INAUGURATION

Today’s news report says that about a dozen Democratic lawmakers are boycotting President-elect Trump’s inauguration next week. And I’m disappointed.

I’m not what’s called a “political person”. I don’t like the conflict, antagonism, search for hidden skeletons and the “spin” to ruin competitors. But I’m troubled that many are trying hard to ruin the incoming President before he has a chance. Scripture tells us we are to respect those in authority over us, and to pray for them. Yes, there are times we need to speak up and not go along with a policy or government decree that contradicts God’s law. But much of what is happening currently seems to me a rush for power that it is ripping our nation even further apart.

I don’t care who you voted for. Whether you’re Democrat or Republican won’t change my feelings for you. But I do get upset when persons on either side of the divide accuse those on the other of not caring about the poor, of being uninformed, or even of not being Christian, of getting skewed news. Face it, our news IS skewed–on both sides. And there are clearly different approaches to the challenges our nation faces. Scripture says that we who follow Jesus are to be known by our love for each other – despite our differences.

Our unity in Christ is more important than those areas where we disagree. Somehow we’ve allowed this election to override Jesus’ prayer that we would love each other. What has become more important? Our need to be “right”, on whichever side we choose to land? Or our love for each other, which is what God said would show the world that we are His children?

“I demand that you love each other,  for you get enough hate from the world! But then, it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:17-18 (TLB)

Our country already has so much division. We need change in many areas:  racial divides, justice for all, economic opportunity, help for the poor, and more. But it doesn’t help any of us to try to make the incoming, duly-elected leader fail. If he does, we ALL lose.

What if instead, we agreed to pray for Mr. Trump – for humility, for an open heart and mind, for wisdom and advisors who will provide trustworthy input into the decision-making process.

Paul writes to Timothy: “Here are my directions: Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them. Pray in this way for kings and all others who are in authority over us, or are in places of high responsibility, so that we can live in peace and quietness, spending our time in godly living and thinking much about the Lord. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” I Timothy 2:1-3 (TLB).

 

 

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HABITS – OUT WITH THE BAD, IN WITH THE GOOD

Did you know that 60% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail at keeping them? Yet people continue to make resolutions year after year, hoping this time “it” – whether it’s weight loss, exercising more, eating more healthily, drinking less, spending more time with the family, or something else – will work.

BUT … how about habits? We know it’s easier to develop habits than it is to stop them. Pastor Rene’s research revealed that the habits we develop – positive or negative – change neurological pathways in our brains. So how do we develop life-giving habits? Part of the answer is superseding negative patterns with positive ones that create new neuro routes in us.

One of my negative behaviors used to involve an addiction to Diet Coke. I felt regular cravings – for the flavor, and the bubbles … ahhh, the sweet bubbles. My husband periodically told me he would like me to stop drinking D.C., knowing the chemicals in the soda could be damaging. I’d stop – for a month, eight weeks – then I’d grab a Diet Coke again and go right back into the cycle of drinking one, or several, of these a day.

Sometime last year I determined to STOP. And with God’s help, I did! I’m now D.C.-free. And it feels good. But to change a habit, I couldn’t just focus on what I should NOT do. I needed to replace that old pathway with a new one. I have learned to love good, cold water!

Rene talked about the cue – in this case, thirst; the routine – drink a soda; and the reward – the sensation of bubbles cooling my throat.  I had to replace my routine by drinking, and growing to appreciate, refreshing water. My reward is a greater sense of well-being, along with quenched thirst. But I had to trust in God’s power to help me make this change for good. “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-b13)

While changing that habit may be a very small piece of God’s purpose in my life, by trusting Him with my this issue, I acknowledge my need for His power in every area of my life.

So what’s the next habit I want to change? Hmmm … you first.

 

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Wave, Upon Wave, Upon Wave

Happy New Year! What are your hopes, dreams, and goals for the coming year? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?

I learned awhile back that for me, resolutions aren’t helpful. They make me feel like a failure. I start out with all the good intentions I can muster, all the discipline and focus and planning to help me achieve my goal. Then something happens. I tilt out of my plan; I eat too much; I stop exercising; I miss days of Bible study. And I think, “Might as well quit. This isn’t going to work.”

Have you had that experience too? I don’t think I’m alone.

Don and I were in Carmel one gorgeous day last week. Brilliant sunshine sparkled on the water; fluffy white clouds hung from nothing above. Waves crashed on the beach, significantly bigger than we’d seen in quite a while, 10-15 feet high. Not only were the waves tall, they rumbled in one right after the other, sometimes four waves rolling in at one time. Beautiful. Powerful.

So, no resolutions for me this year. Instead, I want to focus on the memory of those 3 and 4 wave cycles at Carmel Beach. They remind me that God’s grace isn’t a one-time event. It is never ending, and is not dependent on how “good” I am, but on God’s character. And His grace rolls over me, wave after wave after wave. That’s my hope for this new year.

What’s yours? I’d love to hear it.

 

Thankfulness, Out of the Mouths of Babes

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  I Chronicles 16:34, NASB.

Ephesians 5:18-20 says “… let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual psalms among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   The New Living Translation.

I volunteered to teach preschoolers during our church’s Christmas program. We helped our 3 and 4-year olds make a nativity picture with stickers of the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men. The boys and girls slowly became comfortable with each other, and with us. Eric, who had a bruise on his forehead, pulled away quietly by himself. Sherry, a year or two older, was a bit bossy; there was adorable, sweet 3-year old Erin; and 4-year old twins Xavier and Justin, working hard on their pictures.

After making our crafts and reviewing our Bible verse, we walked to chapel for lesson time.

“Why do we celebrate Christmas?” asked the leader.

“It’s all about presents.”

“Well, not all … but God gave the best present when He gave us Jesus, and when we give presents we remember that best gift.”

Returning to our classroom, I handed out goldfish snacks and water. One of the boys piped up, “We didn’t pray!” Whoa, teacher!  “Right you are. Who’d like to thank God for our snack?” Several did, and then four-year Xavier began to pray.

“Thank you Lord for this wonderful food, and for Mom and Dad and for the sun and the stars and the moon–and more, and more, and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

This precious four-year old thought goldfish were “wonderful food”, and his parents and nature worthy of praise. And he recognized that however much he could thank God for, there was always more, and more, and more!

I want to have a heart of thanksgiving like Xavier’s. How often do I stop to thank God for the many good things He puts into my life, whether large or small–from running water to sunshine to a hug from a friend or a smile from a stranger when I’m feeling low.

Lord, let my attitude be more like Xavier’s. Help me to come to you as a child, in faith, appreciation and awareness of your goodness, which is so much greater than I can possibly acknowledge in my simple language. Thank you for loving me…and for more, and more, and more.

 

 

 

 

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O Come Emmanuel

qtq80-rNB6zW‘Tis the week before Christmas … and we’re done! Both Don’s and my families celebrated together a week ago, due to travel schedules and availability of various family members. And yet, we’re far from finished. Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” This, especially the four weeks preceding Christmas, is a season of anticipation.

Jesus-followers rejoice in the celebration of the coming of the Messiah, the Savior, the Prince of Peace. As we remember His first coming to earth, we rejoice that He is with us today. He is with and in His followers, guiding, directing, giving us hope–hope which we can then share with others who are hurting in a variety of ways.

The immediacy of television, social media, and the internet keep us constantly battered–earthquakes here, ongoing bombing and multiple orphaned children in Aleppo, car bombs in Istanbul. Not only do we hear news real-time; its immediacy makes us feel that we are involved in what is happening around the world. This feeling of intimacy with events is not real, but it does arouse fear in us. What’s next? When will another terrorist attack occur? Where will it all end?qtq80-L0GhQz

Oh, we need a Savior. Even with our Deliverer, we sometimes despair. The constant influx of negative news wears on our spirits. We can’t hide from it. Where today we have instant replays one after another, Jesus and His disciples walked from Jerusalem to Bethany, or Cana, or the Jordan River–walks that could take from a few hours to a couple of days. During those walks Jesus taught them along the way. And they could process the events of their day, which were also exceeding frightful.

I feel that in the busyness of American lives (some of our over-scheduling self-inflicted, no doubt) we have lost much of that time and opportunity to process. Instead, we move from crisis to crisis, bad news to more bad news.

But our Messiah, our Savior, has come!

“Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;healing-glory
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.”

          * Lyrics by Chris Tomlin

I often feel the need to be released from my fears and sins, to find rest in my God. So I will never be ‘done’ with Christmas. How about you?

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