Posted in angels, Ann Voskamp, Christmas, holy, Jesus, joy, love, Mother Mary, night, peace, Rejoice, scripture, Spiritual, star

Holy Night

In all your preparations for this Holy Night, let Jesus be the reason! He loves you and wants to be with you! Pause, let your heart accept Him, and rejoice!

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night, holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

~Josef Mohr

Posted in anxious, blessings, care, community, cousin, depression, die, Emotional, empty, failure, faith, Family, feelings, God, house, hurt, job, joy, love, Mental, mercy, neighbor, pain, people, Physical, Prayer, water, weep

Lavish Love

Some days I feel people just don’t even give a damn. Other days it hurts to see those you love in pain, physical or emotional anguish. I holler out, “God, where is Your mercy, Your justice.” Then other days when the flood waters rise, it is hard to see God in it. We prayed for rain after 100+ degree temps and no rain for days this scorching summer. We got it alright in one stormy night of 8 -12 inches of rain. Destruction surrounds us and the local news captures the next devastating story of the flash floods. One person dead. 10 puppies from a stray rescue facility drown. Basements and houses fill with water. Businesses close. No flood insurance for most. Is this the Noah’s ark story being told again, I wonder? I attended the funeral service for my uncle this week. A man wrongly accused the latter days of his life. My cousin cried. Many of us shed our own tears, crying for mercy.

The pastor who shared at my uncle’s eulogy reminded us of the beautiful Japanese art form that is made from broken fragments. Nothing is wasted, everything made beautiful it its time. Ravishing lavish love, this is what I want. Flooding in. It’s what we all want. People will fail, just living this life will disappoint, but God does not. His love is perfect. Let Him fill that emptiness you feel with His perfect love. The anxiety about your present-day situation will subside. Feeling overwhelmed is real . . . Stop now. Pray. Count your blessings. Your cup will overflow with His love. Families, neighbors, and the community have come and will come together to help those in need. People and pets are rescued. Officials and first responders care and continue to share the burden. Jesus is carrying you. He cares.

“May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!” ~ Jude 1:2

Posted in brother, choice, church, community, creative, day, differences, diversity, faith, Family, feelings, God, hate, Holy Spirit, Jesus, love, neighbor, partial, quote, respect, scripture, sister, spirit, works

This Bird, This Feather, This Love

Have you heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together“? It is the idea that families or people of kindred spirit stay together in one way or another. Other explanations are “People having similar tastes often get together and feel comfortable in each other’s company. It also means that similar people enjoy life together and often gather to exchange ideas” found on https://literarydevices.net/birds-of-a-feather-flock-together/. Here is a poem by Harley White that defines the phrase more …

Birds Of A Feather

Opposites may hold attraction
But lack lasting satisfaction.
Frequently push comes to shove.
In comes hate and out goes love.

Animals in fights and fleeings
Still are mostly social beings.
In a pinch, at end of tether,
Birds of a feather flock together.

Multitudes of furry creatures
Seem alike in lots of features.
Yet that’s not their point of view,
And they vie to prove this true.

Mockingbirds may sing like parrots.
Horses, rabbits crunch on carrots.
Many species act as one
To lark and run in the sun.
But in times of stormy weather,
Birds of a feather flock together.

A family does not necessarily display the birds of a feather concept. Some rarely interact with each other, and when they do it is a competing race, insults slapping the face of a brother or sister, backstabbing, or continuing dysfunctional roles from childhood. This can be blood relatives or in the church family. This attitude filters into work groups, community organizations, and neighborhoods displaying indifference and hatred. Whatever happen to plain respect for another human being who is made in the likeness of God just like you or me? So don’t give me “my family is better than theirs” or “if only they’d be more like me, I’d accept them then.” God made each of us unique and with diversity. Look at our fingerprints. Not one exactly the same. We each are our own person. How creative is our God! God is not partial to one person over another, He loves us with a divine equality. Romans 2:11 says “For there is no partiality with God.” At the end of the day, God still calls each of us to love one another despite our differences and ill feelings. Jesus tells us “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”. In the 1960’s Fr. Peter Scholtes wrote the lyrics to this song based on John 13:35…

They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Love one another is a real challenge some days, but remember we love because He loved us first. “Flock together” today.

Posted in come, comfort, earth, Emotional, faith, forgiveness, grace, heart, heaven, home, invitation, sorrow, Spiritual

An Invitation

Come As You Are is a beautiful invitational hymn by David Crowder…

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken-hearted
Let the rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh, sinner, come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh, wanderer come home
You’re not too far

So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh, wanderer come home
You’re not too far

Lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
And fall in His arms
Come as you are

There’s joy for the morning
Oh, sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh, wanderer come home
You’re not too far

So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

Posted in body, brother, church, death, father, grace, grandfather, grief, heaven, Jesus, life, love, mother, peace, Physical, Prayer, season, soul, Spiritual

I Still Love You

In darkness, in grief, in despair, or even just in the midst of seasons that never seem to end, we need to make space for pause.

~ Ann Voskamp

I still love you even though you left so abruptly. I had even wished it was one of your April’s fool’s jokes. I wondered that whole day on your favorite holiday if you would send a message or telephone to say, “April’s fools! It’s all a joke, I am not really dead.” But not so. You are dead, or least to this world. You have passed onto a much happier, freer life now. How is Heaven, my brother?

I still love you even though we lived so different lives. You a bachelor, no family to attend to and I with 6 adult children and 8 grandchildren. We still shared a love for our beloved mother, father, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and our northern friends. We lived in the same childhood home & family tree farm, made childhood vacation memories. We shared a love of the great outdoors, you especially with your hunting and fishing; I with my gardening. It meant the world to me when you came to Dean and I’s greenhouse and brought Grandpa to see our new adventure.

I still love you even though you left without saying those words to me. You left angry at me and our other siblings. You wanted no accountability, live life mortgage-free and a life full of cigarettes, alcohol, women, and gambling. You were writing checks your body could not cash in on anymore. We all can be a prodigal son at times, get off-course to what really matters. I know I have in my life. I had just hoped you would have come around while living on this earth. But I think you are now with those you loved the most, Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Paula, your soulmate Eileen, and the Lord. The heavenly reunion was a joyful one, I am sure.

I still love you as you have taught me how to laugh and be unconventional. I think you will continue to teach me lessons. I know you were not a churchgoer, but a believer in Jesus Christ. Despite how many knelt knees and fervent prayers are said, it is by His grace that we are saved and set free. I have my quiet time almost every morning, but this week I am attending Mass every morning, too. Not sure how long God has called me to this, but I feel a peace each morning while praying with others and for others. I did this for various seasons while working in human resources, attended noon Mass at the church a block from my office during some troublesome times and for troubled employees.

“We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.” ~Norman Maclean

The movie A River Runs Through It reminds me of you. You are the Brad Pitt character, Paul. I saw this movie a couple of days before I learned of the news of your passing, and I told Dean “Paul reminds me of Steve.” The closing words of Norman Maclean’s story, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and ran over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops.” To me that river is the blood of Jesus, running through us, the rocks are us, and some of those rocks just have a little bit more sprinkling of raindrops, the blood of Jesus. God rest your soul. I love you, brother Steve.

Posted in addiction, care, change, choice, depression, doom, follow, forgiveness, God, grace, hurt, insecurity, Jesus, life, man, pain, repent, sin, sinful woman, strength, truth, woman

A Fleeting Moment

Many of us live for a fleeting moment and pleasure. I know I have been guilty of such. We get so wrapped up into this earthly life, some days it is just surviving and other days on top of the world. Distractions like the idle chasing of butterflies, that bowl of ice cream x 3, another sugary coffee drink, the I-phone or computer screen. Momentary pleasures of a smoke or two, alcoholic drink of choice, the betting game until you win, another frivolous purchase, or floating high on a mind-altering drug without a care in the world, all these possible addictions mask the cold hard truths of life, pain, and depression. Like the painting Ship of Fools by Carl Dobsky, our doom may be just a few feet away.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus extended grace to her but warned her “sin no more”. The priest opened the homily with “we all have been caught with the hand in the cookie jar.” Either by stealing, gossiping, gazing at internet porn, cheating on your taxes, telling untruths, slacking on the job, etc. The priest brought up an interesting question, what about the man, why was not he brought before judgement like the woman? The priest suggested that the adulterous man ran faster than the accusers. Any case he will still stand before God’s judgement. God looks for a repented heart, that is where you make a round-about change in direction from the wrongdoing.

The grace of God covers our sins when we confess them to Him. Addictions make it difficult to truly repent, but it is possible by calling on Him for strength. It is a day-by-day battle, for some minute-by-minute journey. Insecurities and unmet needs can lead us the wrong direction. Justifications can set in. I remember the day many years ago I had to choose what direction I was to take, to continue hanging around bad company, or take a different path with the mocking and ridicule to follow. I am so happy Jesus led me His Way. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life …” (John 14:6) Jesus tells each of us.

Posted in cross, death, Family, forgiveness, God, holy, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Lent, Prayer, quote, Spiritual, works

Deny Self

Ash Wednesday begins the Lent season. This season is to examine where our present life is at, confess wrongdoing, deny self, and look to God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit for guidance and follow the calling. What does it mean to deny self? One way is to deny my own needs so another’s needs are met. A healthy marriage requires this regularly. Or deny my urge to lash out on someone who has wronged me or someone I love, but instead pray for them. Another way to deny self is to make a dinner for someone in need rather than spend the afternoon leisure shopping. The Holy Scripture in Matthew 16:24 tells us “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.”

Hand in hand to denying self is the admittance where we have done wrong. We can do this daily, not just on Sundays or holy days, but rather during our regular quiet times, or throughout the day as the Holy Spirit leads. In many Christian faiths there is a prayer called the Confiteor, which we confess during our regular services. This is a good place to start if one needs guidance on how to pray for forgiveness.

“I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned,
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault …”

Following Jesus is not an easy task. Sometimes it is multiple uneasy tasks. “How many times do I forgive my brother?” you may ask. “Seventy times seven” Jesus tells us. “Pray for your enemies.” Jesus also says. “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His,” Christian author and minister George Macdonald is quoted. Have you suffered unto death like Jesus Christ? I am preaching to me as well as to whoever needs to be reminded like myself.

Let this Lent season be a time of reflection, forgiveness, denial of self, prayer, true worship, and good works unto our Lord.

Posted in care, change, choice, compassion, faith, gift, give, God, grace, heart, hope, Jesus, love, people, quote, redeemer, scripture, season, sinful woman

Love Will Turn You Around

Love, what a powerful emotion and force. A gift. The Holy Scriptures mention “love” 541 times. The Bible tells us there are 4 loves. These are storge (empathy bond), philia (friend bond), eros (romantic love), and agape (unconditional God love). The season for love is now more than ever. This world needs love. Not any love, but a perfect love. God’s love. It is unwavering. His love does not fail us. People may fail us, but He does not. God’s love mends our hearts.

“Love will turn you around, turn you around.” Kenny Rogers’ song keeps playing in my head. I think the lyrics have a different meaning than what I am thinking. The words bring me to thoughts on what changed my direction years ago, what redirects my course, day after day after day. It is what kept me from a reckless lifestyle. It is the love and grace of our God and His Son, Jesus that saved me. His love is full of grace especially when you and I waver or fall short.

In the first letter to the Corinthians this is what Holy Scriptures tell us about love. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8) That is Who and What my Saviour has been for me, and what He asks of me. He loves you in the same manner. Romans 2:11 tells us “For God treats everyone the same.”

“There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

I Corinthians 13:13

Posted in anxious, care, God, heart, listen, Martha, Prayer, quote, renew, rest, scripture, serve, silence, solitude, spirit, woman, worry

What Captures My Heart

These retirement days are far from lack of tasks and attention-getting chores. What reels in my attention, keeps my focus, takes my time? What captures my heart? Maybe what I spend time on is where my heart is. The Holy Scripture says it like this …

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:21

At times social media and electronics can take too much of my time. Answering emails, deleting emails, Goggle searches, text messages around the clock, catching up on the news online and local television station, word processing recipes for the next culinary class, Words With Friends challenges, etc. Then there are household distractions, a bathroom needing freshening, dishes to get in the dishwasher, laundry to wash, mail to open or pitch in the trash, and bills to pay. There is a place for each of these chores, but I have higher priorities to attend to.

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; renew my life according to Your Word.” ~ Psalms 119:37

Then there is quiet time. What a treasure just sitting, listening to my breathe, closing my eyes to meditate, counting my blessings, praying to my God for my loved ones, and reading His Word. Refreshment for my soul. After all these years, I still find myself busying myself too much to sit down for this quintessential quiet time. “Just do it, Anna, sit down” I tell myself. Like the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus is quoted in saying,

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10: 41 & 42

“Martha served … the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” ~ John 12:2 & 3

Martha is referenced in the gospel of John as well. “Martha served” dinner just before Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. A servant’s heart, Martha had, and I still have today. I need to stop long enough to smell the fragrance of the perfume. Let my “house be filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” And that is the heart of the matter right there.

Posted in Ann Voskamp, anxious, authors, body, comfort, compassion, cross, cry, Emotional, fear, God, health, heart, Holy Spirit, insecurity, Jesus, love, mind, pain, passion, people, Physical, Prayer, restore, sad, scripture, secure, spirit, Spiritual, trust, woman, worry

Inside My Aching Heart

An ear infection lead me to the urgent care before we left for vacation. My blood pressure was alarmingly high. The urgent care sent a report to my primary care, and she messaged me while on our 2-week vacation to take my blood pressure the next few days, and send her the readings. Still high and some chest discomfort soon after our multi-state road trip, I was in the doctor’s office when I got back to reality. Referred to a cardiologist and more testing, we discovered I have an arrthymtic heart condition. I have premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) that cause echo beats. This Friday I meet with my doctor to discuss what I need to do to take care of my physical heart besides take a beta blocker and lose weight. Questions flood my brain … How did I acquire this condition? When will I feel myself again? Can I return to speed walking as that helps in my weight loss efforts? How long has this arrhythmia been going on? I know I have not felt myself in a long while. I am tired much of the time. Not sleeping well most nights. I have become anxious with my relationships and social settings. I thought that was because of the COVID social distancing for too many days. This learnt introvert does not trust people easily. Trauma does powerful things to one’s mind, body, and soul. I cannot take anxiety meds, as they upset my digestive system so bad, and that causes more anxiety as I worry if I will find a bathroom in time when I go out. I am an insecure woman right now who doesn’t feel or even know if I am loved by those I have been close to over the years. I feel out of rhythm and vulnerable. The ironic thing is my physical heart is going through the same, out of sync and aching. Which came first, my aching physical heart, my stifled emotional heart, or my parched spiritual heart?

I suppose it doesn’t matter which was first. God wants to restore all three. Where do I start? My foundations, the Word of God and prayer. I recall Holy Scriptures that says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”. In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” King David’s prayer wells inside me into a song … “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me. Cast me not away from thy presence, take not thy Holy Spirit from me, and restore onto me the joy of thy salvation, and renew a right spirit in me.” Psalm 51: 10 -12. I cannot hide from this truth nor the truth inside myself. The truth is I feel unsteady, insecure and timid right now in life. I do not know how long I will feel this way. With God’s help I will come out of this. I need to get my spiritual heart right first.

Author Ann Voskamp so eloquently writes . . .These days feel like a flood of heartache . . . And there’s not one moment God doesn’t feel that with us. “His heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). God has a heart . . . and it hurts. It hurts with what hurts us. His heart hurts not just with a few drops of ache, not just with a slow drip of sadness—the whole expanse of His heart fills, swells, weighs dark with this storm of pain. God, who hung the stars—He has taken a thread of His heart and tied it to yours. And He didn’t need to, but God tied His heart to yours — so when you feel pain, He fills with pain. Time only continues on in this impossibly suffering world because God Himself is willing to keep suffering the impossible with us. We read the headlines and wonder, lay in our own beds way too late at night & soundlessly cry: If there’s a God who really cares, He’d look at this world and His heart would break. And God looks to the Cross, and says, “My heart did. ”On that Cross, they speared His side and pierced straight into His heart, filled with pain, and it was the water and blood of His broken heart that gushed right out, a flood of love. Grace—it, too, has floods of its own. . . . The way heaven comes down so we can rise. In a world of grief beyond magnitude, what will change us and the world, is the attitude of Beatitudes. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” In a world that doesn’t feel fair — His cruciform love and outstretched arms embrace us — so what we feel is Him. No one knows more than Jesus that this world isn’t fair — and no one loves us to death like Jesus, until everything is fair for forever. In a world of loss — the deeply suffering are deeply touched by the suffering of Christ. We do not weep alone. No matter what happens in this busted-up world in the days ahead, in your own beautiful world: Pray. He listens & He holds. “When you call on Me, when you come & pray to Me, I’ll listen…I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady” Jeremiah 29:12, Isaiah 41:10MSG #TheBrokenWay#WeepingTogether

The physical and emotional heart healings will come . . .