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And So It Is Christmas

Aand so it is christmasnd so it is Christmas…

A day children awaken with wide-eyed anticipation of presents delivered overnight by Santa or gifted by family and friends. It’s a day that often includes a Christmas dinner or for some, like myself, a day of grazing on leftovers from earlier family gatherings.

And so it is Christmas…

Wrapping paper is torn from boxes and emptied of their contents. Ribbon, bows and gift tags are scattered on the floor as the joyous litter of another Christmas is tossed into an oversized garbage bag.

And so it is Christmas…

Favorite holiday movies are watched throughout the day, family board and card games are played together and laughter is shared amidst all the typical pandemonium and commotion of Christmas day.

And so it is Christmas…

Dusk descends and the day draws to a close. Bedtime prayers are said as the kiddos are tucked into bed. It’s been an eventful day and as the tree lights are switched off, I glance up at the moon and stars that shine brightly against the backdrop of the dark sky.

And so it is Christmas…

In that quiet moment I am reminded of a time long ago when a stable feeding trough was a makeshift crib for a baby destined to redeem our world from the guilt of our sin and disobedience to His Father: GOD.

And so it is Christmas…

My head hits the pillow, exhausted by the activity of the day. I whisper a prayer as I rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas: The peace, contentment and hope that the birth of Jesus gifted to me.

It may not be a peace that changes my circumstances, but IT IS a calm that can fill my mind and heart during the worst storm—contentment that poverty or plenty cannot take away—a sense of hope that God is in control, no matter what happens.

It’s not something I work up, or earn—it is a gift from God, a gift each of us can unwrap this Christmas Day, or any day. The gift of salvation brought through the birth of Jesus.

And so it is Christmas…

Rejoice, celebrate and claim your free gift of salvation because it’s the only gift that really matters at the end of the day. When tree lights are unplugged, presents unwrapped and guests return home and food put away, you are left with the backdrop of the night sky and yourself.

And in the stillness of the night, I pray you choose to embrace the true gift of AND SO IT IS CHRISTMAS. His name is JESUS.

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Love Wins Every Time

love wins
Sorry! I just don’t see how posting your political venue on Facebook along with sarcastic comments, quotes and venom is going to change the heart and mind of those who oppose your views.

Yes, you are entitled to your viewpoint on all things political, but do you have to present your case on Facebook?

If you really want to make a difference, do something that requires more than copying and pasting political propaganda and opinions you find on the internet. It’s the lazy person’s way of broadcasting politics and requires little effort.

We are a nation that has to co-exist together regardless of our political views. To verbally or physically assault others who oppose our views achieves nothing. History pretty much confirms this truth.

In a perfect world, it would be nice to believe that after the November 6 elections, all political disparity would subside. Sadly, you and I both know that won’t happen. There will be a new barrage of online verbal attacks; some on a very personal level that will sever family and friendships.

My life is surrounded by friends and family members with differing political and religious views that are contrary to mine. That’s OK. What’s not OK is for me to take an offensive enemy position in an effort to persuade them to my point of view.

For the record, there is this thing called prayer. God is the judge and jury of all mankind (at least in my religious views). Even if your views should differ, the bottom line is this:

We were created for a purpose. Hopefully, you view your purpose as someone who embraces humanity with love, understanding and compassion.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

I encourage you to practice love. It wins every time.

There is clarity when we set aside our differences. The blinders of hate, political discord and allegiances to groups that seek to divide us are lifted. Love allows us to see people who may have opposing views as a group of individuals that truly want to find a way to bring unity without twitter feeds, media hypes and Facebook / Internet propaganda.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Heavenly Father, unite our nation. Unite our people. Let us look toward the greater cause and purpose of why we exist… faith, hope and love.

Amen.

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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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Held to the Flame

flame

There are times in life when we are held to the flames. Perhaps it is divorce, separation or a battle for your health. Addictions, loss of a family member or job can quickly place our faith next to the flame.

I get it, and have experienced all of these ‘held to the fire’ moments within my life. Was it easy, NO! Was God faithful, YES! It is God’s holy fire that transforms us. When held to the flame, our spirit is transformed into something new.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. (7) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1: 6-7

We are valuable to God. Giving up His Son to death so that His blood would bring us forgiveness of sin is certainly proof of that. If your life is being held to the flame, God may be trying to tell you something.

Open your ears to hear God’s voice; He speaks to us through His Word. Read it!

Open your eyes to your surroundings. Are you hanging out in places and with people that give cause for concern?

Open your heart to change and the deep inner stirring of the Holy Spirit within your soul. That comes through prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father.

Sometimes our life is held to the flame for no apparent reason. REJOICE! God is testing your faith for a divine purpose. You may not see or know that purpose while on earth, but eternity holds all the answers.

Dig in your heels, hold tight! Let your faith be increased and proven to be genuine because it has been held to the flame.

“So now, beloved ones stand firm and secure. Live your lives with an unshakable confidence. We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because are we assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

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Finding Your Purpose

IMG_2855YIKES! Finding purpose is not so easy. I am 63 years young and still trying to learn what exactly it is I’m supposed to be doing. One week I believe it should be writing this blog, the next week I switch gears and believe it’s donating my time to a worthy cause, and then, I end the week with a big hallelujah that will help prosper community spirit.

I am all over the board and then some. It’s how I operate and the chances of that changing are unlikely. My heart is forever drawn in so many different directions with great intentions, but focusing on one particular purpose seems impossible.

Is that you?

If you have more than three servings on your life platter, there is a good chance I’m talking to you. Maybe you are a sport’s mom or dad who works full time. At this time in life, your purpose might be to feed the kids dinner, get them to practice or games, help with homework and get them in bed at a reasonable time.

Perhaps, you’re a student. Your purpose is to finish college, find a career that yields a worthy income, get married, have kids and eventually buy a house. Or, you could be a senior who has lost your purpose after retirement. The kids are gone, the house is paid off, grandkids no longer visit and health issues keep you from doing many of the things you once loved.

You are not alone

Life is transitional which means we are continually making adjustments to find our purpose on earth. When single, our purpose is to eventually find a spouse; once married with kids, there is a new purpose. The cost of college education for our kids ushers in a purpose of finding affordable tuition that doesn’t rob our retirement.

The pursuit of purpose is never ending and always changing when viewed from an earthly point of view. It can be exhausting, especially if we compare our life to those around us.

Eternal Purpose

We need to count it a blessing that our eternal purpose is salvation through Christ Jesus; it never changes. It is the mingling of God with humanity, through us, that cultivates our ultimate purpose. When we grasp hold of that eternal purpose, it is life-changing.

God uses every circumstance in our life to make us more like Jesus. Every success, failure, joy, and disappointment is designed to bring eternal purpose to our life and make us more like Jesus.

“Those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29)

As you forge a path of purpose in life, don’t fail to see the eternal picture. In our lifetime, we will pursue many ambitions, reach for goals and aspire to find new venues of purpose. However, it is the eternal purpose that matters most.

“But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things [purpose] will be given to you also.”
Matthew 6:33

 

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Never Under Estimate God’s Purpose

quoteCleaning homes is not something I ever expected to be doing in my sixties. Heck, I had already retired from one job and sold a prosperous LLC company by age sixty.

It’s not that I consider myself above house cleaning; it’s just that the thought never crossed my mind. Apparently it crossed the mind of God and I was assigned to be a house cleaning missionary.

It’s true. Not only that, but God also hand-selected someone I had never before met to work with me in the mission field. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? At my age, nothing surprises me about God and the ways He will use us for His purpose IF we are willing.

THE STORY

A single mom, married multiple times, who didn’t finish college until later in life. A woman broken by life’s struggles; a woman, by the grace of God, who found a secure job with decent wages and benefits to support herself and daughter.

I am guessing many of you have a similar story to share that is filled with shame, regrets and 20/20 vision. It’s that history that gets us to the God-designated place we are today. It takes unplanned events, heartaches and, in some cases, losses to get us to where God wants us to be.

THE WHY

In hindsight, the why is very clear but since glimpses of our future are not made known to us, we impatiently choose to move forward without a God-ordained plan. That is me, even to this day. I want to see the road ahead but when it’s not visible, I forge a path in the opposite direction of what God has planned for my life. It’s what I do and I do it very well.

THE HOPE

Be still my heart for there is still hope for us wayward souls who tend to take the path less taken. The path filled with thorns, burs and barbed wire. The path that ultimately leaves us scarred, wounded and crying for help.

And, then there is Jesus. His mercy and grace beckons us in another direction. A path we never considered, but a path that leads us to still waters; where he can restore us anew.

THE REASON

The life paths and direction God has designed for each of us is as different as our DNA. Our divine purpose on earth is unique because it is eternal based. We can’t see the big picture; we only see what is here and now.

I often ask God the reason I’ve been chosen to be a house cleaning missionary at this time in my life; an age where I can barely step in and out of a bathroom spa tub and scrubbing floors can require knee pads. His answer comes in ways I never imagined.

  • The woman crying in her car across the street from one of our house cleans who willingly accepted our offer to pray with her because her mother was dying.
  • The widow who looks forward to our visits because we make her laugh.
  • The busy doctor and PA with small children who continually show gratitude and thanks for the service we provide.
  • The grandmother who acquired custody of her grandkids because of family addiction issues and needs a sounding board.
  • The single father who needs help with housekeeping.
  • The single mom at the corner store who needs encouragement; so, we left her a goody bag.
  • The guy who noted the name ‘My Magic Mop’ on our vehicle and his laughter when I replied, “I ride the Magic Mop to work.”
  • The retired military man, a widow, who needs help with cleaning.

THE MISSION

To remain sensitive to the needs of others and continue to joyfully serve in the mission field God has placed me in at this time in my life. There are days I come home sore and tired. Other days, I come home exhilarated by the small victories, the challenges I’ve overcome and the new friendships acquired.

Never under estimate where God places you at certain times of your life.

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Opposing Views

opposingviewsI believe it’s a pretty fair assessment that posting our opposing political views serves no purpose but to vent our mindset on the situation. Let’s be honest, based on the Facebook posts I am seeing, you aren’t going to change or persuade anyone’s mind on their political views.

My circle of friends encompasses many that have a political or religious viewpoint that differs from mine. I’m certain you find yourself in the same amphitheater. We cheer on those who support our opinion and cause but tend to separate ourselves from those who voice an opposing view. I have noticed it is not unusual for a verbal confrontation or dissolution of friendship to ensue.

This discord weighs heavy on my heart as this passage of scripture comes to mind,

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (RSV) Luke 12: 1-3

We must live without any real secrets, because they are eventually going to become public—now, later, or when Jesus’ comes. We will be on full display when we stand before the Lord. The reality of our public persona and true self will be revealed.

 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Luke 12:53

So, while we all sit back as judge and jury on current political events, let us take pause of our own personal life. What hidden and unrevealed hypocrisies lurk in the shadows of our past? It’s a question that requires serious contemplation because, one day, we will be required to give a full account of our life.

When the big books of heaven are opened and your soul is required to give account for your time on earth, how will it read?

I sincerely pray the proclamation of your life reads: “It is well with my soul.”