Tag Archives: blessings

Prayer Thoughts

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Prayer Thoughts- shared from the LCC devotional blog noted at bottom

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46:10

Give God your whispering thoughts. Throughout the centuries, Christians have learned the value of brief sentence prayers. These Give God your whispering thoughts. These are prayers that can be whispered anywhere, in any setting. Frank Laubach sought unbroken communion with God by asking Him questions. Every two or three minutes he would pray, ‘Am I in your will, Lord? Am I pleasing you, Lord?’ Imagine considering every moment as a potential time of communion with God. By the time your life is over, you will have spent six months at traffic lights, eight months opening junk mail, a year and a half looking for lost stuff, and a whopping five years standing waiting in various lines. Why don’t you give these moments to God? By giving Him your whispering thoughts, the common becomes uncommon. Simple phrases such as ‘Thank You, Father,’ or ‘I stand on Your Word,’ or ‘My desire is to please You,’ can turn a commute into a pilgrimage. You needn’t leave your office or kneel in your kitchen. Just pray where you are. Let the kitchen become a cathedral and the classroom a chapel. Give God your waning thoughts. At the end of the day, let your mind settle on Him. Conclude the day as you began it—talking to God. Thank Him for the good parts. Question Him about the hard parts. Seek His mercy. Seek His strength. As you close your eyes, take assurance in the promise, ‘He who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep’ (Psalms 121:4). If you fall asleep as you pray, don’t worry. What better place to doze off than in the arms of your Father?

 

devotion@lutheranchurchcharities.org 

 

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“Mommitude”

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Years before I had my daughter I questioned if I could really ever be a good mom.  I had an amazing example to follow in my life and I just didn’t know if I could be on par with that.  As a young adult I saw wonderful examples of motherhood surrounding me and it was intimidating.  I really figured I’d mess it up so it was better not to play in that game.  Admittedly, there was a selfish angle to putting off the thought of motherhood, but ultimately it really came down to the question of whether or not I could be good enough. I loved kids. People would tell me I would make a good mom.  Yet I doubted.  

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In 2002 I learned I was going to be put to the test; and in 2003 the final exam began.  It’s an exam I believe you take in parts and as I understand it, you never really complete it.  I’ve gotten through the initial phase, I believe. My child is still alive, has a relatively good self image and doesn’t appear to have any permanent damage that I can see- at least thus far.  

Today I experienced an impromptu “pop” quiz and I learned I have developed some “Mommitude” over time. There’s still room for improvement, but the oral exam of this day went pretty well.  I have a certain level of pride about that, but mostly I am humbled (as I should be). I am humbled that God put a life into my world that I am to foster along, provide and care for, guide through tough times, celebrate with, and at some point let loose on the world hopefully making it a better place to be.  

I’m getting way ahead of myself though.  

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For months my 10 year old daughter was focused on getting her ears pierced. I thought she was too young to be responsible, but after lots of discussion, my husband’s agreement, and her persuasiveness, I decided it would be o.k. to do.  I timed it all so that her ears would get well-adjusted to the foreign objects punctured into each lobe in time for us to give her new earrings for Christmas.  

As we ventured off to the mall to get the procedure done there was a sense of anxiousness in the air. It seemed fairly normal.  As we hustled down the corridor to get to the piercing shop butterflies in my daughter’s stomach were noted.  Reasonable to me.  We go through the experience of selecting the perfect pair of starter earrings, having her ears swabbed and marked, and getting the little bear to hold onto for security (not sure if that’s for the child or the parent, but in our case the child held it).

The first earring was injected.  We got through it.  The second earring was inserted and my daughter had an odd look on her face. Within seconds her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out.  Thankfully she was sitting and I caught her right away.  That part of the test was awful.  My fear level was at the max, but I got into action and took the typical steps to try and bring consciousness back.  All the while I was reciting what I had learned in first-aid:  if the face is red raise the head-if the face is pale raise the tail.  By the time I got to figuring the rhyme out, my daughter was coming to.   I clearly recall her expression and her asking why are you saying my name like that- what happened?

It was a great story to share and my daughter seemed to enjoy the attention this little incident brought.  She did a great job caring for her ears and avoided those nasty infections that I experienced when I was a kid (where was hand sanitizer then?).  It didn’t take long before talk of wearing new earrings.  I explained we had to wait.  We had to be patient.  Christmas was coming etc. etc.  And indeed, Christmas came and my daughter was generously treated to new earrings by several family members.

Enthusiastically we tried a brand new set.  The nerves mounted again.  I advised about breathing this time…like remember to do it.  I pulled out the original earrings.  The response was, Mom I’m woozy.  Here we go again I thought.  However, I talked her through it and we were able to get two new earrings inserted.  Perhaps she was being a little dramatic when she asked to have help sitting down and for some water.  However, she did seem a little pale.  That moment passed and the new earrings looked great.  The test was going pretty well now.

Time to change the earrings again.  She wanted help.  We took out the current studs.  She was getting a little uptight. We decided to wait a day.  We tried again.  Out with the alcohol, washing our hands and picking the pair to wear. Drama sets in.  Mom, I feel like I did when I got my ears pierced.  I need to sit down.  Can you get me a glass of water?  I don’t feel good.  O.k. I’m ready.  No, wait, wait.  O.k. I’m ready.  Breathe.  In through the nose out through the mouth.  O.k. ready?  Ready.  No wait!  O.k. try one, but if I say stop…stop.  

I got the earring to the hole and my daughter’s pupils started changing.  I stopped.  Are you o.k.?  Let’s try this sitting down.  Let’s try this standing up.  Let’s try this with you sitting on the counter.  You want to sit on the floor?  O.k.  Let me get you more water.  I ultimately say, I’m not sure you can handle this.  She says, you are right, Mom.  I don’t think I can handle this either.  Her response made me laugh a little.  

Let’s try again.  If I say stop…I know, I know, if you say stop I will stop.  O.k. Ouch, ouch, ouch, stop. ( I barely got the earring tip near the hole).   Mom, I think we need to try this tomorrow.  O.k. it’s not a problem.  We’ll try it when you are ready.  Will my holes close?  I don’t think they close that quickly, but if we wait too long that could be an issue.  

 

Tears well in eyes.  I ask what’s going on.  She doesn’t want the holes to close up, but she can’t stomach having earrings put in. She is frustrated.  She is failing (in her mind).  This is when, like the exposing of a super-power, I develop my “Mommitude”.  We discuss what’s going on and how she’s feeling.  I throw out a few adjectives and she begins to cry real tears.  I know she is feeling she has let herself down and maybe me.  I reassure that whether or not a person has earrings doesn’t make the person any better or worse. I love her whether she decorates herself or not.  It’s not a big deal if she chooses not to wear earrings.  She tried and whatever she wants at this point is fine. Now I’m stroking her hair, talking softly and she’s leaning into me.  It’s a comfortable position I remember when she fell and bumped herself as a toddler.  Though now, the stakes are getting higher.

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She gets even more emotional when she says people got her all these earrings for Christmas and she can’t wear them.  She is concerned about how they would feel.  This might have been the first time I saw my little girl express a mature and authentic concern for how someone else feels.  Now I’m choked up.  I explained again she was loved and no one would care how long it took her  to wear the earrings they gave her or if she ever wore them.   Gifts are given from the heart.  I was being the gift of motherhood at that very moment.

As for the heart, genuine feelings were exuding from hers.  I could feel her sadness in my heart as well.  I pulled her closer and we shared some memories about how I used to do that when she was much smaller.  She grabbed me tighter.  More conversation about what’s important and what’s not in life.  As I held her close I tried to say the right things at the appropriate times and let there be silence when that was needed as well.  I felt my Mommitude expand.  After a little time things were getting back to normal and the earring incident was long gone.

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These pop quizzes are challenging.  What’s the right thing to say?  Will I screw it up? I know this is the first of many experiences where she will need to hold me tight, where I will stroke her hair and talk about feelings, where I’ll reinforce she is special no matter what the circumstance.  I’m honored that I am the person taking part in these tests.  As I tilted my head to rest on top of hers I thanked God for the opportunity to be a mom- to be her mom.  I expressed my gratitude for being put to the test and saying things I didn’t regret.  You never know what might come out of my mouth the next time.  For now, I’ll take this experience as a true gift and I’ll keep sharpening up my Mommitude for the tests to come.  I have a feeling there will be many more “pop” quizzes ahead.  

 

Aside

Hanging blanketsIt’s been a while since I’ve written.  I just couldn’t get in the right mood or I didn’t feel like I had the right story.  Though my family and I recently made an unexpected and unplanned-for move away from the state filled with our family and friends, there was some novelty about the whole adventure that took me by surprise…in a good way.

However, now we’ve been here a few months and the novelty has worn off.  The reality of my life as it is and not as it was is painfully obvious at times.   My immediate family and I are kind of out here on our own. We have some distant family connections, but that doesn’t mean an automatic replacement for the family we left.  We’ve gotten to know people in our neighborhood and my workplace, but they don’t just take the spot of those people who were some of the most important in my life.

We are really strangers in this place and I have no idea what our purpose is.  It’s not clear at this time.  I do believe there is a purpose, but I recognize it could be years before it makes sense.  I feel like I’m in God’s remedial class.  I’m with the people who don’t get it even after the lesson has been taught time and time again.  Fortunately, as much as I fail the final test, He lets me back in the door and is patient with me over and over again.

Among the many areas I’m a little heart-broken about is not having connection to a church family.  You do not realize the impact of that setting until you don’t have it any longer.  As regular church attenders we find ourselves judging what each church we try doesn’t have vs. what it does.  I believe my family and I have tried close to 10 churches since we’ve moved.  We’ve gone places both in and out of our denomination.  We find something wrong with each and every place.  My husband tends to evaluate on how long the service lasts and what the building looks like.  I don’t care about the service time, but I want the place to “feel” right- whatever that means.  We both typically agree that the Pastor’s delivery has to hit us right.  We even let our 10 year old have a voice in the matter.  It does please me to say that this is an important area for us.  I feel my soul is closer to God in a church–not a building, but a church community.

One place we thought we really liked delivered its weekly message via a satellite connection because the membership was so large they had different sites worshipping at the same time.  We finally admitted it wasn’t happening for us.

The next forerunner has two different preachers.  We heard one who we really liked, and then every other time we went it was the other one who we didn’t care for at all.

Today we went back to a place we’ve tried  three different times.  We’ve had different reviews for each visit.  It’s the one closest to our home and it happens to be our denomination.   It’s not perfect, but our chances of being on time for the service are much better than the places that are twenty minutes away.  Additionally, we got to thinking as we find a place for our 10 year old to be involved it will be nice that she would know others who might also go to school with her.  I must also admit, I was envisioning having to shuttle her back and forth for events and thinking I’d like about a 5 mile radius if possible.

kids-walking-to-schoolOff to the service for which we were late by the way. I’ve got to keep working on that.  We came in about the time they were giving a blessing to all the kindergarteners starting school this week.  A group of adorable five year olds came forward wearing their back packs and holding the hands of their parents.  The Pastor and the Youth Minister talked to the kids, blessed their backpacks and gave the parents a sheet of Bible verses that could be cut and reviewed with the child each day as they went off to school or came home.  It made so much sense to me and was adorable to boot.  Only puppies could have amped that up further.

However, the part that touched my heart the most was when the high school graduates were called forward with their parents.  Each family brought a blanket with them and at the appropriate time the blanket was placed on the shoulders of their child.  It was blessed with the reminder that God’s love is wrapped around the child no matter where they are.  The Pastor talked about how the parents and the church had been a part of their lives and would never leave them.  Three different officiants took a part of the blessing and each one got choked up when they spoke.The best was when the youth minister started to get teary and said he didn’t even have any children.

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My tears of joy and empathy flowed too.  I didn’t know a single kid up there, nor their parents.  However, I could relate to the feelings of being a parent.  I could relate to the feelings of being an aunt to my nieces and nephews and feeling the same way.  I could relate to the deep friendships I have and how important the children of those people are to me.  It made me realize how truly serious the words are that we say at a Baptism even when we are not the parents–we will help these children grow in the love of Jesus Christ.  Today I realized I wanted that for all those around me and especially for those I personally love.  I don’t want to see a single one with hurt feelings, or walking through loss, or believing their life is so terrible they can’t live on this earth anymore.

I want them to grab their blanket and wrap up tightly knowing they are surrounded by love even in places where they hardly know anyone’s name, where they still don’t know directions to common places, where they are missing their family and friends terribly.  I’m not a graduate of anything this year, but I’m going to wrap a blanket around myself tonight and remember God’s promises to me.  When my tears come I will wipe them away with that blanket.  When my child is hurting I will hold her with that blanket.  When I just don’t get it I will tug at that blanket and wear myself out trying to make sense.  Then I will seek the comfort and peace The Blanket brings to me recognizing I’m wrapped in it forever and the only way out is if I make that choice.  I don’t think I ever will, but even if I do, the amazing part is The Blanket will always be there to give His warmth again.  The Blanket will never leave me or you.  It will never let go.

Stay warm.

 

Wrapped in Love

God is Everywhere!

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I was driving down the street earlier this week and I saw the van in the photo above.  It reminded me of a close friend’s car and that got me thinking about her and the friends and family I’m missing right now since our move.  What I especially loved was the license plate.  I’m sorry the details aren’t very good in the photo. It says: 

PSLM103

I knew immediately it was referencing Psalm 103.  

It’s one of my Dad’s favorites which made it even more special.  I’ve read it a lot because of him.  

There is a ton of God packed into this Psalm.  It addresses a multitude of situations and so many apply to me right now.  

When I got back home I reminded myself about its message by reading it through.  To get the most out of it I read it slowly.   I split it up to give each section the most meaning for me.

I was immediately reminded how deeply God cares for us.  For me.  He forgives ALL of our sins.  There isn’t a single sin that God says, oops that one was too extreme- can’t forgive that one.  In fact,  as far as the east is from the west he has removed our sin.

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He will not always accuse.  That’s rare in our world.  He is SLOW to anger.  When he has anger he doesn’t hold on to it for long.  I can learn from that.  

God is filled with compassion; in fact, it’s mentioned four times in the Psalm.  

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There’s more and more, but why don’t I just let you read it for yourselves.  Dwell on it.  Enjoy it.  Wrap your mind around it.  Read it again and again.  

I might need to get a new license plate.

PSALM 103

 

 

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Fat or Muscle?

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I love to take walks.  I’ve always used it for my time of meditation when my deep thoughts erupt to the surface and I’m confronted with often impossible questions that I’ll never figure out the answers to.  Sometimes its less complicated than that.  Sometimes I just talk to God like He’s right there on that walk with me.  Today God talked to me through a radio program that pumped miraculously through little white wires connected to my iphone.  That’s another thing I don’t get, but it’s not the thing that occupied my walking time.

The radio program today related to how our faith grows through endurance.   I’m in a cycle of endurance training right now.  It started about a year ago.  It pushed me hard-perhaps harder than I’ve ever been pushed.  I crumbled often, but I also got up often.  I feel I’m getting close to the end of this cycle, but the cynic in me is a little hesitant to start celebrating.  Even if I am close, the key word is “cycle”.  Another phase of endurance will enter my life and I’ve learned that means another opportunity that will strengthen my faith muscle instead of turning to fat.

That was kind of what the message I heard today talked about.  Our challenges present us with options.  One is to endure.  As with any physical training, the more you endure, the stronger you become, and then the more you can endure.  If you give up, the training you went through becomes all for naught.  

I know so many people who have gone through amazingly intense endurance training themselves.  The types of things that make my life crises seem unremarkable, mundane and insignificant.   However, these people are remarkably faithful.  Their training strengthened their faith.  It demonstrates(ed) for me how faithful God is.  I question without the trials would we as humans be able to develop the faithfulness God needs from us to live the life He designed for us?  Would we accomplish His ultimate purpose in this life?

There is only one way out of this world for us.  Yesterday someone remarked to me how unbelievable the streets of gold must be in Heaven.  Recognizing it’s a controversial subject, I recall someone telling me about their dying loved one who believes he briefly saw Heaven before passing away and shared how astonishing it was.  If we didn’t have faith, we wouldn’t believe God sent His son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  We wouldn’t be able to experience the astonishment of Heaven.  

In the Bible it says we grow our faith by listening.  

Romans 10:17

17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

We need others to share their faith in order to strengthen our faith.  We need to hear from people who have endured and as such have been strengthened.  To me, then, without the drama in our lives we never have to endure and we can’t build our faith.  We wouldn’t have muscle.  We would just have fat.   If we could build faith without endurance I know God would allow it because we know from Psalms about His unfailing love (mentioned at least 32 times). 

I don’t want anyone I care for to struggle.  I don’t want to struggle myself.  The fact is by our very being, we do.  So let’s do something with the struggle.  Let’s use it for positive reinforcement.  Let’s battle it and not let it win.  Let’s grow from it and help others who might be weaker to be stronger.  Endurance training bites.  Is it fair to say that?  However, endurance training accomplishes what God needs to accomplish.  Those streets of gold are waiting for each and every one of us who believes.  If my endurance training helps someone who doesn’t know God, or isn’t quite sure, or me,  I’ve helped add some muscle where the fat was and God has blessed us all.  I certainly appreciate the times when I’m off the training course, but recognize I probably won’t get to rest for long.  

 

 

 

COMFORT and JOY Comfort Dogs Help Heal Newtown, CT

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Reflections from Tim Hetzner – President of Lutheran Church Charities

Reflections from the heart from Friday, December 14th – Sandy Hook Tragedy

Since hearing of the shootings early on the 14th, to being invited out with our Comfort Dogs that same day, leaving at 6 am Saturday, arriving Saturday night with 10 LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs and handlers – it all now seems like a blur.

It was nonstop – and in many ways still is as we prepare to return for the opening of school on January 2nd. Every emotion plays in – crying, hugging, smiling, listening, being in awe. My heart bleeds for the families of those who lost young children in this way, and the loss of respected teachers and workers. I don’t know if I could ever experience what they feel. I do know this! In darkness, light always shines through! In evil acts, God’s mercy and goodness always prevails!

A close friend asked me today if I had the emotional strength to go back; we are leaving at 3 am on January 1st. My answer was NO, but we have to – it is what we do with the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs – bringing the Mercy, Compassion, Presence and Proclamation of Jesus Christ to those suffering. To bring comfort and healing to those who suffer. To see how the Almighty Creator works through one of his creation – these golden retrievers – and to see how tired they are but how anxious they are to return – well – THEY KNOW, YES THEY KNOW, they know that they have to go back – and they are ready! God also knows where He wants us!

Please continue to keep the town and surrounding area of Newtown, Connecticut in your prayers. Everyone there are incredible people! I have learned so much from them and their love for each other and their courage! So this is my reflection, – the “rest of the story” – we’ll let the pictures of the Comfort Dogs with the children and people speak for themselves.

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To all who have supported in prayer and financially to make our trip possible – I say THANK YOU!

God Bless YOU! Please continue to keep ALL in your prayers,

Tim

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