Change

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There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,  a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ec c 3:1-8 (CEB)

Change, we have a love hate relationship. There are times I long for change, other times that I dread change.

Today will be our first day back to school. Starting school back is both a return to a certain structure and also a new beginning. As I contemplate this first day of our new school year I can’t help but wonder at the other changes on my horizon. I both anticipate and fear them at the same time. One part of me wants things to freeze in time; the other part of me is excited at the possibilities and long for them to hurry up.

But today I will concentrate on this season: the season for new books, and snuggles while reading, a time for teaching, a time for correcting. With this season I hope to remember to stay present in the moment not looking forward or back. The seasons, they are changing but here in this moment I will love and laugh and appreciate the now. I will remember to love and to smile. I will not let the fears of change threaten the excitement that newness holds.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for all seasons. Walk with us this day as we embark a new season of life. Guide our steps, help us remember to love and to laugh among the serious moments.

Do you want to get well

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A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty- eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “ Do you want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “ Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.~John 5:5-9 (CEB)

“Do you want to get well?” These words always jump out at me.  Who wouldn’t want to get well? Thirty-eight years is a long time to be unwell.  After such a long time you might get used to being sick, and developed some strong bad habits that keep you sick. After closer inspection I am forced to ask, do I really want to get well? Sometimes I am so attached to my illness (or my addiction) that I prefer being sick. It has become comfortable. Or it could be the crutch I use to hide.

God doesn’t bring healing unless I want to be whole. I am asked to be part of the healing process. Even in miraculous healing, I am expected to participate in the process. The mental desire to be well must shift to a physical act. I am asked to walk through the doors of healing.

If I am to be well I must be careful that my time is not spent in the waiting to be healed. Do I list reasons why I can’t get well? Do I blame my circumstances? Do I blame the people around me? Am I hanging out with others who are sick as well?

I can blame my circumstances or I can allow the healing waters inside of me to be stirred. In the getting up and rolling up my mat healing can occur.

Heavenly Father, stir the waters in my heart. Give me enough strength for this day to live healthily. Bring me one day closer to complete healing.  Amen.

Where there is hope

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Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable. Let’s also think about how to motivate each other to show love and to do good works. Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. ~Heb. 10:23-25 (CEB)

There seems to be many people who have begun to lose hope. Those who hunger for life’s basic needs but see no relief; those who see too many problems and cannot see a solution. When there is no hope, there is no life- we lose our will to fight, to trust, or to live.

Sometimes problems seem hopeless both to the victims and bystanders. Hope is inseparably connected to love and faith… God’s love and faithfulness. We can trust and hope that He continues to supply the needs of many through us and through all the means available today.  Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering because the one who made the promises is reliable”. Empowered by hope in God we can do great things

I begin to lose hope when the world’s problems seem too big to handle. My heart cries out at the needs of others and I begin to feel overwhelmed with the needs. When Pastor Amy Probst said in her sermon series Sharing God’s Abundance the words, “There is too much for us to do everything but there is enough for each of us to do something”, I began to stop looking at the “big problem” of hunger. Instead, I began to see how I could help with “small actions” by collecting food at a food drive, serving meals at the Welcome Table and participating in Crop Drops.

When I ignore a problem, I begin to believe that there is no way that the situation can change. I sometimes find that I begin to accept that that is just the nature of things. I become blind to the need. With a sweet potato drop that I participated in a few weeks back, I felt that each potato I picked up was one more meal for someone who was hungry. The sweet potato drop was a tangible situation where I could be a part of the solution instead of just ignoring the problem. Who knew that hope could come in the form of a huge sweet potato that was too big for the market? Hope not just for the people who would receive a meal, but hope for the people who gave of their time to be a part of the solution.

Through our good works not only do we see hope begin to flicker in the eyes of others but we find by reaching out that hope begins to grow in us as well. Hope is the opportunity to be a part of the solution. As we reach out encouragement goes both ways and the lines between victim and bystander are demolished.

Heavenly Father, May I not become blind to the problems of the world. May I always see with Your eyes and feel with Your heart. May I see “small solutions” to the “big problems” that face our society and be Your hands and feet in the world. Amen.

Living past our expectations

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At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” ~Mark 10:6-9 (CEB)

26 years ago, this day was my wedding day. When vows are exchanged I think most people do mean them when they are said, but there is a lot to “for richer or poorer”, “in sickness or in health”, and “to death do us part.” There is a lot of living in these words. Words that are hard to comprehend until you have lived them.

It is beyond our comprehension what richer or poorer means when we first start out as a young couple. In sickness and in health is far beyond the common cold. And death? Well, who knew there could be “living-deaths”? There can be a lot of hurts collected in living through rough times. It is no wonder that 50% of marriages end in divorce. So when you look at a marriage that has lasted 10, 20…30 years you have to know that it was not because of “happily ever after” that they survived. It was work that kept them together.

The day I married my husband, I am sure there were stars in my eyes. I didn’t know then that living life would cause me to love my husband even more than I did that day. I didn’t know that our love was simply a seed and that living and loving and forgiving would cause us to grow closer and to love even more deeply.

There are many things in life that we can’t begin to grasp the full meaning of until we begin to live it out. When the disciples began their journey with Jesus they had certain expectations in mind. With Jesus’ death on the cross, their expectations were shattered. This was not the happily ever after they had had in mind when they followed after Christ. But once the pieces of their shattered expectations were collected and thrown away the reality of just what they did have begun to shine through. Being a disciple of Christ was different than what they had first understood it to be but far more wonderful than they had imagined.

Expectations can be hard to overcome. When they are shattered it is not the end, it is the beginning. Once we sweep away what we think should be we can then truly begin to live in the way that God intended.

Heavenly Father, I thank You this day for my husband and my family. I thank You for all of my life, the first part and the second. Continue to bless us with many more years to come. Amen.

Holy, Holy, Holy

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“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” ~Isa 6:3 (NIV)

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” ~Rev. 4:8 (NIV)

What do we mean when we say that God is holy? It is not that we are naming an attribute among many others such as love and mercy and wisdom and power. No, we are attempting to find something that collectively gathers and applies all His attributes. When we say God is Holy we are saying that He is unchangeable. Nothing about Him changes; His love never fluctuates; His mercy is inexhaustible; His wisdom cherishes all that is truly good; His power can always be trusted.

From One who never changes I do not need to wonder what will be the response when I turn to Him, whether in the dark of night or in the light of day. It matters not who I am or who I will be. It matters not where I have been or where I will go. I can seek Him in my strength and in my weakness. He is always God.

There are days that I fail family and friends. No matter how hard I try I cannot always be what they want me to be. Sometimes my failure may seem to push them away. They feel deprived of what they should have from me. But nothing is missing from God. Only He can handle all our high expectations. He will never disappoint. He knows the true desire of the heart and He answers those prayers.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that Your love never changes, Your mercy inexhaustible, Your wisdom timeless and Your power my only strength. Only You are Holy. Amen.

Companions for the road

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Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” ~Matthew 26:36-38

“When Jesus begins his public ministry, one of the first things he does is to find companions, those individuals who will share his life and ministry in a special way. Whenever Jesus faces a difficult situation, he gathers these companions around himself- sometimes all twelve, sometimes only a few. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, needed the companionship of others. Even he, as strong and powerful and food as he was, couldn’t go it alone.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

Isn’t that comforting? The Son of God did not go through his time here on earth alone. He was not intended to. If one of the Trinity, who had a part in the creation of the world, needed friendship and companions don’t you think we need this too? It is so easy to fall into a trap of believing that I need to do this journey called life on my own. Then get mad because I fail miserably.

We were not meant to face the challenges of life without the support of others. The need for companionship is not something to be ashamed of. It is part of the very fabric of our human psyche. This need for others is not about being weak, or immature. This need for others is one more way that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus didn’t include everyone in his personal business. He had lots of followers, but only 12 were in his inner circle. There is wisdom in this as well. Just as we were never meant to travel through life alone, it is also best to not disclose every detail of your personal life with everyone you come in contact with. Not everyone can be trusted. Even in his inner circle Jesus knew who he could trust. Only Peter, James and John got the privilege of seeing Jesus for who he truly was, the Son of God (Mark 9:1-8).

There is much value in seeking friends to walk life’s journey. They help center us, encourage us and support us. It may seem weakness to seek out companionship, but remember; when we are weak we are strong.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for companions you send to travel this journey with me. May I add strength to others journeys too. Amen.

Freedom

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We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ~Romans 6:2

When I say I long for freedom, freedom from what? Freedom from the illusion of control, that if I can just make sure things line-up just so nothing bad is going to happen. Freedom from the need to be right all the time, that sometimes I simply just don’t know the answers.  Freedom from the fears of serious things, like being lost, getting sick, the death of a loved one.  Freedom from irrational things like an organized house will bring peace and the feeling of order or that making everyone else happy can by some miracle make me happy.

When I say that “I can’t”, when I see that “God can”, when I take the action of letting Him handle all things then I can experience freedom. Freedom from the try-hard life where I stay strong, put on a good front and think that I can handle all things my-self. When I trust, allowing my “self” to fall to the ground like a seed, that shell of my self-life can burst, allowing the Healers life to burst forth.

New life brings freedom. God’s life allows me to experience a freedom I can never find on my own. I just have to allow myself to be buried with Jesus so that I may also be raised into a new life free of trying hard (and missing the mark).

Heavenly Father, I find myself trying so hard. I want to control everything and know all the answers. Please free my from my “self” so that I may have true life through You. Amen.

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