Monday, November 30, 2015

Naughty or Nice List

 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our
                                       sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  
                                                                          I John 1:9

He's making a list, checking it twice....gonna find out whose naughty and nice...


We all do some good things. We do some not-so-good things at times. We all make mistakes. We all have these things in common as well as one other undeniable thing: we're HUMAN. We all sin.

During this time of the year, we often hear about being on Santa's list: Naughty or Nice. Everyone wants to be on the "Nice" side of the list so they will receive their Christmas wishes. The truth is, we've all had our names posted on both parts of the list at some point throughout this year. I know, we don't believe in Santa as adults, but you know what I mean, don't you? We all mess up. We're none perfect. 

That's why I'm so thankful that I don't have to believe in Santa. I don't have to rely on him for my Christmas wishes to come true. Sure it's fun, holiday tradition. There's nothing wrong with that. Yet, I'm so happy that I don't have to rely on him to give me the desires of my heart. Why? Well, because I choose to believe in Jesus. Here's a little secret too...He already knows the desires of my heart. I don't have to make Him a list!

I know that in Him, I have hope and assurance that WHEN I find myself on the Naughty List, I can simply ask forgiveness and my heart can be clean again. He is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me. There's one catch though - I must realize I've messed up...and must 'fess up and be willing to make changes! He won't forgive me if I don't admit I'm wrong and ask for His help in getting right again. 

Sure, we all make mistakes, however that never keeps us from being able to make it right. Jesus came to that manger thousands of years ago for the sole purpose of making sure He did His part so that ..we could be on His list...in His book. It's our choice, let's choose to believe that He WILL forgive us. No matter how bad we've been, there is hope in Jesus. 

And while we might join the fun singing, "Santa Claus is coming to town..."; one thing's for certain, Jesus is coming too. Now, let's all check that list and see where we find ourselves. Lord, let our hearts be ready to receive You and we will definitely be singing "Joy to the World" this Christmas season. Glory, glory...glory, to the new born King!




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Thanksgiving Spread of Thankfulness


Today...the day before Thanksgiving...while I'm enjoying the aroma of sweet potatoes wafting through my home. I'm counting my blessings and my heart is overflowing with gratefulness and thanksgiving for God's many blessings which come in all shapes and sizes

Sometimes we wonder in the midst of the darker days, how God could ever intend for this to be something for which we should be thankful. And, on those bright, crisp, sun-shiny days like today, when all appears well, we tend to feel it much easier to give thanks. The truth is, the Word says, to give thanks in everything and the reality of it all is that God is the same on both kinds of days. And so are we...blessed. In the good, the bad and the ugly.

So, today, I know there are those out there who are cheerfully going about preparing a festive day tomorrow and also those who will mourn, yet...in all this, no matter what this might be...we can find something to give thanks for. We are instructed to do so by our heavenly Father.

I'd like to share some of the things I'm thankful for on this beautiful autumn Thanksgiving Eve. First, I'm thankful to belong to Jesus! There's no better place to belong I might add. Second, family and friends. What good would life be with nobody to share it? I'm thankful for my humble home and the possessions God has allowed me to be a good steward of. I'm thankful for my senses...to be able to touch, to smell, to taste yummy-ness, to see beauty and to hear laughter and music. I'm thankful for beautiful days, for rainy days, for the ups and downs, for the mountains and for the valleys. I'm thankful for the air I breathe, health, strength, joy, peace and most of all hope.

You see, there's so much to be thankful for. God has blessed us each in His own special way. If you're not feeling very "thankfully" today, my friend, be encouraged. If it's not looking like a fluffy pile of whipped cream sitting atop a piece of warm pumpkin pie for you, take heart. Kind of reminds me of that big, kettle of dumplings my Mamaw always prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes we just have to put forth a little bit of extra effort and be willing to scrape the bottom of the pot to find what we're searching for. You know, scrape the bottom if you can't easily skim the top for those delicious dumplings. Or should I say blessings? They're definitely in there!

And one more thing, you know those dreaded Thanksgiving foods which always seem to make it on the menu every year? The ones you're not overly excited about? Maybe it's a tart cranberry salad your taste buds don't care for, maybe your mom's dressing or your aunt's famous squash casserole. Remember, it's all part of the bountiful fair which helps make up and complete your unique Thanksgiving table spread. 

So it is in life, those "side dishes", you know, the ones that we don't care for? They help make up, and complete the spread God has prepared for our lives. They serve their purpose...we don't have to like how it tastes, just enjoy it as part of the bountiful table full of God's blessed goodness. (I know, I'm still working on this daily. I challenge you to slide up to the table right beside me. We'll partake together.)

This Thanksgiving, let's savor the goodness of our Lord who blesses us abundantly EVERY day. Just to be able to enjoy His presence, to know He is near, is something to be thankful for. God's blessings upon you and yours. May God open our hearts and eyes to see the bigger picture...now, say "cheese"...we're gonna need pics of this to remember this one for years to come. 

Thankfully yours, Steffanie Russ


 

Monday, November 16, 2015

EMBRACE GRACE


 "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7
 
A tiny foreign particle enters the life of an oyster bringing pain and discomfort. The oyster embraces this and prepares for the moment. It secretes a liquid substance from it's shell which covers this unwanted particle. This reduces the pain a bit. This coating process goes on again and again until a beautiful, smooth pearl is formed. No longer is there any pain or discomfort, only something of beauty.

Our lives can be the same way. Circumstances can bring pain and discomfort. We must choose how to handle it. We can try to go it on our own or we can embrace it with the help of a loving God who loves us beyond imagination. The part of the oyster which secretes the soothing liquid is called the mantle. My mind immediately thought of Elijah's mantle, his covering, which Elisha waited for. Our covering is the mantle of God's anointing. 

In times like these, we can turn to God and He will apply a coating to our heart. Each time the wound may hurt or be re-opened, He will gently apply a healing balm to our tender places. He doesn't tire of taking care of us but will be there to do it over and over again until the hurt is gone. He never leaves us like He finds us; He always leaves us better. 

When we allow God to work through the hard places, we will one day look and see a beautiful pearl where there was once pain and hurt. God specializes in taking our ashes of ugliness and making something beautiful. In His time He makes all things beautiful. Even in nature, God shows us His will is for us to turn to Him, for us to cast our cares upon Him and allow Him to do what only He can do. 

I'm on a quest to remind myself daily, EMBRACE God's plan. He doesn't want to see us suffer, but when times of suffering come He wants us to give it to Him and allow Him to work through that situation until we can see something of beauty. It all comes down to us being submissive and obedient to His will and plan - not ours, to being patient to trust in the process and the One who can do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think. 

So, my friend, until the pain subsides, trust God to do the work. Embrace the opportunity to be held by Him and run to His arms over and over again. Something beautiful in the making ~ EMBRACE GRACE!