Saturday, January 16, 2021

Be His Light

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

For the first time in ten days, the sun's rays broke through the clouds and warmed the earth.

When the yellow dwarf star at the center of our universe hides behind the clouds, people notice. In southwest Ohio, we've experienced a cloudy, gray January. Darkness infiltrates the morning and dusk arrives early. But oh how the absence of light makes Ohioans grateful for the dazzling sun.

Dark days cause rejoicing when the brilliant rays brighten the sky.

As I read the news and listen to family and friends, I'm reminded of the darkness surrounding our lives. Between the COVID-19 virus and the political climate, it's difficult to feel anything but doom and gloom. But, there is a light which outshines any darkness.

No matter the situation, no matter the sorrow, the worries, the fear—Jesus light shines brighter.

I read posts on social media which disturb me. Family and friends fighting over what they believe to be true. It's time to stop arguing and embrace God's call to be the light. In professing to follow Christ, I promised to obey his word. In Galatians 5 I read, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I'm not asked to shout my opinions out loud. Instead I'm asked to illuminate the radiant fruit God wants me to share and offer the fruit of the Spirit through my actions and words.

God calls his followers to be the light—the ones who shine brighter than the evil and distress of the world. Is it easy? Not always. Is it necessary? Yes!

Let the beam of God's goodness overpower the fear and darkness.


Click to Tweet: Be His Light!


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

No Darkness at All

No matter how dark the world seems, God's light outshines.
He houses no darkness, only light.

The birds, in this beautiful print, remind me of 
the gold finches who visit my feeder.
Even on bleak winter days, 
they flit and flutter and go about their business.

I notice when the rain pours and clouds darken the day,
they gather at the feeder eight to ten at a time

They bring me great delight!

Like the little flock of birds, let's join together 
and shine God's light in the darkness. 
Let's bring joy, peace, and kindness to a hurting world.

Only in Him will the light break through the dark.


 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Be Still and Know...

Psalm 46:10-11
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep..."-Robert Frost

We traversed the curvy hill into town. Foliage slept in an array of gold and brown on the ground. Trees rested their slender, naked limbs. Even in winter without snow, the scene took on a lovely glow and a story of hope.

Deciduous trees conserve water, a scarcity in the cold or dry months. Their time of rest allows them to re-energize and prepare for the coming spring when leaves sprout again.

The gray of winter often brings on sadness, depression, anxiety, or lack of energy. Yet, I've learned from the trees to rest in winter, to be still, and embrace the quiet. Even when the world isn't quiet, I cherish time to sit with God and seek his wisdom.

God knows I need winter. I crave a time to reconnect and kneel before his throne and worship the Creator. Like the trees, I raise my arms to him and let the stress of life drop like leaves.

Even as he asks me to be still and know, the Lord promises to sit with me. He is my refuge and fortress. I see him in the evergreens, a constant reminder of the steadiness of God.

This spending time with God isn't always easy. Some days I wake up prepared for the quiet, the prayer, the listening. But other days, I've struggled. I want to sleep instead of rise and worship—Some days chaos trumps stillness—Sometimes dread overwhelms and frustration lingers. But I won't give up. I continue to strive to find the quiet and be still before the King, to offer gratitude for everyday life.

Find moments in the winter days to stop, be still, and hear from the God who loves you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What More?

Whatever my lot, I strive to be grateful.

At home in the gray of January, I choose to embrace the beauty of God's creation.

The gold finches' feathers have dulled, 
yet they bring joy with their clacky songs.

Cardinals flit from one evergreen to another.
Flashing the colors of winter.

And I am home. A blessing, indeed.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, find one thing to brighten your day.
Reach out to a friend-
Look out the window-
Smile-
Read something funny or uplifting.

Gratitude brings joy.


 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Fiction Book Review: All That We Carried: A Novel by Erin Bartels

Book Description:
Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world--what you see is what you get, and that's all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality--a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie's insistence (and against Olivia's better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they'll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

Michigan Notable Book Award winner Erin Bartels draws from personal experience hiking backcountry trails with her sister to bring you a story about the complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.

My Thoughts:
Erin Bartels created a brilliant and moving story of two sisters searching for hope. She beautifully balances total disbelief with belief in whatever gets you by, while telling a heartrending tale of love and loss. The sisters, as most are, come across very different from one another with a link that joins them forever. Through all of the ups and downs of the camping trip, I felt like I was hiking along the path with Melanie and Olivia. Bartels reveals a spiritual thread throughout the story that left me seeking more. And there is a twist or two. I won't give that away, but I will say it was the perfect way to integrate grace into a tragic story. If you enjoy heartfelt, family stories that delve deep, you'll want to read All That We Carried. I've read all of Bartels' books and this one is my favorite. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Gratitude Opens the Heart to Joy

Luke 17:15-19
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The beautiful thing about gratitude—it leads to joy.

As a writer, I embrace words. I have favorites and some I'd rather not hear or read. In the novel I'm writing, I search for the perfect words to express the characters actions and emotions. When I edit, I remove unnecessary words and rewrite the scene.

As many writers do, I've asked God to give me a word for the year.

In 2020, God gifted me with "Be Brave." He basically told me not to fear. In 2020, fear tossed me on my head at times. Yet, I clung to Him and the words he gave me. When anxiety reared its ugly head (which happened more often than I care to share) I called on the Lord for courage.

Now we are waltzing into 2021, praying for a better year. As I asked God for my word, the one I'd focus on for 365 days, He whispered "Gratitude." The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." I love that returning kindness is part of gratitude.

In Luke 17, Jesus healed ten lepers. He sent them to see the priest and as soon as they stepped away from Jesus, the leprosy left them. As it turns out, only one returned to thank him. And he was a Samaritan, a group of people regarded as lowly and unworthy. That man's heart overflowed with appreciation toward the one who healed him. He could finally live without ridicule and shunning. The Samaritan, low man in society, poured a grateful kindness over the one who gave him his life back. He showed gratitude to Jesus with joy in his heart.

When I imagine being sick for years and despised by most people, and through love and compassion Jesus released me and restored my life; I wonder, would I be like the nine ungrateful men or the one who poured joy over Jesus.

As the New Year rings in, embrace gratitude, show appreciation and return kindness.