Monday, January 14, 2019

Simple Ways to Increase Your Faith

Pour Good Thoughts
Have you already said something like, "I hope you have a Happy New Year!" Or, "I hope my plans for finding a new job this year work out." What is actually going on in our brains with these kinds of wishes? 

Positive thoughts like these are truly an act of faith welling up inside us. We can't see them, but they rise to the surface and pour out of our minds and mouths. We can effectively use positive words to encourage others (or ourselves) and make them feel less worried about their situation. 

Our soul rejoices--like a little giggle creeping up--when we place our faith in things God has already planned and arranged for our lives. Of course, we have no idea what will happen to or for us next week, next summer, or next year. But our Creator knows. He knows! 

Sure, not everything that takes place in our lives is great. Or fun. Or what we want. That is because none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. We don't pay attention to what we are doing. We waste time, talents, and tempo.   

But there is a better way to live and enjoy life. So, first, we can identify that faith is definitely what we cannot see with our eyes, nor can we predict future events with our minds. We have to rely on our faith. If you are open to this idea and principle of faith, then, secondly, we know through experience that our faith fluctuates at times just because we are all human. It's like a thermometer. When we are sad, depressed, or even apathetic about things in our lives, our faith takes a dive and barely registers. If we are happy, joyful, content and positive, our faith soars! 

What Is the Answer?
Is there something we can do when our faith is low? This answer may seem too simple and quite opposite of what we are now thinking, but the solution is actually thankfulness! Yes, that's right. Stay with me now--there is something tangible we can do to change our situation. Have you ever tried expressing thankfulness and courting depression at the same time? It doesn't work.  

Since faith is something that can't be seen, we are suggesting keeping an on-going, daily journal on the subject of thankfulness and gratitude for every tiny thing God has given you. It's not a big chunk of time out of your day. Just take 3-1/2 minutes each evening before bed and record three things you are grateful for from that day. Be specific for big as well as all the little things each day. 

Start Your Thankfulness Journal
Thank you, God, for yellow tulips in my garden, fresh snow on the lawn, new sweater to wear, getting eight hours of sleep, friends who call, a new book to read, food in my refrigerator, and answer to my prayer for physical healing.        
Result? When you write down what you are grateful for, it can be seen later or tomorrow or next month. This reminder really, really works to increase the temperature of our faith thermometer!    
Moving Mountains
If we give God a chance, He will bless us with all the promises He has to help us enjoy a satisfying and abundant life. It's when we leave Him out of our plans--out of our lives--that things get all messed up. One of the amazing gifts God gives us is free will. We can do whatever we choose to do right or wrong; God will not stand in our way. But if we ignore His direction and plans for our lives, we cannot really expect our faith to grow. It is our hope and faith in Him that will make our paths straight. The Bible tells us that even if our faith is only as small as a mustard seed, it can move mountains! (Matthew 17:20). Nothing is impossible with God on our side!

"Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see" (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).

Monday, January 7, 2019

How Will You Make 2019 a Happy New Year?

VW Bug
Most vehicles with wheels normally have the ability to go forward as well as backward. We've seen trains travel in reverse in order to either switch tracks or connect with a different car or caboose. But they most certainly do this quickly in order to go forward which is their main purpose to get to a new destination. 

Obviously, our cars go forward and backward so we can maneuver properly in and out of garages, parking spaces, and so forth. Yet both trains and cars constantly deal with the danger of traveling backward and avoiding an accident. Amazingly, planes have no way to move in reverse! They can only go forward on the ground. And believe it or not, crash statistics show flying is the safest way to travel. Now there is something to remember!

Making 2019 a Happy New Year
This is the New Year and we are tempted to look back over 2018 to reminisce about things that have happened to us. True, we do need to learn lessons from yesterday, but constantly dwelling on every regrettable past event is a danger to our future and similar to a train traveling backward unable to stop!

We can imagine what would happen if that occurred. Derailment. An alarm should go off in our heads right about now. We simply cannot move forward with our new lives while we are simultaneously going backward. It's so much more exciting to travel ahead and see the sites!

This is our chance. We have a New Year to celebrate and are able to make plans for a better future. You may already have vague plans in the back of your mind that you wish to activate but are not quite sure how to go about it. Or maybe you haven't found the time yet to think about plans. (Careful. Don't look backward!)

With seven days already into 2019, it's time to start your new single-again life. Grab a pen and notebook or journal and make some notes. Here we go:

My Journal
Clear Thinking. Avoid vagueness in your plans. Instead, strive for developed ideas. Write down just one specific sentence or short paragraph that describes what you wish would happen now. This gets the idea out of your head and onto paper where you can see it and start planning. 

Something New. If you've had jobs before that you didn't enjoy, list three ideas to try that you are good at even if it means accepting an entry-level position. You'll be much happier!

Building Relationships. It may be time for some new friends (while hanging on to some really good friends), especially those in your same situation. They are there. You have to look for them. This could be at a new job, a friendly neighbor, or supportive Christian friends. 

Face Forward
Looking back into your past keeps God from moving you forward. Repeat that out loud! Write it on your refrigerator. Even before you were born, God made good plans for you. Not plans for disaster (that was human error). He's just been waiting for you to face forward and listen. With God absolutely nothing is impossible. This is why you need Him in your corner, especially now. Just ask Him! 

"May he grant your heart's desires and make all your plans succeed" Psalm 20:4 (NLT).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Did You Leave Seven Surprises Under the Tree?

Christmas Candy Apples
Most of us can agree we sure don't always receive the gifts we expected at Christmas! The long return lines at every store are proof. Sometimes returning a gift comes with a valid reason like the item of clothing didn't fit or, we received two of the same kitchen gifts we already have in our cabinets! 

Then there are those gifts that are perfectly fine, but some would rather just have the cash. It's tragic we tend to turn a beautiful celebration like Christmas into a retail nightmare. 

So, let's get rid of this disillusion and find something real. Often, the last week of the year is a good time for reflection--finding the priceless gifts left under the tree that will last throughout the coming year. Gifts that will make a difference in our new, adventurous life journey. 

Seven Surprises Under the Tree!
They may not be obvious at first, but if we look hard enough, we'll find the real blessings to take into 2019:  
  1. Survived the first...second...third...Christmas on our own! 
  2. Shared time with new friends
  3. Discovered laughter is good medicine
  4. Enjoyed a calm and happy home  
  5. Found our heart's desire
  6. Made what's old into what's new
  7. Recognized change is good for the soul
Don't Forget the Key
Did you notice? None of these blessings needed gift wrap! They are ours to keep. But we do need a "tool" to further expand them into a whole new life of faith, confidence, and hope. The tool needed to open these forever gifts is Prayer. Much of life is extremely difficult without a daily conversation with God. He is the Giver of Gifts and delights in presenting them to us. Check the verse today at the bottom of this message for a clue how to receive the best He can give. And never give up!

"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9 NLT)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Do You Know the True "Happy Birthday" Story?

Birth of Jesus
"Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus."

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire (the first census taken) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.

And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and the Angels
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 1:30-31; 2:1-20 

Monday, December 17, 2018

How Do We Get Back to Love and Joy?

Christmas Roses for You
The phrase "I love ____" is so common that the true meaning of love has nearly lost its meaning. We become so attached to an object, we associate human feelings to that "thing." Therefore, human affection and constant caring of another person becomes diminished and somewhat unimportant, or casual. Is this, perhaps, where the concept of a "Bah-humbug" idea of Christmas comes from? How do we get back to Love?

Love Is. . .
It's easy to forget this is the season that abounds in love! Cranky attitudes, bad behavior, crime, materialism, greed, and on and on discolors Christmas with a splash of "bleach." Amazingly this year there is even a trend of black, artificial Christmas trees being successfully sold. Strange considering black technically is not even a color (it's the absence of all color)! True, we know about the whimsical pink, blue, purple, and silver trees too. More oddities that many people enjoy immensely. Or we may prefer an all-white tree (another non-color that at least reflects all other colors). The choices are mind-blowing! But back to our point. . .

The kind of love we all look for is unselfish and shares warm, cozy feelings with those around us at home and in our friendships. We gladly decorate our houses to welcome family and neighbors into a gracious home. We put up Christmas trees to light up dreary December days. We plan and shop for just the right present to give to those we love. 

Frosty Christmas Star 

It's amazing how giving becomes a contagious, attractive pursuit, especially during the month of December. And not just with our own families. We've all seen in the malls, the Angel Trees with paper tags of little boys and girls names and ages. We buy and return the gift to the tree and a child is not forgotten. We hear of stories about firemen and policemen giving gifts to children in need. We willingly participate in the U. S. Marines Toys for Tots program.  To Share Your Love, CLICK HERE 

And in our home environment, we lovingly give a gift of joy. Each year our Mom made dozens and dozens of cookies and sweets to fill numerous gift tins. She started in November and baked all the way up to Christmas! We gave out these welcome food gifts and in the process, mom taught us how to share our love. The reward was seeing the expressions on the faces of the receivers!

A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. —Tenneva Jordan    

Joy Is. . . 

Of course, the true meaning and joy of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. In many families and Christian churches, children are welcomed to attend a "Birthday Party" for Jesus and it brings to life the events surrounding this glorious occasion. Then families attend evening or midnight church service, many times with lit candles, where the Christmas Story from the Holy Bible is told to all. What a joy come to life!

"And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them" (Luke 2:6-7 NLT)

[The entire Christmas story can be found in the Holy Bible, Luke 2:1-20]

Monday, December 10, 2018

Ready for Something Different This Year?

Three Wise Men Bring Gifts
Christmas can be celebrated anywhere in many individual ways. It isn't a requirement to participate in all the demanding shopping and gift-giving. It's simply about the birth of Jesus. So, we are here to say, it is absolutely okay to take a break and skip all the commercial "hoop-la" this year if one chooses. The first year as a single-again woman takes some getting used to and a quiet Christmas is good for our souls.  

Sure many of our friends and relatives who can't imagine what we are going through will gasp at the change in our plans for this one year. They might think something else is truly wrong with us. Eventually, they will understand we are just adjusting, not dropping out of the human race! Christmas will simply be on a smaller scale than usual. 

What Does a Quiet Christmas Look Like?
We are definitely not speaking of hibernating in a closet and never coming out until mid-January! Celebrating the best quiet Christmas ever could look like:
  • attending dinner with one favorite person instead of joining a massive holiday party with all the background noise 
  • shopping online instead of fighting the crowds at the mall
  • putting up a tabletop tree instead of spending energy decorating & wrestling with a ceiling-high tree
  • using candles and a Nativity set instead of decorating the entire house
Candlelight Service
  • Taking a friend to candlelight church service instead of baking 20 pies at the last minute out of guilt
  • reading the Christmas story with a niece/nephew while their parents go out
  • completely getting away on a little side trip by ourselves
Changing the way we do things now is the way to be strengthened. We can be healed from all the pain, sorrow and worry just by taking care of ourselves; by quietly listening to the God Who loves us beyond a doubt and gave us a special Christmas gift! 

Something Different

There is no way to hear Him speak to us unless we remain quiet. The noise and chaos in the world definitely drowns out His voice. May we suggest you take some special quiet time for yourself and spend it with the One who is anxious to give you a gift of "Comfort and Joy?" We all certainly need that kind of Love! 

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. . .And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 NLT).

Monday, December 3, 2018

What Gift Would You Give Yourself?

Finding Christmas Gifts
Oh, yes! It's here! Only 22 days until Christmas! Every single year we reach this point on the calendar and ask ourselves, Where in the world did this year go? It's both strangely melancholy and wonderfully exciting for most people. Sure, you may not be the one that is watching those Hallmark Christmas movies on TV because they are sugary sweet, but something about this time of year probably makes you smile if you try and admit it.

Could it be that this is your first year as a single-again woman whether divorced, widowed, or a single mom? If it is, we truly know and understand those feelings of dread. We've been there and no one is saying you should ignore all of that! We are simply here to encourage you to move through this mess and get to the other side in one piece, with peace. Are you in?

Getting Somewhere
Since we are talking about the giving season, how would you answer this question: What gift would you give yourself right now if you could? Is some of your reluctance this month to budge from the couch tied to not knowing what to do with your new life? Now we are getting somewhere! 

Many women when they get married find themselves giving up a goal or dream or wish for a certain kind of life. In fact, it's nearly expected that she sets aside her purpose to become a housewife (or a domestic engineer as some circles describe the role). Yes, it happens, even in this modern century. Now don't start clenching your teeth in indignation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a "family manager" as we prefer to say; it is hard work, indeed. That admirable position is perfectly okay IF that was your personal dream. Only you can address that subject. We just want to know where do we go from here?  

If we are like many girls graduating high school, someone may have asked us at one point, What do you want to be when you grow up? And the majority of us had some kind of an answer. Some go to college to major in a subject that matches their specific goal. Or maybe to a trade school or an on-the-job training program. But what happens when we marry and never pursue that path in our life? 

Capturing Dreams
Now comes the good news! We are on our own now and can actually recapture those long-ago dreams and make them come true. We hear you, but it is NOT too late! Don't let that be an excuse that holds you back. This is our second chance!   

Getting Ready for Christmas
After decorating the house and wrapping all those Christmas presents for everyone we know, the best gift we can give ourselves is dusting off our life's purpose and plan. It hasn't disappeared--it's just dormant. It has always been there in the back of our minds. 

Start imagining how to reactivate that gift(s) to become the real you. It may need an adjustment or "tweaking" after all these years of "cobwebs," but that's the fun part! Begin creating a life around those abilities and talents. You may even have more than one (and we can assure you they are somehow tied to each other to equal one fantastic life!).

Just Imagine
No one ever got anywhere by themselves. We need each other and we need the best Gift Giver of all--God Himself--Who has always been generous to us. He wants us to become the beautiful, accomplished, and joyful woman He created as we discover His purpose and plan for us. Then we will reach the best life we could ever imagine. 

"Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received...Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress" (1 Timothy 4:14, 15 NLT).