I love the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I love the fresh start, clean slate, second chance, new season, do-over feeling that New Year expectations bring. The start of another year is definitely the time for New Beginnings.
I’ve been thinking about how to make 2010 a “10” in my life. How about you? Are you looking for anything more or different in any area of your life in 2010? Do you want to be the same person you were in 2009 or do you want to learn and grow and change? Do you desire to have, to do, and to be something more – someone better? I know I do.
My husband is a goal setter and planner. There are three things I’ve learned from him…
Going with the flow will always take you downstream.
A pile of lumber in the yard never becomes a house.
Nothing will change in my life until I change.
In other words, 2010 will only be a great year if we decide today to make it so. All the potential in the world won’t make it so. Wanting it more than we’ve ever wanted anything won’t make it so.
The only way to make 2010 a “10” is…
An intentional decision to possess, accomplish or become something more, something different, or something better.
Specific goals by which changes can and will be measured.
Clear and definitive written plans to reach the goals and
A commitment to immediate and continuing action to execute that plan starting today.
Here are five prerequisites that will keep us on track as we dream, set goals, and plan for 2010.
First… Ask God what he wants from you.
I urge you therefore, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ~ Romans 12:1
Present yourself to God in prayer. Ask him what he wants from you this year. God speaks most clearly to those who are ready to listen. Usually, we must commit to obey before God will speak.
Second… Pay attention to who God created you to be.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place – when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:13-16
God knows everything about us; more than we know about ourselves. Ask him to help you discover the specific purposes for which he has hard-wired you. We all love and serve God best by loving and serving people. But each of us are created and called to do it differently. Pay attention to the blueprint of how God has uniquely shaped you for loving and serving people.
Third… Remove the obstacles before you begin.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. ~ Hebrews 12:1
You know your weak spots. Take steps to eliminate them. Get creative. Think outside the box. Don’t set impossible goals and don’t ignore the things that you already know will hinder and encumber you. Keep it real. Ask for help.
Fourth… Commit fully and engage immediately.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
Say what you will do and do what you say. Make a commitment and get started. Conditions will never be perfect. A good plan aggressively executed today is better than a perfect plan executed sometime next week.
Fifth… Stand strong against the fear of failure.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9
The fear of failure keeps many people from starting. Fear is a powerful foe. Don’t let it stop you. The essence of courage is feeling the fear and moving forward in spite of it. Besides, failing is not failure. Not trying is the only true failure. I like my husband’s motto, “If you’re going to go down, go down in flames.”
2010 will not be a great year just because we want it to be great. Join me in setting aside an hour or two this week to identify the things that will make 2010 a great year. Don’t let the clock strike midnight on December 31st without completing your plan to make 2010 a “10.”
Happy New Year and may God Bless each of you as you strive to make 2010 a " 10 "
I love the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I love the fresh start, clean slate, second chance, new season, do-over feeling that New Year expectations bring. The start of another year is definitely the time for New Beginnings.
My nephew Joe is a recovering drug addict. I couldn’t be prouder of him. His story gives hope to everyone who has ever hit bottom with no where to go but up. He is a testament to the incredible power of the human spirit.
Joe was in and out of jail as a result of his drug use. For several years, whenever he was incarcerated, Joe’s wife and two boys lived with my sister (Joe’s mom). Joe also lived there when he was not in jail.
Then my sister disappeared after meeting a man on the Internet and moving to Montana with him. Evidence of foul play and a presumption of murder made it clear that Joe would never see his mother again.
At this point, Joe’s addiction spiraled completely out of control and over the next six months they lost everything – all their earthly possessions, the roof over their heads, friends and family. Literally everything was gone. Joe hit the very bottom and had no where to go but up. He began to ask questions about his life and what he was (and wasn’t) doing. His wife was also an addict and his boys were paying the price for their choices.
It was a painfully slow and extremely difficult process but things began to change. Over the next three years, thanks to some intense counseling sessions, Joe and his family have emerged victorious from their journey through hell.
Joe is now attending college, studying to become a drug counselor. He and his wife are active in their local 12-step program and have started their own chapter. Their boys now have the loving and responsible parents they were without for so long.
As I contrast the dark and desperate days of my nephew’s life during his years of drug use with the fine, upstanding, responsible young man he now has become, I give thanks to God. When my sister disappeared, I asked God not to let her death be in vain. I asked that something good would come from it.
Joe and his family are living proof that God answers prayer – even the prayer of an aunt for her seemingly hopeless nephew. If you are reading this Joe, I love you. Keep up the good work and know that somewhere in heaven your mom is smiling.
Written with Joe’s permission
I have recently discovered Twitter. I was aware of it before and spent the past ten months watching my husband, who has always had a knack for marketing, become a Twitter expert, publish articles about marketing with Twitter, and attract over 23,000 followers.
He encouraged me to use Twitter to promote my New Beginnings blog and I finally decided to give it a try. He gave me a few tips to get me started and now I am a full-fledged, gotta-have-my-fix, can’t-live-without-it, Twitter junkie.
I created my Twitter site, attracted my first 100 followers, and now have the ability to connect instantly with thousands of other Tweeps (Twitter people) all over the world. With access to a computer, distance is now irrelevant. Virtual real-time connection with people in 140 characters or less – Amazing!
As I was “tweeting” with a new friend in India, trying to reduce my profound thought into 140 characters, it occurred to me that Jesus is a connector.
If we have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, we know Him as our personal Savior and are connected in Him. We become more than friends with other believers around the world. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus connects us to people who can help us through trying times. He connects us to people who become lifelong friends in this journey we call life and He connects us to God the Father who loves us and wants to connect with us.
If you don’t know the great connector personally and are not yet connected to God, I encourage you to explore this possibility. The Bible says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us ( James 4:8 ). In Twitter-talk, “Follow God and he will follow you back.”
Fellow Tweeps, feel free to tweet me at http://twitter.com/newbeginningscj (especially if you don’t have anyone to help you connect with God.)
Some things never change – and Christmas in 21st century America in one of them. You can’t wait for it to get here and when it’s over, you want to get that tree out of your living room, box up too many years of accumulated decorations, find a permanent place to keep all the new gifts, and return a number of other ones. In short, you can’t wait to get your house, your routine, and your life back to normal so you can deal with the post-holiday financial strain, emotional stress, and physical exhaustion. Merry Christmas!
But this year was different at our house. Due to our financial situation, I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas at all. In fact, I initially told my husband we should cancel it. But now that it’s over, I’m cherishing the precious memories of this very special Christmas.
It’s been a tough year financially. My husband is starting a new business and we’ve been without a regular paycheck for 15 months now. After years of living on an income that was in the top 3% of incomes in America, living on roughly 10% of that amount this year has been a challenge.
God has provided for our basic needs and I am thankful. But “just getting by” with the bare necessities of life kept me from getting into the Christmas spirit this year. Walking by stores filled with the toys, clothes, gifts, and gadgets that in years past we’ve been able to afford was disheartening. Visiting the food bank as a consumer instead of a donor was difficult. We’ve always had enough to buy what we wanted and still been able to give to others. But not this year – not even close.
I truly believed it wouldn’t be Christmas without being able to buy all of these things. I sincerely thought we should cancel any and all celebration since we couldn’t afford to “do” Christmas this year. But then something began to change – my heart.
It started slowly, but as I literally counted pennies and looked for creative ways to give my family gifts that didn’t cost money, something stirred within my heart – something I hadn’t felt for a long time. I was rediscovering the true spirit of Christmas.
After setting out the manger scene, my six year-old grandson wanted to put baby Jesus in the manger and suddenly I was grateful to God for His ultimate gift of salvation - the gift of new life from a baby born in a manger. After putting baby Jesus in the manger, he asked if we could read the story of the first Christmas from the Bible. My heart felt as if it would burst with joy.
What had I been thinking? Right then and there I asked God to forgive me for my selfish spirit of discontentment and my obvious lack of gratitude. I prayed for an attitude adjustment.
A few days later, we got busy putting up the tree - The tree that I wasn't going to bother with this year because there would be nothing to put under it. My daughter and her family came over to help us decorate it. The joy and pleasure that was evident on my grandson’s face during this family tree-decorating event was a priceless gift.
I experienced the deep peace and inexpressible joy of Christmas as I made and/or baked all of our gifts this year. Christmas began to feel more “real” to me than any Christmas I could recall as an adult. A few days before Christmas, my grandson and I spent an entire morning baking Christmas cookies together (just the two of us). These are the precious moments we remember for a lifetime.
When Christmas dinner was served at my daughter’s house and four generations of our extended family gathered around the table, I humbly gave thanks to God for reminding me that the Spirit of Christmas lives in the hearts of all who follow Christ. Later, around the Christmas tree, while watching kids and grandkids open gifts, my heart was overwhelmed with love and gratitude. I counted my blessings.
It wasn't about the presents. It was about the presence – the presence of God in my spirit… the presence of family and friends and neighbors in my life. What had I been thinking all these years?
God answered my prayer for an attitude adjustment. Tears began to flow as I recognized my selfish and ungrateful spirit. Many people are lonely and have no family or friends to be with at Christmas. Others have lost loved ones or are experiencing the pain of broken relationships and homes. So many live in the painful reality of our lost and hurting world.
We may have less money than we’ve had in years past, but I am rich beyond measure. I have the true Spirit of Christmas in my heart and Christmas will never be the same again. Thank you, Father.
For as long as she could remember, Julie's parents put the Christmas tree up on the day after Thanksgiving. The entire family would gather to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and then stay to decorate the Christmas tree on Friday. Early on the morning after Thanksgiving, Julie's dad and two brothers, along with any other male relatives willing to brave the cold and often snowy mountains of Montana, would venture into the wilderness to find the perfect Christmas tree.
Upon their return to the house, a family celebration that involved her mother’s hot chocolate and strings of cranberries and pop corn would begin. Everyone would pitch in and before you could say, “Merry Christmas,” the tree was decorated and the entire family circled the tree for the grand finale – one final tradition in the annual tree decorating ritual.
Each year, the youngest member of the clan had the honor of placing the Christmas Angel on the top of the tree. The year Julie turned six she was still the youngest member of the clan (for the 3rd year in a row) and in charge of the Christmas Angel.
The entire family watched as she climbed carefully up the portable ladder. Suddenly, she stopped and turned to look at her mother who was sitting on the sofa near the fireplace. With the Christmas Angel still clutched in her hand, she climbed back down the ladder, walked over to her mother, and handed her the angel. “Mommy, I almost forgot. God told me you are supposed to put the Christmas Angel on the tree this year.”
You could hear the silence in the room. Puzzled expressions ranged from shock and surprise to bewilderment and curiosity. Julie's mother paused and smiled tenderly before gently caressing Julie's cheek. “All right, sweetie. If God told you I should do it this year, then of course I will.”
That picture of Julie's mother placing the Christmas Angel atop the tree that year would never be forgotten. You see, young Julie and her family had no way of knowing that this was to be her mother’s last Christmas with them. The following month she was diagnosed with brain cancer and three months later she was gone.
To this day, whenever the Christmas Angel is placed on the tree, Julie always remembers her mother’s smile and gentle touch – and the picture of her placing the Christmas Angel on the tree, then turning to her family and saying, “ Merry Christmas everyone!”
I love the Christmas season and all it brings with it. Many of my fondest memories include Christmas family traditions – but my favorite memories are from when I was a child.
Growing up, Christmas usually meant a house full of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents with lots of presents and good food. I remember the heightened levels of excitement, anticipation, and curiosity about the presents under the tree. In my mind, I was always a good girl and was delighted at the thought of opening all the gifts I knew I deserved.
When I was eight years old, my Mom asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted a perfect little blonde haired doll with her own carrying case. About a week before Christmas, two identical boxes appeared under the Christmas tree – one addressed to me and one to my little sister.
I remember looking at those two gifts for hours – shaking, examining, wondering, and perhaps even obsessing over what was inside. Two days before Christmas, Mom walked across the street to visit our neighbor and I found myself alone in the house.
Curiosity got the best of me. As she headed out the door I made a bee line for the two identical boxes under the Christmas tree and carefully opened the one with my name on it. There was a perfect doll settled in a perfect little carrying case. But my perfect little doll wasn’t quite perfect. She had brown hair. I double-checked the tag to make sure I had the right box. It clearly said, “To Cassie, From Santa.”
As I carefully rewrapped the gift, I couldn’t take my eyes off the other box with my sister’s name on it. After checking to be sure Mom was still across the street, I opened my sister’s gift. Sure enough, there was “MY” perfect little blonde haired doll all snug in her perfect little carrying case.
What to do? Santa had obviously made a mistake and gotten my blonde doll mixed up with my sister’s brown-haired doll. I had heard about Santa's helpers so I decided to become one then and there. I rewrapped “My” doll and switched the tags on the boxes. Mom was still across the street. Perfect!
On Christmas morning, I was a bit nervous when we opened our gifts. My sister was thrilled with her brown-haired doll but that curious look on my mother’s face made me wonder. Had she talked to Santa? No one said anything and all was well for me and my perfect little blonde haired doll.
While Santa is giving his presents, God gives us his presence.
I have dreamed vivid, colorful, and memorable dreams every night for most of my adult life. They are often strange, fantastic, absurd, or surrealistic. Many mornings my first topic of conversation with my husband is an update of my dreams from the night before.
My dreams fade from memory quickly and return to the oblivion of my subconscious mind. Occasionally, one of them will stay with me and sometimes I even dream the same dream twice. Some dreams are vividly embedded in my memory while others disappear minutes after I tell my husband about them in the morning.
By way of contrast, my husband is usually in a deep sleep within 60 seconds of climbing into bed. He sleeps soundly through the night and, until recently, never had a dream he was aware of in his entire adult life.
We recently met a woman named Janice Seney (name used with permission) who taught a class called Listening to God - How to Hear God’s Voice. It was life-changing for us in many respects. In addition to a basic understanding of how to live from our spirits (as opposed to our body or soul), dreams and visions, and the proper interpretation of them, turned out to be an important part of the class.
Dreams and visions have been God’s preferred method of communication with his people throughout history. In the Old Testament, God almost always spoke to his people through dreams and visions (Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, etc.). In the New Testament, he did the same (Peter, Cornelius, Phillip, Paul, John, etc.) Do we really expect God to change the way he speaks to his people today? Most of us tend to discount and ignore his primary communication methodology because it makes us uncomfortable.
During and after our six-week class, my husband and I prayed together and told God that if he wanted to speak to us through our dreams, we would pay attention, listen, and obey to the best of our ability. We each started dream notebooks to record our dreams and, armed with our basic training in dream interpretation, we simply started paying attention.
I could tell so many stories but in short, God did speak to us clearly and specifically through our dreams. He confirmed direction, requested action, increased vision, provided comfort and assurance, and imparted wisdom and insight in many areas of our lives.
Many of my dreams were profound and some of them prophetic. My husband, who never dreamed before, dreamed every single night for nearly a month. And God showed up in our lives in a huge way. We realized how much we had been missing by discounting and ignoring God’s supernatural power in our lives.
Here’s what I mean. God is a loving God. And in the conservative theological circles in which I travel, we talk a lot about this aspect of God character. But God is also supernatural. No one in these same circles would deny it – but we spend very little time learning and talking about this part of God’s nature. Why is that?
One more thing – not all dreams are from God. Some are from our soul, driven by the problem we are grappling with at work or the anxiety created by an impending deadline or event. Some are from the enemy of our souls and others have more to do with the pepperoni pizza we had for dinner than anything else.
There is much I could say but I must close for today. Regarding your dreams, ask God to speak to you and pay attention when he does. Commit in advance to listen and obey. Embrace the supernatural nature of God and - dream on!
I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. ~ Joel 2:28
I met my first grandson on the day he was born. It is a memory that is forever etched in my heart.
My son-in-law handed me that little, white bundle of joy with a round, pink face and a tiny, blue knit cap in the middle of it. I removed that cap and saw a head covered with brown, fluffy stuff that looked more like goose down than hair. While in my arms, he opened his big, blue eyes and that was all it took. We were connected for life.
What they say about grandchildren is definitely true. They are the reward for all the years their parents were teenagers. Grandchildren make all the gray hairs worth it.
Three years later, my tiny bundle of joy was running, talking, laughing, and screaming as he discovered the world around him. His face lit up at the sight of a butterfly flittering from flower to flower. He gazed in wonder at a red tomato in the garden that was green when he last saw it.
One day, we were walking around the yard and admiring the blooming spring flowers. My grandson ran to a cluster of yellow ‘flowers’ and began to pick dandelions. I went back to the deck to watch. When he was finished, he ran back to the deck and, with a huge grin lighting up his big, blue eyes, handed me his bouquet of yellow, flowery weeds.
“What are these for?” I asked.
“They’re for you, Grandma. God made them pretty because he loves us and I picked them for you because you are the best Grandma in the world and I love you.”
These are the precious moments that make life meaningful. I took the already-wilting weeds from his grubby little hands, gathered him in my arms, and said, “This is the most beautiful bouquet of flowers any one has ever given me.”
And it was the truth. Children are precious and special gifts from their pure hearts are priceless.
With her mind in a fog, the doctor’s word’s hung like a cloud over her head. She had always been healthy, strong, independent – and now this? After two weeks and many tests, the results were conclusive. My mother had osteoporosis.
The airplane tickets to Mexico were non-refundable and all of her ‘snow-bird’ friends were expecting her. She wanted to go, but could she navigate the hazardous streets of Puerto Vallarta without Dad’s arm to steady her – especially now when the consequences of a fall would be devastating?
Mom and Dad had “wintered” in Puerto Vallarta for years. They had many friends there. But she had always had Dad’s strong arm to steady her. They always held hands or walked arm in arm and Mom felt loved and protected. But now after Dad’s passing, she needed his protection and he was gone. Falling accidents were very common in Puerto Vallarta and she was fragile. Without Dad at her side, the risks were significant.
After much prayer and many encouraging telephone calls from friends in Mexico, Mom decided to take a bold step of faith and travel alone. She saw this as an important milestone and another step in the right direction toward healing after Dad’s unexpected death.
She spent five weeks with different friends in Mexico and the trip went well. This was a meaningful time of healing. God answered her prayers and she successfully avoided the many possible “falling” hazards she encountered. Her confidence in God’s protection increased and the fear that initially paralyzed her steadily subsided.
She spent several days with one couple at their luxurious villa overlooking the sunny beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The villa was very large and spacious with external steps leading up several levels both inside and out.
One morning she was walking up the steps from the pool to the back deck. As she climbed the steps, the door bell rang. She stopped at the small landing halfway up the stairs to give her friend time to answer the door.
She gazed at the magnificent ocean view for a few minutes and somehow forgot that she was already partway up the stairs. As she ‘wandered’ back toward the pool, she suddenly found herself stepping off the landing into thin air. She realized she was falling and knew she was in trouble. The word, “shattered” flashed across her mind. Knowing she was at risk of serious injury, she silently asked God to protect her.
No sooner had she whispered that prayer of the mind, than she found herself standing straight up on both feet at the bottom of the stairs. Stepping off the landing as she had, it was virtually impossible for her to have landed on her feet.
She later told us it was as if someone had literally picked her up, straightened her out, and then carefully stood her upright on the deck below. She looked up at the landing from which she had fallen and realized that she had experienced a miracle. As she regained her composure and started back up the steps again the words of Psalm 91:11 ran through her mind.
For he will command his angels concerning you; to guard you in all your ways. ~ Psalm 90:11
(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post from 12/15/09)
As Curt (my husband) coasted into the shadow of the industrial power plant on the remaining fumes in his gas tank, he noticed a small country store, a diesel engine repair shop, a small bar, and 17 mobile homes trying to pass muster as a town. It was only 8:30 PM on this dark December night, but the entire metropolitan population of 23 had apparently gone to bed already. The only sign of life was the bar.
The bartender informed my husband that he was 32 miles from the nearest gas station and that the country store sold emergency gasoline but wouldn’t open until 8:00 AM the next morning. Curt called to inform me about his overnight delay and remind me about the winter coat, the blanket, the extra sandwich from the lunch I had packed so that I wouldn’t worry.
While Curt seemed excited about this unexpected “camping” adventure, I was terrified. It was 20 degrees and he was sleeping in his car! He was picturing himself a victor in the epic struggle of man against nature. In my mind, I could hear banjo music playing the theme from “Deliverance” while I envisioned his roadside murderer cutting his body into 1,000’s of frozen little pieces that were then fed to wild beasts while his car was stripped to the frame and sold for parts by toothless rednecks.
He said, “Good night” and climbed into his makeshift bed in the back seat of his SUV while I called friends and family and rallied them to pray for his safety. He would have slept like a baby all night and I wouldn’t have slept a wink.
About 10:15 PM, my husband decided to stretch his legs. At exactly the same moment (what a coincidence), one of the bays at the truck repair shop across the highway opened and an 18-wheeler pulled into the building. Intrigued by signs of life, my husband walked over to the shop and met two older men who were working the second shift.
Since it was a diesel engine shop, there was no gas in sight. But these two men calculated how much gas he would need, emptied two one-gallon jugs of cleaning solution into the sink, and siphoned gas from their own cars into the jugs so my husband could make it to the next gas station. They would not accept any money and instead said, “Merry Christmas.”
Three hours later my husband arrived home safe and sound. His 12-15 hour trip had been extended to 19 hours and I was glad he was home.
Prayer changes things because God answers prayer. It is the stuff that miracles are made of. Would Curt have made it home safely without prayer? Probably, yes. But we prayed specifically and God answered our prayer - just to let us know he cares.
My husband Curt, recently decided to close down a used book business we had started for our youngest son a few years back. Last week he made a 600 mile round trip to eastern Washington to sell our inventory. He planned a long day trip that included 5-6 hours of driving to get there, 2-3 hours of business, and 5-6 hours for the return trip. But sometimes plans don’t go as expected.
Noticing relatively low gas prices about two-thirds of the way there, Curt made a mental note to fill his tank in this area on the way back. Unfortunately, his tank was near empty by the time he arrived at his destination so, being the frugal man that he is, Curt bought just enough gas at the higher price to easily make it back to the area where he could fill the tank at a lower price per gallon.
While talking to an associate by phone on the return trip, he missed the turnoff and made a snap decision to continue toward home on the Washington side of the river. It would be faster than turning round and backtracking and he could cross the river into Oregon at the next bridge. Besides, it was an easy drive on a straight road and just as fast as the Interstate on the other side of the river.
Half an hour later, Curt realized he had not seen a gas station since his decision to take the alternate route home. He knew he didn’t have enough gas to turn around and go back so he kept going. Another 20 minutes passed as his tank drained to near-empty. Suddenly in the distance, there appeared a great light – a sign of modern civilization – and of hope. How far away was the light? He couldn’t tell.
Curt's fuel gauge now indicated he had just eight miles left to empty. Eight miles later, the light was closer. Driving another four miles on fumes with the fuel gauge boldly flashing “zero miles to empty,” he arrived at the source of the great light. It was an industrial power plant. That was it - no service stations and no other signs of life.
Do you ever have plans that don’t work out the way you imagined? Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.
Last week I missed three of the four blog entries I normally post each week. I was not neglecting my commitment – nor had I forgotten you. Rather, I was completely offline for three days due to a nasty virus that infected and then shut down my computer. It was called something like the “Trojan Horse” virus which sounded ominous and foreboding and in truth it was even worse than it sounded.
I learned two things from this challenging experience, both of which possess spiritually significant metaphors for my life.
My computer started acting up about a week before it crashed. I knew something was wrong but decided to let it slide since my husband, who also serves as my resident amateur computer expert, was heading out of town. We both assumed the daily anti-virus scan would eliminate or at least contain the virus. Left unchecked for five days, the virus multiplied to the point that the computer would not even boot up.
What I learned was not to ignore the warning signs. We both knew something was wrong but our decision to “deal with it” later was a bad choice. The same is true in life. Bad things (like viruses and sin) tend to multiply if left unchecked. Viruses crash computers and sin crashes lives.
Our computer was dead and ready for a trip to the dump. Then we took it to our friend and neighbor Frank. He owns a computer repair business and is a masterful computer technician. My computer was in need of a resurrection from the dead – or at least a good forensics autopsy.
When my computer met the master, Frank worked a miracle and was able to extract our critical data files including all of our family photos from recent years (which I now promise to back up faithfully) before removing the virus - and everything else on the hard drive. The possibility of losing our photos was by far my greatest concern. God bless Frank for the salvation of our photos, which once were lost, but now are found.
He then wiped the memory clean and reformatted the hard drive three times in order to eradicate the virus. Our computer looked the same on the outside but was brand new on the inside – a fresh start, a do-over, a new beginning.
The slate was clean and the virus was cast into the abyss of cyberspace – a distant and ugly memory that had been dealt with forever. With the power of the virus forever removed, my computer is now able to function as the computer it was created to be, thanks to the touch of the master.
(Don’t let this go to your head, Frank. It’s a metaphor.)
The Four Candles burned slowly. Their ambiance was so soft you could hear them speak.
The first candle said, "I am Peace but these days, nobody wants to keep me lit." Then the flame of Peace slowly diminished and went out completely.
The second candle said, "I am Faith but these days, I am no longer indispensable." Then the flame of Faith slowly diminished and went out completely.
Sadly the third candle spoke, "I am love and I haven't the strength to stay lit any longer. People put me aside and don't understand my importance. They even forget to love those nearest to them." And waiting no longer, love went out completely.
Suddenly, a child entered the room and saw the three candles no longer burning. The child began to cry. "Why are you not burning?" You are supposed to stay lit until the end.
Then the fourth candle spoke gently to the child. "Don't be afraid, for I am Hope and while I still burn, we can relight the other candles." With shining eyes, the child took the candle of Hope and lit the other three candles.
Never let the flame of Hope go out. With Hope in your life, no matter how bad things may be, Peace, Faith, and Love may shine brightly once again.
~ Author unknown
In a busy, crowded hospital, I felt like the only person on the planet. I sat on the edge of my hospital bed overwhelmed with sadness and fear - feeling abandoned and completely alone. That afternoon I had been rushed to the ER in severe pain only to discover my gallbladder was about to burst.
“Why now, Lord?” I sighed. My mother had passed away just two weeks ago, I didn’t have health insurance, and my marriage of nearly thirty years was in shambles. My life was at such a low point. I didn’t know if I could face this surgery alone. Mom had always been there for me and now she was gone.
With tears streaming down my face, I cried out to God for help in getting through this surgery. I was desperate to know that I wasn’t alone; that someone cared about what I was facing.
As I finished my prayer of desperation, a young nurse quietly entered my room. She said her name was Serenity. When she asked about my unexpected surgery, I told her about the excruciating pain, the paralyzing fear, and the overwhelming loneliness. Serenity listened and nodded as I poured out my feelings of sadness and loss. Her gentle smile reminded me of her name.
She sat down next to me on the bed and took my hand. “Your mother is with God now she said, “and your surgery will go well.” Then she prayed with me and reminded me that God loves me more than I will ever know. A deep sense of peace came over me.
My surgery did go well and the next day another nurse was taking my blood pressure when I asked if Serenity was on duty. She gave me a curious look. “There’s no one here by that name,” she said. “And I’ve been here for nearly twenty years.”
After my discharge, I checked with the personnel department to confirm that no one named Serenity had ever worked or volunteered at the hospital. I smiled and realized that God had sent an angel to encourage me - a young, scared, lonely woman who needed to know that God was real and that He loved her.
For he will command his angels concerning you; to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11
My brother lives in the wilderness of Prince William Sound in Alaska with his wife, Lynn. They built a log cabin close to the water and from their deck they watch whales, seals, and bald eagles in their natural habitat. Once or twice a week, large cruise ships pass by and my brother watches people who pay hundreds of dollars to see one time what he sees everyday.
He is a logger and a loner and they very much enjoy the peaceful, rugged, beautiful wilderness they call home. Lynn has been my brother’s anchor for 35 years. She is a constant source of stability and grounding in his life. They love each other deeply.
A few weeks ago, Lynn suffered a stroke that left her unable to walk. She also lost the last 10 years of her memory and her life has slipped 10 years into the past. Obviously, my brother is devastated. He is like a lost puppy without its master. After 35 years of marriage, he has been suddenly forced to face life without his partner and best friend.
My brother was not prepared for what happened. How could he be? But from somewhere deep inside, he is finding strength to go on. He is making the necessary choices and difficult decisions that must be made. He is facing this unexpected challenge and crafting his own new beginning. He is much stronger than I ever gave him credit for and I am proud of his commitment to Lynn, his wife and partner for life. He is living out his marriage vow to love her in sickness and in health.
We spoke the other day by phone. He said, “I hope God gives me another 35 years with Lynn. She is the love of my life and my reason for living.” He continued, “This is tough but God will see me through it.”
His last comment made me cry. You see, until now, my brother hasn’t believed in God. I think there may be another new beginning in his life – one that will reach beyond the difficulties of this life and into eternity.
I watched my eight month old grandson yesterday while my daughter and her husband moved into their new house. I watched him playing on our living room rug and noticed he kept putting his hand up and grasping at the air.
Suddenly it occurred to me that he was trying to catch the sunlight as it shone through the slats of the blinds. He was mesmerized by the sun beams and would try to catch them in his hands over and over. I watched him do this for quite some time and noticed the various expressions that crossed his face – expressions of wonder, curiosity, and delight.
The simplicity of his fascination intrigued me. It prompted me to ask myself what evoked a sense of wonder, curiosity and delight from me. I came up with a list of questions that made me think.
Wonder - Am I filled with a sense of awe and wonder when God shines his light into the window of my heart? Do I reach out to grasp the light? Do I even notice it?
Curiosity - Am I curious about how God’s shining presence will affect my day? Do I look for the shimmering glimpse of truth or sudden flash of insight his word may have for me?
Delight - Do I expectantly anticipate the great joy that comes when God reveals himself to me? Do I delight myself in him and commit to walk in the light of his word every day?
Most of my answers fell into the “sometimes but not enough” category. I decided to follow my grandson’s example and to be more intentional about reaching for the light. How about you?
And speaking of my grandson, that’s a pretty good list of questions from someone who can’t even talk yet, don’t you think?
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart ~ Psalm 37:4