1. Pinks And Grays, All Working Together
I am so excited! I am going to have another grandbaby. Mom and I went shopping last week to pick out the material for a baby quilt. We spent so much time, looking at all the different bolts of cloth. Danielle told me that she is using pink and gray in the baby room, so that narrowed down our choices a little. After comparing all the pink and gray tones we finally decided on the pieces we would use. I washed all the pieces and as I was ironing each one, I thought about how some of them looked a little bland or dull when laid out individually. Mom took the pieces and just brought back the quilt top so that I can hand quilt it and it is beautiful! All of those pinks and grays, plain and fancy, blend together to create a beautiful design. As I sat admiring the quilt I thought about how God takes all our days, pinks and grays, plain and fancy and is putting them together to create the quilt of our lives. Let's look at some of the pieces of our lives and maybe be encouraged to think that God is the great Creator and He isn't finished with us yet! "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
When we think about our days being put together like a large quilt, we like days of joy. We want a lot of happy blocks. Days when we wake up feeling great, and the sun is shining, and we have plans for a wonderful day. We like these days. We can find these days on vacation and during holidays, but I think we can choose to brighten each and every day by rejoicing in the Lord. Let's say with the Psalmist, "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalms 118:24) Have a joyful day!
3. Snow Days!
My title for today is "Snow Days!", but it wasn't really a snow day. The snow was beautiful as it fell, but it was gone as quickly as it came. I live in central North Carolina and we rarely have a deep snow, but on occasion it will snow enough to cover the ground. I love how everything looks so clean and white after a new fallen snow. That is how our lives are after we ask the Lord to forgive us of our sin. No matter how great a sin we have committed, the Lord pleads with us, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18) I have some fond memories of snow days in the past, sledding with the children and making hot chocolate to help them get warm. But the most important "snow days" are those times when I called on the Lord to forgive me and He cleansed me white as snow and warmed my heart and soul with His love.
4. When Gray Skies Cloud Our Eyes
I started quilting the blocks on the baby quilt, and although I have never done a lot with grays, I like the pink and gray squares together. Today we are going to talk about gray skies. I think we all have them from time to time. Sometimes I feel like I am under a gray cloud, even when I can't pinpoint any certain trouble. We can sometimes sense a storm on the horizon. Then there are other times when trouble comes without warning. Whatever the case, we have someone we can turn to during our times of trial. When the disciples were out at sea during a great storm they called out to Jesus. "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39) Jesus has the power to calm the storms, but He also has protecting love to calm us and bring us through the storms. "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalms 30:5) We read again in Psalms 42:6-8 "O my God, my soul is cast down within me:... all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me... Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life." Trust in the Lord to be with you in the storms and give you a song in the night.
5. When Burdens Are Too Heavy To Bear
Just as gray skies darken some of the blocks in our lives, burdens may also cast us under the shadow of the load. So many of my family and friends are struggling to carry their burdens. Whether its financial burdens, physical burdens, spiritual burdens, or family burdens, they all can cause mental stress that darkens our days. I have never known a time when so many are bowed beneath loads that seem too heavy to bear. What can I do when my resources are too limited, and my arm is too short to reach out to them? I can listen, and be a friend. I can remind them that Jesus cares. He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) I can pray and ask the Lord to help them. He has all power, all knowledge, and the resources to help them. And if someone confides in me I can keep it confidential and not make it a topic of gossip. Finally, if I can't do anything to lighten someone's burden, the least I can do is not add more weight to their burden. God's Word says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2) Let's do what we can to help those who are hurting.
6. Sunshine Box
"From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD'S name is to be praised." Psalms 113:3
After two days of dark squares in our quilt of life, let's add some bright sun shine! The Ladies Sunday School Class at my church often makes a Sunshine Box for someone who has been sick for a while or for someone who can no longer come to church as often as she would like. They decorate a box with some bright colored paper, and maybe add some pictures with Bible verses from old wall calendars. The class members bring things to fill the box. Items might include a box of Kleenex, hand lotion, Chap Stick, a coffee mug with an uplifting Bible verse, some packets of hot chocolate mix, candy, soaps, snacks, fruit, and a devotional book. They also include "Get Well" or "Thinking of You" cards. After the box is filled, someone delivers it.
You might want to make a Sunshine box for a birthday gift, or "Thank You" for someone special. It would be fun to fill the box with only yellow items, like snack packs of Lays Potato Chips, sun flower seeds, lemon drops, Butterfingers, and peanut M & M candies. I'm sure you could find many more as you walked through the store. There are many ways to add a little sunshine to someone's day. A visit or phone call would lift the spirit of someone who is alone. A jar of homemade soup might help someone who is recovering, or depending on the individual's diet, a take-out pizza might be something different. A little effort can go a long way to bring a little sunshine to someone having a dark day.
7. The Days Of Our Youth
When I was young we used to play marbles. We were small and really didn't know how to play, and sometimes a marble would roll off our fingers before we were ready to shoot. We would say, "Do overs" and pick our marble back up for a second chance. I have heard some say they would like to relive their childhood. Well, don't get me wrong, I had a happy childhood, but I don't want to go back there again. We don't get "Do overs" like this in life, where we can go back and correct the mistakes we made, and relive our childhood. For those reading this today who may still be young, listen to what the wise preacher had to say in Ecclesiastes 12:1. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;" (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Seek the Lord early in your life. I am so thankful that Jesus saved me at an early age. There is no way to know where I would be if I had not followed the Lord, but I am sure that I would have had many regrets. For the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and good friends who are reading today, be a good example to the children and remember that they are following in your footsteps. Follow the Lord as close as you can, and remember, we can't rely on "Do overs" to cover over our mistakes.
8. Growing Old
Yesterday we looked at our youthful days in Ecclesiastes 12:1. Today I want to continue in that chapter as it discusses growing old. (I have enclosed a few thoughts between the verses.)
1 "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;" (As we grow older we don't find pleasure in many things that we enjoyed while we were younger.)
2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened,... (I believe this refers to our eyesight going and our world grows dark, possibly even death.)
3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, (our bodies become frail and our knees may shake) and the strong men shall bow themselves, (older people can't carry themselves strong and upright as they once did) and the grinders cease because they are few, (our teeth) and those that look out of the windows be darkened, (our eyes)
The chapter continues with several more aspects of growing old in the next verses. Depending on how long we live, growing old may take up many blocks in the quilt of our lives. So, what are we to do to make the most of life? Here is the advice of King Solomon, who had great wisdom, great wealth, as he looked back over his life. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Don't quit. Keep on living for the Lord. I believe the end is winding down. Let's finish right!
9. "Treasures Of The Snow"
When we had a Fall Festival I tried to plan our games around Bible verses. For one of the games I wrapped the outside of a large box with snow flake wrapping paper and filled it with white package peanuts. Then I buried various prizes, such as small footballs and stuffed animals, into our box of snow. The verse I posted on the box was Job 38:22, "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?..." God asked Job this question as He spoke of His creation and control of the universe. With the snow that fell this weekend, there are many children who feel like they have been given a great treasure. I have seen pictures of children sledding, making snow angels and snowmen, and playing with their parents and pets in the snow. They will store up these memories as treasures of their childhood. These happy times will surely become pieces of the quilt of their life. For those who are not happy with the snow and ice, try to keep warm. Spring will come... that's a promise! "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22)
10. Looking For Spring
Yesterday we ended our devotions on this promise, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22) Even though the snow and ice still surround my house, I am looking forward to spring. Spring is still two months away, but it won't be long until the yellow daffodils will be blooming in the yard and the earth will awaken from its long, cold sleep. Last spring was the first time I planted a garden in many years and I really enjoyed it. Mine was really small compared to the gardens my dad planted when I was growing up. I learned to plant and hoe, then pick and gather, and help mom with the freezing and canning at a young age. Gardening was a large part of my life, from spring till fall, and in my quilt of life I am sure it would cover a large portion of it. Thinking back on the fresh green beans, tomatos, cucumbers, and corn on the cob, makes me anxious for spring. Spring also brings new life. The birds sing in the trees. And little bunnies and chicks tell us Easter is near. Easter is the story of new life. John 11:25 tells us, "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:" Jesus, God's precious Son, gave His life on the cross so that we might have everlasting life through Him. On the first Easter morning, He rose up from the grave, victorious over death, hell and the grave. If we confess our sin and put our trust in Jesus, He will give us life eternal in heaven. If you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, don't wait any longer. Believe on Him and ask Him to save you, and then you can receive this promise, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
11. Summer Skies
If we were making a real quilt out of the pieces of our lives, we could add some bright colors for summer. Summer brings bright yellow sunshine, clear blue skies, sunsets of pink, purple, and red, and all the wonderful colors of the fresh vegetables and fruits. For many the summer blocks would also bring variety to the quilt from the different vacation spots. We live in central North Carolina and we have spent vacations in the mountains to the west, and at the coast to the east. I believe the Lord knows we need these times of rest. We find this in Mark 6:31, "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat." Notice that they went to a "desert place" to rest. Vacation does not have to be an expensive, lavish trip. We have many happy summer memories of day trips to the zoo, little league baseball, and picnics in the park. When we put all these little pieces of our lives together, we can see how we are really blessed!
12. Thankful Days
As I close my eyes to go to sleep each night, I smile. That smile is a thankful smile, as I think of how good God has been to me and how much He has blessed my life. After good days, and days not so good, there is always something to be thankful for because God is always good. We have been talking about the pieces of our lives and how God can take all those years, and weeks, and days, and minutes, and put them together like a beautiful quilt. Now, after the clean winter whites, and the bright colors of spring and summer, we come to autumn, with the orange pumpkins and leaves changing red, yellow, and orange, before turning brown and falling to the ground. The best thing about autumn is Thanksgiving, that special day set aside to give thanks to God. But we don't have to wait that long, we can be thankful every day! Thankful for His love and mercy. Thankful for the saving power of Jesus. Thankful for His amazing grace. Yes, we always have something to be thankful for! "O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalms 107:1)
I chose forgiveness as our topic today because it has made a big difference in my life. First, and foremost, is the forgiveness I received from Christ when I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. God's Word gives us this promise, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) Not only did He give me forgiveness of my sin, but Jesus makes it possible that I can forgive others. Many times in our lives we are hurt by our friends and family, sometimes through misunderstandings, and sometimes through malicious words or behavior. When we hang on to the pain and hurt feelings, it grows inside us and continues to bring us more pain, and often leads to bitterness. I realized long ago that I wanted to be a loving old soul, instead of a bitter cold person, and I prayed for the Lord to help me forgive... and He has. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray He said, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Mathew 6:14-15) Last in our thoughts on forgiveness, is learning to forgive ourselves. This is often harder than forgiving others. When we remember our sinful past, it can bring doubts and depression and cause us to stray away from God. A good verse to remember during these times is Psalms 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." It is hard for us to forget our sin, but after we confess it to God He has promised, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 10:17) Forgiveness has brought love and peace and joy to the pieces of my life, and it is all made possible through the Lord Jesus Christ.
14. Answered Prayers
As I look back over my life I am thankful for answered prayers. So many pieces of my life have fallen into place, and it wasn't luck, but it was God looking over me and answering my prayers. I have come to trust in the verse found in Jeremiah 33:3. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." God has proved this over and over in my life. So many times He not only supplied my need, but my cup continues to flow over with His goodness. I can say with David in Psalms 13:6, "I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." Not only does God provide my needs, but He leads me and guides me when I call on Him. He has promised, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:6) The Lord has brought me through sickness and trials, and helped my faith to grow with each answered prayer. Because the Lord has brought me safe this far, I know He will always be with me. "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalms 27:1) Praise God for answered prayers!
"... we spend our years as a tale that is told." (Psalms 90:9)
It was rewarding to be a stay-at-home mom for five small children, but it wasn't easy. As they grew, I rejoiced with each milestone. All eating at the table. "Yay." All out of diapers. "Yahoo!" All in school. "They're growing up." All out of school. "YES!" All professed to be saved. "Praise the Lord." All married and moved out. "Thank you, Lord, they are in Your hands." I looked over my notes for this last devotional in this series and I had decided to talk about milestones. We all have different milestones in our lives that we like to celebrate. In our young years we like to celebrate birthdays. Then we reach our middle years, and we seem to want to forget our birthdays, but the older we get, each birthday brings its own milestones. Michael's sister, Janis, posted a song on Facebook that Michael, our daughter Susanna, and I sang a few years ago. I listened to the song yesterday and noticed that it went along with my thoughts for today. Here are the words to the song, and I hope it will encourage you no matter where you are in life. The original song was published in 1875, with some hymnals showing James L. Nicholson as author, and others listing the author as unknown. Some also show it as "Better Farther On". The words have changed over the years and here are the words we sing.
1. As we travel through the desert
Storms beset us on our way;
But beyond the River Jordan
Lies a field of endless days.
Farther on still go farther,
Count the milestones one by one.
Jesus will forsake you never.
It is better farther on.
2. Oh my brother are you weary
Of the roughness of the way?
Does your strength begin to fail you
And your vigor to decay?
3. At my grave oh still be singing,
Though you weep for one that’s gone.
Sing it as we once did sing it,
It is better farther on.