Sing Praises for God 2013 and 2014

The psalmist wrote, “It is good to give thanks to the lord, to sing praises to the Most High.  It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the ten-stringed harp and the melody of the lyre.” Psalm 92:1-3 NLT

Today many are preparing for new year’s eve celebrations.  In just a few short hours 2013 will be history.  The precious gift of time is cause for celebration as well as an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord for all He did in 2013.  The psalmist encouraged us to sing praises to God.  For it was by His Grace and Mercy we celebrate life and His gifts to us.

During this holiday season, my husband and I have had so many reminders in the form of phone calls, cards, texts, FB, visits with family and friends and gifts. These were priceless drops of love from heaven.  They felt like rays of love coming from the throne of Grace.  God was saying I heard your prayers, I know your hearts and thank you.  This time has been glorious, and I am so grateful.

Now, as we prepare for tonight’s watch night service where songs of praise and thanksgiving will be heard, we extend to you and yours blessings for the new year.  Sing farewell to 2013. Sing praises to God and welcome to 2014.

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Plant Good Seeds

Yesterday, we received news one of our dear friends’ cancer had returned.  As she related the information about the treatment plan, there was an undeniable peace within her voice.  How grateful she was for the excellent clinicians, support network, and medical facilities.  She blessed God for his goodness, grace and for allowing her to survived two previous bouts.   Her confidence in His goodness was evident.  Our conversation was one of joy and hope from a beautiful woman who knows and loves the Lord.

Hosea 10:12, “I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love.  Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.”

Our friend planted good seeds for years.  We’ve witnessed her faithfulness, compassion, joy and the harvest of love.  I have no doubt God will continue to reward this remarkable woman.

The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn , arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19 a terrible tempest a driving rainstorm – hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.  The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,”she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?”  The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials ‘EBG’ were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria . The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten “The Tablecloth”. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria.  When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her
husband or her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home. That
was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving. The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike? He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again in all the 35 years between. The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
Who says God does work in mysterious ways. His love is always with you. His promises are true, and when we give Him all our cares we know He will see us through.
So when the road you’re traveling seems difficult at best, just remember to say a prayer and God will do the rest.

The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth“; it was written by the Rev. Howard C. Schade, pastor of the First Reformed Church in Nyack, New York; it was published in the December 1954 issue of Reader’s Digest; and it was anthologized in Alice Gray’s Christmas Stories for the Heart in 1998.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/glurge/tablecloth.asp#zBy8L0sUV3mFcRtI.99.

A Peculiar People

The King James Version of Deuteronomy 26:18 translates God’s people as “peculiar.” Peculiar means unusual, strange, or unconventional, and also
unique: belonging exclusively to, or identified distinctly with somebody or something. The Lord declared His sons and daughters as peculiar, unique, exclusive, belonging to Him – His treasured possession. Being different separates us from the vanities of life,and places believers in a category that oftentimes defies explanation. That distinctiveness is seen in the way we love, fight, serve, work, live, communicate, and yes, even suffer because of God’s glory.
Being peculiar is challenging at times. There are distractions, traps, and competing demands tugging for our time and attention. However, the Lord provided the only way to minimize, and even defeat those forces trying to trick us into forgetting our “pecularity.” Being different is not a bad thing, nor is it something to shake off like dust. It is our badge, label, our divine clothing God gave us. When we are fully arrayed with His glory we show the world just how wonderful it is to be a peculiar possession of God.

A Peculiar People

Awakening

On your way to church services?  I sincerely hope you are.  However, we’re trapped at home due to the weather.  But it doesn’t matter because God’s love and grace is always present.  And even before we received the weather alert I had spent time worshipping and praising God.  During my meditation, I reflected on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and thanked God for our youngest grandson’s 4th birthday this past week.  I also paused to remember those killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th), as well as praised God for yesterday’s baptismal service.

Everyday you and I experience celebrations, and challenges; moments of joy, and excitement, as well as profound sadness.   And when it happens, if we are fully awake and aware, our spirits glimpse into the divine, which is truly remarkable and humbling.

At the end of meditation, I stumbled across a poem from Gordon Parks’ distinguished photographer, poet, author, filmmaker and composer from his book Glimpses Toward Infinity.  It is entitled “Awakening.”

My bed hunched under me like a crooked water bird, and I was tasting a silence flavored with salt.
After years of ripening, the need for existence was rolling downward. Shaped like a frowning sword, doubt rocketed in, slashed, then racked me with a question that could only unbare itself with a thousand slippery answers: Why, after wearing yourself out brawling under so many punishing sins, have you left too much undone?  It was half past autumn and time was fluttering off like the petals of a dying rose.  I lay there for another century, a hostage to my own query – Just how much was too much?
Those bloodthirsty hours that had assaulted me along the way had seemed natural enough.  The jagged bites of hunger, the acrid smoke of bigotry, the shiftless dreams all came as they invariably come, one after the other – in their chosen armor.
And I, with my skinny arsenal, had tried to defend my survival.  My own struggle no longer recognized me. I lay there in the past, finished, a false martyr drowning in a sea of things lost.  Unexpectedly, a knock came at my door.
Jolted, I sprang from a dizzying nightmare. Through a haze of red cobwebs fragrant light was invading my room. It was dawn – up early, washing the land, sprinkling my disgruntled house with a scent of honey once more.
Above my bed, swimming mornings’ elaborate air, was the answer my chimera held as unanswerable.  Even the walls were startled when, with the clarity of a star, it spoke:

“You were called into existence to lend a hand to all that is growing as you grew.  Go out and do what you have to do.  Idleness lives too close to death.” 

Dear saints, we were called to do the bidding of our Lord and Savior.  To show the world how to “be” and “do.”  Perhaps like me you have gotten off-course and needed a gentle reminder to finish the work.   As Pastor Steven Furtick recently said, “There is strength in your season.”  So put on the whole armor of God and complete the work because “nothing is impossible with God.”  He will supply all your needs according to His riches in heaven.  So, as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, rejoice in the awakening.  Let us do all for the glory of God, so we can hear our Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Rejoice, today is our awakening.

God bless you.

Nelson Mandela

The news broke that Nelson Mandela, a man of dignity, courage, reconciliation and hope died at the age of 95.  As the world mourns his passing, it is also celebrating his legacy – one of hope.

I like this quote from Emily Dickerson, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.”

Nelson Mandela was a symbol of hope, a treasured hope for those caught in the web of despair and injustice.  He never gave up.   2 Corinthians 4: 6-8 (context) states, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”  President Mandela was, and will be for sometime to come, a treasured symbol of hope.

His life reminds us we too can demonstrate the amazing power God stored within us to give hope and light to a dying world.

RIP Nelson Mandela, and thank you.

Prayer of Saint Francis

During these 22 days of praise, let this beautiful prayer of Saint Francis remind us of our holy calling.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Blessings.