See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.
Song of Songs 2:11-12
Promise of spring
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
A New Year
Thank you Lord for this new year, for friends and family. Thank you Lord for new beginnings. This year will be a year to declutter. Declutter my calendar (spend my time more thoughtfully), declutter my space (organize and economize physical space) and finally declutter my eating (choosing more healthful eating).
The next step will be devising a plan. More on that later.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Tiny white lights, evergreen boughs and excited guests filled the sanctuary in anticipation of the annual nativity pageant. Excitiment permeated the room; children were costumed and the lights were dimmed. The reader began, “In those days the Roman Emperor decreed that a census be taken…” The story progressed, but when the little lamb saw the audience he burst into tears. The angel couldn’t stop twirling and Joseph was throwing up in the bathroom.
Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the pageant grandparents gush over their grandchild’s participation, cameras snap, hugs, smiles and cookies are enjoyed.
Advent is a time of anticipation, we anticipate festive events, family cheerful, with our homes decorated for the season. But it doesn’t always turn out the way we imagined. The food flops, the weather is questionable, and overtired children become fussy, whatever the faults may be, the Christmas we anticipate never completely materializes.
So whatever your celebration looks like, at the conclusion the true joy of the season; Jesus the Savior is born is still all that matters. So overlook the glitches, and revel in the birth of our King, our Immanuel. God is with us, and that is reason for celebration.
A Blessed Thanksgiving
Taking the five loaves and the two fish,
looking up to heaven, he gave thanks.
Thanksgiving Day. What a wonderful day to pause and give thanks to God. Before Jesus fed the people, he stopped and looked up to heaven and gave thanks, a simple gesture, it only takes seconds. But that simple gesture can focus our hearts and minds on the Giver of all good things. Jesus fed “about five thousand” that day, and you may or may not have that many to feed, nevertheless a moment to pause and join with families throughout the nation in thanking and praising God is what this day is all about.
Enjoy the feasting, the food, the family and the friends and have a very blessed Thanksgiving.
Pray First, Pray Often
In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry. (Jonah 2:2)
How bad do things have to get before we turn to prayer? Read the story of Jonah, he let things get really bad.
Fearful to preach in Nineveh-No mention of prayer.
Flees to foreign land-No mention of prayer.
Hops a boat that meets up with a storm-no prayer.
Sailors fear destruction and ask him to pray-no prayer.
The sea gets rougher and rougher-no prayer.
Thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish-finally Jonah prays the words quoted above. Jonah prays and rescue comes. Could Jonah’s story have gone easier if he’d turned to prayer earlier.
Could our stories go easier if we would only turn to prayer earlier? How bad do things have to get before we turn to prayer? Pray first, pray often-God is present with us, God is listening.
Lord God thank you that you hear and answer my prayer. In all circumstances you are present with me, help me feel your nearness and your guidance. Amen
God the Creator of Time
“There is an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 The Message Bible).
December 26th is my son’s birthday. He was born at 2:30 p.m. CST. When a baby is born, someone, usually the attending physician or midwife, checks the time of an infant’s birth, and it is noted on the birth records. The same is true when we die; the time is noted and recorded on an official death certificate, and in between those two times we are obsessed with time.
What time is it? What time should we go? Who has the correct time? Is there time to do that? Where did the time go? As humans, in a human world, we worry about time—all the time. We put clocks on our walls, our computers, and our phones. But God does not keep time as we do. God is eternal, with no beginning and no end.
However, God does care about how we use our time. Not in idleness nor in busyness, but in balance. Our time here on Earth is God’s gift to us and, therefore, God is most knowledgeable about how we can best use that time. Because God is the creator of time, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he would be the best one to consult on how to use time?
Here are some strategies that I found to be helpful is deciding how to use my time:
- I pray over my to-do list; amazed that God sometimes changes what I thought to be my priorities.
- Build the day beginning with one nonnegotiable activity-the most important item to get done.
- My next strategy is a list of about 3-5 important items for each day. I may add a few very minor items to that list, like a phone calls or an errand.
- Don’t just write a to-do list; consult it frequently to keep on track of accomplishments.
- My philosophy to counterbalance feeling overwhelmed is that I can only do one thing at a time, but I can always be doing one thing.
- When I feel creative, I decorate my list with an inspirational saying, stickers, or anything that makes me smile as I look over my work list.
- Break down big tasks into little tasks, until they are small enough to be easily manageable.
- Be gentle, but also honest with myself, in discovering what works best.
I feel confidant that when I prayerfully set the agenda I am able to more wisely use my time. God, the Creator of Time, always gives his children enough time to do what he calls them to do.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out of for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
This week my grandmother passed away quietly at 101 years of age. Here is a dedication written in her memory. She was truly an inspiration of perseverance.
Before women had the right to vote,
Before penicillin was discovered
Before annual income taxes
Before Miss America pageants
Back when the Dow Jones was below 100 and King George was on the throne in England-
Way back, before all that—my Grandma Vicki was born in her parents’ home on their farm near Hector, MN.
Her maternal grandparents lived their whole lives in Helsinger, Denmark- I grew up living next door to my grandma, so it is somewhat difficult to imagine living halfway around the world from your grandparents, no overseas phone, postal mail was slow, and there was definitely not no skyping, no email.
Her paternal grandparents, Swan and Albertina came from Lindberg, Sweden. Their last name in Sweden had been, “Swenson” but changed it to Barry after getting to the U.S. Their grandfather’s name was Eric Berg. They took the “Berg” and changed it to “Barry”, that’s the story anyway, but I’m not seeing it?
Grandma’s mother, Minnie wanted to name her “Ellen” but Uncle Leonard said it should be “Victoria Cecilia” so that’s what it was. I don’t think my parents would have allowed Uncle Rolly or Jandt to name me.
Growing up grandma loved paperback novels, movies, esp. Shirley Temple. She loved reading “Gone With the Wind,” which was published in 1936. To her it would have been a popular bestseller, I read it last summer, to me it was a classic.
She attended a one-room country school and her favorite classes were math and spelling. She aspired to be a bookkeeper, but that wasn’t how it worked out, I guess it just wasn’t in the cards!
Grandma said her hardest times were after her mother died. She was only 16 years old, but she related the story very clearly. She remembered going into the hospital that morning. She stood, frozen in the doorway, looking in, her mother so small lying in that hospital bed with her tiny size 4 shoes on placed on the rug next the bed. “Go on in girl”, her father bade her, so she did, and she sat next to her unconscious mother for about an hour before Minnie passed.
After her mother died, grandma worked cleaning for Aunt Luella, just across the gravel road from her own house. Grandma said those were the toughest times. She worked all day and told of how she carried mattresses from the upstairs, to the outside to air them and haul them back up. She made them supper and helped clean up then went home and fed and cleaned up after her father and brother. The days were long, the work was hard and the pay was small.
Grandma was only 17 when she started to date grandpa. Of Grandpa Ray she said, “He was tall, good looking and slender, and he was a good dancer.” Six months later they decided to get married. She went to tell her father, Oscar, and of that she reported, “My dad flipped.” Anyway, on January 30th, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, drought and dust storms they were married. Grandma wore a “figured” dress and Aunt Edith served a chicken dinner that was “real good.”
Grandpa and Grandma had $1.00 when they got married and that was spent the next day at the Doctors to treat a boil on Grandpa’s wrist. Grandma said there were many times they had less then a dollar, but maybe they didn’t have a cable bill, phone bill, or even an electric bill. But they probably did have a kerosene bill, or coal bill.
They may not have had electricity or indoor plumbing or television, but what they did get was babies!
My mother was born at home, while both grandpa Bob and Grandpa Oscar waited in the kitchen. The attending physician commented to Grandma that that was unusual, but first born are special.
When Myrna was born, Dr. Vesley was supposed to come, but he had to go pick up his girl friend at the train station instead.
Marcia was born in the Wahoo hospital in the same room where Grandma Minnie had died years earlier. Grandma said that gave her such a strange feeling.
As the years passed Grandma would have read the original newspaper headlines to news stories like:
Panic at the radio premier of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds
Lindbergh baby kidnapped
King Edward abdicates the throne
Home runs by Babe Ruth and Lou Gering
Grandma experienced the dust bowl, the depression, World wars, cold wars and gasoline wars; Kennedy shot, Nixon Resigns, an actor became president, these were current events for her and in the history books for my children.
There were birth announcements, weddings, baptisms, traveling, card clubs, and family reunions. 101 years of life—long life—full of experiences, lessons, challenges and joys, but for me I see the greatest lesson to be learned—perseverance.
James 5:11 says: As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered, you have heard of Job’s perseverance and you have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
So when I remember grandma, I will be reminded of perseverance, every morning for over a hundred years, each and every day grandma faced whatever that day brought only to get up and do it again the next day. Remembering also that we do not persevere by our own power, but God gives us the strength and courage to face and persevere each day.
So when life gets tough or days seem hard, I just remember grandma’s God-given perseverance and I know that I can persevere too.
Secure With the Father
On my bed I remember you: I think of you through the watches of the night. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63: 6, 8 NIV)
I lay in bed, experiencing insomnia from stress and worry. Unable to stop the unwanted thoughts I tried focusing on the least-stressful times of my life. I imagined myself as a little girl, holding my dad’s hand as we walked down the street. My little hand in his bigger one felt warm, safe, and comfortable. What a joy it was to spend time with my dad.
Desperately, I wished to recreate that feeling so I clasped my own hands tightly together. Glancing down I realized that they were positioned, ready for prayer. It reminded me that my heavenly Father was as near as a prayer and available to offer me his warmth, security, and comfort. Sleep came easily after that.
We can hold our Heavenly Father’s hand anytime we turn to him in prayer. We can experience all the blessings, promises, and peace that knowing the Father offers us. What a joy to walk with our Father.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we can turn to you and you answer us. Thank you that we can feel secure in your care and trust that you will walk with us. Amen.
This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish Luke 14:30
To be intentional means to be done in a certain way, that is planned and done with anawareness of the end to be achieved. Finding quiet time, time to be alone and rest in God requires planning and effort from us, the seeker. Hearing God’s voice, wisdom and direction is less effective when left to chance and approached in a haphazard way.
My blog is an example of an effort to be intentional. I begin with my quiet time seeking God’s inspiration and leading and finish with thoughts, written down to be shared with others. The past two weeks I have had workers in and out my house, grandchildren to babysit, phone calls and interruptions. Finding the quiet time has been difficult. I feel like the person in the parable from Luke who wasn’t able to finish the work, when I want to be like the woman who sweeps the floor until she finds the coin-persistent.
How can I better find, schedule and keep my appointment with the Lord?
Lord help me to be more intentional. Accomplishing work for your kingdom, not as a haphazard endeavor, but planned for best rest results. Lord you are always present and faithful, inspire me to do my part and keep my appointment with you the King. Amen
When Things Change
God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46:1-2)
Things are changing. Remodeling a bathroom changes everything. Workers run throughout my house like ants. The contents of closets and cupboards are emptied, boxed up and stacked about the house. I have lost my routine, I have lost all calmness in my home. Dust and noise haunt my dreams.
Sometimes God remodels our lives. Jobs, finances, relationships, homes, or churches can change or be altered. We feel emptied, we feel lost. The routines that brought us calm are disrupted.
When the workers are done, my house will not be the same. I hope it will be better. God is steadfast and when changes occur in the world around me I will not be the same, I hope I will be better.