What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Easing Into Christmas

"Easing into Christmas" with a cup of Christmas Tea (thank you to my sister Doris) in my Christmas mug, and a piece
of Thanksgiving Apple Pie on a Thanksgiving paper plate...

Every year at this time I seem to have a difficult time making the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Last year I wrote the post "From One Season to Another" (Click this link for last year's thoughts on this subject).  Today I find myself having the same kind of thoughts. It is hard for me to let go of the season of "thankfulness" and embrace the season of "go get more".  Obviously I know that isn't what Christmas is all about, but when you see the hordes of people lined up waiting for hours on Thanksgiving evening to start the Christmas rush of shopping, it would appear that that is what the world thinks Christmas is supposed to be.  That just doesn't sit well within my spirit.  I abhor all the commercialism of Christmas...and the politically correct well wishers wishing me a "Happy Holiday"...they most often receive a  kind, but hearty  "Merry Christmas" response back.  Yeah, I know there are many people out there celebrating other religious holidays, and so not to offend them we are supposed to wish them a Happy Holiday.  Well, if I knew which holiday they were celebrating, I would wish them whatever particular wish that goes with it...but I am celebrating Christmas, and that is what THIS particular season is supposed to be about. "CHRISTmas", the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.  (and certainly I do not mean that I would be rude to someone wishing me a Happy Holiday, but I am not afraid to say Merry Christmas, and I hope you are not afraid of that either!)  (Also, not to offend my Jewish friends...yes, I do sincerely wish them a Happy Hanukkah...but I long for them to meet their Messiah and celebrate Christmas one day as well. After all, they ARE His chosen people and His kin-folk in the flesh...they ARE the very reason He came to earth in the first place...)

I am so thrilled that for the first time in quite a few years I am able to participate in the singing of our church's Christmas Cantata, which is entitled, "Christmas is Jesus".   Although the music is somewhat difficult (or maybe I'm just out of practice...), the words of each and every song keep reverberating in my head throughout the day as I go about my work.  But the one that is speaking particularly to me today is this one:

"In the busy Christmas noise, 
all the lights, the bells, the toys;
I have found You are the only source
of comfort and joy.

(Chorus:)
Lord, I want Your presence for Christmas,
I want Your presence for Christmas,
I long to feel Your Spirit speaking peace to my heart.
Of all the gifts I may receive,
there's only one I really need,
and it's Your presence,
Your presence for Christmas.

When the holiday is through,
and the year is fresh and new,
what will linger are the moments spent
my Lord, just worshiping You.

(Chorus:)

Lord, I want Your presence for Christmas,
I want Your presence for Christmas,
I long to feel Your Spirit speaking peace to my heart.
Of all the gifts I may receive,
there's only one I really need,
and it's Your presence,
Your presence for Christmas."

(words and music by Rebecca J. Peck, Word Music)

That is my prayer for this Christmas season..."Lord, I want YOUR presence"..."speaking peace to my heart."  And that is also my prayer for our home, family, our country, our world. "Lord, we need YOUR presence speaking peace to our hearts..."


Last year some of my blogging friends and I each chose one word for the New Year to be our personal theme word.  The word I chose was "Hope", as I was hoping for answers to prayers, dreams to come true, hoping for a better life in so many ways.  I can honestly say that God fulfilled so much of what I was hoping for...He did answer many prayers, He did help many dreams come true, and we do have a better life.  This year the word I am thinking of is "Emmanuel"...not just a word, but a Name, the Name given to Jesus (Isaiah 7:14), which means, "God With Us".   That's what I'm praying for this year, during this Christmas season and throughout the New Year, that "Emmanuel", "God With Us", will become a reality...spiritually speaking, yes, of course...but personally as well.  We need to know that God IS with us...we need to know Him, and feel His presence in all of our life events and circumstances. Beyond that, I look forward to His divine presence returning for us very soon. Who knows, this could be the year!


My favorite Nativity Ornament from my parent's Christmas tree collection.



So, may you realize anew this year that "Christmas is Jesus", and that He was born to save us from our sins and to give us new life in Him...and most of all, eternal life forever with Him in heaven. Now that's something to celebrate!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."  Psalm 136:1  

If you read this particular Psalm, you will see that it repeats the second part of this verse, "For His mercy endures forever", after each and every verse, all 26 of them, in fact!...I think the Psalmist is trying to make a point...read it through and see what you think!  If you don't learn any other thing from this Psalm, you will definitely learn that the mercy of the Lord endures forever!  And that is a good thing to know when you are going through deep water, difficult times, health issues, financial crisis, loss of loved one or impending loss of a loved one, governmental concerns, etc., etc., etc., no matter WHAT you are going through, it is good to know and believe and experience the fact that the mercy of the Lord endures forever, and for THAT, we should always "give thanks". 

Now on to the rest of the message for today...I would like to give thanks today for several things.  This being Thanksgiving week here in America, many of us are counting our blessings and expressing our thanks for all of the marvelous ways God has cared for and blessed us with His abundance and mercy.

This past week I have been a little quieter than usual.  Maybe you hadn't even noticed...but it's true.  A week ago I had some dental work done, and in the process my tongue was injured.  Not seriously, but enough to make it extremely sore and painful, whenever I eat and even when I talk too much. (Which for me, is always).  I never realized how much I took my tongue for granted until it became so difficult to do the normal things I enjoy doing...like eating and talking.  With the big Thanksgiving Dinner coming up in the very near future, I am anxious for my tongue to be healed.  I've thought about how awful it would be to never have a normal tongue...not only would it be extremely difficult for me to eat like a normal person, but I also would not be able to communicate in a way that others would understand or appreciate. Not that others always enjoy my communication that much, but what if I could never talk normally again...or sing praises to the Lord with my heart AND voice? I know that I would be very sad.  Perhaps some others who know me and love me might be a bit saddened by that as well.

So today I am taking this opportunity to thank the Lord for my tongue. I thank Him for the many ways He has used my tongue to sing praises to Him throughout my lifetime, and to share His love and words with many.  I know that I have not always used my tongue for these holy and beautiful purposes. There have been many words that I wish I had never spoken, and things that I have said that have brought pain to others. I have been known to speak without thinking many times, and then living to regret my foolishness.  I am truly sorry for those words spoken in haste or in anger or in denial of my own guilt.  Thankfully, the mercy of the Lord endures forever, and He has already forgiven and forgotten these broken promises and regrettable lapses of good judgment, and His mercy has already covered all my sin and folly.

During this week of remembrance of God's mercy and blessings, I list my tongue at the top of the list. This is only the beginning.  There is much more to follow.  But for today, this will do.

Thank you, Lord, for my tongue, my voice, my ability to communicate.  May my words only bring hope and encouragement and comfort to others within my sphere of influence, and may You, Oh Lord, be glorified in all I say or do.

To quote one of my old favorite hymns: ("Take My Life, and Let It Be", by Frances R. Havergal) verse 3:

"Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only for my King,
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee,
Filled with messages from Thee."

and then from another "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues" by Charles Wesley, :

"Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the Name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease:
'Tis music in the sinner's ears,
'Tis life and health and peace.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Glory to God, and praise, and love
Be ever, ever given
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven."
Amen.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Still Reeling and Putting Things in Perspective

I haven't really felt like writing anything this week...the election was an emotional rollercoaster that left me feeling a bit queasy and unsettled. 
But now my focus has changed. 
I've seen a lot of good things posted on facebook and in our blogs this week by those of us who were disappointed in the outcome of the election...
What I liked most was that we are a resilient, faith-filled group who will not be discouraged and frightened by the things that are at war around us. 
We have shifted our thoughts and minds toward heavenly events...the "Big Picture"...the giant jigsaw puzzle that we call life in this world and the world beyond...
the Universe...the Heavenlies...everything that is in between the Alpha and the Omega...
"The Beginning and the End".  
I've heard many people say that they feel even more convinced that "The End" is even nearer than we thought before. 
Of course, that is true...every day the end of our lives as we know it comes a little bit closer.
And certainly, if you are a Child of God,
you are looking forward
to being welcomed into the Arms of Jesus someday.
What is on my mind and heart is not so much my own passing from this life into the next,
but the strong impression that I am feeling
that
Christ's return is very soon.
No, I am not making predictions or trying to frighten anyone.
That shouldn't be a frightening thought anyway, 
if  you KNOW HIM.
It's just a sense that the "signs of the times"
are pointing only one direction: UP.
That is our great hope...
the fulfillment of every believer's greatest desire:
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel,
and with the trumpet of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore comfort one another with these words."
I Thessalonians 4:16-18
So, therefore, I am hoping to "comfort" you with these words.
Christ's return is imminent.
People Get Ready  (click for video/song)
Jesus Is Coming  (this particular video/song may be a little "strange" to some. It's not exactly
my style of "music" either, but the message through the verses posted are very
appropriate for this message today.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Thoughts and Reflections" from 1995 (RJD Link Up)

Random Journal Day is back! Wow!  Random Journal Day Blog Hop Link Up for November is the place to go if you want to join us in this link up of other bloggers, sharing from their own personal journals.  We used to try and do that every week, but I guess we were running our of journal entries (I was). Now we just do it once a month, which helps me a lot. 

So here goes...This entry is dated Sunday, October 15, 1995, and is entitled:

 "Thoughts and Reflections".

It's hard to believe that we've been in Kansas for two whole months.  We arrived on our 26th wedding anniversary.  After traveling for three and one half days, and a total of 1800+ miles, even Kansas was a welcome sight...since it was the end of our journey.  We came to the little town of _________, Kansas, with high hopes and big dreams.  A dream was finally being realized--my husband was coming to teach at a Christian College.  After years of training and education, we were finally reaching our goal!  Although this particular college was not the place of our dreams,  when the opportunity arose to teach at this little college in the middle of Kansas, we jumped.  At least part of the dream would come true.

So here we are~out in the middle of The Great Plains~a most unique place in the world.  For someone who loves trees and mountains, rivers, lakes and rushing streams, it's a mighty different world! But every place has its own beauty~if you look for it.  The grasses of the prairie are changing from summer's green to autumn's golden hues.  The sky is a most beautiful clear bright blue~rarely a cloud to be seen.  At night you can see every star in the universe~the expanse of sky seems infinite out here where there are no mountains (or buildings) to break up the horizon.  One can actually see for miles and miles and miles.

Everyone here said there wouldn't be much color in the fall~but I think they just really have never paid attention.  True, it's not the riot of gorgeous color of our beloved New Hampshire hills we just left behind~but there are leaves of gold and yellow and a few red scattered here and there.  The autumn sun shines more brightly~illuminating the leaves with its brilliance.  Autumn in Kansas can be beautiful~if you look for it.

What a stark change for us is this small, sleepy country town.  The traffic here is mostly farm-related~the trains roll through town many times day and night taking grain to market.  The constant hum of the grain driers let you know there's more activity going on here than meets the eye.  However, mostly it is a quiet, dusty, and friendly village.  People always wave as they pass by, whether you know them or not.  If walking by they most always speak.  There's an easy pace of living here. No one is in too big of a hurry.  An evening walk around the town seems to be on most everyone's agenda.

Yes, this little town is a throwback to the 40's and 50's in many ways.  "The Town that Time Forgot".  They still do things the old-fashioned way, and maybe that's not bad.

We came here hoping to be an encouragement and "inspiration" to this community.  We prayed for the Lord to bless this college and town, and maybe we were foolish to think that we were a part of that blessing. We believed we were obeying the will of the Lord to come here and sacrifice a ministry in a place we loved, a close bond with our children, and a career in another denomination.  We left all that behind because we thought God wanted us to come here and be a type of lighthouse in a darkened place. These people were groping in a darkness of despair and discouragement.  We wanted to help rescue them. We wanted to give them hope and encouragement.  They appeared to be very responsive and appreciative of our willingness to make that sacrifice-although they really had no idea what it was costing us. 
They made us feel like we were being promised the world to come here~but when the time came to redeem the promises~they turned to dust and ashes. 
Suddenly people turned their heads away and averted their eyes from meeting ours~they knew all along we were being deceived.  They seemed surprised that we ever believed anything else!  Now the warmth of their handshakes has turned cold and lost its grip.  We suddenly feel alone on this wide prairie.  Our dreams have vanished in a whirlwind of disappointment. 

So~we thought~let's go back "home" while there's yet time.  But, alas! Time had already run out.  Those who just a short time ago had cried at our departure and prayed we'd change our minds~had changed their minds! They had determined "to go another direction."  So here we are~feeling very stranded and trapped on the lone prairie.  Suddenly the silence from our "friends" back home seems deafening.  For the first time since arriving here, our mail-box was empty.

Thankfully our Lord hasn't forgotten us.  He understands our plight and knows our hearts.  Perhaps He wanted us to come here to learn some valuable lessons.  I know I'm learning to be more careful about leaping into new adventures.  Yet I always want to be willing and available to obey His call.  I don't think we misunderstood His call to come here~perhaps we just misunderstood the reason why we were to come.  God's ways are not our ways~His purposes are higher than ours.  He is working on a higher plane that we cannot always see or comprehend.  But He IS always in control~even when we don't understand or like our circumstances.

At this point we are searching to discover if we can get back closer to home.  We miss our kids we left behind, but we don't want to be in their back yard~just close enough to see once in a while. 

On a different note, we learned that the wife of one of our pastoral friends has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. This really grieves me to hear of her having such pain to go through.  I wish I could be near her to help in some way, but my prayers will have to suffice.  I pray God will send someone to be a special friend to her, who will be an encourager and comforter..."Lord, You know their needs~please be there with them and send your ambassadors of love and mercy to carry them through this time. Amen". 

My problems seem small when I think of what my friend must endure.


To wrap this up, we did go back "home" to be near our kids just before Christmas.  It was a difficult homecoming. Although some of our faithful friends were there to welcome us with open arms and strong backs to carry our furniture in through over three feet of snow (truly!), things had changed.  We could not pick up where we had left off.  Our position was gone to another...we were very much on our own to find a way to survive.  But that's another story for another day.  Suffice it to say, we did survive...in more ways than one. God was very gracious and merciful and provided for us in ways beyond our comprehension at the time.  I will be forever grateful for that. But it was a hard lesson learned. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 says:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Amen.