Expecting the New Year to be full of JOY

A New Year is starting, and it is full of the breath of promise of things to come. The past year is almost gone, and takes with it the successes, failures, blessings, and trials that came with it. I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for its passing and hopeful for the year to come.

I’ve been thinking,  what do I want this year to be like? I decided that I would like this year to be full of JOY. If it is full of JOY, then everything will turn out well.

J – Jesus. Let this year be full of Jesus. Let me make pleasing him the priority, and may I keep my eyes on him.

O – Others. May I think of others before I think of myself. May I put the needs of others (especially my family) above my own. 

Y – You. Help me to live this year intentionally. Let me keep my goals in the forefront and persevere even when I don’t see the end in sight. 

I want to find joy in the small things and be able to look and see the beauty of nature that surrounds me. I can hear the call of geese in the morning as they go to their feeding grounds. I see the Mallards along the creek bank and look for their little ones in the late spring. The Juncos are at my feeder all day long and provide entertainment for me. The sky is usually blue (except in January and February) and is filled with beautiful clouds.

There are a hundred reasons to find joy in and around me. I want to see them, experience them and be full of the joy they bring. This is my hope for the New Year.

 

 

 

“For unto us a child is born,”

“For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government shall be upon his shoulder;

and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counselor,

The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it,

and to establish it with justice and with righteousness

from henceforth even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

 

Lord Jesus, as we reflect on your first advent, we await your second advent when you shall truly bring peace to the earth and the restoration of all things. Amen

A Prayer For Peace

Heavenly Father,

My heart cries out in desperation for our world.

Too many people desire to hurt each other for no other reason than the desire to.

Bring us to a place where we can love each other with a pure heart.

Help us to love each person because they are a human being and created in the image of God.

Let not our race, color, religion, or ethnicity be a dividing factor but may we see each person as a uniquely created individual worthy of our love.

Help us to stand against senseless violence and not support anyone who would divide others for their own gain.

Make us true instruments of your peace.

In Jesus holy name we ask. Amen

 

Written after the attack on Paris, December 7, 2015

Reprint permission of World Prayers. http://www.worldprayers.org.

Forgetting Christ at Christ-mas

Have you ever been busy, I mean really busy at Christmas? I know I have. I have been running around buying presents, wrapping them, sending cards, going to parties, and preparing to travel. I remember several years ago when I was in the middle of a flurry of activity, there was a small Voice in the back of my mind. What was the Voice saying? It was saying, “What about Me?”

I didn’t have an answer for the Voice. In the midst of my activity, I had forgotten Christ….at Christmas, no less. I hadn’t really forgotten him, mind you. I had just pushed him to the very back of my to-do list. Back then, I would usually be trying to “shoehorn” him into my schedule. I remember thinking, “Can we make it to church on Christmas Eve or should we just skip it? After all, we are SO busy.”

This year, as I was thinking about the problem, a verse came into my mind. “In as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it for me.” Was this really the answer to remembering Christ at Christmas? Could it be as simple as remembering the poor, the least of his brethren? 

Within the context of this verse, Jesus is talking about visiting the sick and those in prison, clothing the naked, giving water to the thirsty and feeding the hungry. He says when we do these things, we are actually doing them for him. Would focusing on the less fortunate really put Christ at the forefront this Christmas?

I think so. When I take my mind off of my stuff, my agenda, my to-do list and focus on those who don’t even have the basic necessities, I am in fact remembering Christ at Christmas. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. After all, he spent his ministry focusing on those that needed him: the poor, the sick, the sinful and the disenfranchised. Those were his priorities. If I will adopt his priorities and seek to serve others, I will be placing him at the top of my list, not the bottom. Then I won’t have to worry about forgetting him at Christmas.

 

 

 

Gratitude – The Way Back From The Desert of Discontentment

It usually starts with a thought. The thought flies through my brain so fast, I cannot even tell you what it was. A few minutes later, another one comes; it lingers a bit and I focus on it. The thought usually starts with some form of “You don’t, You can’t or You aren’t.” The thoughts keep coming and if I dwell on them; I begin to feel discontented with my life.

The negative feelings usually follow the negative thoughts. If I allow myself to think and feel them for any length of time; I begin walking in the Desert of Discontentment. I don’t go there very often, but when I do, I begin to think about my life choices. What if I had made different choices? What would my life be like? Would it be better? If I let my mind go down that path for any length of time, I walk even further into the Desert of Discontentment.

Usually after about an hour of walking in the Desert of Discontentment, I start to look around. It is dry and hot in the desert and very little vegetation grows there. I find myself unhappy and I don’t want to stay there any longer. I turn around and head back the way I came. I look for a landmark to guide me back and then I finally see it.

On the edge of the desert, there is a small hill named Gratitude. If I keep my eyes on the hill, I can find my way out. With each step, I think about what I am grateful for: my home, my family, my health and a hundred little things I quit being thankful for the moment I stepped into the desert.

My hike out usually takes less time than my hike in did. After a few moments of focusing on the things I am grateful for, my discontentment begins to leave. I can see my life and my circumstances from a more positive perspective and I can find my way back from the Desert of Discontentment. And I am always truly grateful for that.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thess. 5:18   NKJV

 

Politicians, Producers and Pedophiles – How Can We Protect Ourselves?

In the last few weeks, we have had more revelations about people in the media who have taken advantage of people who have less power than they do. Most of us do not run in those circles, but we all have been in a position where someone older, stronger, and more powerful than we are have tried to take advantage of us. How can we do our best to prevent it?

1. Don’t Be There

When my husband and son took Aikido, the first premise they were taught is: Don’t Be There. Think about where you are going and who you are going with and if you don’t think it might be safe or if the people you are going with are questionable, don’t go with them. We can avoid a lot of problems by just not going to places we shouldn’t with people we shouldn’t be with in the first place.

2. Don’t Trust Everyone

Don’t trust people just because they are in a position that should make them trustworthy. People need to earn your trust. I don’t care if the person is a teacher, professor, priest, pastor, coach, doctor, parent or any other person that is supposed to be looking out for your good; don’t automatically trust them. People have to earn your trust.

3. Speak Up

If someone says or does something that crosses a line; speak up. People don’t have a right to disrespect us or harass us sexually. Find someone you do trust and tell them what you have experienced, even if you don’t think it is that big of a thing. People who are predators usually have a pattern of behavior, and you will not be the first to complain about the person who tried to take advantage of you.

4. Don’t Want Something So Bad You Are Willing To Compromise Yourself To Get It

If you are trying to reach a goal, get a job, promotion or any other thing, don’t cross the line of your own integrity in order to achieve it. It might look like an easy way to get the A, job or promotion, but in the end, you will be sorry you took it. Stay on course, even if it is harder to do it the right way. You will be glad you did, and will be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning.

5. Know You Are A Person Of Value

No matter who you are, what you have, where you have come from or what you have done in the past;  know you are a person of great value to the Lord. You are precious, and no one has the right to take advantage of you. 

6. Don’t Be Passive

If you are in a situation where someone is trying to take advantage of you, FIGHT.  Don’t accept what is happening to you: if you can, try to get away. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU!!!!!

 

 

Why Not Take The Agnostic’s Challenge?

Are you a person who doesn’t know if God exists or not? Do you see evidence of order all around you but are not quite sure if the earth and universe were created by an Intelligent Designer? Are you seeking answers to your questions about God but don’t know what to do next? Why not take The Agnostic’s Challenge?

Who is the challenge for? It is for those who don’t know for sure if there is a God or not. It is for those who used to believe in God but as they grew up were told that God does not exist and they believed it. It is for those who can’t find any peace or comfort in the world because they don’t know if anything exists outside of the material universe. It is, quite frankly, for anyone truly seeking to know if God exists or not.

What is the challenge? It is a very simple prayer that anyone can pray, so simple that even a child can do it.

“God, if you’re real, please make Yourself known to me.”

That’s it. It is a prayer that God can and will answer in a very personal way to show you that He exists.

Should you pray it just once or every day until He answers? That is up to you. He hears you the first time you pray and He is not deaf. In my own prayer life, I keep praying until I get an answer.

Let me know how He shows up for you!

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7 NKJV

 

Two Narratives – Two Parallel Realities – Can We Ever Know The Truth?

In this country, I hear two distinct narratives being fed to the American people. If I listen to the left-leaning outlet, the Republicans have colluded with Russia and the election was affected by it, etc., etc., etc. If I listen to the right-leaning outlet, the Democrats have unduly influenced their own primaries and their candidate is hip deep in her own Russian scandal, etc., etc., etc. There seems to be no middle ground, and the listeners of both of these outlets get fed one biased story after another.

If a person only listens to one news outlet, he or she begins to believe the narrative that is being purveyed and one’s perception of reality becomes tainted by it. I have met and talked with people who are hard core listeners of their favorite news outlet and they seem to be in lock-step with the information they are taking in. They believe what they have heard is true and don’t seem to take in account any kind of level of bias that might be influencing them. They then become comfortable with and live in their own alternate reality.

There are a large number of people in this country who live in one alternate reality or another. They seem to be divided up along party lines with the belief that the people who belong to the opposing political party are as bad as the party itself. I find this phenomenon troubling, to say the least.

Along with the biased pap and gruel that the outlets are feeding their listeners, there seems also to be a  level of hostility that is being conveyed to them. People are separating from others with different political views believing that they are a negative influence in our society. People have gone so far as to place people with opposing political views in a sort of “enemy camp.”

Let’s stop being sheep and believing one side or another. Let’s start searching for truth wherever we can find objective truth being disseminated. Let’s quit thinking “our side is totally right and the other side is totally wrong.” Let’s open our mind to the fact that we are all Americans and have a right to our opinions and let’s start respecting others regardless of their political beliefs.

Only when we begin to value all of our fellow Americans can we ever hope to come to the truth about the issues facing us. We do need different views in order to find solutions to the problems that plague our society. If we want to live in a true reality, we must be willing to seek truth wherever it may be found and follow it to its conclusion no matter how uncomfortable it is.

It’s Going To Be A Grayt Day!

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were walking along the bike path and were enjoying the glorious fall weather. The sun was shining, the days were warm and we were basking in the perfect weather. The trees were gorgeous and we were taking in the breathtaking colors of the leaves. Truly, the days seemed like the perfection of creation.

Then….the nights grew cold and the days were only a little warmer. The trees began to lose their leaves and we could see the bare branches. “The leaves have lost their trees!” I wailed to my husband and he concurred laughing, “Yes Valerie, the leaves have lost their trees.”

I knew we were moving into that dreaded season of winter: cold days, ice, snow, fog, and gray days without the sun. The weatherman had the nerve to proclaim the first snow of winter was on the way. I was bummed when I heard that announcement and awoke the next morning to see dark clouds covering the sky.

The first thing I said to my husband was, “It’s going to be a gray day!” He in turn said, “No, it’s going to be a grayt day!” Usually I am irritated with his unabashed optimism so early in the morning, but for some reason or another, I was willing to look at the day from his perspective. His words changed my whole day, and instead of focusing on the weather, I began to look for positive things I could be thankful for.

At the end of the day, I had hardly focused on the weather, and was just moving through the day like I ordinarily do. Hardly one to be a Pollyanna about bad weather, I even found the verse, “This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it,” floating through my mind.

I hope to take his words, “It’s going to be a grayt day!” through this winter. There will be plenty of dark cloudy days with ice and snow. There will be lots of bad weather to complain about if I want to. This coming winter I hope to look at life from a different perspective. I want to give up my life-long habit of complaining about the cold and instead look for whatever positive I can find. Maybe I will even buy another string of twinkle lights to put up in the house!

 

Verse taken from NKJV – Psalm 118:24.

Christianity and Nationalism – Let’s Keep The Two Separate

When I was younger, I travelled in several countries and visited lots of cathedrals and churches. Never, to my recollection, did I ever see the flag of the country I was in displayed inside the church or cathedral I was visiting. When I returned to the US, I never gave the subject any more thought.

Several years later, I became a Christian and again visited several churches. In a few I noticed that a flag was set up on the dais where the preacher would give the sermon. I spoke to my husband about it and said it bothered me to see a national flag set up in a church. He had seen it before and it didn’t bother him one way or the other.

I have thought about it since and have come to the conclusion that we should keep our Christianity separate from our national affiliation. There is nothing wrong with national pride and patriotism, but our first allegiance must always be to Jesus Christ. We serve a King who is over all earthly kingdoms and reigns from his heavenly kingdom.

If for some reason or another, the country we are living in outlaws Christianity and forbids us to gather together, pray and read our Bibles, we will have a decision to make. Will we obey our heavenly King or follow the laws of the land concerning our beliefs? We only have to think of the millions of Christians living under Communist rule to realize the dilemma that is created by a government passing laws against the Church universal.

Christianity does command that we be good citizens of the country we are living in. We are to follow the laws, pay our taxes, pray for our leaders and seek the welfare of the city where we live. If called into the military, we must follow our beliefs and serve wherever our beliefs allow us to.

Christians need to remember their history and recall that some countries have sought to incorporate their political beliefs into their churches. As an example, there are still churches in Germany working to get rid of the Nazi symbols placed in them without destroying the architecture of the church itself. These churches should serve as an example of what super-nationalism looks like and why we would want to avoid it.

We should never seek to impose our nationalistic beliefs onto our Christianity. Instead, we should serve the country we are living in because of our beliefs and seek to be the best citizens we can be under the existing laws of the land.