Summer’s Joy ©

Sunny, warm,
Longer days,
In the distance,
Humid haze.

Vacations,
Journeys,
Lazy days,
Many memories
Are being made.

Walking barefoot in the grass,
Swimming in the pool,
Fishing in the lake,
Blowing wishes
On wisps of dandelions.

Birds singing,
Frogs croaking,
Cicadas and crickets
Join in with their chirps.

Barbecues,
Public holidays,
Family gatherings

Ice cream,
Cold drinks
Baseball games

Hammocks,
Swings,
Rocking chairs on porches

Stillness,
Late nights,
Watching the sun set

Stars twinkle
Fireflies shine
Campfire stories being told
Sleeping in tents

Giggles,
Smiles, and
A lot of laughter.
This is just a glimpse
Of summer’s joy.

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Living for God

Tucked in 1 Samuel are a couple of verses which were spoken to the Israelites. Samuel was much older at this point and had anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Samuel was stepping down as the last judge of the Israelites and was giving his farewell speech. He basically told the Israelites that God was upset at them for wanting a king instead of worshipping Him as King. He told them not to desert God again, especially now as they have a king.

In the middle of the speech are these two verses from 1 Samuel 12:22 and 24: “For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself…Only fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you.”

Everyone was created to be needed, loved, and valued. We were also created to worship God. God is our King. He loved us so much He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on a horrid cross for our sins and to rise again so we could have eternal life. When we give our lives to the Lord and ask Jesus to forgive our sins and be a part of our lives, God welcomes us into His family. We become his children. Because of this, God will not ever forsake us. We are His people! We please the Lord just by being His. He loves us just as we are. We do not have to do anything to earn His love. He is ours, and we are His.

God desires a relationship with His people. He wants us to fear Him. This does not mean for us to be frightened or afraid of Him. It means for us to revere Him, be in awe of Him because of who He is. He is YHVH (Yahweh), non-created, always existent, holy, and righteous. When we pray and live for Him, He wants us to remember He is holy.

God wants us to serve Him faithfully. Even if we are housebound or bedbound, or disabled, we can pray for others. We can write to others. We can use social media to share God’s love. And for everyone, our service should be for God and not for applause from man. Our day to day attitudes shows our love and devotion for or against God.

God also wants us to consider the great things he has done for us. God is always faithful. He stays true to his promises. He deserves our praise. We should give Him thanks for everything. He provides for us. He protects us. He gives us wonderful things. God is worthy to be thanked and praised. No matter our circumstances, God wants us to remember all He has done.

As Samuel shared with the Israelites what God wanted for them to do, God asks us to do the same. God wants us to:

  1. Know we are His chosen people
  2. Have a relationship with Him and fear Him
  3. Serve Him faithfully out of love
  4. Give thanks and remember all He has done for us.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for who you are. You are my King. You are my Lord. You are my everything. Thank you for choosing me to be a part of your chosen people. Thank you for Jesus Christ, your Son, who died on the cross for my sins, so I can be a part of your family. Thank you for providing me a way to have a relationship with you. I am sorry for complaining and putting other things such as my job, my problems, etc. before you. Please forgive me. I want to serve you faithfully in whatever capacity I can. I give you thanks for who you are and for what you have done for me. You are a faithful God. You are amazing, and I love you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

God wants us to_ 1. Know we are His chosen people 2. Have a relationship with Him and fear Him 3. Serve Him faithfully out of love 4. Give thanks and remember all He has done for us..png

The Unforgiving Servant

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So, the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So, his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also, my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  -Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

 

Jesus taught us how important it is to forgive.  He desires us to respond to others out of love, compassion, and mercy.  When we do, we can let go of our fears, self-judgments and freely share love and mercy to others. Jesus explains to the disciples how to deal with those who have caused an offense with them starting from just talking to them about the issue to the point of taking it to the elders or to the courts.  It is after this teaching that Peter poses the question to Jesus about how many times should he forgive others.

Jesus answers Peter and tells him it’s not just seven times, but seven times seventy!   Jesus wanted Peter to understand we are to keep forgiving even when we don’t really want to.  By the time we have forgiven over and over again, it will become second nature to us.  I don’t know about you, but I struggle at times with patience towards those who consistently hurt me.  Patience is key to love and forgiveness

Jesus explains why we should forgive by sharing a parable.  A king wanted to settle his accounts and he had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents equalling about several million pounds.  In Roman times, one talent would equal a day’s wages about £40 per common laborer.  The king ordered that the servant and his wife and children plus all that he had was to be sold in order to pay off the debt.  The servant, of course, bowed before the king and asked for patience for him to be able to pay back all the money.  The king had compassion and mercy and set the servant free.

As the servant in this story was indebted to the king, we too are to our God.  We deserve punishment for our sin, however, as the king in the story pardoned the servant, so too our God pardons us when we ask for forgiveness.  Jesus took all of our sin, sickness, pain and paid our debts on the cross of Calvary.  It is through the blood of Jesus that all of us are set free.  Jesus forgave us, washed away our sins.  God says in Isaiah 1:18-20, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice so we would not have to. What an awesome God we serve!

You’d think that the servant here would be very grateful for canceled debt.  However, the opposite is true.  The servant’s servant only owed a hundred denarii which equal about £5000 today.  Five thousand pounds compared to several million is only pocket change, yet the servant was harsh with his fellow servant and demanded that he pay back the money. Even when the man begged for patience, the servant refused and sent him to prison until the debt was paid off.  Jesus wanted His disciples to understand no matter how big or small the debt or action is, we should be willing to forgive and not hold it over someone.  The king pardoned the servant and yet the servant didn’t appreciate the patience and love.

Other servants watched and listened in horror to the one who did not have patience.  They went back and told the King what had happened because they were greatly distressed.  People are always watching us in how we deal with others, especially with different ethnic groups, religions, and cultures merging into one.  If we are critical all the time about people and complain about how things are, we are being very much like the servant who turned on his servant.

God wants us to forgive others.  The consequences are great if we do not.    The king/master called in the servant.  Because of the servant’s actions, he was thrown into prison to be tortured until the debt was paid off.  Jesus tells us that this is how God will treat us if we don’t forgive others from the heart.  Those are very harsh words which are not easy to swallow.  When we don’t forgive others and are very critical or bitter, our fellowship with God is hindered and we end up separating ourselves from Him.  I believe it is like a slap in God’s face when we harbor ill feelings towards others and don’t forgive especially after all He has done for us.

Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.”  Can God actually revoke a pardon once given?  Jesus says here, yes He can and He will if we don’t forgive and are critical towards others.  Forgiveness is so important to God that Jesus even teaches us at the end of the Lord’s prayer to forgive others as God forgave us.  “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15.  Although it is hard to hear these words, they cannot be ignored or avoided.  Forgiveness is not given as part of a legal matter, but of grace.  If God has done so much for us, how can we not share that love with others?  The Gospel of Jesus is one of forgiveness and love.  God is a forgiving God but He is also just.  It is expected of us as Christians, that have received God’s forgiveness to show God’s character and a forgiving attitude towards others.

These words have convicted me.  How many times have I been judgmental or critical of others?  It is so easy for us to fall into the gossip trap complaining about others.  How would remembering what God has done for us help us to forgive others?

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be left out of the Kingdom of God because of an unforgiving, critical spirit.

 

Difficult, painful decision leads to healing

In recent months, life has changed dramatically for me. I made a decision to leave the United Kingdom, Mark and the boys, to move back to the USA. I was very unhappy, feeling unworthy, unloved, hurt, and literally hated myself. Everything I did was never good enough. I was the butt of sarcastic jokes, laughed at, made fun of on an almost daily basis. There was no affection, no touch, hugs, etc. for so long that I honestly believed there was something wrong with me.

I was great at pretending everything was fine. Only a select few knew something was wrong. I was depressed and lonely. I felt trapped.

At one point, I started declaring who I was in Christ every time something negative was said. However, I was told I was acting weird. I stopped my usual encouragement and supportive words and was told something was wrong with me. I literally mentioned how much it hurt to be made fun and this was said practically every day.

I was told the only way out was if someone came to get me. You see, I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis in my lower back. I cannot walk far and need a wheelchair for distance. When I do walk, I need crutches for support. Trust me, I have tried walking without crutches or a crutch, and it doesn’t work. Sadly, there were many times when I could not go out. In fact, many of the times I wanted to, someone was too tired or it was raining and the only place to go was the local mall which that said person hated going to.

Several months back, a gentleman, Ben, who was my fiancé in college, found me online. We caught up with each other and shared what was going on in our lives. I told him all that had been happening.

Long story short, we both realized we still loved each other, even after 24 years! Ben flew to England, met me, and a few days later we flew back to the states. Yes, I do live with Ben because I need help everyday bathing, getting dressed, cooking, etc. And I need help getting out and about. I did not have enough money or insurance to hire someone to help out if I lived on my own.

Despite my limitations, Ben still loves me. In fact, I feel more loved and appreciated than I have in years. I am gaining strength each day. I even have walked with crutches in a grocery store (I suffered greatly for a few days after, but this is a huge stepping stone in the right direction). Granted, I still have really bad flare up days of pain and sheer fatigue, feeling as if I have been completely drained.

I am able to be myself without having to change. Ben treats me with love, respect, honor and like a queen. I can honestly say our love for each other has grown stronger with each passing day.

I am truly happier than I have been for a very long time. I have lost “friends” because of my actions of leaving and then living with another man. Ben and I do plan to get married after the divorce is completed. We want to fulfill a promise made to each other years ago.

I honestly never thought anyone could love me. I was told I was not good enough and would not even be good enough for Ben either.

The hardest part of leaving the UK was leaving my boys behind. They love the UK and both are finishing high school this year, one finishing Year 11 and the other sixth form. The oldest will be going to university to study forensic science and the youngest to college to study sports in September. They, understandably, are very upset, angry, hurt, and frustrated. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt them. I love and miss them dearly. I know they are happier there and neither one of them wanted to move back to the states.

I am not perfect. I still love the Lord and want to serve him. I am no longer a minister or a part of The Salvation Army. I do plan to join a local Mennonite church; Ben grew up in the Mennonite faith. They are based on Wesley theology just like TSA.

As I said before, I have lost “friends,” but I have also learned who my true friends are.

Please pray for me as I heal from the wounds caused by words and lack of contact, affection, etc. Pray, I will be able to find work from home. Please pray for daily strength. And, please especially pray for my boys. Thank you ever so much. God bless you all.

 

Appreciation of God’s creation

I love cool, spring days. The sun shining, birds singing, leaves of green bursting forth. Daffodils, tulips, dandelions, and daisies blooming in neighbors’ yards. It’s such a lovely time of year. Everything that once looked dead and gloomy comes to life and becomes brilliant and full of color.

God is so good to us. He cares about every detail. I am amazed at God’s creation.

Each flower.

Each blade of grass.

Each leaf on the tree.

Each insect.

Each bird.

They are all different and made by God.

His presence is all around us if we but look and listen.

When is the last time we looked around us as we go to work or go out taking care of errands? Do we pay attention to the details or do we just go about our business without thinking about the beauty God provides for us?

Psalm 24:1-2 ESV says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

God wants us to enjoy his creation. He wants us to take the time to appreciate his goodness. How can we do this if we are always busy?

  1. Take time to sit in the sunshine- during lunch breaks or an after shift walk in the sun.
  2. Look at nature around us. What do we see? Take a mental note of the trees, flowers, insects, animals, people, etc.
  3. Give thanks to the Lord for all he has created as we look around at his creation.
  4. Blow away seeds from a dandelion.
  5. Take pictures on the cell phone or camera of the trees beginning to blossom and afterward as it continues to grow. See the changes that happen within a short period of time.
  6. Take pictures of flowers for the computer background.

Father God, thank you so much for all you have created. The trees are so beautiful budding and growing leaves. The flowers are full of life and color. The ants, bees, and other insects are busy gathering food. Lambs, calves, chicks, puppies, kittens, etc. are being born. It’s a beautiful time of the year when everything we thought looked dead comes to life. Thank you for showing us your love through nature. Thank you for providing for us these things to enjoy. Help us today to pay attention to the simple things of nature. Help us to appreciate all you have created. Amen.

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What will you do today to appreciate God’s goodness in creation?

What other ideas have you done or will do today or in the near future to pay attention to nature? Please take time to share in the comments. God bless you.

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Words and moving forward

I think it is easy to treat people with respect and honor, especially if your heart is full of love for others. However, sadly, there are some who struggle loving others. They mistreat them. Not necessarily with physical violence, but their words can cause a lot of pain. This type of pain causes a person to question who they are and if they actually have any worth at all.

Words have power. They can heal or they can destroy. The can lift up or tear others down. People don’t seem to realize how what they say matters. Words truly reveal what is in our hearts.

There is a saying that says actions speak louder than words. I agree that this is true to a point. Yes, your actions and words should match. This is very important in all relationships. However, there may be actions that show love but then deleted because of words that are spoken during or after those actions. A person can buy things for someone or do things to help them physically if they are disabled. However, this can all be turned around by words that tear a person down, making them feel as if they are stupid, garbage, not good enough, and the person sadly begins to question their own worth. In the name of “love,” some may even use “kind” words to control a person.

The scars from these words take a long time to heal. Everyone someone says more negative words; it is like a rubber stamp stamping those negative feelings- tattooing their imprints upon the mind and soul of a person.

It is even hard when you actually get away from the situation and all there is negative from people who don’t or want to try to understand. They don’t know what went on behind closed doors. They only saw what was shared on social media, church, or in public. It is not easy to slap on a happy face when inside you are hurting, but you do to save shame and embarrassment.

The difficult thing is the mind is waiting for something negative to happen. It is like a tape playing over and over again in your head reminding you of the words said about you. Another difficult thing is when the said person still tries to control you when you leave. They are not willing to share their side of the blame and make you feel as if you are delusional.  They also make you out to be the only bad person in the situation.

I honestly do not understand how anyone can say they love someone and constantly tear them down. Yes, actions matter, but at the same time, so do words. It’s difficult when a person thinks they possess you. When they think they can control you from a very far distance by playing cards to manipulate you. Sadly, I wish it hadn’t taken so long to figure things out.

On the positive side, I am very thankful for those who knew what was going on and stood by me. I am thankful for their friendship, they are very few in number, but they are very much loved and appreciated. I am also thankful for the love of my life coming to get me out of the situation. People don’t understand why I did what I did, however, because of disabilities, I had to have help somehow or another. I knew I could not live alone, especially in the UK. I also knew that I could not live on my own as I need help dressing, etc. still. I know I am loved and have been shown love like I never have seen before. I am so grateful for this. I want to move forward, and I also want to cut ties with the person who hurt, controlled, and thought he possessed me.

I am able to do more things than I used to do because I have the help to do them. I have been able to go out more often. I have been able to cook because I have help. I have been able to clean some here and there. Yes, I traveled a long way to get away but sometimes you have to do something for yourself.

I love being back home in the United States. I am sleeping much better. I am feeling better emotionally and mentally. I am feeling loved and adored. I am feeling free to be myself. I am on a journey of great healing. I look forward to what the future has in store. God is so good. Amen.

The Good Samaritan

Every town we visited, crowds followed Jesus.  He taught for many hours about the Kingdom of God.  Today we were sitting down listening to Jesus teach when an expert rabbi stood up in the crowd to test Jesus about his teachings.  He asked, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked the man, “What does the law say?”

The man replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind.  And to love your neighbour as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).

These two commandments have been engraved in our hearts since Moses and the laws were given to him.  We have these commandments memorised and recite them often.  I was not surprised the man answered Jesus question pretty quickly.

The man wanted to justify his actions for standing up in the crowd testing him so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”

In order to answer the man, Jesus told another parable.

“A Jewish man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He was attacked by bandits.  They tore his clothes, beat him up and left him for dead on the side of the road.

A priest came by and saw the man lying there but crossed to the other side of the road ignoring him.  Not long after the priest, a Levite walked over, looked at the man and passed by on the other side as well.

Then a Samaritan came along.”

Gasps were heard among the crowd. Sadly we were not at all surprised the priest and the Levite would have left the man on the side of the road.  They would have been afraid to touch him because it would have made them unclean according to Jewish law.  However, they of all people should have stopped. They should show compassion towards the man despite the laws. Surely, God would have protected them?

I wonder what the Samaritan would do. None of the Jews had time for Samaritans, they hated them. Thus, the reasons for the gasps from the crowd. Shock was seen on our faces and even worse in our hearts.

Jesus continued “The Samaritan came along and saw the man and felt compassion for him.  The Samaritan walked over, soothed the man’s wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  He put the man on the back of his donkey and took him to an inn where he looked after him the rest of the day and overnight.

The next morning the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two silver coins. “Take care of this man.  If his bill runs higher, I’ll pay you the next time I see you.’”

Jesus asked the man “Which of the three was a good neighbour to the man who was beaten up and left for dead?”

The rabbi answered, “The one who showed mercy.”

Jesus told him to go and do the same.

We could not believe that a Samaritan helped the man on the road.  Wasn’t he scared of what would happen to him afterward or what other people would think?  I guess he didn’t care, he acted out of compassion not worrying about religious laws.

I thought for a long time about this story.  How many people have I ignored and still do because they are different than me? Why can’t there be peace between us Jews and the Samaritans?  I need to be more like the Samaritan and love others no matter what.  I pray for a change of heart towards people who are not like me. I pray for forgiveness for judging the Samaritan and others who are commonly hated by Jews. I pray God will help me to love and show compassion to everyone I meet. May I be more like Jesus and the Samaritan in this story.

 

Notes:

*The priest and Levite should have been the ones who cared for the man on the side of the road, but they were too worried about consequences.

“The Samaritan was not liked.  However, because he didn’t worry about religious laws, he acted.

*Love does not consider the worth of a person, it responds to their need!

*Prejudices separate people from needed assistance.  The Samaritan helped one who would have utterly despised him.  Jesus came to break these types of divisions-politically, ethnically, and territorially.

 

For further study:

Luke 10:25-37