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Showing Up

 80% of your job success will be showing up for work. So began a clever, possibly somewhat desperate, employment listing in a newspaper. This very day, I considered not showing up for my volunteer commitment at our elementary school.  The roads were fine. I was not sick. During the night, though, Pain had showed up, visiting me for the second night in a row, causing me to lose precious, energizing sleep. Mid morning, Temptation showed up, sympathizing with how weak I felt, suggesting that I inform the teacher of my inability to meet with her class today.

Fortunately, Faith also showed up, telling me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, reminding me that when I show up, willing to bless others, I have His help. Considering that the students have shown up today, the day when Mrs. Frisch comes to their room, and that the teacher has assured me that the Winners Walk Tall program is important and effective, I made the decision to show up, puppet in hand, to urge the boys and girls to Read! Read! Read!

A second challenge showed up. While my tired mind struggled to focus, my seventy-ninth weekly blog post was begging to be written. Hoping that a salad and some tea would  bring a boost of energy for my school visit and a topic idea for my blog writing, I ate lunch while another Great Courses lecture on sentence-building played on my i-pad.

Having learned that some readers of Thoughts Collected by Lisa anticipate each week’s post, I didn’t want to procrastinate or disappoint. Experience told me that reaching the two goals of visiting the kids and completing a post today, trusting God’s strength in spite of my weakness, would result in a sense of satisfaction, a heart full of gratitude, and, hopefully, a peaceful night’s sleep.

Blessings showed up.

  • When I looked out the kitchen window this morning, there were six gray squirrels, one of them white, scurrying around our yard and enjoying sunflower seeds from our bird feeder.
  • A purple finch, enjoying a visit to our neighbor’s feeder, carried his pretty song to our roof and sang into our chimney, delighting me with a fireplace serenade.
  • The idea of writing about Showing Up came to me between lunch and my school visit. I had time to jot down my ideas so this could be prepared and posted today.
  • As I was waiting for the first graders to return from their computer class, an eleven year old girl popped into the classroom and shared her excitement about dance classes with me.
  • I made enough soup last night to have it for dinner again tonight, allowing me to finish this post as my husband was arriving home from work.
  • I remembered Pastor Wayne Ickes’s response to a question about ministry success, “Show up for work.”

 

 

 

 

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Reviewing & Reviving Resolutions

“I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people. Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.” Those were the last words of my January 3, 2017, blog post.  January 2018 has arrived and I have dared to allow thoughts shared last year to hold me accountable. One year ago I told of five ways I had grown in 2016 and then resolved to continue in that growth.  I haven’t been consistent in all five areas. Perhaps you can relate and will decide to join me in reviewing and possibly reviving our resolutions.

Reviewed Progress:

  1.  Playing the piano: I’m not sure I improved as a pianist, but I did keep at it sporadically. During December, I played from a lesson book of Christmas carols. Then, after our little family finished our gift exchange, I sat down to play “Silent Night” for them. They seemed to appreciate it, so I continued with more carols, played quite imperfectly.  The music prevented that little let-down that comes when there are no more gifts to open.
  2. Memorizing the book of James:  I’ve reviewed James often enough to keep most of it and also put Psalm 103 to heart.
  3. Helping my future daughter-in-law choose her dress: On April 1, she wore that dress as she became Eric’s wife. We have grown closer during holiday gatherings, Easter at their home and Christmas at ours. My husband and I are blessed to be able to worship and eat with them in Columbus from time to time.
  4. Continue to blog: The first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa came in August. I signed on for one more year and kept writing, completing my 75th post on December 27. I’ve added some pages, including Fruit of the Spirit and Printables.
  5. Connect with neighbors at Christmas time: I picked a date and invited the ladies who live on each side of me and across the street to a Christmas brunch. All were available!  I’m thankful for a season when it becomes a priority to visit with friends and family.

I wouldn’t give myself an A+, but progress is progress. In looking through other posts from 2017, I noticed some additional and perhaps more meaningful ways in which I challenged myself and my readers. Putting resolutions in writing increases the likelihood of carrying them out as does sharing the goals with someone else. I’ve realized that posting the commitments on the internet adds an extra sense of responsibility to follow through.

Revived Resolutions:

This list could completely overwhelm me if I sought to complete it in my own strength. In January 2017, I shared the story of a couple who walked In Perfect Step. Seeing their synchronized movement helped me to understand the role and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. My part is to “focus on where He wants to lead, as well as when and how fast we are to move.” My resolutions can be summed up as follows: “link elbows with the Holy Spirit, walk in step with Him, and bear the fruit that is uniquely Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Gift for Disobedient Children

You better watch out…or you’ll get nothing for Christmas. Today’s kids understand better than mine did how in the world Santa Claus can know whether they’ve been bad or good. As I was told by some first graders last year, everyone has an elf that tells Santa about what goes on in their homes. I replied that I don’t have an elf, but they didn’t believe me. Then it happened. One sneaked into my house.

In August, I picked up a bag of Christmas ribbon at a garage sale. It was a bit messy and I couldn’t see what was in the bottom, but I handed the lady $1 and carried it home. Later, as I rewound the ribbons, going deeper into the bag, I found two surprises.

    This tiny little Santa figurine…

AND THIS CREEPY LITTLE ELF!

As I understand it, Santa’s Scout Elves can be very mischievous. In fact, it was quite surprising what some of the 1st graders told me about their elves’ activities. But that’s not the point of the elf. No that little fella’s job is to report to Santa each night whether the kid has been good or bad, so Christmas gifts can be doled out accordingly.

I had no need for an elf on the shelf, as our kids are grown up and my husband behaves very well. Still, my boys will be visiting before Christmas, so I’ll play the game for a bit.

According to the Elf on the Shelf website, no one is allowed to touch the elf. Moms enjoy photographing the funny things elves do so they can share them on Facebook, and some teachers like having an elf in the classroom to motivate good  behavior. By the way, I’ve just named our elf Grace.

Grace the elf will now help me explain the most amazing thing about Christmas. Long before the first Christmas (the time of the birth of Jesus) God chose a family to be different from the rest of the people on earth. They were supposed to follow the Ten Commandments and lots of other laws in order to stay in good standing with God. And they wanted to. They even promised to. But they couldn’t. They keep doing the things that were forbidden and not doing the things that were required. God still loved them, but bad things did happen to them because of their sins. All along, God kept hinting that things were going to change. Someone was going to come to save them.  Through his prophets, he said things like,

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

and

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Immanuel means “God with us.” But how could the Holy God be with such disobedient children. Strange. Another puzzling prophecy told of the son’s death – and our peace.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Now there were some religious leaders who wanted to make sure that the people did what they were supposed to do. They didn’t want any more of the bad things to happen. So they made lots more rules and were very strict about them. It seems that they even spied on the people so they could catch them when they were bad.

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down

with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
 (Luke 11:46)

Keeping all of the laws was very hard. No one was perfect. Even the “good guys” like Noah and King David did wrong sometimes. The law that was given by God through Moses made the people aware of their failure – their sin.

But then something AMAZING happened! The son was born of a virgin in exactly the place where the prophets said it would happen. And the angels proclaimed peace to men on earth!

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

The baby Jesus grew up. Even though he was tempted to disobey God, he never sinned. He prayed to God and did only what his Father (God) told him to do, even when it was VERY HARD. After he became a man, taught the people about the Kingdom of Heaven, and even did miracles, Jesus did the hardest thing of all. Just as the prophet said, he was crucified (pierced) for our sins (transgressions) even though he had never sinned.

That was the plan all along. God’s “new thing” was to bring peace to us. Peace in our hearts because we could be right with God when we believed that Jesus paid our penalty. Jesus called it being born again. It is a gift from God. It’s grace.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God

and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:16-18)

Now we all know that God still wants us to be good. But it’s also true that no one is perfect, so no one is good enough to be with our Holy God. Except Jesus, who died so we could live with him. He couldn’t wait until we were already good enough, because that wasn’t going to happen. The Bible makes it clear that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23) So we needed to be rescued from sin and death. That’s what Jesus did. That’s amazing grace.

That’s what Christmas is all about. Not Santa, who we’re told only gives good gifts when they’re deserved. Not the elf who spies on kids and gets them in trouble, but doesn’t do anything to help them. It’s about peace. When I think about peace in my own heart, I define it as knowing that I am right with God because of my faith in Jesus (not myself) and that God is working all things in my life (even the stressful things) together for my good. (Romans 8:28)

The men who knew Jesus and spent their lives teaching other people about Him often used the words GRACE and PEACE together. That makes sense to me. Because of God’s amazing grace we can have peace!

 

 

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Christmas Card P.P.S. – Peace

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

The nonreligious Christmas card we sent out to friends and family this year included a wish for love in every home and peace in every heart during a joyous Christmas season. Those are gifts I would  wrap up and give to many people if it were possible. Maybe the next best thing is to share what has brought love, peace, and joy to my heart and home. I began with love yesterday in Christmas Card Post Script  and continue today with some thoughts about peace.

Most people want peace. Interestingly, peace is often defined as the absence or lack of something or even freedom from something. World peace means a world without war. Peace of mind means freedom from anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration and worry.

Peace is often paired with quiet. During busy days of holiday preparations, moments of peace and quiet can be precious and few. Homes full of children,TVs and telephones are rarely quiet. Malls are crowded with people and filled with seasonal music, songs like Let it Snow, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and Its a Marshmallow World. Maybe what our hearts long for is a Silent Night!

I am looking forward to a silent night on Christmas Eve. We will be sleeping at my mom’s house where I usually wear earplugs to quiet the frequent train whistles. On Christmas Eve, there are no trains. Ah, peace and quiet. Sometimes military leaders declare ceasefires for observance of Christmas. This year, the leader of the Philippines  is seeking to give the people a “stress-free” Christmas season by declaring a ten day ceasefire from guerilla warfare. Let there be peace on earth!

While most of us are not dealing with the horror of war, our lives are far from stress-free. Can we have peace in the midst of stress? Yes. Today a friend whose brother recently died and whose daughter has begun a battle with cancer told me that she still feels calm and peaceful. I have experienced peace in very difficult situations in my own life at times. At other times, I have been a wreck. What makes the difference?

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

These words from the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus ring true in my life. Centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah foretold, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)  On the night of his birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) With the coming of Jesus into the world, God was offering reconciliation of sinful people to himself. Friendship. Freedom from the fear of death. Peace.

God’s Word on Peace:

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord blesses his people with peace.

Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus to his disciples)

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 4:6,7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker that says NO JESUS – NO PEACE. KNOW JESUS – KNOW PEACE.

If you know Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and friend, you have the opportunity to take EVERYTHING to him in prayer and know peace. If you have been going through life wanting peace without knowing the Prince of Peace, as an ambassador for Christ, I implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.(2 Corinthians 5:20)

 

 

 

 

 

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