A Surprise in the Sunset

A Surprise in the Sunset

Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days... 

Or so the song goes ... and so go our days. The days at the coast with my beloved extended family have flown by.

Each morning, I experienced sunrise after sunrise over the ocean, each unique and special and "speaking." (See my previous two posts). Then on our last evening there, I unexpectedly witnessed a sunset over the bay. The horizon wasn't quite as straight and "uncluttered" as that of the ocean, but oh my! It was pretty close. And the way it impacted me was surprising. 

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Fresh Mercies Shared

Fresh Mercies Shared

Before I return to my life in Ohio, I would like to share another aha from my mornings at sunrise at the Jersey Shore.

In my previous post, I wrote of the new realization that came to me as I viewed sunrises this trip ... that although our God is unchanging, God's mercies change day by day, just as the unique sunrise changes moment by moment. So too for us, each of our todays is unique with different circumstances, different joys, different sorrows, and different stresses. God who is our All meets us in each with exactly what we need as we trust Him day by day. 

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!” 

Lamentations 3:24 NLT

Well, here is my final thought. God intends that His mercies spread to shape the atmosphere around us. In other words, His mercies are meant to be shared. You may ask where I got that from the sunrises. Well, let me tell you what I noticed.


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Choose your FACE...Change your DAY

Choose your FACE...Change your DAY

Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart. Proverbs 27:19

I love 4 year olds...they understand so much!  A few years ago, I told my then 4 year old grandson Evan that we choose our attitude.  And he got it!

I didn’t always think that was true, but the older I get the more I believe our choosing has a lot to do with it. And if we are children of God, the living, indwelling Christ empowers us to have an appropriate attitude for the situation.

I experienced this simple truth with another 4 year old when I was teaching preschool many years ago.

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Throw Back Thursday (TBT): Embracing the Life that's Mine, not the One I Wish were Mine

Throw Back Thursday (TBT): Embracing the Life that's Mine, not the One I Wish were Mine

It made me think of how I was feeling last summer after I returned from a month in Delaware with my daughter and family.  The last place I wanted to be was in back Ohio! But God brought me up short. Here is the blog I wrote shortly thereafter. Maybe you need the reminder periodically, as do I. First posted September 14, 2015.

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A Time to Live & a Time to Die: Reflections on Time & Eternity

A Time to Live & a Time to Die: Reflections on Time & Eternity

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
    A time to be born and a time to die...
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a,4a (NLT)

Time, that fleeting commodity that holds us while on this earth! Yet, we can't hold onto it! And for all of us, time is ticking away. We are closer to the end of our earthly journey every second that we live.

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Yesterday, Today, or Tomorrow. Which is it?

Yesterday, Today, or Tomorrow. Which is it?

All we have is today. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may not be ours. It’s today or it’s nothing.

And God is in our today. He is I Am. He was I Am when yesterday was today. He will be I Amwhen tomorrow becomes today. He was there when those hard and/or beautiful things happened in the past. He will be there for whatever lies ahead. Actually, He is already there, because He is I Am. And He is in the Eternal Present Tense.

Recently, someone assured me when I was agonizing about my daughter moving with her husband and 4 little ones because of a military transfer, that God is already there.

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Wakin' Up Singin' ... Really?

Wakin' Up Singin' ... Really?

All grandmas love to tell stories of their grandkids, and I'm no exception. And so I do have a number of my blogs tagged as grandson stories. (But now I do need to broaden the category to "grandchildren" because of our darling Claire Elizabeth.) But I have always had a rule for myself: I only share on A Branch in the Vine what God teaches me through their little lives. And so this post is no exception.

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Today is Mine ... or is it?

Today is Mine ... or is it?

Embracing my life today ... my now life ... my today life ... not the one I wish I had, but rather the one I have been given ... I want to do that, don't you? Otherwise, I end up fighting my own reality. 

And if God is I AM, the Eternal Present Tense Person,then the place I will experience Him is in my real, now, today life. So today is mine, but it's above all HIS! Because each day is a gift from God, my I AM.

I don't know about you, but I need to constantly revisit this truth. I'm so prone to project into the future and occasionally into the nostalgic days of the past.

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The unfolding Way...the unfolding Day...the unfolding Life

These were my thoughts as I awoke early today. And it became a conversation with my Lord. Maybe this is for you too...

Let it happen... Let life unfold... Step into each day, each moment, and let it unfold before you...the moment...the day

 

But Lord, what about the preparing for what I know are my responsibilities? I don't want to be stressed, but how does that fit into my unfolding day?

I will unfold even the preparing before you, "This is the time...the way... for this preparing, for this scheduling, for this looking ahead... walk in it NOW!"

Yes, Lord! Is that how being "Ready for Anything" can be true? "Be it done unto me according to your word"...this way...this moment...this day...this life!

 

The skies don't seem to be as dark as usual The stars seem brighter then they've been before Deep within I feel my soul a stirring As though my hope has been restored

The shepherds say they've heard the voice of angels Confirming rumors spread across the land That a child protected well from Herod's anger Is our Father's Son, and the Son of man

Love is raining down on the world tonight There's a presence here I can tell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel He's a Savior we have been praying for In our humble hearts He will dwell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

I feel compelled to tell all who will listen That peace on earth is not so out of reach If we can find grace and mercy and forgiveness He has come to save, He is all of these

Love is raining down on the world tonight There's a presence here I can tell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel He's a Savior we have been praying for In our humble hearts He will dwell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

Love is raining down on the world tonight There's a presence here I can tell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel He's a Savior we have been praying for In our humble hearts He will dwell God is in us, God is for us, God is with us

You're the Savior we have been praying for In our humble hearts You will dwell You are in us, You are for us, You are with us, Emmanuel

THIS day, THIS ______ : a back-story

In my last post (This Day, This Word), I shared how the Lord broke through my self-pity in a very concrete, but affectionate way...with just one word. Well, there's a back-story to that loving deliverance of His.  Let me tell you about it.

Shortly before my "done, depleted day," my sweet friend Kitty and I had gotten together.  We talked about many things, but one subject we often go back to is "writing."

Kitty "has a book in her," so to speak, but it just doesn't seem to be God's timing yet for that book to come forth.  So as all writers know and advise, Kitty just needs to write something...anything...every day, if possible.

But it's so easy to struggle with expectations we, and others, place upon ourselves, isn't it? And it can be overwhelming...and crushing...even paralyzing...for poor Kitty (and for you and me, if we are honest)!

So as our conversation progressed that day, the Lord reminded me of a "mantra" I had adopted for my own life:

THIS day...THIS bread.

It was based on the verse from the Lord's prayer: "Give us THIS day our daily bread." The key word there had been "this."

After sharing with Kitty this background to my "mantra," I said,

Kitty, How about if you just say each day, "THIS day, THIS word?" And then maybe the next day might be, "THIS day, THIS phrase"... then maybe, "THIS day, THIS sentence." Your key word is THIS! THIS "whatever God may give you that day!"

In her email on that infamous "burn-out" morning of mine a couple weeks later, Kitty unknowingly wrote this encouragement to my exhausted heart:

Jan, I keep sharing your THIS advice with friends... Kitty, take THIS,...THIS... THIS DAY THIS _________ THIS sentence THIS paragraph THIS CHAPTER THIS WORD WORD ONE WORD WORDS

There it was, this day, this word...the Lord had given me just what I had needed for my day!

Dear friend, what is it that you need for your today, this day?  Cry out to the Lord and receive from Him this day, this "whatever HE has to give to you."

Your Abba is very fond of you! He will respond in His love...

THIS day with THIS whatever you really need!  Amen!

PS To read the entire original series, click here:

This Day, This Bread

This Day, Today

This Day, This Bread...Today

This Day, This LORD!

Thanks for grace in joining me here. By the way, you can subscribe by entering your email to the right. I would be honored!

This Day, This Word

I'm going to be gut-level honest...I'm blah, feeling bruised and beaten, blank, done... I know it won't last forever...it never does.  But despite all the good things in my life, I'm low.

I'm depleted of energy after teaching 3 days in a row.  I'm facing long and arduous delay after delay in the publication of my Bible study book. I can't even "hire" an agent because I don't have a big enough "platform" (a.k.a. "following). And I've "failed" in a message that should have been an easy success (at least, from my feeble and presumptious viewpoint).

I know this is self-pity to the hilt! Did you see all the "I's"? But to tell you the truth, I don't feel guilty, because I know my Abba still loves me! Yes, even in the midst of my self-pity! In fact, "My Abba is very fond of me" as Brennan Manning used to say.

Can you identify, dear friend?  And do you know that very same truth...your Abba still loves you, even your self-pitying you! He is very fond of you too, so much so that He will meet you in all the mess!

He met me in the midst of my mess the other day...with just a word! Can I tell you about it?

As I was emotionally "crashing and burning" from all of the above listed stresses (and some), I cried out to the Lord,

Jesus, give me something...just a word...please!

Immediately, the words all, every, fullness came into my mind.  I knew them to be key words in my favorite letter of the apostle Paul's, the letter to the Colossians.  As my eyes began to take this beautiful Christ-exalting book of Scripture in, the Holy Spirit "highlighted" a word in chapter 1, verse 17:

...in Him, all things hold together!

Wow! He holds it all!

HOLDS was my word that day.

I sensed that He was saying that all the things in my life that seem to be totally out of control are NOT! Why? Because HE holds them all together!

Then He brought to mind another verse from my other favorite Bible book:

He holds all things by His powerful word! Hebrews 1:3

There it was again...holds.

HE holds it all!

I don't have to do the holding, the struggling, the striving to figure out the why's and wherefore's!  What freedom!

So I embraced my word that day, and walked it out in peace.

What are your struggles, your frustrations, your blankness and doneness?  No matter what it may be or how much self-pity you are wallowing in, cry out to the Lord! Ask Him for a WORD...just one.

He loves you...even your self-pitying, struggling you.  Your Abba is very fond of you.

Then your new "mantra" can be...

This day, this WORD!

May it be so for each of us, O our loving Abba Father! Amen!

PS I'll even let you borrow my word hold and my beloved Colossians to get you started.  Just listen for Him and His speaking voice in the depths of your soul as you wait to receive from HIM!

This day...This LORD!

My prayer for my Today:

You belong to me, and I belong to You, TODAY, my Jesus.

You live in Me, and I live in you, TODAY, my Lord.

You abide in me, and I abide in You, TODAY, my Vine.

You save me TODAY and always, my Savior, and You save me right NOW, my King!

You are my I AM, now, TODAY...AND FOREVER!

Living Water for my thirsty soul right now,

the Bread of Life for my hungry heart in this moment,

the Light of my world today,

my Good Shepherd for this situation,

the Resurrection and the Life for my present "deadnesses,"

the Way, the Truth, the Life for the path I take right now,

the True Vine in whom I am now abiding...

You are my indwelling Peace, my ever-present Joy...TODAY, my Lord and King Jesus Christ!

Live through me TODAY! Love through me TODAY! Serve through me TODAY!

THIS day...THIS bread...Today!

I love this picture.  We received a framed copy for a wedding gift many years ago.  It reminds me of the simplicity of daily provision by our loving Heavenly Father for today...every day.

We don't really need much...but we think we do, don't we?  Just a simple prayer today...

THIS day, O Father! THIS bread, O Lord!  Thank You!

So let's reflect again, dear friend, and may your soul be enriched:

We need to learn to receive the grace of THIS day and THIS bread

...The only way we really break the cycle of being trapped in either the glory years or future anxiety is to allow the words of the Lord’s prayer to sink all the way in. When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,"...the most important word might be THIS.

We are designed to be dependent creatures. Like the Israelites who received daily manna, God has designed us to be dependent on him in a day-by-day, moment-by-moment way. We don’t have leftover manna to live off of from the glory years. And we don’t get a detailed plan of where next year’s manna comes from. All God promises us is THIS day, and THIS bread.

What if we learned to receive that as a gift instead of a curse? What if each meal could be received with a grace for THIS moment’s provision. What if each good conversation could be received as a gift from God for THIS moment? On and on the list could go.

...I am asking God to reveal to me THIS — this moment, this grace, this provision, this gift, this opportunity. It really does change the way you look at each day day… even each moment with God. Daniel Hill

And so we again pray:

I do not ask

for some future bread.

I do not ask

for some lofty thing.

I ask for nothing more

I ask for nothing less

than primal provision.

For this, and this—only this.

I do not ask for then.

I do not ask for there.

I do not ask for that.

only this meal—this moment.

for this day, only

for this, and this—only this.

Jonathan Martin

THIS Day...Today

For this NON-procrastinator, it is very difficult to live in the moment, in the today!  My mind is always racing ahead...to the next responsibility, the next event, the next idea... As a result, " time crunches" and "performance anxiety" are often the name of my game! So I love these words from our Lord, captured with the help of two brothers.

Give us THIS day our daily bread...

Here is today's reflection to feed my soul...and yours?

Most of us live trapped in anxiety around either the past or the future

There is something about the human condition that seems incapable of living in the now. We seem unable to enjoy the moment; to be grateful for our current provision; to be joyful in our present reality. We tend to either memorialize the past or anxiously await the future.

...for some of us, we seem to incessantly gravitate back to the “glory years.” This is quite common in the life of church. As the congregation grows and evolves, some of us are tempted to say, “I wish we could go back to (fill in the blank) era. Things were so peaceful then. Everybody knew each other. There was so much harmony and joy.” Of course, the actual reality was almost never as good as the fantasy we have turned the glory years into. But that’s just the point – by fondly remembering a story we’ve created for ourselves, we find another way to escape from the reality we currently live in.

For others of us, we spend all of our precious emotional resources on trying to guess what lies ahead. We worry about our future finances, our future vocation, our future spouse, or the future of our kids. We plan, strategize, and obsess over every potential detail. We hear the words of Jesus — “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — but it doesn’t seem to break the anxiety cycle. When it comes down to our emotional and spiritual state, we realistically live much more in the future than in the present moment. Daniel Hill

So again we pray...

I do not ask

for some future bread.

I do not ask

for some lofty thing.

I ask for nothing more

I ask for nothing less

than primal provision.

For this, and this—only this.

I do not ask for then.

I do not ask for there.

I do not ask for that.

only this meal—this moment.

for this day, only

for this, and this—only this.

Jonathan Martin

THIS Day...THIS bread!

I have a new prayer to pray, a new breath to breathe:

Father...THIS day, THIS bread!

I find myself breathing this often...

And there's a bit of a story behind embracing this prayer.

It all started with an unlikely meeting...on Twitter, of all places!. Now you have to know that I am on Twitter, but I'm not "on Twitter."  But when Daniel Hill interacted with my "tweet" (a tweet? really?), a connection happened.  And I'm so glad! I've been following Daniel's blog ever since.

Daniel Hill pastors River City, a diverse congregation in Chicago, and is the author of a new book, 10:10: Life to the Fullest.

Pastor Dan's blog has held treasures for me, and his current post is no exception. In it Daniel shares some profoundly simple and practical truths from a sermon on a line from the Lord's Prayer by a respected colleague in the ministry, Jonathan Martin:

Give us this day our daily bread.

So for the next few days, I would like us to meditate on this amazing verse here on A Branch in the Vine.

But for today, this prayer:

I do not ask

for some future bread.

I do not ask

for some lofty thing.

I ask for nothing more

I ask for nothing less

than primal provision.

For this, and this—only this.

I do not ask for then.

I do not ask for there.

I do not ask for that.

only this meal—this moment.

for this day, only

for this, and this—only this.

Thank you, Jonathan Martin for letting us pray along...

And thank you, Daniel, for sharing your reflections.

TODAY...a Meditation and Prayer

TODAY...a Meditation and Prayer

You belong to me, and I belong to You, TODAY, my Jesus. You live in Me, and I live in you, TODAY, my Lord.

You abide in me, and I abide in You, TODAY, my Vine.

You save me TODAY and always, my Savior, and You save me right NOW, my King!

You are my I AM, now, TODAY...AND FOREVER!

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Choose your FACE...Change your DAY

Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart. Proverbs 27:19

I love 4 year olds...they understand so much!  A few years ago, I told my then 4 year old grandson Evan that we choose our attitude.  And he got it!

I didn’t always think that was true, but the older I get the more I believe our choosing has a lot to do with it. And if we are children of God, the living, indwelling Christ empowers us to have an appropriate attitude for the situation.

I experienced this simple truth with another 4 year old when I was teaching preschool many years ago.

It was getting toward the end of the school year...maybe April or early May.  I was reflecting on the precious group of "free spirits" entrusted to my care that year.  The Lord had done some amazing spiritual work in the lives of those five four-year-old's and in my own life as their teacher.

But I was somewhat distressed, feeling that I hadn't quite "reached" one little boy.  I felt that way because he usually looked stressed.  And he often had a negative expression on his face...what might be called a "NO" face.  Somewhat resigned to the fact that "you can't win them all," I just kept on doing what we were doing.

One day, the children were washing their hands two by two.  Little Johnny (not his real name) was not acting properly toward the child at the sink with him.  So of course, I reprimanded him.  He glared at me with his "NO " face, obviously not happy!

I said, "Johnny, don't give me that face!  Give me a gentle face!"  Immediately, Johnny changed his face...and peace came over him!  I was amazed!

Then just about an hour later, we were lining up by the door to go home.  At the end of each class day, I would stand at the door and face the children, waiting until they formed a line in front of me.  Then we would proceed down the hall and out to the waiting moms.  I looked at Johnny who, at that point, had the usual, somewhat negative, expression on his face.  When he made eye contact with me, he must have remembered our little interchange at the sink.  He immediately relaxed his expression and smiled.

Later I asked the Lord about it.  "Lord, what just happened?"  He led me to an incredible Scripture I had never noticed before:

A man's wisdom illumines his face and causes his stern face to change. Ecclesiastes 8:1b  NASB

Days later, Johnny's mom came up to me and said, "Jan, you changed Johnny's life!"  She had seen a new peace in her child.  And I praised God, knowing it wasn't me who made the change, but the Holy Spirit working in one little boy's life by enabling him to "change his face."

Not long ago, this very thread ran through discussion with a group of friends.  One woman said she wanted to be more gentle, so the Lord led her to start closing doors and cabinets quietly.  Another person wanted to not respond to mistakes in anger and frustration, so he began to speak out a gentle answer and found that it turned away his own wrath. (Proverbs 15:1)

After my husband's heart attack, John and I went to his cardiac rehab class called, "The Emotional Side of Heart Disease."

This was an excellent class about managing stress...especially the stresses associated with having just suffered a heart attack.  We both looked at each other when Patty, the rehab nurse, read an excerpt from an article called, "Laughter Really is the Best Medicine."

Move joyfully.  If you wake up in a bad mood, act like you're in a good mood, and your body can actually 'fake out' your own brain.  It's called 'fake it till you make it.'  When the copier breaks down in the office, instead of hitting it, try twirling while you tell people the copier isn't working.  Trust me, when you do this, it's impossible to feel stressed.  By substituting playful gestures for angry ones, your brain often short-circuits your own stress.

I'm not so sure I can see my engineer husband twirling at the copier, but this principle seems to be at the heart of the way the body and mind work together.

But the even better news for us believers is that we have the mind of Christ, and so we can choose to submit our body to Him and His indwelling life. We can "chose our face" and expect that His empowering, indwelling, resurrection Life will live through us...as us, all to the glory of His Name!

So dear brothers and sisters, "chose your face"...and change the way you live your human life in this world...to the glory of God...one day at a time!

...we have the mind of Christ. 1Cor 2:16b

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2:5-8