Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The New Year's Challenge



2017 is days away, have you decided...how you're going to change the world this year?  It's time for the  New Year's Challenge!   

I may...or may not be challenging myself.  After all, I've never been one to push myself beyond my comfort zone.  In fact, in high school I only chose classes that I knew I could ace.  I was number 25 in my class of 303 students.  If you're a math wiz you will figure out quickly that I was in the top 10% of my class.  

I'm sure student #26 would have been peeved, if he compared his class schedule to mine--swimming, creative writing, listening and discussion, independent reading, typing, band, cooking, family finance...I think you get the picture.  It was more important for me to do well at what I did--than push myself beyond my comfort zone.  

That's part of the reason I dislike the whole New Year's resolution thing.  We are being challenged to do more, push ourselves, committee to stuff we probably won't ace.  I know...I sound lazy or a bit of a perfectionist...either way...New Year's seems a little pushy if you ask me.  Expecting me to challenge myself to be better...do better...  

Then...two years ago...my husband preached a message the first Sunday of the New Year.  He made this statement:    If you can do it in your own strength, without partnering with God, then it’s not really much of a challenge. 

Ouch!  Now that was unnecessary!  Then he went on to challenged the congregation in three areas:
·         A Personal Challenge
·         A Spiritual Challenge
·         A Family Challenge

After this message...I don't know what came over me...I never listen to him.  (Kidding..maybe!) 

So, I took The New Year's Challenge.   I finished writing a Christian Fiction book I'd played around with for yearsI know...crazy right.  REMEMBER: If you can do it in your own strength, without partnering with God, then it’s not really much of a challenge.  

 
There is no possible way I could have written a book without partnering with God.  Hillbrooke New Beginnings is a testimony of my partnership with God in 2015/16.  

In Phil. 4:13 the BIBLE SAYS this:  "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

2017 will be gone before you know it.  Do it--take The New Year's Challenge and partner with God.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

God Bless You!


I sneezed the other day and a stranger passing by said, “God bless you.”  I really didn’t want anyone to acknowledge my nasal outburst, but his comeback was obviously conditioned within him as was my reply. “Thank you.”

We are fully immersed in the cold and flu season which means there will be a lot of "God bless yous" out there.  

We just finished expressing our thankfulness for all the wonderful things we enjoy on a daily basis and now we take two steps forward and it's Christmas--this is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Immanuel--God with us.

Ministers lament over finding those cutting edge sermons for the weeks leading up to Christmas hoping to wow their congregations with a new and deep revelations no one else has discovered.  

I was feeling a bit the same way as I prayed and asked the Lord to give me an amazing devotional to share for Christmas week.  I read Luke 1 in the Living Bible and my eyes locked on this phrase.   for God has decided to wonderfully bless you!..."

“Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you..."  Luke 1:30 (TLB)

God decided to bless you!  "God bless you, Mary!"

You probably were wondering when the sneeze was coming back.  Here it is...God has decided to wonderfully bless US TOO!   It's HIS plan for your life. 

In the next weeks, you or someone around you is going to have a nasal outburst and you or someone around you is going to say, "God bless you."  Their response is taught--but God's is a choice!  His heart is moved towards your needs.  Just like Mary--God has decided to wonderfully bless YOU--too! 

Merry Christmas, my dear friends, and God bless you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yours, Mine Or Ours

When Bob and I married in 1975, it was the merging of "Yours & Mine."  The optimal goal of the merger was to arrive at OURS.  The best way I can describe this is...Christmas.

The first few Christmases at the newly established Roberts' home could best be described as "Yours & Mine."

Here were a few of our differences: 
  • Should the big meal be on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
  • When will we open presents?  (Growing up, our families did it on different days)
  • Who is this Santa you speak of?
  • Why is the table covered with plates of peanut brittle, popcorn balls and fudge?
  • Live Tree vs. Fake Tree or can we even afford a tree?  Our 2nd Christmas we had a cardboard fireplace we bought for $4.95.  Those were the Bible college years.
  • Birthday cake for Jesus vs. cookies and milk for Santa.
  • Can we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus?
  • After we (I) decorate the tree, lets sing carols, drink hot chocolate and eat powered donuts in the dark with just the tree lights on....All together now...We Wish You A Merry Christmas...Never gonna happen!
  • Please don't make me watch Charlie Brown's Christmas, Frosty The Snowman or Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer...again!
  • Can we read the Christmas story as a family on Christmas morning?
I won't say which traditions came from which side; but over the years, the Roberts have merged their differences into some solid family traditions.  We are no longer "Yours & Mine."  We are "Ours."

Now that our children are all married, and each forming their own Christmas traditions; I hope some of "Our" traditions made the cut.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end..."   Isaiah 9: 6-7 NKJV

Wherever your family may be, "Mine, Yours or Ours," don't forget the real meaning of the Christmas celebration and build solid family traditions around the Christ of Christmas.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Obstacles


While working in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, I heard one of the grandkids cry out. I left my Thanksgiving preparations in a hurry to check on the afflicted one.

As I rounded the corner into the living room, I came face to face with an obstacle course of toys separating me from the wounded.  (actual photo)

We have a kid-friendly, family room for all these obstacles (toys), but one by one the grandkids bring them upstairs and skillfully place them in the high traffic areas. They are so talented.  What can I say?

I spotted the crying grandchild across the room and made the split second decision to maneuver through the toys to comfort him. (A bit dramatic, but I'm making a point--People!)  I scooped him up in my arms and after a few minutes of hugs, he was ready to get back in the game. 

While passing back through the toys to the kitchen, my heart was quickened with the thought of obstacles.  They block us, slow us down, make our way difficult...but this determined Grandma had no trouble getting past each wooden block and sharp-edged game piece hiding in the carpet.

I moved with the grace of a high hurdler when I heard my grandchild cry out.  (Maybe more like an elephant balancing on a high wire.)  Good luck getting that picture out of your head!

As I worked my way back through the toys on my way to the kitchen, I thought of another who overcome obstacles to get to me.  He left a place of honor to become a lowly baby.  His obstacles looked something like this:

  • The womb of a virgin 
  • Death threats
  • Lowly beginnings
  • Temptation 
  • Judgemental bullies 
  • His chosen team bickering and deceitful
  • Mocked
  • Beaten, beard plucked out, and crown of thrones pressed into his brow
  • He suffered a cruel death on the Cross--and he pressed on through it all for one reason!  
Why would he bother?

Why not just give up?

Because of His great love.  When we cry out to Him--He, with the skill and grace of a high hurdler maneuvering  all obstacle in His path to get to us.

Here is what the Song of Solomon says in 2:8-10 (The Message)

Look! Listen! There’s my lover!
    Do you see him coming?
Vaulting the mountains,
    leaping the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle, graceful;
    like a young stag, virile.
Look at him there, on tiptoe at the gate,
    all ears, all eyes—ready!
My lover has arrived
    and he’s speaking to me!


There are no obstacles so great--the Lord wouldn't leap over them ALL to get to YOU!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Unchanging Grace

Things they are a changing.  

I'll let you decide just what those things might be in your life. 

In mine--it happened 5 days ago.  I had a birthday--a big one.  I'm 60.  I say it with pride--I've earned every minute, hour, day, week, month and year.  I wouldn't go back--not ever. 

A few weeks ago, I posted on Facebook a funny thing that happened while I was watching my five year old granddaughter.  She was looking at my wedding album. (The pictures are 41 years old.)

When I told her that those two young people in the pictures were Grandma and Puppa, I could see the confusion on her face.  She studied the images.  ...And--nope--she was not a believer.  She flat out said, "No.  That's not you."  She would not believe that these two people were her Grandma and Puppa.  She studied the photo while I tried to convinced her.  Then after much debate she conceded with this exception.  "Grandma, I like you better now."

Did I mention I adore her?

Each time I look in the mirror or see a picture from a few years ago--I know I'm changing.   

Not too long ago our church sang a song with these words "unchanging grace."  They leaped off the screen and into my heart.  With all the crazy around me with things changing--it was a blessed reminder that I have this truth to hold on to.  God's Unchanging Grace is constant, abiding, eternal. 

Most of us know the meaning of Grace--unmerited favor.  It means we don't deserve it and there is nothing we can do to earn it--it's freely given and that--my friend...will never change.

James 1:16-18 (NKJV) says this about God’s ability to change.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turningOf His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

You may or may not like the things in your life that are changing, but I pray you will find peace in the truth of God's Unchanging Grace--with him there is no variation or shadow of turning.  Your name tag may say, Hello-My name is CHANGE!  But God's would look like this:

Hello-My name is...UNCHANGING GOD!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Say Thank You!


Most adults have heard or said these three powerful words... "Say Thank-you!"  

When we were children we were taught to be thankful--and when we became parents we taught our children to be thankful.  Round and round we go...

 I've heard the words "Thank-You"...
  •  spoken through tears
  • yelled in sarcastic anger
  • whispered in breathless surprise
  • politely repeated by a child
  • and expressed with heartfelt gratitude
  • I've heard toddlers struggle to put the sounds together in a sweet baby voice, "ank-ou." 
  • And I've seen the words mouthed by an elderly person without the strength to speak.

YES--those are two very powerful words!

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving.  It's America's official day of thankfulness.  It may be a tradition at your Thanksgiving table to say something you're thankful for this year.  Most of us can come up with our "Thankfuls" around the table once a year.  But how can we limit it to just one.

I'm thankful... 
  • I have a Savior--his name is Jesus.
  • I'm healthy.
  • I'm getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family.
  • I have 10 grandchildren.
  • I have two new grandsons born this year 3 weeks apart. 
  • I attend an awesome church with amazing people...and a stellar pastor!
  • I get to love-on preschoolers every Wednesday night.  Rainbows--Rocks!
  • My husband loves me.
  • My children love me.
  • My grandkids love me.
  • I have a grandma van!
  • And...I'm thankful for YOU!
Thanks for coming back each week.  Your kind words have blessed me.  My prayer for you is--that the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be alive in you and through you all year long.

Romans 1:8 (TLB)  "...I thank God through Jesus Christ...for each one of you."

Now you go and...Say Thank You...to someone who needs to hear it! 







Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Microwave is too Slow!

I'm busy--at least I think I am.

This morning, I stood in front of the microwave and set the timer for 1-minute.  I placed my 1/2 cup of coffee on the rotating plate and watched it go round and round as the microwave  tried to do its work, but after 34 seconds, I popped the door open, grabbed my cup of coffee and headed for the computer.

I took a sip.  The temperature wasn't quite what I was expecting--it was warm at best.  It must be because my microwave is too slow!

My husband and pastor, has said on many occasions that we live in a microwave society.  We want things now--the way we want them or "heads will roll."

When our children were young, whenever I found the service of others to be unsatisfactory--I could see my children sink into there seats as they pleaded, "No, mom...it's okay.  It doesn't matter that my food order didn't come--I'm not hungry."  Or... "I really want that shirt with the missing button."  They would beg.  "Please, don't say anything."  But inevitably the words would come flying out of my mouth, "I want to speak to the manager."

I want what I want, and I want it--NOW!

I wish I could say--I'd never acted that way.  I wish I could just point out the flaws of others without taking any responsibility for my own actions--always thinking the results that I want should come "faster-faster-faster."  Not thinking God has the bigger picture and can see--what I can't.

"But....I want it.  I want it to be my way."

And God says, "Wait."

"WAIT-are you kidding me.  I'm gonna need to speak to the manager."

Oops--God is the manager.

In the Living Bible the word "wait" appears 169 times.

In Isaiah 40:27-31 (The Living Bible-TLB) it says:   O Jacob, O Israel, how can you say that the Lord doesn’t see your troubles and isn’t being fair? Don’t you yet understand? Don’t you know by now that the everlasting God, the Creator of the farthest parts of the earth, never grows faint or weary? No one can fathom the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the tired and worn out, and strength to the weak. Even the youths shall be exhausted, and the young men will all give up. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
 
In Psalm 27:14 (TLB) it says this:  Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and he will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted, and courageous. Yes, wait and he will help you.

As I took another sip of my warm coffee--I was reminded again to slow down.  Be patient.  Don't settle for warm when the Lord has so much more for you--if you wait.  He really does want to bless His children with good things--in His time--not ours.

Come to think of it--maybe it's not the microwave--but me!



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fingerprints

The hand-print on the glass door caught my attention.  I've seen hand prints on these doors before, but this time as I walked down the church hallway my eyes were drawn to the glistening imprint on the exterior church doors. On closer examination, the door was spotted with fingerprints of all sizes.  Above the door bar there were adult hand-prints and under the door bar, there were tiny hand-prints.
I thought of all the little people who had been at church that day and left behind their calling cards.

When our first grandchild was 15 months old, she came for a visit.  On this particular visit, she was old enough to explore about every inch of the house.  She left her tiny calling card on the doors, windows, the bathroom mirror and various walls.  But one place she touched became precious to me.  In the dinning room there was a perfect little hand-print on the glass door of the grandfather clock. 

That day in the church hallway, the memory of my granddaughter's hand-print came back to me reminding me of another precious hand--one that is marked for all eternity.

In Isaiah 49:16 (GW) God's Word tells us how He feels about us.  "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me."

After my granddaughter's visit, all the other hand-prints were washed away, but that cherished little hand-print on the grandfather clock made the cut and stayed untouched for a long time.  It was my reminder of a precious little granddaughter named Grace.

God has inscribed my name on the palm of His hand.  To inscribed--signifies something that is permanence. He will never forget His children.  He sees me and He sees you--forever our fingerprint, our calling card, our name is there--etched on his hand--never to be wiped away--never to be forgotten.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What are you watering?

I mowed the grass about five times over a ten week period this summer.  (2016) I'm not sharing that bit of information because I'm lazy but because it was so dry and hot that the grass just didn't seem to grow much.  That was fine with me because in my yard it's survival of the fittest.  Now that fall has arrived, it is obvious which plants were able to survive my neglect and which ones weren't.

There are five---five dead arborvitae trees in my back yard.  They are a beautiful fall rust color, but they should be green.  It's a stark reminder that what you water will grow--what you neglect will die. 

I knew that they needed more water.  It was an extremely hot and dry summer, but I didn't want to put in the discipline needed to keep them alive.  The result--5-dead trees.

Confession:  This isn't my first attempt at growing these trees--it's my second year trying to grow trees in the very same spot.  Twice I hauled trees to our yard.  Twice I dug the holes and planted the trees, and now--twice I will dig them up.

I hate when I don't learn my lesson the first time.

Every time I look at these dead trees, I'm reminded of the spiritual truth of this sad story.   

What a person waters will grow and what a person neglects will die!


Water hate=Grow hate
Water love=Grow love
Water jealousy=Grow jealousy
Water kindness=Grow kindness
Water worldly desires=Grow away from God
Water Spiritual things=Grow closer to God


Here is what God's Word says will happen when we allow our roots to draw water from Him.

Blessed is the person who trusts the Lord.
    The Lord will be his confidence.
He will be like a tree that is planted by water.
    It will send its roots down to a stream.
    It will not be afraid in the heat of summer.
        Its leaves will turn green.
    It will not be anxious during droughts.
        It will not stop producing fruit.
 Jeremiah 17:7 (GW)

God's a better gardener than I am, but I still play a part.  My part is to put my hope and trust in HIM and water the good things in my life not the bad.  Then He will grow me sending my roots deep into streams of living water--sheltering me from the heat of the sun, making me a productive person--one whose not afraid.

What are you watering?

It's all about the heart!

Have you ever looked at someone's outward appearance and made a determination based on that? I have.  Not proud of this--but it...