God had planned for these tiny wonders on one Sunday afternoon. Each girl is a part of His creation and each one displays His majesty in her speech, her thoughts, her actions, and her love.  Most amazing of all, the girls did not fight or cry for one minute out of that whole ninety.  Isn’t God good?!

When was the last time you volunteered for nursery duty?  What was the most fun you had during your experience?

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Nursery Time

Be a Hero to a Baby! (1)

Staffing the church nursery–it’s a problem!

I can’t figure out why.  I mean, I know working the nursery takes time and effort, but it’s for the kids, right?  What wouldn’t you do for your kids?!  Could you not sacrifice one hour a week for others, as well.

GOOD ROLE MODELS ARE IMPORTANT

Little ones need big ones to love on them and show them the way through life. Show them the ropes, ya know?  Research says that those who have good role models do better throughout life than kids who don’t.  Not too surprising.  So why do we have such a hard time finding volunteers for church nurseries?

BE A HERO FOR A KID!

Working the nursery means you get a chance to a hero to a little kid.  It means you get to set yourself aside for a time, in order to benefit someone else.  You get to serve in a very important way.  And I’m not just talking kids here.  Moms, real live Moms and Dads, they need your help.

Who, more than parents of infants and toddlers, need to hear a word of encouragement on Sunday morning, more?

Who is more in need of a few minutes alone?

Who could benefit more from being able to hold their mates hand and snuggle in, without sharing the space with their wee one?

Who is more deserving of a spiritual recharge, an emotional break, or a little wink from their mate?

Tell me, who?

THINK ABOUT HELPING OUT!

Think about helping out at your church’s nursery this summer, won’t you?

Pray about it, and see if God isn’t calling out to you about this need.

It doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in the life of a needy family. Just an hour of your time.  Just one hour a week…and the rewards are huge!  If wearing a cap and mask makes you feel any better about being a toddler’s hero, let us know. We’ll fix you up.  But for goodness sake (and the sanity of moms and dads alike), would you please help out?

When your kids were small, did you send them to the infant nursery?  Do you have an active list of volunteers for your nursery at church?

 

A reminder for those who fear

 

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Courage: it is the fuel that burns down fear. But it’s hard to come by. It’s a resource that we have to thirst for, hunt for, search out; it doesn’t come easily to us.

In order to be brave, we must first fear.

So, let’s get down to it.
What do we fear?

Upsetting people
Rocking the boat
Other’s opinions
Pain

We fear that we’ll screw up
That our intellects will not be strong enough to compete or comprehend
That we’ll dishonor God

We fear that we’re not enough, after all
That we won’t be perceived as gracious, loving, nurturing, or feeling enough.

But what are we afraid of, really?

Looking stupid?
Making mistakes?
Offending others?
Ruining our lives?
Suffering for our miscalculations?

Aren’t these born of pride?
Aren’t they all redeemable?
Can’t they all be addressed with an apology, an amends, and a prayer?

Isn’t our God forgiving, to the nth degree?
Isn’t He merciful?
Doesn’t He command us to be strong and of good courage?

That supposes that we will be facing fear in many places.

I need to get over this fear thing.
I need to trust God more.
I need to introduce my fears to my God!

Do I trust Him, or don’t I?
It really IS that simple.
It just plays hard.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Fear is not my vision, nor goal, and I need to remember that.

Let’s stop looking at all the obstacles in our way, and focus on our Father.
Daddy won’t let us down.
Never has, never will!
Remember, then take courage and make it your own.
Act, bravely!

What is your biggest fear? How often have you been afraid, only to discover a lion roaring inside and your courage regained? Do tell…

 

Acceptance fuels Hope

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The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. 12 Step Prayer

Your life and life experiences, right now, do you love them, hate them, resent them or rejoice over them? Feelings are such strange creatures, aren’t they?

Whatever my emotions might like to speak to my soul today, I know that God has me where I am because it is what I need to mold and shape me in the image of His Son.  Honestly, I don’t always like it, but I am beginning to learn to accept it with a little more grace.

As Christians, we don’t believe in happenstance or chance. Luck is not our friend, nor is it the way forward for us. For us, it’s important to accept that God is in control and will remain so for the entirely of our existence. It’s what makes Him God and it’s truth, so we need to consider it.  It also should bring us hope and a firm assurance, to realize that God is God and forever in control, for we know that He has our good in mind at all times.

“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. Jeremiah 29:11

Some people use Jeremiah’s words to assure themselves of good things ahead for themselves. But what kind of hope do they have for the future? Will God’s blessing over them bring them riches, and if so, what kind of riches? What are we looking for from God?

Wealth?

Health?

Power?

Prestige?

A safe haven?

A place to live free and happy in the light of God’s love?

Jeremiah was talking to a people about to go into captivity when he delivered his assurance promise. No one needed it more than the audience to whom he preached.  His message was one of restoration. The pain Israel was about to bear would not last forever. One day, God would restore what sin had stolen.

It’s important that as we enter into a time of trial and temptation, when our defenses are down and our souls are weak, that we have a promise to cling to…something to get us through the hard.

This morning, as I spend a considerable amount of time in prayer (because yeah, today I need extra of God and His consoling Spirit), I’ll remember God’s promise to me.

If we will trust Him with our tomorrows, He will get us through today.

If we will confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).

If we will blossom where He plants us, He will make us into testimonies to His love.

Today, I’m using prayer to get me willing.

How do you become willing to obey God and bloom where you’re planted?  How important is hope to you, in the hard times?

Leviathan

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Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak softly to you? Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him as a servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you leash him for your maidens? Will your companions make a banquet of him? Will they apportion him among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle—Never do it again! Job 41:1-8 NKJV

There’s a new Jurassic World movie out in the theaters this week. Seeing all the advertisements for it while reading from the book of Job, I’m reminded how often God uses the things of this world to make a point with us about the world beyond. It’s a good thing, too, because we sometimes struggle to make sense of what we can see, smell, hear, and touch in this world, much less understanding anything like the magnificent artist powers at work in the universe beyond our reach.

We can no more corral God, than the people of Job’s time could wrestle with Leviathan.

God was making a point with Job when he used the example of the Leviathan: God is big, God is powerful, and God will not be tamed by men. Nor will He take orders from them, or answer to them. This is good news, because if we could tame God, He would cease to be God as we know God. Right?!

No one wants that!

In a movie about dinosaurs, mankind might find it hard to survive, but we are not in a movie. We are real, living, dependent and frail humans, in need of a real-life Savior who can hide us in the shadow of his wings. We need the Almighty, who has all dominion and power in this world and all worlds.

Job learned a lesson about who God is and how distinct He is from mankind through his suffering and conversations with the Lord. We can learn a lesson from Job’s example, too.

I love that last line from the New King James Version, in Job 41:8, “Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle—Never do it again!” God was making a point about his Supremacy when He wrote that line. I think Job got it. What do you think?

How big and strong is your God? Do you do what he asks, or keep asking Him to follow your lead?

 

 

 

3 things about being Christian

 

If you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I’m unabashedly Christian; have been since my youth.

Disclaimer: I am not perfect, nor even poised most days. Just so you know…

There are many reasons why I love being a person of faith in general, and a Christian, in particular. I thought I would blog about three of them today.

THREE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING CHRISTIAN

1- I love the fact that Jesus first loved me. This is one of the greatest blessings in my faith journey. The fact that Jesus loved me first, means I don’t have to do anything to make him love me. He already loved me, when first he met me. I don’t have to work at being more me to get love from Him, or fake being someone else He might want to love. He’s already thrilled and enthralled by me. I don’t know why or how that’s so, but I think it’s pretty cool. I don’t have to work for my Jesus’ love!

O be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

2- As a Christians, I love that love comes to me with no strings attached. I get all of the goodies, all of the time, and I don’t have to do anything to make it happen, other than believe. I never contribute to the strength of my salvation or faith. Not my gig; that is God work. But don’t get me wrong, I do plenty to make sure I’m growing as a disciple. I just never worry about whether I’m loved by Jesus as I do those things. Never! Not on my good days, and not on my bad. For a kid who grew up the way I did, that’s huge.

Sing to God! Sing praises to His name. Exalt the One who rides on the clouds—His name is the Lord—and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God settles the lonely in families… Psalm 68:4-6

3- I love that as a Christian, my central focus is love. Loving God. Loving Jesus. Loving the Holy Spirit that lives in me. Loving my family. Loving my friends, and loving those that are yet to become friends. Some days, exemplifying love to/for others seems counter to my nature. That’s when I pray and meditate on all the love that’s come to me over the years I’ve been walking with Jesus, and I begin to melt into gratitude once more. He loves me every day, regardless of how I behave. How can I not want to learn from Him and do the same?!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear… We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18 & 19

Are you a person of faith? Do you love experiencing the love that comes back to you from your Savior?

Safe in God’s Care

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He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. Deuteronomy 32:10 ESV

It’s sometimes difficult for us to let go of the things of the world and focus on God.

We are human; we feel, we fear, we fail, and only God can raise us up again once we’ve fallen. He is our Protector and Provider, but sometimes we forget.

We forget all he’s done.

The ways he’s encircled us.

The protection he’s provided.

How he views us and what he does for us.

We forget to remain hopeful among the troubles and the trials, the challenges and the pitfalls.

We forget, and we need to be reminded.

Like an eagle watches over her young, God watches over us.

Who in the bird kingdom dares challenge the eagle? Little birds might hope to scare him off when he gets too close to their nest, but even they depart once he takes them to task. They know what we knows, that he is mightier.

As the eagle is to lesser birds, so is our God to us. He is mightier.

In today’s teaching from the Word, we see the parenting aspect of a great bird. God acting as an agent of nurture and concern, fluffing the nest for his young and spreading his wings to capture them should they fall during those first few scary flights.

Today, as you face the fears, the failures, and the feelings that go along with being human, trust in God to get you through.

Praise Him for his mighty presence among us.

Rely on Him alone to catch you, should you fall.

Know, nothing escapes his protective oversight! Rest in his undying love.

When has God swooped in to protect you in a threatening situation?  When have you most keenly felt His presence and love?

VBS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

Vacation Bible School (VBS), is happening at our church in a couple weeks, so I thought it might be fun to recall my experiences with VBS as a child, today, to remind me and share with you the importance of getting involved in this type or program at your local church.

Whether you call your summer children’s program VBS or refer to it by some other name, know this, it is important for the spiritual development of children to offer a program like this in your church or your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to happen at church, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to share the love of Jesus with a child. It just needs to happen. Below, is my story of how I came to know Jesus. I hope you know him, too.

MY VBS. MY CHALLENGE.

Although I attended church with my gramma as a young child, it wasn’t until my mom hosted a neighborhood VBS that I really heard the Lord speaking life into my heart. I think I was eleven or twelve at the time. I wish I had possessed the forethought to write it down when it happened, but at that age and with little experience in religion, how could I know how significant this event would be for the rest of my life? I remember vividly a Child Evangelism Fellowship worker, named Dorothy, telling us the gospel story and using the Wordless Book as her only resource. Well, that and a heart full of love for Jesus—which was more than enough to grab my attention and encourage me to pray a little prayer that Jesus would love me forever, as she prompted the group.

My first challenge to the pact I’d made with God that day on our front porch, had to do with lying. My mom had baked a chocolate cake and frosted it, then set it on the kitchen table to wait for dinner (or maybe it was for some special occasion I don’t remember), as the battle began.

“Don’t touch that cake.” She’d warned us.

Ahhhh, sounding that kind of warning is like setting off a beacon light in the mind of a kid. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was eat that cake. I mean ALL I wanted to do!

I was single-minded in my pursuit of a way to eat some of that cake and get away with it.

I could hear the enemy whispering, as I tried to resist. “Go ahead. She won’t find out. She won’t know it was you. Do it now! Do it quickly. Grab and run. Don’t tell. Sneak away. Eat it in isolation. You shall not surely die!”

That devil, he is a wild one, and so shrewd. He knew the longer he kept it up, the less I would be able to resist what my nature so clearly said was already mine.

Entitlement.

Pride.

Self-centeredness.

Ego.

Sin!

The devil won that skirmish, which meant Jesus lost, but I was a loser too. Mom found out. I finally confessed under the pressure of guilt. It all came rushing out accompanied by hot tears of fear and regret. She understood. She’d lied before, too. She had a problem with food, too.

She found sugar hard to resist, too.

I think my mom felt worse for me than I did. She knew the path I was now on. Never again would there not be a battle raging somewhere within me. Jesus wouldn’t let go, and satan wouldn’t stop. Still, I’m grateful.

Grateful to God for loving me.

Grateful to Jesus for saving me.

Grateful to my mom for forgiving me.

Grateful to the Holy Spirit for continuing to work on me.

Grateful to Dorothy for being willing to share what she had with others.

Grateful for VBS!!!

VBS made a difference in this woman’s life as a child. Certainly, it makes a difference today. I am, because He is, within me. Sooo blessed!

Thank you, all you wonderful, amazing, selfless, sacrificing VBS workers, you! I am saved because you gave of yourself. My husband is saved. My children are saved. My daughter-in-law is saved. My grandsons are saved. Many of my friends are saved. My church family is saved. My boss is saved. All because one woman gave, and Jesus gave all. How amazing is that?!

I’ll shout it from the rooftops.  Thank you, Jesus!

What is your experience with VBS? Did you go? Do you work it? Are you saved for eternity?

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’d like to, contact me. I’m available to talk at churchoose@gmail.com

 

 

Pondering suffering

…God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes. Job 36:15 TEV

No matter what you’re going through today… no matter the hoops you’re being asked to jump through…

The pitfalls.

The hurdles.

The raggedy edge of emotional cliffs.

God is still working. He’s still loving you, more than you can imagine. He’s still ruler and still in charge.

Believe it!

Trust Him!

He’s good, and even though I would prefer to learn through gentle nudging and tender mercies, I know that being tender with me when what I need is a stern presence, yeah, it’s not so helpful.

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Sometimes I have to learn my lessons, as we say, “the hard way.” And although I hate to admit it, those hard lessons are the ones that have stuck with me over time. The Scriptures are right when they teach us that God uses suffering for good.

I have learned through suffering and distress!

I have also used what I’ve gleaned in the tough times to course correct for the future, for my good. But not for my good alone. Others have benefitted from those course corrections, too. They’ve been helped by the things I’ve learned, too.

God has used distress to open my eyes!

Today, it may be that God is using distress in your life, to open your eyes and shake things up in your life, or to point you to a conclusion you never would have seen had it not been for the pressure bearing down. Know this: It’s for your good that the pressure is being applied. It’s getting you where you need to go, and it’s fortifying you for the future. Every weight lifter, distance runner, or athlete of any kind will tell you it’s when the pressure is on that they’ve been stretched, strengthened, and able to build muscle.

What I’ve found most helpful in the suffering times is praise.

Praise turns things around.

Praise changes my perspective.

Praise gets my mind and heart in the position to receive from God.

Praise enlarges my territory and helps me see that for now suffering may be painful, but tomorrow I’ll be glad of it.

Today I’ve made a decision to be grateful through the hard. To be thankful for God with me, Immanuel. To be used by God to gift another with perspective. To realize that everything God does, he does for my good. He loves me, more than I love myself. I might not allow me to be touched by suffering or grief, had I my druther. God will allow it, because of how it changes me. How it molds me. How it shapes me. How it helps me be closer to Him and more holy.

Is it worth the trade-off in my life: suffering for glory? It is. Is it for you? You have to decide. Truth is, you won’t be able to keep suffering from you for all your life, so why not learn from it and be made like Jesus?

What are you thankful for today? How has gratitude and thankfulness brought you closer to God and made the tough times seem worthwhile?

 

 

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What is your chief means of relaxation?

Is it golf?
Is it cooking?
Maybe it’s ironing.

Some people love the whoosh, whoosh of a hot iron moving across wrinkled fabric. It gives them a sense of wholeness and harmony knowing that at the end of their project they will have revitalized a piece of clothing that was near and dear to its otherwise crumpled owner’s heart.

Maybe you pray to sooth yourself or relax.
You might eat?
Some folks drink coffee, though that seems counter-intuitive to relaxation, unless it’s decaf.

Have you ever tried meditation?

Meditation is a way of quieting our minds, and ushering us into a better understanding of God’s mind: His decisions. His meaning in our experiences. His purpose in our trials.

The Bible has much to say about reflecting on God’s Word. Below, are just a few verses that speak about this practice of quieting our minds and practicing the much-needed art of sitting still and being consciously mindful of God. They are nutritious food for thought for those who have learned this art of patient reflection. For those who are still learning, they are a good place to start.

As you celebrate some quiet time with God today, read and consider these verses. Then, get quiet and think long on what God is saying to your heart in this rapidly changing, always noisy, hard-to-shut-down, busy world.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 ESV

…brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 ESV

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Proverbs 4:20-22 ESV

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 ESV

What does meditation buy for you, in the way of peace, serenity, and a better understanding of God?  How often do you meditate and pray?