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!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Advent Rest - Revisited Again!

This is another repeat Advent message, written in 2017 (and repeated last year too). I will leave it just the way it was written...it is still very much applicable today. I still need to learn about "rest"...  I hope you will enjoy this message and be blessed by it.

Original Message:

In preparation for the beginning of the Advent season we read in our devotions the following passage from Ezekiel 34:11-16:

Ezekiel 34:11-16(NKJV)

God, the True Shepherd

11 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 
12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 
14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 
15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God
16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”

After reading this I couldn't help but think about this following passage in Isaiah 40:11, followed by Christ speaking to us in Matthew 11:28-29.  I have inserted a video excerpt from Handel's Messiah with this beautiful message.  

Isaiah 40:11(NKJV)

He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,

And carry them in His bosom,

And gently lead those who are with young.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Listening to this helps me to calm my spirit and prepare my heart for the Advent of our Lord...yes, as a babe in the manger at Christmas...but also as we look forward to His soon return to redeem His beloved sheep..., for "WE are His people, and the sheep of His pasture"...

Psalm 100 (NKJV)
A Song of Praise for the Lord’s Faithfulness to His People

1 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.5 
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

As we approach this Christmas season, let us pause to reflect on the true mission of that babe in the manger...it was not to give us a reason to go out and buy expensive gifts and shop til we drop and do all kinds of crazy things in the name of Christmas...but to celebrate the One who came to seek His sheep as the True Shepherd, Who came to "seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick;", and to "feed His flock like a shepherd;

He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young." 
and to "give you rest."

As we approach the end of this year it is fitting that I should be reminded of the One Who came to give me REST...Yes, rest for my body, my mind, and my soul...

If you recall, my "One Word" for 2017 was "REST"
... and I am not too sure that I followed that admonition too well all year long...but I have learned that when I am weary Jesus is always there to give me rest...I just need to allow Him into my busy-ness...and take His yoke upon me, and learn from Him.

My prayer for you and for myself as we enter this busiest of all seasons of the year, is that we will indeed let Jesus give us "REST" in the midst of our celebrations and joyous activities with loved ones and friends. Take time out to spend time alone with Him, reading His Word, meditating upon Him, and enjoying all the beauty and wonders of the season around us.

Have a blessed, peaceful, restful Advent Season!  

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The First Sunday of Advent 2019-What does that mean?

So wonderful that today is the first Sunday of Advent! What does that mean to you? To me, it is the beginning of the anticipation, preparation, excitement, and reality setting in that Christmas is coming very soon! More than that... the reality that Jesus came to us as a tiny baby, God in human flesh, came to us to live among us, teach us all about the true meaning of life, and prepare us for eternity...and sacrifice His own life on the cross so that we could one day live with Him in heaven...
Here is a beautiful expression of what that was like:  From the Cradle to the Cross...

(I was particularly pleased to see this lovely display in our church narthex, 
as my son was honored to build the old rugged cross especially for this time.)

This wonderful display greeted us as we entered our Sanctuary this morning...the empty cradle at the foot of the lovely Christmas tree, adorned with golden crowns,  angels...under a beautiful Star of Bethlehem, but leaning against an old rugged cross...kind of in the shadows...the cradle in the shadow of the cross.  A very poignant reminder of the life that Christ would live here on earth for us...always in the shadow of that cross.  But without that cross...where would we be? Without HOPE, that is where we would be. 

Today being the first Sunday of Advent, we had our traditional lighting of the first Advent Candle:
The candle of HOPE. 
"This morning we light the first candle, the candle of hope.  This candle reminds us that God's promises give us reason to be filled with hope~hope for unity in a world of division, hope for healing in a world of pain, and hope for peace in a world filled with anger and strife.  We remember that Christ is our light and the source of our hope." 

Instead of the traditional prophetic verses from Isaiah 7:14, or Isaiah 9:2-7, about the first Advent of the Messiah, our pastor read today from Luke 21:25-36, which is about Christ's second Advent to the earth.  We are warned about the things that are to take place prior to His return, and in verses 27-28, after many signs and wonders have taken place in the heavens and on the earth:
27."Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 
28.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

Whether or not this takes place at the end of the tribulation, or just prior to, or whenever...no man really knows...but we are to be ready...to keep watching and know the signs of the times so that we are not caught unprepared for that moment.  Christ could return at any moment to catch His Bride, the Church, away from the earth.  I know I want to be ready and not be left behind.

So Advent is a time to, yes, prepare our hearts anew for the coming of the Babe in the Manger and to remember why He came in the first place...but even more for us as believers, it is a time to prepare our hearts for His second coming...to be watching and waiting...and serving Him now with our talents, time, and offerings...and sharing this Good News of the Gospel with as many as we can while there is yet time. That's what this first Sunday of Advent means to me.

(Our nativity scene is now set up in our home)

Friday, November 29, 2019

From Thanksgiving to Christmas...

Yesterday was a wonderful day of Thanksgiving!

The new flag in the yard was a gift from my sister to welcome our guests into our front door:

And welcome them we did! From near and far...family from both sides of our family tree came together to share the bounty of what God hath provided...
The Steiners and the Hutchinsons and their offspring

My sister Doris Mursch Hutchinson had most of her family here, and I had most of my family here
The Mursch Sisters: Doris and Pam

And the Steiner brothers also had most of their respective families here...
The Steiner Brothers: John and Bill and our families below:

It was a grand day in every way, filled with much joy, laughter, and good food!

And Grandma Mursch's Orange Cookies (my mother's recipe (Click HERE for a link to that recipe)), enjoyed here by her youngest
Great-Grandson, Jack.   It's a family tradition!
The cookies were baked by my youngest son Scott, seen here mashing the potatoes:

And there was a new member of the family, "Snuggles" the dog, who was sniffing out all the goodies. Seen here with his loving "keeper", our niece Shannon.

So after the day was over and everyone returned to their respective homes (no, no one opted to stay over in our "guest room"), and the food was all put away and everything cleaned up, 
I woke up this morning and decided it was time to "put away Thanksgiving" and start preparing for Christmas.  I know many of you have already put up your trees and have done other decorations even before Thanksgiving, but I am a Thanksgiving "purist" or "Puritan", preferring to keep the two holidays totally separate. (Click HERE for previous posts written on this topic) I have a difficult time multi-tasking with the two major holidays of the year, so I have to keep them separate for my own sanity's sake.
But today we started the day out quietly and peacefully, spending some time on the deck, reading from God's Word, watching the Wood Ducks swimming around the pond:

 Aren't they beautiful???

And as I thought about all the wonderful blessings of yesterday (and this whole past year), I was suddenly filled with the joy and energy to begin the Advent and Christmas season anew...
Starting from the outside and gradually working our way inside...(that will come in the days to come...again...one thing at a time...)

And I knew that this year, in our new house in our new neighborhood I wanted our Christmas message to the world to be about the true meaning of Christmas.
 And as we took a little ride to go take our walk in the woods this morning, we passed a place on the side of the road where a man was selling these wooden Nativity silhouettes! I've long admired them and have wanted one for the longest time, and I told my hubby that was all I wanted for Christmas this year...and so he turned around and we went back and bought this to put along side our original little wooden tree with the message: For Unto Us a Child is Born"

And then we got home and I started getting ready for Christmas!
 Our little front porch tree is all decked out and lit up to spread the joy...
 And the front door is ready to welcome guests...
And we are ready to welcome the Christ-child...The Savior of the World!
Christ is coming!  Time to start preparing our homes and our hearts to receive Him!

Isaiah 9:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

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.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Guest Room is Ready

I've been talking about getting the guest room ready for quite a while. It was the last room in the house to get organized and set up for "action".  My goal was to have it ready in time for Thanksgiving, just in case someone gets a big dose of turkey "tryptophan" and needs to take a nap after dinner (or decides to spend the night rather than drive home in the dark...)

If you've known me for a while, you've probably already seen this little sign from  an earlier guest room, or also from our more recent home and guest room, which I called the "Bear Crossing B & B":

and I've been rather anxious to hang it up again in our new home and be ready to welcome any guests who may want to come and stay. 

If you could have seen this room before I finally got it set up, you would appreciate it even more today.

Yes, there are still a few boxes stacked up here and there. And yes, there is a lot of furniture in this little room... But honestly...It's come a lonnnng way, baby!!  You should have seen it before I went through all the boxes of photos and condensed them into containers in that lovely cedar cabinet below

And then, once all those boxes were removed, there was the matter of setting up the bed... When we moved into the house this room became the catch-all room for anything and everything that didn't have a definite place to go.  So there was no room to set up the bed. And only the frame and box springs were brought into the house. Someone had the bright idea to put the mattress in the storage shed, way in the farthest back corner, behind two heavy file cabinets and boxed in by other shelves and boxes and tools...so that the only way to get the mattress out of the shed was to practically remove everything else from out of the way first! 

Well friends, I've been asking and asking the men of the family to please bring in that mattress so I could finish setting up the guest room.  My requests were usually met with, "Okay, when you have the rest of the room ready we will get it...", and then when I said I was ready, it became, "It'll have to wait until someone can help me get it out of the shed...", or "When I get home from work one night I'll do it" (from #3 son who lives here), but then when he gets home it is already dark and he's exhausted and needs a shower, etc., etc., etc.  and then hubby got sick with this cough/fever bug that's going around (and I had it all last week, except no fever for me...just lots of coughing...) and the clock keeps ticking away with just a few days left until Thanksgiving...and my goal was to have it ready by Thanksgiving by hook or by crook!

So today I quit asking and just went out to that shed and started moving things out of the way, one box of tools, one chair, two sets of plastic shelving that had boxes on them, more boxes, etc., etc., and then when I could finally get to the mattress, it was so well wedged in between the very heavy file cabinets and the wall of the shed I was ready to give up.  But I kept wiggling and tugging and pulling and working at it until presto!  The mattress was out from behind the file cabinet.  At this point I decided to call my married son who lives a mile away and ask him if he had a few minutes to come help me get it into the house (remember, hubby is still sick and not supposed to lift anything anyway, even if he was feeling good.)  Thankfully, #1 son was available within a few minutes, and between the two of us we managed to pull and push it up the deck steps and into the house and finally on top of the box springs on the bed in guest room!!! Sorry, no pictures of this wild frenzy of activity...just the final results!  Now I am resting...(I actually laid down on the guest bed and took a brief nap just to be sure it was comfy after all that work!)

I actually worked on a few more projects over the past couple of days.
Do you remember when I first got this lovely lady? You can re-read about it HERE
Well, after we brought her to our last house, a strange phenomenon began to take place. I don't think I have any pictures to show you, but little by little this lovely lady started to change color, until her whole face and hair looked like someone had painted her silver. I tried everything to clean her while living in our last house, but nothing would remove what appeared to be a kind of tarnish. This happened to some other painted items and anything silver (all my silver jewelry turned black) in our house, and we decided it was because of the sulfur water, which gives off hydrogen sulfide gas, which causes corrosion and other issues. I am thinking this lovely lady is probably painted with lead paint, and that may be why she turned silver.  Anyway, I'm still alive, so don't get panicky.  Since moving to our new home, where we now have city water, I noticed that this lovely lady was starting to look a little more normal again. So I got busy yesterday and washed her with some Dawn dish liquid, and then also used some silver polish cream on her, and all the "tarnish" disappeared!

The next project was this lamp:

Likewise, all of the brass on the base of this lamp had turned black with corrosion. I originally wanted to use this lamp in the guest room, but it needed some work. Not only was the brass black, but the light switch no longer worked and there was no way to turn the lamp on.  So, today I was determined to fix this lovely, very fragile antique porcelain hand painted lamp so I could put it in the guest room.  First I had to find a new electrical cord and switch/light bulb base. I decide to remove the cord/switch set from another old lamp that I wasn't using, but it did work, and put it into this lamp. Figuring out how to take it all apart and rewire it was the first task...but before I could do that I had to clean the brass base. So I got busy with some brasso cleaner and cleaned the brass. You should have seen it before...amazing what brasso and elbow grease can do!  Once that was done, I had to figure out how to do the rewiring. That was tricky, but I finally got it all back together again, put in a new light bulb, and "Voila!" It worked!  That is, until I tried to turn it off.  The new (used) switch that I put into this lamp turned it on automatically, but could not turn it off. I don't know why...it worked fine on the other lamp...so in order to turn off the light, you have to unplug it!  Well, that would never do for a guest room. I can't be asking my guests to unplug a lamp to turn it off! How inconvenient! 

So, I put it in our bedroom, next to our bed on my side: (Oh, there's Baby Elva! Yes, that is where she's been hiding ever since we moved here...)  Anyway...I will purchase a NEW electrical set for this lamp and redo it eventually, but not today. I'm tired.

I realize this is a long post for a Saturday night. I do apologize. But I wanted to get all this down in writing for my own remembrance as well as for your entertainment.  And now that the guest room is ready...I wonder who the first guest will be to actually use this little room?

I am very tired and getting ready for bed now, but before I do, let me read a few portions from Psalm 16:

Psalm 16
1.  "Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust."
5.  O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup.
You maintain my lot.
6.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Yes, I have a good inheritance.
7.  I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons
8.  I have set the Lord always before me;
 Because He is at my right hand 
I shall not be moved.
9.  Therefore my heart is glad,
and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10.  For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11.  You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Thank You, Lord, for Your kindness and love.  Yes, "You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup."   "I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel."Yes, You have shown me the path of life and "in Your presence is fullness of joy!"   Praise the Lord!!  Amen.
Good Night!!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thankful Thursday Reflections

One week until Thanksgiving!  I am going over my lists and checking them twice...gonna find out who's naughty or nice...No wait...that's for Christmas! That list can wait another week! Right now I'm concentrating on the grocery list and the guest list, and making sure we've got everything covered! Gotta get to the store and pick up the turkeys, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, stuffing ingredients and various other things. Our guests are bringing the rest of the dishes...and I am sure we will have more than enough of everything.

So very thankful for friends and family, and most of all for how God has blessed us and taken such good care of us this past year.  When I look back over the year and all that has happened, I just have to stop and thank the Lord for His amazing grace, protection, and provision.

We've moved into a new house...

 and new community and are establishing new friendships and enjoying our wonderful little church and family.

We've been blessed with good health, although right now hubby and I are working through a siege of coughing/sinus issues. Praying this will pass before next week's festivities.  Seems like a lot of people have been afflicted with this lately, and all this good "fellowship" with others just seems to keep it going around...

This past week's cold/rainy spell kept me housebound for a while, but this morning is gorgeous, and I just had to get outside and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Here's a few pictures from our pond taken over the past week:

 Here's our beautiful Great Blue Heron...

I love seeing his reflection in the water, don't you?

I wonder if he ever notices his own reflection and wonders if his feathers are laying just right. Or if his beak is pointed and sharp enough to catch the fish?
Probably not. Birds are more sensible than we are about such things I am sure...

Here are this morning views on "Still Waters Pond":

from one of my favorite vantage points...

Way out there across the pond I could see these wood ducks swimming by, but they were pretty far away, so the pictures aren't very clear.  There are quite a few of them swimming around together:

They swam around behind these bushes on the island, so I lost sight of them. I am tempted to get a kayak and start exploring...but I probably should just leave them alone so they can eat and take care of their own little family...

This picture gives a better perspective of how far away they were:

Back along the shore of our "Still Waters Pond", I am delighted to behold the lovely wildflowers growing in "God's Garden".  It is "God's Garden" because He planted it.  These flowers grow naturally at His direction...I don't have to tend them at all. They belong to God, and He provides the soil, water, and sunshine so that they will grow and give beauty along the shore. They only come up and bloom in the fall, but I've noticed them around all of the ponds in the area...and they come back every year without man doing anything to help them.

I am reminded of the passage from Matthew 6:25-34,  where Jesus was teaching His disciples (and us today) wonderful words that seem to go along with these thoughts:

25.  "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink;
nor about your body, what you will put on.  
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

26.  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  
Are you not of more value than they?
27.  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28.  So why do you worry about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow:
They neither toil nor spin;

29.  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...
30.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will He not much more clothe you, 
O you of little faith?

31.  Therefore do not worry, saying,
'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 
'What shall we wear?'
32.  For after all these things the Gentiles seek.
For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you.
34.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, 
for tomorrow will worry about its own things.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

So the reminder to us today, as we prepare for Thanksgiving next week, is don't worry about all the details of food, who's coming, will there be enough to eat, will the house be clean, will there be enough room for everyone...what shall I wear? How shall I decorate?...etc., etc., etc....Yes, we plan, we make our lists, and we prepare...but don't worry about it!  Enjoy the wonderful time with family and friends...make memories together, laugh and sing...and most of all,  remember to Thank the Lord for all His bountiful blessings!