Who influences you …

“My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.” James 2:1

When Susan, my youngest daughter, was in high school we hosted a foreign exchange student from Istanbul, Turkey, for eight months. Years later I received an email blast from a friend about honoring the Muslim religion on a postage stamp… “If we use the stamp, it will not show honor to those fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq.” I wanted to jump through the monitor and tell him my story of spending a good share of a year as the host mother of a wonderful young Muslim man. How we went to Istanbul and visited his family and interacted with many more Muslims.

With the constant war with terrorist groups professing to be Muslims, it is no wonder people live in fear of Muslims. All I could say in response to the email was, “Do you eat in German restaurants? Do you refrain from making Southern fried chicken? How about Mexican food–all these areas had been battle grounds at one time.

I find it sad when one does not open his or her mind and become a student of other religions to understand their faith. The Muslims I know love God, observe the same laws, and think Jesus is a great guy. Through our loving relationship, some day they might even accept him as their savior, too.

Dear Lord, help us not to hear and fear, but look and see. Amen.

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Thank God all the time…

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

It is pleasing to hear the words, “Thank you.” As children we are taught to say “Please, may I have …. ” and then reply with “Thank you.” The giver says, “You’re welcome” and then we  reply with “You’re welcome,” and when we don’t hear these words, something about the gratefulness seems to be lessened in its meaning. I’ve been guilty of waiting for the person to say “You’re welcome,” and when I didn’t hear it, say it myself just loud enough hoping it would be heard by the negligent person. Pretty tacky of me, I admit.

There are circumstances in which “thank you” seems impossible to utter. Illness, for example. How can we thank God for pain, permanent disability, or torture? Pastor James retold a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s book, “The Hiding Place” while Corrie and her sister were in the concentration camp infested with fleas. Corrie complained bitterly about the fleas until the day she overheard the guards say they wouldn’t enter the flea-infested barrack, which gave the prisoners time to read their hidden Bible. After that day, Corrie thanked God for fleas. I’m guessing God was saying, “You are welcome….anything I can do to help you survive.”

We can’t over-thank God for the good and the bad things in life. Apostles Paul says we should thank God no matter what happens and even for fleas.

Thank you, Lord, for hearing our thanks given out of gratitude. Amen.

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Showing God’s love …

“So Jesus explained…”The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing.’ ” John 5:19-20

Today I bought three greeting cards: One began with “There are times along life’s journey that can test the spirit deeply,” a sympathy card for a woman who has now lost four sons and a grandchild before her 80th birthday. What words can express such sorrow?

The second card said, “For a Dear Daughter,” a birthday card to celebrate another year of the life of a precious woman … “It’s so easy to love a daughter like you who’s also a wonderful friend.”

And, the third card, “Believe in the promise of each new day and the healing, hope, and beauty a single moment can hold…” A get well greeting for a man recovering from surgery.

I could have purchased cards of encouragement for people I pray for daily. Several are dealing with long-term cancer, a couple of teens struggling with health and anxiety issues, a caregiver whose wife has advancing Alzheimer’s, and for a couple who recently celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary.

Every day there is a reason to celebrate, encourage someone, or show support for loss. Jesus didn’t spend his ministry on Earth sending greeting cards. He did his Father’s will to heal and encourage people going through similar events as those on my prayer list.

Lord, we are blessed to know you–to better know our Father in Heaven. Amen.

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God was shaking his head…

“We plan the way we want to live,
    but only God makes us able to live it.” Proverbs 16:9

We pray, “thy will be done….” but continue to ask for the same things over and over, because we either don’t get a clear message from God, we aren’t listening, or it’s not the answer we had hoped for.

I thought I wanted to live in the country–a quiet place to retire. My husband and I spent years searching the right place–close to a major airport, not too far for the kids to come visit, and a place where we could entertain them and have fun golfing, fishing, hiking. At the right time, we jumped into a building project of the house our dreams. I should say, “my dreams,” as I dreamed bigger than Glen.

My dream home became bigger and bigger and went from a manageable two-bath; two bedrooms, and a two-car garage to three of everything. I argued, “Some day, it will be good for resale.” I don’t remember asking God to guide this project, and it became a house bigger than we needed. When we sold it in 2002, the resale price barely covered the cost of building the home.

One might think it’s not necessary to consult God in and for everything and then wait for an answer. A good answer to the retirement project would have been, “Go west, retired couple–that’s where you belong.”

Thank you, Lord, for revealing the desires of our heart aren’t always what is best for us. Amen.

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No map needed …

“They were after a far better country…heaven country.” Hebrews 11:16

My ancestors emigrated to the U.S. from Norway to have a better life. I’m not sure why many people were coming at that time, but the good news must have reached the people in the old country and many decided to follow. My Great grandfather Sampson came at the age of sixteen, and at age seventeen was fighting in an Iowa regiment in the Civil War. He paid his price to become a U.S. citizen.

Our neighbors South of the border continue to seek refuge from a life of poverty and crime by entering the U.S.–many illegally, which has presented a big problem for a country. After spending a few days across the border and seeing old women begging on the streets, I understand a bit more why younger Mexicans and other South Americans see in their minds a flashing neon sign saying “Go North for the good life.” They risk their lives sneaking across mountains and the desert to get to a place of hope.

Our Earthly journey began with our baptism–a symbol of life and hope. That didn’t guarantee us an easy life, but a life within a short reach of God’s loving arms. We can’t break the rules–as do those who illegally enter the U.S.–and still expect a free pass across the border to our Heavenly home.

Lord, there are no maps for our journey to our eternal home, but we give you thanks for all who paved the way. Amen.

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Finding balance in the dark …

“I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” John 8:12

As a child, my mother walked around the house and shut off lights to keep the electric bill lower. But she also said a hundred times or more, “Turn on the light while you’re reading or you’ll ruin your eyes.”

We are in the time of the year when daylight its minimum. As a sun seeker, I dread this time of the year and turn on as many lights as I need for my psychic and for balance, which seems to be worse at night.

Neil Bauman, Ph.D. wrote about the three components of balance–the inner ear, eyesight, and the pressure sensors in our legs. If the balance system in the inner ear has been damaged, good eye sight will compensate for it. In the dark, we need the pressure sensors in our legs and feet to tell us we are standing upright. At night when I get out of my bed, I need to dangle my legs a moment to awaken them to help me find balance. And, it helps to use a nightlight to keep from stumbling around in the dark.

I  find balance in my spiritual life by seeking God’s light—night and day—the one that cannot be turned off to save on the electric bill.

We give you thanks, Lord, for being the light of the world. Amen.

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Created for us …

Draft December 22

“What a wildly wonderful world, God!
  You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
  made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalm 104:24

I’ve made it through the transition from the river where I spent six months to the desert–my home for the next half year. While at the river I felt my soul being filled with gladness–a peace I’ve never felt before. I didn’t want to leave and go back to the barren desert. Yet, less than two weeks later, the desert has it grips on me again. It is not barren at all. There is life even in the dusty desert floor with different types of animals unknown to Pennsylvania. There are fewer trees here with the brilliant fall colors from the forests of oak, hickory, and maple, but they have character and serve a purpose for the birds and the shade they provide.

I have discovered that I have a chameleon-type characteristic, as I tend to adapt quite well to all environments and while there believe it is the best place on Earth–except for the fourteen months I lived with my family in the panhandle of Texas. When I’m back home in Iowa, I become excited about the farms and enjoy watching the crops grow. If we open our eyes and hearts to God’s creation, we’ll discover all the jewels of creation.

Thank you, God, for blessing me with a nomad spirit. Amen.

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Keep on the right path …

“The road to life is a disciplined life;
ignore correction and you’re lost for good.” Proverbs 10:17

Today I left Daisy in a neighbor’s care for an overnight stay while we go to Mexico for another dental appointment. Daisy seems to know when something’s up—she gets anxious when I pull out a suitcase or put her bed in a bag. She’ll dance around in circles and follow me around “like a puppy.” It’s hard to look into her eyes and not feel sad about leaving her behind, but Mexico is not a good place to take a dog.

Daisy has made great progress in her social skills since my son rescued her from the streets in his neighborhood. It took baiting her with food for two weeks before he could get his hands on her to take her to the veterinarian. No chip, no notice of lost dog. It seemed the right thing to do to keep her. I ended up with her because she was alone all day and seemed so sad. Since then she’s become a family dog spending time with each of my daughters, too. Everyone loves Daisy, and she is finally beginning to warm up to strangers.

I’m not much of a pet person, but Daisy is easy to love. She’s is a sweetheart and compliant, and learned if she didn’t stray off the path we would keep her around. We can learn a lesson from this dog—once found, she’ll never be lost again.

Lord, thanks for finding us when we are lost. Amen.

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What to do …

DRAFT December 20

“If God didn’t think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you?” Romans 11:21

Yesterday, a lawn service radically cut back my orange tree and palo verde tree. Both have suffered from neglect. Now they are bare trees ready to be redressed with new branches and leave.

Our lives are like the trees in my backyard. You take care of your life from day to day, you wont need to make any radical changes. However, we get busy, we don’t want to spend the money, or we just don’t care anymore.

Of all the things I’ve struggled with since become a widow, it’s the house that leaves me befuddled—sell—rent—sell—rent. I wish someone would come along and prune the branches of these constant thoughts. My house is a modest 1800 square-foot home with the traditional three bedrooms and two bathrooms, an Arizona room, screen patio, and two car garage. I have a bonus storage room that right now is filled to the rafters, and the the house is filled with memories–happy and sad.

I’ve decided I will make a final decision next spring after my winter tenants leave. I realize I’m blessed to have this problem. The decision will come with prayer and discernment. Perhaps someone will want to buy it with all the furnishings, and I hope God will send someone to my home that loves it as much as I have.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me with all the details in my life. Amen.

 

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Now is the time …

“There’s an opportune time to do things,
a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.” Ecclesiastes 3

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell when the hands will stop.” (source unknown). We are all given the same twenty-four hours in a day to use or forfeit. Time is precious and purposeful. Ecclesiastes gives examples of the “right time” for many phases of life. In my opinion, the one most important should read, “The right time to love is all the time.”

The life clock will wind down and no one wants to leave this Earth with regret.

Lord, thank you for time to examine who we are and what we want out of life. Amen.

 

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