As so many of you are, with the Covid-19 pandemic upon us and around us, I have been at home…a lot. This has afforded me time to get serious about being in the Word of God, both through Bible reading and listening to or reading great preaching and devotions by excellent Bible teachers. God has had my attention. My life has ground to a halt; from full on busy to ‘oh, I have time to clean out that closet’ kind of halt. I think God has been chuckling a little because now that I no longer have the background ‘noise of life’, He has been having fun dropping ‘gems’ into my Spirit.
Most people think of February with regard to Valentine’s Day, love, romantic movies and chocolate and little cherubs directing love arrows. Soon after the 14th we go back to our daily activities and forget about the romance while we do laundry, truck the kids to hockey practices and try to make it through our work week.
Why is this focus on love so fleeting? Is it really because our definition of love is skewed and temporary? What is true love anyway?
Perhaps it is because we view love as a feeling which is subject to change with the day or month. Did you know that Love is a Person, not an emotion? God IS Love. God does not change or falter depending on the season or condition of the stock market or world affairs. Let me say that again, God IS Love. It is Who He IS, not what He does. It is His very Essence. It is His Character and Nature. He cannot cease to Love. He is True Love, the measuring stick of Love in our lives. Anything less than Him is not Love, but our attempt to imitate Him.
Contemplate that for a moment. All our love songs are about emotional responses to circumstances. Situations change. People ‘fall out of love’ over misunderstandings and failings. People are not Perfect. They do fall down. Lives are split and shattered. There have been countless songs written about just that woe.
So, God entered our fragile world to bring a Solution to this dilemma. He knew we would fail and falter continuously, like a repeat button on a recording. We could never love others or Love God adequately in and of ourselves. We needed His Help, another Solution. We cannot Love Him with our version of Love. He had to enter our world, become like us and pay the price for our failings. In so doing, He made a way for us to come to Him and Receive His Perfect Love so we can share that Love with others. If there ever was a moment to shout and applaud, that is it! Wow, He Loved us enough to come near us and make a Way for us to Come to Him every day and Receive His Love so we can Love others like He Loves us.
Pause and think on that explosive notion.
He Loves me. He Loves you. He Loves your neighbour. He Loves everyone. Full stop. Everyone. No exceptions, no matter what you have done.
If there is something to celebrate on Valentine’s Day, it is the fact that God so Loves you, He wants you to be able to Live Eternally with Him. Accept what He did for you and accept His Love and His Love will fill you up, into every crevice of your heart. With that Love inside you, you can Love others in a Different Way and Change the lives of others, one person at a time, and change the world.
Think on this when you celebrate your loved ones on Valentine’s Day this year and every year going forward. You are profoundly Eternally Loved and you can share that Love with everyone you meet.
Now that is True Love.
Here we are in the last week of 2017, on the cusp of a New Year. Many use it as an occasion to get together, have parties and enjoy the season. It is great to be able to be with friends and loved ones at this time of year, but there is more to this changing of years. Might I suggest that we use this shift of year to re-examine our lives. I am not suggesting the usual New Year’s resolutions that get broken by the end of January. Instead, I am talking about looking at our Purpose for being here on this planet at this time.
So many of us go through life drifting from one experience to another and never realize that we have a Calling in life. Did you know that you have been given specific Gifts and Talents in order to fulfill a Calling in life? God has put them within us. Think of it like a battery with stored potential energy just waiting to be used at the proper moment. We can just leave that battery on a shelf and over time the energy within it just wanes and disappears. However, our Battery is a renewable energy Battery. When we get plugged into the Holy Spirit Source for our Energy, it does not wane or leak away. Once we get into God’s Source through study and enjoyment of His Word, Prayer and Listening to His Leading by the Holy Spirit, it becomes the Ultimate Renewable Energy Source on the face of the earth.
The first step is to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour in your life. The next step is to Listen to His Leading and follow Him. What you Hear may not always make sense to your analytical mind, but you will be surprised by the places He will take you. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing your usual route to work in your car, seeing a different person as you drive by and Praying that God would Bless them that day. It can be as grand as pursuing a new career in a new city…or anything in between.
More often than not, it is the minute things that you would normally ignore in your daily routine, done with a different attitude, with the intention to look outwardly to help others or brighten their day. Just be ready to follow the Leading of the Holy Spirit minute by minute, looking beyond yourself, to follow a Path you might have ignored before. Before you know it, these moments in time will add up to a new Calling, Purpose and Fulfillment in your life. It starts with a single Decision to yield your will to the Will of God for your life. Then it is all about being tuned to the ‘frequency’ of the Voice of God through the Holy Spirit tugs on your Heart…and doing what that Voice says, one simple act after another.
2018 has the potential to be the most interesting and adventure-filled year of your life and it can start with the simplest decision to Listen to a Heart beyond your own. Oh, the places He will take you! May you be tremendously Blessed in 2018.
One week till Christmas. For many this causes a high degree of stress and anxiety. For some, it is caused by the pressures of preparations of the season. For others, it is because they are missing loved ones and it just plain hurts. Christmas is a time of compassion and caring. May we be especially considerate of those around us this week. Showing kindness might be the greatest gift you offer in the next few days. ❤️
Weather. It can bring us up and it can bring us down. It changes rapidly and it is totally out of our control. The only thing we can do is seek shelter from intensely hot sun or pounding storms, but we cannot stop it all from happening.
Life is like that. Some things that happen around us are affected by our personal decisions and behavior, but so many more circumstances are beyond our influence.
We tend to love a sunny day; spirit, soul and body. It uplifts our mood, makes arthritis hurt less and we seem to be able to even see God moving around us with better clarity.
Rainy days bring us down emotionally, make our bodies ache and feel sluggish and somehow God seems beyond our reach in Prayer.
There is something we might not realize though, even on a sunny day we may feel removed from God. Just as staring into the glaring sun can blind us, so can the rosy atmosphere of a pleasant day blind us from the hurt and pain that still dwells deep within us. It is easier to ignore the nagging injuries of life when life seems sunny. We often push them into the background, thinking we are totally capable of dealing with it all ourselves.
Self sufficiency pushes God into the background and erodes our intimate relationship with Him. Ever notice the less you talk to someone, the less important they become in your life? The relationship is neglected and you forget they were once important to you…until a crisis happens and you remember they were the one who got you through the last time.
Rainy days blur visibility. Looking through the windshield of a car with no wipers working distorts the view before us. It amplifies the gloominess of a day. Troubles act like water on windshield. We find we cannot see the answers that lie before us, even things that seemed so simple the day before.
What can change our perspective? One simple step can keep us focused and sensing Hope in the midst of all the strangling perplexities of life. Making time for God’s Word solidifies our relationship with the Father, making it newly fresh, our ears open to Hear new Insights and eyes trained to See what Jesus needs us to see that particular day. It becomes a shade from the blinding sunshine and a windshield wiper for the windows through which we view our world. God can Speak volumes in a single sentence if we slow down to ask Him for the essence of His Message. One Word from God each day can dispel the distortion that the world’s pressures create. It is our choice…to give Him our time and our ear.
Let's make a concerted effort each day to devote an extra consecrated chunk of time for the Lord to Speak to our Hearts before we run out into the fray of life…come rain or come shine.
Surprises. Some are wonderful, marvelous and dreamed about, while others are tragic and devastating.
Life tends to come in bunches; too often it takes you off-guard in negative ways. We are unprepared for tragedy and hard times. It knocks the wind out of our sails and makes us question what we did to deserve such devastating news. In this day and age of instant news reports and sensationalism on television and social media, we get to view multiple miseries experienced by other people every single day. In order to protect ourselves emotional burnout, we tend to desensitize our emotions, become calloused to the horrific images that bombard our eyes. It is sad but it is self-preservation.
Wouldn’t it be grand if all the surprises in life were fun and uplifting? I know it is unrealistic to expect this because life is not always about roses and chocolate. I have been on both sides of this fence multiple times, but two stick out in my memory. First, was the day that we received the news that my husband had cancer; and within a week we learned that it was very aggressive and they could only offer palliative measures for treatment. How do you deal with news like this without losing your soul in the process? I turned immediately to the only One Who could get me through it all. I Prayed to My Heavenly Father to give me the ability to breathe through every moment while my husband was still with us; and sadly it was less than a month from diagnosis till he went to be with the Lord. God was Faithful and True to His Promises and never let me down through it all.
It has been almost four and a half years since my beloved husband passed away. I will not pretend that the journey has been easy. There have been extreme lows along the way. I have learned a lot about people, what I am capable of handling on my own and most importantly, Who is my Strength when I do not have the energy to make one more decision or do one more chore. I am never alone even in the quietest moments, the hardest days, listening to the most hurtful and insensitive comments by people who have never walked the path onto which I have been thrust. I have spoken the Word of God over my circumstances countless times and in every one Jesus has been there for me as my Counsellor and Partner in my new life.
So what about the wonderful surprises? A little over three weeks ago our family was tremendously Blessed with the sweetest little baby boy. He is beautiful and so very loved. His parents love each other have added this little guy to their blended family. It is such an exciting time for our family after the tragedy and change of the last four years.
Have the last four years been tough? You have no idea unless you have walked that path yourself. I can attest to experiencing the lowest, darkest moments that anyone into which anyone should be ever be plunged. Although feeling abandoned and hopeless emotionally, I know every moment in that blackness, Jesus was always waiting for me to reach out and take His Hand. He posted His angels around me to lift me up out the pit I was in and lead me to a much higher, brighter place. I just had to Trust Him when all the things around me became foreign and murky. He was the Sureness in my life and still is today.
Will life continue to bring surprises, both good and bad. Absolutely. However, it is all about where I put my Trust and Reliance for my self-esteem and Confidence. It is not about who I am in times of trouble or times of great Joy. It is about Whose I am and in Whom I am. I am not alone. I am in Christ and He is in the Father, so I am never alone, never left without Provision or Protection. I have a Big BIG GOD and I can face all challenges with Him!
We are expecting the imminent birth of a grandbaby in our family. It will bring many changes to the parents and sibling of this little bundle of joy. It will also be new to me as the grandmother. It is all so amazing.
Change is inevitable. We cannot stop it. It is occurring more frequently and intensely than ever before, and at much faster pace than expected. You would have to live in a cave to avoid it. We just have to live with it and adjust to it.
This sounds so much like the process of labour and delivery of a baby. Change can be sudden and intense or it can come more slowly giving us a chance to adjust. The more we are attuned to the signs of its arrival, the less we are caught off guard by its onset. It often can be painful as we adjust to the necessary alterations it requires. The more we fight it, the more agonizing it seems. If we view it as a natural part of life, something to be accepted and worked with, it flows more smoothly, yet always with some resistance. Sometimes, even when we are anticipating the process, there are unexpected complications that require us to accept help to work around it.
My first baby came with a prolonged labour and delivery. He was a ‘sunny side up’ baby and it caused erratic and intense labour pains with little progress for an extended period of time. He came safe and sound, but it required some intervention by the doctor and nurses for him to arrive. The labour with my second baby was hardly noticeable at first and was easy to manage. It took quite a while for the intensity to build, but once it did, we had to take a wild ride to the hospital because the baby was suddenly ready to deliver without much warning. Again, he was born healthy and ready to challenge the world. It took a little help from the medical staff to deliver him because he had his arm stuck over his head as though he had second thoughts about coming out and tried to stop his progress. Different babies, different personalities, different deliveries.
Change is entirely like that. No matter how prepared you think you are for it, it usually is packed with some sort of unexpected surprises. We are presented with two options. We can try to muddle through it all on our own; encountering a struggle every step of the way. It can cause us to lose sleep and to panic because we do not have all of the answers nor the expertise on our own.
The alternative is a little humbling. It requires us to realize we are fallible and needing assistance. Yes, we can turn to our friends and colleagues for help, but they too can be left scratching their heads looking for ways to aid us in the perfect way we need. Ideally, we turn to God for His Wisdom and Discernment. It is in the realizing that we have come to the end of our own ability and need Him to fill in what we are lacking, that we are ready to be Filled with the Infinite Resources of the Almighty. He Created us, so He Knows what we need in order to become the person He always intended us to be. He fills in the blanks when change is inevitable.
Just like a pregnant woman turns to a midwife or obstetrician for assistance in labour and delivery, God is the One to Whom we need to turn in life. Jesus Christ was Sent to the world to be our Deliverer. He uniquely and fully addressed all the problems we could ever face. He is there for us now, at this moment, waiting for us to turn to Him to Help us with every issue we might have. He has a million possible solutions for our problem and we only need that one that will work right now. It is up to us to Ask for it…and, in Faith, we will Receive it. So, today, will you reach out and ask for your Help from the ultimate Delieverer? He is ready and waiting to bring New Life into your world!
Today is inauguration day in the United States. Whatever your political views, this step marks change in the U.S. It also can be used as a springboard to spur us on individually to evaluate what has been working in our lives and what might need to be left behind. This can be our inauguration day too.
Many people just keep on doing the same thing because they always have. Change means having to break out of a rut of sameness and comfort. The first step to making a change is seeing that it is necessary. Backing up even further, it requires realizing that what we have been doing is no longer working for our lives and identifying what it is in our life that is the root of this dissatisfaction. All too many people make rash decisions to change a symptom in their life they do not like only to find it wasn’t the root cause of their restlessness. It takes time in reflection and Asking God for the root of the issue and then reflecting on what might be made different to cause an alternate result. God is Faithful to lead us to this Answer when we Ask in Faith.
The next tendency is to make a small change and then expect an immediate big result. Often this does not happen and we find that it is more of a process that needs to happen. We need to establish a new pattern of thinking surrounding the issue. We need to see it differently and thus allow it to shape our decisions, actions and ultimately our habits. The old adage is true: change isn’t change until you change.
We often expect others to do the change for us or with us. However, it is such an individual thing. We purpose in our own Hearts that something needs to be different and then as an act of our individual will, we make decisions around that notion. We never can impose our will on others, just like God does not impose His Will on us. He waits for us to choose to change our thinking and actions. He may nudge us into the Revelation of the need for the altered thinking and actions, but He does not force us. If He was into forcing us, all people would have made a decision to follow His Ways the moment we are born. No, He waits patiently for us to realize the need and then to actually act upon it.
So, now, in this season of change, what do you see in yourself (not the other gal/guy) that you would like to see differences effected? The biggest step is gaining clarity in this regard. God is always willing to Help in this. The next step is to stop being resistant to it and actually change your will to line up with God’s Will for your Life. Ask again for the Next Step, then listen, meditate on the Answer however subtle it is and then Ask God if you got it right…and then Do It. Change isn’t change until you change. Do not expect the next step to be revealed until you do this one. Change is a Process. It takes time to establish new thinking and routines. As you do, new neural connections happen in your brain to make it the new normal for you. Take one step, practice it, make it yours and then you will be lead to the next step…and repeat the process…on and on as you move closer and closer to God’s Will for your Life.
You never know what He has in store for you until you make a move towards His Will…and you never know what you have been missing until you do. It is a great and wonder-filled Adventure!
The year is about to turn a page from 2016 to 2017. Just another day in reality, but we assign great meaning to it out of tradition. We use it as an opportunity to reassess our lives and to make promises to do appropriate steps toward change.
Why do we tend to start resolutions with great gusto and heart felt enthusiasm yet often give up within a short time? Is it because life is busy? Perhaps, it seems like a reasonable explanation but I think it goes far deeper than that. What do we default to when under stress? It is usually activities that give us a warm, fuzzy feeling, giving us an endorphin boost…old habits, often detrimental ones.
What do we want to spend our time doing, especially when we are tired or stressed? Activities that we love to do, ones that require little effort or thought…and, most especially, ones that we are passionate about. That is the reality. We will suffer through uncomfortable circumstances to achieve those types of goals. My husband would work in the baking sun all day long on his race boat and toil long hours into the night to get a motor fixed for the next day’s racing…but ask him to go to the gym, never. He did was he was passionate about...and so do we.
So, what can make us passionate about things you know we should do? The bottom line is we need to grab hold of a different reason for doing it…or perhaps it needs to grab hold of us. That will only happen if we change our perspective. If we see it as the enemy, we will never go near it, let alone do it. If we see it as helpful and yes, desirable, then we will go the end of the earth to obtain it.
New goal for 2017: finding that one thing in the necessary lifestyle change that will make you go to the end of the earth to achieve it. What is it in that activity that could possibly give you that wonderful endorphin buzz? Find that little gem and your whole world could be transformed.
So, I challenge you this week. Do not merely say that you need to lose weight or exercise more or spend more time with your kids or partner. Ask yourself what benefit these activities will make you feel happier, more fulfilled, relaxed or loved. Find those keys and you discover roots that anchor you. Those foundations will sustain you on the crummy days when life stresses you beyond your endurance and keeps you fixed on a worthwhile goal.
I Pray that you first Ask the Lord for Wisdom this New Year; then Ask for His Steps for achieving His Will for your Life. God will never Ask you to Do anything, He is not Willing to Provide the wherewithal to Accomplish it. Ask in Faith, no matter how small your Faith is. He Will Answer, not always in the Way you predicted, but He is always Faithful to Answer and to Provide.
Remember this New Year’s Eve that God Loves you and I Love you. May you and your loved ones be tremendously Blessed in 2017!
We are now on the final countdown to Christmas day...a Day of wonder that commemortaes the promise for the future King. He did come, He lived among us, He died for us to make the final Sacrifice on our behalf so we may come boldly to the throne of Grace, He Rose again and is now seated at the right hand of our Father in Heaven...and is with us daily through His Holy Spirit Whom He Sent to be with us daily, every moment of every day!
This season can also be a challenge for families. We are often thrust together in gatherings with people who often have the knack of rubbing us the wrong way. It may be for many unspoken reasons, sometimes forgotten, sometimes harboured and wrapped in resentment. It can be challenging to be among them at a time that should be celebratory and light hearted. We all have those people or that one person in our lives, if we choose to admit it.
Can I be bold enough to make a small suggestion? Would it be possible to approach this potential irritation with a different attitude? I know that the holiday season often causes us to be tired and more vulnerable to being short tempered, but is it possible that we choose to give that one person a 'gift' this Christmas? I am suggesting that we give the Gift of Love to that person. It might mean closing your ears to a negative statement, or giving a hug to a porcupine, or offering Patience to someone who has none, or allowing your mother-in-law to make the gravy (and not the way you like it)... Whatever you might offer that person to make the day go just a little smoother, might end up being a gift to everyone present at your gathering.
By keeping in mind (and Heart) the Gift of Peace at our celebrations this year, we might start a trend to offer the same Gift to one person each day all year long. It is not that they 'deserve' it based on their behaviour, but because we are Honouring our Lord Jesus as He Came to us on this earth to offer us the Gift of Reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. We too can pass along this Gift one person at a time...sometimes with just a smile...
Merry Christmas one and all!!!
Judith Utman is the author of Voices in the Wilderness.