Patience…

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And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up Galatians 6:9

There are so many times in our lives that we are in a hurry. We are living in an age when everything happens instantly. The technology available to us allows us to have answers to complicated questions immediately. We send pictures of our adventures around the world back to our family at home instantaneously. And we get products delivered to our homes within a day. We have difficulty with patience because we do not need it to meet our day-to-day needs.

When it comes to  our own physical and social needs, we can usually find and obtain what we want right away. But when it comes to reaching our bigger goals, it takes more time. Someone waits for a promotion, an achievement, a milestone of progress, or their book to become a bestseller. These things are not immediate. Sometimes we find ourselves consumed with reaching that goal. We experience roller coaster emotions between success and anxiety. We have imaginary scenes play in our minds about what that promotion will feel like, how we will react when we reach that goal, or what people might say when we make it to the next phase in our progress. Along the way, we learn more about ourselves. We may not rejoice when we see others pass us by with their achievements. Perhaps we feel sadness. We experience frustration. We even experience envy.

During these times of waiting and working toward our goals, we may even be tempted to give up. Before that thought receives too much attention, perhaps we need to think about the purpose of what we are working to achieve. Are our goals reaching toward the work that God would have us do? A teacher, a nurse, a firefighter, a serviceman or woman, a doctor, a pastor, are all ways to serve others and God. What about the banker, salesman,  government employee,  or businessman? Are these types of work also considered service for God? They can be. There are always opportunities to reflect and act on your faith, regardless of the particular work. A problem may occur if the achievement you want becomes more important than the service you do.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men Colossians 3:23

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The patient waiting, while continuing to work as hard as ever, can be exhausting. But the continual service, with the goal in mind but not in control, is a mark of our faith. As the Apostle Paul told the early followers of Christ, we should alway pray. And we should hope and wait with patience.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer Romans 12:12

Our ultimate goal is to reach that mansion with many rooms that is prepared for us. Continuing our faith, prayer, and service will help us in that journey. We cannot see heaven, but we have faith in its existence and we wait in patience.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience Romans 8:25

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With a cheerful heart

 

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As I looked at the overflowing clothes hamper, in my mind was a phrase that I had read many times “with a cheerful heart…” Ok. So doing laundry is not a big deal-even when it is long overdue. But cheerfully?

My thoughts then turned to the night before when I visited a new Bible Study class. Granted the Old Testament on a Tuesday night is not very exciting. In fact, the Old Testament can sometimes feel cumbersome. I met the teacher and the other students in the class as we prepared to review 1 Samuel. The teacher, who is chronically ill and happened to be experiencing a great deal of discomfort at that time, was there nevertheless with a smile on her face and ready to teach us. Whats more, with all of her illnesses and health conditions, she prayed for us. “What a cheerful heart..,” I thought. She was more concerned about us than herself. She used her own talents to further the learning of others.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace 1 Peter 4:10

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver 2 Corinthians 9:7

Sorting out the light and dark colors for the next load of clothes, I could not help but think about the other cheerful givers in our lives. The nurses who smile and care for strangers who just expelled some unknown body fluid all over everything. The foster parents who are up in the wee hours of the night rocking a wiggling crying infant, who has 102 temperature, while they also worry about getting their own kids off to school in three short hours. The firefighters who charge into a fire, risking their own lives, to save another human or pet while wearing over 100 pounds of gear on their backs. Military personnel, weighed down with combat gear, who go into the unknown simply because they love their country and stand up to fight against evil, so we can enjoy our freedom here at home. Teachers who enter the classroom smiling each day with the responsibility of helping kids achieve while meeting all the federal and state requirements thrust upon them. Police and other first responders who want to protect us from unknown terrors and aggression. Farmers and ranchers, who never get a break from physical work, as they help meet the nutritional needs of us all. There are many other types of jobs of service, and each one is filled by a caring person who puts others first.

So many people who do their jobs with cheerful hearts and little thanks. They show up day-after-day to work for others. These people use their own knowledge, talents, strengths, and skills to help others first. These individuals had the call and they made that particular decision to serve others for their profession. They did not have to do so, but they did. They serve for the good of mankind.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good 1 Corinthians, 12:4-7.

Living our lives to help others was an example first given to us by Christ. He always put others first as He guided us to learn more about His Father and the kingdom of heaven. He put all of us first by paying the ultimate price for our sins. For this, we should always give thanks. As part of our tribute to Him, we should put others first whenever possible. We should thank others who put us first. And, we should use our own gifts to help others…with a cheerful heart.

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Night walks on the beach

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But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind Job 12:7-10

Recently, my daughter’s family came for a visit. This family is unique because, not only are my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in the family, but there will always be one or two foster babies or toddlers who come along for the trip. This family is fluid and ever-changing, depending upon which infants or toddlers need a loving home. My daughter’s family is asked to foster infants or toddlers when their own parents cannot care for them.

During these summer visits, we do the typical activities that families do at the beach in southern Texas: swim in the coastal waters, play golf, go eat at the bay side and gulf side restaurants, collect sea shells, go shopping, visit the sea turtle rescue facilities, go the lighthouse, go to the sea life museum, and go out on tour boats or pirate ships. We play cards, board games, or watch movies at night. In general, the schedule is extremely busy! We enjoy the loving fellowship of a week together on vacation.

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This year, we revisited a tradition that we had neglected in the past few summers. We went for a night walk on the beach. The goal of this walk is two-fold: first, we enjoy the wondrous majesty of the sea-shore at night with all of God’s blessings and creations as we marvel at the beauty of it all; and, second, we search with flashlights, to find as many crabs as we can. These crabs of all sizes, scurry about quickly, as they run back to the water or find their crab hole in the sand. All the while, we feel the cool powdery sand as we walk in the breezy moonlight armed with our individual flashlights. We sense the foamy waves slide across our feet. We notice other groups of families with flashlights laughing and yelling, “Look! There’s another one!” as they spot a hasty crustacean that soon disappears, shoveling sand over their own little decapod bodies. These creatures are amazing to watch. Their eyes dart back and forth like satellite radar receivers as they examine the beams from our flashlights. The hermit crabs, borrow temporary homes of sea shells, while others find their homes in the sand and sea. God made quite a variety of these particular life forms. The water, the breeze, the moonlight, the variety of sea and sand creatures; so many blessings can be counted in a simple walk on the beach with family.

On this particular sultry night, another blessing was blatantly obvious to me. Walking along the shoreline, my three grandchildren were taking turns pointing out crabs, waves, and sea shells, to the foster baby as they carried her on their hip or in their arms. These three children, elementary, middle, and high school ages, had emotionally and lovingly accepted this baby of fourteen months, as their own sibling. This was not the first time for them to do so. They have, to date, had a total of seven foster babies over the past couple of years. These three grandchildren accept these babies readily; understanding that, for the time being, God has placed these babies in their home. Just like their own parents, they participate in the feeding, clothing, diaper changing, caring for, and loving of these babies. They love  unconditionally. This is the true meaning of the verses spoken to us by Jesus:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16

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Being a true Christian means loving all others, accepting all others, praying for all others. These children willingly care for and love babies and toddlers they do not know. The history of the foster baby’s family is not important. These children do not question, they simply accept. As long-time Christians, or new believers, we do the same to be in the kingdom of God. We accept without question. All these children know is that these little ones need parenting and support. These tiny foster individuals need to learn how accept and return the love of others as well as how to talk, walk, and play. To accept the weak, the suffering, the young and helpless into a loving home, is to be Christlike. This was our second great commandment given to us by Jesus:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Among my many blessings, the knowledge that my grandchildren will grow up and have children of their own, for whom they will care just as they care for these foster babies, is one of my most precious blessings. These children will know how to take care of the physical and emotional needs of their own future children. And most important of all, they will know how to guide their own children in a spiritual walk with Christ. They know the examples they set in their own lives are following the commandment of Jesus: to love one another.

 

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Plans and surprises…

 

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Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand Proverbs 19:21

If you are like me, there have been times in your life when you thought everything was set. You made your plans in good faith. And, many times, those plans are brought to fruition without any difficulties. On those days, we might feel that we accomplished what we set out to do. We might feel that the event we attended was everything we hoped it would be. Perhaps the family gathering produced nothing but wonderful memories.

And, like me, you likely had days when, despite your very best planning efforts, nothing seemed to go as you imagined it would. You were late, had car trouble, or, heaven forbid, had the experience of being pulled over by a police officer. So much for your planning.

Then, there are those days when, out of the blue, an unexpected event occurs that blows your world completely off track. You were walking along the path that you thought would go directly to your planned destination; and then it happened. These events may be quite tragic and result in your life being redirected, altered, torn apart (See Devotional for Those Coping with Tragedy). Whether the event is traumatic, tragic, or simply a major inconvenience, it caused you minutes, hours, months, or years of distress. These types of events come in all sizes and happen to everyone at some point in their lives.

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off Proverbs 23:18

These tragic events seem to happen to me when I have taken it too easy with my faith. When our lives are in order, we lean toward thinking we can make it on our own. Perhaps, like me, you developed a bad habit of calling on God only in times of need rather than keeping Him nearby every day. It seems that the tragic events serve to call my attention back to the right direction. Does this sound all too familiar?

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Recently, there were several surprises in store for me. First, although I suspected that my grandson would be going into the Army at some point in his life, I was surprised that he did this at such a young age and that the time arrived so rapidly. Although it was an excellent choice for him, I found myself saying, “Wait! I’m not ready for you to go!” And another surprise happened when his best friend, whom I had only come to know and soon “adopt”, decided to sign up as well. And sure enough, these events found me going nearer to God again for prayer. Prayer for their safety. Prayer for their success. Prayer for peace throughout the world.

Not long after these occurrences, there were more surprises in store. A father sadly progressing rapidly down the path of Alzheimer’s, and more recently, my husband’s major back injury, resulting in many days of pain and lack of mobility and, as of yet, undetermined treatment and resolution. So, again I grow nearer to God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As I read the verse above, I decided to find the reasons to give thanks for all of these events. It is true that having a grandson old enough to be in the military makes one thankful for living long enough to experience this time of his life. Many people are not so fortunate, as I am, to know their grown grandchildren. I am also thankful for his bravery and determination because I know that his efforts will someday help to defend our country.

I am not quite sure yet about being thankful for anything about the disease of Alzheimer’s. This diagnosis has caused me to further research the disorder and to learn about healthier lifestyles for all seniors. By adopting these dietary and lifestyle changes in our family, we are already seeing positive healthier outcomes. I am thankful for improved health.

With a back injury, my husband has been housebound. We have shared many days of togetherness and had more conversations, read devotionals, and had more quality time with each other. I am thankful for this time together.

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And finally, having plans disrupted can call our attention back to doing what God would have us do: work for Him. When our plans are disrupted, maybe it is because we have the wrong plans. For direction, and guidance, there can be only one source, and He is always available to us. We just need to commit and remain committed to Him, in good times and bad. He knows our final plan.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established Proverbs 16:3

 

 

 

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Our great country

36669867_10216456682385556_5662849190762381312_nBlessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes their deeds Psalm 33:12-15

The verse above gives us pause. Imagine, from God’s view. He sees all of the children of man. What that must be like! He observes our deeds. There is so much poverty, cruelty, and violence among and between all of the children of man. From one country to another, against one country and another. The original chosen people of God, His children, were the Israelites. But with the life and ministry of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and other disciples, we know that all humanity can be in God’s kingdom. We all have this opportunity, if we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  With this in mind, the verse above speaks to us in our country. In our nation, God is our Lord. Although other religions are welcome, we are still a nation with one God.

Today, we celebrate the 4th of July. The birth of our country, our independence, our unique story. And what an idea. No other idea in the history of the world has ever intrigued so many. We have the freedom to choose to believe in our God. We have the freedom to work and live as we like as long as we bring no harm to others. No other country has been founded on such an idea.

We are our own governance. It is so precious a concept that it must be protected every single minute of every single day.  Our country’s existence is coveted by people around the globe. To be able to make your own decisions and govern your own country? Amazing. But these wonderful blessings must be defended. Because our nation is one of such high value, others seek to destroy our way of life, our world power, and our glory for God.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet Matthew 24:6

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With these threats on our minds, we turn our thoughts to those who defend our freedom and our way of life. There are a few brave souls who take this mission on as their own purpose. Our military seek to do this for us all. Thanks to their bravery, we can be at home on the 4th of July. We can celebrate with family and friends. Back here at home, we will grill burgers while our service men and women will eat whatever is given to them. We will watch fireworks while our service men and women will risk being in fire fights. And tonight, we will sleep in our comfortable beds with sheets and covers and our service men and women will sleep wherever they can lay their weary heads. We do not have to fight evil. Our wonderful soldiers do that for us.

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What should we do with this wonderful blessing called the United States of America? First, each and every day, we should give thanks to God for our country and for the brave people that defend us. Second, we should remember that we, as a country, believe in one God. We know the commandments given to us and we live by those. But we should not stop there. We should live as servants of God. Protect those who cannot protect themselves, serve others, tell others of our faith, live as examples of Christianity, and always, give the glory to God.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God 1 Peter 2:16

 

 

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