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LET YOUR LAUGHTER FALL UPON US

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I’ve had this picture for a while, but every time I happen upon it, I smile. This picture just makes me happy. Now, the children in it are four of our great-grandsons. But I like this picture for another reason, too. The photographer has captured the essences of childhood: playtime, laughter, and the comradery among playmates and in this case, they happen to be cousins.

 The picture also makes me think about us grown-ups. The other day someone mentioned that they had meant to take care of this or that (really don’t recall what it was). Then someone else asked, “Why didn’t you?”

Their answer was one I have used. “Life. Life got in the way of getting it done.”

We’ve all been there. Sometimes, we get so involved in life, going to work, attending meetings, taking care of the families, our houses and properties, and then there are those problems and valleys that just keep cropping up—the car breaks down, illness, broken relationships—and tragedies. All those things steal our joy, exhaust, and stress us to the point that we forget to enjoy life. We’ve lost touch with our inner-child and we forget to play. Will we ever learn? Even God rested on the seventh day, and He thinks we should too. In fact He commands us to do so. It’s number four in the Ten Commandments: Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. He wanted us to spend that day in fellowship with Him, but I believe He knew that after working hard, we need to slow down and renew and refresh ourselves.

There’s a verse in Nehemiah that tells us what will happen when we rest on Sunday with our Creator. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 NIV.  Did you catch that, the joy of the LORD is your strength. It’s as plain as the nose on our face. Still, we wonder why we often begin our work week on Monday feeling worse than we did on Friday. Really. Think. About. It. Things would go a lot better in life, if we’d read the word and do what it says.

So don’t let life get in the way, rest and renew with the Father and let Him restore your childlike laughter. There is a picture I just love called “The Laughing Christ.” Willis Wheatly of Canada did a pencil drawing of the first “Laughing Christ” back in 1973, forty-five years ago. Through the years, many other artists have come up with their versions, but the closest one I’ve seen, is Ralph Kozak’s at Praise Prints, LLC. You can read his story and even order a copy at his website:                                                                                        http://www.jesuslaughing.com/about-us.html

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So did Jesus laugh?  Scripture speaks of Him weeping, so why wouldn’t the opposite be true? There are so many verses on joy both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. How can you be joyful without laughter? I definitely think Jesus laughed and I’m basing that on the joyful Scriptures. You can find a list of joyful Scriptures at this website: http://www.jesuslaughing.com/joyful-scriptures.html.

Doctors also tell us laughter is good for our health, but God said it first in Proverbs, A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 ESV.  That brings me to the conclusion that a good restful Sunday in the company of our Lord and friends can renew and refresh—helping us to be more childlike—you know, finding the joy you had back in the day. After all, didn’t Jesus say “I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3 ISV.

Go on, let your spirit be filled with joy and laughter!

THE GLORY TRAIN

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A few years back my mother was in a nursing home. After several months of visiting daily, the line-up of the elderly in the hallway greatly saddened me. Many were in beds and some in wheelchairs. Their eyes were closed either in sleep, or they were mentally somewhere else. Several had been there for years. As I passed them two or three times a day, my admiration for the nursing home staff rose tremendously. How wonderful that they were and are able to keep their spirits up.  But for me it was a different story. I remember journaling:

They line the hall as if it were a train station

waiting for their time on the gloryland train.

Day after day they are disappointed

as it chugs right past them, never stopping.

And there they sit, blank faces, just existing,

Hoping that tomorrow, it might be their turn.

Why, oh, why does it take so long to die?

That may sound uncaring, but if you have ever sat with someone and watched them suffer year-after-year you will understand what I’m talking about. But let’s get back to my question of why people linger and linger? I really believe our bodies wear out before it’s time for the Father to take us home. Perhaps you have another thought. I do know God is a loving God and He wouldn’t allow it if there wasn’t a purpose in it.

But that got me thinking of a song Ricky Nelson sang back in the ‘60s, called the Glory Train. Now, Ricky Nelson was very popular singer back then. I’m going to share some of those words with you because they are important and they pack a message for each one of us today.

I want to ride that glory train…

Yes, all I want to do

When my life on earth is through

Is to get aboard and ride that glory train

When you get down to the station

And the train’s about to leave

You be sure to have a ticket

If you really do believe

That the Master’s waiting for you

How many of you today do not have a ticket for the glory land train headed for Heaven? We never know when it’s going to arrive for us. Too many people wait until the last minute to get their ticket. But your day will come and it may be when you least expect it. So whether the train comes for you before your elderly years, or after they arrive, be prepared with your ticket. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t scorn the Ticket Master’s gift of salvation. Jesus tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It is only by asking Him into our hearts and accepting that He died for us, will we be able to join Him in Heaven.

Check out these verses: Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, John 14:6, Acts 16:31, 1 John 1:9, Ephesians 4:32

 

 

 

Life In The Household of The Technologically Challenged and The Computer Savvy

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I have to admit it; I am technologically challenged.  I became aware of my deficiency in this area soon after we purchased our first computer.  The problem was compounded when we switched from one brand of computer to another.

The authors of all those books for dummies had people like me in mind when they wrote them.  My husband, on the other hand, almost always solves my computer blunders.  What he lacks in computer experience, he makes up for in patience and persistence.

Occasionally, my computer gives me the big chill and freezes up.  After trying a step or two to de-ice it, there is no other choice; I have to shut it down.  No problem, it quietly falls asleep.  But turning it back on is another matter.  Upon awakening, it announces the moment with musical strains the magnitude of Chariots Afire.  That would be fine, except my husband tries hard to stay ahead of my blunders.  He hears the musical swell from his recliner in the living room (secretly, I think he has set the volume up just for this purpose) and calls out, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, nothing, just turning on the computer,” I reply.  My pride always make me attempt to correct or cover-up my mistakes, whichever is easier. I choose to seek his rescue only when I’m in a state of desperation.  After, all, it’s embarrassing to be a tech blockhead.

“I’ve heard the computer start up three times,” he says accusingly.  “Why are you shutting it on and off?”

“Well, if you must know, it keeps freezing up when I try to print.”

I hear the thud-thunk of the recliner foot being lowered.  Soon, my tech is at my side, telling me to “Get up and let me see what’s wrong.”

I’ve created another challenge for his computer intellect. Actually I’m doing him a service. He has me to thank for all of his computer knowledge. After all, it is me who provides him with computer problem-solving training.

Why just the other day, I tried to print some information off the Internet. Every time I tried this supposedly simple procedure, it said my program had committed an illegal operation and was immediately being shut down. Now, how could that be? I hadn’t taken my eyes off that screen for one single minute. If it had done something wrong, I would have seen it. While I was wondering if I had caused it to go awry, poof, it shut down as threatened, and left me sitting there feeling like a criminal.

I finally decided on a solution. I would cut and paste the copied text in a document.  Feeling above average in intelligence, I tried to print, but it didn’t cooperate. Now, it was giving me the “big-chill” by freezing everything up.

I could hear my husband snoring in the recliner. I certainly didn’t want to disturb a reclining husband. I would just have to wait. That evening, as he prepared to leave for a meeting, I remembered my predicament. “Oh, by the way,” I told my computer savvy husband. “I had a little problem trying to print some info, it says my program has done something illegal. I tried to cut and paste the info in a document, but there’s another problem. I noticed before shutting it down that there’s a copy of the little Internet connector doodad in the document.”

“You what?” he asked, sounding a wee bit upset. “Why didn’t you tell me?

“Well, you were asleep, and I didn’t want to disturb you. Just between us, I didn’t want to have to deal with that wee bit “upset” part.

He left, promising to return and thaw the mysterious freeze. Meanwhile, I just had to wait for my “tech in shining armor” to return to the scene of the crime. Seriously, hubby has saved me many times when a deadline loomed and I am thankful, thankful, thankful!

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastics 4:9-10 NIV

 

 

 

 

 

FREE & FILLED

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It’s not Fire & Furry. Oh no, it’s totally different, this post is about being “Free (in Christ) and Filled (with His Holy Spirit)”  in a world that clamors and yamors with its zillions of buzzers, ringers, dings and pings, tweets, yeets, alarms, and what have you, pestering our spirit. Sometimes, it’s almost more than one person can bear.

What to do? What to do? The preachers talk about seeking God’s peace, but how can you? A better question is when can you? You get up early, rush to work and get right at it. If your work is at home, then you get busy there. When evening comes the scene immediately changes to one of family life. If you have young children there may be homework, meetings to attend, lessons, and on and on. You fall into bed late at night and you remember, I didn’t even bother to pray. You mumble, “God forgive me,” and hope to do better tomorrow. How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit? This doesn’t feel like freedom.

It isn’t and it is not the way it is supposed to be. The Jeremiah 29:11 scripture which say, “God has a plan for your life; a plan to prosper you and give you a hope and a future,” is not just about finding your life calling. It is about finding your way to Him each day. Dr. Charles Stanley said in one of his recent sermons that the reason we don’t spend time with God is because we don’t think it’s important. Ouch, that smarts, but it’s probably true.

Okay, then consider this: It’s time to change our mind-set. Make it happen in 2018. He wants us to be free in Him and filled with His Spirit. He doesn’t want us to appear before Him with frazzled nerves like we just stuck our finger in an electrical socket.

Last summer was a time when there were many concerns pressing in on me. I kept remembering that years ago, I had an amazing encounter with God at the American Baptist Assembly located in Greenlake, Wisconsin. I call it my Bethel. In the Bible, Bethel  was a place where Jacob met God and was blessed. Check out the story in Genesis 28:10-22.

But back to my story, it was at Green Lake I spend hours meditating by the lake. It was there God placed a call on my life to write for His Kingdom. Longing to go back to Bethel and free myself of life’s clamor, I found my way outside to the backyard. As I sat in the sunlight and soaked it up. I sensed Him telling me to name my problems and let them go. So I did. Like peeling an onion, God lifted away each burden and I relaxed. I was free. Gradually, I begin to hear the Father whisper sweet words of wisdom to me.

I haven’t forgotten that summer day and the way He peeled away the onion of turmoil. He reminded me once again how important it is to spend time with Him—away from the world’s hatred and evil that screams for attention. I knew healing that afternoon as I bathed in the Sonlight. He restored me.

Folks, we lived in a troubled, troubled, world and it’s not going to get any better until Jesus comes back. I don’t know how you are to do it—maybe it’s not watching a show on TV or perhaps you’ll have to get up earlier or stay up later, but don’t miss your time with Him. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make. It’s the only way to be free in Christ and filled with His Spirit. It’s the only way to be free of fire and fury in this world. Larnelle Harris has a song, called “I Miss My Time with You.” The words are appropriate here.

“There He was just waiting
In our old familiar place
An empty spot beside Him
Where once I used to wait
To be filled with strength and wisdom
For the battles of the day
I would have passed Him by again
If I didn’t hear Him say
I miss my time with you.”

Friend, if you want the peace that passes understanding, don’t miss your time with HIM. It may be winter, but you can still bathe in the Sonlight.

Blessings,

Janet

WHY GOD GAVE US WINTER

I was extremely tired as I drove down the country road, so maybe that’s why I finally understood the answer to my question. Being a summer person, I had been asking over and over throughout my lifetime, “God, why do you give us this season of winter? Everything is dead. It is ugly unless it snows, then we have trouble getting around.” I was the pot, not exactly arguing with my Maker, but kind of–pleading for answers.

As I continued to drive slowly down the winding ribbon of a road, I became increasingly aware the winter, which I had always associated with death, was upon us. But on this day, I didn’t sense that nature was dead, but sleeping peacefully. The quiet serenity tugged at my heart, for I too longed to rest. As I looked out over the countryside, realization dawned and I knew the answers to my questions about winter.

The ground had been plowed, planted, and fertilized in the spring, then had spent the summer growing. When fall arrived, a time of harvesting yielded its crop and now it was at rest.  Animals born in the spring had grown to adulthood in the summer and fall. Now, they were hibernating or hidden away from the harsh elements, going out only to forage for food. The plants that had sprung to life in the spring, and burst into summer and autumn blooms, now seemed to have withered and died. But, secretly I knew they were lying dormant, resting their bulbs and roots underground. Trees had been through their cycles too. Now, their branches lifted heavenly as God blessed them with rest. All of nature has ceased to strive and I sensed the stillness as the silent snow began to fall. The earth had drifted off in a peaceful sleep. That my friends, is why God gave us winter— it is a time of rest and renewal, all in preparation of a time of rebirth. Will we ever learn?

In the winter silence I realized that God wants mankind to cease their striving, too.  He wants us to stop our frenzied lifestyles and do the same—to put down our work, our busyness, our running to and fro, and rest. But we have been wired by our fast-paced lifestyles, our technology that screams for our attention in dings and pings, and we miss God’s message that lies before us in the stillness of a winter day. “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“I finally get the message, God. But I sense You want me to take it deeper. I’m in the winter of my life. Still, I’m running here and there, trying to fulfill a bunch of commitments that are too cumbersome for me. Are You trying to tell me to slow my steps and take in the stillness of nature? Maybe Your answer about taking a winter’s rest isn’t just about the last season in the yearly cycle. Instead, maybe it’s about resting on a deeper spiritual level and hearing Your still small voice point out things that I may have missed on my life journey.”

What do you think? I don’t know about you, but I’m going to slow my pace and rest on a deeper spiritual level with God, the Father.  I’m going to listen real carefully in this season of rest. I don’t want to miss a thing.winter-343512_960_720

 

Partnering with God: Touch Seven Hearts for Good

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They are all around us. Hearts. Needing a touch. This year, I am challenging myself along with my readers, to Touch Seven Hearts for Good during the months of November and December. I haven’t decided how I’m going to touch hearts, but the holiday months will lend themselves too many different possibilities. However, I’ve promised myself to try and think outside the box—meaning, I will look beyond the obvious need. To do that means we will have to put down our cell phones and connect with those who are in our midst. We will really have to listen and learn to read faces.

 

Try to do the things you always do during the holiday season, but in addition add the seven hearts. For example, I almost always fill shoeboxes for Samaritan Purse, but I’m going to do that, plus touch seven hearts for good. I don’t want this to be old hat, but new and personal for seven individuals. Whatever I choose to do may or may not cost money. Touching hearts for good doesn’t have to cost money. Let’s see who and what God puts in our path.

 

Maybe the heart you touch will be that person in the check-out lane at your Walmart. Maybe it will be the person you meet in the doctor’s office, and maybe, it will be your neighbor.  Then again, it might be someone you have read about in the newspaper. Who knows what you will be led to do. I suggest we all make it a matter of prayer, asking God to make us alert to the needs of people’s heart. I can guarantee, God will want to join you in this project.

 

The next thing is to journal about each heart you touch, not to brag or boast, but to remind yourself that you were blessed when you touched a heart for good. Let this be a joyful adventure as you partner with God in touching hearts. The time to begin? The moment you finish reading this blog. Have fun and I’d be thrilled to hear from you.

 

 

Jeremiah 33: God is a God of Restoration I Will is His Promise

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Life happens, but it does seem that some are tested almost beyond endurance. Lives are sometimes shattered and hope is hard to come by. Consider the following:

In the early morning hours, a family’s home became engulfed in flame; four children die.

A sunny summer afternoon, two preteen girls go for a walk; they are murdered.

A wife returns home from work, only to find her husband isn’t there: he has left for good.

A business is sold; hundreds of people lose their jobs.

Lifelong friends encounter misunderstandings; friendships splinter.

Cars hit head-on; an entire family is killed.

A drive-by shooting occurs; the victim is paralyzed.

A hurricane hits; your home and business are lost.

All of these events have happened to real people in real life; multiple times. I call them pivotal points, you know those moments when life changes forever. But what I want to say to you today is in the reality of shattered lives, there is always hope.

Jesus told us in this world we will have trouble, but he promises to be right beside us. Isaiah 43:1-3 promises he will be right beside us as we go through the fire of oppression and the deep water of trouble–if we will call upon him as our Savior.

But today, if your life, your relationship, your family, and your hope lies in ruin, I want to share with you the promise that God gave to the Prophet Jeremiah in Chapter 33.

Jeremiah was still imprisoned in the dungeon beneath the palace of King Zedekiah, king of Judah, while the Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem. The King imprisoned him for prophesying that the city would be conquered by the Babylonians and King Zedekiah would be taken prisoner. (Jeremiah 32:1-4)

God in his mercy had spoken to Jeremiah earlier, but now he sends him another message. The message was that while judgment was coming upon the city of Jerusalem, verse 5—I have abandoned them because of all their wickedness, and I will not pity them when they cry for help. God would in time, restore the city.

I call this chapter the “I Will” passage for the phrase is used ten times in The Living Bible. It is in this chapter that I see God as a God of Restoration and His promise as I Will.

Verse 10 says, I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here. In verse 6, he says I will heal Jerusalem’s damage and give her prosperity and peace; verse 7—I will rebuild the cities of both Judah and Israel and restore their fortunes; verse 8—I will cleanse away all their sins against me and pardon them; verse 11—I will make this land happier and more prosperous than it has ever been before; verse 14—I will do for Israel and Judah all the good I promised them; verse 15—I will bring to the throne the true Son of David; Verse 25-26—I will never abandon the Jews. . . I will restore their prosperity and have mercy on them.

The truth is life is not fair. Sometimes the judgment coming is to refine us, sometimes it is to refine others, but judgment falls on the just and unjust alike. Sometimes, it’s not judgment, for the Bible says the enemy is like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Remember Job? Sometimes, it’s a test. But if you belong to the Lord, then God will restore to you in time what you have lost.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8: 28. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”(NIV). My friend, God never wastes suffering. Our job is to keep walking with and trusting in HIM. After all, His promise is I will and He is a God of Restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbed Wire Pain

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I may have written on this subject before, but here I go again. Each day I’m encountering people who are going through dark, dark valleys. It may be life-threatening diseases; it may be divorces,  criminal acts against the innocence, grief, and disasters from the elements–flooding, hurricanes–or even God’s own people threatening to destroy themselves.  My heart aches for anyone in sharp pain because evil, like barbed wire, has bound them in suffering. We may be that individual, or we might be watching someone raw with pain. What can we do? Where is there help?

In biblical days, people would go to Gilead which was located east of the Jordan River. There many spices grew which were mixed together and made into an ointment. When I was a child, my folk bought a salve from the Watkins man. Yep, I’m telling you my age. Many of you may never have heard of the Watkins’ man, but he went door to door selling the Watkins’ products. Looking back, it seems funny that no one bothered with his name; they just called him the Watkins man. Salve, ointment, or balm, I use the terms interchangeably, could cure about anything. If we got a cold, then we were slathered in menthol salve. But the balm in Gilead was even more valued. It was made from resin taken from a flowering plant. It was referred to three times in the Bible–once in Genesis and twice in Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 8 it speaks of the prophet hearing bad news and crying out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” He was really asking is there no healing?

Today, we shake our heads at the unbelievable horrors that are occurring in our world, and we might ask like Jeremiah, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” What we’re really asking is God, what are you going to do about this? We may become desperate for relief; this is where some people get in trouble by turning to alcohol or drugs. We may say we can’t stand it and some choose to end their life. But Jesus has a word for us; in fact he had many words for us. Let’s take a minute and look at what he says.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.”  John 16:33 NIV (Capitalization mine.) What is he saying? That sin is in the world, but he is the VICTOR. You stand with him if he’s your Savior. If he isn’t, then invited him into your heart.

A very wise pastor once gave me some good advice. He said, “Don’t ask God to take you out of the valley, but ask him to go with you and teach you.” Also, I believe it was Rick Warren who said, “We’re either in a valley, just came out of a valley, or getting ready to go into a valley.”

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The truth is that as long as we’re alive, we’re not going to escape the valley, so we’d better stand with the Victor and have Him go with us through it, refining us as we go. Terrible things are not God’s will, but he may allow it, and he will use our suffering for good. We’ll be more compassionate with others who are going through similar things. We’ll become more kind-hearted, we’ll realize what Christ’s death on the cross cost, why it was needed, and how valuable life in Christ is.

I’m not telling you to deny your pain. It’s real; you’re bound to feel it. But I do encourage you to take it to the Father. Tell him your feelings and ask him to carry it for you. I can promise you he will. John 14:27 reads, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace of the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” TLB

Doctor Janet, here, prescribes reading 5 Psalms per day while you’re walking your dark corridor. Devour the words of comfort. Then get an envelope or a prayer box and write down your problems. Give them to the Lord. Every time you take them back, write them down again and give them to him again. Do this until you can release them to HIM and let HIM carry them for you. You may be in the darkest valley, but you don’t have to walk it alone. Cling to Jesus as if your life depends on it. It does, my friend, it really does. You’re going to make it—He’s got this! In HIS love, Janet