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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some "Strengthening" Exercises for the New Year

"The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, 
and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 

It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, 
Even with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
The excellency of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
And make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are fearful-hearted,
'Be strong, do not fear!

Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God;
He will come and save you.'"
Isaiah 35:1-4



"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down,
and the feeble knees,
and make straight paths for your feet,

so that what is lame may not be dislocated,
but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all people,
and holiness, 

without which no one will see the Lord:
looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;
lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble,
and by this many become defiled."
Hebrews 12:12-15

A few random thoughts for the New Year...gathered from the greatest "strengthener" ever...
God's Word.
Stay tuned for more "strengthening" exercises.

My One Word for 2014:
"Strengthen"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My New One Word for 2014: "Strengthen"

Twice today God has spoken to me about being strengthened.  Yes, God does speak to me...audibly? Well, maybe not in the way you would think of audibly...but I did hear His voice speaking to me in my heart...and I knew it was from God.

Here are the words spoken to me today:

First, this verse, spoken to me from a little card with this verse written on it sitting upon my kitchen windowsill:

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee."  Isaiah 41:10

Second:  these verses, spoken to me from the pulpit in church this morning through the voice of the minister, who, on this particular day, happened to be my husband:

"And he said, 'O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong'"  Daniel 10:19a

As I read the first verse while washing up the breakfast dishes I was struck by the message so clearly spoken to me that I had to come and share it on my Facebook page.  I was certain that it was a message not only for me, but for someone else today...someone facing some difficult decisions, situations, or perhaps serious health issues in the coming days...maybe even today.  I know that I took this message personally and for my family as we head into the New Year, knowing that my son is facing an uncertain future regarding his cancer treatment plan. (Read this previous post for more information on this).

Then again, I just learned from another dear friend whom I had not seen or heard from in several years...that he has recently been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and is now undergoing chemo hoping to stem the tide of this horrid disease.  And yet another friend who is possibly in the very last stages of liver cancer...actually I know of another one battling the same thing as well...  (I HATE cancer!)

There are others facing a big move to another state in the New Year...a major move in that they have not moved in many many years, so it will be a major adjustment...but hopefully a positive one for them as they will be moving closer to their family.  And today I just heard of a dear woman who is going to be moved to a nursing home within the next week as she is no longer able to care for herself and her family feels it will be in her best interest to be cared for in a nursing facility.

Others of you may be facing a job change, retirement...yes, I have a dear friend who has just retired so she can care for her husband (see above) who is in the final stages of liver cancer.  I know of another who would dearly love to retire this year if finances would permit him to...(I know of someone even closer to home (me?) who would love to do the same thing...but probably won't be able to for at least another year).

In the past couple of years I have chosen a "One Word" for the year to be the emphasis of my prayer life, writing, and reading for the year.  The first year the word was "Hope", and I was blessed by the hope fulfilled in my life throughout the year. (One Word for 2012 - Hope). Then in 2013 my "One Word" was "Presence"
One Word for 2013: Presence, and I was amazed by the "Presence" of God manifested to me throughout the year in so many places and ways.  

The last few days I have been pondering what my "One Word" for 2014 should be, and I really didn't have a clue...until this morning. Suddenly, there it was, on my windowsill (my "Open Window"?)... "I will strengthen thee..."...and then later this morning in the sermon: "Be Strong!".  If you complete that particular verse (Daniel 10:19) the next part says:

"So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."

To "strengthen" is to "be strong"... I think Someone is telling me something important here, and I am listening. I re-read the first part of the Isaiah verse: 
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; and immediately I have a tendency to fear, because when God tells me not to be afraid, it probably means that something is about to happen that I most likely won't like...but immediately He calms my fears and says:

"for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee."  

Because my past experience with God has taught me that His Word is true, and He means what He says, I can rely on Him to do exactly what He says He will do, regardless of the circumstances or difficult issues that lie ahead. I do not need to fear or be dismayed, because He has promised to help me and to strengthen me...no matter what.

I hope that you have this same confidence in God.  If not, please place your trust in Him today. His promises are for you as well.  Wouldn't you love to start the New Year knowing that no matter what befalls you, you will be helped and strengthened by God Almighty?  

 "Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Tree: From a Manger to a Cross

This is not an original writing from me.  Someone shared this little poem with us yesterday, and I wanted to pass it on in the spirit of Christmas:

The Christmas Tree

"From a tree a manger was made,
The First Christmas, in it He laid.

From a tree a Cross was made,
On it, for our sins, the price He paid.
Each year as my tree I adorn,
I give thanks for the day He was born.
Gently I place ornaments of gold,

Knowing my life is His to hold.
Trusting Him to take care of me,
I praise Him as I decorate my tree.

"I Am the Way, the Truth and the Light," said He.
That's why I put lights on my Christmas tree."


(Author unknown)

May the Light of Christ be your reason for the season!




Friday, December 20, 2013

O Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I'm not sure what to name this post. Not even sure what it is going to be about at this point. I am trying to sort through a deluge of emotions that are crowding in and attempting to overwhelm my spirit.  It's Christmas, and we all want it to be merry and bright...full of good cheer and tidings of great joy.

Certainly, that is the message of Christmas..."O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, O tidings of
comfort and joy."  As I wrote those last words I started singing the Christmas Carol, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"...and I tried to find it in one of the many different hymnals I have in my personal library, and could not believe that it was not included in any of them! I wonder why, and if so, how did we come to know it so well?  Thanks to Google, I have included it at the end of this post.

The reason I am writing tonight is because I don't feel so full of good cheer and great joy. We received some disturbing, unsettling, difficult news today.  Our wonderful son who has been battling cancer for almost four years learned today that the grueling chemotherapy treatments he has been enduring (seems like forever) are no longer effective. The cancer is spreading and crowding his vital organs. Surgery is not an option for him. Unless they can come up with some kind of miracle cure/treatment very soon, or unless God intervenes on his behalf with a miracle...his prognosis is not looking very good.

This is not the kind of news any parent wants to hear any time, let alone just before Christmas. What complicates matters is that we live about 1500 miles away from our son and his family, and we can't very easily drop everything and go as much as we want to do just that. Nor can he very easily come to us.

So we have spent our afternoon since receiving this news basically in shock and trying to sort through the muck and mire of the thoughts crowding into our minds and hearts and trying to figure out the best course of action at this time.

Right now we have to get through Christmas. We have family and work obligations here. There are multitudes of issues to deal with...financial, time, place, what-if's, what should we do, when should we go.

Then this little Christmas song goes through my head...

"God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.


Refrain
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy."


And I say to myself, "I don't feel much like a "merry" gentleman (woman) today...but I hear the words..."Let nothing you dismay..."  Okay, Lord, I'm trying here...."Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day..."   Yes, Lord, I do remember...."To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."   Ah, yes...that is what Christmas is really all about...Christ came to save us from Satan's power...even his seeming power over our lives in sickness and death... Satan has NO DOMINION over us! Satan does NOT hold the keys to life and death or sickness and health.  Only GOD has that power!  God alone ordains the number of days of our lives here on earth.  Jesus Christ came to save us from eternal separation from God! 

"O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!"

Look at these next verses of the old English version of this little carol:

In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.

Refrain
From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

Refrain
“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright,

This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”

"O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!"

The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.

Refrain
But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.

Refrain
Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.

Refrain
God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near—

That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year."


"O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy!"
(Words & Music:  Traditional English)

After singing through this little Christmas song, my heart is lighter.  I have comfort and joy in my soul again. I don't know what the future holds, but I know WHO holds our future...and I know our God and Father in Heaven will do what is right in all things.  He has sent comfort to us tonight...He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us all from Satan's power...and to remind us that we belong to HIM, not to Satan.  Therefore we need not fear.

Yes, these are tidings of comfort and joy! 
Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Have You Not Known? Have You Not Heard? Updated/Reposted


Reposted from December 12, 2011.   Note: This little ride out in the country eventually led to our moving to that very location that we discovered that day on that little ride out in the country, (actually the FOREST).  So, one never knows exactly what seeds God may be planting when He directs you to take a little ride and rest for a spell!  Always keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to His prompting! You may be pleasantly surprised at what He will reveal!
"Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The EVERLASTING GOD, the LORD, The CREATOR of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak, and those who have no might He increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,  But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:28-31


Eagle in Flight...photos taken by my sister Doris E. Hutchinson,  near our Dad's property last year (2010)
I saw an eagle soaring above the treetops today...out of the clear blue (actually the skies were a bit grey and cloudy). He just lifted up his mighty wings and flew above the noise and clatter below.  He reminded me of this verse...a reminder that I needed today.  I was not feeling particularly strong...actually I am tired and weary and feeling a mite weak.  Maybe a bug...or perhaps just exhaustion...either way...I needed a day of rest...so I took it.  Yep, I called in sick today...and legitimately so.  We took a little ride out into the country just to get away and talk and think and allow ourselves to dream a little.  Sometimes that is better than staying in bed or sitting in my recliner in front of the TV all day sipping hot tea and eating soup.  Especially when I saw the choices on daytime TV...I thought to myself, "I'd rather be at work than sitting here watching this junk."  So I was glad when my hubby suggested we take a little ride.

Anyway, it was therapeutic to get away from the must do list and the mind that won't let me rest because of the constant reminders of all the things I should be doing, both at work and at home in this, the busiest time of the year.  I don't believe that Christmas was intended to be a time of exhaustion and stress. It should be the happiest and most joyful time of all.  Christmas...the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ...should give us reason to sing and shout hallelujah and break out into a dance of pure joy.  It should cause us to "soar with the eagles"   in our hearts and minds and spirits. 

Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth...thank you for giving me the strength I need to carry on during this busy time. Thank you for helping me to run and not be weary...and to walk and not faint.  I am placing my trust in YOU, Oh Lord, and claiming this promise by faith today. Oh, and I promise to try harder to wait on YOU for the answers to my questions and the power I need to move ahead.  In the precious name of Jesus, the baby in the manger Who grew up to be a man and sacrifice His life for all mankind...Amen.

How about you?  Do you need to soar with the eagles today?  Why not let go of whatever is holding you down in spirit, and let God lift you up, up and away!  You will be able to return to earth feeling rested and renewed in strength and ready for whatever lies ahead.  Try it...He will not fail you.  He promised.
(Credit due to my sister Doris for her photographic skill in capturing
these pictures!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Random Journal Day..."I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"

Linking up with my friends for Random Journal Day...after you finish reading here go over to http://beneaththesurface-dawn.blogspot.com/2013/12/join-us-for-last-random-journal-day.html and see what the rest of the gang is sharing from the annals of their past...

This is an excerpt from my writings about our early years in the ministry...when we had moved all the way to Ohio from Florida so my husband could attend seminary...and we were a very long way from home for Christmas....and a bit homesick (at least I was...don't think the rest of the family even noticed!)

“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas…”

Psalm 145: 15-16  “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

Our first Christmas so far away from home was on its way.  Although we were happy in our home and our work, and John was doing well in Seminary, we missed being near our family for the holidays.  We had managed to get through Thanksgiving by being with other families in our church.  But Christmas was different…everyone had their own extended families to be with and we really didn't want to intrude on that.  We had met another Pastor and family at a conference who also were far away from their own relatives. So we invited them to come have Christmas dinner with us.  They accepted the invitation very graciously. 

Christmas morning arrived cold and gray.  The forecast did not call for snow, but possibly just rain and dreariness!  I was a bit disappointed because I had really been looking forward to having a white Christmas.  But we put on the Christmas music, opened our gifts, and I started getting ready for our company to arrive before noon for dinner.  Around 11:00 a.m. the phone rang, and it was our guests calling to tell us that their children had awakened with the flu, and they would not be able to travel to our home after all! Talk about disappointed!  Of course I understood their situation and certainly did not want them to travel to our house when they were sick, but now what were we going to do?  I just couldn’t imagine having Christmas Dinner alone!  I was having myself quite a pity party as I started slamming pots and pans around in the kitchen and putting back the good china and pretty dishes I had planned to use to serve our guests.  

John and the boys were perfectly happy, perhaps even relieved! 
John and the boys in their jammies, enjoying Christmas
morning...showing off their new headgear and toy guns.
They really did not want to have to clean up the living room and put away their new toys to make room for strangers!  I realized that I was the only one who wanted to have company anyway!

As the hot tears stole down my cheeks, I stood staring out the bay window in our dining room, feeling very sorry for myself.  Suddenly I noticed something different outside our window…something white and light and fluffy descending out of the sky!  It was snowing!  The snow came down haltingly at first, and then in a great flurry of excitement it started accumulating on the windowsill and the ground!  It was beautiful and clean and bright, and my whole countenance lit up as I began to sing and dance and clap my hands in pure joy at this delightful turn of events! We were having a white Christmas after all! I danced back into the kitchen and started getting the good china and silverware back out of the cupboard, and setting the table with the prettiest things I could find!  I realized that my own precious family was the most special and deserved to have the best Christmas ever!  I started singing Christmas Carols and soon the whole family joined in.  As we gathered around the table that Christmas Day we celebrated with the true Spirit of Christmas in our hearts!
Christmas Dinner...boys still in jammies, but
we have the candles lit, and the good china set out!

John  and boys waiting to start eating!
"Could we dispense with the pictures already?"
John seems to be saying...

There I am, out enjoying the beautiful snow!









            “Joy to the World! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King;
            Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing,
            And heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing!”


Isaiah 9:6  “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”




So...all's well that ends well...we had a perfect
Christmas after all...and it was a WHITE CHRISTMAS to boot! 

And I learned a valuable lesson..spending time with my own dear family and making happy memories together...regardless of where we are or whatever disappointments may come our way...those are the moments that define and bind us with cords of love that are not easily broken when the real difficult times come along. I'm glad I learned that early on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Let the ADVENTure Begin!

The Advent Calendars are now being opened one day at a time...Did you have one of these as a child?  I can remember having one that we eagerly opened each day as we counted down the days until Christmas...each little "open window" on the calendar gave us a new glimpse into preparing for Christmas...getting ready for the Baby Jesus to appear....the shepherds watching, the wise men traveling from afar, the angels singing, the star shining, the cattle lowing, Mary and Joseph preparing the manger...and finally the Baby Jesus making His appearance on Christmas Day!
Of course, we were also looking forward to all the other fun adventures of Christmas: Making up our lists for Santa...decorating the house, putting up the Christmas tree and hanging our stockings with care...baking cookies and candies, drinking hot cocoa with marshmallows, hanging candy canes on the tree and lighting candles in the windows. Singing Christmas carols and listening to choirs sing, watching special Christmas pageants. The sights, smells, and mysteries of Christmas...."I wonder what Santa will bring me this year?"  "I wonder if we will hear him and his reindeer when they land on the roof and come down the chimney?"  Yes, I believed in Santa...still do...It's a magical, wonderful time of the year...


Well, yesterday, as I was driving home from work I was thinking about all the things I need to do to get ready for Christmas...I haven't even started my shopping...not one decoration is set out...and except for the Christmas music playing on my car radio I haven't heard or sung any Christmas carols yet...  I mean, I'm still recuperating from Thanksgiving and all of the joys and memories of that special time with family and friends...and still cleaning up from that.  I just can't jump right in and get ready for Christmas in one day, like turning a page in a book and all of a sudden it's Christmas and everything is in place.  Last year I wrote about this experience here:  "Easing Into Christmas".  

But as I was listening to the radio on my way home yesterday they were playing all Christmas music...and suddenly the music from Handel's Messiah was flooding my car with joy and majesty!  I found myself singing along with the music...and a few tears started running down my cheeks as I remembered that we hadn't even gotten out our Handel's Messiah CD at home yet...one of our family traditions ever since we've been married is to listen to that glorious music as we get ready for Christmas.  I was feeling extremely nostalgic and a little sad as I sang along with the chorus of "For Unto Us A Child is Born...unto us, a Son is given...(Click here to listen to this song)  and then, when I pulled into my yard, what to my wondering eyes should appear?  No, NOT Santa and his reindeer, but this:

I was so astounded, I just broke into tears, and started laughing, crying, clapping, rejoicing!  God knew  what I needed...and He placed this thought into my son, Benton, from Ben's Country Woodshop, to create this particular sign on this particular day, and surprise me by having it sitting out on our front walkway when I arrived home!  Only God could do that in just this special way!

So now Christmas Advent has officially begun at our house!  It's like opening a new window on our Advent Calendar each day... to see what new thing will happen to prepare the way for the Christ Child to enter in this Christmas.   What special things are you doing to prepare the way in your home...your heart...your life?

Remember:  

So let the ADVENTure begin!!

Isaiah 9:6:
"For unto us a Child is born, 
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon 
His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."