Togetherness

Two weeks until Super Bowl Sunday … and yesterday our 49’ers fought their way into the SB game. Some of you may be delighted that KC is the other team entering the fray for February 2nd.

It was an exciting day, with my mother, brother and sister-in-law and one of their sons’ families here.

As we watched and cheered and sidelined the plays, we also visited. I enjoyed some conversation with Mom and saw her reading to her great-granddaughter on the couch.

Kyle, Don and I enjoyed time together before the others arrived. Sheila, Heather and I talked about how life might change for Heather once her Cadence starts kindergarten this Fall, and some of what Don and I have been discussing regarding priorities.

I am grateful for events that bring family and friends together … whether it’s a bi-weekly Family Night, as we generally celebrate with those of our family who are still in the area; a football game, or Super Bowl; or a special holiday; or even when someone is ill and others draw alongside to comfort, encourage and help. And I recognize that in our world we have many opportunities for such gatherings to which individuals in other countries and cultures may not be privy.

God has given us the family as a wonderful system of support, encouragement, accountability, training and love. Because of evil in the world, the family often breaks down into abuse, dysfunction, greed. But when family members love and care for one another, the relationships are a tremendous gift.

And there’s another Family God has given us.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.

I John 1:1-3

Amazing to think that when we trust Christ we are called children of God, and are therefore brothers and sisters with each other. This family, too, can become dysfunctional. Selfishness, greed, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, all enter at times. Despite the forgiveness and grace of God, we are still sinful persons in process of becoming like Christ. And we are challenged to forgive and receive forgiveness, to restore relationships because of God’s great love and sacrifice for us. To be freed of the guilt of sin, the shame of hurtful actions, is an amazing gift.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I enjoyed an overnight get-together with six delightful women with whom I was in a Bible study for several years. Half of the group has moved away from our area, so this was a rich and fun time to be together. We laughed and commented on fashions and interactions as we watched the Downton Abbey movie; as five of us converged on one bed Thursday morning to chat; and as we opened our hearts to share a rich time of sharing and praying for each other. Another wonderful gift!

So today I’m thankful for both my families–the relations by blood and by marriage, and those I received by entering the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that I will be willing to ask for, and to give, forgive-ness in both; and to humbly receive forgiveness offered in love. And that I will rejoice in any opportunity to be with either or both families for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and loving each other.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

What’s a special tradition you celebrate with family or friends?

LEAN

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

The game was close, the players intense. Suddenly a Viking went down, the ball spiraling out of his hands. A Saint picked it up and, in the melee around the player on the ground, ran a clean run into the end zone for a TD! Wow, no obstacles in his way. He grabbed the opportunity and ran with it, literally!

That TD was taken away from the Saints because the knee of the Viking who initially carried the ball was on the ground before the ball left his hands, taking it out of play.

Nevertheless, I was impressed with the Saint who took advantage of the opportunity at hand.

How often do we take advantage of such opportunities to live or share our faith? When a ball is fumbled, do we grab it and run with it, regardless of the outcome?

And what about when I’m the one doing the fumbling? Irritable, moody, feeling overwhelmed with the day to day tasks of life? Do I look for ways to work through those feelings or allow them to overtake and overrun me?

Two of my grandnephews, one ‘leaning’ on the other – a picture of how I’ve felt this week!

In my last post I wrote about looking for my word for the year. I thought it might be GAZE – to gaze on my God and take in His presence, His peace, His character. I’ve tweaked it a bit, to LEAN. I choose to lean on, and into, Jesus in the ups and downs and sleepless nights and writing pressures and joys and challenges that make up the patterns of my life. So if you see me grouchy, out of sorts, or needing encouragement, feel free to remind me to LEAN.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

Resolutions?

Someone said yesterday, “If you never make a resolution, you won’t break it.” True … so what do you do for New Year’s?

Make resolutions? (and if you do, how long do they last?)

Choose a scripture, or a word, for the year? (Like “courage,” “wait,” “rest,” or “kind.”)

I haven’t made specific resolutions in years, knowing they are often made on a whim–lose weight, spend more time with God, travel more, say yes to less–and don’t have the spiritual or emotional muscle to continue as real goals or objectives that are attainable and measurable.

But this year I’m thinking of choosing a word.

Praying, listening for what that word might be. Where do I need to focus? What word might God put on my heart to hold my attention?

I love what I read in Sarah Young’s JESUS TODAY:

Gaze at Me; glance at problems–this is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world…

…Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite Him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also counter-cultural…Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me–your constant Companion.”

Jesus Today, p. 58

Maybe “Gaze” will be my word. Not sure yet. But I need to do this in deeper ways as I tend to get frustrated easily, discouraged readily. I need to gaze at Jesus, rely on Him in new ways, allow His Spirit to work through me. I’ll keep you posted.

Do you have a word for the year? Would you share it with me?

Blessings!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2019 has been a year of contrasts, from the horrific fires and losses in California to the joy of seeing massive, snow-bathed peaks of the Canadian Rockies. From turmoil within our government, from persecution of people of faith around the world, to the joy of family love and care.

We’ve experienced the joys of first birthdays of a great grandson and a grandnephew, graduations, visits with family and friends.

We’ve experienced loss and concern for loved ones. My ninety-year old aunt fell and is in hospital in Canada–how I wish I could visit her! And I just got a message that my sister-in-law passed away.

We’ve visited family and friends across the country and traveled through the Canadian Rockies, built part of a school in Mexico, worked with third grade children in Kids’ Club, and enjoyed relaxation at the beach. I delighted in a girlfriends’ weekend as well as a meaningful reunion with women I hadn’t seen in 38 years.

Beautiful Botanical Gardens in Virginia
Columbia Ice Fields, British Columbia, Canada

We’ve had the privilege of having Mom with us for another Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite her significant loss of hearing and reduced mobility.

Mom with my brother Arnold

I’ve struggled with weight, losing, then regaining some (not all, thankfully!). My Don has remained strong and healthy although he tires more easily than before.

Through it all, God has been faithful to His promise never to leave nor forsake us; and to give us the hope of heaven, as well as a future while we are still on this earth.

“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

He has promised to finish the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6) and so, even when I stumble or fall, I am grateful for this assurance. I am His, now and for eternity.

I’m grateful for you who read and encourage me in my musings, for the privilege of writing, for the research that makes me more and more thankful for God’s faithfulness to my family through several generations as my grandfather took his family, including my father, out of the Ukraine at the end of the Bolshevik Revolution. It was 1929, and about 15,000 Mennonites (conscientious objectors and people of faith, both anathema to the Communist machine) waited in Moscow, praying for exit visas to leave the country and retain their freedom of conscience. Of those, about 5,000, including Dad’s family, were granted visas. The rest? Sent back to their villages, executed, sent to labor camps in Siberia, families broken and separated, never to hear from or see each other again in this life.

So my wish for you is a healthy, meaningful, productive year in 2020, one in which you enjoy and rely on the promises of God; and that you and I will both deepen our walk with Him.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 1:6

Happy New Year! God bless us, every one!

No Alternate Plan

Paigey, our feisty little beauty

Don and I went out of town for two days this weekend, and I had arranged for a local woman to dog-sit here at the house. However, I had left several phone messages in the past three days and hadn’t received a call back. It was noon on the day before we were to leave.

I needed to find an alternative. I called another woman who did a great job taking care of Paige for a day recently. Thankfully, she was available and delighted to have our little girl overnight. I’m thankful my alternate was available and willing!

But when Jesus came to earth, the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, God provided one way to know Him. He didn’t say, “My Son gave his life for you. Grace is freely available, along with all the blessings of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life — but if you want to find me in another way — by being as good as you can, acting loving to those around you, being philanthropic, or following some other religious teacher, that’s ok. Alternatives are good.”

Instead, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father, God, and a relationship with Him is freely available to all who receive it. While I might try my best to live a righteous life, I’ll never meet God’s standard of holiness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment I deserve for sin– whether that’s murder or lying or cheating or holding onto selfishness or thinking I’m better than others –on Himself and in its place, give me His righteousness, His substitutionary atonement for my sin.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. ”
John 10:10b

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17, ESV

So this Christmas, think about whether you are trying to know God by an alternate route, or by the means He provided through His Son, Jesus.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

I John 5:12, NIV

May you have a joy-filled Christmas.