My One Word for 2016–Rest

As 2015 was drawing to an end, I frequently heard people comment something along the lines of, “I am so glad for this year to be over.  It was not a good one.”  Many of them had experienced great losses and difficult trials during 2015.  That was not true for me, yet I was very glad for the year to end, as it had been challenging and exhausting.

2015 began with the anticipation of two new granddaughters.  Their arrivals in the early part of the year filled us with joy, and we are truly blessed to welcome these new additions into our family.  Babies, however, are a lot of work.  As grandparents, we have tried to help our children during this busy time, primarily by taking care of the  three older siblings who are all preschoolers.

We moved forward with a long awaited plan to build-out our unfinished basment.  It was a great idea and it turned out as we had hoped.  However, it required that the basement be emptied of all the things we had been storing in it.  We spent a few weeks sorting through everything and determining what to keep, what to take to Goodwill, and what to throw away before we could begin the actual work of finishing the space.

My already busy workload increased when a co-worker left but was not immediately replaced.  To keep up, I worked through lunch most days and stayed late.  I had to keep reminding myself to slow down a bit and breathe as I hurried from one meeting to the next.

Added into the mix were health challenges faced by our three parents who are in their 80’s. We helped out as much as we could in getting them to doctors’ appointment, including six weeks of daily radiation treatments for my mother-in-law during the holiday season.

So when it came time to think about One Word to focus on during 2016, I choose REST. This was confirmed when I read that our women’s ministries had chosen ‘Selah–Rest in the Lord’ as our annual theme.  The theme verse is “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

Resting in the Lord doesn’t mean that I drop out of life and do nothing.  It doesn’t require me to ignore responsibilities and the challenges of life.  It does mean, however, that I lay my burdens on Jesus Christ.  I need to look to him as my source of strength each day.  He will never bring more demands into my life than I can handle with Him carrying the burden.

I look forward to a joyfully busy and productive year as I start each day with time in God’s Word and lean on Jesus to help me accomplish the tasks He sets before me.

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Glad to be in the House of the Lord

As I sang and worshiped the Lord during the morning service Sunday, my heart was filled with love for the Lord, and the sentiments David expressed in Psalm 122:1 sprang to my mind:   “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'”
I truly was glad to be in the house of the Lord, worshiping the Lord with others of our congregation.  Of course, I can worship God privately, and I do.  But, there is something special and particularly uplifting about corporate worship.
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Being in church allows us not only to worship God together, but also to gather together with other Christians of like beliefs and passions to hear the teaching of our minister, to pray for one another, and to encourage and lift up one another.
The apostle Paul encouraged the Hebrews to come together regularly in Hebrews 10: 24, 25, saying:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In Acts Chapter 2, we find the model of the early church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.... Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (verses 42 – 43, 45 – 46)

They were regularly–daily–in the house of the Lord worshiping together and being taught.  The result was that they had glad and sincere hearts, they enjoyed favor, and they saw many people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

These are the things that I want to see in my life, in my congregation, and in my community.  It is a privilege to be able to come to the  house of the Lord and I want to be there with a glad and sincere heart.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The refrain of an old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, has been running through my mind frequently in the past month or so.  We haven’t sung it in our church in years, and I couldn’t find it in the church’s hymnal.  But, thankfully I was able to find it on the Internet.  According to the information I found, it was written by Helen H. Lemmel in 1922.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

These words remind me that when the cares of this world weigh heavily on me, the solution is to turn to Jesus.  I should cast not only my eyes, but also my thoughts, on Jesus.  When I focus on Jesus and what He has done for me, the burdens of life are lessened.  Jesus told us, “In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33    And Peter reminded us to, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

When God Sends Hardships Our Way

Hardships are a fact of life that we prefer to avoid.  We ask God to send blessings our way and to keep hardships far from us.  When hardships do come, we tend to blame them on the devil.  But, have you ever stopped to think the God might have sent hardship your way?

This reality hit home recently as I read Genesis 15.  This is the chapter where God promises Abram that He will make him a great nation and that His descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  Yet, in the same breath, God tells Abram that the his children will be enslaved in Egypt.

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.'”  Genesis 15:5

“Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them for four hundred years.  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  Genesis 15:13, 14

“But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:16

Stop and think about this for a minute.  Is that the kind of promise you want for your unborn children:  They will be enslaved for 400 years.  I might have been tempted to tell God that I was just fine without children.  But, Abraham didn’t.  He believed God would supply him with many descendants and that God would bless them through the hardships that would come their way.

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In Exodus, we see this promise fulfilled.  When God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand His people be set free, Pharaoh made life harder for the Israelites.  As Pharaoh continued to ignore Moses’ warnings, God encouraged Moses that He was in control and that these things were happening so that “the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 7:5)

Later Moses tells Pharaoh that the plagues are being sent so “that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” (Exodus 8:10).  In Exodus 10:1- 2, God encourages Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Through the hardships of enslavement that the Israelites endured, God showed His mighty power and instilled in them that He is the Lord God almighty.  The Israelites grew to be a mighty nation and left Egypt with great wealth. When they left Egypt, there was no doubt in the minds of the Egyptians that the God of Israel is the one true God.

God allowed the hardship of slavery to come to the Israelites to bring glory to Himself and to spread His fame throughout the world.  God’s fame was still being talked about forty years later when the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land and spies were sent out Jericho. Rahab told the spies, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt….And as soon as we heard these things our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”  (Joshua 2: 10, 11)

As God has revealed to me that He uses hardships for His glory and His purposes, I have become more willing to pray that God bring into my life whatever circumstances will glorify Him and draw my unsaved loved ones to Him.

Called Children of God

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!…Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  1 John 3:1, 2

tumblr_inline_n6nv3igi311sfx920I have recently begun reading Beth Grant’s book, Courageous Compassion: Confronting Social Injustice in God’s Way.  It is a challenging and heart-wrenching expose on the injustices committed against the most vulnerable members of society in countries around the world.  Beth and her husband David have committed their lives to serve as missionaries in India.  This commitment led them to reach out to prostituted women and children and help them to see the possibility of being freed from a life of slavery into a life as a child of God.  While the book is focused on the social injustice of sexual slavery, the principals are applicable to any ministry of compassion.

As I am reading this, God is reaffirming in me that we need to view every person through God’s eyes–as someone He created and loves; as someone God wants to set free from sin; as someone for whom God has a plan and a purpose.  In Beth’s words,

“If one believes a loving God created each human life in His image with a divine purpose, and that it is His will for that life to be lived with dignity and wholeness, that shapes how one views and relates to exploited teenage girls in Moldova.”
 

This viewpoint should also shape how one views the homeless person walking down any street in America carrying all his belongings on his back, the drug addicted mother who doesn’t take proper care of her children, the disabled person who needs help with the most basic functions of life, and the mentally ill person struggling to make sense of life.Embed from Getty Images

If we truly believe that each of us is created in God’s image, we must treat each person we encounter with dignity and compassion. We must share God’s Word and God’s love with them.  We must help them to believe that no one can fall so far that God cannot pick her up and transform her into His child.  God looks at each of us and see us as He intends us to be, His children whom He loves and whom He wants to transform to fulfill His divine purpose for our lives.

My prayer is that I will look at the most vulnerable members of our society with eyes full of compassion and love. May I will allow God to teach me how to treat each one with dignity and grace., so that they too will know the blessing of being called a child of God.

Will you allow God to use you to share His love with those in need of love and compassion?

A Cat Pinata for a Special Birthday

Cat piñata for our grandson's birthday
Cat piñata for our grandson’s birthday

My two year-old grandson is crazy about cats, or Meows as he calls them. So when I decided to make him a piñata for his birthday, it seemed natural to make a cat piñata. My husband Steve and our four year-old grandson Daniel got in on the fun. Steve and I made piñatas for our children when they were young, but it has been many years since our last one.

I used two balloons to form the head and body, and paper mached them using a mixture of flour and water. Daniel painted it orange, as his brother’s favorite stuffed animal is an orange tabby. I used batting to make a patch of white on the cat’s chest and face. Steve made the feet, eyes, and ears from construction paper, and I finished it with a fancy tail.

Daniel was very proud of the finished product.
Daniel was very proud of the finished product.

Daniel was quite proud of our efforts and dubbed it ‘cat yata.’ Joshua was thrilled. I am not sure that he will be quite so thrilled tomorrow when it is put into action at his birthday party.  What a delight it was to work together as a family on a creative project.  Our granddaughter is already wondering what kind of piñata grandma and papa are going to make her for her birthday in December.  I am certain that we will need Daniel’s help to make a very special piñata for his cousin.

By Faith…

The 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews is an honor roll of the Patriarchs of Israel. In this chapter Paul lists many of the fathers and mothers of Israel and describes what they were able to accomplish through faith in God and by looking forward to the hope of the Messiah yet to come. As I was turning to another chapter of Hebrews, I noticed an old comment that I had written in the margin of my Bible. It said, “By faith, Susan…” I don’t recall what preacher suggested that the congregation make that notation in their Bibles, but I am certain that he or she was encouraging Christians to read this passage with our hearts and minds open to what God wants to accomplish in us through faith. Seeing the comment prompted me to read Hebrews 11 with a fresh perspective.

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The chapter begins with a very familiar verse, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) I have heard and quoted that verse numerous times, yet I rarely give proper consideration to the next verse. Yesterday it was the one that really resonated with me. Hebrews 11:2 says, “For by it [faith] the elders obtained a good testimony.” As a Christian who seeks to honor God with my life, I want to obtain ‘a good testimony.’ So I read through the first half of Hebrews 11 intentionally seeking to identify what faith in God will allow me to do and accomplish. I compiled quite a list in only the first dozen verses of the chapter.

Faith allows us to:
– obtain witness that we are righteous (v. 4)
– continue our witness after we are dead (v. 4)
– please God (v. 5)
– obey God, even when we cannot see His plans (v. 7)
– become an heir of righteousness (v. 7)
– go where God leads, even when we don’t know where He is taking us (v. 8)
– wait and believe for blessings that take a long time to come to pass (v. 9)
– do the seemingly impossible (v. 11)
– give birth to new nations/ideas/companies/ministries even when we believe we are too old/infirmed/lacking/incapable (v. 12)

I want these things to be accomplished in my life. I want to have a good witness that my life has honored God; I want to be an heir to righteousness; I want to obey and please God; I want to go where God leads; I want to wait patiently for blessings God has promised; I want to be part of the seemingly impossible; and I want to see God birth new ideas and ministries through me despite my limitations. These verses tell me that these things will come to pass to those who have faith in God. Thankfully, I have a strong faith, built over decades of serving the Lord and seeing the blessings that come to those who seek to honor God with their lives.

Perhaps you want God to move in your life, but you feel your faith is weak or is lacking altogether. Fortunately, faith is available to everyone. Paul tells us in Romans 10, that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (v. 17) Our faith is formed as we hear and read God’s Word. It also comes as we share testimonies of the wonderful, and often miraculous, things God is doing in our lives.

If you want to have faith, or to grow your faith, you must spend time in God’s word and you must spend time with Christians whose faith in God is strong. As you spend time reading God’s Word, praying, and hearing testimonies of what God has done for others, your faith will increase. As your faith increases and you seek to honor God, God will empower you to accomplish great and mighty things that would otherwise be impossible and, in doing, so you will obtain a good testimony.

Isn’t is exciting to think about the amazing things God will be able to accomplish through your life as your faith grows and you allow Him to lead you into new and wonderful areas of ministry and service?