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, December 30, 2012

One Word for 2013

There is yet another challenge for the new year...to select one word to be a signpost or goal for my life in 2013.  Last year the word I chose (or did God choose?) was "Hope". (Click this link for "Hope" from 2012)  No sooner had I chosen (again, Who chose?) that word "Hope", beautiful things began to happen in our lives.  (See "Promises Fulfilled" for more on this story).   I am not trying to say that just because I happened to select a certain word for the year that God magically started doing things to answer my pleas and prayers...but then again, I am saying that He did do marvelous things in our lives and did answer many prayers and fulfilled many of our hopes and dreams in ways we never anticipated. Was it because I publically announced to the world that I was going to "hope in the Lord"...and He responded?  No, not exactly.  Perhaps it was more the fact that as I focused on my hope in the Lord in so many areas of life that I began to see that He was there all the time...working on my behalf behind the scenes...guiding and directing my life in ways that I had perhaps overlooked previously...and now my eyes were being opened to His presence more clearly.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about this new challenge of  "One Word" for 2013, (See "Easing Into Christmas"), and I thought perhaps the word I should choose would be "Emmanuel", meaning "God With Us".  I still love the word, or name, "Emmanuel", specifically because of its meaning, and the fact that it is the name for Jesus.  However, I don't think I am supposed to select a "name" for my "one word".  So, as I am sitting here contemplating this weighty subject, I believe the word has just been given to me...and it is...(oh, wait! Am I supposed to wait and tell you this on January 1st?....perhaps I should stop now and finish this later...)

Ok, maybe I'd better tell you now before I forget it myself!  The word that the Lord has just this minute impressed upon my heart for 2013 is .... 

   Why this word?  Well, perhaps it started with  the chorus of the song we sang in our Christmas cantata:

"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."
and I couldn't get this message out of my mind...it's not just for Christmas that I want to feel the "Lord's presence speaking peace to my heart"...it's for ALWAYS, starting now in 2013.  I want to not only feel  His presence, but to know  He is present in every aspect of my life. Not only in the good times and happy times, but in the difficult places and sad times as well. Every year has both kinds of times...good and difficult, happy and sad...so I'm not speaking something into my life that sets me up for difficulty...that's just life. But when I walk through my life this year...I want to acknowledge the fact that God is with me...with us...with you, no matter what.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;..."
Isaiah 43:2-3
 So, in 2013 I am going to explore God's presence in every aspect of my life.  I will be watching for Him in places that I might ordinarily overlook.  Perhaps you will want to do this as well...in your life. Watch for God to appear...wait for Him to "show up" before you act...Let Him be in control...let Him be your guiding Light...

"You will show me the path of life;
In Your PRESENCE is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Psalm 16:11
Here's a good way to start the year right:
"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He Who has made us,
and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
and into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
and His truth endures to all generations.
Psalm 100: 1-5
Perhaps we can compare notes throughout the year and list the places and ways we experience God's PRESENCE in our lives. Are you up to the challenge? Let's go!
I may be a couple days early, but I want to wish you a very
Happy New Year, filled with the PRESENCE of the Lord.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How Do YOU Measure Christmas?

So, how was your Christmas?  How do you measure Christmas? By the number of or cost of the presents you received? Or is it by the amount of money you spent on gifts for others...and the amount of debt you now have to work off in the New Year?

I hope your measurement of Christmas will be a different kind of tabulation...a measurement of the amount of JOY you received in the presence of others,...and in the Holy Presence of the Child in the Manger Himself...Jesus...our Messiah...Emmanuel, "God WITH Us"...His Presence with us...that is where the true JOY comes from. 

This year we did a couple of things differently than we have in the recent past.

Our church "ensemble" singing "Christmas is Jesus"
  • My husband and I both sang in our church Christmas Cantata, "Christmas is Jesus".  It was a precious time of singing songs of great joy and hope as we ushered in the Christmas Spirit in song and Word.  It had been quite a few years since either of us had sung in church...even though that was something quite common for us to do for many years in the past.  This took courage and steps of faith for us to venture back into this "arena"...and God was with us all the way. My husband even sang a solo...to the glory of God. This was an answer to prayer for me.

Me and my hubby John...happy to have family
at our table for Christmas.
  • We were able to have extended family here in our home for Christmas (a couple days early)...another first after many years.   In years past our families (on my side) always spent Christmas at my parents' home.  Since both my parents have now gone on to be with the Lord and that home is no longer in the family...we needed a gathering place.  This past year God blessed us with a new (to us) home that was large enough to become that gathering place. Although not every member of the family was able to be present...there were about 15 of us around our table, and that, for me especially, was such a joy. 

Mother (Nanny) Steiner, Bill and Peggy Steiner

  • We also spent Christmas Day with my husband's brother's family in their new home for the first time in many years, due to the fact that they had moved back to our home state after many years being away. Now we are able to enjoy their two young children...and also we are all able to continue to enjoy Mother Steiner, who is now 89+.       

Our nephew and niece, Nicholaus and Shannon

The week before Christmas there was a horrible tragedy in Connecticut, where many children and their teachers had their lives violently taken away.  In the wake of that tragedy, I could not rest in peace and prepare meaningless gifts for my loved ones.  This unbelievably grievous act triggered such a feeling of sorrow and pain in my heart that caused me to want to give something to our family that hopefully would give them a sense of hope and comfort.  My son, who is a woodworker, and I put our heads together and came up with a simple little sign that we could create in time to give to each family with whom we would be sharing our Christmas gift exchange.  The words "Faith, Hope, Love"  came to mind...from the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. 
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (I Cor. 13:13)
Here is a sample of the sign we created for each family, although each one was unique due to the wood grains and finishing touches, but the message was the same for all:

 This is the message we wanted to give each family...when the world around us goes crazy, and we don't understand the reasons why things happen...we need to go back to God's Word...and claim HOPE by FAITH...and trust in God's LOVE to always be there for us, no matter what.

That is how I measure Christmas...by the FAITH in our Lord for His saving grace and comfort in difficult times...by the HOPE that He gave us when Christ came to earth as that little baby... to save us from our sins...and by the LOVE that HE has for each and every one of us, so much that He was willing to die for us on the cross so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven forever!! 

My prayer for you this Christmas and in the New Year is that you will experience this same FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE in your heart and life right now and forever! Amen!!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Comfort Ye, My People..."

"Comfort, yes, comfort My people!", says your God..."  Isaiah 40:1

I woke up this morning with a very heavy heart, and I found myself crying out for comfort...and I am not acquainted with any of the parents who lost a precious child this past week...but I feel their pain and my heart is breaking for them. I can't even begin to imagine how those families are feeling right now...all I can do is pray that God will indeed bring comfort to their hearts, as only He can.

In this Christmas season we are celebrating the first advent of our Lord and Savior, when He left the splendor or heaven to come to earth as a little baby...(See Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6-7)  I found myself singing this little song this morning when I woke up feeling so sad.  It is a song that we are singing in our Christmas Cantata next Sunday morning: 

"There's a baby in a manger, you just won't believe. 
The angels have been singing, the shepherds came to see.
The star is brightly shining, it has everyone amazed.
It's shining down on a little Boy, He's lying in the hay..."
Thinking about this little Baby in the Manger brought me a sense of comfort this morning.

  Listen to what the prophet Isaiah writes  in chapter 61:1-3, concerning the purpose of Christ's Advent:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord,
that He may be glorified."

Today I pray that Christ will indeed "heal the brokenhearted", "comfort all who mourn" (in Newtown,CT...and any place where there is grief over the loss of a loved one,)...and I pray that God will, in His time, and in His own tender way, "give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."   This will take time...healing doesn't happen overnight...for some it may take a lifetime, for some it may never come.  But I pray God will begin the process now...that He will cradle these dear families in His arms, that He will cover them with His love and mercy, and carry them in these painful days ahead as we approach Christmas and the times that should have been days of joy for these families. 

I wish these sorrowing parents could see and know that their children are now safe in the arms of Jesus.  The once "Baby in the Manger" is now their loving companion...and He will tenderly care for them forever. For those of us who know Christ, this is a comfort...even when we are hurting so deeply.  For those who do not know Christ, I pray they will seek His face...and allow Him to comfort their broken hearts.
That's why He came as that little Baby in the Manger...to bring comfort...to heal the broken hearted...

The Baby in the Manger...The Saviour of our Souls...and The Comforter for those who mourn.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flashback to "Those Seventy's" Days...Random Journal Day

(Linking up with my friends at Random Journal DayClick here to join the link up)

Note from the Present:   This past week I have been reminded about our early ministry days and our experience of being in a Christmas Parade with our youth group.  What got me thinking about this was the unusual phenomenon currently taking place in the city of Ocala, where I am presently employed.  The Ocala Annual Christmas Parade will happen tomorrow afternoon.  For the past week (or more) I have been noticing places all along the sides of the streets roped off and lawn chairs tied with ropes, staking out people's vantage points for watching the parade. This is an annual event...people, businesses, groups, anybody interested enough to participate, stake their claims for land all along the parade route way in advance.  Strangely enough, no one dares to move the chairs and ropes from those places.  It's the honor system.  I find it rather intimidating...how does a newcomer find a place to watch the parade pass by?  You have to wait for someone to die and leave their favorite spot to you in their will, I guess.  I've never seen this happen anywhere else...have you? Just wondering...Needless to say, I won't be watching the parade. I'm not high enough up in the city eschelon to rate a vantage point. Not yet...(ha)

So, here is a story from our past from when I wasn't just a spectator in a Christmas parade, but an actual participant, riding through the streets of Orlando, Florida, with thousands of people watching our float floating by!  Read on from my "journal writings" from the mid-1970's. To further set the scene, we had just arrived fresh from Bible College Grad School, where we had actually seriously considered going into foreign missions full time.  But God had other plans for our lives back at home.

December, 1975:

Isaiah 6:8  “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’  Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”
So John (my hubby) accepted the call to be the Youth Pastor at a church in Florida, and we happily moved back to our home territory!  It was an exciting time in our lives! After the days of testing and preparation, we were actually going to be entering the ministry!  Our charge was to take a small group of teens, approximately six to ten on the average attendance, and make them grow!  Grow, not only in number, but also most preferably to grow in spirit and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Not an easy task in the mid-seventies, at the close of the Viet Nam War. There was a lot of unrest, dissatisfaction, and turbulence in our country at that time.  But something interesting was stirring in our nation as well.  As we approached the Bi-Centennial in 1976, there was a new wave of patriotism and a spirit of revival in the hearts of many. 

One of our first assignments was to enter a float in the Orlando Christmas Parade, and the theme for the parade that year interestingly enough was “God Bless America!” A Bible verse that came to our minds was II Chronicles 7:14, which states: 

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
What better message than this to convey the idea of “God Bless America!”  Since this was a Christmas parade, we sought a way to combine the Christmas message with this message of hope and healing for our land.  So our youth came up with the idea of our float being a live nativity scene, with the banners on the side of the float reading “God Has Blessed America! He Sent His Son!”  Then on the front of the truck was a large wooden open Bible, with the II Chronicles 7:14 verse inscribed upon it. 

As we drove down through the streets of Orlando, we had the “Hallelujah Chorus” and other excerpts of “Handel’s Messiah” and “The King Is Coming”(By Bill Gaither, 1970) playing on a loud speaker. The young people were in their costumes of the Nativity of our Lord, with that powerful message for all to see.  I was riding in the cab of the truck with my husband, and I was watching the faces of the people along the road as they saw our float glide by.  Many people were cheering and clapping and praising God for the positive message it inspired.  I had this vision of being in a parade on the streets of heaven someday, with all the saints of the ages welcoming us into glory. It was such a beautiful dream, and perhaps a glimpse of what that day will truly be like.  I couldn’t help but allow the tears to roll down my cheeks as I thought about our country and the millions of people who still needed to know Jesus, and I knew then that we had made the right choice by serving the Lord in our homeland.  But we sure had our work cut out for us!

Back to the Present:  Sounds like a message that we still need today!  Nothing much has really changed in the past almost 40 years!  

So, do you have any special parade memories that you can share? Or perhaps a time when you participated in a live nativity scene or other special Christmas program? Now would be a good time to take advantage of the many Christmas musicals, plays, and yes, even parades that are available to help ring in the true Spirit of Christmas! 

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

God's Timely Reminder - Updated for 2012


"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited."  Isaiah 54:2-3

I don't know about you, but I find Christmas shopping to be extremely frustrating and downright depressing!  I wish I could learn to do as others and do my shopping all year long so I don't end up in this panic the last week before Christmas!  Lately, I have found myself to the point of tears as I have driven from store to store in search of the "perfect" gifts for everyone on my list, and wishing it was all over already so I could forget about this experience for another year.    This is not what Christmas is all about...I am sure that Jesus is sad and probably angry as He watches us go through this ritual every year...it's not about the gifts, it's about THE GIFT...JESUS CHRIST, THE MESSIAH, THE BABE IN THE MANGER, THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, THE LION OF JUDAH, THE DAYSTAR FROM ON HIGH, EMMANUEL, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE...to name just a few of His Holy Names.  That is what Christmas is all about...Shout it from the housetops!

I feel better now that I've said that.  But what I really wanted to tell you about is the gift that God gave to me today as I was rushing through the aisles, scrambling for ideas, and beating myself for allowing this to happen again.  There, almost hidden amongst a stack of knicknacks, bric-a-brac, odds and ends, and stuff, my eyes lighted upon a little picture frame, no larger than 3" x 3",  with a very familiar verse written upon it....
"Remember, When God closes a door, He opens a window."
Wow!!! I clutched it to my chest, and held it close...and said, "Thank you, Lord, for this little gift just for me today!"  Not only was it the exact saying behind the title of my Blog, "Closed Doors, Open Windows", but it was precisely the message that I needed to remember today.  You may wonder why, and I don't really have to tell you why, but just suffice it to say that I needed that reminder.  And yes, I added it to my purchases for the day...a Christmas gift to me from God....

God had already been preparing me for a message from Him earlier as I was aimlessly driving around, trying to figure out where to go next in my shopping dilemma, and I found myself literally crying not just about the shopping, but about life in general...and He gave me words of comfort and hope...that my days of sorrow and sadness would soon be ended, and that days of great joy and gladness were just around the corner...the verse quoted above from Isaiah 54 was written for the Israelites, when they were pictured as the "restored wife of the Lord".   They were going to be brought back to their own land from their places of captivity and years of barrenness as a nation.  Don't try to read too much into this as it relates to my own situation, but just know that it comforts me personally...and it all ties in with the little saying that I rediscovered in my journey..."Remember, When God closes a door, He opens a window..."...."Enlarge the place of your tent..."  Get ready for action and growth....God is getting ready to do something.  (Close a door? Open a window?)  (NOTE FROM 2012: In just a very short time from the original writing of this post, God did do something very marvelous in our lives...as many of you are aware, we were able to make a major move to our present home in the forest...and we have definitely "enlarged the place our tent"...God has truly blessed in ways far beyond my imagination when I wrote this last year! Our God is an awesome God!...but, you already knew that, didn't you?)

How about you?  Do you need that message of hope and encouragement today?  Is all the scurrying about and worrying and fretting about what to do about this, and what to do about that, and getting ready for Christmas ( in the material sense) getting you down?  Maybe you need to be reminded that God is working behind the scenes in your life as well, working on a plan to give you new hope for the New Year... Why not take a few minutes out of your hectic schedule and sit down and let Him talk to you today? You may be surprised at the message He has for you.

May your Christmas be truly blessed with joy and gifts from "out of this world", and may your New Year be the beginning of many new open windows of opportunity.

Merry Christmas!!!
I thought it appropriate to place this little "gift" from God today right beside
the "real gift" from God...Jesus, the Babe in the Manger...My Savior...and Your Savior Too...that is, if you have
already accepted your free gift from God...I hope you have...That's what Christmas is really all about.