Wednesday, March 30, 2016

He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

 We had a great Easter with our family.   I especially love that the kids personalities come through in this picture!  It reminded me of another Easter...... so here are a couple of throwback pictures of a long ago Easter in 1990!

Back to the present time which was much less "Nautical"!  We all went to church together.....Doug and Susie, Gwen and Tim and the kids and Ken and I.  We crowded into one row of chairs with the kids sharing our laps and the space between the chairs!  It was a wonderful service and we sang one of my favorite songs.  It does bring tears to my eyes, along with memories of my mom, but I still love it.  The song, "In Christ Alone" is a special one for Gwen and me, and my mom loved this song.  Here are the lyrics....
In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Every time I hear this song I am transported back to the very first time I ever heard this song.  My mom and I always attended a conference held near her house, during my August visits.  There was one year that Gwen came to the opening worship service with my mom and I.  The conference was held in a large church that held several thousand people.  The place was filled to overflowing that night.  And this song was sung.  At the third verse........ 
                                                     There in the ground His body lay

Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
something happened that was just incredible.  At the line "up from the grave He rose again" there was a growing swell of people just shouting and clapping.  It filled the entire room!  The worship just stopped until the shouting and clapping had begun to quiet.  Finally, the song was finished and the worship continued.  But it was one of those holy, holy moments when you just know that something has happened.  The next day, Gwen was talking about this song....remembering that it was actually a modern hymn that told the entire Gospel message. She wanted to find a CD with song on it so that she could listen to it again and again.  We went to the Christian book store and began to look for this song.....and we did not know the name of the song!  My mom thought it was an impossible search without the title or the artist.  But Gwen found the song and we bought the CD!  It may seem like a little thing, but to my mom, Gwen finding that CD was a miracle.  She loved this song and as it became more popular, she would often tell me each time she heard it on the radio or when it was sung in her church.   I selected this song for my mom's memorial service and honoring my mom's wishes, Gwen sang it!  Gwen was pregnant with Zeke when my mom died.  But it seems so fitting that Zeke's first cry came on my mom's birthday, just a few weeks after her last breath.  Her legacy lives on.  

Yes, this song is an Easter song!  It has the message and the hope and joy that IS Easter, all in one song.  There is no guilt in life....and there is no fear in death.  Jesus commands our destiny!  What joyful, life giving words. I have a feeling that this "modern hymn" will be around for long, long time. 

We had a wonderful day being together.  There was the traditional egg hunt and lots of candy all around.  I loved seeing all 10 of us gathered around the table, eating together.  It reminded me of that great big banqueting table in heaven, and I was picturing all of those "saints that have gone on" around that table, feasting with Jesus.  It was a great ending to a glorious day.  He is risen! He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!   

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Closer to Jesus............

I love when my last blog just feeds right into the next one!  Tonight I had the great honor and privilege to hear this wonderful young lady (my sweet Lia) proclaim to her church family her faith and trust in Jesus.  Then she joined God's family in that very special meal - Holy Communion.  When her Pastor asked her why she wanted to commune she wisely answered "to be closer to Jesus".  WOW!  What a night!    This was not a "traditional" Maundy Thursday service.  Their church has their fellowship area filled with tables and chairs set with fresh baked loafs of bread and carafes of wine.  Everyone gathers together around those tables and the Pastor retells this important story.  One of the most interesting things that Pr. Dave shared tonight was the meaning of the word "Maundy".  It actually comes from a Latin word that means mandate or command.  Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them a new covenant along with this powerful way that we can "be closer to Jesus"!   The oldest person at each table (which happened to be me at our table) broke the bread and served it around the table and then poured the wine and served it.  We all communed together.  Then the bread and grapes (and grape juice) on the table were shared by everyone!  There was lots of fellowship and lots of love.  I confess that I couldn't take my eyes off of Lia!  I was thinking about my last blog about a legacy of love.  I felt as if I was seeing a part of my legacy right in front of me.  Here was my granddaughter proudly proclaiming her love for Jesus!  And more than that, her desire to get closer to Him.  Yes, I feel so very blessed.  

A couple of days ago I shared this post on Facebook from The Passion Translation........

I hear His whisper..."Listen to Me"
In the silence I will speak to you. Each morning come and sit at My feet and learn from the wisdom of eternity. I will speak. I will whisper to your soul. It is time for you to hear Me clearly each day. The assignments I give to you will be pleasant and rewarding. The task I set before you each day will bring sweetness to your soul. Others will begin to take note, that you have been with Me.

In the evening hours come to Me and I will whisper My living words into your spirit. I will make your night season a time of encounter as My Spirit comes to bring you heaven's grace and the dew of My presence. Listen carefully, as a lover listens to every word of the Beloved-- listen to Me and you will hear My voice. I will touch your ears and open them as one who is being taught. You will learn My ways as you listen to My voice.

I love to speak with you, to talk to you and share My heart with you. I have many who say they follow Me but never still their souls to listen to My voice. I am a Shepherd who goes before My sheep calling them by name, caring for them in love, and leading them into My ways. You will find that I have ears for your voice, I listen to you as you speak with Me, now come and listen to My whisper each day and know that I am your God.

Proverbs 8:5-12 The Passion Translation 

"Listen to Me
And you will be prudent and wise. 
For even the foolish and feeble
Can receive an understanding heart 
That will change their inner being.
The meaning of my words 
Will release within you
Revelation for you to reign in life. 
My lyrics will empower you
To live by what is right.
For everything I say is unquestionably true;
And I refuse to endure the lies of lawlessness— 
My words will never lead you astray. 
All the declarations of my mouth can be trusted; 
They contain no twisted logic
Or perversion of the truth.
All My words are clear and straightforward 
To all who possess spiritual understanding. 
If you have an open mind
You’ll receive revelation-knowledge. 
My wise correction is
More valuable than silver or gold. 
The finest gold is nothing compared
To the revelation-knowledge I can impart. 
Wisdom is so priceless
That it exceeds the value than any jewel. 
Nothing you could wish for can equal her.
For I am Wisdom, and I am shrewd and intelligent. 
I have at My disposal living-understanding
To devise a plan for your life.

So I have been thinking about drawing closer to Jesus by listening to Him.  And I love the last line of this passage........ Jesus has at His disposal a plan for my life.  He has a plan for Lia's life also... and a plan for you!  I am so thankful tonight that the plan for my life included being with Lia when she made this life changing step to grow closer to Jesus.    

Jesus, thank you for your mandate to love each other.  You are love and you share that with us through this amazing meal.  Holy Spirit remind us to be still and hear from you each day.  Thank you for special times that help us to see your working in our family.  Thank you for days of remembrance!  Amen

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lineage and Legacy...........and love

For some reason today, I just kept thinking about my mom.  It is really interesting when this happens.  It seems to come out of nowhere and then suddenly I am thinking about how much I miss her.  This picture was taken in the 1990's (I would have to do some serious looking to find out the exact date).  She has been gone now for almost 5 years but it some ways, it seems like just yesterday I was talking to her on the phone.  The interesting thing is that there is no special "date trigger" or event that has brought her to my mind.  I just woke up thinking about her and she has been on my mind all day.  A couple weeks ago Gwen and I were talking about her, kind of out of the blue.  The previous day Lia had commented to Gwen that these cookies........
reminded her of the cookies that Great Grandma Nona always had at her house.  The cookies Lia was talking about were actually Vienna Fingers, but these taste a lot like them.  It was so good to know that Lia really remembers mom and that these memories, most likely, will not go away.  And I am especially glad that it is the little things that Lia remembers.  

It was interesting, that one the conversations at my small group today was our lineage and legacy.  One of my friends had gotten a new book by Bobby Conner Lineage-Line and Legacy after hearing him speak at a conference last week.   Our discussion today reminded me of all of the ways that my mom has left a legacy for me and for my children and grandchildren.  There is wisdom in thinking about this topic and setting our sights on the kind of legacy that we want to leave - not only for our family but also for the Kingdom!  The title of this book really struck me also because of this..
I think I have blogged about these very special name frames that I have created for each of my grandchildren.  Each one contains a prophetic message that was given to me especially for them.  This is Anna's frame.  The message for her was very clear and very simple.... her life was a legacy of love and is in the lineage of the King of Kings!  Her destiny includes bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth!  When I was on my way home from group today, I was thinking about this frame.  I am so thankful that part of my legacy.....through Anna..... is LOVE!  There is nothing better or greater than that.  If Anna only leaves a legacy of love in this world, that would be enough.  And isn't that really what God's kingdom is all about?  All over the world, people pray the Lord's prayer every day.  We teach it to young children.  
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.
For yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever.  Amen

God is LOVE and that is His kingdom! All of us are charged with leaving a legacy of love to the world.  With all of the political drama going on right now, it is difficult to see the love.  But as Christians, we need to keep our focus on what is really important.  And today, more than any other day, sharing love with our families, with our neighbors AND with those with whom we don't agree! Love.  It is that simple.  A wonderful legacy.

My mom left that legacy.  A wonderful, sweet legacy of love that will be carried on into her generations.  And I am so thankful that Lia will remember that love.

Jesus, thank you for memories and pictures and books that point the way to your truths each day.  Thank you for your great love for us that brought you here to the earth and to the cross.  Holy Spirit, nudge us every day when we need to share your love with others.  Help us to know your love for us. Amen 

Monday, March 14, 2016

In the midst of Him, even in the noise!

It's been a busy, busy last few days.  This past weekend was my "Scrapbook Retreat" weekend!  It was a wonderful time talking, laughing and actually getting a bit of scrapbooking done.  I managed to get about 45 pages done - far less than my previous record-setting 78 pages, but I had a great time anyway.  I spent more time on several of the pages than I usually do and I am very pleased at the results.  However...... lots of late nights and a time change make for a very tired Monday.

The time change showed up at Gwen's this morning when the girls all slept in much later than normal.  Zeke had to get up to go to school with Gwen, and it was slow going for him!  So needless to say we had a quiet morning.  Wait a minute.........that is a very poor choice of words!  Today was NOT QUIET!  There was music and singing and dancing and videos playing and, well, you get the idea.  But in the middle of that, this was Anna today........
The little pigtails just made her look SO OLD!  And then to add to that, she has become quite the dancer and can actually do several of the girl's dances that they are practicing for their upcoming recital!  It is beyond amazing how much she has learned, just by watching the older girls.  I have a feeling that when she finally starts "pre-ballet" (which isn't until the fall of 2017!) she will already have a good "vocabulary" of dance steps.  This picture reminded me of this one.......
This, of course, is Gwen in her first pigtails!  No question that Anna belongs to Gwen!  Once again, I am so glad that I have these photographic reminders that confirm my feeling that Anna is the spitting image of Gwen!  

Yes, it was a noisy but very fun day today with the kids.  I had a meeting this evening so I stayed until after dinner.  It was a long day and as I was driving home after my meeting this song was playing on the radio......

Word of God Speak
By MercyMe

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That you're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In your holiness

Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay

I was thinking how interesting it was that my day had been so NOISY and then this song reminds me that in the quiet I will hear His voice.  This morning, my small group had a "flurry" of text messages around several different devotions about the need to REST!  My day did not feel very restful.  But when I heard this song I realized that being still and quiet is a choice that I have to make....whatever the circumstances that are around me.  I don't think that I spent much this past weekend being quiet or still. And today was noisy and busy.  But still, I am sure that Jesus - the WORD OF GOD - was speaking to me... just as the song says
Word of God, Speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
What a comfort it is to know I am always in the midst of Jesus, no matter what is going on around me.  And during those times that I feel so disconnected and far away from Him, all I need to do is rest and breathe and ask....Word of God, Speak!  Even when I don't even know what to say... what to pray about, I don't need to say anything!  How amazing.  

Won't you join me today and simply stop, rest and be still and then ask "Word of God, Speak"? What a great reminder that the rest and the quiet and most of all - the Word of God - is right there for us.  Yes, I really needed this today.  

Jesus, thank you so much for music - even when it loud and seemingly unending and when those lyrics speak right into our spirit!  Holy Spirit, help us all to remember that we are in the midst of you! Thank you for time with family and friends.  And thank you for the laughter and joy and energy of children.  Amen  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Finding balance...........

What a beautiful day it was today!  It was actually almost 60 degrees and sunny - a perfect taste of springtime.  So while I was watching Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna we spent a lot of time outside!  Zeke is only 4, and he has mastered that all-important skill......riding a two wheel bike!  WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS!  He has found the balance necessary to pilot that bike down the sidewalk.  He is quite proud of this accomplishment and practiced most of the afternoon.  Anna was trying to ride anything that she could find.  I am sure that she will be trying out a two wheel bike sometime soon after watching her at Ellie's birthday party on Saturday!  Yes, Ellie's birthday was actually yesterday but her party was on Saturday.
This is seven year old Ellie, also finding a balance point, at the playground this morning!  She had a "gymnastics" birthday party at a local gym.  They have a large "bounce house" area and then also provide some obstacle courses and other gymnastic activities.  Most of the kids were considerably older than Anna.  But that little two year old participated in every event!  As I said, I am sure before we know it Anna will be taking off on a two wheel bike!

Back to is not always easy to find that perfect balance point.   Just like Zeke, sometimes it takes lots of practice.  Lately I have had much more "free time" since I don't have any "employment" right now.  I am still watching Gwen's kids one day a week and also have my small group meeting.  But what I have found is that it is really easy to NOT accomplish very much when you have lots of extra time.  Let's face it, when you are busy you HAVE to be very careful about using ALL of your time wisely.
.................................... to be continued.....................(I just couldn't seem to finish this blog)

Today Gwen and I were talking about a much busier time in my life.... I was working full time and had Gwen and Doug with school and other activities and then there was church and those activities.. well you get the idea.  Gwen was lamenting the never ending laundry that she experiences in her house of 6 people. I reminded her of a time when our laundry usually did not make it to our drawers/closets but went from the washer to the dryer to the dining room table.  From there it went back onto somebody!  And that cycle continued for a very long time!  Like several years (until I actually started working part time when Gwen was in 3rd grade).  I remember feeling very overwhelmed and like I never was on top of anything.  I don't think I was doing anything well.  I was just getting by in most areas of my life.

As I was doing my Bible reading today, and thinking about this (unfinished) blog that I started last night, I realized that the biggest BALANCE is really the seasons of our life.  We have the carefree days of childhood/young adulthood that balance the very busy times of raising young children.  Then we have a bit of an easier time as our children become more independent as preteens and teens and even young adults.  Then we transition into that empty nest/sandwich generation when we find ourselves stressed with issues dealing with our aging parents.  There is a bit of a balance in that.  And now as we approach retirement age, the balance of this age is much more time.  I have felt much more relaxed and less stressed in the last month.  I have done some very "grandmotherly" type things - cross stitching - for the first time in a long time!  I have also spent much more time in worship and listening to teachings (thanks to Periscope- if you don't know this newer application, it is worth looking into!) I have spent some extra time with Gwen and the kids.  And I have done some clearing out and organizing (thanks Lenten Challenge!)  This led me to thinking about being content and this verse.....
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.....I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:12b-13  

Truthfully I have not been very good about this contentment stuff.  It has not been easy or very evident in my life.  Today I was thinking about the connection between balance and contentment.  For me, if I had known about the shifting seasons and the balance this brought to my life, I think I would have had an easier time being content!  That and knowing that Jesus is the only one who has the strength to bring us into that place of being content - NO MATTER WHAT SEASON WE ARE IN!  Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile or who knows me, will understand that the last couple of years have been a tough season of loss and grief.  But in that season there was a balance of joy and hope that allowed my family to move forward.  Yes, it is good to see and understand what a gift balance is in all things!  So I will be celebrating this season of my life that has brought me a gift of time, along with a new perspective.  

Jesus, thank you letting me chew on this blog post about balance.  Thank you for the revelation of the seasons of our life that help us balance our way into contentment.  Holy Spirit, help us to remember in every season that there is another season on the horizon that will help us balance and walk through whatever is happening today.  Thank you Jesus for being our strength.  Amen

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spending time with the family!

Last weekend our family got together to celebrate Anna's birthday with an "experience" that everyone could enjoy.  Given that Anna is only 2 it was not easy coming up with something that all of the kids would like (and the adults) that would be appropriate for Anna.  Thankfully, Gwen has just discovered this really amazing public library that actually has (almost) a Children's Museum as part of their kids area!  And it is FREE!  Can you imagine that?  There were so many activities for the all of the kids, as well as a really big library of children's books.  As a plus for the adults, they were having an art exhibition from local elementary and middle schools featuring art work of all kinds. It was really fun to wander around and see all of the really amazing art produced by these young kids. The older kids were able to explore without much adult supervision.  Anna had a wonderful time.  This little shopping area actually had a conveyor belt and cash register to "check out" your items, as well as that amazing little shopping basket.  There was a large airplane slide that could be "flown" by a pilot and co-pilot and Zeke spent most of his time taking passengers on marvelous adventures - mostly to Florida (the only place that Zeke has ever gone on an airplane!) that was also a slide! Anna found the dress up area and wore a crown for a part of the day. There were art projects and lego's and a light table and a really cool light bright'ish wall with giant pegs.  And of course there were IPads and computers.  We spent a very enjoyable 2 hours watching all of the kids have a great time.  Afterwards we all went to a local burger restaurant for lunch.  It was a wonderful, fun filled day of laughter and just being together.  Next weekend is Ellie's birthday and plans are already underway for our family "experience" day to celebrate her big 7th birthday!

So it is kind of ironic that I decided to use that picture of Anna from our day, since the actual point of this blog is about NOT getting STUFF!  Susie and Doug actually had the idea to find an "experience" to celebrate birthdays rather than giving gifts.  Each of us has a lot of "stuff" and what we all get the most enjoyment out of, is spending time together.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have accepted the Lenten Challenge to get rid of one item each day from my closet and/or cupboard during these 40 days leading up to Easter.  This really small "sacrifice" has just reminded me how much I have to be grateful for!  Here is the first bag of "stuff" going to the donation center......
along with the chair it is leaning against!  That very old chair had seen its better days and was well worn.  Ken's dad had used this chair for many, many years and we got it in 2009 when he moved to Florida.  It has been in my scrapbooking room since then and I spent many, many hours in that chair over the last 7 years.  It was time that it found a new home!  That bag represents about 1/2 of the 40 day challenge. I have already started a new bag and have added items each day.  This is a wonderful way to change your focus and to remember what Easter is all about.

We are a blessed people here in the United States.  Most of us have access to clean drinking water at the touch of our hand. Our children have schools with windows and doors and roofs - and teachers and books.  We have libraries that are filled not only with books, but sometimes wonderful objects to help kids explore.  There are sidewalks and paved paths to walk on for miles and miles.  We have parks, forest preserves, green spaces and countrysides to visit.  A large percentage of us have amazing powerful computers that we carry around with us everywhere (our cell phones)!  Internet access is everywhere these days with free WIFI in every store and/or building you enter.  Our closets are full and our cupboards are overflowing.  Yet, among us there are the homeless and the poor and the sick and the needy.  Yesterday as I was adding an item to that bag I realized that just giving stuff is not enough.  It is something......but it is not enough.  The lesson I have learned from being together with my family is really simple.  TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS!  So, my new challenge to myself is to find ways to share time with others in addition to donating those objects.  Time to stop and chat with a store clerk.  Time to see a friend that you just haven't connected with in a very long time.  Time to help at the local thrift shop.  Time to pack some meals at Feed My Starving Children.  Time to serve food at the local shelter.  Time to send some hand written notes and cards to people who need to know you care.  Time to connect with extended family members who you rarely see.  You get the idea.  Just time.  Giving my time.

You know what.....this is all about love.  People will know your love when you spend your time on them.  And we know that Jesus taught over and over about showing love to others.  I was reminded of this verse as I was writing this blog.......
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.    1 Corinthians 13:3

Yes, I learned a valuable lesson at the library on Saturday and I am finding a lesson in my Lenten challenge.  I am ending tonight feeling so thankful for a warm house and hot food and a loving family.  My tomorrow will include looking for ways to show my love through my time.  Will you join me in this challenge?

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that giving things we possess is not enough.  Holy Spirit, help us to see all of the ways that we can show your love to the world.  Open our eyes to the small things that we can do..... the ways we can use our time..... to change our world.   Thank you Jesus for your great love for us!  Help us to remember that you see our love by the time we spend with you also!  Amen