Choice Continues

I am purposeful in not starting anything new on January 1. I like to give myself a week to determine if my ideas have any solid foundation to them before I jump in.
A week into this new year I have a desire to do more, to be more, in this life of faith. Like everyone else, I am limited to some extent by circumstances surrounding me, but what lies in my heart, in my mind, are God-given realities that circumstances can either weaken or make stronger. It all depends on what I do with, and within, those circumstances.
One thing remains. Choice. To live by faith. Even when people don’t understand. Even when it’s hard. Even when it downright hurts. Even when it demands me to give up things, relationships, physical comfort and convenience. To trust that He has a plan that is far better than mine could ever be.
I choose Jesus, the Christ. I choose His promises. His direction. His joy. Yes, His Cross.
I choose the passions He has put in me to work for His Good. Not my own good.
2017. Another year of choices made in faith. Not always easy, but without regret.
– Vicki
 

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Celebrate Christmas? Why?

Okay, so this time of year can be…difficult. I’ve watched it in the lives of family and friends and co-workers. I’ve lived it myself. Sometimes we put a smile on our face and just get through it. Sometimes we ignore it. Sometimes we fall to pieces and hope no one notices.
But the real question seems to frequently come back to, why do we even celebrate Christmas? If we can truthfully determine what Christmas really means to us, then I can’t help but believe we can get our eyes off of ourselves and onto the reality of what this holiday is all about.
It’s so easy to watch those cheerful Christmas movies, the television specials and walk the aisles of the stores where the sales scream at us to be a part of something bigger than us.
Wait…isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be? The chance for us to be a part of something so much bigger and better than us? Something that has all there is that is wonderful about the depth of a love we’ll never truly understand?
Sometimes you just have to make up your mind you are going to “do” Christmas. Be a part of something that represents a gift like none other ever given. To not just mask the pain, the anger, the grief, the rawness that can suck you into the abyss that becomes “the holidays.”
And no way am I saying it will ever be easy. But it is possible, and it can be a time of joy – real joy. IF you do not lose sight of the why in Christmas. Neither am I saying to ignore the memories wrapped in whatever pain you live with that makes this season so hard. This is the reality of life. You were created to feel, but not created to be enslaved by or addicted to the woe that is buried inside you.
Christmas truly is about Christ, and he can, he wants to deliver you from the bondage of whatever level of angst this season brings. That’s why he gave up his spot next to the Father to come and live all the joy and agony we ever have or ever will experience. For us. So we’ve picked a day where we can come together in unity to celebrate, to thank him, for that great gift. To offer to each other what we can of the love he demonstrated, in however we are best suited to do so.
For me, this year, I started telling myself back in August I was going to celebrate Christmas. Not just participate in the seasonal traditions. I knew it would take time for me to prepare myself. And when December One came, I started a personal Christmas Bible Study. To remind myself what this season is – to me. To get my eyes off of myself and the resurrection of things that torment. To acknowledge them, yes, but to allow Christ in me to keep the balance where it needs to be.
So I challenge you, in the seventeen days left until Christmas, determine in your heart what Christmas is to you and just go from there.
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!”

Luke 2:1-14 (KJV)
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The times we live in . .

The plan was to do monthly grocery shopping at the discount store on Monday. Money is tight, and the ads looked pretty good. But on this Saturday morning I was out of coffee creamer, and almost out of coffee, and thought I’d just run down to the neighborhood store where I usually shop since they had coffee on sale. It was early and I knew there wouldn’t be many there yet so no long waits in line That can be a problem with these crazy knees. Why I avoid large stores most of the time and especially with Friday and weekend busyness.  I appreciate the sense of community that goes with neighborhood stores.
So I walk in and the first thing I see is a big sign saying 25% off everything at the checkout. Oh no, that’s not good. I look around and the workers all have downcast faces. Big oh no. I go down the first aisle…good sales. So I put a few things in the cart and go down another aisle. More good sales. Things I was going to get Monday. On sale here as well and with an additional 25% off. Every aisle had just what I was going to get Monday on sale. I checked out and looked at the receipt and the 25% off had given me an additional $34 in savings.  I am grateful, not only for the savings, but for the short lines and less physical distress.
However, the conversation I had with the lady who checked me out brought about another kind of grateful that was wrapped in concern and even sadness. Yes, the store is closing. It is amazing the sadness that brings. Another family business lost. And as this poor woman opened up about losing her perfect job that gave her perfect work hours to raise her grandchildren she was often close to tears. The workers had thought the store just being sold. But the sale didn’t go through and now everyone was facing loss.

Loss of that kind is hard at any time, but somehow this near to Thanksgiving and Christmas, it always seems harder. She did tell me she had another part-time job, and she was just probably going to have to go back to her old job working evenings.  So I did the best thing there is to do, I told her I’d be praying for her. Her reaction? Part of the sad part, she just looked at me, almost in shock, and then averted her eyes, nodded and said in a trembling voice, “I can use all the prayer I can get.”

I assured her she had it, and I’ve shared it with a neighbor so she can be praying as well. How sad though, that someone is so surprised that anyone would offer to pray for them. It should be the normal thing, to offer prayer, to accept prayer. To know that people do care.

But it’s not. Not in this world we live. . .where faith in Christ, the demonstration of His love, seems no longer the norm.

And whose fault is that?  How serious does it have to be before I offer prayer? That is the thought on my mind, the ache in my heart this morning. Thankful for the opportunity to offer that support. Praying that God do a wondrous thing in the woman’s life and she remembers back to that odd lady in her line who said she’d pray and that a tiny seed planted will sprout.

 

A moment of gratefulness . . .

I’ve decided the new weather pattern for this area is sunny one day, cloudy the next. Feeling grateful this morning despite the grey skies. There’s been quite a bit of work the last couple days. Haven’t felt real whoopie with the allergies, but because I work from home I can continue on with tissue in hand and not care about the appearance of red, watery bug eyes. Very thankful that my lifestyle now has allowed the knees to settle down and the cane hasn’t been touched in weeks. God provides what we need when we are faithful, obedient and willing to do what He shows us to do even when in our humanness we don’t always see a positive outcome. We do know Him, though. His character. His love. We know, too He is just and the need for fear of the Lord is a comfort or a dread depending on the state of your relationship with Him. So I am thankful for Him this morning. He loves me. He corrects me. His expectations for me move me forward and when I fail, He shows me the differences between mistakes and sin and gives me the choice between repentance leading to forgiveness or complacency and continuance in a life outside of His perfect will. I choose Him and His Way.
Just a brief moment of gratefulness on this cloudy Friday before I get on with the work day.

Those Red Words

You know, the words of Jesus. Those powerful, cutting, healing, enduring words that some Bibles print in red ink. Doesn’t make the words any more powerful, being red. But it does make it easier to find when your spirit is crying for the comfort of words straight from the Lord’s own mouth. Crying out sometimes for the words that you know you have to hear before you fall into temptation. Before you become complacent. Before you become lukewarm. That little extra oomph in your discipline of study.   red-words-of-jesus

Paraphrased, Luke 6:44, “for each tree is know by its own fruit. Men don’t gather figs from thorns or pick grapes from thorny vines.”

So, am I easily identified by the fruit I bear? Maybe I should ask instead, is the fruit I bear identifying me the way I want to be identified?

The next verse tells me that the good man, because of his good heart, produces that which is good. The Bible calls it “the good treasure of his heart.” Have I ever considered the good in me as a treasure, to be shared and not hoarded? That same verse tells us that the evil man, because of his evil heart, produces evil. And his evil is called the “evil treasure.” The use of that word treasure fascinates me.

Simple Definition of treasure from the Merriam-Webter Dictionary:

: something valuable (such as money, jewels, gold, or silver) that is hidden or kept in a safe place

: something that is very special, important, or valuable

: a person who is greatly loved or valued especially because of being very helpful.

I can go along with the first two definitions for evil treasure but the last…not so much. But, if we are talking about the condition of the heart, whether it is good or evil, it is valuable, and can be hidden. Sometimes the evil heart is well hidden, sometimes it is not. Can that be true of a good heart as well. If all that is good comes from God, then surely it is not hidden. Or is it? Maybe the answer is in the next verse. “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? The difference in accepting Jesus as Savior and totally submitting to Him as Lord? I am no Biblical scholar by any means, and sometimes my mind just goes from question to question and finally it settles down into the truth I’ve learned from His Word. Sometimes I work out the questions just like this, the Bible opened in front of me as I’m writing these words.

 My assurance for the day as I leave this pondering is verse 47. “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:”

What do we see?

My pantry is actually two shelves in a closet. At six o’clock in the morning, with only one small light on, the view is not so clear. Kind of like our view of life at times. We look at what we have and see what we don’t have.

I see one half empty shelf . I see another shelf that looks like a small animal was tripping all over itself looking for something, anything, but non perishable goods. I see a lack of organization. I see nothing that is quick and easy. Nothing that says to me “quick fix for hunger”.

I close the closet door, sigh, and start coffee. Coffee is always on the kitchen counter, easy to grab, just like the tea. Priorities you know.

Okay, I did it to myself. I said the word, now I have to continue. Priorities. It is easy to get into the car, drive four blocks down to the store and grab a donut, or a package of sweet rolls and call it breakfast. Just like it’s easy to go a few blocks the other direction and get a big fat greasy hamburger, fries and chocolate malt, or in another direction get a pizza for not an extreme price, something that could last at least two meals. But would it?

So I’m listing some priorities. Not in order of importance, because they are equal.  More as a method of order. Order is my life line.

Priority one: Know thyself.  I can’t get a pizza and not spend the whole day, or night, picking at it until it’s gone, I’m miserable, and the next two days I feel like …..well, not good.  Same with donuts, rolls, and fries. Fortunately, or not, meat is not much of a temptation at all.

Priority two: Be thou mindful of stewardship. Right now I’m in a transition period and my money needs to be watched carefully. I need to steward my money as well as my time. I need to steward my health – spiritual, physical, and mental. Not just now during transition, but always. That falls back to priority one.

Priority three: Forgot not thy benefactor.  God has provided all I’ve ever needed and I am certainly not going to forget that now.

Priority four: Give of thyself. It still amazes me that I am able to give, of my time, of my food, of small gifts when I am pondering the bill paying schedule and making payments and discover on the first day of this new month all bills are covered. Reciprocity.

So, in reality, looking at the early morning bleary view of the closet, I see several meals. Soups. Casseroles. Bread. Even pie(no, don’t go there). What is required is a little effort on my part to be creative and actually cook. Something I know how to do.

I chose to see not only what is in front of me, but how it can be made into so much more. I chose to refuse to focus only on what I don’t have. I chose to be grateful for what I do have. It is always enough, because my faith in a loving God has proven it to be so.

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Gratification does come

I know, sometimes crunching the numbers gets real old. But if we hold fast to the reality that we are stewards of the things God has given us, then sometimes it means we don’t get to have everything we want, even if the money, or possessions, or even time is in ample supply.

Self discipline is a very important part of our faith. When things get chaotic, the well practiced self discipline can save us from a lot of frustration. As we learn to wait, we learn a deeper appreciation that God is our supply, because sometimes even when there is plenty of money in the bank, or food in the pantry, or time on our hands, disaster happens and we are left with very little.

Sometimes God reminds us that having, or not having, does not define who we are in Him. In ourselves, being able to do, have and go wherever we want can become a path toward insensitivity. How quickly the enemy can turn a tool for blessing into a tool of division and destruction.

True, as well, and just as dangerous is deciding to practice extreme self discipline, and denounce possessions and/or money as beneath a self proclaimed standard. It is easy to form a self righteous attitude, developing a scorn for others who have made different choices. Such attitudes can be so destructive to spiritual growth.

So what do we do? It seems any way we go leaves us only wanting. My answer to that is “What is my motivation?”

Am I truly trying to be a disciple of Christ? Do I sincerely want to be pleasing to Him? Is my heart set on being an ambassador, showing others the way to Him?

Yes, we all have heard it. But it bears repeating. The Bible has the answers you seek. And each of us will find the foundation remains consistent. But because we were all created to be different, what becomes my direction very likely may not be the same for you.

My choice several years ago was to live simply. Even that definition for you is probably different than for me. For me, it is that middle ground between having a lot and having very little. I’ve been both places, and lived the struggles peculiar to each. I like it right where I am.  But I am not unlike you in that I like to know that gratification will come. I want to know that my choices, based on my faith, will bring forth what I had believed, the answers I needed for a life of righteousness.

And Yes! Yes, yes, yes, I am excited when some little thing happens, when I can recognize I have received a gift from God. When I have planned, and sacrificed, and planted for His kingdom and some little thing happens that is equivalent to my Lord smiling at me and saying, here, this is for you. Just because.

And sometimes, I look at my plan, shake my head and leap into something just because I want to. But I know I am grounded in my faith. And I know that I have no desire to do something contrary to that faith. So I don’t worry that I am making a horrid mistake. I am just loosening the reins on myself a little. It serves to remind me I am not in control, but I am not at all abused by the One who is, and never will be.

Gratification comes in our faith. In our day to day lives. In our struggles and our victories. My heart tells me the best gratifications are the ones I’m willing to wait for. My heart tells me that the best is yet to come, and all I am living now is preparation for that.

So I sit down and I work through by writing out my doubts, my questions and even my answers. I don’t know that maybe by this time next year gained wisdom will have shown me how off base I was today. All I know for sure is, I am content in the life I have. I am loved by the Creator of all things. My brother is the Son of God. My teacher is the Holy Spirit of God. I’d say that is gratification.

 

 

 

 

 

So, God wasn’t done.

Alright, I thought I was done with this blog. Too many things going on. Too tired in too many ways. Ready to start a new chapter.

Sooooo, God let me start the new chapter. Only it was not at all what I projected. (I should be used to that by now). I really should have known when I couldn’t bear to lose this site. So it has sat in cyber limbo for three weeks now, same as the Twitter account. And today, God showed me quite clearly He wasn’t done.

It is still a matter of choices. It is still faith in Jesus that determines the choices. It is still my humanness that sometimes messes those choices up. But the Lord is merciful, and loving, and points us right back to path we’re supposed to be on. Sometimes with a gentle voice. Sometimes with the strong discipline of Lordship. But always, always, the love is there. After all, the Bible is quite clear that He disciplines those He loves.

Rewards them, too. And what He has given me is time. Focus. Vision.

Unfortunately, maybe, for you, that odd sense of humor still exists. I am, you know, who He created me to be.

 

 

 

Pray. Oh yes, pray.

I find myself in extensive prayer and reflection tonight. A wise woman of God  said earlier today “we need to pray for healing in the Church. For the Church to recognize what the enemy is doing and stand together against him.”
Thinking about the killings that seem to happen one right after another all over the United States, all over the world. Are we becoming  people that are failing to see other people as living, breathing, thinking, feeling parents, children, brothers, sisters. . .until news of tragedy is like a show, where we are hungry to get the latest installment?  That it all becomes about labels. Race. Gender. Politics. Religion.
Oh, Lord, how easily we judge things when we only see part of the picture. God forgive the arrogance. God open our eyes to the things that are breaking Your heart.
Confusion leads to chaos and chaos to downfall. These are confusing times. Time to focus. We can’t, nor should we, ignore the tragedies. But we can’t drown in the constant inflow of reports. Balance. We need balance.
We, as believers, have a firm foundation. We have to remember that, cling to that. So tonight, as the day moves toward a new one full of God’s mercies, I have decided to put greater limitations on world influences.  Limited social media, radio and television.
I have asked the Lord how to recenter myself, to focus for a life representative of my faith, my service to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Once again I have been led to study and meditate on Mathews 5-7. The words of Jesus to the people. To me.
 On this late Saturday I’m just trying to sort out the jumble of thoughts and emotions pouring sloppy from a weary soul. There is no answer but God. All that is good and precious has come from Him, and I trust Him, even when I don’t trust myself or my perceptions of the world and the people around me.  I can talk to Him and find my center again. So can you.
Pray. Oh, yes, pray.

Refreshment

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Krug Park, St. Joseph, MO

Sometimes, when the world around you seems to be closing in, squeezing the breath right out of you, when there are decisions to make, and bills to juggle, and so many people you care about are hurting and you want to do more – sometimes you just have to grab the camera and seek out another world.  You pull your ancient wheels into a park in the end of town you grew up in, wander over to look at the lagoon with the fish and ducks and suddenly you feel you are being watched. Whirling around, wondering if you’ve finally lost your senses,  you have to laugh in delight. There he is, on the other side of the parking lot, half hidden behind a mound of grass and rock. He stares right back at you. Cocky. It’s his place after all and you are the intruder. He starts to turn away, then stops as if he realizes the camera you are bringing up to focus is meant to capture the power of his presence. One click, that’s all you get. Then he turns his back to you and moves away as if you are of no importance at all.  With a deep sigh, you watch him go behind some rocks before you turn back to snap some pictures of a tiny sail boat someone is maneuvering across the water.  002

Little kids are at the other end throwing bread into the water over the metal guard rail. Time ceases to exist except in the moving of the sun in the warm afternoon. A breeze moves the branches in the trees bordering the lagoon and the smells of water,  food, fish and flowers ride the breeze. A child giggles and you have to smile. God has given you exactly what you need. A reprieve from the battle.  The wonder of His creation to refresh. Tomorrow? Another day full of the same challenges. But right alongside them are new mercies, and the assurance that you are never alone in this journey of faith.