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Christmas cards

1 King 19:11-13a – “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.”

I know, it’s not Wednesday and it isn’t 6 in the morning. But I had to get this out.

Someone stole my Christmas cards out of my mailbox last night. Yep, you read it right. Someone thought they would find a stash of money or something in that stack of 100 and something Christmas cards going out to friends and family all over the place. Boy, were they shocked to find the only thing of value was the unused stamps on the outside of the card. 

Here are my lessons in this situation.

1) Someone needs Jesus. If things in your life are so desperate that you are reduced to committing a federal offense by rummaging through someone’s Christmas cards in the middle of the night, you need Jesus. 

2) I need to forgive. I’m working on this one. I know that in the scope of eternity whether or not I send out Christmas cards is not going to matter. It does, however, matter if I forgive this person that did this. I’m getting there. They have been on my heart heavy these last couple of hours. 

3) I need to listen. Last night as I was putting the cards in the mailbox, I thought “someone could steal these tonight.” Then I thought “no way, no one is going to do that. They are just Christmas cards.” God was speaking to my heart and I just tuned Him out. I can’t tell you how often this has been happening lately. I will hear His whisper across my heart and then blow it off as nonsense. When will I ever listen? And listen consistently?! That Still Small Voice is still active today. He is still whispering across our hearts – warning us, encouraging us – and too often, I know that I don’t listen. I instead listen to the other voice. I listen to the one that tells me that I know best. I listen to the one that says the other Voice is crazy. 

In all of this, I’m upset about the loss of the Christmas cards, the time and money spent on them and the fact that our society has stooped this low. But most of all, I’m upset with myself for not listening. I have asked for forgiveness and I know that I have it. But now I have to forgive myself for being a cotton-headed ninny-muggin (Elf reference) and ignoring God when He speaks to me. 

Christmas is a time of reflection and memories and a time of giving. Well, this will certainly be a memory I look back on and I hope that my giving of the unused stamps will certainly cause someone somewhere to pause and rethink their life. They need Jesus…and so do I. 

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2 Kings 5 – Day 1

2 Kings 5:1,9-14  – “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it ? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

Last night, our lesson for the evening service touched on this chapter in 2 Kings. As I was reading it this morning, several things jumped out at me. I’m going to take a few days on this chapter and pick a few things out each day to talk about. Enjoy!

Let’s start out by me re-telling this story in the Melissa version – So Naaman was this mighty man of valor, super impressive dude, that somehow or another contracted this nasty disease known as leprosy. People didn’t want to be around someone with this disease. It was particularly hard on this dude – he was known as “mighty man of valour”! So, he hears about a prophet in Israel (we will cover that another day) and decides to go and see if this man can heal him. Well, Elisha, the prophet, doesn’t go and see this guy, but rather sends his servant to tell this uber important guy to go dip in the Jordan river seven times. Now, the Jordan river is nothing special. Most of the time it looks rather yucky. But this is the river in the land God had chosen to give the children of Israel, that made it special. This man who really thought something of himself considered it demeaning that 1) Elisha didn’t even have the wherewithal to come and speak with him and 2) he wanted him to dip in this yucky river. What?! At least, that was the thought until Naaman’s servant knocked him off his high horse by asking him this, “If that man had told you to do something fantastic, you would have done it. Why won’t you do something simple like go and dip in this river?” 

Pride. Pride is what almost kept Naaman from receiving his healing. He thought so much of himself and his position that he didn’t want to lower himself to dipping in this simple river. God did this on purpose. By doing something fantastic and difficult, Naaman would have perceived in his pride that he had done something worthy of praise. God wanted Naaman to see His hand at work in healing him. 

Oftentimes, God works in the small things. He works in the simple things. He works in people’s lives in such a way that His accomplishments are fantastically simple. It took a lot for Naaman to go down and dip in the Jordan. He had to put his pride away. He had to put his trust in Someone besides himself. He had to believe. All these were very simple things yet their effects are profound. 

Pride can be a major hinderance in our opportunities to see God at work. Pride can keep us from taking that leap of faith that may heal our hearts and open our life to new things. Pride can seperate us from loved ones, tear apart families and alienate us from friends. 

This week, let God show you where pride is hindering your life and growth in Him. Let God weed out those problems and allow Him to plant a new spirit within you – one that is growing ever closer to Him each and every day. 

Lessons from a dead tree

Psalm 8:3-4 – “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

We had a pretty intense storm a few months ago that left our little yard with one small, dead tree. Now, this tree had a diameter at it’s base of about 4-5 inches – big enough to be difficult but small enough to drag around. My son and my husband had removed it and set it by the side of the road for pick up, in September. 

Needless to say, the grass was beginning to grow through it and the county has passed by it several times. It isn’t big enough to require a large truck to pick up the debris but it is too big for the lawn waste people to heave it into their truck.

So, I set out yesterday to hack this poor dead, dried up tree into pieces and stick it in a garbage can with the hopes that the lawn waste people will begin to pick it up today. And as I was sawing away with my little hand saw, God began to remind of a few things:

1. When you go after something that seems overwhelming, you have to attack it little by little. For me to try to saw through the largest branches with my hand saw and all the other limbs still hanging off the end was near impossible. I found that if I cut off the little branches, the larger ones were much easier to deal with. 

2. Persistence is the key. Have you ever tried to cut through a 4 inch piece of wood with a 2 inch wide hand saw? It takes persistence. I found that if I stopped while sawing through a limb this size, I looked like a crazy person trying to get it started again. I just had to keep going. Even when my puny arms were screaming and my strength was giving out, I had to keep going. Eventually, I got it in two but it wasn’t easy.                                                                                                                                                                         

You know, sometimes we feel like we are getting nowhere in reaching people. We feel like living our lives for the Lord isn’t enough. We feel like inviting them to Sunday school and worship services and fellowships is just not working. But God is using it. Little by little, He is chipping away at their heart. He is pursuing them in a holy manner that we can’t always see or understand. All He asks us to do is keep going. Keep doing those little things that mean more to them than we will ever know. 

3. Do your best and let God take care of the rest. He doesn’t always expect us to conquer something. Sometimes He wants us to trust Him and get out there and do something. 

The lawn waste people may or may not pick up that hacked up dead tree, but I have done all that I can. I know that I have attempted to do something to get rid of the dead tree. If nothing else, it is easier now to transport to that secret place on the other side of the retention pond where things seem to disappear into the woods. I don’t have to solve the problem. I just needed to work on it. 

You may not have a dead tree hanging out in your front yard, but I would guess that you do have something in your life that needs attention. It needs to be attacked little by little. It needs to be addressed persistently. God may or may not want you to conquer it, but He does want you to put forth your best effort in addressing it. 

Pancakes and a 5K

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

This weekend, my family and I participated in a 5K – a pancake 5K at that! It was a lot of fun. We were able to run through a really nice neighborhood and have some yummy pancakes afterwards.

But oh my, that afternoon and Sunday came. And boy, were me and my husband feeling it! Stairs became our mortal enemy. As long as we weren’t asked to move, we were fine. But getting up, no fun at all. Yet, we survived. We had some good laughs over it and we persevered. 

Now, my son, on the other hand, played a soccer game after running that 5K and did an amazing job. My daughter was able to finally accomplish her first backhand spring yesterday after church at her lesson. They didn’t seem to have near the challenge that my husband and I did with our little adventure.

You know, God oftentimes asks us to get outside our comfort zone and do something we don’t normally do. He asks us to stretch our faith. We sometimes think that this stretching and growing is too much to ask. There is no way. We limit God and try to get ahead of Him. But when we are willing to wait on Him and allow Him to stretch us in ways we never dreamed possible, amazing things begin to happen in our life. We find that the challenge wasn’t near what we thought it would be. We find that we are seeing and experiencing God in a whole new light and way. We find that there is time to get it all done. And when we lay our head on our pillow at night, we have a peace that is beyond understanding.

Following Christ is a challenge. It is not easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise…well, let’s just say I would think twice about listening to them. 

This week, get out of your comfort zone and listen to what God is telling you to do. Read His word and learn His principles. Then, when you are asked to move, you are ready. 

Free Coffee!!

Romans 5:14-19 – “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

It is National Coffee Day! Yeah!!! 

Coffee and I have a special relationship. It’s like a warm little blanket for me early in the morning. It wakes me up and just tastes good – with cream and sugar, of course. 

But today, oh happy day, is Friday AND free coffee day at some places! Does life get any better?? You can bet I’m headed to Wawa after I drop the kids off at school for a delightful cup of joe.

When we get the opportunity for something free, we jump all over it. Buy one, get one free deals at the grocery store are hard to pass up. Free samples at stores are just icing on the cake. We love free. 

These verses have the two words that most people love to hear – “free” and “gift”. So, why is it so hard to get people to listen and consider when you talk about the two things that most everyone loves? I think it is because they have to first admit they are wrong to accept this “free gift”. In order to be saved, you first have to be lost. And to be lost, you have to come to the realization that you are a sinner. There is nothing that you can do on your own, in and of yourself, to gain salvation. The only thing you can do is admit that you are a sinner, believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is and did what He said He did, and accept that “free gift” of salvation. Ask, Believe and Confess. ABC. 

Salvation is as easy as walking into Wawa on National Coffee Day and accepting that free cup of coffee. No strings attached. No guilt in taking it. Wawa opened it’s doors today and started making coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Jesus has opened the doors of Heaven to each and every person, offering them the opportunity to accept His free gift of salvation. 

What are you waiting for? What is keeping you from sharing that Wonderful News? I would guess that you will tell someone today that it is National Coffee Day and inform them that they need to look up a place close to them that will have free coffee. But why is that so easy to share yet sharing the Good News of Christ that will change their eternity so difficult?

Happy Friday and Happy National Coffee Day.

Just like me…

Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

I’ve been struggling with this concept the last couple of days – What if everyone acted just like me – in regards to family, church, work and community?

It’s what we want, isn’t it? We wish that everyone around us was as smart as we are, made similar choices that we make, and were as dedicated as we are. We see ourself without flaw, without blemish. 

But deep down, we know that’s not true. We know that deep down we get upset when someone does something different that we think that they should. We get frustrated when we have a plan and someone steps in and changes that plan all together. We want to throw a fit and yell at someone when their decision to stay out of things is not the option we would have chosen. We get all flustered when people don’t perform like we know we would in that situation. 

Pride. It’s pride that makes us feel that way. You see, whether it is at work, church or at home, the devil is doing his best to drive a wedge in our heart between us and God. If he can get us to look more at ourself and see only the worst in people and their decisions instead of seeing the beauty of variety, then he can get us to walk further and further from our Savior. 

And it’s so easy to do. It is easy to get frustrated when we don’t understand what is going on. It is easy to get mad when things don’t go the way we think they should. It is easy to want to yell at someone when their choices are wrong in our eyes. 

But here is the thing – we can’t control others; we can only control ourself. We have to trust that God has whatever thing we are dealing with under control. Staying awake all night worrying about it won’t make a difference. Getting mad and yelling at someone will not help the cause of Christ. Not doing your best as a punishment to those who are making what you see as a bad decision will get nothing accomplished. 

Jesus has given us all different gifts and talents. I’m not responsible for my husband using his gifts. That is his can of worms. I need to be focused on whether I’m using my gifts. But I can’t let my focus shift from me doing my best for His glory to me doing my best because I know I’m right. 

It’s hard, but you can’t let people have power over your decision to do things for His glory. Focusing solely upon Jesus will have far different reaches that focusing solely on you and what you do. Pride is an ugly beast that too often rears its head in my life. Pride is what makes you think your way is the best way. Pride is what makes you fail to see your flaws. Pride is what makes us want everyone to act like just like us. 

In and Out

Matthew 12:34,35 – “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

Garbage in, garbage out. 

You are what you eat.

These are good sayings. They remind us that what we put inside us, whether physical or mental, will eventually make us into who we are. It touches all facets of our life – our physical health, our mental health and our spiritual health. 

If you go around putting candy and fast food and chips and fried food into your body on a consistent and daily basis, what is going to happen? You will, more than likely, end up with heart disease and, maybe even, diabetes. Instead of being able to live a life that is fulfilling and enjoyable, you will spend many hours at the doctor and/or in the hospital attending to the results of the choices that you made many moons ago to eat all that junk.

If you listen to the negativity of the society around us, it can bring you down. Bad news is all around us. The gloom and doom that fills our social media and books can quickly lead you down a path of perpetual sadness and, maybe even, depression. There is so much death and violence and cruelty that is portrayed in our music, our movies and our books. If we expose ourself to this on a regular basis, we begin to think that this is the norm, this is how life truly is. “Reality” shows become what we think should be our reality and who needs that?

Yet, if you make the choice to fuel your body with food that is healthy and limit those foods that are unhealthy, your opportunity for disease decreases tremendously. Notice that I didn’t promise you a life of full health and happiness. I know that our genetic makeup sometimes predisposes us to certain diseases. I know that sometimes you just end up with some strange illness. But does that mean that you must have put something improper into you body to cause this to happen? No, sometimes things just happen so that you draw closer to God because of it. 

When you focus your life on Jesus and choose to make Him the One that fills your heart completely, life will look differently. All the negativity and the bad news will still be there, but you see them through the Light of His Word. You know the end of the book. 

Walking with God and making good choices doesn’t necessarily mean a life full of gumdrops, rainbows and unicorns. But it does mean that when you choose Him and His will for your life, you are never walking through all of this alone. You put the Good One in, the results of the Good One will come out.