The Second Week of Advent, Peace

Good afternoon friends. I don’t know about you but I am loving this quick flash of warmer weather we are having here in Iowa. Us old southern birds like our warm weather.

Our pastor explained in Sunday’s sermon, that this is the week of Peace. We so often think peace is so hard to obtain but Jesus came to bring us a unfathomable gift of peace – a whole different kind of assurance. I have this small resin picture frame that sits on my shelf to remind me daily that while chaos may be swirling around me, God has given me the ability to stand strong through any conflict I face.

Think of the most peaceful scene you have ever seen. Maybe it’s a beautiful garden, or a graceful waterfall, maybe it’s the beach. Somewhere, through your senses, you can momentarily escape the  stressful world around you. But God’s gift of peace is a different type of peace – this peace came in to the world with the angel’s proclamation of Jesus’ birth.

 At His birth, Israel was looking for a mighty warrior, one who would conquer their enemies. But He came as THE Prince of PEACE, not peace as in a feeling but peace in a person. And He shares that gift of peace with all of us.

Seeing this, knowing this, hoping this, …we still have a tendency to go…”But God”…remember,  there is no but with God. His love is above all buts.

So we need to pay it forward with our fellow man. Sharing the peace we have been given freely so that others may understand it and reach for their own allotment.

The peace of God will not be understood by those who do not know the Lord, so we must reflect His peace to draw others into His love. For when we have His peace, the anxiousness of life can be coped with and we can all live in harmony.

May you enjoy the rest of this week of peace. I am looking forward to Sunday’s gift of Joy.  What a wonderful time of year to share the Joy of the LORD. Be safe and remember to always be kind.

A Time of Preparation

Good afternoon friends. I hope this day finds you well. This is a time of year where we are scurrying about getting ready for Christmas. We are decorating our homes, shopping for gifts and trying to be our best selves. Sometimes that is a hard thing to do with the rushing about and chaos. We are preparing for one day of joy. But in all actually, there is a bigger picture.

There is a song we love to sing at Christmas called Joy to the World. I have heard debates off and on about this not really being a Christmas song. It was just released around Christmas time. While down in the latter verses of the song it talks of Him already here and ruling so its not really a song about his birth…but the first three lines of the song represents what we should be doing now, every day.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

Joy, for He has come. Joy, for He is our Lord. Let the earth receive Him as King. Then the line to represent what we should be doing now…today. Prepare our hearts to give him room. We are in the season of Advent. I did not grow up knowing or celebrating Advent but as an adult, to me it is a very important time of preparation. Not only is it sharing with the ancient longings of Israel in waiting on the coming of the Messiah or the excitement of celebrating His birth but its preparing our hearts for His second coming…as our Lord and King.

I was given a wonderful little book called “The Gifts of Christmas”. Its a devotional book through the season of Advent and I want to share those scriptures with you over the next few weeks. For those who already celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures bring you Joy, for those who do not celebrate Advent, I hope these scriptures and notes help you understand there is a bigger picture. Advent themes are based on four gifts from God – the gift of hope, the gift of love, the gift of joy and the gift of peace. This week starting on this past Sunday through Saturday is the gift of hope. Hope can be something we use flippantly or something to hold tightly to as our lives depend on it. I hope you understand the power hope can give you as I go through these scriptures.

Peter reminds us of the joys of Jesus birth, he also reminds us of the beauty of Him coming again.

Hope is key to our survival and when we lose hope we lose purpose. Hope is central to our faith and hope is central in waiting for the rest of the story – Jesus’s second coming.

Paul tells us in the book of Romans how his suffering produced perseverance, how the perseverance produced character and how that character gave him hope. It can do the same of us in our struggles.

Hope also has a byproduct – faith.

The gift of hope comes when we place our trust, by faith, in Jesus Christ…something we cant see. But this hope is not in something but in someone. It’s an assurance of the bigger picture of eternity. It’s a patient waiting and a patient hope in Jesus Christ no matter the season or the chaotic circumstance.

Sometimes when we seem to be low on hope, we can rejuvenate our hope in sharing God’s hope with others. Hold close to Romans 15:13, simply because of God’s love for you.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Share that hope through kindness as you go through this day.

Always be Kind

Reflections of Love, Loss and Encouragement

Good Saturday morning friends. If you celebrate Thanksgiving where you are, I hope It was a wonderful time of family and love. This past week we lost two women from our church family that were synonymous with their biblical names reflecting love, kindness and strength of character. I did not know Mary as well as Ruth but we as a church family will miss both ladies. Even in this last year as Ruth began to slow, her love of Jesus and people never slowed and the power of kindness radiated from her. Something we all should remember and try to copy. 

As we start into this holiday season, first with this past holiday of Thankfulness, we next go into a season of preparation. A time filled with hope, love, joy and peace. Another fierce encourager in our church family gave out a small devotional book to help us prepare for this season, the season of Advent. I realize not all churches celebrate Advent but I think we should all understand its purpose and decide individually whether or not to celebrate this beautiful season. I hope to shed some light by sharing this devotional with you, each week until Christmas, to help us focus on “the coming”. So many of us focus on the coming of Christmas that I think we forget to focus on the coming of Christ. The nation of Israel focused for centuries on the coming Messiah and now that he has come, we need to focus on His return so that not only are we celebrating His birth, but we are focusing on our preparedness for His return.

The circle of evergreen surrounding the candles of advent represents God’s never ending love for each of us. He came into this world to save us. The large white candle represents Christ, an ultimate gift of love from God surrounded by four other gifts from God to help us walk through this darkness.

As we prepare to walk through this season with these gifts from God, lets remember to share these gifts with those around us and to always be kind.

Always Be Kind

Should Encouragement Sound Hard?

Good morning friends. I wanted to share my “slap in the face” from my devotion this morning with Oswald Chambers. As the end of the year gets closer, and the holidays are within touching distance, we run around being “do-gooders” in the name off sacrifice for others. We sacrifice out time, our talents, our money with the hope of making our Lord pleased with us and of course helping our fellow man. We don’t outwardly look at it like that but I think sometimes that thought can niggle at us. I think we forget what true sacrifice is and I boil it down to this analogy – If the task you are doing to help fellow man may seem to others like a sacrifice or burden but to you it is a chance to show love and support, then your heart is in step with Christ. If the task you are doing to help fellow man feels like a sacrifice or burden then your heart is not in it, so stop. While it may be needed, its long term effects will not last. And it is needed to last in some form of caring.

We forget what true sacrifice is…

How dare we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! We are saved from hell and total destruction, and then we talk about making sacrifices! Oswald Chambers

That was a hard statement to read this morning. And it made me think about all the programs we are getting setup for the holidays to help the needy, to help their physical needs; the food baskets, the “Share the Warmth” clothing drive. But are we doing enough to help their spiritual needs, their emotional needs. I can’t answer that question. Its different for each person. Am I, myself, skimming off the top or digging deep.

The missionaries around the world are truly sacrificing for Jesus. Remember the big news stories about the missionaries in Haiti getting captured and now its old news…but you know what, they are STILL captured and imprisoned. As they are in Afghanistan and other third world countries. But what can we do about that? Pray! If every person in the world would pray for them, not just once, but every time you do something for others, say a true heartfelt prayer for them. The power of hell has no power over the love of God and His people who sincerely believe in Him.

Taking the time to stop – be still – pray…is a sacrifice we can all do. It doesn’t come from our financial resources or our talents, it comes from our time and our heart. True sacrifices come from our heart.

So as you approach the holiday season, look at things a little more differently. Look at the value of true connection to others needs and always surround it with love from your heart. Never forget to pray for others and always be kind.

Always Pray in Kindness

Prayerful Encouragement

Hello friends. I come to you this afternoon with a few words of warm encouragement as it is nearly 60 degrees outside…in November.  That’s pretty warm but the dreaded “S” word is in the forecast for the weekend. Welcome to fall in the midwest.

While I was out running my few errands, I couldn’t help but notice a tree full of the season – God’s visual reminder that He always has something beautiful for us to focus on instead of the chaos we face daily. 

Music is another way I can focus less on myself and more on what God wants me to understand. There is a song on the radio now that explains that God never lets go of us and our situation, He never can, He never will.

I think sometimes we get so focused on our situation that we lose sight of His love for us and the immense power of prayer. Even when we can’t seem to utter a prayer for our own relief, the scriptures remind us that the Holy Spirit is there to utter one for us.

We are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. Oswald Chambers

We all have family and friends that need prayers but there are probably a lot more of us who think we never need prayer…but God knows hearts, our hurts and our fears. So we are never left alone, the Spirit is always close by.

Just a reminder that prayer is not an afterthought or an idea of ‘all I can do is pray’. Prayer is a power tool, a direct link to a God who loves you. And the more we realize His love for us, the more we can share His love for others. I leave you a link to another song of encouragement called  “Still in Control” that reminds me that  My God is Still in Control. May it encourage you in whatever you face today.

Have a safe and blessed week and as always remember to be kind. It can open doors of Joy you never knew were there.

Refusal to Leave, FOTD

Its been a while since I posted on Cee’s Flower of the Day but this was by my door this morning, refusing to go to sleep for the winter, so I am posting it again. Cee’s FOTD is a great way for us to connect with each other showing the beauty around us, so join in and share your beauty.

This is my Calibrachoa, a tiny orange flower with large ruffled like leaves that look like nasturtiums. It sits in a pot along my walkway to the front door.

Besides Daisey’s nose, you can tell the edges of the leaves are trying to turn but the blooms are refusing to give in. Nights are now getting down to the mid thirties so they may not last much longer. But I wanted to honor them for their resilience. It’s a reminder to all of us that even though some days we may feel old, we can still shine our beauty, love and kindness to help someone else smile.

The full bloom is no larger than my thumbnail creating another point that size does not matter in the beauty of all things God created. So remember always that we are all part of God’s creation, created for a purpose, if nothing more than to be loved by Him. So look up, shine forth and always be kind.

Always Be Kind

A Different Idea for Halloween

For Halloween this year, we participated again with several nearby churches on the “hilltop” with Trunk or Treat plus a soup kitchen. The temps this year were chilly for Iowa but not too bad and the sky was clear so it was all good.

The Evangelism team, (I call them the “E” team as in Encouragement team, because they are an encouraging force,) thought outside the box this year. We always try reaching out to the people in our neighborhoods surrounding the church to encourage them and show them the love of Christ. For the Trunk or Treat we had a “Balloon Lift of Prayer”.

The lift was a way to teach children or even adults, that praying for people you don’t even know can be a blessing and fun. Thirty heart shaped balloons that were filled with helium, were attached with the note below. The children were told the purpose of the balloon lift and on que, they prayed over them and then released the balloons into the air for God to take them where they needed to go.

And as the balloons lifted into the air, through the trees and into the sky, the children cheered them on.

The children were then given a package that had the same note, an uninflated balloon, and a piece of candy to remember what they did and why. We gave out over 60 bags. The children and parents seemed to enjoy this fun time and we hope to do it again maybe in the spring with a children’s festival.

All moments can be teaching moments to show God’s love, if we incorporate then in love and fun. As promised, below is a copy of the note we attached to each balloon. A very valuable lesson we learned is the weight of a single sheet of paper is too much weight to make the balloon fly so, we cut it down.

The full intended note did go with the children in their bag with their balloon and candy. Hopefully they will read this note and the pictures with scriptural references and understand how much they are loved by God.

Hope you enjoyed our fun time that we had and as a reminder, I remind us all the power of being kind.

Always Be Kind

Morning Encouragement

Good morning friends. I hope you are all well. We have now survived Halloween and are on to the real holidays involving turkey and trees.  Yes, I am a major fan of the tree holiday and have lots of it to put up. Christmas is a time where I can look through the pinholes of life and see God face to face. What???  Walk with me through Oswald Chambers’ devotion this morning as he shows how this concept ties in perfectly with how we should live our lives.

“Our Lord never insists on obedience. He stresses very definitely what we ought to do, but He never forces us to do it. He prefaces his instructions with an ‘if'”. Oswald Chambers

It’s a hard concept and a personal choice for each individual. We, as humans, want to know exactly what lies in front of us so that we can make safe and sound choices. But in my opinion, that’s now how it really works. We live by faith, trusting that He will take care of us. And He does.

“The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear.” Oswald Chambers

Our lives may seem random and boring with the day to day tasks but Oswald reminds us that when we obey Christ, those random circumstances of life become tiny pinholes through which we see the face of God. It’s like trying to look through the holes in the fence to see the big picture.

Sometimes we can’t see anything but other times when we look with our heart we can see the love of God.

As I stare at the lights of Christmas, I am reminded of the star of hope that came to lead us in our day to day tasks so that we can enjoy the beauty of the tiny pinholes. So today, try to see where the pinhole of your day can find the face of God and see Him smile down at you in love. 

I think animals want to see God too, so for a little humor this morning we see them looking through peepholes.  They may march to a different drum, but they know who the drummer is.

So I remind you today to smile and know that God loves you. And always remember to show kindness wherever you go. Kindness creates pinholes for you to shine the love of Christ through.

Have a great week.

Morning Encouragement

Good morning friends. It is a dreary day but the rain is a blessing.  In reading my devotions this morning, I was most encouraged by Billy Graham’s message.  For some, this time of year is hard because they don’t understand the value of the Christian message during Halloween. They lock themselves away from it until it is gone instead of countering its power and sharing the love of Christ. Mr. Graham’s message today was on the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. But as I read these verses, I fully recognized a tactic I learned in college of the beginning power of your first few words written and the last few words written carrying the power of your message.

“Love is patient and love is kind….Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes… LOVE NEVER FAILS.      1 Corinthians 13:4,7-8

Halloween gives us an opportunity to share God’s love in a different way.  Through Christ, we have all become encouragers of His love. I have found in my life that sometimes the best way for me to be encouraged is to encourage others – partly the reason you are subject to my encouraging notes. But I am a firm believer in 1 Corinthians 13:13…

The faith we have in Christ gives us hope to survive this earthly existence by sharing His love as we go.  The Trunk or Treat/Soup Kitchen we do each year at our church shows God’s love to others that come by with hope to encourage their faith in Him. The Encouragement Team this year is participating a little differently in that we are hosting a balloon lift. We will have helium balloons for children to pray over and turn loose into the air. Each balloon will have an encouragement note attached with scripture so that wherever it goes, the recipient will hopefully be encouraged. Then the child who released the balloon, beside getting candy, will receive a small balloon on a stick with encouragement for them and their family to remember the balloon they turn loose for God to take where it needed to go.

My sincerest hope is for today and the following week is that you are encouraged knowing their is a Father in heaven who dearly loves you. And as you are encouraged remember to encourage others and always be kind.

Always Be Kind

The Difference Between Need and Want

Good morning friends. I hope you are well this morning. I am afraid the winter grays are upon us here in the midwest. At least that is how I see it. During the warmer months, the sun shines its light and warmth upon us to reflect the beauty of God all around us.  As the weather begins to cool, the cloud cover appears more often. But there is beauty there also, we just have to look a little harder to see it and feel it. The brightness of the sun is replaced by bright yellow and red leaves. Pumpkins and colorful gourds are in the markets and the corns is getting dry in the field to make food for farm animals. Proof that God is there to fill our needs. We have a needs for all things from God and He wants us to be filled with them.

Many people will not understand how much we need God in all things but those of us who follow Jesus understand just how important our need and His want for us in filling all those needs are tied together.

“Economically, they may manage; intellectually, they may manage; socially, they may get by. But down underneath the surface of rational man is a vacuum-a void that can be met only through Jesus Christ.” Billy Graham

Mankind will continue to believe he can fully fill his needs without Jesus, but the void God created in our inner most depths is to be filled by God Himself. The towers of Babel we try to build to fill that void will still crumble because He wants us to fill that area with Him. It’s kind of a simple hard task – we have needs and He wants to fill them. It’s simple because all we have to do is believe, but it’s hard because it’s a lifelong process. But He is ever by our side to meet any need. I think the trouble man has is understand the difference between need and want. We want a lot more than we need.

So let us reassess our needs today and enjoy God daily gift He wants to share with us.

Dear Father, help us to understand how you want to fill our souls with the beauty of your presence to fill our every need.

Have a blessed rest of the week and weekend and remember always the power of kindness. Kindness can bridge the concerns of a day and allow the waters of kindness to flow out to others in need.