Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Traditions

Traditions
 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, --Galatians 5:22 NIV
 
 
 
One definition for tradition is, “a story or a custom that is memorized and passed down from generation to generation”.  I think of it as a circle of love. It goes round and round to warm and comfort a family in their own specialness.
 
 It is the time of year to finalize those holiday plans and bring to life those childhood traditions again.  It is the traditions that were set in place long ago that are the common thread in our family,  We will enjoy my mother’s cornbread stuffing because all the cooks in the family now have that recipe. My husband will have a bit of his mother with him as we use her cranberry bowl. It has been passed down now 3 times!  We haven’t decided if we will have my fathers’ fruit ambrosia or banana pudding. He finally conceded and gave us his secret recipes several years ago to our delight! And I will dust off Christmas decorations that have travelled with us from place to place. Whether we are all at the same table together or scattered across many states, it is the comforts of tradition that brings about closeness and bridges any gaps.  It is also a reminder to us of the memories that have helped to shape us and our holidays’ past.
 
Many families, regardless of their faith or heritage will begin celebrating using their traditions carried from generation to generation. The Jewish community is celebrating Chanukah by lighting the Menorah for eight days.  The Christians will celebrate Christmas, honoring the birth of Christ on the 25th..  African-Americans will honor their heritage for seven days in a fairly new tradition called Kwanzaa, beginning on the 26th.  A local Outer Banks tradition called, “Old Christmas” goes back over 100 years and is still celebrated by some, but this celebration occurs as it always has, in January.
 
What will you pass down this year? A recipe, an old treasured family tablecloth, that special saw that always cut down the Christmas tree? Maybe we can add to that. Let’s meet this season with peace and the fruit of the spirit in our hearts to love and forgive the offenses from the past. Let it be a time to right the wrongs, make peace, love the unlovable and be merciful. We are all God’s Children and we are a part of His Circle of Love. Pass it on!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas Ornaments


Christmas Ornaments


Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall

–Psalm 55:22 NIV

We moved from one house to another this year and fortunately the boxes of Christmas decorations had not made its way from the garage to the attic yet. I thought about getting an early start on my decorating. We put up the tree and then it sat there for a few days, maybe even a week with just the lights. In years past I would have had the help of our children to trim the tree. There would be hot chocolate, half- eaten candy canes strewn about, my husband mumbling about the tangled lights and Andy Williams Christmas songs playing on the stereo as the dogs and cat fought for a place to lay under the tree. If it sounds chaotic, it was. But, I admit I miss all the commotion of this treasured family pastime.

 What happened to the spirit of Christmas this year? I just couldn’t seem to get motivated in my new surroundings. Finally, we looked at the barren tree and decided we had to decorate it. One by one, we opened the boxes and the memories came flooding back to us. The special ornaments like the plastic Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus that my daughter “borrowed” from my parents tree and placed on our tree when she was four years old. Then there was the stuffed Easter bunny that has been on our tree ever since my son realized the connection between Christmas and Easter and decided that we should celebrate both holidays at once, or at least on our tree. The glittered gum balls from grade school along with the hand painted ornaments we made one year when we were feeling crafty were placed carefully on the tree. The tree was filling up with over 30 years of memories. I couldn’t help but think long and hard of where we had been and where we were going. Our life was spread out on that tree. There was the little white church that I bought for the tree the year I went through a serious illness. There were the ornaments that my husband and I gave to each other when times were lean and they were our only gift to each other. The handmade cloth stuffed ornaments that have lasted over two decades still looked good as new. But I couldn’t say the same for the featherless bird (thanks to the cat) that has had a place of honor on the tree for years.

 Standing in the distance, gazing at the tree in all its years of memories and beauty, I was left with a wonderful thought of gratefulness that we have been blessed through good times and bad, through ups and downs. The memories of Christmases long ago continues to live on in the beauty of each ornament. The spirit of Christmas that I was trying so hard to find was there all along. It’s in the love of God and family. Love is at the heart of Christmas and God’s love remains the same even when there is change all around us.  He is the One we count on, the One we look to and the One we have faith in. The One who sustains us. God is there always, standing beside us in all times.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Best Gifts

The Best Gifts
 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   -Galatians 5:22 
 
It’s the season of Christmas and all through the house are Christmas lists, presents to be wrapped and cookies to bake. Oh, the busyness of it all! The hustle and bustle of the holidays is in full swing. At least, that is how it used to be for us. When our children were little and grandparents were able to travel, it was a large festive time with everyone enjoying overall abundance, prosperity, sharing plans for the future and sharing gifts from under the tree. Now, things are just different. Everyone was spread out for many years and now we are all back together again…that is our Christmas blessing this year! And now, Christmas is no longer measured in material things, but in health, gratitude and joy…as it should be.
 
The Bible talks of the fruits of the spirit in today’s scripture. I believe God is impressing on my spirit that while material things are nice to give and receive at this time of year, there are greater gifts awaiting us. If Christmas is truly about Jesus then the gifts that are the most important are those that Jesus lived by that are mentioned in the scripture: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Oh how our homes and extended families, our friendships and the workplace would benefit so much if we all practiced these virtues. I think we could start with just picking one of these to focus on. To have joy in our heart. To find peace within and share it. To have patience with ourselves and those around us. To show kindness and to be good to those that are hardest to love. To be faithful to our families and relationships. Offering a gentle touch and a kind word when we can to all. Above all exercising self-control with our actions, behavior and words spoken. We can’t wait for everyone around us to treat us this way. It begins with us.  All I have to do to be motivated to live with the fruits of the spirit as my compass is to think of the people whose countenance and personalities I am drawn to.  And they are the ones that take time, love unconditionally, forgive easily, laugh heartily and in all they do God’s Light shines for all to see.  I want to be one of those people.  I believe that it is true that what we give will be given back to us. The biblical law of reaping what you sow.
 
Some gifts can be wrapped with bows and set under the tree, but the fruits of the spirit are a reflection of God’s heart and Jesus’ life and they are available to us. If you had a fruit tree and it didn’t bear any fruit year after year, you would certainly get rid of it and replace it with one that was fruitful and productive. Many of us are not bearing fruit right now. And that doesn’t reflect the goodness of God and it speaks poorly of us. Today I will consider it a blessing to be given this roadmap for living, loving and being. Thank you God for these gifts!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Faith


Faith


Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.-Matthew 21:21 NIV


Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I once heard it said that it is faith that is the light that guides us through the darkness. A boat captain understands the importance of light to guide his vessel back to safety at night. Equally, a small child tucked in to his bed at night depends on the glow of a nightlight to comfort him if he wakes. Then sometimes we just feel the light fading in our life and our faith slipping away at the same time. It has happened to many of us. We want so hard to believe in God’s power and provision but our natural eyes can’t see anything supernatural in front of us, so our faith wanes and our unbelief builds. Thoughts and words come in like waves in a storm like “God will never heal me”; “my circumstances will never improve; “my child is never going to amount to anything” and so on. We can chase away our thoughts, but when we give our own voice to these thoughts by speaking them out loud or telling others, we are feeding the unbelief in our hearts and spirit so that it can take root on the inside of us.

So many times I have prayed to God to give me more faith, when actually I should have asked Him to bind the unbelief. The unbelief is not from Him. By not agreeing with those thoughts that come in our heads that rob of us our hope, we can be overcomers. There is always hope. This week a friend called to say they were going to close their business after a long struggle. It was taking its toll. They didn’t believe that it could work anymore. God has the answer but my advice was for them to seek God’s light. That He would shine light on the path they should take, to either stay the course or move on. How do we know it is God and not just us exercising our own will? God confirms it by the words spoken by a friend, the way circumstances are shaping up, or most of all, He uses His Word to speak to us.  While we are waiting for God’s confirmation we can do what a wise man once said…“As you practice counting your blessings, you will find your faith is being suddenly revitalized.” This is the first step in being positive towards getting out of unbelief and back into faith living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Autumn


Autumn


Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.

-Matthew 13:32 NIV

 

One definition for the word “autumn” is reaching maturity.  Autumn is the time of year when the harvest comes in. The seeds planted in spring are ready to be harvested now. If summer droughts and disease didn't affect the plants and they made it through, then the harvest is to be celebrated. From just a tiny seed, so much is provided. This is a fun time of year to go to the various produce stands to see the pumpkin patch's, fruits, nuts and Indian corn. We have enjoyed decorating our home with a wreath of colorful fall leaves, nuts and acorns and miniature pumpkins. Each year when my children were little, we went to the country fields to walk the rows of pumpkins so they could each find their special one. We still laugh at the time I brought home a 75 pound pumpkin and had to strap it in the front seat with the seatbelt! Our front porch was always decorated with  pumpkins, pots of mums and that handmade wreath.  We even hung a cluster of Indian corn with a ribbon to the mailbox. 

In our spiritual life, we can also enjoy the benefits of a harvest. But we do have to plant seeds first. So how do you do that? First it is the prayer of salvation that invites God into our heart. Making Jesus our Lord and Savior. Then it is reading the Bible to learn how to apply the principles to our life. Did you know the Bible will talk to us about how to have relationships, how to raise our children, how to be a light in the darkness? Probably the greatest thing any of us can do to strengthen our bond with God is to meet Him each day in prayer. Hopefully we should have a hunger and thirst for Him. Making time to do this is also an act of obedience and it is good discipline. It is as though we are showing up each day for our assignment from God. We can ask Him to mold and shape our day so that it glorifies Him.

Praying is like planting seeds. We know if we have done the work, the harvest will come. We know that in our prayer life, the harvest is when our prayers are answered with a solution or wisdom for being able to cope.  Sometimes before we can plant seeds, we have to plow up the soil and amend it. The soil may not be good and if so, nothing will grow. That applies to us spiritually as well. Forgiveness and bitterness have to be pulled out by the roots. They are weeds in our garden. Letting go of anger and disappointment too. Again, more weeds. Only when the weeds are gone, and the soil is right can we plant our seeds with confidence. A harvest awaits us if we are willing to do the work. That is how we can begin to walk in spiritual maturity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

November


 

November

 
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.-Psalm 119:76

The fresh green of newly sprouted rye grass, the yellow, red and orange leaves on the trees, the smell of swirling smoke from neighboring fireplaces and the cool, crisp air is what November means to me. The swishing sound of raking leaves and pine straw is music to my ears. A bright orange pumpkin and pot of yellow potted mums by the front door says “welcome”.  Okra pods and dried hydrangeas are ready to set aside for spraying with gold paint for handmade Christmas wreaths and centerpieces. McIntosh apples are plentiful now for that warm chunky applesauce at supper. I believe it is true what they say, that the heart of the hone is the kitchen. That’s the gathering place. Good food warms hearts and souls. Laughter and conversation spills forth when everyone converges upon the kitchen at the end of the day. Reading the mail, petting the dogs, setting the table, starting supper and sharing the day.  With the cooler weather and shorter days I find myself looking for comfort. Warm supper, a soft afghan to curl up with afterwards and my pup beside me. The perfect evening. I believe November is a nurturing time of year. In a few weeks it will be Thanksgiving. The time we devote to counting our blessings and sharing food and hospitality.

When we have to change our clocks, I can easily remember how to do it….spring forward and fall back. And I get it right every time!! (Now if I could just get help changing the clock in the car!!) Besides changing our clock in early November, I am also reminded to staring getting ready for the change of season because of the cooler weather and shorter days.  To shift gears. When seasons bring change, it is also a good time to take stock of things, including our spiritual life. To sit before God and see if we are still on the right track. Are we doing what He would have us do?  Are we growing, increasing our faith with each day? Are we doing more for Him and others and mumbling less? Are we loving a lot and always forgiving? Is our spirit open to Him or are we going down our own path? We can find peace and comfort in God’s Presence. In His Arms. Whatever may be in our hearts that we carry and are concerned about, we can turn it over to Him. He allows us to “fall back” on Him when we give our concerns over to Him; we now have room to seize the many opportunities He brings to us to “spring forward”.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Prayer


Prayer

 


If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” –Matthew 21:22 NIV

 

Oil painting is a new found passion and the subject I enjoy painting most are seascapes of the Outer Banks, particularly Pea Island. To paint requires having many tools such as paint thinner, brushes, paints, palette, canvas, easels, etc. Each item is very important to the success of the painting. Before I sit down to spend a day at my easel, I have to be sure I have everything I need. If I am out of brush cleaner, my brushes will harden with paint and be useless. Having the right tools are very important.  This week my husband was doing some repairs around the house and brought out his tools. Drills, hammer, screwdriver and nails and so much more. He has learned that before he starts a project, he needs to have the necessary tools at hand first. His knowledge and expertise are great, but without the right tools, he would not be able complete his task.

Spiritually, our greatest tool is prayer. There are times in our lives when we have to endure unpleasantness. Perhaps we have been treated poorly. Maybe we have been falsely judged or accused. Perhaps we are taken advantage of. Maybe we are simply not liked. All those things we cannot change because unless the person doing these things has the Holy Spirit residing in them, change is not likely. But God does equip us with prayer for times such as these.  We can pray for those that act as our enemy. In fact, the Bible says “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28 NIV A daily simple prayer, asking for peace for oneself, peace for the situation and for the accuser to accept God’s Salvation is the best thing we can do. Prayer has mighty power and those that are faithful know that. But those that live without peace and have hardened hearts need the faithful to pray for them. Who do we know today that needs prayer? While we can let things go and allow distance to form between us and the situation, we still have the obligation to pray for those that know no better or choose not to live in God’s peace. A hardened paint brush has to be tossed out as it will never be the same. But a hardened heart can be prayed for and through God, anything is possible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Right Tools


The Right Tools

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)

Today the exterminator came to get rid of outdoor ants that were uninvited guests. After all what is more important than playing baseball with my grandson in the backyard!! It is so nice to make one phone call knowing the ants will be taken care of. No worries. Regular visits from the exterminator throughout the year will keep us pest free and for that I am happy. Play Ball!!!!

A pest is definitely something that is unwanted.  It is an annoyance and a nuisance. Enough said!! We can say the same of those negative thoughts that creep into our minds, replaying old “hurts” over and over, being mad at situations we can’t change. Negativity opens the door to more negativity and bad thoughts. Neither being good for us.  When we become consumed with the pain of the past or frustrated with the problems of today, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make it go away like my phone call to the exterminator!! But you know, we do have all the right tools we need to get back on course and walk the right path. Faith, trust and belief….and of course The Word….. Scripture is our weapon against negativity. We can live a peaceful life if we stay connected and covered by God’s laws. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! – Isaiah 23:6 NLT