A Wonderful, Godly Woman

I’m just now vertical after a much needed nap after a sumptuous brunch to celebrate the day. Mother’s Day. Seems like we were just doing that, but apparently an entire year has fled to the place time is stored. As the years roll on, faster the older I become, I look back through a book filled with yet another new page.

Life isn’t perfect, although the pictures are. Behind the smiles stories live—on a scale, some are shooting stars, tilting it wildly, while others barely make it wiggle. Life is “full of its ups and downs.” But one stabilizing factor in the mathematics of life has always been Mother.

Mine was born perfect. Yes, really. I even wrote in my memory book at the tender age of six, “My mother is my best friend—my mother who knows best.” She helped me have a funeral for my little turtle—with the shell that turned soft—and flushed it down the toilet. She let me watch her bake pies, and how much fun we would have on bright, summer days picking apples from our trees in the backyard. And when I locked myself in a bedroom so I could finally catch one of those flashy goldfish swimming in its tank, she called the fireman who entered the second-floor through an open window to unlock the door my small hands could not.

Probably the best gift she gave me was permission to walk home from elementary school. Not only good exercise, but it was also a time when my mind erased all worries and I could dream. Little did I know that those filaments were the yarn that would knit my future imagination, later igniting stories to write.

She was also my best cheerleader, exposing me to every kind of lesson from music to acting, and encouraged me to believe in myself. Stage fright has always remained a stranger because of the confidence she built in me at an early age.

From bandaging bloody knees and elbows to clucking over me on my childhood sickbed, she nursed me to health. As an adult with pneumonia, she left a trip to Israel to be by my side in the hospital when I took a turn for the worse. Always compassionate, patient, loving, I can trust her with my life.

Now that she’s 94, it’s my turn to watch out for her. I have rules that she tries to ignore, like do not climb on a ladder. Ever. She did slip once while changing a light bulb, fell on the bathroom tile on her hip and hit the back of her head. She got up and drove to the emergency room and checked out fine. (I tell her she keeps her guardian angel busy!)

Although she pretends she doesn’t hear my warnings, she still drives, shops, cooks, and even parades to church in high heels on Sundays. Everywhere she goes, random people will tap her on the shoulder and say, “I want to tell you how beautiful you look today.” Lately, when she was dining alone at a restaurant, an anonymous man paid for her meal. The waitress refused to tell her who it was, and she regretted not being able to thank him.

Setting goals is a wonderful thing to do, and hers is set for living to the age of 100. She even has upped it to 105. And you know, I do believe she’ll make it. Having lived out her deep Christian faith before me, she has always been my example to follow, and I know that God has her marked as very special in His kingdom.

Thank you, Lord, for choosing this wonderful, godly woman to be my mother.

Mother's Day 2016

Mother’s Day 2016

Feasting at Thanksgiving

By Karen

Happy Thanksgiving!

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

If you’re like me, you’ll be in the kitchen chopping, whipping, mixing, roasting and baking for your Thanksgiving feast this week. This is one of two times a year that I go all out, preparing a knock-out menu that requires several days in advance. I absolutely love it! Here is a preview of this year’s holiday table:

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

Do you like to play games? If you never cook for Thanksgiving, or if you just take one dish to a party or family gathering, this blog post is still for you. No, it’s not about menus or recipe ideas—which are lovely—but it’s about thanking God for His blessings this year. And I’m inviting you to join me in doing it.

As we’re feasting on the turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, let’s also remember to take this day to feast on the Word of God.

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalms 34:8).

As I thought about how to choose some “delicious” scriptures, it seemed logical to pick the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For this game, I’ll begin by listing my favorite Bible verses, from either the Old or New Testament—one for each spiritual fruit. Here goes: (All from New American Standard Bible)

 

LOVE: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

JOY: These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).

PEACE: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

PATIENCE: And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:15).

KINDNESS: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

GOODNESS: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23:6).

FAITHFULNESS: They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

GENTLENESS: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS (Matthew 11:29).

SELF-CONTROL: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Now it’s your turn … what are your favorite verses we can feast on today?

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An Attitude of Joy

By Karen

How does the testing of our faith produce patience and endurance? I was introduced to this concept years ago by God Himself. In order to explain, you need to come on a journey with me. Fasten your seatbelt and adjust your space helmet, because we’re taking a trip into outer space. Please join me in that dream of almost forty years ago.

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I stood in the center of a round flying saucer, just large enough for me and the other person standing next to me. No seats, no controls, and no pilot … just a circular windshield of glass through which I observed that inky-black outer space. The ride was velvet smooth, and I knew without words that the other person was an angelic being who mentally guided us at a speed beyond my comprehension. Silvery lines reflected light in the distance, and as we drew closer they thickened—hundreds of them threaded vertically through space, like gliding through a spider’s web without becoming entangled.

The speed slowed as we approached what appeared to be our destination.  A giant hand—a man’s right hand with fingers vertically extended—floated in space. Inherently, I knew that it was the hand of God. Our saucer seemed fly-sized in relation to His hand as it coasted around from the backside to the front, and wonder overtook me as I viewed skin and hair follicles. We reached the front, facing an open Bible that rested in the center of His palm. The ship held steady as I read, “The Book of James,” and the dream faded away while I was reading down the page.

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That next morning, my memory was ablaze. The first thing, I reached for my Bible and turned there. What had the text said?  The mystery spurred me on.

My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Why did it look so familiar? My book of James began on the right side of the page, and Hebrews ended on the left. I witnessed my personal Bible in God’s hand. Whoa!

I read through the first few verses: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing ~ James 1:2-4, NASB.

Yes, I was going through trials at that time and had been praying for answers. So that was the key—choosing joy on purpose! My faith was being tested, not punished.

Why did I grow up believing that obedient Christians wouldn’t have fiery trials …that the mark of a true believer was a problem-free life? Like Job’s friends, who blamed his suffering on sins unknown or unconfessed? How wrong.

 Christians don’t have perfect lives. In fact, it seems the more Godly you are, the more trials you have. Why is that?

The Lord has used this chapter in James to teach me many principles over the years, but he straightened me out on this important point. It’s normal for Christians to face trials in life, so I should choose a positive attitude and always be thankful for the lessons God is teaching me. I have a lot to learn, meaning a lot of trials are on the way.

It’s not human nature to be happy about going through any trial, I admit, but I’ve learned God extends us His grace so that we can survive it with an attitude of joy. Knowing that there’s a purpose in testing our faith helps us endure to the end—not only resulting in the fruit of patient endurance, but also leading to a pretty awesome reward at the end of those trials. In spite of all the suffering, growing into Christ’s likeness and perfection is so worth it.

You may be going through a trial right now, may have just finished one, or may be waiting for your next one to surface. Each is designed by God for your good, to help you grow by faith into His perfect image.

It is my prayer that you find peace and joy as you allow the Holy Spirit to prune and shape you into the perfect image of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen ~ 1Peter 5:10-11.

Final Grains of Sand

By Karen Jurgenssands in hourglass

During my regular run in a nearby park, I slowed to a walk in the midst of the growing afternoon heat, mopping away the perspiration dripping down my face. Close behind me, a father and his little girl held hands as they went along. Proximity provided me an ear to their conversation.

“I love you, Daddy, on Father’s Day.” Her excited voice bubbled up to him.

“I love you, sweetheart, every day!” His tone promised forever, unconditional love.

The exchange was precious, and a smile spread across my face, reminding me of my own father. The only thing I have of him now are my sweet memories, since he went to heaven twenty years ago. How I yearn to have him on earth again, to walk hand in hand, and tell him that I love him. Even though that’s not possible, I still have the rich legacy he left behind.

Growing up, he shared his love of baseball with me. In summer, he taught me how to play softball by practicing batting and playing catch in the backyard after dinner. He took my mother and me to practically every Reds game, beginning in the old Crosley Field and continuing years later in Riverfront Stadium. We had great seats in the section where visiting VIPs would watch Opening Day, the Playoffs or the World Series, and I have lots of famous signatures on my scorecard books tucked away for permanent safe-keeping.

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Although I still have his valuable collection of autographed baseballs and bats, my most precious possession is my memory of sitting next to him at the games, sharing a bag of fresh, roasted peanuts, asking him all those annoying questions–whether foul tips count as balls or strikes, and who the players were—all which he patiently answered. Whether quoting RBI or home run averages, he lit up and was at his happiest when discussing the sport he loved most.IMG_1824IMG_1480

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Around the house, cutting the grass was one of his favorite jobs. Anyone who knew him would remember that because his lawn was always perfect. When I was a kid, our lawn’s size was an acre, and I used to sit on the front steps for hours and watch him mow. After he finished, we would sit together for a while and admire the fruit of his labor. Afterwards, he would invite me to go with him to a nearby fast food restaurant, Henry’s, for a celebratory orange soda. Each week during grass season, we followed the same routine, and that memory of sharing those times with him is still a comfort today.

Skelton_dood_it_1942My dad was also a big tease with a great sense of humor. I can remember his laughter at comedy shows back in the ‘60’s like Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Carol Burnette. But he also played jokes on his own family. When I was about five or so, he convinced me that if I could sprinkle salt on a bunny’s tail, then I could catch it. That entire summer I ran around the backyard with a salt shaker, but never could catch a single rabbit. I didn’t learn the truth until school began that fall. I thought that he must have had a good laugh watching me zigzag around the lawn with that salt shaker, as he encouraged me to keep trying.

He also passed on important lessons of character through his own example, for which I am eternally grateful. I learned about the work ethic as I witnessed him work tirelessly as he provided well for his family. He is a real example of attaining the American Dream.

He taught me to be honest and never lie (the few times I tried, I always got caught).

I learned to be obedient to his rules and respectful to others in authority (he only had to take me over his knee once, never twice).

He always instructed me, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (I’m always working on that one.)

His example of keeping everything clean, neat, and in its place made a huge impression on me. Order and peace reigned in our home and, to this day, is an important priority.

IMG_1829 (2)Most of all, his love of Jesus Christ and public profession of his Christian faith spoke volumes to me, teaching me to always be an active church member, study the Word of God, and tithe the first ten percent of my income to the church. His courage and fearlessness to stand up and speak up for what’s right have been my bedrock over the years. Even though he is not physically here, the Christian convictions that he modeled live within me as a rich inheritance.

In November, 1994, a time arrived when he could no longer play his role as protector, and our roles reversed. On a day he had routine prostate surgery, the doctor gave my mother the bad news. She wrote a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt she found in her purse and handed it to me when I walked into his hospital recovery room. It’s bladder cancer. The doctor says it’s hopeless. At that point, my mother and I became his caregivers until his death on June 13, 1995—just a few days shy of Father’s Day.

Amid the sadness of that time, two specific occasions are picture-framed in my memory’s gallery. The first was after he was diagnosed with cancer and my mother had just told him the bad news. I entered their bedroom where he was standing and hugged him, saying, “I love you, Daddy.” We both shed tears. The last grains of sand in his life’s hourglass were swiftly slipping away.

The second was after he had been admitted to a nursing care facility for Hospice patients. His memory would come and go as he slipped into dementia, due to big doses of experimental chemo. One afternoon when he was lucid, I was guiding his wheelchair through the outdoor gardens where we stopped to admire the beautiful flowers. I took that opportunity to thank him for being such a wonderful father and told him how much I loved and appreciated him. That was one of the final days that he recognized me, and I am eternally thankful to God that I was given a window to tell him one last time. Such a priceless gift.

So, as I look into the sky this Father’s Day, I breathe out these words toward heaven. “I love you, Daddy. On Father’s Day and every day.

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Dream Again

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By Karen

Remember when you were a young child, beginning life’s journey full of hopes and dreams for the future?

Along the way, you lost your precious dreams as you traveled down the highway of life. Perhaps someone stole them, so you mourned their loss and believed they were gone forever. Or an unexpected accident trampled them, so you discarded them as unsalvageable. You tended the broken pieces in your heart by burying those dreams deep inside…hidden, locked, the key thrown away, never again to see the light of day.

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Cinderella must have felt the same way at midnight—her stagecoach turned back into a pumpkin, her ball gown back into rags, her glass slipper lost. Reality screamed that her dreams of marrying the prince were lies.

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When her fairy godmother had worked magic so that she could attend the ball, Cinderella’s heart was bellowing out Happy Days are Here Again, but at midnight, she was singing a different tune.

“That fairytale? Dreams don’t really come true. I. Will. Never. Be. A. Fool. Again.” 

Cinderella stepmother

It was back to scrubbing floors and waiting on her stepmother and stepsisters.Cinderella didn’t know which way to turn…or how to find her way back to that road where she and her dreams had last walked together.

But in a surprising turn of events, her lottery ticket to princess-hood did come up a winner–just not the way she had foreseen.

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Here’s the truth: dreams do become reality. It is the invisible filigreed needle and thread that hope uses to weave the fabric of your future. Its road is easy to find…and to find again if you are currently on a detour. All you have to do is believe in the Lord and trust Him to bring it to pass.

Did you know that Jesus’ followers also experienced broken dreams after His crucifixion and burial? Although Jesus had plainly told them what was about to happen to Him, they still didn’t understand. Although they had witnessed Him perform many miracles and had even performed some themselves, they were about to be part of the fulfillment of the greatest dream of all time—a dream that was coming to pass differently than they had expected.

What was their dream?

The Jews had been living under the oppressive political tyranny of the Romans during this time in history. They believed from Scripture that their Messiah would physically come to bring deliverance and set up His kingdom on earth…and the disciples and fellow believers knew that Jesus was that One.

The mistake, however, was their lack of understanding about God’s timing. When Jesus was crucified, all their hopes and dreams of freedom from Roman tyranny died with their Messiah on the cross. In their deep sorrow, all they could ask was why? Their dreams lay at the foot of the Cross, shattered in jagged shards.

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But Jesus didn’t leave them without an answer. On the third day after His crucifixion, there had been some reports among the disciples that Jesus was alive, but no one had yet seen Him.

Two disciples decided to get away from it all and walk to Emmaeus. On the way, Jesus appeared to them, but unrecognized. It didn’t take much prompting before they were pouring out their hearts to this traveler about their broken dreams.

Then Jesus began teaching out of the Scriptures about Himself, beginning with Moses and the prophets, explaining why the Messiah had to suffer and then enter into His glory. He was reaching into their hearts, gathering those broken pieces, and mending them by answering their whys.

At Emmaeus, they pressed the traveler to stay with them. The moment Jesus said a prayer over the bread, the blinders fell off and they recognized his true identity. Then their Lord suddenly disappeared…but He was alive—just like He said!

Their despair turned to overflowing joy as they streaked the seven miles back to Jerusalem to announce it to the other disciples. Along the way, they analyzed what had just happened. “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32, NLT).

Their dreams were coming true—just not the way they had envisioned.

His kingdom is still coming in the future, but first the perfect lamb had to sacrifice His life, shed His blood, and be resurrected so that mankind could be saved through Him. His kingdom will be established when He comes to earth the second time, and all believers are looking forward to that day.

On this Easter of 2015, my prayer for you is that you will not only find Jesus on your road of life, but especially that He will resurrect your broken or lost dreams buried deep inside your heart. Even when you feel discouraged, look to Jesus and remember to walk in faith. Rest patiently in the knowledge that He is with you on your journey and will never leave you nor forsake you.

Yes, He will surely bring your dreams to pass…His way…in His timing.

“For I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11, NASB).

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Here Comes the Bride

girl down aisle with dad

Doesn’t every little girl grow up dreaming about her special day—that day when she will walk down the aisle on her father’s arm and be given away to her waiting groom?

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Prior to the internet, all we had were bridal magazines and our imaginations. But these days, social media has introduced brides-to-be to Pinterest, hosting hundreds of ideas for their wedding planning. Reality shows have also intervened, bringing us armchair adventures about each exciting phase of becoming a bride. From Say Yes to the Dress to Four Weddings, we can share everything from the quandaries of bridal gown shopping to the wonders of watching their beautiful weddings unfold on the TV screen.

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Today’s traditions, however, don’t match those of ages past. The bride had to be dressed and ready for her groom’s arrival at her parents’ home, never knowing the exact time he would come. After her groom and his entourage appeared, there was great rejoicing as he took her away, veiled, to his home where they would celebrate their marriage ceremony.

The bride wore white, a symbol of her sexual purity, and was adorned with jewels. The proof of her virginity was displayed on the wedding sheets the morning after. That consummation was the legal blood covenant between the bride and groom, representing their physical union that promised until “death do us part.”

According to the Bible, there is a deeper and more mysterious meaning to the terms bride and groom.

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul says to the people of Corinth, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin” (NASB). Here Paul defines the bride, who is the church, and her groom, who is Jesus Christ.

Additionally, Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:25-32 that marriage is a comparison of the relationship of Christ to the church. Wives are to be subject to their husbands, as the church is subject to Christ, who is its head. Jesus loved the church and gave Himself up for her so she could be cleansed by the washing of water and the word. Holy, blameless, without spot or wrinkle, He could therefore present her to Himself as His bride.

Have you ever wondered about the bridal dress? Listen to John describe it. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:7-8, NASB).

The righteous acts we perform don’t save us according to Ephesians 2:8-9, but they do play an important role because they will be our glorious, pure-white wedding gown. The beauty of it is certainly beyond our imaginations—but just thinking about it—wow!

The time is short, and we the church should be expectantly looking for our groom. No, we don’t know the day nor the hour of His arrival, but He told us that we can know when the season is near.

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Remember the story in Matthew of the ten virgins who waited for their bridegroom?  The five foolish virgins weren’t prepared to meet him because they had fallen asleep and didn’t have enough oil for their lamps. After they left to buy some from the dealers, the bridegroom arrived and took the five prudent virgins into the wedding feast with him, and the door was shut. Although the others returned and asked the Lord to open the door for them, he replied that he never knew them. (See Matthew 25:1-13). Don’t be caught by surprise with no oil in your lamp!

“Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”‘” (Rev.19:9, NASB).

The invitations have been issued and everyone is invited to the wedding. Are you getting ready to meet your bridegroom? Look up…one day soon we will hear the shofar sounding from the clouds, announcing His arrival.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:16-18, NASB).

“‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20b, NASB).

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Photos courtesy of Blowthetrumpetinzion.info, Vittolo photography, Pinterest.com

The Still, Small Voice

SunSaturday began as a perfect day…the balmy weather almost whispering, it’s spring! Blue skies framed the background of the bright lemon sun, toasty-warm. I shed my winter coat in exchange for the day’s warmth, so liberating after days upon days of knife-cutting cold.

Uptown, Dallas. City sidewalks teeming with sweater-clad people of every age. Moms and dads directing little girls bouncing in pink tutus and jeweled tee-shirts, their long, dancing curls glittering white in the sunlight. Couples holding hands, their strides exactly matching. Older couples with younger family, sons and daughters and grandchildren. One storefront flowed into the next, parked cars slept snugly in a row, manicured winter flower beds hugged majestic trees, bare in this winter season.

Having a late lunch in a restaurant, still full in spite of the late hour. Everyone is out to celebrate this glorious day, to revel in the wonder of a small slice of spring dealt in the middle of winter. No, it wouldn’t last long. We pretended we didn’t know or that we had forgotten. Every precious minute counted. Like Cinderella, we knew this party would end as soon as the sun set.

Walking back to the car, we stopped to take some pictures in front of a bare tree with a landscaped flowerbed. My elderly mother, almost 93, walked with my daughter and me down the sidewalk. For some reason, she walked ahead, faster. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper softly to me. Watch her…take her arm. But I was distracted, conversing with my daughter, looking in the shop windows as we lounged down the sidewalk. Looking down, I observed the pavement, cracked and uneven.

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“Mother, come back and walk with us.” I called ahead, counting on her to do just that. But her determination to “do it her way” prevailed.

Distracted. Go get her. Make her stop. Laughing and enjoying the conversation, almost finished. My eyes turned completely the opposite way, focused on my daughter’s face. Her eyes popped as she screamed, “Nana! Nana!”

She ran to the curb. I turned around and followed, seeing what I could never have imagined. My mother was lying on the side of the pavement, next to a car. Her shoe held wedged in a crack on that rounded curb, a curb she had not seen as she took a shortcut around a tree.

In a crisis, God always supplies help, and today it was in the form of a strong father and his teenaged son. They helped her up and into the car. Terrified that she had broken something, we rushed her to the hospital. At her age, the ease of breaking a hip, a wrist, or having a head injury is all too common. But nothing was broken—just a gently-sprained ankle. A true miracle!

Later, she revealed to us that the Holy Spirit had also spoken a warning to her. Before making the split-second decision to walk around that tree, He had whispered to her, Go straight. Don’t walk here. But the way around the tree would save a few steps, so she ignored the warning and continued, not looking down to see the jagged curb. Too late.

How often have we heard that soft whisper of warning? Do we recognize that the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, is guiding and protecting us from harm?

I regret not responding. Next time, Lord, I will promise to listen and obey. Immediately.

The Holiday Blues

Can you imagine that Christmas is exactly one week away? In honor of the season, I’d like to share with you a previously published post from Christmas, 2014. I hope it will be a blessing to you today.

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Do the approaching holidays bring you joy? Or not?

Everywhere you go, anticipation of Christmas Day abounds. Neighborhoods glitter with lights outlining rooftops and everything on the ground that can be wrapped or staked. Reds, whites, purples and blues reign in the form of sleighs, Santas, and snowmen in the darkness. Christmas trees twinkle behind windows, promising wonderful surprises for December 25th.

But on the other side of the glitz and glamour is a different story that begs telling.

Shoppers exhaust themselves over the hunt for good parking spaces as they fight bumper-to-bumper traffic. Artificial trees, lights, wreaths and bows adorn malls and stores, luring buyers to the latest price reductions on popular merchandise. To find that perfect gift at that perfect sales price means pushing and bustling through the thick crowds, even at wee hours of the morning–even on Thanksgiving Day.

Then more work ensues, from tediously wrapping each present to cooking a deluxe Christmas dinner. As if that’s not enough, there’s the worry of how all those relatives– seen only once a year–will get along at the dinner table. Can the clashes of personalities, seasoned with sarcasm and a sprig of jealousy, lead to a bad case of indigestion?

By the end of Christmas, emotions are a mixture of a little bit of everything ranging from exhilaration to disappointment with a generous dash of exhaustion.

So how can we to find true joy in this season?

On the first Christmas, Mary rocked back and forth on the donkey which carried her from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She bent forward in pain as the growing labor stabbed her body. Joseph’s face set with anxious determination as he sought shelter for them. A stable with clean straw served as her maternity bed, surrounded by animals witnessing this miraculous birth.

Not a Christmas tree in sight, but a shining star blazed with triumph in the heavens.

No carolers, but real angels sang and blew trumpets as they announced His birth to nearby shepherds watching their flocks by night.

No engraved birth announcement, but His star in the sky announced that a Savior for all mankind had been born.

No exchange of gifts except from three kings from disant lands, who brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Holiday Blues by Karen Jurgens

In the simplicity of the first Christmas, let’s put aside our 21st century first-world problems and reflect on Him. He is the perfect gift given to us by our God, His Father.

I pray that Jesus would be born into your hearts this Christmas season. Receive Him fresh this year and freely give away His love to others.

Focusing on Jesus is the way to find joy this holiday season.

Joy to the world, The Lord is come,

Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart, prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing!

 

Enjoy Joy to the World by Chris Tomlin. Click Here.

The Heat of Trials

 Years ago, I did lunch with my six-year-old daughter who was enrolled in a day camp during her father’s summer custody. She sat at a long, metal table dominoed on each side with children wilted from the noon heat. Brightening as I approached, she smiled at me with eyes that longed for freedom. The heat index that Texas afternoon was 108 degrees.

“Mommy.” Her enormous blue eyes sparkled with tears. “I wish I could go with you right now and get out of this heat. I’m sooo hot.

I smoothed the damp hair back from her face and examined the freckles on her sun-scorched nose. Longing to grab up my baby and head for the air-conditioning, I was forced instead to console my own agony for her by offering up words of comfort, along with a drink of ice water I had brought along.

“Honey, it’s almost over. You get to come home in a few days. Just wait a little while longer.”

I continued to tell her about all the wonderful, cool things we would do together. She seriously digested my words along with her Lunchable. When it was time to head back to the playground, she hugged me as hard as she could and took a final, cold drink. I watched her trudge off, still hot and sticky from the heat, but filled with hope that this uncomfortable time would come to an end.

As I drove away, now with tears in my eyes, I thought of Jesus who sees us through our trials in much the same way. As we cry out to Him to rescue us from the fierce heat of trials and persecution, He comes to us with His reassuring presence, bringing us living waters to revive our parched spirits. He often chooses not to take us out, but to take us through the heat.

Remember the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who walked through the fiery flames with the Lord by their side? The king had sentenced them to death for refusing to fall down and worship him, thus casting them into a furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. The king’s wide-eyed incredulity witnessed four men walking around in the midst of the fire. When he called to the three Hebrew boys to come out, he was amazed that not only were they not burned, but there was not even the smell of smoke upon them.

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When our spirits are hot and weary from the fiery flames of life, Jesus is waiting to bring comfort. Drink deeply of the icy, cool water of His Word. Allow the Comforter to whisper encouragement to your spirit to be patient a little while longer.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing;” (1 Peter 4:12-13a NASB).

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1Peter 5:10).

“And let the one who is thirsty, come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17b NASB).

Take heart, beloved, the end is in sight.

 

Ebola: Where is Protection?

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The dreaded disease has hit Dallas. Not just anywhere, either. The same Dallas hospital where my older daughter is interning in dietetics. What are the chances of that happening—going from Liberia to that very hospital? And what are the chances that it could keep spreading to other cities? How can we be protected?

We can all agree that everyone is very concerned. The news updates keep us constantly informed on the latest cases and where they are being treated. I imagine that we will be hearing about this disease and its spread for quite a while to come, but as I write this, there have been two confirmed domestic cases so far—and let’s pray that’s all. It is my fervent prayer that all those infected will get well.

The burning question, then, is how do we protect our own health and the health of our families? Since I am personally dealing with this issue, I want to share the strategy given to us in God’s Word.

Psalm 91 has been the 9-1-1 psalm since September 11th. Let’s look at what Ezra has to say about God’s protection..

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust” (1-2 NAS).

God has a place where we can live apart from danger, and we can trust Him to cover us with His hand of protection. This shelter is not made with human hands, but is found in a spiritual dimension. So why would you be interested in living there? Ezra continues:

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark (3-4 NAS).

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We don’t have to fear being caught in the enemy’s hidden trap or catching a fatal disease. Like a mother bird, God has a covering over us where He will keep us completely safe. His faithfulness to us will never waver, being drawn over us like a shield in battle that the enemy’s weapons cannot penetrate. How comforting to know that He faithfully protects us.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked (5-8 NAS).

Notice how pestilence is compared to a stalker–one who lurks in the dark, ready to spring on its next victim. A virus is naked to the human eye and is cloaked in darkness, in that sense. Although people are taking every natural precaution to not catch this disease, our protection from God takes away that fear, helping us to continue on with our lives in the midst of natural danger.

Isn’t it reassuring to know how powerful God is? He completely protects His children 24/7. This word may be especially comforting to those who work at a hospital where Ebola patients are or who may live close to the apartments where those who became sick with Ebola reside. It is especially comforting to me, with my precious daughter working so closely in such an environment.

For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways (9-11 NAS).

Looking for a protective hiding place? It is found in Jesus, the Son of God. It’s a spiritual dwelling that you enter from the foot of the Cross.  No admission charge–just come as you are. Wash your sins away in the Blood of the Lamb and enter into His Kingdom. That’s where we can all dwell safely in these perilous days and for eternity.christian-cross-sunset-28820686