You Can Experience God

 

The holidays are over and the mailbox offers nothing but junk and bills. Winter storms and cloudy skies are the norm. It gets dark at 4:30pm! Flu bugs and close quarters breed bad moods, discord and discouragement.

I was sharing some bluesy feelings with my friend Marilyn* and she gave me some great words of encouragement.

When the days are dark, take heart. God is with you.

Now lots of people will tell you God is good and All you need is a little more faith, but when you are under the cloud of despair, you really need something more than a pat on the back and a platitude – even if it’s true.

What you need is an encounter with God. That’s what happened when the skies were very dark in Marilyn’s life.

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What Do You Want To Ask God?

 

Do you ever wish you could ask God a question? Maybe clarify what to do about a specific situation taking place in your life? Would you like direction toward your calling? Perhaps you’d like relationship or parenting or employment guidance. 

The Bible is flawless, but what if your situation isn’t specifically addressed in it? I’ll talk more about this next week, but to get you started, what do you do when you want to know:

  • Whether to stay in your job or take a new one across the country?
  • If you should buy this house or that one?
  • Is homeschooling really be the right path to educate your children?

None of these issues are specifically addressed in the Bible. 

The only reasonable solution is to ask God to direct you through listening prayer. And he will. Priscilla Shirer says, “Do you really think God loves you enough to die for you but doesn’t love you enough to talk to you?”

I’ve created a quick video on listening prayer to teach you how to hear from God. Watch it then do the exercise. When you’re done, leave me a comment about how it went, and what you heard.

 

 

 

 

Restart Those Resolutions!

Are you on track or faltering?

I so wanted a different story to tell you but I’m already faltering in my New Year’s resolutions.

My first goal for 2020 was to abstain from chocolate for 30 days. Let me tell you how that worked. Girlfriend, it’s embarrassing! I fulfilled the letter of the law, I’ve had no chocolate. Instead, I had VANILLA pudding, strawberry shakes, and sugar laden coffee drinks.

My second goal was to exercise a little bit every weekday. Well, I sorta did this. But, a couple days, I counted grocery shopping or laundry as my exercise.

My third goal was to fast between meals (which is a fancy way of saying no snacking). This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I legitimized that if I didn’t CHEW, it wasn’t eating. It’s amazing what you can smash up enough with your tongue to swallow.

Take thoughts captive. 

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That’s A Wrap!

It is finished! 

Can I confess that when the calendar rolls past the holiday there is a certain relief that falls on me?

The pressure is off to send one more card or shop for one more present or bake one more cookie or attend one more holiday gathering. Curiosity is satisfied and expectations were either met or disappointments dealt with. 

It is finished. I’m grateful and even a little relieved. So where is the wonder and joy? 

Unexpected emotions.

For some, this Christmas was unexpectedly different. The death of a loved one left an empty space at tables and in hearts so vacuous that facing the cheerfulness of the holiday was nearly impossible.

Military families with service men and women serving far away from home secretly hoped for a surprise visit like something out of a television commercial. (I know I crept downstairs on Christmas morning hoping to see an Eli-lump on the couch. Sigh. Just throw pillows.)

Empty nesters sleep in on Christmas Day, missing the pre-dawn promptings from children eager to open presents under the tree.

Snowbirds celebrating Christmas in the south are unexpectedly sad, feeling the absence of family members, silently missing the familiar cold and snow.

College students back home for the holiday are more excited about reconnecting with friends and time away from studies than celebrating Christmas. The childlike wonder and surprise is missing.

The monumental expenditure of creative energy and resources can bring out the crazy in the best of us. I’m guilty of losing sight of Jesus in the crush and sorrows of Christmas.

Christmas is over, but Jesus remains. 

When the shepherds were told of Jesus’ birth, there was a good deal of excitement. Anticipation of our Messiah generated spontaneous travel plans, making arrangements for the sheep, getting cleaned up and their hair done (presumably) deciding what outfit to wear (perhaps) baking and creating gifts to bring to the party (maybe)? Ok, that’s a stretch.

Wonder and Joy

What we do know is the shepherds were filled with wonder and joy. A wonder and joy that could not be contained. The Bible says, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  (Luke 2:17-18) Enjoying the Presence of God will fill you with wonder and joy, too. All. Year. Long. 

Following the example of the shepherds, I’m going to find Jesus and be with him. In spite of changes and losses and angst about what next year holds, I’m going to take some time to recapture a bit of lost wonder and joy.

What’s next?

This week, I hope you’ll ponder and remember Jesus is the reason for Christmas and celebrations all year long. All the traditions and parties and gifts are just accessories to remind us that Jesus was born, and He came to save us. To be with us.

Sit in Jesus’ presence and be filled again with wonder and joy. I find Jesus in my Bible study. In my prayer closet. In my dreams and at my church. Where will you look for him first?

Leave me a comment where you connect best with Jesus to recapture your wonder and joy. 

My Favorite Holiday Recipes From My Kitchen To Yours

Girls, I have kept these holiday recipes secret for decades,
but they are just too good not to share.

These recipes for easy pumpkin pie and super simple fudge
are easy to make and taste like they took hours.

From my kitchen to yours,
just in time for Christmas dinners, parties and last minute gifts,
Merry Christmas!

Best Ever Pumpkin Pie 

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Your Presence Is The Best Present

 

A rough start to the holidays.

My holiday season has gotten off to a rough start. I’d planned to serve Thanksgiving dinner at 12:30. At noon, the turkey wasn’t close to cooked.

Not even close, I tell you!

Mashed potatoes and stuffing, sweet potatoes and green been casserole waited impatiently in warming ovens.

Tick.
Tick..
Tick.

At 3:30pm that bird finally surrendered enough breast meat to give each person a sliver.

Arrgh!

Girls, it was the ugliest looking plate of food I’ve ever served on Thanksgiving. Tasty, but ugly.

Interestingly, holding dinner hostage gave us all time to really catch up and interact. To connect. It was relaxed and fun for everyone. Everyone but me!

I should all over myself.

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What is your favorite Christmas movie?

The Christmas season can be stressful.

Christmas season is filled with activities that can stress us out! The shopping, the parties at homes and work, decorating the house, the tree, the cookies, the kids, the car, and ourselves is all-consuming.

One way to decompress is to watch a Christmas movie. Holiday movies bring tears of joy, hold you in suspense, and usher in a season of hope. Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch, Elf, Jingle All The Way, and Polar Express are all great choices, but my favorite is Christmas with the Kranks, based the the novel Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. 

I explain why in this 3 minute video. 

 

What is your favorite holiday movie? Leave a comment below and tell me why you love it!

Merry Christmas!

 

The Universal Language Of Kindness

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

The beautiful thing about kindness is that everyone can do it. Anyone … in any season of life, whether young, old, male or female, rich, poor or even sick can show kindness.

Not to be confused with generosity, (which I generally associate with giving money) kindness requires nothing more than intentional action.

Kindness is more powerful than anger, selfishness or even hate. It morphs us into women who look, sound and act more like Jesus. When we clothe ourselves in kindness as Col. 3:12 directs, we affect people in a positive and lasting way. 

Contagious and courageous.

Those who are shown kindness will surely pass it on. Like a train of Dominos, when the first one falls, the rest follow. Taking the lead to demonstrate kindness softens hearts, quiets tempers and provides space for tenderness to grow. So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. Matthew 7:12 

In close relationships, kindness can overcome the temptation to hold grudges, get revenge and act selfishly. Random acts of kindness toward strangers can break down prejudice, overcome greed and restore faith in humanity.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” – Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is put down a suffering animal. It’s tough to help pack up your best friend to move away from you. Being a listening ear or returning a lost wallet can be time consuming. Keeping someone company till the ambulance or locksmith arrives can mess up your schedule. 

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Thankfulness Is Key To A Better Life

Want a longer life, better relationships and improved health? Be thankful! 

When my kids were little, it was important to instill the character quality of being thankful in them. They were prompted to say thank you to anyone who served them or gifted them. Their prayer time always started with a long and creative list of thank yous. As they grew, they thanked bus drivers for shuttling them, the cafeteria workers for doing the dishes and tow truck drivers for being so prompt. 

Being thankful has myriad benefits.

Being thankful rewards us with better health, cheerier dispositions and deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Thankful people enjoy a stronger sense of well-being, suffer fewer symptoms of depression and are less likely to seek revenge against others. They are more likely to have empathy for others.

We are told in Scripture, “In everything give thanks.” It is a directive straight from God, recorded by Paul. It is a divine expectation.

So how do you develop a habit of thankfulness?

1. Go without.

To gain a whole new level of appreciation and accelerate your thankfulness, go without something you take for granted!

Spend one day doing without food or electricity or hot water. Sleep on the floor a night or two. Give up sugar or coffee for a day or two. Spend a day or a week without television or radio or internet. Trust me, going without jumpstarts thankfulness.

2. Speak out thankfulness.

If you’re not ready to forego running water … spend a bit of time every day thanking God. You can speak it out or journal it, but see how many items you come up with. These are the first 25 in my journal.

  1. My salvation through Jesus’s death and resurrection.
  2. Mr. 4-Ever.
  3. The kids.
  4. My moms and dad.
  5. Holy Spirit guidance.
  6. Flannel sheets, slinky sheets and clean sheets.
  7. Heat in my house.
  8. A closet full of clothing.
  9. The color green.
  10. In house refrigerator, washer, dryer, garbage disposal.
  11. The work and ministry I do.
  12. All the safety I enjoy every day.
  13. The bills that are paid.
  14. My family of origin.
  15. The taste of raspberries.
  16. Freedom to vote.
  17. Ability to read.
  18. Coffee, tea, soda pop.
  19. Clean water – hot and cold.
  20. Medicine.
  21. First responders.
  22. Dogs and Cats and pets of all kinds.
  23. Mail service.
  24. Music.
  25. Kissing.

Thanking God reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us and the authority he holds in our lives.

3. Be thankful in all things – even if they’re hard.

Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote: “The best way to demonstrate faith is to say ‘Thank You.'”

You don’t have to be thankful FOR rotten things, but you can and should be thankful in the midst of them. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

Find the silver lining. Look for the small bright spot in the situation. I call these lousy tradeoffs. When my kids moved out, I suffered in my empty nest, but then I realized how clean my house stayed – lousy tradeoff. In my grief after my man died, I lost all the weight I’d fought against for a decade – lousy tradeoff. When my mom was hospitalized with cancer, I got to spend lots of time with her – lousy tradeoff. All these hard seasons had a spot of hope or joy in the midst of them.

Thankfulness is character building and leads to a better emotional state, improved relationships, and clearer understanding of God’s heart.

Friend, I wish you the very best Thanksgiving. I hope your jello set sand your marshmallows don’t burn. May your turkey get done on time and be juicy and delicious. Let the people at your table encounter Christ through you. Spread thankfulness habitually!

In the comments below tell me what you do or you’re going to do to develop thankfulness.

Forget Me Not Candied Nuts

November 15th is opening day of deer hunting season here in MI.

Mr. 4-Ever loves to be out in nature. He’s a great hunter with both the bow and the gun. Traditionally, he spends the week up north with eight to ten of his buddies. They sit in trees during the day, waiting for the perfect trophy buck to wander into sight so they can hang its head on the living room wall. In the evenings, hover around huge camp fires, belly laughing at bad jokes and swapping stories about the one that got away. 

Forget Me Not

I know better than to send anything resembling a salad or even a vegetable up with him, but I always send a blue ribbon dessert to share with the fellas.

This year I sent Forget Me Not Candied Nuts. They travel well, are super easy to make, always disappear in a flash and make your house smell wonderful while they’re in the oven.

Here’s the recipe: 

Forget Me Not Candied Nuts

A pound of nuts – nuts with grooves like pecans work best.
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon of water of which 1/2 teaspoon is vanilla
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Whip egg white with water and vanilla till foamy.
Add nuts, stir to coat.

Mix sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Shake over nuts.
Stir till coated.

Dump on 15x8x1? pan. If you line the pan with parchment paper, you’ll thank me later. 

Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool about an hour.
Store in airtight container.

Taste test liberally.
Enjoy!

In the comments below, share your favorite holiday recipe.