Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The greatest of these is love

". . . We can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection is a poor mirror; but someday we are gong to see Him in His completeness, face to face, now all that I know is hazy and blurred but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.

There are three things that remain - faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love."  

  I Corinthians 13: 12-13.

Yesterday I sat down at my kitchen table where my advent wreath sits before baking cookies and making candy to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. I lit each candle, one stood for joy, another peace, another hope and the last one, love.  

 I opened my Bible to read the devotion for the day.  As I glanced at the candles, I noticed they were all brightly burning except the one that stood for love.  It was having a hard time producing a flame.  I thought, perhaps I should blow it out and start again, but I decided to leave it as it was for awhile.

I read my devotion which was all about love.  It said, as different as we all are, God loves us all the same.  The writer emphasized that God's love is eternal - unconditional, even loving us when we commit sin and willing to forgive.  His love is limitless and far beyond what we human  beings can comprehend or understand. 

The devotion noted loving others as God loves us and that those around us should see Christ in us because of how we love and who we are. 

As I read, I glanced at the love candle - it was still struggling to stay lit.  This does not represent God's love I thought to myself.  But I still let it be.

I began to pray - thanking God for His Word, asking for forgiveness, praying for others and praising God for his wonderful love.

When I opened my eyes from my prayer time, I looked at the love candle once more.  A smile radiated from my lips.  There it stood, the pink Christ Child candle.  Glowing brightly - bringing even more light into my surroundings than before.  It was like God was saying, "Yes, my love is strong.  You can count on my love.  It is a love that will glow inside you when hard days come or when you are feeling joyful.  My love will love you in spite of your sinfulness.  My love is so great that I sent my only begotten Son so that you could have eternal life.

A simple reflection from a simple candle on a wooden advent wreath.  But it touched my heart a lot and was a great way to begin my Christmas baking in my quaint farm kitchen.

Thank you Lord for this blessing I said, as I completed my special time with Him.:-) 

 And then I pondered, do people see God's love in me as Christ's child? It was another way to prepare my heart for the celebration of His divine birth.

May you experience God's wonderful, awesome LOVE this Christmas and throughout the New Year and may others see Christ in you:-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Spiritual preparation for Christmas

This Good News tells us that God makes us ready for heaven - makes us right in God's sight - when we put our faith and trust in Christ to save us. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith." - Romans 1:17

Advent was introduced to our family by a dear Baptist pastor at a quaint church in Western Nebraska. According to Webster it is derived from the Latin word adventus which means "a coming". The use of the advent wreath can be traced to the German Christians of the 1500s and is still used in many churches and homes across our nation.

When my three precious kids were growing up, we would have an advent service each week around our dining room table -the advent wreath we used is in this photo. The first purple candle was lit four Sundays before the celebration of Christ's birth, then a second the next week, a third was added and finally the beautiful rose candle shone bright on Christmas morn. It stood for the coming of Christ Jesus and our promise of salvation through Him.

Each week we did something different to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas during this family time together. We read devotions about hope, joy, peace, love and faith. We prayed together. Once we each drew pictures related to His coming and shared them with each other, another time we made Jesus a birthday cake complete with green and red jello. And we always included the reading of Scriptures and sometimes sung a song:-) Dad and the guys weren't too keen about the music but they participated. These special times kept our eyes on Jesus with all the activity and commercialism about us.

Now my kids are adults and on their own. I pray they remember the advent wreath and how it helped us bring Christ into clear focus among the presents, lights, programs, and yummy food. I hope they use one in their own homes.

Today, I still prepare myself spiritually for Christmas. I open my Bible, I read a devotion (my booklet from my church is helpful), I light a candle and I pray. It is a gentle reminder of what Christmas is all about and I need that, how about you?

If you have not prepared your heart yet and would like to start - begin with an Advent Wreath. You can make your own or buy one at your local Christian book store. They may also have a selection of advent books or devotions to use along with your Bible, of course.
Blessings to you as you keep Christ in "Christmas"!

Monday, October 18, 2010

God's Wonderful Provisions

"Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will reproduce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.  And so it was, and God was pleased."  Genesis 1:11-12

 I have recently found myself spending more time in the kitchen preserving veggies from the garden.  We have had a late fall - no freezing temps yet - so the produce is still quite tasty, like this bowl full of fresh tomatoes!

Some of the goodies we have enjoyed include sweet corn, tomatoes, red beets, carrots, green beans, cantaloupe, squash and watermelon - either from our garden or those of neighbors. God has been good with His wonderful provisions!

This summer I started a diet to help lose weight and lower my cholesterol. And I am learning how to eat a different way.  A better way.  Do you realize we can eat items that have no food value whatsoever for our bodies?  There are lots of products sitting on shelves in our supermarkets that we buy and eat - that actually are not good for our bodies.

My doctor gave me a wake up call when he said "To work off just one of those chocolates that don't melt in your hand - just one - you would have to run as fast as you can the length of a football field as if your life depended on it."  I don't know if it is factual but he got his point across.  I think twice now before I eat dessert. How many miles should I walk to work off these calories I didn't need or how many minutes do I want to spin on my stationery bike?

I don't think I have ever eaten as many veggies and fruits as I have the past few months.  Now, when I head to the grocery store, I stop at the produce section first - although the bakery is really tempting at times.  My husband especially  loves fruit so this has helped my change in lifestyle.  And I have discovered that they are quite good and filling.  Red, yellow and orange peppers are delightful in salad, blueberries are a nice addition to my oat cereal and I eat an orange each evening. I have a feeling my body is rejoicing!!!

Of course, God knows all this food is good for our bodies - after all, He made us and He made the food.  No preservatives, no added chemicals, a good balanced diet that is not out of a box but right from the earth itself.  But, I also think we can enjoy those sweet treats in moderation.  My husband raises sugar beets so I thought it good to include that last line!

At any rate, I praise and thank the Lord for what He has provided for us.  I think  sometimes we take our nourishment for granted. So, as the harvest continues of God's bountiful supplies, let us all remember. . . . . . .He created certain foods for us so we could live healthier lives.

Not surprising really - just another reflection of God's love for His people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The marvelous work of the Holy Spirit

"Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and dwell on the fine good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4

It was a simple sermon full of important tidbits to remember and colored with humor bringing laughter from the congregation. And it stuck with me like honey after I walked out the church doors. Little did I know that the Holy Spirit was at work and would be using that sermon later that day in a conversation with my friend who lived miles away.

She had been depressed that day and saddened in her spirit, retreating to a dark bedroom with fans running to keep her cool and hot chocolate to warm her spirit. I had seen her post on Facebook when I returned home after church. As soon as I saw it, I knew. I heard the Lord calling and I knew I had to go. A simple note or email on the Internet would not be enough.

At first she did not answer her door - I feared she was not home. But just as I was about to leave a note on her door, there she stood. Inviting me in, I prayed the Lord would give me the right words to say.

We talked about alot that afternoon in her quaint living room full of memories, character and parts yet to be remodeled. I listened more than I usually do. That was good because she needed to get it out. To express what was bothering her.

Eventually, I shared with her what the pastor had talked about that morning during church. Some simple steps for living. (1) Focus on the positive when something negative happens. Don't repeat it and get it further etched in your mind and in the minds of others. The more you talk about it, think about it, the more it gets ingrained in your mind and the more down you feel. God does not desire this for His children. (2) Forgive others and yourself - sin can be like a tick on your body growing bigger the longer we hold on to it - get rid of it, toss it aside and stomp on it. Free yourself and the other person from the sin and forgive - even if they do not ask for forgiveness. (3) Everyday, write down three positive things in your life to be thankful for and meditate on them. Thank God for each one. There are blessings all around us - all we need to do is open our eyes and see, let them soak into our brain cells. And finally. (4) Think of one thing to increase your joy - many times that involves serving Him, reaching out to someone or perhaps just taking a walk through nature, viewing His awesome creation.

After I had shared this, she said to me, "I feel so much better," a smile emerged from her lips and from mine too. Who knew that sermon would reach my friend's heart? The Lord did and the Holy Spirit directed me to her door that day.

I call this a "God Thing". It is the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit and I have experienced it many times. Watch for Him. . . . listen to Him. . . . Serve Him when He calls. You will experience that true joy He talks about.

Have you had any experiences like this?

Blessings to you!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fertilizer and Spiritual Vitamins

"But grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18

I applied fertilizer to our grass this morning while there was a bit of moisture about. Spreading elements of plant food such as nitrogen, zinc, phosphorus, iron, potassium and sulfur will help the grass grow, stay healthy, keep weeds from spouting and provide a beautiful lawn that will bring us joy!

And typically, I began to reflect. . . . . . you know, applying this fertilizer is a lot like reading God's Word and applying it to our minds, souls and bodies. It like taking spiritual vitamins into our very beings. And of course, the moisture can be compared to the living water Christ provides. And the sun - to the light He shines into our spirits every day!

If we read the Scriptures on a regular basis - daily is best - we will continue to grow spiritually and establish a strong relationship with the God who made us and loves us so. We will stay healthy as Christians, taking in wisdom, guidance, love and joy. Sin will be less likely to take root in our mind and souls - just like a healthy lawn has less room for weeds to grow, our hearts will have less room for sin to take root.

Yet, that is not to say the desire to do wrong, make bad choices, or the temptation to be disobedient to our Lord will be no more. Just like a troublesome weed can be found sprouting in a grassy slab of earth, so sin can enter our lives.

As the gardener of our yard, if we watch for those weeds, we can easily pull them from the rich earth. God is like our gardener and He's given us a helper too.

The Holy Spirit within us - the great comforter and protector! He warns and alerts us when danger is near, reminds us of what we know to be the truth and brings verses of Scripture to mind. God may also send a Christan brother or sister to help us stand steady in any struggle we may face which would turn us from the Son and God's will for our lives. But we do have to do our part. Listen!

Just as the grass receives the rain and water from a sprinkler, we must allow our Lord to provide us with His living water. The assurance of eternal life through Him, victory over sin death, hope for a better tomorrow and the strength to carry on whatever we may face in life.

And remember that joy I mentioned that we receive from a beautiful green yard? A unique, divine joy is present inside us and radiates to others when we take in our spiritual vitamins - some say they can actually see Christ in us!

There are other ways to take in spiritual vitamins too. Here are a few to ponder: (1) Fellowship with other believers (2) Worship the Lord (3) Pray to the Lord (4) Serve Him wherever you are with the gifts He has given you (4) Care for others as Christ cares for you.

If you're like me, this takes some discipline and some effort. Some times I do great, other times not so good. I get abit sluggish and then I remember. . . . . did I take any spiritual vitamins today?

Have you taken any spiritual vitamins into your soul today or this week? If so, do you have an experience you'd like to share.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Washing dishes clean. . . . . a reflection of how Jesus washes us clean as well.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:9

How many times have I washed dishes during my lifetime I complained as I put my dry hands in the hot dishwater once more this morning. I wondered. . . . how many? Countless. As I washed the sink full of dirty dishes once again I reflected. Over and over I have washed dishes, cups, bowls, pans, glasses and silverware clean. Yet, I won't give up, I'll keep washing them as long as I am able.
As I scrubbed, I reflected. . . . it's kind of like Jesus washing me clean from my sins - over and over again.These dirty dishes are alot like us when we sin, I thought. Yet, He doesn't give up on us, nor will he ever. When we ask for forgiveness, he washes us clean from our shortcomings, our failures, our choices to do things we shouldn't.
And just like a dirty plate once soiled with leftover food now shines like new, so do our hearts, souls and minds. We glow when we're forgiven. It's a wonderful feeling to be forgiven, to be cleansed by the Lord.

Then, I reflected upon some of the times Jesus forgave when he was on earth.

Three come to mind at this particular Holy season. In the book of John, chapters 18 through 21, we learn of how Jesus forgave Peter, a disciple that truly loved the Lord. But he denied Him three times during Jesus' trial. Jesus forgave him and Peter later became "the rock" of the early church as Jesus Himself had proclaimed. He spread the Gospel to unforgiven sinners and later wrote 1 and 2 Peter we read in the Holy Scriptures today. How might the story have ended if Jesus had not forgiven his beloved disciple?

The second account about Jesus forgiving another is the one about the criminal on the cross. A suffering sinless Christ had mercy on a sinner who turned to Christ for forgiveness. The condemned man believed Jesus could save him. It was faith that saved this man who hung in shame beside the Son of God. And is proof that our deeds do not save us.

The third example is astounding in many ways. We read about it in Luke 23, verse 34. "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing," Jesus said, as He hung on the cross, suffering, bleeding, feeling rejected and alone. To me, this shows how powerful and yet how kind and gentle the love and mercy of Christ really is. And to take it a step further, demonstrated His understanding of what it means to be a human being.

Upon further reflection, there is a verse familiar to many about forgiveness. In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times but up to seventy times seven."

Have I washed my dishes clean seventy times seven - I am not sure. But I think what Jesus was saying was to forgive many times - too many times to count. That's how many times you forgive. Has He not done that for us?

Next time you find yourself complaining about washing dishes, think about how many times Jesus has washed your sins away and not complained. And be thankful He does!

p.s. There's one important difference to note however. Some day, we may not be able to wash dishes anymore and make them clean because of poor health. But Jesus is unchanging, remaining firm and strong for us. He is there to forgive if we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness and believe He truly can make us white as snow".

By the way, we have snow on the ground today too - that's a whole other reflection:-)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Christmas music in March

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord . And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your loving kindness in the morning and your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre." Psalms 92: 1-3

Photo (c) 2010 Carole Amateis-Lebruska

It is March and I am listening to Christmas music:-) And it is delightful!

It all started when my daughter posted on Facebook that today is Vavaldi's birthday. I thought I would search for some of his compositions among my classical CD collection. In a set of three compact discs, there it was. . . . my long lost "Olde English Christmas" CD that I have been trying to find for years - years, I tell you! In haste, I suppose, I had placed it in the collection. I just had to listen to it - I can't wait until December!

Easter is approaching - the time when we remember what Christ accomplished for us on that old rugged cross. And a time to rejoice that He arose from death, victorious over sin and the grave! He provided a way for each of us to have eternal life if we confess our sins and accept Him as our Savior!

Listening to Christmas songs brings the beginning of the story into focus. . . . how the journey to the cross began in a manger. And somehow, as I drink in the happy melodies into my soul at this time of the year - rather than at Christmas - they seem to take on even more meaning.

As I reflect, I ask myself why. Perhaps it is because at Christmas time here on this earth the celebration of Christ's birth is not all that it should be. It is so commercialized, so full of Santa Claus and his reindeer, things to do, presents to buy, trees to decorate and etc and etc. So not focused on Christ really - except for Christmas Eve services, Biblical themed Christmas cards and nativity scenes dotting the landscape. We struggle each year to keep Christ in Christmas.

Easter has its bunnies, eggs and new born chicks signifying new life - even though some may not make the connection, it is there. Christ came to life again and gives us new life - new beginnings and a new body after death free from sin and pain.

I never thought I would hear myself say this, but as I reflect. . . . . . it is refreshing to listen to Christmas music at Easter time. It brings joy to my heart in all its fullness. Because Christ was born, lived among men, suffered and died on a cross for our sins and rose again. . . . . . . well, think about it. . . . . . . it is a great time to rejoice. Hallelujah!

Thank you Jesus. I love you dearly.

Have you ever listened to Christmas music in the spring?

Merry Easter to each of you:-)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Creative blessings from my Father's World. . . . . . . . .

"O Lord, how many are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your possessions."
Psalm 104:24

After days of cold temps and falling snow, today the sun warmed the earth and I rejoiced! This morning the uniquely shaped icicles hanging from the roof of our farm cottage caught my eye. I said to myself, "I must get out there and capture them on film before they melt!"

As it turned out, my timing was almost perfect. The sun was shining on the icy waterfalls frozen in time, reflecting God's handiwork. One particular ice sculpture had formed as a tornado from the drain gutter near the roof line. It nearly touched the ground and was awesome!

Others were smaller but were formed as if by the wind itself - like a flag waving in the breeze, their long sharp fingers were actually all curved in one direction.

Although I tired to capture these spectacular works of art on film - the camera just could not begin to adequately display God's handiwork. And as I reflected, I was reminded of just how great our God is and what a wonderful world He has created for us to enjoy.

By the time I returned from taking the dogs for a short walk, the sun was growing brighter and warmer. As I filled the bird feeder in our backyard, I turned just in time to see the windy icicles fall - it was a good thing I had photographed them when I did. The large one near our picture window was gone by noon - I actually missed it! The large pencil-shaped piece of ice had become a part of our surroundings for days.

As I reflect, I wonder, how many times do I miss special creative blessings from God? Do I take time to leave my daily chores and work to catch glimpses of God - geese flying across a baby blue sky, squirrels scampering about in our black walnut trees or a glorious sunset or sunrise? May God forgive me when I am just too busy to notice.

An amazing world created by our Heavenly Father greets us each day. As spring approaches, glimpses of the first spring flowers poking their colorful heads through the rich earth will soon appear. Will I be too busy to notice? I am going to try to watch for their delightful entries into our world once more! They will change and grow quickly. Will I miss the moment God has planned for me to see one of His wonders? And to perhaps try to catch the blessing on film or just in my heart?

Which of God's creative blessings have you tried to capture on film lately? And are you anxious for what He has in store for us for the next season? More importantly, are you too busy or are you ready to see what He has in store?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Glimpes of my heritage. . . . . . . .

"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me."
Psalms 16: 5-6

Who would think a coffee cup would have so much significance? But, today as I sip flavored coffee from a Polish Stoneware cup, I realize it is important to me. Because. . . . . it links me to my Polish heritage. I feel closer to the Woznick family just from holding this warm, colorful cup in my hands. It was hand painted by a Pole - maybe even a relative of mine! Bright shades of blue, orange, green, yellow, and red are included in its design. And it is the only such cup ever made - there are no duplicates!

I reflect upon the distinctive personalities I remember when we Woznicks used to gather together when I was a child. My Uncle Friday's unique laugh, his robust voice filling the room as he visited with relatives. And still, he managed to smoke his pipe all the while - I loved that smell:-) My Grandma Nellie's white as snow hair curled upon her head, she almost always wore a colorful apron and had a sweet little giggle - it just always seemed to echo from wherever she was. A cheerful soul; I can still hear her bubbly responses in the corners of my mind.

She and Grandpa Tony's yard was unlike any in town and reflected the old country. A quaint, simple home, filled with this and thats. . . unique and vibrant and carefully arranged. No dust about either! Outside, I skipped along wooden sidewalks while chickens clucked from the tiny chicken coop. Blooming flowers and green plants in unique pots were both inside and out. As were several wooden bench swings my Grandpa made - one was smaller for us young ones! My cousins and I had so much fun swinging and playing in those!

This is just a small glimpse of my much loved Polish family who are mostly gone from this earth now. But the cup I sip from eases not seeing them anymore. Somehow, I feel closer to them just looking at it. And the hope Christ gives also gives me hope I will see them again some day!

As I reflect, I think about how God has given a heritage to anyone who believes in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as their personal Savior. Each of us Christians is a child of God and a part of God's greater family. We share a heritage with the God who made this earth - that is pretty awesome when you think about it. And it is quite beautiful as the Scripture says. Vibrant in His glory. Secure in His unconditional love.

I think, what if I could paint a cup to reflect my Christian heritage. What would it look like? What colors would I use and what objects would I include to tell the world who I am in Christ. I have some visions, some ideas.

What would your cup look like?

p.s. visit if you'd like!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Isn't it refreshing to know. . . . our times are in His hands?

"But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
I say, You are my God.
My times are in Your hands." - Psalms 31

Much time has passed since I last posted any thoughts on my blog - I don't know where the time went but I do know that all those times were in the hands of my loving Heavenly Father. That is so reassuring to me.

I guess it just has not been the time to write at this point in my life. Perhaps it is time to start again - maybe just short entries though. Have had some health challenges which of course are no surprise to my Lord. They are not such that I cannot function or write:-) Thankfully!

But, the last few months have flown by it seems - with the holidays and all. I turned another year older too without much celebration but I am finding that is the case more often than not as we grow older.

I have returned to a former hobby - sewing - since my hubby got me a new sewing machine for Christmas. It has really been fun because the machines have been updated so wonderfully and they are so much easier to use. My first project was a set of aprons for my husband's daughter and granddaughter since they like to cook together. The gifts seemed to be a hit!

I also received a digital camera - finally! So, perhaps now I can do more posts on this blog of my work and also share photographic presentations set to my music with various groups. Speaking of - lately, my time has been spent organizing music compositions I have written through the years, organizing a Sunday School at church and teaching there, playing the piano for the children's choir and the prelude before worship. Seems music has taken the forefront these last few months. God knew this was the plan for my life.

When I first started my blog, I recall writing about how I needed to get settled. And during this settling process, I have finally returned to one of my passions - music. There's nothing quite like playing a melody from the heart on the piano - my deepest feelings just seem to flow over the keys and into the air. Hopefully, what I play touches hearts and helps others feel closer to the God who loves us all.

Music is one of the gifts God has given me. What gifts have He given you and how do you share yours with others?