Saturday, December 9, 2017

Rebuilding Homes and Lives

Family and friends continue in the process of restoring their homes after the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.  While some are beginning to return to their homes, most are still finalizing contractors, waiting for permits, picking out flooring, appliances, paint, and continuing in the process.  Just like homes being made new as they are rebuilt, people are in need of the same.  These past months I have noted similarities in the process.

Some lessons on making new:
* Getting rid of the old can sometimes be painful, leaving one feeling exposed, raw.
* One must willingly release the old in order to make room for the new.
* It’s important to rebuild on a strong foundation.
* When the work is not completed correctly, it must be stripped away and redone.
* It’s important to pay attention to detail.
* Stay the course, keeping the goals constantly in front of you.
* Patience is a virtue.
* It’s worth seeking out people with experience and knowledge to help with questions and decisions.
* There’s no room for shortcuts when you want homes and lives to be right.
* Trials and destruction can result in new and improved.
* When you give your word, make it count.
* Even though it can be difficult, waiting and timing can make a difference in the outcome.
* Growth, change, and rebuilding don’t happen overnight.
* It’s a blessing to have others share, support, encourage, and hold you accountable along the way.
* Persevere.
* Never lose heart or give up.
* Always hope.
* Seek God and make Him your priority.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Romans 6:4

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
I Peter 1:3

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Colossians 3:9-10

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Gifts from the Heart

Gifts from the heart require time, effort, love, thoughts, and action put into practice.  Sometimes monetary sacrifices are also part of the present.  Such stories and examples inspire, motivate, challenge, and encourage me to want to do likewise.

Our son Brad and his wife went to Tennessee to visit Melinda’s sister and family for Thanksgiving.  Upon arriving at their home, their 4 year old niece proudly showed them a figurine of a dog that she had painted.  When inquiring about the dog, Lindsley said that she had painted it to give to Melinda.  Being so touched by the gift, Melinda named the dog “Thankful,” since it was given to her during the Thanksgiving holidays.  Now it is displayed in their home as a constant reminder of how thankful she is for her Nashville family and a niece that gave such a thoughtful gift of love from her heart.

Our niece, Sarah, works at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, Hawaii.  Since it is busy all year round, and due to expense, she does not get to come home very often.  Even though she was able to keep up with family by phone, texts, and pictures during Hurricane Harvey, it was still hard for Sarah to be away during the storm, especially since her parents’ home flooded.  Without anyone knowing, Sarah arrived in town in the wee hours of this past Sunday morning, spent the night at a hotel, and called her brother to pick her up on his way to church.  They went to church and waited to greet family in the foyer as they were on their way to worship.  Since 15 of our family go to South Main Baptist Church in Pasadena, there was quite a surprise and joyous reunion.  After Hurricane Harvey, my sister, Micki, and her husband, Mark, had friends and family that helped take out the flooring and sheetrock, throw out things that were ruined, and sanitize their home.  Then they waited for the walls and floor to dry.  Now the rebuilding is starting.  They have replaced the insulation and sheetrock, floated and taped the walls and are still in the process of having floors installed, for the second time, and start painting.  They are patiently waiting for their home to come back together and are still in the process of trying to decide the right colors to paint the walls and cabinets.  God has gifted Sarah with an amazing artistic eye for decorating and color.  While here, she has helped finalize colors, pick the paint, and begun painting walls and cabinets.  On her “vacation” Sarah has painted the living room, dining room, entry way, and the lower cabinets in the kitchen.  She has even wrapped Christmas gifts!  Sarah and Kevin, my nephew, also surprised my sister and brother-in-law by replacing their outside Christmas lights and decorating the front of the house and yard.  They also put up a small tree and Christmas décor upstairs.  Sarah and Kevin’s gifts of the heart have added much joy, hope, encouragement, enthusiasm, and happiness to the process.  Since another sister and brother-in-law are very involved with “A South Main Bethlehem,” a live nativity and scenes of Bethlehem at church, Sarah beautifully decorated the inside of their home with their Christmas decorations.  That was another greatly appreciated and treasured gift of the heart in this already very busy season.  

As we’ve unpacked and put up our Christmas decorations, I’ve been reminded of other sacrificial gifts from the heart.  My mother’s youngest sister, the last of her three siblings, passed away this fall.  Aunt Ann was 12 years old when I was born, so she has always been a significant part of my growing up memories.  Aunt Ann lived in California.  She faithfully called on birthdays, holidays, or any time she heard news about events that might be of concern to us in Houston. As she aged, Aunt Ann developed arthritis in her hands, but she still made and sent homemade Christmas ornaments through the years.  I treasure the ornaments and two nativities she made for me, especially knowing that sore, tired fingers lovingly made every stitch in them.  

 And God has blessed each of us with the ultimate best gift from the heart, His one and only son, Jesus, who gave His life as the sacrifice for our sins.  The acceptance of His gift offers us salvation and a relationship with Him for eternity.  Since we have been so richly blessed, may we, too, be generous givers from the heart during this Christmastime and year round.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Acts 20:35

But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:7

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Making Time Count

Each day gifts us with 24 hours/1440 minutes/86,400 seconds; no more, no less.  Whatever is not used cannot be carried over to another day, thus the importance of using time wisely.  The Thanksgiving holidays offered opportunities to intentionally take advantage of being purposeful about how I spent my time.

As the Christmas Season approaches, making time count can offer its challenges.  Some important reminders to ponder and act upon:

 * There may be times I need to forego the good so I have the time and energy to pursue the best.
* Sometimes it’s good to stop and sit so you can enjoy, wave to and cheer on the ones in the parade as they march by.
* Love takes time.
* Will what I choose to do or not do make a difference in 5 years?
* Time may need to be sacrificed in order to do what’s best for others.
* Take and make time to gift others with a kind word of gratitude and appreciation.
* Giving and spending time are expressions of love.
* Since I have no guarantee of the number of days I have on earth, I want the ones I do have to make a difference.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:12-14, 17

Saturday, November 18, 2017

From a Grateful Heart

From my earliest days, I remember being expected to express thanks for a kindness, gift, or help.  We were taught that words of gratitude were to be said as well as written.  That was a lesson that was important enough to also pass down to our sons and now during these days to our grandchildren.

At home and at church we were also taught the importance of expressing gratitude to God.  The story of Jesus and the ten lepers, in Luke 17:11-19, made quite an impression on me at an early age.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The busyness of the holiday season is already upon us.  What a great reminder to slow down, stop, and take the time to express gratitude to God for his love, presence, provision, and care.  It’s also a great time to express appreciation, especially for the people who perform the everyday tasks that we sometimes take for granted.  Oh that our words would be a gift of encouragement and blessing during these days and in the year to come.  May our thanks living become so much a part of us that it doesn’t take November or a holiday to remind us to express our appreciation from a grateful heart.    

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:11, 18

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

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 9:1

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

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Psalm 118:1

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
Psalm 118:21