Friday, August 7, 2015

The journey we call life, , , , , , , , , ,

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11

     Each of us as Christ followers has a unique journey - planned by God Himself.  It is true!
      Some take straight, consistent roads - living in the same community for most of their life, content to work one job for years, serving  Christ in one place; personally touching generations of families they know by name.  I was once of this mind set.  But God had other plans. And I am thankful for the winding road.
      Others may travel the globe - boarding planes, buses and trolleys on a regular basis - influencing lives of countless others from various cultures and walks of life.  Me? I have yet to board an airliner.
     Some may move from place to place, not always stationery due to career changes, relationship status, educational endeavors or service to one's country.  Yet, they serve Christ wherever they are. I admire them a lot.
     The point being, we are all on personal journeys and where God has planned for us to be.
     Reflecting, my journey for 50 years was centered in one small town in the heartland. It was there that I spent my childhood, raised my family and became a middle aged woman. 
     My early years were filled with fun times among friends, 4-H Club, swimming for hours on hot summer days, piano lessons, lots of baseball games, rollerskating, and bike riding. Also, flying kites and picnic lunches, sleepovers in the backyard. (our tent was made of quilts hung from the clothesline!) I loved swinging as high as possible in the best swing ever -  made by my dad, it hung from a sturdy limb of a giant oak tree. 
     Add walking to school every day - in the sun, rain or snow. No rides to school for this gal - in the long run, it made me tough. Cold temps did not detour me. Ice skating was one of my favorite winter pastimes!  I would skate until my toes were numb.
     Oh, it wasn't all fun and games.  I had challenges at home, chores and responsibilities.  Still, my parents, along with teachers, 4-H club leaders and later bosses at jobs planted a strong work ethic in me
      As a teenager, I made the most important decision of my life. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and was baptized at the First Baptist Church in my hometown.  It was a whole new beginning for me - my sins confessed and forgiven, I experienced a second birth and His precious Holy Spirit filled my being and dwells within me still. 
      I thank God for those who helped me grow in the knowledge of God's Word.  The devoted followers of Jesus in that quaint church provided a strong foundation in the Word of God and helped me understand what it means to be a Christian.  
     Many others - too numerous to mention, have shaped who I am today. People from near and far. I believe God sent each one - not any one person or experience has been an accident in my life.  All the roads in my life's journey thus far have been planned by God Himself - there is great comfort in realizing this fact.
     As a young mother of three, two boys and a girl, I learned more about love than probably any other time before. It was such an amazing experience raising children God had loaned to me- what an awesome opportunity and privilege. The most important job I have ever had. I loved it! And still do. Today I am a grandmother of five with another on the way! Thankful for each of these blessings!  My cup of tea is having them all in one place under one roof - a rarity in this day and age.
     Going from a town girl to a farm wife was no easy adjustment but I was more adaptable than I realized.  God knew.  I went through a lot of growth spurts during those years - the lifestyle so different than what I had known, Although I did not often realize it, God was always at work in me through tough times and joyful moments, shaping me, forming me. 
         And He is not finished with me yet.  And that is a good thing because I have lots of growing to do, even at 63.  And, I'd like to finish my race strong - like Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians. (see the third chapter)
     During my journey thus far, He has given me plenty of opportunities to serve and develop skills and spiritual gifts. At first, I did not realize I had them. That is, until I began to use each one- gifts of teaching, leading, writing, news reporting, and composing music.
     As a freelance journalist, I have gotten to know so many interesting people from all walks of life and I still am! Did I know I would do this one day?  Not really.  But God did.
     In the past 15 or so years I have ventured away from the small town community. I enjoy going back there now and then to visit. However, I have moved to other places - a lot of transitions -  but, I have had the opportunity to know so many awesome people from all walks of life and cultures. This has been such a blessing.
      I have had experiences that have stretched me - but God has known just how much I could stretch. At times, I have wondered; I have doubted. There have been challenges like mountains to me. Even dark days.  It was during those times that God has literally carried me, not once, but many times.  I know this because I could not have done it on my own strength.  I praise and thank God for always being here.  It is true what He said.  "Lo, I am with you always."  One of my favorite verses in the book of Matthew.
      My resume is diverse but as I reflect, I can see God shaping me through every path I have walked and every person in my life.  I see certain themes repeated in God's consistent work in me -  I am a people person - of all ages! When others are hurting, I have learned the hard way, that in most cases, I can pray or lend a hand but the real solution is in the hands of God.  When they are happy - it is good to share in their joy! 
       I love creativity - perhaps a bit artsy, but more so with words and musical melodies.  Music does touch the soul like nothing else - it is a universal language.  So glad I took piano lessons and have had the opportunity to give them.  Writing music is a wonderful gift from God!
     I love teaching children and youth and making a positive difference if at all possible - no matter what the job or circumstance. 
      But, I detest negativity and constant hints of skepticism. Unforgiving attitudes in the hearts of others is another tough one for me to handle. And yet, I sometimes have a hard time forgiving myself and others - I have to ask for God to help me. "Pedestal thinking: is another one on my list - God created us all the same, right?  We all sin, right?  But, some of us think we are much better "sinners" than others.   Wrong.   (topic for another blog) 
      Thanks be to God, He is still helping me with those issues. 
      Bringing a smile to someones face brings me pure joy!  I try to be sensitive to people in pain - either emotionally or spiritually. Because, I too "have been there".  God taught me this.
     I am adaptable - much more than I ever thought possible.  God surprised me with this character trait.  I can see now how He was building this particular strength in me for years.  It has taken me awhile to get there.  
      I love laughter - it is, indeed. the best medicine for the soul.   God was right again!  I can  be content with simple joys but also yearn for new adventures. What is around the bend?  God knows - I am usually content with that but developing that contentment is definitely a process.
     "You either trust Christ or you don't" is a quote from a recent sermon at church.  It hits the nail on the head.
     The power of God is amazing to me.  Just one example - who would have thought a shy teenager who did not take one speech class could write and give sermons in a large church?  Not me.  Yes you, God said. I  give God the glory.  Sincerely, it was Him working in me.
     The power of prayer is also astounding.  I have seen and experienced it first hand and in the lives of others. I want to shout it from the rooftops. . . . "pray more!!!!"  He always answers and in the final analysis, He knows what is best.  But, we must remember to talk to Him often - not just when we need something.  Praises are so important in the life of a prayer warrior.
     Then, there are still areas in my life where I am weak and need to grow and grow some more.  Will I ever learn?  I'll be doing that until I leave this earth.  Isn't it amazing that God has not given up on me?  I am still developing into the person God wants me to be, even after all these years.  I have yet to realize the full extent of God's unconditional, forgiving and steadfast love.
     Sometimes I have a hard time drinking this huge cup of divine love into my spirit!  Can it really be?   
     The diversity I have come to know in my present living situation is fascinating.  The realization that everyday life here has many other colors and patterns has been good for me.  God knew I needed to step out of  my familar box and see another  part of the world I did not realize existed.
       And really, in the whole scope of life, I am still at just the tip of the iceberg.  Can I go back to being 25?  I need more years!!!  Again, God's timing is perfect.  I only need trust Him.
      The winding road I have walked, with my hand in God's, has taken me to places and experiences I could have never imagined. But God knew my journey from day one - nothing has been a surprise to Him nor will the future be. 
     I hope this post is an encouragement to you - if you are wondering, if you are going through lots of change or unexpected change, looking into an unknown future, please know this:  God is already there and He is at work in your life!  He is steadfast and unchanging - that is an awesome blessing - beyond words.  Take time to count it and relax in His arms.
     He has a plan and a purpose for your life.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A difference in perspective. . . embracing change!

"For I know the plans I have for you. . . . " Jeremiah 29:11


Photo by Carole Amateis 2013

 Picture yourself walking along this shore with Jesus.

  As I browsed the shelves of the local bookstore, a phrase caught my eye on the cover of one particular book. . . . ."God's Plan For Your Life. . . Embracing Change."
   Embrace - meaning to enfold, grip, hug - I thought, as I reflected upon major changes in my life.  I have never thought about change in that way.
   I recalled how my mother had related to change while I was growing up.  Even adding a Christmas tree to our small living room upset her - it changed her surroundings and all the commotion of decorating it was unsettling to her.  I think once it was up, she enjoyed it.
  But she did not enjoy the process of change.
     Maybe some of that perspective rubbed off on me as a child but as I grew into adulthood I realized that change is inevitable and a part of life.  Still,I sometimes struggled with how I viewed it - especially if the change was more negative in nature. To me, positive change is much easier to accept and embrace.  As a Christian, I have learned that God is in control of every change.  Yet, have I really accepted that fact in my personal life?  Or do I find myself trying to take over the reins again and again?
  Trying to control my life instead of letting God.
          I have been a disciple of Christ since I was 17.  Did you know that the word disciple means "to be a learner"?  Well, I am still on a learning curve and probably will be until the day I leave this earth.
           Hmmmm. . . . . embracing change?   Okay, I have been through some major changes especially over the last 10 years or so. My most recent? Not being able to find full time employment since September 2011.
  And God wants me to embrace this change?
         "But, God, this is the pits.  I want to work. You've given me skills and I want to use them to help others.  And you know God, it's just you and me together here. How am I suppose to survive?"
  (oops, not trusting, again)
          "I know Lord, I know, every time I fret, I am not trusting you to take care of me.
  Please forgive me." 
 So many times I have went over this conversation with God about a multitude of things that make little sense to me.  I find myself asking God, why?  Not only for me but for friends or family in circumstances - changes - I do not understand. Well, as you may have guessed.  I picked up a copy of that book.  And it has been a wonderful blessing. So what do you do with a blessing?  You share it. 
 Thus this blog post:-) 
  A 30-day read, each time I read, I learn how to embrace change, I let it sink into my heart and soul and write down my reflections at the end of every chapter.
     I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit led me to that book - I mean, there were hundreds to chose from that day.   Not only that, the sermons I have been hearing at church lately are like a P.S. to the book.  God has something for me to learn.
  The Holy Spirit at work again?  Yes!
     One of the first things I learned is perspective is everything - the difference between night and day. I was  envisioning the changes in my life as like "riding on a roller coaster" - first this way, then that, not knowing what to expect, up, down, around; chaotic changes at best.  Then I realized, now, wait a minute, who is in charge of my journey?  God is.  I had to ask myself.
 "Would He put me on a roller coaster?" and then answered, "No!"  
     Now I see the truth. . . that I am walking down a path with my hand in His - it's a winding path - not a straight one, there have been some curves, some hills, some valleys, but His hand has always been there for me to hold.
   Sometimes I forget that.  "Lo, I am with you always," He said, as recorded in the book of Matthew. 
 My favorite verse. 
 Yet, I had myself on a roller coaster? 
     Other insights I am learning about change include:
(1) God does not change.  He is solid, strong, like a rock. You can  lean on Him, rest in Him, and know that His love is constant.
(2) Accept that change will always be.  And you cannot control most of it.
(3) God has a plan for your life and a purpose for  you on this earth.  Going through a multitude of changes is often part of discovering His plan.
(4) Sometimes you may fall down or stumble. I have. Let Him help you up or let Him carry you for awhile.
(5) Ask God to help you learn new ways to think about change especially if you are apt to turn toward the negative side.  You can unlearn things.
(6) Life is an exercise in solving problems - that is just the way it is.  There will never be a time when you don't have some kind of problem to solve. But you are not alone. God is with you, ask for His help.  There are other servants around too who can help:-)
(7) The past is unchangeable - no Monday morning quarterbacking.  Learn from it, accept it and move on.
(8) If you are in the habit of thinking negatively, ask God to help you think positively.  One drains your energy, the other energizes you.  Which do you think God wants for you?
(9) Ask God to reveal His plan for your life - your purpose - maybe you have had a lot of role changes where you don't even feel like you know where you belong anymore.  He still has a place for you.
(10) God is greater than we can comprehend; take Him more seriously.  He doesn't think like us - His thoughts are much higher, deeper, broader than the human mind can understand. He can do more in our lives than we ever imagined - if we let Him.(that's the part I am still learning).
 (11 While going through lots of life changes, find people to love and serve; as the saying goes, giving yourself away is the best way to bring yourself together.
(12) Try to spend more time with cheerleaders than negative scrooges - but you can still love the scrooges:-)
Well, I have more reading to do and more sermons to catch.  In the meantime, I hope my blog has been a blessing to you today.
Oh one last thing. . . . . . .if you are going through major changes, be gentle with yourself and ask other disciples to pray - there is great power in prayer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Remember, I don't even own a place to lay my head.  Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but I, the Messiah have no earthly home at all."  LB  Luke 9:58

  Currently, I am in a transition of sorts where I do not have a home of my own.  I am living with my daughter and her family right now.  In light of my situation, I thought of Jesus when He was sent by His Father to live upon the earth.  From what Scripture reveals, He probably had an earthly home with his parents Joseph and Mary as he grew up but when he began His ministry, he traveled from place to place with His disciples and as far as we can tell, had no house or dwelling He owned.

(c) Photo by Carole S. Amateis 2013
 That fact has been a comfort to me especially in a society that stresses home ownership and material possessions so much.  If Jesus, the Son of God, did not have a home, who am I to utter a word of complaint or forbid, any self pity come to mind.

I have plenty of space in the cozy loft area of my daughter's home and a place to write. . . . . pictured here:-)    I am so thankful she and her husband and my granddaughter have opened up their dwelling place to me for awhile.  They are a good example of the love of family and I am eternally grateful. (I think more families should do this for each other -  as we once did years ago in our country and some still do in other cultures.)

As I reflect upon Christ's life on earth, there were those who opened their homes to Jesus and His followers throughout His ministry.  Think how awesome that must have been.  To have the very Son of God sit down for a meal with you or spend the night in your home?

 Other times, His home may have been to lay underneath the very stars His Father created.  In those days, that was quite common.  Abit ironic, many today get away from their indoor atmospheres to go camping:-)  Jesus knew it was an awesome experience!

The Scripture I noted could also be a response from Jesus to indicate the earth was really not His home - His real home was in heaven.  He was just down here visiting for awhile - about His Father's business. 

He had a pretty big mission to fulfill His Father's plan.  He traveled about doing miracles, healing the sick, teaching others about God and making the ultimate sacrifice. . . . suffering and dying on a cross.  That loving act saved us from our sins, proclaimed us acceptable and holy for heaven.  An awesome gift beyond measure; eternal life.  That place where Jesus resides. . . . heaven. . . . is our real home as well. (It's cool we can still have Him present with us on earth though, through the Holy Spirit:-)

     Sometimes it is hard to grasp this truth - that we, as human beings, in perishable bodies, are just passing through life on this earth - a journey that will not last forever.  Our true homes are really in heaven, just like that of our Savior.

It is only natural that we human beings get busy with what is going on in our lives and the world around us. I am a firm believer that He put each of us on this earth for a reason and to experience abundant life, although not without struggles and trials.  But, sometimes, it literally takes the death of a loved one to wake us up to the reality that our time on this earth is fleeting and brief in comparison to eternity.

Plus,we tend to feel more comfortable with the familiar -our life here on earth.  We only have glimpses of what is to come. Books about near death experiences where people have actually been to heaven are popular as we seek to see into the future.
I think God had a reason for not telling us all about heaven. . . . and that really is where our trust and faith in the words of Jesus come into clear focus. . . ."I go to prepare a place for you".  That is what He said.  We must have faith.

    So I ,continue on life's path - all of which is part of God's plan for my life. - my present circumstance is no surprise to Him!  For now, I do not have a home I own, or even a place I rent.  If it is God's will, perhaps soon, I will have one or the other. I admit, it would be nice to have a private place and I am sure my daughter will be glad to have her loft back!
Still, as I grow older, I am learning to be content with less material possessions all the time.  I do not need a big house, lots of space or material possessions.  The only reason I would desire more space is so my children and grandchildren or family and friends could come stay with me and we'd all be together in one place:-)   If God grants me this blessing, I will certainly rejoice.  But if not, that's okay too.

  In the final analysis, the world kind of, well, seriously, has it backwards.  What we own, our material possessions or what kind of house we live in - whether a tent, mansion or in between. . . . . is not what is the most important.  It was not to Jesus.
   What was important  to Him was doing the will of His Father. . . . . . as we celebrate Easter this Sunday, let us remember His Words, "It is finished."  And rejoice that He did return to His real home - an eternal home that we can only begin to imagine and will be ours too if we confess our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior!                                                                                                  (c) Carole S. Amateis 2013

Easter Blessings to you and yours:-)




Friday, March 8, 2013

You Are The World's Seasoning

"You are the world's seasoning, to make it tolerable.  If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world?"  Matthew 5:13

Pillows I made for the bus kids.
     Working as a school bus monitor has been added to my growing list of life's experiences. At first, I wasn't too excited about it - getting up at 4:30 am is not my cup of tea as I am generally a night owl.  And I am a writer, this is not exactly how I wanted to spend my time. Yet, I love being around kids and children - have taught Sunday School, served as a Christian Education and Youth Director and worked as a sub para in area schools.
    Mainly, I needed a job and this was the only one that had come along in months.  Like the rest of the country, I have been caught in the net of a growing number of unemployed.  I have been searching diligently for another job to add to the 20 hours the bus job provided.
     As I reflect upon it, I am convinced that no matter where God puts us in this world - wherever we work, live, or go - we can serve Him and add some of His divine seasoning to other people's lives.  
     This particular bus was a two hour rural route over some pretty bumpy, washboard country roads.  My job was to assist the handicapped children on the route - one was in a wheelchair and once off the lift, I secured his chair to the floor of the bus.  The other was a student with Downs Syndrome who needed to be buckled into a secure seat and watched over. There were kids on the bus from grades K-high school and I came to know each by name as time went on and their unique personalities.
    If only for a short time,  I thank God for the opportunity this job provided - it was a unique way to serve Him - caring for some of God's special children and teenagers.  And there was an added bonus, the bus driver was a pastor and former classmate I had known for ages.  Another one of those "God things".
     One day I noticed the one little handicapped boy and some others who would sometimes fall asleep on the bus, their heads bobbing to and fro and seemingly so uncomfortable.
     Years before, my oldest granddaughter Kate had made me a neck bone pillow that I sometimes brought with me on the bus and used at home too.  If it supported my head and brought comfort - I thought, such a pillow just might do the same for the kids.  I believe God prompted me to take action.
     So, I started gathering information - each kid's interests, favorite colors and etc.  I think they were shocked someone they barely knew would care enough to make each one of them a pillow.
      "You would do that for us?" was one middle school girl's response.   "Well, yes, I will," I replied with a smile.
     Now, my next challenge, what about finding all the different fabric?  And how to pay for it?  I had a nearly new sewing machine so that was no problem. Batting was on sale at the local fabric store and a friend picked up some at a second hand store.
     I asked a quilting friend if she might have some remnants I could purchase.  "Sure do," she said, without any hesitation.  A radiant Christian, she belongs to a quilting club and the other members had fabric too - we made an exchange and they would take nothing for the fabric.  I praised God.
     What was unique about the mixture of material was that all the colors and interests the kids had mentioned were included.  Now, that has got to be another "God thing", I thought!
      Once I began the project, some of the kids asked for different shapes - well, I suppose I could do that too I thought.  So, making them was so enjoyable - each one unique and special for each student.
     Some of the kids carried them in their backpacks, others took them home and some were kept in a large bag on the bus so they could use them when needed.  They were so grateful and it made me smile:-)
     Unfortunately I have not been able to find another job to supplement the bus income which was not nearly enough. In addition, the daily rough ride  did my recurred hiatal hernia no favors and worsened symptoms.  With thought and prayer, I decided to move to another part of the country to look for work and seek medical treatment. And I am literally waiting upon the Lord. 
    It was hard to say goodbye to the kids. But I am hoping that they saw some of Christ in me not only during my time on the bus and via interactions with them but when they use the pillows I made.  Maybe I will be remembered as the "pillow lady" - ha! 
    But, the most important thing I hope and pray for is that they remember this:  "Someone cared about me, one of the kids on the bus.  A very simple act of love God planted in a bus monitor's heart spilled over to me.  
     This is more than just a fluffy, colorful pillow. . . . . . . it reflects the unconditional love of God and brings me some comfort on the long ride bus to and from school.  Maybe I should do something to help someone else?  Maybe I should get to know Jesus better?"
     If my actions planted even a single seed of love for God in one of their hearts or caused them to ponder why I did what I did. . . . it will have been worth every stitch.
     Another reflection: I got a good glimpse into the lives of school children through this job.  It is a tough world for some of them and they need lots of love.  The world is such a busy place, who takes the time to really care?  I know some do - I met them while on the job.
     I think God calls us to care and be different than those who do not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  What do you think?
     Can you share a time when God dropped a loving idea into your heart and you added some of His divine seasoning to a situation?
God Bless. . . . . . . Carole

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sharing God's Eternal Word

"The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord remains forever."
 1 Peter 1:24b-25a

Photo by Carole S. Amateis 2012

"This portion of Scripture is such  a comfort to me."

Surrounded by a world that is constantly changing and living among "things" that will not last forever, God's Word is constant and unchanging.  Much like God Himself.
What a blessing to count:-)

The longer I am on this earth, the less material possessions mean to me.  I am seeing where the true value is in life - relationships with God, family, friends and making a positive difference in the lives of others.

For years I have had the opportunity to teach God's Word to youth and children and have given an occasional sermon to adults. Currently I am pursuing my music endeavors for the Lord and I miss teaching.  But I found a way to reach out to my youngest granddaugther who lives some distance from me.

I started a project called "Gram's Bible Vitamins".  It is so much fun to create pages for her to dig into the Scriptures to find the answers.  I began the 5-page booklet by writing. "Researching and reading the Bible, which has terrific stories in it, can be fun!  At least, I think so.  See what you discover:-)" 

The worksheets cover both the New and Old Testament - there are some multiple choice questions and bonus questions where she needs to fill in the blanks.  There is one section called "The Book of the Month" - for July it is Proverbs - very fitting since that is what we are studying in church right now:-)  As I wrote out the true and false statements it was also a review for this "Gram"!

A memorization exercise is also included - I learned long ago that planting God's Word in your mind is very powerful and the Holy Spirit brings God's Words to mind just when we seem to need them most:-) It is remarkable!

I also included a section entitled:  "What can Gram learn from my Granddaughter?"  It asks her what insights she had while searching through the Scriptures and answering the questions.  I am sure, knowing Molly, she will give me some food for thought:-)

The Fun Page should suit my artistic granddaughter very well.  I started a drawing placing lines and shapes in certain spots on the page.  It is her challenge to finish it - I can't wait to see what she draws - I know it will be awesome as she is so talented.

Any day now I should be receiving Molly's responses in the mail.  It will be so delightful to see how she did and especially learn of her own insights and what she drew.  But probably the best part is knowing that she is growing closer to the Lord through this process.  YES!!!! 

So, if you are a granny out there and your grandchildren live far away from you, this may be one idea you could use; not only to bring them closer to Jesus but to create a special bond between you and them.

I did a similar project with my grandson years ago who is now a sophomore in high school!   We wrote stories back and forth.  He would write his part and mail it to  me and then I would write my part and mail it back.  We used our imaginations a lot! We came up with some pretty good stories.  He even read one story to his classmates at his elementary school.   His teacher and the class seemed to really enjoy it. I have offered wondered if we should get one of those stories published.  

The Bible is full of wonderful stories - I think sometimes we forget that.  God must have known that we humans can relate to stories - and each and every one has a lesson to it.  The parables that Jesus taught are awesome - no wonder He had the people's attention whenever He told them. 

The thing that is so remarkable is tthat those parables were told thousands of years ago.  And yet, they still apply to every day life in 2012 - and we are reminded again that the "Word of the Lord endures forever."  May we never forget that fact.

How do you share God's Word with others? 

I hope this post has inspired you to read your Bible every day - morning is best - the day goes much better if you start it with God from the very beginning - I don't always  get that accomplished, but I strive to.

And if you have a friend - young, old or in between, a grandchild, a youth or child that is a neighbor - reach out to them through the week; share you faith in the Lord - don't always leave it to the churches to do the work - we can be teaching, reaching and sharing all week long:-)  I have often said one hour of Sunday School is just not enough! And it is not.  Especially in today's world.

Thanks for visiting my post and God's richest blessings to you!  I look forward to hearing from you as always - sorry it has been awhile since I have written:-)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Laughter Blessings

"A joyful heart is good medicine."  Proverbs 17:22

In my view, this polar bear at the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo  has a joyful heart as he leisurely swims on a hot summer day!  Little did he know that he brought joy to my heart when I captured him with my camera at just the right moment.  God has given us so much to enjoy!

What brings your heart joy? 

 What makes you laugh? 

               Photo by Carole S. Amateis 2012

 I have found it to be so true that laughter is one of the best medicines for the soul.  God's Word is pretty clear about it and so there you have it!

Sometimes when life throws me some curve balls that I don't expect, laughing can help ease the pain - even if I don't really feel like being cheerful!

If you ever find yourself feeling sad, think of the times when you have laughed.  Do some memory searching and recall happenings, converstaions, or perhaps some experiences that were not funny at the time but later became so. 

"Laughter blessings" we shall call them - that God has bestowed upon you and me.

Perhaps you may want to pause after you read this to recall some of your own or to write them down.

I will get us started by sharing a few of my own.

Reflecting upon some of my "laughter blessings".

As a child, I ate so many dill pickles before a Christmas Dinner that before we sat down to eat I was covered in hives and itching all over - obviously, I had eaten too many but it required no medical attention.  Just lots of calamine lotion and some chuckles at the table:-)

I once got stopped twice by a police officer for a traffic offense and only got a warning.  But, he kept following me once it was settled and he eventually flashed on the red and blue lights again!  What now, I thought? "Sorry to stop you again mam," he kindly said, "but your purse is riding on your trunk".

Once when my grandkids were riding with me in the car on a starlit night my toddler grandson looked up into the sky and said, "God is a pretty good illustrator, isn't he grandma?" Joy radiated inside me:-)  "Yes, He is," I said.

Living in an old farm house always puts you at risk for seeing mice.  But I did not expect to see one doing the backstroke in the bathtub one morning when I sat down on the toilet.  I screamed and my husband grabbed the plunger and stopped the critter in mid-stroke!

One time I heard my young son talking in his sleep a short time after he had went to bed.  I asked him what he was doing as he sat up feeling around on the bedspread for something.  He said, he was hunting for mustaches. Well, okay then!

After a long day of shopping with my Jr High daughter for clothes we got back to the parking lot and she said - that was quite the es  cape  aid!!!  She meant escapade, of course. Now she's a novelist!

My preschool granddaughter was really concerned about the sun one day.  A cloud had covered it.  "The sun can't breathe!" she said. Her mom reassured her that all would be well.

I have been known to drive vehicles even when the gas gage indicates empty.  One summer,I drove my son's pick-up home packed with his college stuff and was so proud when I made it right to the house. But, the next morning it would not start.  It was completely out of gas. Time to get the gas jug!

I was literally expecting to find plastic tips from needles and thermometers in my bag once I returned home from surgery. Even though groggy,  I swore the male nurse was tossing them in there each time he came to my room. I thought it rather rude really. As he made the throwing motion with his arm, he said, "made it again". I remarked that he should join my son's basketball team; he was such a good shot. He laughed. Guess what?  When I got home, there was not one plastic tip in my bag. He had completely fooled me.

While working as a sub at a local school, it was announced on the news cast for social studies class that elderly people were starting to play video games at an increasing rate.  One fifth grade boy looked very seriously at his classmate and said, "This is not good news!"

As a town girl, I was doing my best to help out on the farm. One night I was out checking cattle during calving season.  Most were lying down in the straw but I was sure a calf was on the way for one cow.  I hurried to the house to awaken my husband.  He came out and when he shinned the flashlight towards the animal, he said, quite frankly, "That is the bull."  Oops!

One day on our farm, my oldest son and his toddler brother rode the three wheeler out to get the mail.  Placing the mail on the kitchen table, my eyes met the oldest ones in shock when we heard the three wheeler take off.  Toddler brother had decided to drive it on his own and ran straight into a hog shed - no injuries reported thank God.   

During a holiday football game between family members, my two year old grandaugther was a little cheerleader.  Standing there watching the game with us, she contiuned to yell at the top of her lungs "Goooo Ball!"  p.s. she later became a high school cheerleader:-)

So used to using modern gadgets, I was in such a hurry one day that I walked up to my house and hit the remote on my car keys thinking it would open the door.  What is wrong with this stupid thing?  Well actually, nothing; just another blonde moment!

Speaking of cars, one day I came out of the grocery store and hit the keys on my remote to open the door on my car - well, at least it looked like my car.  When I got inside it smelled like smoke with stuff about that I did not recognize. The owner had left it unlocked and my car, well, it was down a few stalls! I quickly exited hoping no one had noticed!

As a writer, my first published work is like no other.  I was notorious for writing notes to my friends at school.  During one high school study hall class I was caught passing a note to a friend.  The note was about a boy, of course.  The teacher asked me to make copies and pass it around to everyone in the class. By the end of the day, it was all over the school.  I decided to apologize to the boy.  However, it never stopped me from writing notes. I have written alot since that day - but most got published as newspaper articles in regional papers:-)

And one last moment to share for now. . . . . . If you ever need your house painted, don't call me.  One hot, summer day, I tripped going down the steps carrying a bucket of green paint.  The lovely green color covered the step AND even worse, my nearby car. Reaction?  Panic!!!!  I grabbed the soap, the hose, a brush and moved like crazy.  Exhausted, I finally got it all washed off.  But, I waited a day before I picked up a can of paint again.

Hope you enjoyed this post! 

God bless you and take a moment to recall some "laughter blessings" in your life!

I hope God will  lift you up through this gift
He has given us:-)

Thank you for visiting my blog:-)  Sorry, it has been awhile since I have written!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

 "Sprinkle me with the cleansing blood and I shall be clean again. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."  Psalms 51:7

Amid a life of many transitions, I rejoice that Jesus, my Lord and Savior never changes. Nor does His Word.

One of those transitions for me recently has been searching for a home church.  Anyone who has experienced this may know that it is not an easy process.  Especially in this day and age when many churches have dramatically changed the manner in which they worship the Lord.

I am having quite the struggle with some churches who seem to have become more like the secular world.  In Romans 12, Paul tells us "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think."  

Some may call me old fashioned and I don't mind if they do. I don't think I should be entertained when I go to worship the Lord.  And I desire a time of reverence and quiet reflection to confess my sins - on my knees, if possible. Following one service I attended recently, I came home, lit a candle and read my Bible to have a quiet time with God. There was just no time at the service to do so.  Not that I am saying worship services should be completely quiet! 

The balance of joyfulness and reflection seemed to be off at this particular church and in others I have visited. I have asked myself, are some churches seemingly becoming like the world to reach people for Christ?  If so, is He, Himself, the living Christ, not sufficient?  Did he not warn us not to do this?  In the book of Matthew, Jesus said "You are the world's seasoning, to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor what will happen to the world?"

There's always been some differences among bodies of Christian believers - how they want to worship and what they believe.  I respect those differences.  Therefore, we do have a number of denominations across the United States. The various interpretations of the Holy Scriptures seems to have been a contributing factor.  But the basic truths of God's Word still remained a common thread.

However, during the last three or four decades, that thread is weakening. Some Christian churches have went through extreme change -not only in the way they worship the Lord but in their doctrine. Some are turning from the truth of God's Word and bringing worldly ways into their sanctuaries. This brings great sadness to my soul and concern for the future of the chruch.  And thus, I struggle to find my spot.  Where does God want me?

Sometimes I wish I could walk into a country church along the prairie in the 1800's where the Old, Old Story is being told including some reference to that word.  That word that seems to be missing in many churches today. Sin. Yes, that word that is mentioned in the Scripture many times over.  I asked some Sunday School children about sin recently and they did not know what it meant.  That was an eye-opener.   

It is true that God hates sin. People never have liked to hear about it and still don't, me included. So, in order to keep people filling the churches, could it be that some pastors and leaders are choosing not to mention it much? It appears we all want to feel good, have an uplifting worship service, experience the wonderful love of God and fellowship with one another.  

That is all well and good but does not cover all the bases.  Now days, it takes a very brave pastor to preach about what they used to call "hell and brimstone."  But if your pastor does, it is because He loves and cares for his sheep as Christ cares for you.  Rejoice!!!

If you really think about the core of Christianity -if we had never sinned there would be no Christian faith.  Yes, God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice and guidance.

  As I reflect upon the Ten Commandments, each is related to a sin that God warns us not to do.  Why?  Because He loves us.  He wants our lives to reflect His guidance and for us to experience abundant life only He can provide. 

Ultimately, He knew we would fail and sin.  Sinful people cannot have eternal life. But God loved us so much He made a way for us to become holy (or without sin) so we can enter heaven and live forever.  Thank you Father!

He sent Jesus to earth as a man. Jesus taught people about love but He also made it plain that all of us are sinners. He spoke about true repentance, telling us how we could be born again. How struggling with sin would be a never ending battle while on earth and to expect it. But, assuring us that He would be here  to help us through the power of the Holy Spirit and we could be forgiven when we sin.

But we have to do our part. We have to believe Jesus died for our sins, and accept Him as our personal Savior. To repent and confess our sins and to accept His merciful forgiveness. And we have to be willing to change our sinful habits and live as Christ would want us to for we have been made clean through the blood of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. It is that plain and that simple.

I started to read and study the book of Acts in my quest for a body of believers that are Bibilcally solid and where I can serve and worship the Lord.  It has really been a blessing.

I am reading about how they often met in small groups in homes, took communion together and were filled with the Holy Spirit. I am learning about the boldness the apostles had when they shared the message of Christ.  It took courage. Stephen was remarkable.(Acts 7) He told it like it was. And he died for it.  As I reflected about his experience I had to ask myself, would I be willing to die for the sake of Christ and the Gospel?  Would you? 

Where can I serve the Lord with the gifts He has given me?  Where can I worship Him in a way that is respectful, reverent, honorable and gives me the opportunity to lift my hands in praise but also kneel to confess my sins?

God knows and I am trusting Him to show me:-)

Blessing to you, thank you for visiting my blog.:-)

How about you, do you have a home church? 
        How do you worship the Lord?