Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walking the Walk

God has been speaking to me... No, it's not like those fakey TV evangelists that get a message that YOU should do something, or more often, give them money.  When God speaks to me, it is in the still quiet moments when my heart does the listening, not my ears. Recently, I've been unsettled, restless - sometimes with thoughts on direction, but not always.

I've allowed "the world" to interfere. Yet, we ARE of this world, living among the rest of the people, surrounded by the needs, wants, and surpluses contained there. As tempting as it might be to become a recluse, this doesn't really seem to be the plan for me. Or at least, not in the sense that I can hide out from the world, lost in my own thoughts.

No, there's a task to do and while the details are sketchy, I've had experience trying to ignore God... it really doesn't work.  Perhaps one sign of a bit of spiritual maturity is that sketchy details would've driven me crazy in the past. I wanted to know what, how, and when.  I learned that it will all become evident in God's time, and I am okay with that.

It is not long until Lent, and recently, this has been placed on my mind. It's often been a time of personal reflection and "new year's type" resolutions for me. However, I'm not waiting for Lent this year. You can peek in on my progress from time to time as I'll share the journey. (which is a part of what was put on my heart to do) There's a tab on this blog, or you can go directly to the link, A Lenten Journey  to read it. It, like my life, is a work in progress, under construction. I'll be in touch.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Message

In life, no matter what happens, however stressed, worried, or even sad I feel, there is still an undercurrent that holds me up. God is my rock, my foundation that holds me together even during those moments that I might not act as if I know this.

There have been times that I have considered what it must be like for those without this assurance. What if I DIDN’T know God had my back? What if I truly did feel that I was facing adversity completely on my own?  Knowing the peace and comfort I have, it seems that it would be so hard…. Just imagine dealing with stress, death of a loved one, loss of health or job… now, think what it would be like without God?

Over the years, and especially recently, I’ve found myself in a position of talking to people dealing with great adversity, yet without my coping tool… they seem to seek me out. Maybe they know OF God, but not sure they KNOW God. One woman told me that she had been wondering, searching… thinking that there must be something more, but she didn’t know. Not really being in a position where I was “supposed” to be talking to her, all I could do was suggest she pursue whatever it was she was thinking, to find her own path. But as she talked, I knew her path would lead her to God.

She told me she often thought of praying, but wasn’t sure how and didn’t know if God heard her. She asked me what I did. We talked about talking to God, and about seeking peace… I told her how it helped me to get away from “the world,” whether physically, or just mentally, and that is when I found God most easily.  I tell her to "Be still..." Yes, I talk to God, but must also pause to listen as well.

Today, another women came looking for help. She talked about the things going on in her life, and she had really been struggling. But she wanted to cope… she really felt that it was possible, but was feeling overwhelmed. I understood how she felt. She asked me if I had any scriptures that might help her. I did what I could.

But things like this keep coming up… there have been quite a few people placed in my life – or perhaps it’s me placed in their life – that have similar struggles. There’s a fine line at times, a tightrope of respecting all spiritual paths… but they open up to me, telling me their worries, and want to know what “I” believe, so this is what I tell them.

Do not be afraid. The Lord God will always be with you and will never forsake you.  There are many instances of this phrase in scripture. I believe it is true, and I don’t think it’s an accident that it is repeated over and over.

God so loved the world that He sent His only son to die for our sins, and once we invite God in our hearts and lives, suddenly, things are okay. Sure, we have the reassurance of eternal life with God – but as awesome as that must be, we have life with God now and I am so grateful.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Each of the people leave a small part of themselves on my heart and I keep them in my prayers, even though they don’t know it. God has blessed me in many ways, not just in the way the world would see, but internally. The world would say I am blessed to be alive, which is true. But the greatest blessings have not been just the joys, but the peace that has been possible in the valleys. It seems that perhaps that is what I am supposed to share with others – for that is what they seem to need to know.  

Honestly, I don't have a plan when I talk to people - it just happens, so I feel inadequate; I listen to them, which is sometimes a very needed gift. Somehow, I am given the right words and they thank me for my help, saying that they feel better after our conversation. And each time, I know that they do feel better, perhaps comforted, perhaps hopeful, at least for the moment.

I have two prayer requests. First, pray for all of those that are struggling, and are seeking God as well. Pray that they find what is right for them. Second, please pray for me. Pray that when these people seek me out, that I am given the words that they need, the words God would have placed on their heart.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013


January 6, Epiphany...  It's interesting to me to notice the variety of ways this date "is" or "is not" significant.  To some, it's a minor notation on the calendar, to others, it's the event of the season. Then there are those that say, "Huh?" to the entire conversation. I guess I'm somewhere between the middle and extreme, if middle means I've heard of it!  :)

To understand, let me back up a bit.  First of all, there's Advent. That's the time counting back the four Sundays before Christmas. (Personally, I love Advent.) This is the time we remember the waiting for the promised Messiah, the one foretold in prophecy.  It is the time of preparation for Christmas, the weeks of hope, peace, joy, and love. Then there's Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  MOST people, even those without faith, celebrate Christmas, even when they ignore the meaning.

"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...."  Just a song? 12 days of Christmas? What's THAT all about anyway? When you look at the calendar, you notice that there are 12 days between Christmas and January 6.... you guessed it, the 12 days of Christmas.  Some celebrate the 12th Night with celebration and parties.  This brings us to Epiphany.  Traditionally, this celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men, the Magi, when they visited Jesus. Most historians agree that this took a while, and that Jesus was a toddler by then.  In some countries, Epiphany is celebrated more than Christmas, and the children get gifts, just as the Wise Men brought gifts. They believe that the Wise Men bring them, not Santa Claus. It's often called "Three Kings Day."

Looking at the word, many use the word Epiphany to mean a newfound awareness, or an "ah-ha!" moment, when something suddenly becomes clear. If you think about it, the arrival of the Wise Men, after their journey to find Jesus, was definitely an Epiphany. It suddenly became clear that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Savior they were waiting for!

They brought gifts, such as gold, that you'd bring an earthly King. They also brought frankincense, used for temple worship, a gift for the Son of God. And finally, they brought myrrh, which was used for healing and embalming, remembering His ministry and time on the cross. What an Epiphany this is! This IS most certainly, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, our Savior.

While many hurried and got their Christmas things put away, some by New Years, and some the days that followed, mine remains up until Epiphany, until Christmas is finally really over.  Is it my love of the Kings? Not really,  In my case, it's a convenient excuse... a deadline extension  that allows me to celebrate Christmas just a little bit longer. But I love the holiday anyway. There are Wise Men on my Christmas tree. While they weren't present at the Nativity, they were soon on their way, and are an important part of the story.

Early Christians celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany before they celebrated Christmas. In another post, I'll share another connection Epiphany has.... you just might be surprised.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Slate

Happy New Year... if you're happy about it or not! After all, the year has changed - you might as well enjoy it. January gets its' name from the goddess, Janus. She had two faces, so could look forward and backwards at the same time. What an appropriate skill for this time of reflection, as we remember the past and consider the future.  Keep the good parts in your memories and drop the bad.

Good or bad, 2012 is over. Chances are it had both good and bad moments, hopefully more good than bad, but some years are better than others for us as individuals. Even the years that had absolutely horrible things occur, had good times as well.  2013 will be the same, with a mixture - and at times, there won't be a thing we can do to change things, but other times will be up to us.

Many will make resolutions to mark the new beginning. Personally, I don't think this has to be set by the calendar at all. Once you decide to make a change, then DO it!  I've set goals at all times of the year - maybe one just needs to be open to the possibility when it is presented and you feel the strongest about it.

As the year ended, I read about some interesting rituals some friends did. One involved writing down the bad habits they wanted to break, and others listed moments they didn't like. Then they might rip them up into shreds, throwing them into the air like confetti.  Others buried them or burned them in their firepit or fireplace. In other words, they symbolically got rid of the bad things of the past. You could do the same thing by writing it down on paper and wadding it up. If it inspires you or helps you move on, what could it hurt?

There are also some interesting thoughts about goals for the new year. One suggestion is to keep a jar or box and write down good things and blessings. Others suggested keeping a notebook. The idea is to open the container or book and read your positive thoughts next year on New Year's Eve. It seems to me that it'd be even more helpful to read these on days when you're feeling glum!  When I was a teacher, I got notes from students. Sometimes, it'd be a quick note, or just a smiley face. Occasionally, it'd be a heartfelt letter or an apology for misbehavior. I kept them all in a drawer in my desk. When I had days that I felt overwhelmed and under-appreciated, I'd look at the notes. At the end of the year, when I cleared out my desk, it reminded me of the many positive moments.

As a writer, I related to the many posters that said something like, "This year is a book with 365 pages and it's up to you what you write on them." We can't control what happens, but we can often control how we respond to things - and that might make all the difference in what happens next!  I learned long ago that having a positive outlook makes for a happier life. Don't forget to talk to God about your day, the good and the bad.

Who knows what 2013 has in store? I've learned that sometimes what we know will happen, just won't. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)  There are always surprises - guess we will just have to live it before we'll know! Happy New Year!