Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Wise Man's Words

Happy Birthday, America! Today we will celebrate our independence. People across our nation will barbeque, enjoy their family and friends, and end the day by lighting the sky with fireworks. We celebrate our independence, our freedom, our nation. But the very things we celebrate today are some of the things that also separate us at times. Our independence. Our freedom. Our government. The past few weeks have been filled with controversy in our country to say the very least. Governmental decisions regarding gay marriage, confederate flags, posting of the ten commandments have created a tsunami of comments on the social media shorelines. One man's freedom and independence imposes on another's. It would seem our government is failing and our nation if filling with hate. As I have tried to keep my head above the flood of responses and opinions, I have searched for direction to safety. I came across the words of a very wise man. They were written long ago in a language that might not seem relevant to all readers of this day and age. I decided see how they might sound if they were translated into modern language. Would they still have meaning today for our struggling nation? You decide.

"The struggles we have with one another over events we disagree on seems proof to me that there is a lot lacking in human understanding. We each desire to live in a country where there is political wisdom and freedom. We look on the news and see countries all around us who have different forms of government that have failed and are failing. We find no others that have guiding systems suitable to our circumstances, yet we complain about the functioning of our own government. In this situation, searching in the dark for political truth and a strong government, how has it happened that we have not once thought of humbly praying to God to guide our understandings? Do you remember 9-11, when we were a nation with a heightened sense of vulnerability? We had churches packed with people praying for divine protection. Strangers who disagreed on race, religion, sexual orientation all came together and our prayers were heard. They were graciously answered and our nation, for a brief moment, seemed stronger in our weakness. All of us who engaged in that time can testify to the power of a God who is in our favor. Our country if full of examples of God's answers to prayer. Because of his past blessings on our people, we live in a place where we can today ask for his guidance for our nation. Our forefathers assured us of that religious freedom. Have we forgotten the God on whom this nation was built? Have we ignored that powerful friend? The longer I live, the more evidence I can see of this truth --- that God cares about the concerns of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his attention, then how is it possible that a nation can stay strong without his aid? The bible is clear that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain." I believe this; and I also believe that without his blessing and help, we shall fail as a country just like the great empires before us. We will be divided by our personal interests and agendas; we will be unable to accomplish things and eventually America will go down in the history books as a failed country, victim of that which has ruined so many others. We give way to human wisdom which will eventually lead to war and conquest.
On this 4th of July, I am begging you, my brothers and sisters, to seek the heavenly father's blessings. Start your days in prayer for our country. Pray for our government leaders as they make decisions about our country. Do not forget the guidance of the one who gives us strength."

It still seems like sage advice to me. How about you? The original words were pinned by Benjamin Franklin in 1787. It was written during the Constitutional Convention when they had seemed to reach a deadlock on our government. Mr. Franklin seemed to recognize that without divine intervention our country would fail. There were people then, as their are people now, who believe there is no need for prayer or God. I would suggest that a nation without God truly is a nation without a prayer.

As you celebrate Independence day, don't forget to pray to the father of heavenly lights. Ask God to once again bless our nation. Remember the days after 9-11 when we were a united nation; a nation not separated by hate and political viewpoints. My constant prayer in my own life is that I don't have to be in a crisis like cancer to be close to God. I pray the same for our country. I pray we we will gladly, willingly, eagerly take a knee rather than falling to them in fear and despair.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

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The original Benjamin Franklin speech:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In the Silence

There are moments in life that take your breath away. Moments when all you hear is the pounding of your heart, the drawing of your breath. In those moments there are no words to speak, no way to communicate the aching of your soul. You search for answers. You look for words of comfort. You seek explanations and solutions, but sometimes there is just silence. Painfully loud, silence.

Most of us are not comfortable in the silence. We frantically seek to fill it. Words, motion, busyness. Surely there is something we can do. We wrestle to escape it. We struggle to dissolve it. Somehow we must break it. We cannot stand the silence.

But it is in the silence that we begin to hear the whisper. We hear the voice that holds our hope for tomorrow. We hear the only sound in the whole wide world that can truly comfort our soul. We become acutely aware of the one that truly knows the depth of our pain. When we do not have the words, he "himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26).  We hear the one "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4).  We find relief in one who promises, "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5)In the silence we find God. Waiting. We have busily rushed past him the the noisiness of daily life. We did not notice him quietly waiting to be with us. Watching us. Loving us. Wishing he could talk with us. Yet there he is, in the silence. Whispering, ""Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

God is the silence.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bars on Windows

I drove past a beautiful home recently. The yard was neatly mowed and edged, the bushes crisply pruned. Flowers of many colors filled the beds and lined the walkway. The paint on the eaves was fresh and bright. By all accounts it was a lovely home. The owners obviously cared for it and kept it tidy. As I took a second look, I noticed another detail. Each of the sparkling clean windows were covered with intricate bars; bars designed to protect whatever was inside. The bars probably made the homeowners feel safe and secure at night knowing that they, and all their possessions, were protected from the outside world. To penetrate and reach them would be nearly impossible. What sweet rest they must get at night.

But then I began to think how those same bars create a prison. How do you get out in case of a fire? How do firefighters get in? If for some reason you need to evacuate your home, how do you flee when the doors and windows are covered with bars? And while the bars may protect from burglars and bad guys, they cannot protect from some of life's other intruders. They serve as no protection from tornado or flood. They do not protect from fire and smoke. They bring the illusion of protecting from fear, but it is only an illusion. In all reality there is still much danger.

I began to think about how we like to do that. We like to put up bars and build walls to protect our hearts. We like to believe that we can block out harm and trouble; to feel as though we have some power to keep ourselves from getting hurt. But each wall we build, each bar we put in place, is an illusion of protection. The walls and the bars do not keep danger out; they lock us in. They separate us from others. They isolate us. They prevent others from reaching us when the fires of life are raging. We think that they are keeping us from dangerous people who mean us harm, and maybe sometimes they do, but they also build prisons of loneliness. Places that others cannot reach us when our lives are burning around us. In the meantime, they do not protect us from the strong winds of trial or the flood waters of pain.

Do you have bars on your heart and walls around your life? The bars that keep others out may become the prison that keeps you in. Tear them down. Life is not safe, with or without the walls. There are some bad people and situations that may harm you. But prisons of loneliness keep you from being helped by the "firefighters" of life--the people who would love to reach out to you and love you. And God, who loves you even more, makes promises to encourage us to trust him and not our own protective devices.  John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  Your bars will not protect you from trouble, but there is peace that God take care of you through the troubles--he has overcome the world. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  God has plans for you and they are for good, but you cannot enjoy all the beauty from behind high walls.

My prayer for you is that you do not let the illusion of safety become your prison. I pray you will take down the bars and tear down the walls. Life is beautiful beyond them.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Life Is Like a Cup of Coffee...

I rushed out the door, coffee in hand, trying to beat the traffic and make it to work. I don't know about you, but mornings in our house can be a little frantic. Papers to sign, breakfast to grab, last minute school needs, and a bad hair day can have my heart pounding by the time I reach my car. I drove carefully down the road, okay, let's be honest, I flew down the road glancing down at my coffee just as I approached the railroad tracks. Having spilled my coffee many times in this very situation I grabbed my cup to cushion the impact. Hand in the air, I went over the tracks. The coffee sloshed, it came dangerously close to spilling over, but being held in my hand diverted the disaster. Onward, ho!

As I continued my commute, the adrenalin from the morning settled and the lesson of the sloshing coffee began to occur to me. I realized that I am like that cup of coffee, bouncing through life in a vehicle that hits bumps, faces sharp turns, and sometimes comes to abrupt stops. With nothing to help absorb those shocks, I become a mess. Pain, worry, anger, and frustration, spill over and have the potential to damage the things around me. It is only when I place my life firmly in the hand of my Father that I am able to take the bumps.  Isaiah 64:8 says, "But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand."  I thought about the ceramic mug in my hand. It was made of clay. Formed by the hand of a potter and fired in a kiln to perfection. God formed me. I am the work of his hand. How appropriate that he would continue to hold me to absorb the impact of life's daily hazards. Being in his hand does not mean I don't hit obstacles, but it does mean I am protected from life spilling over out of control. I love the idea of my life being held high in his hand as he serves as a shock absorber for life's great ups and downs.

That may have been one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring Forward

It is no secret, tomorrow is one of my favorite times of the year!!! I LOVE Daylight Saving Time!!! Losing an hour of sleep to gain back all that sunshine at the end of the day is worth a million dollars to me! I love having a few hours of sunlight at the end of the day!!!! It rejuvenates me, empowers me, satisfies my soul!! (Okay, I'm will try not to use so many exclamation marks through the rest of this post, but man I love my sunshine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Now I know there is an opposing camp. Some really hate the change. I cannot understand why-- what's the problem with losing one hour when you get so much back in return? So I did a little research and here is what I learned. According to Dr. Alfred Lewy of the Oregon Health and Science University's Sleep and Mood Disorder Laboratory, the new light-dark cycle works against the body clock. We all have a circadian rhythm, our sleep/wake cycle. It is based on 24 hour rhythms and is adjusted based on light.  When our bodies absorb light in the morning it resets our clock and we stay in synch. When the sun comes up later it throws our bodies off kilter for a few days until our bodies adjust. Don't worry haters, your body will adjust and you will be so happy for those long summer evenings!! Getting into the light for a few days helps get you back on track.

I got to thinking about that on a grander scale. You know me, I figure there is a life lesson in everything. I got to thinking about the Heart. It was created to love The Light. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 18:12. The grand design was that we would let The Light set our life rhythms, that He would keep our hearts in synch. But darkness entered the world in the form of sin. Our spiritual bodies were thrown of kilter. The world became a grumpy place. The night became long and the Light now sometimes seems to be in short supply. Don't you feel it when you watch the news? It makes you want to stay in bed and hide your head under the covers. Even good people people, people who love The Light, are tempted by the darkness. We need some Daylight Saving Time people! Just as getting into the light resets our physical body clock, getting into The Light resets our spiritual body clock. Feeling gloomy because of the darkness? Get into The Light. Overwhelmed and out-of-synch? Get into The Light.
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." 1 John 1:5

Time to Spring Forward, friends!!! 

"You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness."
1 Thessalonians 5:5.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Power in Surrender

"Surrender - to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc. because you know you will not win or succeed." (Meriam Dictionary) UGH!! That last part made me shiver. I am a competitive, stubborn girl. Tell me I can't, I'll show you I can. My motto is, "I will find a way or make one." It has been my greatest strength and it has been my greatest weakness. How does one who hates losing surrender? That's when it all became clear. I can surrender because doing so ensures victory, not loss.

Matthew 16:24-27, "Whoever loses his life will find it" -- WInning! Psalm 37:7-9 "Surrender yourself to the Lord...those that wait with hope for the Lord will inherit the land." Can it get any better? I only stand to lose that which I am afraid to let go. Sometimes life is a great game of opposite day.

My life echoes with examples of God stepping in when I stop fighting, hiding and resisting; times when I struggle so hard to make things work and all I  do is tangle things up more. And yet when I let go, God  steps in and easily undoes my knots. I want him to undo my knots every day.

Some of you, like me, may struggle with the idea of surrender. It doesn't feel safe. It feels like weakness. I will be the first to tell you not to give up your power and control to people or things. Don't surrender to defeat. Never let another person control your thoughts and actions. The surrender we are considering is not one of becoming a doormat. Surrendering your thoughts and actions to another person is unwise, but God is not just the boy next door. He is the creator, the beginning and the end. He knew you before you were born. He knows your likes, dislikes, passions and desires. He knows what you were made to do and be and if you let him, he will help you do more than you ever imagined. Look back at the verses from Psalm 37."Surrender yourself to the Lord...those that wait with hope for the Lord will inherit the land." That, my friends, is a sweet surrender.

Last week I wrote about how surrender was my word of the year. I left out an interesting part of the story. Over the Christmas holidays I searched for my word. I looked at all the pieces of my life. I am a very blessed girl. God has brought me through so much and each day continues to amaze me, but there are parts and pieces of my life that bring me stress and worry. As I looked at those parts and questioned how I could improve them (perfect example of my "find a way or make one" mentality) I realized that the areas that bring "knots" to my neck and shoulders are the areas that I struggle most to control. The word surrender began to roll around in my mind. I began to doodle it as I thought about it. I started to google it. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I began to recognize the power of surrender. I chose it as my word. As I went to church the first Sunday of the New Year low and behold the theme was surrender. Imagine that. Sometimes God just tickles me. I surrender.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

White Flags

Each year I search for a word or message that I really want to focus on. It represents an area of my life that I wish to improve. My word for this year is surrender. Not in a "surrender in defeat" kind of way, but in a letting go for victory kind of way. That is going to be a tough one! "Hi, I'm Anna and I'm a control freak". I don't give up. My personality likes to have a firm grasp on the  pieces of my life. I like owning my work, my plans, my family, my health, my finances, my future... you get the point. In that lies a major source of my stress. That which drives me is also that which can destroy me. In dealing with "The Nuisance" I have become fully aware that I cannot control much in life and yet there is a part of me that fiercely continues to try. That is the reason for my word surrender. In the struggle for control I actually have a negative impact on the things I hold most dear. Need for control brings worry, doubt and fear. I have no time for that. There is no room for that in a joy filled life. So here is one of my first writings about surrender.

White Flags

Since 25 A.D. the white flag has been waved as a sign of surrender. It sends an international message of truce or ceasefire. The negotiator that carries the white flag sends a firm message that they are unarmed and either wish to surrender or communicate. The bearer of the flag is under protection. They cannot be attacked or fired upon according to the rules of war. The white flag ultimately serves as a sign of a desire for peace.
Other flags by comparison are covered with markings to represent nations or people. We use them to mark territory, show pride, promote things. We wave them in victory. We use them to taunt opponents. They signify anything but surrender. They represent pride and ownership. Images flash through my mind of the flag on the moon, the famous image of the raising the flag in Iwo Jima, the flag that first responders raised over Ground Zero. I picture flags at the ceremonies of the Olympics, at ballgames, in parades. People are willing to compete for, even die for, the colors of their flags. No surrender.

My life is often marked by a vibrant colored flag waving fiercely over a life of pride and ownership. It is splashed with all the colors that represent things I hold dear -- my family, my friends, my job, my home, my health, my finances and on and on. And there, down in the corner, do you see it? A teeny-tiny patch of white - a small part of me that I have surrendered. But there is no protection under my flag. No peace. The struggle for control of the things represented on my flag leads to a war of worry, a battle of stress. Communication and truce do not take place under my flag. I want peace. So here I am. I am trading in my tie-dyed flag of control for a white one. I am going to surrender my flag and wave one white as snow. Even as I type that phrase, my body bristles a little. Surrender goes against my nature, but this is what I know. In battle when one surrenders, they are giving over authority to one who is an enemy. Someone they don't like, don't trust, don't agree with, will now hold control. That is not the case in my fight. The one that I surrender to has proven time and again that he loves me. He has shown me that I can put my full trust in him. He has taken the most terrible experiences that life can throw at me and shown me joy, hope and peace. He has proven his word to be true time and again. In the moments that I had no control, he showed me not to worry because he did. This surrender is not in defeat, it is in victory. So I pick up my white flag. I surrender my marriage, my children, my health, my home, my job, my finances, my everything to the giver of peace. I call for a ceasefire of worry and stress and under the protection of this white flag, washed in the blood of the lamb, I find joy and peace.

What about your flag? Want to trade it for a white one? Come on, you know you want to! The promise is sweet my friend! Peace! Let's have a white flag parade!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

HALT the Herald Angels Sing... Or something like that?

By Anna Masten Jackson

"HALT" the herald angels sing,
"You're about to miss the King.
While you have been running wild,
You just almost missed the child.
He can't be found in gifts and lights,
He's not in the Christmas sights.
He is waiting, oh so still,
He's the whisper that you feel."
"HALT", the herald angels sing,
"Stop and praise the King of Kings."

Last night I sat in the glow of Christmas lights thinking, "No, no, no! Don't let it be over so soon!" I always feel like that on Christmas Eve. It makes me sad that the season is drawing to a close--- especially when I haven't taken time to enjoy the precious moments. As I sat listening to carols, my mind begin to hear the words to the poem above. I think it is the message the angels would bring to the shepherds of this day and age.  We rush in the spirit of the season and end up missing the whole thing. In an effort to make it all perfect we squeeze the spirit right out of it. I heard a quote that my sisters would probably say would be a perfect bumper sticker for me. It read, "The only thing that lets you down is your expectations." Yep, I am the president of that club (but I am working on it).  I build it all up in my mind and then am frustrated when it isn't just as I imagined. Lucky for me I slowed long enough to hear the angels last night (okay, they were in my head, but the message was clear--don't judge.) "HALT!"

I don't want to miss the King. I want to gaze on the sweet, chubby cheeks of my Savior. I want to imagine what his life as a child was. I want to ponder what it felt like for Mary to hold and rock him. I want to feel the pride God felt as he looked down on his son. I want to bring my proverbial gold, frankincense, and myrrh and lay it at his feet. I want to take my place beside the shepherds and marvel at the miracle of Christmas.

I didn't miss it. I have time. Sing with me:

                                                    Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
by Charles Wesley

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankfulness Isn't A Feeling

This morning I woke up. I stretched in my warm, comfy bed; looked a the bright sun streaming through my window; heard the steady breathing of my prince charming beside me; thought of the day ahead with my family and I felt thankful. Some days I just feel so grateful and blessed inside that I have to update my status just to calm myself down. "Feeling blessed!", "Feeling grateful!", "Feeling thankful"(insert emoji). But you know what, thankful isn't a feeling. Thankful is a choice.

There are times in our lives when things are going great. The job is good; the kids are well; the hubby is fine; the house isn't falling down; the bills are paid; there is food in the pantry and gas in the car; and yet, in spite of all that, we don't stop to be thankful. We are too wrapped us in the events of the day to experience a feeling a gratitude. We are busy checking off our to-do list and taxiing people to their various events. Busy trumps grateful. Thankful isn't a feeling. Thankful is a choice. Thankful means that we intentionally stop everyday and consider all of the blessings of the day, the big and the small, and choose to be thankful.

Then there are those darker days in life. The days the house floods; the doctor delivers bad news; the kids are fighting; there isn't enough money to make ends meet; the world news is frightening, and things just seem to be going wrong all around. On those days, maybe more than any others, thankful isn't a feeling; thankful is a choice. It is hard to feel thankful when things seem so hard, but I have found that thankfulness is even more important on those days. In all my struggles, I have learned that thankfulness is the path that leads out of darkness. As soon as you begin look for the blessings around you, the darkness fades a little. When you choose to be thankful, your focus shifts and the burden gets a little lighter. You may not FEEL thankful, but when you choose to BE thankful you find strength for the trial. Choose to be thankful!

I don't know where you are today. Maybe life is great today, maybe it is a struggle. Wherever you are in the journey of life, I pray that you will choose to be thankful! Let's not just be thankful on national holidays, but take time every day to choose thankfulness. Even on the bad days, God is good.

Give thanks in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, November 7, 2014

Contract Renewed

Contract Renewed!! Isn't it great news when you know that you have received a contract renewal? Your work is good and there is more to do so your boss renews your contract ensuring you of a job, pay checks for the future, provision for your family. You have passed the evaluation and your work will go on. Whew!

Today my "contract was renewed"!!!! My CT scans show that God has done a great work! My report includes words such as " unremarkable", "no evidence of recurrence", "no new drops"--- WOOOHOOOOO!!!!!! God's work has been miraculous and He has more for me to do!!! My contract has been extended for another six months! Six months that I don't have to worry about The Nuisance; six months to live As If.

It seems so weird to think of life in terms of contract renewal, but isn't that how it is? Each day is a new start, a chance to keep working on the important projects in our lives. It is a chance to do things better than the day before, accomplish things we have yet to accomplish, and make a difference in this world. I am just downright giddy at the thought that my contract is renewed! I have another chance to be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better leader, and most of all a better servant to God who has done so much for me.

You know, your contract was renewed today! You have another opportunity to live, love, and laugh! Don't waste a moment! We have a lot of work to do!!

Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement! We are eternally grateful!! God is good!!