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Twinkle Lights

One of my favorite things to do at Christmastime is to sit with all the lights off in the living room except the Christmas tree. It’s a great time to relax and unwind, or in the case of this morning, to wake up gently with the warm glow of colorful lights. It’s also a time to remember. Our tree is filled with ornaments with a story. Some Mom has had since childhood, others acquired through the years at places we’ve visited or to remember a benchmark of our lives. The memories bring to mind all I have for which to be thankful, and also remind me to pray for those I love, or those I may not even know who are not enjoying the beauty I am this season.

This year our tree has twinkle lights. The lights dance through the tree, adding character and dimension. As I study the movement of the lights I realize that they are really just blinking lights scattered throughout the tree, causing a whimsical effect that is rather mesmerizing. Since each light goes out at a different time the tree is never dark and there isn’t an absence of light. In fact, my attention is drawn more to the tree than other years because of the unique pattern.

As I pondered the tree this morning I thought about how God calls us to be like these twinkle lights in a couple different ways. First, we are called to be God’s light to a world so filled with darkness. Jesus directs us to this in Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14 & 16 (NIV)

How can we be that light? By allowing God’s love and goodness to shine through us. A smile to a stranger, a kind word for a store clerk or a small gesture of assistance or concern to someone you encounter shines a light in the darkness of the world. So often people are concerned with only themselves and in a hurry to get to where they are going or move on to the next agenda item that acts of kindness sometimes get pushed aside. But these acts are never overlooked by those who receive them. Think of a time someone smiled at you when you were navigating your way through a busy store, or allowed you to have a prime parking spot they could have taken. How did that affect the rest of your day? Similarly, not only will the light you shine impact the recipient in the moment, but often it will provide a warm glow for some time.

The other lesson I got from the twinkle lights this morning is the importance of preferring others. If each of the twinkle lights didn’t stop shining for a moment the tree would have a different look to it, and wouldn’t draw my eye to them the same way.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Similarly, when we step aside, keep our mouths shut and encourage others to shine in the ways they are gifted, it allows God to be more effective in His work. This scripture is not suggesting that we shrink back and belittle our own abilities, but to not always need to be the center of attention or have things done our way. God has created us to work together and He is pleased when we combine our gifts with others to reach more people with the message of His love and salvation. Sometimes God even has a blessing in store from us through someone that will be missed if we don’t let them shine.

We are so close to Christmas, and the days often get more rushed and we may become less thoughtful of others and more centered on ourselves. Let’s remember the lessons from the twinkle lights as we encounter others through the next few days. Be God’s light, and allow others to shine theirs as well.

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

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God’s Strange Ways

Have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Have circumstances come about that don’t make sense to you from an earthly perspective? I know I’ve had times when I just don’t understand what God might be up to in my life.


This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1: 18-21

Imagine being Joseph amidst the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. His quiet carpenter life was interrupted by an angelic visitor. His plans for marriage were turned upside down and he found himself at a crossroads – believe the angel and accept God’s mission, thrusting his life into an unknown future, or reject the angelic message and move on  with his quiet life. We spend much time considering Mary’s role in the birth, and rightly so, but do we consider that Joseph was also chosen? He had the role of raising, protecting, and educating Jesus. Remember, Jesus was fully man, so he needed the direction of an earthly father.

The song by 4Him, A Strange Way to Save the World gives us an imagined glimpse into Joseph’s thoughts. He had spent 9 months facing questions and side-glances by his neighbors and friends. Even his family probably thought he was crazy for choosing to take Mary as his wife despite the circumstances. He must have wondered, “why me?” a hundred times through those months, but I think perhaps that question developed from a whining tone to an astonished sense that he was chosen above other men he may have felt were more deserving. And then, in a stable in Bethlehem, a long way from home Joseph looks down at this child – God’s Son and wonders again, “why”? What a responsibility! Was he up to the task?

Are you at a place in life where you are asking, “why me” this Christmas? Maybe your question has a whining tone to it. You’re in a place you don’t want to be, especially at this time of celebration, and you can’t imagine how God could have something good planned through your current circumstances.

Perhaps your “why me” comes from a place of believing God is working in your life but not picturing how it will all come together. Maybe you are in the midst of a contemplative Christmas, wondering what the new year will hold. You don’t really believe that God can use you for something important…or you don’t realize that just by serving Him faithfully you are doing important things.

The Christmas story is a beautiful story of God using ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary purpose. Joseph is not mentioned again in Scripture after Jesus’ childhood, but that doesn’t mean he was not still used by the Lord. God’s plan for saving the world was certainly strange from an earthly perspective, but that seems to be the way He works.


For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25.

If this Christmas finds you contemplative or asking “why me?” I hope you will choose to trust God in the midst of it. Press in closer to Him and accept that God’s plan for your life might not make sense to you He wants to use you for important purposes if you allow His hand to guide you.

Blessings to you as you celebrate this Christmas!
Paula

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Magnificat

The Magnificat is taken directly from Luke 1:46-47. It is a powerful expression of a young woman who has put her full trust in the Lord and His plans for her.

As I reflect on the lyrics of the Magnificat I can’t help but wonder at the precious state of Mary’s heart and desire that for myself.

It is remarkable to me that this young woman whose life had just been turned upside down would have an attitude of praise and openness to whatever God willed in her life. She was facing several months of people not understanding what was going on in her life and inside her body. Certainly some would not believe that she was still pure and the child growing within her was from the Holy Spirit – a gift, not a shame.

In spite of whatever Mary’s external circumstances were her heart was filled with joy and gratitude. We don’t see Mary taking credit for being good enough to be the mother of Jesus but rather a humble spirit and wonder that Her Lord would choose her for His remarkable plan. And she gave all the glory to Him.

Here is a link to one of the most beautiful renditions I have heard of this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TEL_7TS5FE

Reading these lyrics and listening to the song reminds me I also have much for which to glorify the Lord. He has also looked on me with kindness and mercy and has done great things for me. Too often I forget to give Him the glory for who I am and who He is creating me to be.

I also have been reflecting on whether or not I allow God to put His Spirit inside me to use me as He desires. Am I open as Mary was to carry out His plan for me or do I drag my feet, ignore His voice or shrink back from fear?

How about you?

God’s plans for us are not always grandiose but they are always important. Whether it’s taking the time to listen to someone who needs to talk, lending a hand to someone as they carry packages or dropping a note in the mail or sending an e-mail to let someone know you are thinking of them and praying for them, little things can make a difference and may be just the touch from God someone needed.

And like Mary, God may have something bigger planned for your life. Are you open to Him using you to lead others to Christ, to go to the mission field, lead a bible study or write a book? Don’t let your opinion of yourself and your abilities hinder what the Lord desires to do through you.

My greatest desire this morning is to keep the attitude of Mary’s Song in my heart and carry it in my spirit not only throughout today but each day of the coming year.

“For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness.”

“And Holy…Holy…Holy is His Name.”

Praying for blessings and peace in your life this Christmastime. 

Paula

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Thankful for What I Don’t Have…

It’s early Thanksgiving morning and as I sit here with a cup of coffee in my hand and a sweet dog at my feet I can’t help but reflect. I have so much for which to be thankful. As I count my blessings I am also reminded of things I don’t have, and how I forget to count those things as blessings as well.

For example, I don’t have to wonder what I will be eating for Thanksgiving dinner. Our kitchen is filled with a turkey waiting to be roasted, potatoes to be peeled, bread for stuffing, and an abundance of other delicious dishes on the way with loved ones. The table is set (mostly) and ready for the family who will gather in a few hours.  I remember that many will not have this abundance of food, and may not have enough to eat today. I am richly blessed to not have to wonder what I will eat today.

I don’t begin today wondering if this is the last time I will have a loved one with me for Thanksgiving. I have dear friends who are walking through a time like this, with a medical diagnosis that, short of a miracle, will mean they will soon lose one they love. Others have the fresh pain of recently losing a loved one, and the ache of the first Thanksgiving without that person runs deep. I remember Thanksgivings when I was in the place my friends are in this year and pray for them, remembering to treasure the time I have with those I love as we don’t know what tomorrow brings.

As daylight comes I watch the snow flurries in the cold morning and realize how blessed I am to have awakened in a warm house and that, short of making the entry safe for others I don’t have to go out in the 12 degree weather today. More poignantly I don’t have to live outside in this weather as many do. I think of those who have lost their homes, earthly possessions, and even family members in the fires of California and other recent natural disasters and pray that by next year they will have homes in which to begin new traditions.

Each of our lives are marked with challenges and seasons of struggle and it can be difficult some days to find things for which we are thankful. If you are going through one of these seasons I pray that you will reach out to others to support you through these times. If you are in a season of peace, reach out to someone who is struggling and share that peace with them and support them however you are able.


I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.                                                  Ephesians 3:16-19

Above all, this Thanksgiving I pray that you know the blessing of the God who loves us so deeply and the security that He will never leave us, whether in times of plenty or times of hardship.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends!


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God’s Handiwork

For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

 

Do you believe this? God’s handiwork!

When a child brings you a picture they have drawn or colored for you (their handiwork), what do you do with it? Most of us usually hang it up—on the fridge, in our office, or somewhere else that others can see it. The child is so proud of what they’ve created and it is easy to catch their excitement!

God feels the same way about what He has created! Even more, we have been created for more than to be hung on a fridge. Just as a child puts careful thought into what he or she creates for someone, God put careful thought into each of our lives even before we were created!

God created each of us with strengths and weaknesses, knowing both would be used to form us into the person He wants us to be. Unlike a child’s drawing, God created us for more than looking pretty or hanging out alone. We were created to do good works, serving others with our strengths and relying on others to help us in our weaknesses. God’s perfect plan for us is to work together to do His work, encourage others, to find the purpose for which God created them, and to further His kingdom.

My friends, just as artwork from a child is carefully created to bring joy and brighten the day of those who see it, you are a creation of the God of the universe! You were chosen by Him to do great things and bring joy to Him and others today and every day.

be blessed today!
Paula

 

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Ice Cream Parlor Ponderings

Sitting inside my air-conditioned house this afternoon I watched the flash of a thunderstorm in the distance yet promptly declared I was going down the road to get ice cream. After all, it is the unofficial last day of Summer so ice cream was a necessity! Pulling into the driveway I noticed the lines were long and I would be left outside of the wooden awning that would provide protection from the raindrops but I pressed onward. Crossing the parking lot to the front of the ice cream shop I reached the line as the thunderstorm drew even closer and I knew I had waited too long. But I was already there, so I bravely continued my quest. After all…ice cream.

I joined a line and glanced around. There was an eclectic group of people awaiting their cool treats; very old to very young, varying tallnesses and thicknesses, dark hair, light hair, curly and straight. Some had piercings, some had tattoos, some were wearing funny hats. There were even a couple of dogs tagging along. Although we were all different, we had one thing in common. Ice cream.

It wasn’t long before the heavens let loose and buckets of cool, refreshing rain came pouring from the sky. We all huddled a little closer under cover, and as we awaited our turn at the window we seemed to be more comfortable visiting than we were before. We struck up conversations about the storm, the dog who was scared of the storm, and the little girl who took the long way around from the inside of the shop outside for ice cream.

As we each received our treats no one seemed in a hurry to get to their cars and go our separate ways. Well, there was that downpour, and the thunder, and lightning that was getting pretty close. So we all hung around, eating our ice cream and chatting. It didn’t matter where we were from, who we were with, or what ice cream flavor was our favorite. We all had one thing in common, the storm…well, and ice cream.

It wasn’t long before long the rain let up and I took off my shoes and splashed across the parking lot to my car. As I climbed in and drove the 1/2 mile home, I wondered to myself why tonight’s adventure couldn’t be repeated more often, even without the ice cream? Why don’t we visit more, laugh more, and find more things in common with each other? After all, we each have joys, we all have struggles, all experience pain….and we all need Jesus. Why do I allow perceived differences to hold me back?

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.         2 Timothy 4:2

Why don’t I look more at what I have in common with others than what makes me (or them) different? Why am I self-conscious, wondering what they will think instead of thinking about the need they may have that Jesus can meet? Why does it take ice cream and thunderstorms to push me out of my comfort zone? I’m going to work on those answers, and try to find solutions. Maybe I can begin by asking their favorite flavor of ice cream.

My dad always declined ice cream in the Winter, declaring it was out of season. I guess when we share Jesus with others we risk them declining what He has to offer as well. We may need to be prepared to continue loving them, opening our lives to them and sharing Jesus with them for a long time before they accept. The risk should not keep us quiet.

Will you join me in sharing Jesus more with others this week? Ice cream may or may not go out of season, but I know beyond a doubt the love of Jesus doesn’t and we shouldn’t act as though it does.

Paula

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Strongholds

What comes to mind when you think of a stronghold? No, it’s not someone who is holding your arm too tightly, but it does usually come with a negative connotation. It always has for me too…until recently.

The only Scriptures I remember reading or hearing about strongholds through the years are those where we are reminded, especially in the New Testament, of strongholds that belong to the devil.

When I searched for the dictionary’s definition of a stronghold I found “a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.”  Unfortunately, these beliefs aren’t always truthful or positive! I think most of us have a negative thought or habit (or two) that we repeatedly fight. For me they are usually a pattern in my mind reminding me of my weaknesses and taunting me that I will never overcome certain struggles.

The devil is all over these types of negative strongholds! He would have us believe we are weak and defenseless against the struggles of this world. Sometimes it certainly feels that way!

What the devil is hoping we will forget is that when we have the Holy Spirit we have all the power we need to demolish these strongholds!

For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.                                                                    2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The good news, my friends, is that we are not in this fight alone! When we know Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord we have the Holy Spirit’s power inside of us! We only need to unleash it in the battle for our minds!

Destroying House

I know for me some days it’s easier to remember to use this demolition power than others, but whether we use it or not, it is ALWAYS there at our disposal!

I mentioned earlier that these days strongholds don’t always come with a negative connotation for me. I’ve been dwelling in the Psalms a lot lately during my quiet times and keep seeing strongholds mentioned, especially by David. As I dug around I learned another definition of stronghold; “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” David found and created these strongholds when he was running for his life from King Saul. He was protected in these places by those who fought for and with him and found rest and solace when he was there.

We have it even easier than for David as we don’t have to build our own strongholds to find protection from our enemy! The Lord is our stronghold, and the Holy Spirit fights for and with us! He is waiting for us to stop fighting alone and find refuge in His stronghold.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
                                                        Psalm 9: 9-10

Once we have taken refuge in the stronghold of the Lord, if we are willing, we will find others who are searching for sanctuary themselves. Together we can bandage each others’ wounds, prop each other up, feed each other with the nourishment of God’s promises and stand together, often on our knees.

Don’t fight this battle alone! Remember the strength available to you through the Holy Spirit, and be vulnerable enough to let God use your experiences to strengthen others for the fight. We are called to fight, but we are not called to fight a solitary battle.

Now go out there and do some demolition with the Lord!!
Paula