Encouragement on an index card

“Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)

Index cards were given out to each student in the class. Their homework exercise was to write one affirmation statement about each name on the card. Sounds easy enough. But, how about the person you just recently met. What do you say? How about the person whom you have developed a friendship?

At the next class, students stood in a circle, cards in hand, and read the statements written one by one; each time facing the person whose name was on the card in front of them. The students being read to, had to respond with a thankful statement. One could see apprehension on the faces of the students. Some students confessed to struggling with the exercise. It caused them to dig deeper and really see the person of whom the statement was being made. As the statements were being read, the student’s faces softened. Their countenance changed. For some, the statements affirmed gifts they didn’t see themselves having. For others, it was an affirmation that they were where God wanted them. The warmth was contagious.

I once had a Sunday School teacher who taught a class about encouragement. I remember her commenting that if one look hard enough, one could find something good about everyone. She lived her teachings as well. She was known as the “license plate” lady in my hometown. So, of course she met just about everyone in that town. One day, I was working in her office when an unkempt gentleman approached the window. Being much younger, I didn’t always keep my tongue the way I should have. After the gentleman was served and left, I made a comment about his appearance. Her comment to me was, “Yes, but didn’t he have beautiful eyes.”

What about you? What do your words and actions say to or about others?

Encouragement card

Dear Heavenly Father, through your Word, we find encouragement. Thank you for the people you place in our lives to share your Word and offer us encouragement, even in the times we don’t know we need them. In Christ name we pray. AMEN

Listening With Love

Listening with love

L – listen with your heart

I – inspire others to do good

S – soothe the broken spirit

T – temper your speech with kind words

E – empathize with others

N – notice and acknowledge kindness shown to you

 

“And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you.” (Mark 4:24 NIV)

 

Heavenly Father, we don’t always take the time to listen to others as we should. Thank you for listening to us when others do not. Teach us to be more attentive to our family, friends and acquaintances and to listen with our hearts. In Christ name-Amen.

Surrender

 

You’re having lunch with coworkers and notice the chocoholic passed over the decadent chocolate lava cake. What gives? Oh yeah. It’s the middle of Lent!

Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes the celebration of Easter. The time Christians recall and renew their commitment to God. A time to acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward Him.

Some denominations practice fasting, giving up something pleasurable for 40 days as a sacrifice to God. To others the Lenten season is a time of prayer and surrendering bad habits as a way of turning back towards a life that God wants for us.

The church I attend does not practice the season of Lent. However, it does teach and encourages surrender, prayer and alms-giving as part of our daily walk with Christ, 365 days a year.

The church I work at does practice the season of Lent and has been posting daily reminders of things to reflect on as one surrenders bad habits and attitudes to God.

I have discovered that I have been holding on to way too many attitudes that are not pleasing. Slowly, I’m releasing them. I have a long way to go yet. Healing from hurts and learning to forgive is a hard one. The season of Lent has 26 days remaining. I wonder what other habits and attitudes will be revealed.

However temporary, these changes can help us to appreciate the true abundance in our lives. And perhaps, just perhaps these small positive changes can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of Lent.

Year 2016 is going to be a year of change; I just know it!

Surrender Your Heart to God

13 Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,
14 and give up your sins— even those you do in secret.
15 Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. – Job 11:13-15 (CEV)

Heavenly Father, we can never out give the sacrifice you gave for us. Help us to reflect on not only the fasting during this Lenten season, but the changes we can incorporate into our walk with you every day of our lives. In Christ name, amen.

 

 

 

 

More of His Grace

 

“More about Jesus I would know, more of His grace to others show; More of His saving fullness see, more of His love, who died for me. More, more about Jesus, More, more about Jesus; More of His saving fullness see, more of His love, who died for me.”

An old time favorite hymn of mine is titled “More about Jesus” written by Eliza Hewitt. It was first published in 1887. It speaks of the major theme of the Christian faith…GRACE.

The word “grace” has numerous definitions.  Google “grace” and it will return over 54,000,000 results. Grace is more than a brief prayer offered up before a meal. Grace can be defined as having or giving favor or goodwill; such as showing kindness, forgiveness, charity, and mercifulness. It can be defined as mercy, clemency or pardon. It’s an unmerited favor one doesn’t deserve it.

One of the lines in that hymn brought to mind a story shared with me by a friend returning from a mission trip and a lesson about grace while there.

It seems one group of youth and adults didn’t understand the purpose of a mission trip and it sounded as if this group had less than servant hearts. The staff was confused by what they had observed and frustrated that they seemed to have had no impact on the attitude or heart of the group.

After listening to their stories the leader of the group said, “Remember, EGR.”  My friend thought, EGR?  She knew EEG, EKG and even EOG’s but EGR… what’s EGR? So she asked. The response was “Extra Grace Required.” The leader was reminding staff that some people and situations require extra Grace.

We all need to practice “EGR”, don’t we? If someone cut’s us off at the traffic light, think “EGR.” If there’s an empty grocery cart in that choice parking space at the grocers, think “EGR.” If our spouse has a bad day and snaps at us unintentionally, think “EGR.” If our child gets frustrated trying to learn a new skill, think “EGR.” The list could go on and on about when we could practice “EGR.”

But wait! That’s a lot of finger pointing. We must remember the old adage…”When you point your finger at someone, four of your fingers are pointing back at you.” Just as we have the opportunity to practice “EGR,” we probably are giving others a reason to practice it with us. Oh, no, not when we roll our eyes at a spouse’s comment; not when we raise our voice at our children before, we allow them to complete their explanation; not when we become impatient with a new cashier; not when…. fill in the blank.

There are many times when our actions don’t reflect the grace that we have received.

Instead of only looking for times to practice “EGR” with others, perhaps we should be hoping others will understand the mistakes we make and send a little EGR our way. God certainly has and does every single day.

I’m thankful for grace.

That old hymn is a reminder to practice “EGR.” Perhaps, just perhaps … This Is Your Song too. I hope so.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive us for those times when we behave in an ungracious manner. Help us Lord to be a reflection of Your grace in all that we say and do. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen

 

 

Just Another Day

Sometimes we get so bogged down in the rituals of our daily lives that we forget to give thanks for what we think is just another day. We worry about completing tasks. We grumble or complain when interruptions get in the way of our plans. For instance, . . .

I hear water running in the shower. Slowly, I force my eyes open. The clock reads 5:30 a.m. “Ugh,” I groan inwardly, “not already.” I lay in bed a little longer while waiting for my husband to finish dressing and start the coffee. This is our ritual most mornings. Just another day starting out the same old way.

I finally crawl out of bed and shuffle into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. Still trying to get my eyes to focus, I overflow the cup. I chuckle at myself as it reminds me of a commercial I’ve seen with a lady doing the same thing. She wipes the coffee from the counter into her cup. I try to remember the product, but it escapes me. “Humph,” I think, “This is going to be just another day like the others.”

Hubby kisses me goodbye as he leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. That’s my que to go dress for work. As I shower, my mind flits from one subject to another, thoughts of what needs to be done when I get to the office; prayers for people who are on my heart; grocery lists; lines from a song; it’s been a while since I did any writing. I need to get on the blog tonight…Yep today is going to be just another day.

I make it to work at 8:00 a.m. As I walk to the building, my cell phone buzzes. It is a text from a friend sharing news that her daughter was just accepted by one of the major colleges. I smile to myself. She had been in my prayers. I shoot back a quick congratulatory text. I unlock the office door, turn on the lights, boot up my computer and go make a cup of coffee. Just another day.

Other folks begin arriving and the campus becomes alive. Just as I begin to start on my morning tasks, a teacher stops by my office with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m doing to look at her statement and listen to her concerns. I answer her question and advise her on what to do in the future. She thanks me and hurries down the hallway to her classroom. I turn back to my task at hand and mumble under my breath, “just another day.

Shortly after the teacher leaves, an elderly church member stops by with a question about her financial statement. I stop what I’m working on to answer her question. Then the conversation turns to the recent snow storm. I asked if she had any troubles during it and learned she was without power for several days. Warmed only by the fireplace, she and her husband sat huddled together, reminiscing about their childhood in Scotland and how it reminded them of the fireplace “back home.” I smiled at her and commented, “I bet they were some good memories.” She paused for a moment with a faraway look in her eyes and with a smile quietly answered, “Why yes. Yes, they were. Thanks for asking.” As she leaves, I turn back to my task at hand, preparing for just another day in the office.

At 9:00 a.m. the phone rings. I recognize the gentleman’s voice on the other end. He had two college basketball tickets he was giving away and wanted the phone number of someone he had in mind for them. I gave him the information and then asked how he and his family was doing. I learned their well went dry recently, and they finally have water again. His wife was extremely happy about it. He chuckled and said that was why he was giving the tickets away and that he “best keep” his wife happy for right now. I wished him well and turned back to my work again, preparing for just another day in the office.

For the next two hours I worked with very few interruptions, except email. Between answering emails and completing some database updates I nearly finished a project. Just another day in the office.

Finally, lunch time rolled around. I had been looking forward to today’s lunch for several weeks. I had a lunch date with a young married couple. It had been quite some time since we had had a lengthy conversation. We ate delicious barbecue sandwiches in my office while we discussed matters on their hearts. I always enjoy time with them. It’s a blessing to me see how they are growing in their faith.

Lunch finished, they returned to their day, and I turned back to my other tasks at hand. I glanced at the clock and thought, “Good. I have 30 minutes before my 2:00 appointment arrives.”  In 15 minutes the front door buzzer rang. Since the front desk person had left for the day, I looked at the door video to see who was there. (I should have known better than to get 30 minutes more on the task.) The person always arrives early for our appointments. Why should today be any different. So, I put away the papers I was working on and invited the person into my office. We talked for the next 90 minutes. I gave the person an assignment to write down one positive thing that happens each day for the next seven days.

Now…back to the task I had planned for the day. I finally completed the project. Or so I thought. Another email pinged in. Another question about the project. I would have to research it and get back to the person. Perhaps I will have time over the weekend to help them with their part of the task. Perhaps not.

Finally, it’s 5:00pm, time to go home. I get home and hubby is wanting to go out to dinner. We enjoy a dinner of seafood and talk about our day. Just another day.

As I sat here tonight reflecting on this day, seeing the undertones of complaint, seeing the interruptions, Grace gently led me to this verse . . .

Isaiah 41:10  ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

So, I took the assignment I gave to my 2:00 appointment and applied it to my day. I took my anxieties out. And you know what? Today wasn’t just another day. It was a blessed day.

I am blessed to have a home and warm bed. I am blessed to have employment. I am blessed to have friends who want to share the big and small things in their lives with me. I am blessed to witness the love and share in the memories of an elderly couple. I am blessed to share in laughter when someone shares a chuckle about their home life. I am blessed to be a sounding board for someone seeking an unbiased listening ear. I am blessed to have a husband who makes me coffee each morning and wants to take me out to dinner. I am blessed when writing this blog.

For these things I am thankful for just another day.

How about you? I bet if you look hard enough, you can find a blessing in your day too, even though it may have been just another day.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for strengthening us when we don’t realize you are there. Often we miss the blessings because we don’t look for them. Thank you for helping us see an ordinary day through your eyes, and realize each day is extraordinary when we allow you in it. It’s not Just Another Day.  In Christ name – Amen.

Calling all prayer warriors…

The prayer of faith.
James 5:13-16 NIV – “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

There are times in our lives when we think we can do everything on our own. We plug along, push on, and grin and bear. We never let others see the pain, frustrations and hurt we are going through. Then there are times when we finally realize that it is not good for us to continue in that situation. Sometimes it’s with friends and sometimes it’s with family. We have to learn to practice “tough love” for the other person’s well-being, as well as our own.

I’m doing something I have never done before; reaching out to the blogosphere and asking you to join me in prayer as I work through some tough love decisions to bring closure in one of those difficult situations.

Please pray for peace of mind and healing of hearts.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I stand on the promise of your words …

1 John 5:14 that states,”…to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Father, may our prayers be according to your will.  In Christ – Amen.

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 1:2 (NIV)

The “waiting” room. The medical field’s public holding tank for patients  and/or their friends, relatives, spouses or significant others, who endure the limbo time before being called to a surgical room.

The hushed tones of speech, a television playing on low volume, and background medical noises are like a lullaby to those who slept very little the previous night. Eyelids droop as they struggle to stay alert. Listening for the name in their waiting party to be called becomes a struggle with each passing minute. Then finally the patient’s name is called and their companion for the day is summoned a few minutes later.

But wait, there’s more. There’s another waiting room! Ohhh…but this time…this time IVs are administered and sleep is encouraged. The patient is carted off to surgery and the companion is asked to return to the holding tank…

Yep. That’s where I was this morning. My other half was the patient. Seems colonoscopies will become more frequent on our calendars after today. Early detection of those nasty little polyps are a must to keep cancer at bay.

I sat listening to nearby conversations in the holding tank and the pre-op room.   I was not eaves dropping on purpose. (Well, perhaps just a little.) There really is no private conversation with just a curtain separating the holding cells in pre-op.

Everyone was there for the same purpose. Yet, listening to their preparation leading up to the morning was a little entertaining.(Just being honest. I can only imagine the stories medical staff hear all day.) I overheard an elderly gentleman confessing to using recreational drugs regularly. I was able to glean quite a bit of information about another gents health habits from the list of supplements he reported to his nurse.

As I sat there I wondered what my conversations would convey to an eavesdropper if my spiritual health was being examined.  Are my words pleasing? Could someone tell what my faith habits are? Would my spiritual health reflect Christ or would it reflect cancerous habits trying to creep in?

Hmmmm…I’d better keep spiritual health on my calendar. Wouldn’t want any of those nasty little polyps to creep in.

How about you? How’s your health, physical or spiritual?

PRAYER: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. PSALM 19:14

New Year’s Resolutions or wishful thinking?

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”  Psalm 20:4 (NIV)

 

I’d like to think that I could make a New Year’s resolution that would actually be accomplished. However, I know I’m more of a realist than I want to admit to. The resolution would only be wishful thinking.

Oh, the times that I resolved to lose the extra weight. I’m not a heavy eater. But when I do indulge in a full meal…well, let’s just say I love good ol’ Southern comfort foods. And we all know where those calories go! I’m beginning to look like my grandmother. Grandma used to describe herself as being “big at the little and bottom at the top.” It’s hard to fight those genetics. Or is that wishful thinking?

Everyone said, “Join a gym. It will help you lose weight.” So, I joined a gym. Didn’t lose any weight. My son jokingly said, “Ma, just joining won’t help. You actually have to go there!” Ha! Smart aleck. I did go pretty regularly for a while, until life stresses jumped in front and took up the time. I still have the membership. Perhaps I will resolve to going back during my lunch breaks again. Or is that just wishful thinking?

I got a new Suzuki VL800 Boulevard motorcycle for Christmas.

Bouly-Boy
My Bouly-Boy

Well, new to me anyway. (Yes, you two wheeler diehards, it has been triked out. Don’t turn up your nose and be so judgmental just yet.) Let’s face it, I’m no longer a spring chicken and since my accident a couple of years ago, I lost my courage to get back on a two wheeler. Riding on the back of my husband’s bike has been okay. But, I’ve started to get the urge to ride solo again, and God answered the prayer I had on the last trip home on the back of hubby’s bike, on yet another dark night. I prayed, “God, if you want me in the CMA (Christian Motorcyclist Association) ministry, then you are going to have to provide the right tool for me.” Lo and behold, hubby saw the bike on Craig’s list that very same night. Two days later we brought it home. We figured the three wheeler would help get me back in the saddle again. I could resolve to take at least one road trip a month in 2016. Or is that wishful thinking?

We all make resolutions in one way or another. Be it to better our health, work harder, work less, be kinder, mend relationships, or strengthen our faith, we will all go into 2016 with goals.

I’ll resolve to continue listening for God’s whisperings of grace in my life. And no, that’s not wishful thinking.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year!

12 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done.15 All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. Philippians 3:12-15 (CEV)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to strive to attain the goals that You have set before us. Help us to let go of the past and look to the future, knowing that all things are possible with you, for You work all things together for the good of those who love you, who have been called according to your purpose. In Christ name. Amen.

Resolved

CHRISTMAS DAY

Christmas Day

To some, just another day. No merriment. It’s business as usual. The day holds no meaning.

To others, it is  extravagantly wrapped boxes placed under an evergreen tree; over abundance of material trappings soon to be discarded in a heap in the far back corner of a closet as they continue to search for happiness by trying to “keep up with the Jones” and never quite reaching their goal.

To others, it’s the fulfillment of joy by gathering with friends and family to simply share a meal and reflect upon the blessings experienced during the year.

And to many, it’s the celebration of the birth of their saviour Jesus Christ. It’s the celebration of prophecy fulfilled. It’s the thankfulness of promises.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

 

Keeping up with the Jones’

Play by the Rules

“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:5(NIV)”

Several years ago I received a surprise subscription to a Boy Scouts magazine. One of the neighbor’s kids had stopped by the house selling magazine subscriptions as a fundraiser. I didn’t purchase a magazine, but I did give him a donation. Shortly after that the scouting magazine began arriving. At least my grandson’s enjoyed reading them.

Issues “Golf” magazine began arriving in my mail box two months ago. When the first issue arrived, I thought the postman must have placed a neighbor’s mail in my box in error. I checked the address on the cover to see who it belonged to. It was addressed to me. Strange. I didn’t subscribe to it. The golfing magazine had me puzzled. My next thought was perhaps the little scout sent another magazine subscription on my behalf to earn more points for himself. Couldn’t be though, could it? His family has moved. No other children have knocked at my door selling magazines since.

I wouldn’t mind receiving the magazines . . . if I played golf. I used to play carpet golf on dates in my teens. I have played a few rounds of it recently with my grandchildren. I’ve only ever played one real game of golf in my whole life, and that was only a nine-hole course. That was about six years ago down in Atlanta, Ga. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and actually made par using rented clubs. The downside of the game was I had to carry my clubs up and down hills. I left with a huge bruise on my shoulder.

I’ll flip through the golf magazines to see what’s going on in the realm of golf. It helps when making conversation with friends who are avid golfers. The January 2016 issue had one article that caught my eye. (Yes, 2016. The issue arrived last week. I just got around to opening it up last night.) The article, “At Your Service” on page 33, gave a salute to the unsung heroes who make the golfing tours possible. It gave a “Thank You” to the superintendents who see to it that the courses are ready for play; to the thousands of volunteers that get to be marshal on the 18th hole, or direct traffic in hot dusty parking lots; those directing pedestrian traffic at ticket booths. The list could go on.

It reminded me of the time when I worked in marketing for one of the local hospitals. Each year the hospital would host a golf tournament for the physicians on staff. It was the marketing department’s task to organize it and see to it that the day’s event went off without a hitch. We arrived at dawn to assure everything was set up before tee-time at 8am. We handed out mulligans and gift bags. My co-worker drove golf carts with snacks and beverages and boxed lunches across the golf course to each team. I stood out in the sun all day walking to different holes, carrying video and camera equipment to capture each team on film. As soon as the last team finished play, we hurried to the club house to assure dinner would be served on time and the evening’s entertainment was ready. When the doctors and spouses arrived for dinner, they would find us still in our khaki’s trying to blend into the background as we attempted to make evening festivities run like clockwork. I’d spend most of the evening sitting on the floor behind the sound and video controls. The other support staff would flit between the kitchen, or pass out trophies that were awarded to the day’s best players. Finally, around 11pm, the admin support and marketing staff could eat, then pack up all the gear and go home. All I got for the day was a September sunburn on my nose.

Another article, on page 30 of the magazine, is titled, “Ask the Rules Guy.” This section answers golfing questions submitted by readers. I liked the little fly out at the end.  It says, “Got Rules Questions?” then directs where to submit questions, and closes with, “Until then play by the rules!”

The evangelist Billy Graham was once quoted as saying, “There’s no game which opens a man’s personal life like golf. It illustrates an individual’s honesty, integrity, intelligence, and character. Golf demands control of temper, concentration, and integrity. You can tell a lot about a person by playing a round of golf with him. In golf, you cope with the same troubles as you do in life.”

Hmmm… I find the Bible has excellent rules for life . . . and a coach that is always ready to help.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes I don’t take the time to listen for your whisperings of grace. Thank you for speaking to me through something as simple as a sports magazine, and for reminding me that how I live on life’s playing field is a reflection of who I am and who you are. Help me to be a good reflection of you. In Christ’s name. Amen.