Christmas Will Be Different This Year

>> Thursday, December 10, 2015

The absence of my beloved husband, John, has forever changed Christmas for me. Even though the Christmas season was rather low-key for us, we did enjoy it in various ways. Some years we drove to Boise to spend it with grandchildren. Sometimes we attended a festive Christmas concert. Shopping was never a highlight. Several years ago we determined we would plan a special trip for the two of us as our Christmas present to each other, as neither of us enjoyed shopping.

He was the one who hauled the containers of decorations from the garage. I had to this year. Each year he hung the wreath. I had to this year. I decided to simplify. So I gave away my Christmas village. My decorations are simple, highlighting manger scenes.

That works for me.

The second reason Christmas is different this year is that I just returned from a trip to the Holy Land…the place the Christmas carols sing about. When “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” comes on the radio, I am immediately transported to that city where I walked the streets and purchased a hand carved manger scene made out of olive wood. When the song talks of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, I remember sitting on a rock in the shepherd’s field. “Away in a Manger” has new meaning after seeing the kind of stable and manger it is talking about.

The timing of that trip was a great Christmas present to me. Tears began streaming down my face as I typed those words. I had a sudden realization. Due to some life insurance money, John gave me one last trip.  He went with me in my heart and in my carryon. I took the party favor from his graduation party to the Sea of Galilee and spent 30 minutes there on the shore with him, then placed him in some rocks beneath a tree and left him there.

The Sea of Galilee will never be the same for me.




“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matthew 5:4 (MSG)



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Fear or Fearless Faith

>> Sunday, November 22, 2015

As a child I was taught to fear everything.  If you rode in a car, you might be in a wreck. If you played with the neighbor children, you would go to hell because they were evil. If it stormed, lightening could strike you…so sit in the middle of the bed and don’t touch anything like scissors. And for sure God was out to get you. Before I did anything, I gave it the fear test. Fear won every time.

I lived like that the first 30 years of my life. 

I married, had three children, and then my husband left. I was consumed with fear. Sleep was elusive and my health was deteriorating.  I read my Bible for the first time. It said God was love. That’s not what the scriptures I had been taught said. What did I have to lose? And so I turned to the one major object of my fear…God. Would He really get me?


He didn’t.  He calmed me and helped me sleep at night.

So over the years I worked on overcoming many fears. Heights. Flying. Financial insecurity. Health issues: especially cancer. What people thought of me. I grew confident enough to re-marry. But little did I know that my years of working on my fears were just training for what was to come.

Three years ago my husband, John, was diagnosed with cancer.

During our cancer journey, we experienced no fear. God was right there each step of the way. This past year was the most difficult, as John’s condition worsened. In the midst of our walk through the valley of the shadow of death, our pastor began a yearlong study on “Fearless Faith”. Sunday after Sunday, John and I were affirmed in our faith.

We had peace until he breathed his last.

Within months of his death, I was given the opportunity to go to Israel…a life long dream of mine. Immediately the warnings began from well-meaning people. “You can’t go there. Something might happen to you. It’s dangerous.”

I went…determining ahead of time I would not allow fear to creep in. It was an amazing trip.

As I look back over the last few years, I am so grateful for that fearless faith. So much could have been destroyed with fear in control.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)



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Whispers

>> Sunday, November 15, 2015

On my recent trip to Israel, I was introduced to a technology new to me. Our tour guide gave each of us a little power source box to hang around our neck that was connected to an earpiece to hang on our ear. That way, we could easily hear her as she explained the various sites we visited. Sometimes crowds of people surrounded us. Other times we were alone at an outdoor setting. Even though there was a lot of noise around us…either voices or wind blowing…we were still able to hear our guide as she spoke.

This device is called a “whisper”.

During my 30-hour travel time returning home, I had plenty of time to think. As I thought about the “whisper”, I remembered a book I read recently titled “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels. Bill says it takes guts to listen and respond to God’s whispers.

But God doesn’t give us a device to hang around our neck.

In our busy lives, filled with noise and chaos, we have a choice to make. Do we want to hear God?  If so, we have to actively listen. His whispers come in various forms. Sometimes a scripture seems to speak directly to us. Sometimes His whisper comes through a friend.  Words in a song can suddenly bring new meaning to our heart. A beautiful sunrise or sunset can cause us to pause and listen.

But we have to be aware of those whispers. We have to do more than just read words on a page…agree with the friend…view the beauty, and then go on with our lives without any response.

Listening…truly listening…to His whispers will change our life.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Mark 4:9 (MSG)


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The Essence of John

>> Thursday, October 22, 2015

I couldn’t bring myself to open it, so I laid John’s wallet on my desk. It had lain there for almost five months. Today I grew brave enough. The experience was heartbreaking and sobering.

The brown leather billfold contained the essence of John. 

The first thing I noticed was what he had written on the protection sleeve for his enhanced driver’s license. *John 3:16 & 1150 + 650 = fun. That one took me awhile. Then my light bulb came on. His last two motorcycles were an 1150 and a 650.

He was Christian who rode motorcycles and had fun.

As I continued my perusal, I could feel his presence. This wallet had gone with him everywhere…including numerous hospital rooms. His wallet was left in my protection as he underwent tests, therapies, and surgeries.

His identity was contained in that wallet.

That’s when the sobering thought hit me. These oh so important pieces of paper were no longer relevant. The social security number that had been his since birth no longer counted. He didn’t need a driver’s license or insurance on his car. His extremely long list of medications was of no importance. And he would never use his emergency check.  

You see where I’m going with this?

You can’t carry what truly matters in a wallet (or purse). His love of God and people was not carried in his pocket. In the end, the significant essence of John was what he carried in his heart.

He possessed an enlarged heart…one full of love.

“A good person produces good deeds and words season after season.” Matthew 12:35 (MSG)



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Belief Systems

>> Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I am not a morning person. Left to my own devices I would stay up until midnight and sleep in until 9:00.  But life happens.  Especially now that I have a neighbor who comes by and picks up the dog to take him for a walk a little after 7:00 each morning. So my plan is to already be through at the gym by the time the dog walker arrives.

I set my alarm for 5:45.  That’s AM!  It’s still dark outside.  That’s just wrong.

The other morning, I swung my feet off the side of the bed, searched for my house shoes and turned on the lamp on the nightstand. All the activity roused the dog, so I let him out the back door to take care of his business. By the time he returned, I had donned my exercise clothes, complete with baseball cap so as not to scare anyone, and was ready to leave.

I walked through the kitchen and happened to notice the time on the clock on the stove. 12:24. When did our electricity go off? I looked up at the clock on the microwave. 12:24  What is going on? So I pulled my iPhone from my pocket. It would tell me the truth.

12:24  I have no idea what woke me. 

I checked my alarm on the phone. It was still set for 5:45.  The confused dog watched me walk back in the bedroom, take off my shoes and climb back into bed. When the alarm went off, I would already be dressed.

But sometimes life is just like that.

We think something is an absolute. We go through the motions, based on our belief system. And then something a friend says makes us wonder about our belief. But we dismiss it. We find something unusual in a drawer. Again, our belief system kicks in and we choose to ignore that sign.

Eventually, the truth is discovered. The result of that discovery is up to us.

“Don’t be nitpickers; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.” John 7:24 (MSG) 



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FitBit

>> Saturday, September 19, 2015

I succumbed to the pressure.  All around me I heard comments about the FitBit and its ability to keep track of how many steps I had taken in a day. I wasn’t sure I cared about that, but I was a little curious, since I walk on the treadmill every morning. Apparently, 10,000 steps a day was the goal.

The promo was outstanding regarding what it would do for me. It could help turn my life into a fun path to fitness.  I would now know the distance I walked each day and the calories I burned.

Any day, I would be skinny. 

But the FitBit affected me in a different way. If I cared so much about how many steps I took each day, how many miles I walked and how many calories I consumed to ensure my physical health…then shouldn’t I care about my Christian fitness the same way? Where, exactly, was the device that would keep me on track regarding how much I prayed, read my Bible or just enjoyed quiet time with God?

I still go to the gym first thing in the morning; my FitBit hooked to my clothes so I can track my movements. But as I get dressed and reach for it, my mind turns to God…to my blessings…to people who need prayer.

That little device is a constant reminder to me that more than just my physical health is at stake.

“His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Ephesians 4:16 (MSG)


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