At this season of the year, do not be afraid

“The angel of the Lord said to her, “Do not be afraid.” Luke 1:30

Do you mark certain passages in your Bible? Can you highlight on your phone Bible app? I don’t know.  I haven’t really read the Bible on my phone, even though I downloaded an app a few weeks ago so I could better relate to my younger mom friends!  I’m just used to my “real” Bible! The one I can hold in my lap and underline with a real pen!

underlined Bible

Lately I’ve been underlining the phrase that the angels kept saying right off the bat to the one they were sent to give a Godly message-“Do not be afraid.”

God sent the angel Gabriel to give Mary a very important, life-changing message and after he greeted her, he said, “Do not be afraid.” Mary was greatly troubled by this being suddenly appearing and talking directly to her. Troubled? I’d be so knotted up in fear I wouldn’t be able to respond. And the angel dares to tell her not to be afraid?

An angel appeared to Joseph, whom Mary was betrothed to be married, in a dream and the first words out of the angel’s mouth were, “Do not be afraid…..”

The angels in the heavens over the shepherds the night Mary had her miraculous baby named Jesus were also told not to be afraid.

Something totally unexpected happens in the life of these people and they are told not to be afraid. Right. Of course they were afraid. Startled. Terrified. Perfectly human response!

But I’m thinking that the reason for the admonition to be unafraid is that once their adrenaline died back down to normal so they could think, they were encouraged to consider the message. Yes, it was clearly unorthodox. Mary was told she was going to have a baby but not from Joseph and not from any other man.  Joseph was to take Mary, knowing she was pregnant but not by him but by a Holy Spirit, whatever that was. The shepherds were told to go worship the Messiah who was just born as a baby in a feed trough there in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary had to rely on what they knew from their Jewish teaching that Jehovah was indeed their God and they were to trust in Him and how He was moving.

Later, when Jesus gave final instructions to His disciples on the night of the Passover meal, He told them “when I go away the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Then He said to them,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:25-27

peace I give to you

This passage is not only underlined but held close to my heart. I have to return to this passage over and over because the enemy likes to tell me otherwise.

To so many of us, including me, this seems to be the season of “get it all done as soon as you can while still maintaining some semblance of normalcy in the home;” or,  the season of “I must do something tangible for everyone I know right now so they’ll think nice of me and because this is what we do at this time of year only.”

Somewhere along the way, the “Should-a finger” begins to wag. You know, that ugly nagging old finger; the enemy uses the “should-a finger” when we crash in to bed at the end of a very busy day and the “should-a finger” begins to accuse. You should-a done it this way-the way you saw it done on Pintrest or the way your friend does it- her decorating, her baking, her outdoor decorations, and those lovely Christmas cards of all the family dressed exactly alike and smiling. How DID they get that baby to smile on cue???

The world, including a whole lot of well-meaning Believers, gets caught up in all the hoop-la. They just have to decorate, send out cards, bake, all while carrying on the normal routine of their lives. When you enter their inner world, their bedroom, their closet, their kitchen, their heart, you’ll see cracks and crevices of not-put-togetherness. Trust me.

And that’s when I have to run to my treasure trove of Scripture such as the one in Isaiah 26:3.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Thee, because they trust in Thee.”

Perfect peace. His peace. That peace He promised that would not look like the world.

Yes, I have to make the conscious decision to move away from the accuser and in to the Truth of what Jesus promised. To the Word. And truly, I’m put at ease when I dwell on Jesus. That’s what He wants us to do! He is not a religion! He is not a plastic or ceramic baby doll in a manger at this busy season. He’s real and wants us to trust in the promise of His peace. So I do. And experience the reality of His peace.

So what does leaning in to the perfect peace of Jesus look like?

On Wednesday evening a couple of moms and their children came over for chili and cornbread. I had stressed over having enough for whoever came, thinking surely more were coming. They just had not taken the time to let me know. But once the moms came, in my spirit I gave the evening entirely over to the Lord. What He had in mind was exactly what transpired. Time with a couple of moms who needed to pour out their heart; and time to pray. No frills, gifts, or fanfare.

Listen. All the extra giving and card giving and crafts and baking are not bad in or of themselves. But all this can be distracting us from focusing on who Jesus is and why He came. Distractions are definitely one of the enemy’s greatest tricks.  The enemy also delights in posing as the “should-a finger” causing in us that over wrought feeling of not accomplishing all that should be done at this season.

“Don’t be afraid to simplify. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and……be thankful” Colossians 3:15.

Thankful for the reason we go crazy at this time of year. Take a few minutes each day and say, “Lord, I lean in to Your peace today. I choose to rely on You this day. Help me to rest in You no matter what. Thank you, Lord!” Then, you’ll be a blessing to those around you as you experience His peace. It will come over you in a beautiful profound way. I guarantee it.

Do not be afraid to lean in to the Father this year.

Do not be afraid to let go of those things that really aren’t important.

Do not be afraid to say no. Not this year.

Do not be afraid to give thanks; out loud; multiple times a day!

Do not be afraid to give out smiles and hugs and love to others.

Do not be afraid to receive. Do not be afraid to give.

To Him be the glory. Amen.

 

His peace is so real!

“My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give to you”…John 14:27 NASB
True Life: 
As usual, God showed up last night to be right with our single moms at our weekly Moms@Midweek gathering! He wrapped Himself up around us and made Himself known. He’s invited, you know. We mentor moms are faithful to ask the Lord to show up each week. We ask Him to be with our single moms during the week, but to especially be there right with us all that night. Because you see, it’s not about us mentoring moms doing anything special. It’s about Him. He does the work. We just get to watch Him work.
Come to think of it, He would like to be invited to participate in each of your days from the very beginning! So, while you’re getting ready for your day, getting your children off to school, you off to work, your errands, your own school, He would love to meet with you for a moment.
When one of my favorite broken evangelists converted from a Franciscan priest, Brennan Manning, prays he puts a chair before him. And he invites Jesus to sit in the chair. And then he talks to the Lord Jesus more easily, knowing He’s listening.
Lately, I’ve been camping on Jesus’ promise that He’ll bring peace to my dailyness.
True Word:
So, here’s the word for today – “My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27.
And a wonderful cross reference is “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts……..and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15.
Let the peace rule – rein – have dominance over – captivate your heart. Peace.  Calm. Rest. In Him.  Takes a bit of trust. Okay. A lot of trust. That the unseen Lord of the Universe is in you and wants to give you His peace? Well, I’ve experienced it. It’s real.
True Walk with Him:
Today. As you go about your busy day, may you take a moment here and there to stop and breathe and think about Jesus’ peace ruling and reigning in your life – your mind – your soul – your heart. He has you! Let Him do what He does best. Love on you!

Better Plans

You’ve all seen the ads – weight loss, Jazzercise, face lifts, ads for all manner of self improvement. And yet, we have all those cookies from the cookie exchange gathering in the freezer yelling our name through the door! Too cold to go walking and too broke for a face lift! Whine. Whine, as I plop on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of frozen cookies.

Sometimes I absolutely hate January and all the hype of new year’s resolutions because when I bend to the pressure, I make half-baked, not too thought-out resolutions to ….lose five pounds….exercise more….blah, blah, blah! Am I serious? In no time I’m digging into the cookies in the freezer!

This year, I made a few decisions that I plan to keep. In sharing them here, I’m hoping that by putting them in to writing, I’ll take my commitments seriously. So, here they are:

I plan to think more. In this pursuit, I’ve taken up jigsaw puzzles. I’m addicted! While working on the last three hundred piece brightly colored puzzle, I told myself over and over, “think, Dianne. Consider the shape, the color, the lines. Does that piece really fit there??”img_20161111_062022

In continuing the plan to think more, I’ve begun memorizing scripture….again. Sadly, it’s been well over thirty years since I’ve made a huge effort to memorize a segment of scripture. In October I was handed the book The Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene H. Peterson which takes the short Psalms 120-134, the Songs of Ascents, to discuss growing in Christ through discipleship. I’ve come to realize that in memorizing Psalm 120 I had to imagine what David, the writer, was trying to say. I wrote out the Psalm then marked up the prepositional phrases, the verbs, the nouns, the repeated words, and then took Peterson’s analysis of the Psalm and it has become easier to think through and say without looking at it! Why these particular Psalms? They are short. I am enjoying studying them through the eyes of Peterson, and it’s a start back to memorizing a section of verse.

I am also thinking more through my writing. I’m paying attention to the folks who critique my pieces in our little once-a-month writing class, as well as the sage advice found in The Christian Writers Market Guide by Jerry Jenkins.

I plan to listen more than talk.  The other day I took my precious fragile neighbor on our weekly shopping visit to Wal-Mart, as she loves to just get out of the house! Yes, her sweet husband does take her out, but, she says, he wants to go in, get what they need and leave. It didn’t take long to realize that as we walked slowly up the aisle of the yarn and knitting needles where she would always zero in on the variegated skein of yarn, she would then stop to tell me what was going on in her sister’s life or her niece’s life. Obviously  she was craving some girl time! We would usually be gone for about an hour. I have grown to cherish this time with her.shopping-with-lady

And then there’s my son. Usually people grow very uncomfortable when silence happens over the phone. Did the other person hang up? Oh, wait. You called. My younger son loves to call to say hello. What I have come to understand is that he is thinking when the dead air occurs. He’s always had something good to say, but I am usually so busy,  have so much on my mind, and want to move on, that when he does say something it’s important and  I know that I need to shut my mouth, quiet my heart, and listen to my son. He wants to be heard. And silence is meaningful communication, too. So I let him think. And I listen.

Finally, I plan to be grateful. Someone suggested we write down something good that happened each day on a little post-it note and put it in a jar. The following Thanksgiving Day we open the jar and read all the good things that happened the past year. Already this year my jar has quite a few post-it notes in it! I’m also looking for opportunities to show gratitude; to the waitress, to the sweet lady who works on my stinky feet, to the lawn care guys! Gracias! Out loud and often. All year!

Do you have better plans? Hope these ideas help and now…….

To Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

 

 

 

What is my response?

praying woman with BibleShe came in  and sat down at the nearly busy restaurant with the two of us already there. As usual, the conversation went around the table, asking about our twenty-something sons and daughters. All were well, doing the best they could. One in the military, another bar tending in Corpus, another in a recovery house trying to find a job. Any job. So on and so forth. Then, subtle as a whisper, the red flags were hurled in our faces, as she said things like, “I told my husband that it felt good to hear the bus drivers turn their head and look twice at me.” And, “He didn’t even respond. He doesn’t even care.” Whine.

I caught it, but didn’t do anything but pray at the time. Months went by. Pretty soon, it was clear, the marriage was suffering. My other girlfriend and her husband were coming over for Bar-B-Que. We invited the two of them. “No, Henry (not his real name) can’t come. I don’t think we’re coming tonight. Sorry.” Hung up. Whoa. What was going on? By the way, we never heard from Henry. And shamefully, neither of the husbands bothered to call him to check to see if he was even aware of the conversation.

Another time the three of us girlfriends gathered together with her (M) is all I can say right now, she pretty much told us she and her husband were living as brother and sister. There wasn’t any intimacy. Not any more. Not for a very long time. We prayed together. We asked her if she was getting counseling. Not really. Slippery slope got slipperier. Another couple of months later I got an email from her husband. Blinded as a deer in the headlights, he was sending me a letter that she and the “Fox” had penned for their spouses! We would rather be “happy” than married to our current spouses, it said.  Hope you are happy for us. Bam. It was done. Right out in the open. We don’t care, the letter was saying, if we do break up two marriages for the sake of our personal happiness. We are doing it. I couldn’t believe it. I cried. I texted her. Do you realize what you’re doing. Yes, she eventually said, but counseling is too late.

Several months went by. She had not seen us. One of our friends was not willing to be with her if she was living with the man. I understood but hurt for her. I would send her texts asking her to get her relationship back to the Lord. Long periods of time would pass before she would respond, if at all. Thank you for thinking of me, she would say. I prayed. I sought counsel. There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, one counselor told me. Apparently, I had not told him she was LIVING with the fox.

Just a few days ago, one of our friends and I met with her in another town at a restaurant and talked. Again, the conversation went to how are the older twenty-something sons and daughters? Fine. God led the one in recovery to a job that fits him to a tee. God did it. Nice, she said. Basically, at the end of the long three hour visit, it seemed that all she wanted was to know we still loved her and that she really wanted her two sons and their families to forgive her; though, they were not only still shacking up together but they were engaged. “I’m struggling with this,” was all I could manage to say. Looking back, yes, we talked of the enemy. We talked of grace. We talked of the prodigal son and the Father running to meet the REPENTANT son. She just smiled.  repetance

Sadly, my friend and I never once asked her, “Have you repented? Are you sad about your behavior before Christ?” I feel like I watered down the gospel. I cheapened His grace that we so desperately don’t deserve.

See, we can’t say we have Christ in our hearts and still live in sin. Oil and water. It just doesn’t mix. The Lord led me to Colossians 3:1-17 this morning. Put off the old ways; put on the new. How do we say we’re a Believer in Jesus Christ if we keep behaving like the world around us? So, I’m going to talk to her again. Earnestly, compassionately. Truthfully. Seek your vertical relationship with the Lord, turn from your sinful life of living with a man not even your husband and then your family will forgive you. In time. Distance between them is a huge consequence you are paying for seeking your own “happiness.” Jesus calls us to a backwards life – living holy not necessarily happy. I still pray for her. I hurt for her. But I’m grateful for the opportunity God gave me to see that in talking with one who says they are a believer but not living like one, He will challenge me to get honest with that person and remind them that they are dealing with a Holy Righteous God and that His grace is for those who seek Him and want to obey Him and live fully for Him; and when we do sin, the Holy Spirit convicts us and we confess and turn (repent) from that sin and go another way. His way. And we experience His forgiveness and His grace. Amen.

 

 

It all started….

Back in early March of this year  Phyllis texted me for some addresses of family she had seen at her mother’s funeral. She needed to respond to them. I went to the Nichols Directory and found most of them. But as I studied the pages and pages of names, I saw many with out of date or no address or phone or even email.

Out of that observation came some time of exploring and investigating that took me first to other family members who might have had some of the missing information on some of their immediate family. One morning I thought – facebook. Why not just type in a name and see what happens? I thought of myself as a private investigator! To my amazement, I found most of the unfamiliar family on facebook! Not having corresponded with many of you in years, I boldly began to message some of you and ask your permission to put your information in the directory. And then, I asked if it was okay to add you to the Nichols Family Group and you said yes! It was as if for some of you, you were just waiting for someone in the family to come looking for you and bring you back to the fold! It was a glorious time of serendipity!

In the middle of all this updating the directory, Diann Dotson said she’d like to come visit Gwen and me in late spring. Fine, I responded. Come anytime. Well, no, she said, how about May 30th? There’s nothing of note going on with our grandchildren. Okay. Then, I thought. Dangerous. Thinking, that is! What if I just throw the invitation out there to you, Family, to invite you to join Diann and Ray and come see us Houston folk on that weekend?

Do you know who responded??? Barbara Lawrence from NORTH CAROLINA! Really? After many years, Barbara packed up and flew down here for what turned out to be a grand Houston Family Reunion! So very good to see you, Barbara!  Who would have thought!!! And it all started back in early March – looking at the directory and thinking where are these cousins? We had about 35 folks attend. And, as the Lord in His Providence would have it, Jane came. We all hugged on her for what turned out to be the last time, as she passed away this summer.

A few short weeks later, Gwen and I made a trip to Atlanta for cousin Jay’s Memorial Service. We invited ourselves over to stay with Yvonne! We traveled down memory lane with her and all her family photos since the invention of the camera! Sure of it! At the Celebration of Jay’s Life Service, we saw many of you and caught up some.

Gwen and I traveled to the Dallas/Fort Worth area this past September to  stay  with Beth and Allen and Christi and to meet some of our cousins who were unable to attend the May Reunion, including Taffy Davis Giesel. What a sweet tender time of catching up. After our time with her and her husband Howard,  Janice, who had joined us for lunch with Taffy and Howard,  took us over to see her Mom, Lillie and we had a wonderful visit. She was thrilled to show us her photo albums she had put together in her early married years. We also enjoyed singing around the piano together.  The following day we were able to meet up with more cousins – Keila and three of their four nearly grown kids, Sophia, Gracie and Jesse. Tony was under the weather that day. So, Gwen and I must go back to see him sometime!Taffy and Cousins

What a great trip Frances and daughter Pam had in September as they  went on a wild and wonderful tour of the Pacific Northwest and made a  special stop to visit Farrel and her family up there in Washington.

The point is, our family is a treasure. There are so many of you with your unique personalities, living all over the country. The thing we have in common is blood. Family. And I believe, a strong willingness to stay connected to one another. To intentionally spend some time together. Even through facebook. But oh so richer in person!

This next year, I plan to see some more of you! Take some trips together. It is my prayer and hope that you all will venture out and see some family you haven’t seen in awhile and say hello and like, Dad (Earl) would do, ask how your own family is doing and how can he pray for you? Well, with your permission may I  follow in his footsteps and  ask…..how may I pray for you?

May you each have a joyous Christmas season, knowing deep down that the motive for Christmas is……God SO loved! You ! He chose You! Looking forward to seeing more of you this next year! God bless you all!

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