What I want for Christmas…Or Not

santa_list

Have you made your Christmas Wish List yet? You better hurry. You haven’t much time to drop hints to the Santas in your life. While watching the commercials on TV, many Christmas present possibilities are bombarding us right before our eyes; from a stuffed hippopotamus to a shiny red sports car, from fragrant perfume to manly musk, from Duluth’s Buck Naked Underwear to Victoria Secret Lingerie, from “two front teeth” to luscious gourmet chocolates, and there are Gift Cards for everything and every place imaginable. A Christmas Wish List may go on and on, if you take every TV commercial to heart with our desire to possess the bestess and latest stuff.

christmas-gifts

As I was thinking of Christmas and all the hustle, bustle and hassle this “Holy Season” brings to people searching for the right gifts for others and wishing for the gifts they want for themselves, I remembered the Christmas list below. This prayer made a special impact on my soul when I heard it long ago. Somehow, it got lost in the shuffle of life. My prayer this Christmas and New Year is to again keep these profound truths close to my heart and live them out in my life by God’s grace.

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There is One Gift which can be easily forgotten at Christmas, and that Gift is what Christmas is all about.

baby-jesus-in-manger

“Thanks be to God for His Inexpressible Gift!” [II Corinthians 9:15]

Wishing you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a PEACEFUL NEW YEAR!

“God bless us every one!

Lydia

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When Losing is Winning

[This is a continuation to my last post, “It’s Been Awhile”]

serenity-prayer

[Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)]

 Dear Blog Readers,

An utterly bizarre and atypical sequence of events happened in the world of baseball on September 28, 2016. On that night, and almost at the same time, the RED SOX LOST to the Yankees, at Yankee Stadium, and they WON the American League Eastern Division Championship! How on earth did the RED SOX lose and win at the same time? This is how it went down: In order to win the East Championship 1. the RED SOX had to beat the Yankees or 2. the Orioles had to beat the Blue Jays and put them out of contention for first place. The Jays would still have a chance to win the Wild Card which they did]. There are other scenarios, but I won’t go there. I’ll just say, the Orioles helped the RED SOX WIN the Division, though the Orioles did not want to help the RED SOX, by beating the Blue Jays. This unusual moment in baseball history is truly one for the record books.

At first, the SOX players didn’t know what to think or do. How could they celebrate when they lost to their “favorite” nemesis in such a heart-wrenching way: It was the bottom of the ninth inning, the SOX were ahead 3 to 0, the bases were loaded with Yankees, Mark Teixeira was at the plate and he hit a walk-off GRAND SLAM and the RED SOX experienced a crushing 3 to 4 defeat at the hands of their longtime rivals. How can anybody celebrate after that?

papi-celibrating

Walking to the Visitors’ Clubhouse, the RED SOX players and coaches did not look at all like champs, with their “What-just-happened” dejected faces. The clubhouse was made ready for the Boston RED SOX to celebrate winning the division, with heavy plastic covering the walls [and everything else that needed protection], large bins of Champagne and beer on ice, championship caps and T-shirts to wear, and even goggles to protect their eyes. [The Champagne and beer sting the eyes when the players spray each other with them. I don’t mind the beer spraying, but Champagne? C’MON MAN!] How on earth could the Sox get into celebration-mode? Their manager, John Farrell, got everyone together and shared some wonderful words of wisdom. He said something like this: “Don’t let one inning ruin what we’ve accomplished and take away the fact that we are Division Champions.” That’s all Farrell’s team needed to hear to get into a partying mood. The Yankees’ Visitors’ Clubhouse will never be the same.

I have a saying: “BASEBALL IS LIFE IS BASEBALL!” I have learned many very important life lessons from the game of baseball. The lesson I am learning from the baseball game played on September 28th is NOT TO DWELL ON MY LOSSES, BUT TO BE THANKFUL FOR MY WINS: 1. my loving family and friends, 2. the abilities I still can do, 3. being able to live at home with my loving family, 4. my caring church family, 5. caring professionals who work with me to help me get better, as well as the medications that are helping, 6. that I’m growing stronger, 7. my ability to write and encourage others through my blog, 8 the encouragement I receive from the responses to my blog posts, 9. THE JOY OF WATCHING RED SOX IN THE POST SEASON!!!

“Not that I have already obtained this or am aready perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus has made me His own” [Philippians 3:12

I also am learning NOT TO DWELL ON THE RECENT PAST AND MY STRUGGLES WITH DEPRESSION BY: 1. taking it one step at a time and one day at a time, 2. not stressing over the things I can’t control or aren’t that important, 3. enjoying the times I have with my family and friends, 4. being open to suggestions from those who care about me, 5. DOING MY EXERCISES AND EATING HEALTHY FOODS, 6. not being in a hurry when there’s no time limits [writing a blog post,] 7. helping those who help me in any way I can [not being in a rush, asking for help at the appropriate time and being sensitive to what the caregiver is doing and waiting until s/he is finished.], 8. Knowing when I can wait and when I can’t wait. 9. Not panicking when things do not go as planned.

Christian heelping another

From the last two paragraphs, I realize that there are many things I can still do to enjoy life and to help others. In a real sense no one person is independent. As human beings, we all have struggles. We all need God’s help and we all need help from each other. We are all interdependent in one way or another. We will keep losing our abilities as we grow older in one way or another, sooner than later. However, we also keep winning and need to focus on the abilities we still have to help ourselves and to help others. The paragraph above are the goals I am working on, by God’s grace and the help of my family and friends. This is a work in progress. There will be good days and bad days. There will be improvements and setbacks, wins and losses. With God’s help the bad days will not overpower the good days and the setbacks will not overshadow the accomplishments. It is very important not to be hard on myself. What I am praying for something like the Serenity Prayer. [See above]

And that’s my story. “’Nuf sed” [Google it.]

ON TO THE POST SEASON! GO SOX!

Trophy w Mom and Jane

[Me, My Sister Jane and our Mom Vicky who passed away in 2010 ]

cHRISTIAN BLOGGER WOMAN

Lydia

P.S. It is very important to understand that depression is an illness. When depression becomes clinical depression and is severe and takes over my life, no matter how many fine the goals I set, this is the time to seek medical help. No one [including myself] should feel guilty or ashamed of being severely depressed. What we should do instead is to recognize the symptoms and go to talk to professional who treats people with depression. Some of my warning signs are having no appetite, feeling like I’m in a cloud of despair and having little concentration or interest to do anything. When someone is being treated for depression, is doing okay for awhile, and suddenly has a relapse, s/he may need an adjustment to the medications s/he is taking. In my case, I needed more ECT treatments to get back on track. Go with a close friend or family member and ask your doctor about your options. There is help out there. It takes awhile to find it. Please do not give up.

God Sees Us as

Next post will be sent after the 2016 World Series.

The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Rsurrection [Part II]

Crhist Synogogue Ruler

Many disciples who followed Jesus during His ministry on earth were women. We saw evidence of this in PART I, using only one short Gospel passage in Luke. The women disciples ministered to Jesus and His men disciples in sacrificial ways. The women disciples were both faithful and generous servants and devoted and courageous followers of Jesus.

“Soon afterwards He [Jesus] went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve [men disciples] were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Suzanna, and many others, who provided for them [or Him] out of their means” [Luke 8:1-3].

cross, crown, nails

Along with following Jesus during His life, there are many Gospel passages that mention Jesus’ women disciples witnessing His death on the cross. Mary Magdalene is mentioned throughout these Gospel passages, along with the other women who followed Jesus to His crucifixion. [Matthew 27:56-61; 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; 16:1-19; Luke 8:1-3; 24:1-12; John 19:25; 20:1-18].

In the above Scripture references, we find Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross, along with Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, Mary the mother of Jose, Salome, Mary the mother of Jesus and His mother’s sister [just to name a few]. These women followed Jesus to a hill called Calvary, also known as Golgotha or “Place of the Skull,” where He was nailed to the cross and hung on that cross dying. Most of the men disciples were hiding, except for Peter and John, “the disciple whom [Jesus] loved” [John 18:15-18, 25-26 and 19:25-27].

Christ CrucifiedChrist's burial

Why did these women follow Jesus to the cross to watch Him die? They couldn’t do anything to stop His execution. I believe they did not want Jesus to die alone, surrounded by those who hated Him. The women disciples loved Jesus so much that they wanted to be with Him during His darkest hours. I am sure they were afraid for their own lives, but they loved Jesus more than their fears. Also, I believe they wanted to make sure their beloved Teacher’s body had a proper place to rest in peace.

mary and john

The women’s courageous love for Jesus did not go unnoticed by Him, even as He hung on the cross in excruciating agony. Jesus saw His mother Mary and wanted her to be cared for. John 19:26-27 records, “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son [meaning John]!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” Jesus loved His mother Mary who believed in Him from the beginning. One need only read her “Magnificat” in Luke 1:46-55 to understand Mary’s devotion and joy in her Son. In verse 47 she sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” Mary knew she needed her Son to be her Savior.

women at foot of the cross

Jesus did not only see Mary His mother. He also noticed the unconditional and sacrificial love of Mary Magdalene and the other Marys, Joanna, Suzanna and many other women disciples; all of whom were healed by Jesus from their brokenness and given new meaning to their lives. Showing compassion and kindness and love to Jesus and to others in His Name is always noticed and rewarded by Jesus. I wonder if that is one of the reasons why some of the same women were the first to find His Empty Tomb.

To be continued…

Lydia photo

Lydia

Present day disciples may serve Jesus by following one of His teachings: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it [given] to one of the least of these My brothers and sister [the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the prisoner], you did it [served] Me” [Luke 25:40b].

Which Came First – The Repentant Heart or The Forgiveness of God?

lent

“Forgiveness” is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, especially when it comes to the forgiveness of God. It is very hard, for me at least, to wrap my head around God’s forgiveness. When does God forgive us? Do we have to “clean up our act” before God can forgive us? Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God? Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us? The Lenten Season is a good time to meditate [“chew on”] the awesome and unfathomable forgiveness of God.

ASH WEDNESDAY

When did God forgive us?

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – BUT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US IN THAT WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Since, therefore, we have been now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” [Romans 5:6-9].

God planned to forgive us “while we were yet sinners” through the Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. God’s plan to save sinners [I am a sinner] began “before the foundation of the world.” Sinners need only to get with God’s plan and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, in order to experience the joy of God‘s forgiveness of all their sins. [Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23]

wolman at the well

Do we have to “clean up our act” by not sinning anymore before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Bless be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND BLAMESS BEFORE HIM” [Ephesians 1:3-4]

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:56-57].

Baby with lamb

We cannot stop sinning in our own strength because we are weak. For example, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when we see a sign that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH – WET PAINT.” We cannot make ourselves perfect before God. Jesus, the “Spotless Lamb of God” who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, is the One who makes us “holy and blameless before [the Father]” When God looks at a sinner who has accepted His Son’s Perfect Sacrifice, He no longer looks at the sin; The Heavenly Father sees His Son the “blameless Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Only One who gives us His power over sin and death. [Read John 1:29 and I Peter 1:18-19].

the truth shall set you free

Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will become like wool” [Isaiah 1:18].

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [I John 1:8-9].

casting crowns 2

God calls us to be truthful with ourselves and with Him. He wants us to be aware of our sins in order to know how much we have been forgiven and how much we need Jesus’ once-for-all Perfect Sacrifice, which cleanses us and makes us whole. When we become aware of our sins, it is only then that we can truly be grateful for God’s forgiveness through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. God‘s forgiveness of all our sins causes our heart of stone to turn into a “repentant heart”. God is always waiting for us to come to Him, to confess our sins to Him, to accept His forgiveness of all our sins and receive His power to begin the journey of repentance [turning away from sin] and a new life in Christ. I believe that God‘s forgiveness leads to repentance and not the other way around. It is God Who takes the first step.

casting crowns 1.

Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us?

“For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” [Romans 6:10-11].

“And just as is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” [Hebrews 9:27-28].

“Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering [penance] for sin” [Hebrews 10:18].

“For Christ also suffered once for sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” [I Peter 3:18).

Christ Crucified

God doesn’t want us to perform an impersonal penance, such as reciting prayers by rote or doing self-righteous acts of charity or even by denying ourselves of something we enjoy, in order appease God by paying for our own sins. The above Scriptures tell us that Jesus did what we could never do on our own. Jesus paid for all our sins by shedding His own blood on the cross and died for all our sins ONCE AND FOR ALL. Instead of doing periodical penance, God wants us to be “dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Instead of giving God our imperfect [dead] sacrifices, God wants us to give our entire lives to Him. He wants us to be “living sacrifices” by accepting His forgiveness, which leads to our NEW LIVES IN CHRIST. The NEW LIFE IN CHRIST is not motivated by guilt or false piety, but by LOVE and GRATITUDE and THANKFULNESS for what Jesus has done for us on the cross. This New Life is lived through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [rational] worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:1-2].

forgiveness 2

During this Lenten Season I am meditating on the Forgiveness of God. Although my thinking is limited to human understanding and vocabulary, the Holy Spirit is not limited to human words or comprehension. I do not perfectly understand the infinite things of God. With God’s leading, I am growing into a deeper relationship with Him as I meditate on His ways.

a. praying hands

 

DEAR FATHER GOD, MAY WE TRULY UNDERSTAND YOUR UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS TOWARD YOUR FOLLOWERS, THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD AND IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

The Lyd

                                                      Lydia
This may be my last blog post for awhile because my 9-year-old computer is running on fumes. I may be looking for a new computer sooner than later.

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

p and j

Prayer and Fasting go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, poor choice of words, since this post is about FASTING. However, prayer and fasting are closely linked together. I wrote about PRAYER in my last blog post. Prayer is talking with God, the Creator of heaven and earth; talking with Jesus, God’s One and Only Perfect Sacrifice, who died for the forgiveness of my sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to someday take me and all His believers Home with Him for all eternity. Prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit who helps me to pray when I don‘t have the words to say. I can freely express myself to my Wonderful Counselor because He loves me unconditionally and forever. Sometimes I pray in church, with many people, or in a small group Bible study or prayer group. However, something else is also extremely important and crucial for my spiritual growth. In order to grow in my “relationship” with Jesus, I need to spend time praying [talking] with my Forever Friend alone in SOLITUDE [another spiritual discipline]. It is also where I spend time listening to Him, by reading His Word, enjoying His creation or just closing my eyes to see God’s love and faithfulness for me in a more intimate and personal way.

christ in desert

Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before He began His ministry [Matthew 4 and Luke 4].

FASTING is generally abstaining from food, such as meat or snacks or a whole meal or not eating food for one day or many days. Fasting is usually done for spiritual reasons. Fasting by abstaining from food is just one part of this spiritual discipline. If I am fasting from food, I just don’t sit there and wait for breakfast time or lunch time or dinner time to go by. Instead of eating, I want to make good use of that time. That’s where PRAYING comes in. During the time I usually eat food, I may pray and read the Bible or devotional book. Also, I may use mealtime as a time to help others. For example, I may use the money I save from not buying food to contribute to a worthy cause or buy food for a homeless shelter. This also is done in an attitude of PRAYER. I may visit someone who needs a visit or help someone who has a project to finish. Through PRAYER and FASTING, the Lord will show me what I need to be doing for His glory and for the good of others or He may want me to simply be alone with Him for a time.

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Jesus links PRAYER and FASTING together in “His Sermon on the Mount” [Matthew 5-7]:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint you head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:5-6 and 16-18].

[In Matthew 6 Jesus also teaches how to give to the needy (1-4), He gives us “the Lord’s Prayer” (9-13), instructs us on how to forgive (14-15) and He talks about having our “treasure” in Heaven and not on earth (19-24).

c. praying prostrateb. kneeing in prayer

According to Jesus, both PRAYER and FASTING are done with an attitude of GRATITUDE, HUMILITY and LOVE, knowing that our reward is waiting for us in Heaven. PRAYER and FASTING are not practiced out of legalism or to demonstrate piety, so others may praise us for our public displays of self-righteousness.

messy eaters

But what if someone cannot fast from food? What does a person do who has a medical condition which prohibits fasting? On the other side of the spectrum, what if someone has a physically demanding job and needs energy from the food to be able to do his/her job well? What do the parents who cook meals for their small children do? They need to help their picky kids to eat healthy meals. There are many examples of people whose physical conditions or lifestyles make fasting impractical. For these people [me included] I have some practical solutions.

“For I [God] desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” [Hosea 6:6]. (Also I Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6, Psalm 51:1, Isaiah 1:11)

Christmas ScrabbleELDERS PRAYING FOR THE SICK

Instead of fasting from food, believers of the Lord Jesus may choose fasting from TV, video games, sports radio or time on the computer. They may abstain from going to restaurants or Dunkin Donuts or going to movies. They may choose to go without candy and snacks and eating small simple meals. They may choose to give up one of their usual recreational activities to do something for someone in need. Again, giving up these things is not to gain brownie points to pay for their own salvation with their own sacrifices. Substituting these things with spending more time with God and seeking to glorify Him in the things they do and don’t do is what Fasting is all about. For example, giving up watching TV gives worshipers of God more time to pray in “quietness and rest” [Isaiah 30:15]. There are many ways to fast, but only one motive and purpose behind it:

THOSE WHO LOVE JESUS FAST TO DISCOVER WAYS TO GLORIFY GOD BY DOING WHAT PLEASES HIM OUT OF AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE AND PRAISE!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (or ‘rational service‘)” [Romans 12:1].

“And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” [Colossians 3:17].

(Also read Hebrews 10.)

The Lyd

Lydia

PRAY and FAST

empty churchlobstah

[CHURCH PRAYER SERVICE JUST ENDED]    [FRIDAY NIGHT LENTEN DINNER]

Is it “PRAY and FAST” or is it “PRAY FAST!” As a child I was confused about what exactly PRAYING and FASTING meant, especially when these “spiritual disciplines” were talked about during the Lenten Season. I heard adults praying fast, as though they were going for a Guinness World Record for the fastest prayer ever recited. Also, I thought “fasting” was giving up eating meat on Fridays, and sometimes on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was said in church that not eating meat during Lent was an “obligation” and a “duty” and even a “sacrifice.” If it was suppose to be a “sacrifice,” why did the “faithful” replace eating meat with going restaurant-hopping in search of delicious fish, clam, scallop, lobster and other seafood dinners? As a child, I didn’t understand where the “sacrifice” came in.

banana split love

I Corinthians 13:11-13 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became [an adult], I gave up childish ways…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”

become-like-Christ-meme

As a young adult, I began seeing PRAYER and FASTING in a new light when I saw Jesus in a new light. Jesus became my personal Lord and Savior. My way of thinking was no longer based on a “foggy” understanding of religious beliefs, with “dos” and “don’ts”; following rules I did not understand, in order to earn my own salvation. Instead, I saw Jesus as a real person and I wanted to know Him better, just as I would a new friend. As I grew in knowing Jesus better by reading the Bible and attending a church where the Bible and the Christian Faith was taught and explained, as much as they could be this side of heaven, I realized that Jesus was worthy of my FAITH and TRUST. I believed that Jesus died for my sins and paved the way to Heaven for me [See Ephesians 2:8-9]. I had HOPE that Jesus not only died for the forgiveness of my sins, but that He also rose from the dead and will come again in glory to take His people Home [John 11:25-26, John 14:1-3, Acts 1:10-11, I Thessalonians 4:13-17]. When I grow in my understanding of Who Jesus is and what He has already done for me, I could not help but also grow in my LOVE for Him and the Family of GOD. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He was the perfect example, in word and deed, of the greatest LOVE ever freely given. Jesus’ LOVE was a perfect example of how I am to LOVE others.

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].

Jesua, heart, sand

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you” [John 15:12-13].

STEADFAST LOVE

As I matured in my personal relationship with Jesus, I found that prayer did not sound like a politician constantly repeating his/her talking points over and over and over again. Prayer is talking with the One who knows everything about me and loves me unconditionally and forever. Prayer is telling Jesus how awesome He is. Prayer is trusting Jesus enough to confess my failings and know His forgiveness. Prayer is talking to my Forever Friend and thanking Him for all the things He has done for me. Prayer is asking the Creator of everything to help me with my struggles, as well as the struggles of others, knowing He hears and understands and will help. Last, but not least, praying is LISTENING to God by reading Scripture, or after I have done all my talking, just sit in silence before Him. In silence, I wait to hear what my Everlasting Counselor has to

holy spirit new

say to me. Also, I learned about the Prayer Safety Net. When I don’t know how or what to pray or don’t feel like praying, there is the Gift of the Holy Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit Himself helps us in our weakness. For we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” [Romans 8:26-27].

PRAYER AND FASTING is done out of LOVE. It is not done from a feeling of obligation or duty. There is no longer a need for sacrifice because of Jesus’ Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. More about how PRAYER and FASTING are linked together next time.

[YAY! ONE PAGE! I FINALLY DID IT!]

A Very Important Date in February

a camel

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 is a very important date. Wednesday has become known as “Hump Day” in the 21st Century, because it is in the middle of the week. “Hump Day” means that half of the work week is over and only the other half of the work week is left. This is an example of “seeing the glass half full” kind of thinking. However, this Wednesday is more than the middle of the week. In fact, this Wednesday marks two special “Holidays” and this may only happen once in our lifetime. This Wednesday, people all over New England and the world celebrate Truck Day and Ash Wednesday! Before you think I am being sacrilegious, please let me explain.

truck day 1

Truck Day marks the start of a new beginning, when Red Sox fans forget about last year and anticipate spring and a brand new baseball season. When fans see the huge truck pulling up to Fenway Park and boxes and boxes of baseball equipment being loaded up into it, they know that baseball is not far away. But, before real baseball games can be played, the equipment truck and RED SOX players head to Fort Myers, Florida for Spring Training. [Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 18th and on February 24th is when position players arrive and the first full squad workout is scheduled.] Some players are already at Spring Training.]

truck day 2

The equipment truck leaving Fenway is a reminder to all and to the players especially, that they need to refocus on Baseball. They need to get into baseball shape by being disciplined in eating healthy foods and performing exercise drills and baseball drills. Pitchers and catchers work on getting to know each other, in order to be in sync when they play for real, as do the position players and coaches. All players need to practice their positions on the field. They need to practice hitting, catching, running bases, stealing bases, bunting and sacrificing, as though everything is new to them, in order to get rid of the winter rust. Spring Training games start on February 29th to further work on baseball skill and regain muscle memory. All this hard work is in anticipation of OPENING DAY [April 4th, in Cleveland] when they here those magic words, “PLAY BALL!” The RED SOX players are also motivated to work hard by looking forward to achieving the end goal: winning the World Series in the post season. After playing 162 games, players want to play more games to win the ultimate prize in baseball.

WS BANNER ONE

WS AT CHURCH

As an avid Baseball [Red Sox] fan since 1967, I have the habit of equating the game of baseball to my spiritual life, as well as my life in general. I see many parallels between Ash Wednesday and Truck Day. The parallels do not make each event equally important. However, Truck Day does explain the importance of Ash Wednesday to me. As I wrote in a previous blog post, “Life is Baseball is Life!”

ASH WEDNESDAYAsh Wednesday is the beginning of the Season of Lent, which lasts for forty days, not counting Sundays. The meaning of Ash Wednesday is a reminder to Christians of their need for Jesus’ saving grace. “Ashes to ashes” means “We come from dust; we return to dust” without the power of God to save us. The term “Ashes to ashes” comes from the 1661 version Book of Common Prayer and used is used even now for funeral services. The origin of the term comes from Genesis 3:19: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and dust you shall return.” Realizing that we are only ashes and dust is only half of the story of Ash Wednesday. The other half is realizing “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust” [Psalm 103:13]. Ash Wednesday helps to refocus on who we are, who God is and how much Jesus has done for us.

“For our sakes [God the Father] made [God the Son, Jesus] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God” [II Corinthians 5:21].

lent

During the Forty Days of Lent, Christians take time to reflect on Jesus’ time on earth, His death on the cross, His Resurrection and His Second Coming. One of the first things He did was spend time, before starting His ministry, in the desert fasting and praying and He was tempted by the devil [Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13] for forty days. In the Gospel accounts, believers find Jesus using Scripture to fight off temptation. Jesus does not succumb to wanting to satisfy Himself with food or riches or greatness or the temptation to go ahead of God and question His authority . Jesus was able to do what no one else could never do and that’s why Christians have hope: “For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted [Hebrews 2:18].

lent 2

During Ash Wednesday and throughout the Forty Days of Lent, Christians everywhere practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting, seeking forgiveness and forgiving, spending time in solitude and Bible reading, giving of their time and money to serve others. Christians do these things, not to gain salvation, but to realize what a great salvation they have already been given through Christ the Lord. As they renew their “spiritual memory” by refocusing on these disciplines, believers grow into a closer relationship with God and joyfully anticipate celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and look forward to His glorious Second Coming, when they will receive their PRIZE. Let Christians everywhere be encouraged on Ash Wednesday to find peace, bear fruit in their lives, be thankful and to “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14].

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good thing that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” [Hebrews 13:20-21].

Have a Blessed Ash Wednesday!
And
GO SOX!

‘Nuf sed” for now.

Lydia photo

Lydia