Month: December 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Build

 

building blocksBuild

That is my One Word for 2016.  I want to be a builder.

Build, as a verb, requires action. It forces me to do something. To Build is to establish, increase or strengthen. Yes, yes and yes. It is constructive rather than destructive.

My first construction site in need of some renovation is my tongue. I want to build up others with encouraging and loving words. I want to heed my mother’s wise advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” (My daughters heard that more than once growing up too.) Too often I use my words to tear down and criticize. Pause before speaking. Think and consider, “Will these words build up or tear down?” I don’t have all the answers, so why do I speak to others like I do?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

Are my conversations construction zones or demolition areas?   Is there cement or dynamite in use? Cement adheres; dynamite destroys. IMG_6467IMG_6465

Besides speaking more kind words, I want to use the tools on my tool belt to write more thoughtful notes, offer more helpful hands, give more loving hugs, and simply smile more. 🙂 Even when a smiley face is not offered in return.

My second site in need of repair is in my relationships; I want to build stronger and deeper ones. I want to know God, my husband, my family, and my sponsored children better. All these relationships need some work and I am the foreman for the job. No hammer or nails needed; instead lots of time, effort and intentionality.

I want to go deeper with God; to approach humbly with open ears and a closed mouth more. May my “quiet time” reflect that I am truly actively listening.

I don’t need a tape measure to prove that I am coming up short in some my family relationships. I have known my husband since he walked into my 8th grade  science class in 1974. But there is more to learn and understand about him. I have only scratched the surface even after 32 years of marriage.

I want my 2016 blueprints to show that I purposefully will spend more time with all my family members; not use distance, driving and schedules as excuses.

I want to write, write, write to my sponsored Compassion children and my correspondent children. I want to ask better questions and pray seriously and persistently for each concern they share. Frequent communication  and creatively employing outside-the-box ideas will build these relationships and speak clearly the message of how precious and loved they are.

I’ve got some work to do. Building takes effort and time and some sweat. But I have an extra day (366) this New Year to start hammering away on these building improvements and I am pumped!

legos

What is your One Word for 2016? One Word that you will revisit throughout the year? One Word that will keep you focused when the world-fog settles in around you? Think ahead to March 16 and June 21 and September 7.  What is the One Word that will guide you back to where you want to be?

In this world of noise overload, pause a moment to sift through the mumble-jumble and find the  golden-nugget of One Word that God has just for you in 2016.  A long list of resolutions tends to depress me and weigh me down. Just too much to get my mind wrapped around. And when I can’t live up to my own expectations, I get in a funk and eat way too much junk (that rhymes).

So let’s keep it simple. One Word. I would love to hear your ONE WORD. IMG_6468

Please shout so I can hear you over all the building noise!

 

 

Books are My Friends

December 28, 2015

Dear Fellow Travelers,

I received 2 books for Christmas. I love getting books as gifts. I appreciate the forethought behind buying a book as a gift. The giver read it and enjoyed it and thought of me. It is like a heart-to-brain connection. The way to my heart is through a good book.

I was excited to have some new reading material for the winter months. But then I went online and ordered 4 more books. Yes, I have a book problem. The Amazon drones know where I live. IMG_6447

Books are my friends. I love them and they love me. They comfort me. They are always available and accessible;  just waiting for me to pick them up and spend time with them. They evoke such a wide range of  emotions; challenging and fulfilling.  No Kindle for me. I need to physically hold the book in one hand and a pencil in the other. I circle, underline, and !!!! all the way through it.

Some of my books are extra special and in my inner circle. They have been read and reread and will never, ever be donated to Goodwill. They are that important to me. They have left a lasting impression on me in some way; they have changed and challenged me.

If I was stranded on an island and could only have 1 book with me, I really would choose the Bible. It hasn’t always been my top choice. I thought people gave that answer because it was the right answer to give and I have been guilty of that rote answer too. But I mean it now, seriously. The only way I can make that  honest statement is because I have fallen in love with God’s Word. I really have. The more I read it, the more I want to read it. I have read through the Bible each calendar year for the past 8 years, but it is more than checking it off my daily to-do list. The more I drink it in, the thirstier I become for more of it.  My thirst is never quenched!

Yes, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are both brutal. I can’t follow the genealogies throughout and I don’t understand every Holy word.  But I try to stay focused on God’s big love story which is what the Bible truly is. I don’t get hung up on anything that takes my eyes off of Jesus. There is a whole bunch of stuff in the Old Testament that could cause us to lose our focus but there is so much pointing to Jesus too.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17

I am humbled by Paul’s many writings throughout the New Testament. Once he had his encounter with God, he never wavered; he never lost his focus or his passion. I can hear it through his  inspired words and it makes me want to go deeper and walk closer to God. I get goose-bumps just writing about it.

My other go-to, dog-eared favorites in my top 5 are:

The Shack by William P. Young

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Love Does by Bob Goff

Hope Rising  by  Scott Todd

Honorable Mention: He Walks Among Us by Renee and Richard Stearns

There really are so many more worth mentioning.  Now I am starting to feel guilty that I can’t list all my friends (books) here. I hope none of them get upset with me.

As promised, Free Stuff Friday kicks off in January 2016. If you haven’t read Bob Goff’s book, Love Does, you are in for a life-changing experience. In January, you will  have a chance to win an autographed copy of Love Does.

Be watching and reading the rules posted soon  on the page, Free Stuff Friday.

I would love to hear about your favorite books. Share with me about your “special friends”. I hear the drones buzzing now!

Walk Worthy and Keep Reading!

 

 

 

 

Pause

Pause.

Hit the pause button sometime today.

Between the ripping and tearing, between the selfies and awkward family photos, between the hugs and tears, between the heavy forks and extra helpings, between the hot chocolate and the hot, crazy weather,  between the arguments and “someone needs a nap”, between the re-gifting and the returning, between wishing it was all different and wishing it was all like it used to be.

Pause.

Remember Whose birthday we celebrate today. Tell Him, “Happy Birthday”.  Or better yet, sing it!! IMG_6428

Pause.

Reflect on how the manger led to the Cross. And He knew that and He still came.

Pause.

Read Luke 2 and Luke 23. Don’t leave Jesus in the manger.

Pause.

REJOICE

Impressing God

December 23, 2015

I attended 3 church services this past Sunday. Three different services at three different churches. Are you impressed? Don’t be, God isn’t. It just worked out that I had the opportunity to do this. I kiddingly told my family that if I am in church all day maybe the Steelers would win a tough matchup…..and they did!! Perhaps I am on to something here! 🙂 God loves football, right?

Three opportunities to sing Christmas carols, three opportunities to give an offering, three opportunities to participate in corporate prayer, three opportunities to hear Scripture, three opportunities to be challenged, three opportunities to see old friends and make new ones. Everything churchy in triplicate.

Three different environments produced some similar experiences; some different. There were hugs and tears. Worship and isolation.  Some pinching myself because I almost fell asleep and some WOW! Some amazing praise songs and even some gossip.

Just because I physically sat in 3 different churches, doesn’t mean I was mentally present at any of them.  I can look like I am taking notes about the message, but I am really making my “Christmas to do” list. Anyone else guilty? (No judgment here.) While I may be able to fake out my fellow worshippers, God isn’t fooled. He doesn’t keep church attendance records. But He does look deep into my heart and does a heart check. He looks past my church face and my church posture to deep within my heart. That is so humbling and also very scary.

So if God isn’t impressed with my trifecta of church attendance, what does impress Him?

Maybe it was reaching an item on a high shelf last night in Walmart for the elderly lady who asked for my help. Maybe what impresses God is how I speak to my husband and how I listen to him when he is speaking. Maybe it is remembering to pray for others during this season saturated with me-me-me.

Maybe what impresses God is who we are when no one else is watching. Who are we when someone crosses our path unexpectantly?  I believe God is impressed with every loving word, every kind act, every breath prayer, and every offer of forgiveness.  According to Colossians 3:12, I need to keep offering compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. When no one is watching, because He is watching.

Jesus told a great story to some people who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance (church attendance might fall in this category) and looked down their noses at the common people. (My interpretation of Luke 18:10-14 from The Message follows.)  The first man was a Pharisee who put on a “show” for everyone to see and therefore assumed he had impressed God. Instead, he shamed God and embarrassed himself. He climbed up on his soap box and posed. He was all about himself.

But the other man, a tax collector, slumped in the shadows with his face in his hands and cried out, “God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.” God was impressed. There was an audience of One and He was clapping.

Walk Worthy and Merry Christmas!

 

Beef and Cheese

There is a scene from the Christmas movie, Elf, where Buddy the Elf (played by Will Ferrell) accuses the Santa Claus at a department store of being a fraud. Buddy, who grew up as a human at the North Pole, certainly knows who Santa is and he passionately declares  “He is not Santa!” as he pulls off fake Santa’s beard.

He can recognize Santa by his scent too. I love the lines, ” You smell like beef and cheese. You don’t smell like Santa!” Obviously the real Santa would smell of pine, peppermint, cinnamon and maybe  Old Spice (for Mrs. Claus).

thISCVQSHYSeveral years ago, my husband and I found a piece of furniture listed in the Classified Ads. The owner didn’t live too far away so we called and arrived at the appointed time to take a look. An elderly woman answered the door and lead us inside.

While we were there, we made some small talk with her as we inspected the item. Then surprisingly she asked, “Are you Christians?” We responded “Yes” but wondered why she blurted out that question. Then she made a statement which I have never forgotten, “You smell like Christians.”

Hmm.  We smell like Christians. I was never told I smelled like a Christian before. Growing up on a farm and spending time around pigs and cows, I was convinced I smelled of manure long after my hot showers. My father  burned a wood stove and enjoyed frying bacon in the mornings and I remember trying not to reek of those smells as a prissy teenager.  “Eww! I just washed my hair and now I stink!” (I was a mess.)

So what did she smell? What fumes were we giving off? What had she sniffed out the few minutes we were there? We weren’t quoting scripture or waving a Bible around; we were simply being kind, respectful and polite. We were giving off an aroma and it was Christ.

You smell like Christians.” We said ‘thank you’ because we took it as a compliment. According to 2 Corinthians 2:15, it is a very kind compliment.

As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us. 2 Corinthians 2:15 (The Living Bible)

I asked the real Santa for some perfume this Christmas. Perhaps I will find a bottle of sweet-smelling  fragrance under the tree but whether I realize it or not, I am giving off an aroma everywhere I go.  So are you. In the very long check-out lines, in the mall and at the bank, at family gatherings; every where we go. Whether we realize it or not: we smell! Let’s make sure we smell of Christ; we reek of His Love.

Splash on some of your favorite fragrance (leave the beef and cheese behind) but most importantly, let the love of Christ leave a lasting impression on everyone this holiday season and beyond.

When we walk with God, we leave behind a sweet fragrance that can inspire others to follow.

Photo credit: New Line Cinema

No Sting

December 16, 2015

Dear Fellow Travelers,

My travels over the past few weeks have taken me to cemeteries. I have, by choice, spent time walking around in 4 different cemeteries. I don’t go there at night, that would be too creepy. But during the day, I find the atmosphere to be very peaceful and comforting.

I love the solitude. It helps lift my brain fog. Being around my parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ ( and other relatives’) graves, I can reflect and recall my upbringing and that helps me right my life-compass. I can’t get where I am going, if I don’t know where I came from, right?  It centers me and my walk. Perhaps that sounds crazy, but it works for me. I enjoy pausing to remember. I am among family and can say whatever comes to my mind. It is a safe place, no judgment. Yes, there are tears but I firmly believe that I will see my saved family members again so that gives me joy too!

I think it helps with my perspective on this earthly life.  Spending time in a cemetery, reminds me to hold loosely to this life and embrace eternity tightly. I know a box in a rectangular plot of dirt is not my final resting place. I know this life is just a blink in comparison to eternity. I have nothing to fear, including death.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15: 55 & 57

Spending time in cemeteries during this time of the year reminds me that “you can’t take it with you”. All the silly things I am running around impulsively buying for myself and others is just that…… “silly”. As my father always said, “You don’t see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.”

Sometimes I come across gravesites of infants and I wonder how the family made it through such a terrible time. What happened to take this tiny loved one too soon? IMG_5475

Several weeks ago, I drove past a little country church and its small cemetery. I found a tombstone for Mr. and Mrs. Sermons. Located in the church’s lot, I love the irony.

IMG_5067

So I will keep visiting cemeteries from time-to-time, remembering and reflecting and thanking God that I have nothing to fear. “He whose head is in Heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave. ” Matthew Henry

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room, I shall be able to see. Helen Keller

 

 

My Michelangelo

IMG_5806Mira lo que dibuje para ti   (Look what I drew for you)

IMG_5811I have a little Michelangelo who blesses me with his artwork. I love opening his letter and seeing his latest drawing – an original from the artist himself!

How beautiful and made just for me!

My Michelangelo is only 7 years old and lives on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. I may be a little biased but look out Sistine Chapel!

In my letters, I praise him and encourage him to keep drawing, coloring and creating! I have been neatly filing his artwork in a folder (in an attempt to take care of it) and that folder has been going on a shelf. Now I am realizing these masterpieces don’t belong hidden in a folder on a shelf. Art should be displayed for all to enjoy and appreciate especially this beautiful art made by such a precious artist!

What if when my holiday guests gather at the table, they look down to see a laminated placement featuring these pictures? Someone is going to ask a question. Art fuels questions and conversations. When the question arises,  “Who is the artist?” I can proudly say, “I know him well. Let me tell you about him and how you can help other budding artists around the world.”

What about designing a small card with the artwork on the cover and additional information on the back about Compassion International? There are lots of possibilities to showcase my little Michelangelo’s work. The story behind his life in Peru and his artwork  are both too important to be put away for safe keeping.

IMG_5817

So let’s display the creations of our Leonardo’s and Mary Cassatt’s.

Let’s look for ways to start conversations about our artists and see how God leads.

The Road Less Traveled

 

December 8, 2015

Dear Fellow Travelers,

My walk today was actually a four-hour drive on the back roads. The back roads are the roads less traveled. They wind and twist and turn. They are not fast; but they are scenic. They are the best place to view God’s handiwork and just see life. I would have saved timed taking the fast and furious highway but I would have missed seeing so much.  On this sunny December day, I wanted to see life and God’s Creation not see more cars and trucks. I wanted to see everything God had in store for me today. And I wasn’t disappointed.

the frost heavy in the fields where a small stream meandered along

a one-lane stone bridge

a red-tailed hawk enjoying some breakfastIMG_5795

 a wooly Highland calf staring back at me

 a very proud hunter with his 9-point buck in the bed of his red truck

 cedar-lined fence rows

tractorsigns

tombstones of family members at cemeteries where I paused to remember those whom I miss terribly

barns and silos and big round bales of hay dotting the fields

kindness of a stranger

Nativity scenes proudly displayed in front yards

Let’s make time to take the road less traveled. God has a lot He wants to show us.

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 1 Timothy 4:4

Food for Food

Some food for thought.  Throughout the holiday season, try this simple suggestion and help feed the hungry.

I call it: food for food.

IMG_5708Invite your guests to bring a non-perishable food item.

Wrap a box with Christmas paper.

Place the box at your front door.

Instruct your guests to deposit their items in the box.

Drop off the box at a local food bank or homeless shelter.

Repeat.

Then as you and your guests give thanks around your bountiful table of delicious delights, you know others will not go hungry. We eat; others eat. Food for Food.

 Thanks to my family for helping to fill our box this year!

 

 

Belated “Thank You”

December 6, 2015

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Over the weekend, I was handed a newspaper article from 2013.  My sister knew I would want to see this even though it was “old news”.  It was the obituary of my 5th-grade teacher’s wife.  Sadly, I read how my 5th-grade teacher had lost his bride of 66 years on Christmas Eve in 2013. I loved my 5th-grade teacher.  He was my favorite teacher throughout my school career.  He was an encouraging teacher, an ordained minister, an early mentor, and he could put a wicked spin on a kick ball.

The obituary and short article  included a picture of him and his wife.  It was  an honor to read about their life story and their love story. This former student enjoyed learning some details about her former teacher.   I learned that he had originally dated  his wife’s older sister  (that had to make for fun family gatherings).  I learned where he received his education; he majored in Bible and Elementary Education.  I read how they had cooked all day in anticipation for a large Christmas Eve family gathering  but she began to feel ill and died later in the hospital that evening.

At just 10-years-old, I doubt I knew what a gem of a teacher he truly was. He  combined preaching and teaching; a big “no-no” in today’s public schools.  When he heard someone using “bad” words on the playground, he talked to the class about it. He challenged our 10- year-old minds with the suggestion, “Couldn’t we choose our words more carefully?”  Some would label that a forbidden sermon; I call it honing life skills.

Fifth grade was when I decided I  wanted to be a teacher. What little bit of a wanna-be-teacher-flame was there, he fanned it. He allowed me to look over spelling and math quizzes with a red pen in hand. Very special memories!

As most children believe, I thought my 5th-grade teacher was quite old when I sat under his tutelage decades ago.  If I am doing my math correctly (trying to make my teacher proud), he is now 89 years old. So when  is it too late to say “thank you”?

That obituary and short article nudged me to want to offer a belated “thank you”.  But is it just too late? Too many years have come and gone? Why bother, right?

But the wheels begin to turn. Maybe?  A quick search on the internet and I find his address. Yes, why not! I can do this; I should do this. Just a simple  “thank you” for caring about my heart and character as well as  my mind; for challenging me to be the best person and student that I  could be. It is not important that he remembers me ( I was just one of hundreds of students); I just want to say “thank you”. Does a heart-felt “thank you” have an expiration date? I don’t think so.

Following graduation, I  went to college majoring in elementary education. My first teaching assignment as a very green elementary teacher was as a 5th grade teacher and I have someone special to thank for that. I will write a 44-year-old belated “thank you” to my 5th-grade teacher for who he was and how he challenged and encouraged me. It is not too late.  It is never too late to say “thank you.” An expression of gratitude has no expiration date.

Thank You - Words on Yellow Sticky Notes

 

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