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Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Beginnings

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19
 “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’.  He said to me: ‘It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be My son.’”  Revelation 21:5
“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35
A few years ago, my husband and I attended a wonderful Christmas Pageant at a large church near Houston, Texas.   A modern day version of the Prodigal Son, this drama production was a powerful story of faith in God, unconditional love, and unrestricted forgiveness.
In spite of their busyness during the Christmas season, and even though they were surrounded by others, the husband and wife in the play were missing one family member.  Having chosen a life of sin and rebellion, their oldest son, Michael had left home five years earlier.  Living inside a homeless shelter, and with no hope of being reunited with his family again, Michael felt extremely lost and alone.
Of course, back home there was a different outlook on the situation.  Michael’s Christian parents and other family members longed for him to come home.  The entire family had prayed for his return, and their only desire was to welcome Michael home and make up for the time that had been lost by his absence.
As the story ended, Michael did come home to his family.   With God at the center of their lives, Michael’s family members were able to give him the unconditional love and forgiveness that he needed.  This act of mercy from his family now enabled Michael to have the new beginning that he so desperately needed and wanted.
Because we are human, all of us have needed new beginnings in our lives at some point in time.  We have all needed unconditional love and forgiveness from God and others; and we have also needed to extend that same love and forgiveness to someone else.  
As we begin this New Year of 2012, I pray that each of us will seek whatever new beginning we might need in our own life.  Without reservation, may we also be willing to show others the same love and forgiveness that Jesus has shown to us. At this moment you may know someone who needs a new beginning.  With God's guidance, won't you act in love and mercy as you show support for that person through the change that is needed.  You could very well be the conduit that God will use to turn a person's life around.  I can think of nothing more eternally valuable and humbling than knowing that God has used you for some great purpose.
Happy New Year, friends!  May each of you be blessed with God’s love, peace, and joy. Thank you for your support in reading my blog articles in 2011.  With God's help, I will continue sharing those words that burn in my heart for my family and friends.  I am humbled by those of you who have connected with my blog from many countries around the world.  Please know that I believe God has a word of encouragement for you.  I am praying for you and will continue to do so. 
Prayer:  Dear God.  In love, grace, and mercy You have watched after us for another year.  Thank You for walking beside us this past year.  Thank You for Your presence in our lives through the good times and during times that have been more difficult.  We are humbled by Your desire to give us new beginnings.  If it were not for Your mercy and grace, we would still be stuck in the muck and mire of our own failures and sins.  Thank You for unconditional love and forgiveness, so that in turn we might show the same to others.  We are all in need of Your touch on our lives each day.  Bless each person who reads these words.  Please give them faith, strength, and the desire to trust You for each of their needs.  Through You, may 2012 be a year of hope and peace for all of us.  We pray this in Jesus name.  Amen.
All verses of scripture are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.  To read the biblical account of the prodigal son, you may find it in Luke 15:11-32.

Gaither Vocal Band - Alpha and Omega

As we come to the end of 2011, we look forward to 2012 and new beginnings.  What ever your need, please know that our God is definitely a God of new beginnings.  I am so thankful for that!  Love this song by Gaither Vocal Band.  Hope you enjoy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

~He Is God~

He is the First and Last,
The Beginning and the End!
He is the keeper of Creation and the Creator of all!
He is the Architect of the universe and the Manager of all times.
He always was, He always is, and He always will be ...
Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and never Undone!

He was bruised and brought healing!
He was pierced and eased pain!
He was persecuted and brought freedom!
He was dead and brought life!
He is risen and brings power!
He reigns and brings Peace!
The world can't understand him,
The armies can't defeat Him,
The schools can't explain Him, and The leaders can't ignore Him.
Herod couldn't kill Him, The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him,  and The people couldn't hold Him!
Nero couldn't crush Him, Hitler couldn't silence Him,
The New Age can't replace Him, and "Oprah" can't explain Him away!

He is light, love, longevity, and Lord.
He is goodness, Kindness, Gentleness, and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, mighty, powerful, and pure.

His ways are right,
His word is eternal,
His will is unchanging, and His mind is on me.
He is my Savior,
He is my guide, and He is my peace!
He is my Joy,
He is my comfort,
He is my Lord, and He rules my life!

I serve Him because His bond is love,
His burden is light, and His goal for me is abundant life.
I follow Him because He is the wisdom of the wise, the power of the powerful, the ancient of days, the ruler of rulers, the leader of leaders, the overseer of the overcomers.

His goal is a relationship with ME!
He will never leave me,
never forsake me,
never mislead me,
never forget me,
never overlook me and
never cancel my appointment in His appointment book!

When I fall, He lifts me up!
When I fail, He forgives!
When I am weak, He is strong!
When I am lost, He is the way!
When I am afraid, He is my courage!
When I stumble, He steadies me!
When I am hurt, He heals me!
When I am broken, He mends me!
When I am blind, He leads me!
When I am hungry, He feeds me!
When I face trials, He is with me!
When I face persecution, He shields me!
When I face problems, He comforts me!
When I face loss, He provides for me!
When I face Death, He carries me Home!

He is everything for everybody everywhere, every time, and every way.
He is God, He is faithful. I am His, and He is mine!
My Father in heaven can whip the father of this world.
So, if you're wondering why I feel so secure, understand this...
He said it and that settles it.
God is in control, I am on His side,
and that means all is well with my soul. 

Everyday is a blessing for GOD.  Author unknown.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God's Love Reaching

Gloria Gaither author, songwriter, and composer so eloquently expresses God’s incomprehensible love for mankind as He reached out to us through the birth of a baby named Jesus—His own Son, and Savior of the world. I hope that you will be blessed by the words below:
His Love……………Reaching
“Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand.  But love went on reaching, offering itself.  Love offered the eternal….we wanted the immediate.  Love offered deep joy….we wanted thrills.  Love offered freedom….we wanted license.  Love offered communion with God Himself….we wanted to worship at the shrine of our own minds.  Love offered peace….we wanted approval for our wars.  Even yet, love went on reaching.  And still today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us--right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching….longing to share with us….the very being of God.
Today, His love is reaching right past the shackles of my mind. The Word of the Father became Mary’s little Son.  And His love reaches all the way to where I am.”  Gloria Gaither.
What a comfort and joy to know that God still waits and longs for every person on earth to personally share in relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus; that even today, God’s unconditional love continues to reach down to us right where we are, scars and flaws included.  He is in the business of changing hearts and lives. That's why He came. There is no greater love than this.
May each of you be blessed this Christmas season with God's love, peace, and joy.  May your hearts be light and your love for one another be generous.  Merry Christmas!!
Prayer:  Dear Father, it is sometimes almost impossible for us to comprehend Your great love for us, because we realize that we are not worthy of that love.  How wonderful to know that You see us differently than we see ourselves. Thank You for never giving up on us. Thank You for reaching out to us through the love of Your Son, Jesus.  We celebrate His birth in thankfulness for what He did for us on the cross and with a greater desire to follow Him all the days of our lives.  We pray this in His name—Jesus, the Name above all names.  Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas: Past and Present

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:21-23
As a child Christmas was always a time of happiness for me and my family.  Thinking back, it seems that our “real” life stood still for a while and only those things that were fulfilling and nourishing to our hearts were present.  Perhaps what we saw and felt was Christmas in its purest form.  We saw Christmas through the eyes of a child. 
As children, my siblings and I looked forward to having treats such as fresh fruit, nuts, and candy during the Christmas season. Only our mother could make chicken and dressing, homemade yeast rolls, fresh grated coconut pies, chocolate pies, and yes, even fruit cake to perfection!  These delicacies were special to my family because we seldom had them during the remainder of the year. To this day, I love walnuts because as strange as it may sound, they are a comfort food for me. They take me back to childhood celebrations at Christmas time.  Now, I am very pleased to find that the walnuts I eat most every day are actually good for me!
Every Christmas, our dad purchased regular firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, and sparklers. After eating our meal and opening gifts, my brothers and I would build a huge bonfire outside and begin our fireworks show.  Not nearly as expensive as fireworks tend to be today, we had more than enough to last an hour or two.  More than once, I remember the pain associated with a lit firecracker going off in my hand.  My brothers also experienced this same pain, but we never let it stop us from continuing.  For some reason we were always competing with our neighbors and felt a sense of satisfaction if their fireworks ran out before ours.
Looking back on Christmas seasons as a child, I can guarantee that there was no rushing to buy that special gift for a family member.  Life was so simple then and the older I get, the more I find comfort in the memories of those times.  On one occasion, our mother sadly told us there was no money for Christmas gifts that year. But, because of what I call a “divine miracle”, a few days later mother found a $20.00 bill stuffed inside the pocket of one of my daddy’s coats that he had not worn in a long time. I remember the discovery as vividly as if it were yesterday and shall never forget the look on my mother’s face!  There was no hiding the fact of her thankfulness to God that her precious little ones would have a gift for Christmas. Today, from my own heart as a mother, I can easily put myself in my mother’s situation and feel the joy, relief, and thankfulness she had for this Christmas miracle.
Each year at Christmas time, our church would hold a special program on the Sunday night closest to Christmas Day. The program would consist of Christmas carols and other reminders of the true meaning of our celebration.  After the program, there was much excitement in the air because we children knew that Santa himself would walk through the door any moment shouting, “Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!”  In his red Santa suit and with a large sack of goodies slung over his back, one by one each child would go forward to receive a special gift--usually fruit, nuts, and candy. For as long as I can remember, Santa never did let us down! How loved and special we felt that he came to church to bring us gifts! 
The activities surrounding Christmas that I have related in the preceding paragraphs are very special to me.  It was a simple life full of happiness and joy.  As my siblings and I grew older and left home many things changed for us, but the tradition of our family gathering on Christmas Eve at my parent’s house, even into young adulthood with our little children in tow, did not change.  Although my parents have been deceased for many years, these precious memories will always live inside of me and I shall forever be grateful for the God-given peacefulness in our home at Christmas time.
Today, I often experience the rush of the Christmas season. On occasion, I tend to become overwhelmed with it if I do not keep things in the right perspective and remember what the season is all about in the first place.   In so many ways, I wish that our children and grandchildren could experience what my siblings and I did—merely the simplicity of it all.  There was no pressure on my parents to buy the latest and greatest items for their children. They were providing what they could. We did not expect more than that, nor did we ever complain.  Putting it plainly, we were satisfied and grateful for what we received.  Simple things like fruit, nuts, and candy brought us joy.  We experienced love and togetherness as a family and that was enough.    
Over the years, my husband and I have patterned our Christmas traditions very similar to what we knew as children.  We gather at our home on Christmas Eve with our children and grandchildren, just as we did when we were children. We share a meal and exchange gifts.  We sometimes have my mother’s homemade yeast rolls and orange roll cake.  We drink Ray’s mother’s special hot chocolate—a recipe that he finally duplicated through experimenting until the taste was just right.  Because we live in the city, our elaborate fireworks show is not allowed, which is a shame because our children and grandchildren would love that part of the evening!
Ray and I are very thankful that our family members look forward to spending time together during the Christmas season and that they are establishing their own holiday traditions for their children. As all of us grow older, we know that our time together will not always be as consistent as in earlier years.  Already, we have one granddaughter and her husband who are living in Asia and have not been home for the past two Christmas seasons. We miss them so much. However, our wonderful memories of this precious granddaughter now and when she was a child remind us that our family members will always be in our hearts, whether they are present in our home or not. 
Now that I have indulged the readers of this blog with the reliving of my past and present experiences at Christmas time, I must say that there is one aspect of the Christmas season that is always in my mind and on my heart, no matter where I am or what I am doing.  It is the greatest story ever told! Christmas is a time for giving because God gave us the greatest gift He had—His Son Jesus. It began with the birth of a baby whose coming was foretold by Old Testament prophets long before He came to earth. This baby, born in a stable over two thousand years ago was not just any baby, but God Himself who came to earth in human form to redeem mankind. Christmas is remembering the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Believing on Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is the greatest and most important gift that I have received or ever will receive.  It was with a childlike faith and a trust in Jesus that I accepted this gift. Whatever you do, don’t miss your gift for it has eternal implications for you!  It is free and available to all.   Remember, a childlike faith and a trust in Jesus is all it takes for the Father to receive us.
So….what does Christmas mean to you? Do you become overwhelmed with the commercialism of Christmas? Is the Christmas season a depressing time of the year for you? Is it a time to give and receive gifts, eat lots of wonderful food, attend parties and socialize with friends?  Does Christmas have any significant spiritual meaning to you?  Is it a time to focus on helping others  who are less fortunate than yourself? Do you take the time to focus on the true meaning of why we celebrate the season?
Please take some time to think about the preceding questions.  Search your heart and see if you have the right focus this Christmas.  Take time to be still before God and think about the gift He gave you through His Son, Jesus.   And if you have not already done so, accept this free gift.  You will never see Christmas in the same light again.  That I can promise you! 
Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for Jesus.  He is the reason that we celebrate the season.  In a time where political correctness tries to stifle our ability to celebrate Your gift to us , please help us never to waiver in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Help us to always do this for Your glory, and Yours alone.  Bless each person reading this article and give them reason for hope, happiness, and fulfillment this Christmas season through your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray this in His name, the One who died to bring sight to the blind, heal the brokenhearted, and give peace and joy to all who believe on His name Amen.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gaither Vocal Band - It's Still The Greatest Story Ever Told (with lyrics)

Finding Balance in a Busy Season

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty."  Zechariah 4:6

Most of us lead very active lives.  This is especially true during the Christmas season.  While many of our activities are good and worthwhile, if we aren't careful we may become overwhelmed with all that we need to do in such a short period of time. We need to find ways to balance our juggling act so that we are able to enjoy the season.  Listed below are three ways that we might be able to better manage our time:

1.  Take one day at a time, seeking God's guidance.  Give Him first place in your life and in your daily plans.

2.  Write a list of the things that you absolutely have to do that day.

3.  Don't worry over what you failed to accomplish yesterday or what you hope to accomplish tomorrow.

By remembering the above verse of scripture---that it is not by our power, nor by our might, but by God's Spirit that we accomplish anything worthwhile in the first place, and by enacting the three simple suggestions above, I believe that all of us will be able to manage our time in such a way that we are free to enjoy this special season of the year with joy and enthusiasm instead of frustration and worry. 

Prayer:  Father, God.  Thank You for loving us and for Your mercy and for Your strength.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the world.  Help us to manage our time in such a way that even in the “busyness” of the season, we never forget the true meaning of Christmas - that Jesus is the reason we celebrate.  We pray these things in His name.  Amen.