Saturday, December 3, 2016

Getting Ready/Being Prepared

These past few months we have been busy getting ready to move.  Drawers and cabinets have been gone through and cleaned out, furniture and items we will not need or have room for have been given away, and we have been packing.  Even some décor has found another home.  The more we can do now, the easier and more productive the moving process will be.
Lists of address changes, insurance policies, and other important items have been written on the growing “Things to Do” list.  It has been interesting to see which items can wait until later versus the ones that need priority attention now.
In the meantime, Chad, Lori, and their children have been getting ready to welcome baby number four to their family.  The Christmas tree and decorations went up the first weekend in November because that was when Daddy had time.  Newborn clothes and other items are washed and ready.  The bed is set up.  For months, the kids have been learning and practicing new skills in order to help each other when their brother or sister arrives.  And Larry and I are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Especially now with all the hustle and bustle, busy schedule, preparing to move, and welcoming a grandchild, the importance of intentionally getting ready and being prepared for Christmas needs to be a priority.  The Advent Season, along with Advent calendars and Bible readings, help focus on the reason for the celebration of this season.  When that is kept in perspective, the other preparations will find their proper place.  In the New Testament, Timothy and Peter remind us of the importance of always being prepared, no matter what the season.   And I’m finding that it’s easier to be prepared when I stay ready.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33
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
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
I Peter 3:15

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"GST"



Last year, during the holidays, we began considering moving to a one story house.  Larry felt like I would be able to enjoy the whole house rather than waiting for him to be home whenever I wanted or needed to go upstairs.  We both love our home, neighbors, and neighborhood so it was not a decision we wanted to make lightly.  We talked and prayed for wisdom about the timing and decided to put our house on the market it March.  One of my prayers all along was that I wanted it to be the house that God wanted us to have and that we would know, without a doubt, that it was His provision and in His timing.   I did mention to Larry that since we were trying to sell so early in the year that we wouldn’t get to enjoy another crop of lemons from our tree.  Although we have had the lemon tree for seven years, last year was the first time it produced.

Larry and I made the commitment that we would sell our home before purchasing another one.  That meant that the timing would need to work out for us to sell and buy in a short span of time.  These 8 months we have operated on what our pastor, Duane Brooks, refers to as God’s Standard Time (GST.)  We had one contract that fell through, but were still at peace waiting for God’s perfect timing and provision.  In the meantime, we have been looking at houses off and on to see what we really wanted and where we wanted to locate.  One by one, the houses were quickly bought.  Two months ago on a Saturday, we looked at a home that we both really liked.  Our agent was honest with us and told us that it would probably be on the market less than a week.  As we were leaving, I knew she was right about someone purchasing it quickly.  By Monday there was a bidding war and the house was sold.  Since we had still not sold our home, we did not make an offer.  We found other homes, but still liked that one best for its looks, proximity to the freeway, and the feel of home.

Towards the end of October, our agent suggested us taking the house off the market on November 15th.  There was peace in the decision since we still enjoy living here and were willing to trust God’s timing to pursue moving.  Then November arrived.  On Monday morning, Larry and I both spent time praying about the house, knowing we had just 2 weeks left with it on the market.  Larry had mentioned a price he would be content with if we could sell it for that amount.  Our desire was to do God’s Will.  We just needed to know what it was.  Unbeknownst to us, that morning a man had delivered some papers to our next door neighbor and saw that our house was for sale.  He inquired about the house and Frank told him he had been in our home and it was a great house.  That afternoon I received a text that someone wanted to see the house that evening.  Larry and I left to run a few errands and then went to Starbucks to wait and visit while the people looked at the house.  We soon received a phone call from our agent saying the client’s agent called.  The man wanted the house and made an offer.  It was $3,000.00 more than Larry had mentioned that morning when he prayed and the exact amount of the later appraisal of the house!

We left Starbucks and decided to drive around the neighborhood we hoped to live in to see if any other houses had recently gone on the market.  As we drove past the original house we had really liked, it had a “Coming Soon” sign on it.  The previous bidder had backed out of the contract and it was going back on the market!!!  We called our agent and she drew up a contract to submit as soon as it was back on the market.  In the meantime, a friend encouraged me to write a letter to the owner of the house to deliver with the contract.  Our agent decided to submit the contract and letter early and the owner accepted our bid before placing the house back on the market.  In one week’s time, God provided a buyer for our house, an acceptance for a contract on a house that was not yet on the market…a house that was not available 8 months ago when we first began looking.  Knowing that there would have again been a bidding war on the house, which we could not have participated, we believe and accept this as God’s generous provision.

Oh to have the faith, trust, and patience to live on God’s Standard Time for every area of my life.  And for the record, we are the recipients of another bountiful harvest of lemons on the tree.   As we enjoy and share them, we will also leave some fruit on the tree as a welcome gift for the new family that will live here.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Expressing Thanks



“Hold tight to giving thanks... if you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength.”
Ann Voscamp


November signals a conscious effort to encourage us to give and express thanks.  Scott and Abby are in the process of teaching their children the importance of expressing their thanks to God as well as others.

On Tuesday evening, we met Abby and the kids at the park.  It was a beautiful clear, cool evening and Mary and Daniel played nonstop.  Afterwards we went out to eat.  When it was time to head home the kids thanked us for taking them to dinner and gave goodbye hugs.  Daniel had already given me a hug, but returned for another one.  On his way, he stopped and gave my walker a big hug and pat, too.  One of the blessings of having a Grandmom with MS is that you grow up playing with, pushing, and storing your treasures in the basket of her walker.  What a great visual of not only being thankful, but also expressing it with actions.

I am in the process of learning that when I express my gratitude with words and/or actions, it seems to take my thankfulness to a new level of appreciation.  I once read, “What if you woke up only with the things you thanked God for yesterday?”  It seems like November doesn’t have nearly enough days for us to express all of our thanks.  Hopefully, the more we practice “Thanks giving” the more it will spill over into “Thanks living” all year round.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100:4

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 69:30

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Psalm 106:1 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Questions to Ponder



Before, during, and after the election, words have had a powerful effect on emotions, behavior, responses, and our well being.  Some words were spoken in truth and love while others stirred up anger and retaliation.  Neither side was exempt from conflict.  Once words were vocalized, they were up for interpretation and repetition.

The story is told of a man wanting to share some news with Socrates.  As he began talking, Socrates stopped and asked the man if it passed the 3 sieves test.
            Is it true?
            Is it good?
            Is it necessary?
Unless those three questions were answered affirmatively, the dialogue was halted.

Ernie Johnson recently commented that even though he knew his third party candidate would not win, he could not in good conscience vote for either major party candidate.  After the election he responded:  “I’m hopeful. I watched the video today on CNN of what was going on at the White House with Donald Trump and President Obama. I was hopeful and I was encouraged that there will be a difference between the President Trump and the campaigning Trump. And I’m with these guys, we have to give him a chance. But here’s the deal, I just hope he’s all in … in fixing the wounds in this country and the divides that separate this country. And I want to be part of that too. And for me to [be] part of it, I have to look in the mirror and say,
‘How am I going to be a better man?
How am I going to be a better neighbor?
How am I going to be a better citizen?
How am I going to be a better American?
How can I be a fountain and not a drain?'”

Abraham Lincoln stated:  Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”

Since I, too, want to do my part to be on God’s side, I also need to be willing to ask and respond to: 
How can I be a better follower of Christ in my words, thoughts, actions, reactions, and deeds?

We often ask God to bless America.  May we also be willing to ask:
How can we bless and honor God?

Paulo Cuelho reminds us, “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” 

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Psalm 143:8

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
Titus 3:1-2

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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Through the Fog



Sunday morning we drove through dense fog on our way to church.  Larry turned the car lights on, but it was still difficult to see much distance in front of the car.  Even the familiar surroundings were not clearly visible.  As we passed the soccer fields, there were two games in progress.  You could not see from one end of the field to the far goal.  There was not much traffic, but cars were still traveling at a slower speed than usual.  The fog began lifting a little the closer we got to the church.

The morning’s fog was a reminder that there are times in life when things other than the weather are foggy and unclear.  Some of the same lessons apply.

* It’s good to have light to guide you when things are dark, foggy, or unclear.
* Even in familiarity, there are times that it is good to slow down and assess all your surroundings.
* When it’s hard to see and discern the truth it’s good to have a team to help guide you.
* It’s helpful to have more than one set of eyes to help keep you on the right path.
* Extra effort is usually required.
* No matter what the circumstance or condition, it’s best to keep our eyes on Jesus to guide us through the “fog.”

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
I Corinthians 13:12 (The Message)