I wanted to share with you a project I have been working on this month. It is a compilation of Love Scriptures for the month of February. Most of the photos come from the Word Swag App and a couple of them are my own. I hope you enjoy these. Feel free to share them. Here is February 1-14:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The snow falling this past weekend reminded me of the wintry mornings when my children were little. There was one storm in particular that had everything closed for the day. This gave me that gift of time to prepare a special breakfast for the family. I had all the ingredients to make one of the kids’ favorite treats, cinnamon surprise rolls. They loved helping to dip the marshmallows in cinnamon sugar and butter, then wrapping a crescent roll around them before putting them into the oven.
I had just started to assemble the ingredients and hadn’t even opened the crescent rolls when I heard a little voice call out, “Mommy, me help you!” My son toddled into the kitchen dressed in his footie pajamas and not waiting for a response, used all his strength to slowly push a stool over to the counter where I was working. He looked at the roll and said, “me do it?” I helped him to begin peeling the label off . When he completed that task (leaving piles of blue and silver confetti on the floor) he looked at me and said, “Now?” I nodded my approval and he slammed the tube against the kitchen counter… nothing happened. With every ounce of strength in his body he tried again, still nothing happened. Frustrated, he handed the tube to me and said, “you do it mommy”.
I took the tube while he watched every movement I made. I slammed it on the edge of the counter, breaking the seal, allowing the dough to ooze out. I half anticipated a cheer from my son, but when I looked down at him, he peered up at me with tear filled eyes, whimpering “ Where’s the little man?”
The little man? I immediately knew what he was looking for. His little toddler heart was expecting the Pillsbury Dough Boy to jump out of the tube when it broke, just like in the commercials. I had to stifle my giggle as I tried to explain and comfort his disappointment at the same time. It didn’t take much time, before I had him distracted with marshmallows, cinnamon and the fun of wrapping each one in dough.
Have you ever experienced circumstances where reality did not match your expectations? In my child’s case, it was media images that inspired his false hope. Sometimes the expectations are set by our own dreams and goals and sometimes they are set by others. It’s not a question as to whether we will ever experience shattered expectations, but how will we respond when it occurs. Do we get angry, cry, pout, ignore, or respond in some other way that shuts us down?
I know that my response to shattered expectations can lead to me to a place of disappointment, worry, stress, anxiety and more. With my toddler, it was easy to distract him from his initial disappointment, but how do I bring myself back to a place of acceptance and move on? It’s not as easy or quick for me but seeking wisdom and counsel from others can provide balance. Focusing on prayer or attitude of joy and thanksgiving helps me more than just deal with disappointing situations but also grow in understanding and God’s purpose. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I’ll be the first to admit, that rejoicing always is not the easiest thing to do when expectations have been shattered, but having that mind of joy, prayer and thanksgiving, can truly help to redeem a seemingly disappointing situation into one from which I can learn and grow.
Dear Loving God, You yourself knew many shattered expectations including the first betrayal of Eve and Adam in the garden. Yet you continued to love, sacrifice and guide. Help me to know that when reality does not meet my expectations, you have a plan, a plan to give me hope and a future. Sometimes, my plan is not the best and I need to trust in you and not my own understanding by seeking your will through prayer and gratitude. Thank you Lord! Amen
“He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
It’s the beginning of a new year and once again, I am contemplating what new goals I want to set. Will it be losing weight, starting a new exercise routine, spending more time with family, limiting technology, establishing daily devotions, taking a class, or even getting up earlier to accomplish these new practices? Each of these endeavors requires not only discipline but commitment. Discipline is required whenever we implement new routines.
The word discipline comes from the same root as disciple. I thought this must mean that disciples were organized, committed and disciplined thus setting a bar of expectation to one that I would never achieve, However when I look at the lives of many of the disciples, I am comforted that they are human, and make some of the same errors that I do. Then when I looked it up, the definition of disciple, said “One who accepts and helps to spread the teachings of another.” (wordcentral.com). This means that I can be considered a disciple of Christ if I accept and spread His teachings in spite of any faults or weaknesses.
Upon further investigation, I discovered specific spiritual disciplines, practices and behaviors associated with effective and growing disciples. Jesus modelled many of these: solitude, fasting, study, worship, serving, and prayer. These require focus, self-control, intentionality and will ultimately draw me closer in my relationship with Christ.
The beginning of a new year, is a perfect time to focus on some of these disciplines. In fact, our church encourages all members to start the year by committing to 21 days of prayer and fasting. As I anticipate my personal involvement, I want to not only expand my prayer time but choose something to fast from that will draw me closer to God. In addition, I have begun selecting a word and memorizing a Bible verse that guides my focus for the year. For accountability, I am sharing these with you: Intentionality Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10
Concentrating on these disciplines at the beginning of the year, builds a foundation that guides my focus and actions throughout the year. However, I can still become distracted and easily swayed to disrespect those practices and follow the ways of the world. Having the word and verse not only helps to center me but grow in my faith through discipline.
Lord, help me to establish the habits and actions in my life that will bring me closer to walking with you and serving you each day. Rather than giving up when I fail or become distracted, reveal to me ways that I can improve my daily disciplines that bring me closer to you and allow my heart to know yours more deeply. Amen
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never live in darkness. They will have the light that gives life.” John 8:12
At this time of the year our world is filled with Christmas lights, music, decorations, baking, trees and gift giving. The calendars overflow with parties, programs and obligations that can overwhelm us. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the traditions of this season that I love. However, it can be a source of stress as it consumes a large chunk of time in that already-packed schedule. I have fond memories of travelling to the Christmas tree farm, drinking hot chocolate and trudging through the evergreens searching for the perfect tree.
As we began to travel during the holidays, we switched to an artificial tree, for safety and convenience sake. At first we had the old fashioned kind that you needed to string the lights just as you would on a real tree. Now, we have a pre-lit tree – making the process much easier. Imagine my frustration one year when we turned on the tree, and I noticed one dark space, right in the middle of the tree. An entire section of lights had burned out and we could not figure out a way to fix it. This was an annoying inconvenience because we could not decorate the tree until we purchased a string of lights to lace through the burnt out section. There was not time to do this right away, so for about a week, I just turned on the lights of the undecorated tree to enjoy that magical glow.
In the early morning hours, I’d sit and do my devotions in the cozy atmosphere created by the sparking lights. On one of those days, while I was praying for loved ones and friends, that dark spot became more prominent. I began praying for friends who have recently experienced loss, others who are fighting life-threatening diseases, ones who are facing difficult life transitions, not to mention the many families crushed by the recent tragic acts of violence, hurricanes and fires. As I prayed for strength and peace, it became poignantly obvious that not everyone was feeling the nostalgic warmth of the Christmas season. In fact, the very decorations, lights and music that bring joy and comfort to my Christmas season triggered painful memories for others.
In a season when we are rejoicing in the birth of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, there are many hearts that are shrouded with darkness. Their songs of joy have been replaced with reminiscent mournful melodies. Instead of schedules crowded with holiday festivities and concerts, their time is prioritized with doctor’s appointments and medication schedules. Instead of a house filled with holiday smells and sounds, they are struggling to keep food on the table and stay warm. Instead of feeling the comfort of family, there is a haunting heartache that perpetuates loneliness, sometimes even when surrounded by loved ones.
John 1 reminds us; In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who came to bring light to a dark world. His light brings compassion to the hurting, healing to the sick, comfort to the grieving, hope to the disheartened and salvation to the lost.
If you are hurting and lonely during this Christmas season, my prayer is that Christ will surround you with His love and light. May God supply the strength, hope and comfort for the challenge or loss that consumes your energy. If you find joy in this season, may your heart be focused on Christ’s light and love. May God open your eyes to be sensitive to those who need support and encouragement. Take time to be a vessel of His love and light.
Dear Jesus, It is the season we celebrate your birth. The world has filled this holiday with many distractions from the true meaning, but we want to focus on your purpose, your hope and your love. Thank you for reminders, like burnt out lights, that help us realize that too often we focus and worry about the unimportant. Comfort and strengthen those who are struggling this holiday season and give them hope in the days to come. You are the light of the world and, as your children, we are called to be the bearers of your light in a dark world. Amen
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
How fun it is to have toddlers around during the Christmas season. I remember one year having the gift of my twin grandchildren with us for an extended stay. They delighted in every little detail from decorations to presents. Their excitement was infectious as they clamored to turn on the lights of the little village or wind up the dancing bears. They especially loved being in the kitchen to help create all the Christmas goodies. As soon as I began pulling out the recipes, they eagerly pulled their stools over to the baking counter on either side of the big mixer. Each one took turns measuring and pouring in all the ingredients of sugar, butter, vanilla and flour. The fun began when they turned on the mixer and watched the dry powdery ingredients blend with butter and eggs to make a smooth, sweet dough for the cookies!
I fondly remembered the times of doing this with their mother when she was around their age. One of the first times she helped me, she got her hand on the switch of the mixer and turned it to high before I could stop her. Quickly we were dusted with powdery flour from head to toe. She even recalled this event as her children were helping me.
Not wanting to repeat this part of making cookie dough with the twins, in my most gentle Nana voice, I carefully instructed each grandchild to wait for my direction and we would slowly turn the mixer on. This worked well with the first batch of dough. I was feeling confident with the second one as each took a turn gently pulling the switch. Feeling confident that I had avoided the historic error, I added the final cup of flour. Before I knew it, one of the excited twins turned the switch to high and in a micro-second, all three of us were covered with floury, new-fallen snow. I began laughing at my own misdirected confidence, thinking we were going to avoid this flash back scene. But not everyone found humor in this predicament. One of the twins was whimpering because her nightgown was messed up and the other was just shocked at the mess created so quickly. My daughter just smiled as she gave me that look of “I warned you “. We spent the next few minutes cleaning the mess on the counter, the floor, their hair and their clothing with both of them exclaiming that they did not want that to happen again!
Here I thought I had done everything I could, to instruct and prevent this chaos from occurring. Yet in one swift move, history repeated itself once again. I was surprised by my patience. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t as calm when the same flour fiasco occurred with my daughter.
It made me realize how God must have even more patience with me. He carefully and continually instructs me through His Word and prayer, while I forge ahead, repeating the same mistakes over and over again. He is always there to help me clean up the debris, while being loving and forgiving in the process. I wonder if God finds humor sometimes when I am upset with the unimportant messes I have made for myself.
Thank you Lord, for your tender and compassionate patience with me. During this Christmas season, help me be aware of the times I need to demonstrate more love, forgiveness and patience to others throughout my day. Guide my steps, my words and my actions to be your hands and feet to others. Amen.
Guest Writer- Cathy Wyne
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
My father loved to create a village under the Christmas tree each year; however, he was relegated to the garage once the footprint of his town exceeded the living room carpet and encroached upon the wood foyer. You see, his village had become a burgeoning metropolis surrounded by an agricultural reserve. A train ran across a trestle bridge through the mountains in the distance, ducked in and out of a tunnel, and then followed a meandering course through the countryside until reaching the city. There were fields and farms, parks and ponds, Victorian row houses, humble cottages, and churches galore. Dozens of little people— all frozen in a single, joyous holiday moment—completed the masterful design. Every element of this display was hand-painted by my grandmother and my father always managed to find a special place for each one.
When his work of art was complete, he loved nothing more than sharing it with his grandchildren. I can still see him in his engineer cap with a big smile on his face as he set the train in motion.
However, the memory I treasure most is sitting in the garage with my father after the kids had gone to bed. We didn’t run the train. Instead, we enjoyed the perfect stillness, the twinkling lights, and the quiet joy of the season.
Finding peaceful moments during the holidays can often be a challenge. As a society, we tend to chock our calendars full of festivities hoping to make our Christmas celebrations as memorable as possible. Ultimately we find ourselves lost to the confusion and exhausted. Some of us may even feel like we’re celebrating Christmas with the Kranks, trying to pull it all together at the last minute despite our best efforts to be organized and efficient.
Determined to find more time for relationships and those elusive peace-filled moments, I made a bold decision this year. There was going to be Christmas cheer during Thanksgiving. Yes, I decorated early and the sky didn’t fall.
To all those naysayers who might think my actions a crime against Christmas or somehow diminished my capacity to focus on blessings during Thanksgiving, I say, “Oh contraire.” Decking the halls early left me more relaxed and feeling even more grateful than ever before. I was able to truly give thanks as the turkey was passed around the table rather than thinking about the dozens of Christmas boxes that would clog my stairwell the following day. This new strategy also gave me a full month to focus on family and friends, serving others, and reflecting on God’s perfect gift.
So in the future, I encourage you to break free of convention and experience Christmas in a whole new way. If you want to have more moments of quiet reflection, go ahead and set up the tree a little early, drape the banister with garland, give yourself permission to do whatever enables you to shine a brighter light on the birth of our Lord and Savior.
For what matters most is that we center our hearts and minds on the Lord’s tender mercy and his amazing gift of redemption through Jesus Christ. His love for us is the true reason for the season.
Blessings, from Cathy Wyne
. . . it was by the generosity of God, the free giving of the grace of one man Jesus Christ, that the love of God overflowed for the benefit of all men. Romans 5:15b
Have I got a deal for you! Buy one get one free! Entire store 50% off! Free gift to the first 100 customers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday headlines were everywhere seeking to lure you into their doors or onto their website with the best deal in town. People left their families and camped out for days just to get the newest technology at the cheapest price. This year, the marketers went a step further in an attempt to convince us that Thanksgiving day was the only time we could grasp the treasured deal!
Now I like a bargain as much as the next person. I am the first to seek out the sale or the percent off signs when I go shopping. I will buy the extra item to get my total purchase to meet the free shipping offer. I have even enjoyed many years getting up in the wee hours of Black Friday to shop for special deals with my family. These excursions were focused more on the event of being together, stopping at the coffee shop, seeking a few bargains, and traipsing home with our treasures. This experience is vastly different in comparison to the news shows filming people pushing and shoving each other to get that prized item. By opening on Thanksgiving day this year, retailers were putting a priority on their sales while devaluing the time with family and friends just to lure you into the world of commerce.
There is no doubt that I buy more during this season because it is the time for gift giving. To be able to land a few bargains helps me to stay true to the planned budget and avoid the January bills. But am I stressing more about the cost of the gift than the thought behind the gift? I remember many years when our limited budget required me to make most of the gifts for my family. When I have been the recipient of these homemade gifts, they hold a special place in my heart and my home. This year I don’t have time to make the gifts, so I am surfing the net for the best price on the requested items. I know that I am vulnerable to deal distraction, but as I shop and order, I don’t want to overdo just to fill the base of the Christmas tree with a multitude of packages. I want to focus on the reason we give gifts. Giving gifts is a way of expressing love just as God expressed His love for us with His gift of Jesus. It’s a way to honor those we love as the wise men honored the Christ child when they found Him.
At Christmas, we celebrate the gift of the Christ child, but that is just the beginning. Jesus paid the highest price for us known as GRACE. God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. This is the best deal you will find this season. It’s not on a website, it’s not advertised on TV, it’s a free gift given to all who believe in Him. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Free!
Celebrate the best deal in the world: God’s free gift of eternal life! This is what Christmas is all about.
Thank you for your free gift of Grace. It is because of the love that you have shown me and the love the Father has lavished on me, that I am able to have eternal life. I want to renew and reenergize my commitment to you today. Help me to keep this first in my mind as I celebrate with gift and activities throughout this Christmas season. Amen