Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Gift of Presence

What a wonderful Christmas holiday season!  We have enjoyed programs, parties, and special times with family and friends.  It was a joy to attend and celebrate Lori’s (Chad’s wife) graduation from nursing school.  Another highlight was seeing David’s preschool Christmas music program.  Yes, we are already head over heels in love with this precious grandson and his mother.  God has richly blessed the Bertrand family with the addition of Lori and David this year.  With Scott and Abby living overseas, it makes the times our family can all be together very dear to me and makes the times with Brad and Melinda, Chad, Lori, and David even sweeter.  Once again, I am thankful for technology that helps us keep in touch.  So whether it’s a holiday or not, whenever everyone is present and accounted for is a special day in my book. 
Something I am constantly reminded of is that it is the people that make each of the events special.  It’s not necessarily a certain party, concert, or a specific date that defines its importance, but rather the relationships and presence of the ones we hold dear to our hearts. 
On December 27th, Larry and I celebrated 38 years of marriage.  God truly gave me more than I ever could have ever asked or imagined when he blessed me with Larry as my husband.  He is definitely a gift of presence in my life whether it’s little events, big ones, in sickness or in health.  Larry took to heart what Paul said in Ephesians that a man is to love his wife like Jesus loved the church. And he continues to bless me with his servant heart.
 As much as I love the presence of my family, extended family and friends, it is not possible for them to be with me 24 hours a day; but God can.  And because of Jesus, God has promised me His presence every second of every day for now and all eternity.  When I remember and act on that, it makes a big difference in my priorities and my day. 
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Ultimate Gift

Over the next few days, as we celebrate Christmas with family and friends, we will have the opportunity to give and receive gifts.  If I have a gift under the tree for someone, but they never take it, open it, use it, or take it with them, they can’t truly say that it is theirs.  When a present is given to someone, it must be accepted and received before it belongs to the recipient.   In a way, that is a picture of God’s gift of salvation.  God offers each of us the gift of his son Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.  In turn, each person must individually accept God’s gift for that relationship to belong to them.  And the great thing is God’s gift of salvation isn’t just given at Christmas time, but any time someone wants to receive it.

Thank you, God, for giving us the very best gift of all…your Son Jesus…our Lord and Savior.  In gratitude, may our lives be a blessing to you and make a difference for your Kingdom as we celebrate and remember the Reason for the Season.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:12

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
I John 4:9-15

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reservation Confirmed

Whenever traveling, it’s good to have plans for a place to stay, whether it’s with family, friends, or a hotel.  It’s also comforting to know that our reservation has been confirmed, especially if the arrival time is uncertain.  There have been times when we needed to travel as far as we could for a day and then try to locate a hotel.  I much prefer the confirmation route rather than going from place to place to try to locate a place to stay.
Sometimes we get to be the ones who offer lodging when someone is traveling or needs a place to stay.  When Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area, in September of 2008, many who live in our area were without electricity for weeks and needed to go to hotels or make other arrangements while they waited for the power to be restored.  Some houses were without electricity for 2 weeks or longer.  We were fortunate in that our home and the others in our neighborhood only lost power for about 10 hours in the early morning hours of the day that the hurricane made landfall.  Since we had electricity, we opened our home to others who were without.  Some stayed for a day or two while others were here for over a week.
Reservations and having a place to stay can definitely be helpful when planning a trip or when unexpected events occur.  They can be a blessing whether you are the one receiving them or providing them.
Just like the innkeeper in Bethlehem, each day I have the choice to make room for Jesus in my life.  That’s one reservation I want to make permanent.  And I’m most grateful that Jesus has already made my reservation and confirmed my room so I can spend eternity with him in Heaven.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  John 14:2-3

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gifts from the Heart

I enjoy making gifts or shopping for just the right present to give for Christmas.  Growing up, Mom would take us shopping, in shifts, to get presents for our siblings, Dad, friends, and the school gift exchange.  With five children, this was no small task.  Then Dad would take us to shop for Mom. 
The best gifts were always the ones given from the heart.  The year Vicki, Robin, and I were in junior high, our younger brother, who had just turned 7, wanted to get us cork grease for Christmas.  Mom told him that she had pretty sweaters that he could give us, but he insisted on the cork grease.  With all three of us playing the clarinet, he had heard on several occasions that we were running low or were out of cork grease and needed more.  Terry finally told her that she could put the sweaters in the box, but he was giving us the cork grease for his present.  In her wisdom, Mom mentioned that we might want to be really excited when we opened the gift from Terry.  He was most pleased and proud of himself on Christmas because he knew he had given us the best gift…and he had because it was something we needed and it was given from the heart.
The year I was 15 was the year that Christmas giving changed for me.  Through the years, Mom and Dad modeled hearts of gratitude and giving and not just at Christmas time.  That year, the five of us kids decided that we were going to surprise Mom and Dad for Christmas.  All five of us collected our money, and then spent hours and days making out a shopping list.  That was long before the day of cell phones so we needed to know all the details, sizes, and ideas before going to the stores.  Since I had my driver’s license, I would do the shopping.  It is still amazing to me that we kept it all a secret.
Christmas morning arrived.  We got up early so we could sneak in the living room to leave Santa for Mom and Dad.  I was more excited about our parents finding their surprises than I was to see the gifts I had received.  That morning all five of us kids took our turn going to the bathroom, and flushing, in hopes of waking our parents.  Finally we heard Daddy say, “I think they’re ready for us to get up.”  Their shock and surprise, and even Mom’s tears, were the best gifts.  That was the year, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” took hold of my heart for good…for family, friends, and missions.
And God loved us so much that he gave the best heart gift of all when he sent Jesus to be our Savior.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  I John 3:23
 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  I John 4:9-10
“In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”   Acts 20:35 (The Message)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Keeping the Goal in Mind

The past few months, I have been in the process of letting my bangs grow out.  Even though I have had bangs most of my life, I decided I was ready to try something different.  It has been a growth in process.  Several times during these first few months I have questioned whether if it was worth the hassle as the hair was not quite long enough to pull to the side but was too long to keep out of my eyes and off my face.  I’ve even contemplated cutting them shorter again but realized that if I wanted to grow them out later I would have to go through the same process again.  I can tell there is progress because the hair is longer than it was before.  Keeping the goal in mind helps me tolerate the inconvenience right now.

Friday afternoon I went for some lab work.  Since I had already written most of the blog for the week, I thought it was ironic that the first thing the two nurses said when they saw me was, “Your hair is different.”  You can tell you have been to a lab too many times when they remember what your hairstyle looks like.  That quickly turned to a time of thankfulness and rejoicing because it has been months, the amount of time I have been growing out my bangs, since I last needed their services.

In the grand scheme of life, I realize that it really doesn’t matter whether I have bangs or grow them out, but I think the lessons I’m thinking about in the process are important.
* It’s best to concentrate on the benefits of the end result rather than dwell on the inconveniences of the present circumstances.

* To make progress, it’s important to persevere toward the goal rather than opt to go back to the other way just because it is easier for the moment. 

* Sometimes hairspray, clips, new ideas, or other tactics need to be added to a situation to make it better.

* Remembering where you started and noticing progress along the way can encourage you to stick with a project.

* One bad hair day doesn’t determine your worth or destiny.

* When hair or other distractions cover your eyes or cloud your thoughts or heart, it’s best to brush them aside so you can see clearly.

* Knowing and remembering that my final goal is spending eternity with Jesus in Heaven should make a difference in the way I see and respond to life each day.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14

 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8