An Autumn of Bounty

This week I’ve been meditating on a couple of verses from Psalm 13:

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

The first reason this verse caught my attention was that it didn’t sound like a verse I remembered reading, and I’ve read the book of Psalms several times. This version of Psalm 13 came in one of the many newsletters I’ve signed up for and I can’t find the answer that I’m sure you’re asking: what translation is it? While I wish they would clearly post that information so we would both know, they didn’t, and so we’re left to guess. And with over 100 versions of the Bible in English alone, there are lots of possibilities of the translation it could be.

The second reason these verses caught my attention was a word in the second sentence: “I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Right now we’re in the final push of the harvest season. Summer is winding down and the crops are all being gathered before the frost and winter arrive. In the US we’ve got the holiday of Thanksgiving coming up which began as a celebration of and thanksgiving for bounty for the Pilgrims. But how often do we use the word ‘bounty’ in our lives today? We tend to use words more like abundance, affluence, prosperity, or thriving today. Bounty is a word that isn’t used as often but I feel it paints a better visual picture of what it means than some of the other similar words do.

Lately I feel like all I’m hearing about is loss and fear, not to mention hate and anger, between all the hurricanes, politics and violence that have been happening recently. I’m concerned that we’re not talking about or looking for the bounty in our lives. No, we shouldn’t ignore the bad stuff that goes on, the sooner we learn to deal with and move through it the better. So this week my encouragement to you would be to look for the bounty, accept the abundance and be open to the blessings God can send your way.

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In Awe of God

Recently I reread the words of Psalm 8:4–6 which say:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time you were in awe of something?  Occasionally we’re amazed by someone or something someone says, but often it’s either fairly expected or cool but not a ‘wow’ moment.

I always find autumn and the tree color changes to be one of the more awe inspiring times.  Spring has lots of visual changes but I typically feel more excitement that we’re moving past piles of snow rather than awe over the new life.  But with autumn there are these pops of color that are so vivid and amazing that you just want to stare at them.

One of the other more awe inspiring experiences is when you go to the places that are away from the city lights and you can really see the true power of all the stars in the skies.  Sometimes in the city you’re able to see some stars or the moon will look spectacular, but you don’t really get a good understanding for how many stars are really out there until you’re able to be away from the lights of the city and they’re able to shine.  It’s a truly incredible experience.

One of the other experiences that people say is awe inspiring is witnessing the birth of your child.  There’s something powerful about seeing this little being appear, after 9 months of growth hidden away with only tiny glimpses, with all 10 fingers and toes and looking like a miniature version of their parents or extended family.

There may not be a lot of awe-inspiring moments in our lives, so it’s so important to celebrate and recognize those moments when they happen.  What was your most recent awe-inspiring moment?

A Focus on the Season

October has arrived! Although autumn officially arrives in September, I always feel like October is really the start of autumn because that’s when we typically see the leaves change, the weather really gets cooler and stores are all selling autumn inspired foods and decorations, and people start thinking about Halloween and the other holidays that happen at the end of each year.

Sometimes it seems like autumn comes up on us slowly, that there’s a small number of trees in beautiful color and a couple stores have a pumpkin display and one TV channel is talking about holidays. This year that’s how I’ve been seeing it: that there’s one tree on one street and then I have to go miles before I see another in brilliant color. It kind of seems like it’s nature’s way of easing us into this change of seasons, a change that will ultimately lead to winter and likely snow. But it’s also God’s way of reminding us how important it is to be paying attention, and the rewards of doing so.

If I wasn’t aware of my surroundings as I was driving along and was only focused on the other drivers on the road I wouldn’t see those trees. If I wasn’t paying attention to what’s going on around me as I walk down the sidewalk past a store, I might miss a chance to open a door and help a mother with a stroller. If I wasn’t paying attention to everyone around me at the food store, I might miss out on the chance to get something off a top shelf for a senior citizen.

What is your focus on? Are you missing out on the little blessings God is sending your way? Are you missing out on opportunities to help other? All because you’re not focused on God’s plan for your life or the world around you?

“He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” Daniel 2:21

Prayer for Students

This month we’ve been talking a bit about the topic of responsibility, one of those responsibilities is to the younger generations, both on a spiritual level as well as a whole-life level. We have to give them the tools that we’ve got as well as do our best to prepare them for what is yet to come that we don’t know about yet; challenges and opportunities that have never been seen before.

This week on Wednesday students around the US will be gathering around the flagpoles at their schools to pray for each other as well as our nation. It’s a moment where they step up and take responsibility for themselves and their school mates, the future leaders of the world. This week the rest of the US has the opportunity to pray for students and the people they will become as well, and for those who teach them and guide them.

Each year the organization behind See You At The Pole selects a passage to focus that year’s prayers on, this year it’s Ephesians 3:14: “I fall on my knees before the Father.” I encourage you to check out what they’ve shared about the thought behind their choice of passage on their website. What stood out to me was that the verse really is a reminder to pray, to seriously dedicate yourself and time to praying for what’s going on in your life and the world around you and taking the time to develop a relationship with God. We don’t always dedicate the time and effort to prayer that we should, and this verse is a reminder to do exactly that.

I encourage you to devote some of your prayer time this week for students, both those who will pray around the pole on Wednesday and those who will not, that this year will be a positive one and full of opportunities that will help shape students into the men and women that they will become.

Faith for the Ages

This month we celebrate(d) days that speak to a whole variety of people. We had the holidays of Labor Day on the 3rd and Grandparents’ Day on the 9th, and coming up on the 26th is See You At The Pole Day, which is a day that students gather around the flagpole at their school and pray. One of the most awesome things about faith and spirituality is that it’s something for everyone. It’s not something that only young people are interested in or only senior citizens, or only people from one country or only people of one language, it’s something that can speak to anyone at any time throughout their lives.

The Bible begins with chosen groups of people, from Noah’s family to Abraham’s family to Joseph’s family to David’s family, all part of a chosen group of people: the Israelites, as those who are “God’s people”. Then in the New Testament things get turned on their heads and we’ve suddenly got Jesus dying for everyone’s sins, and then Peter dreams of a sheet of animals in Acts 10 which blows the field open more specifically and clearly saying that anyone and everyone is able to access Eternal Life through Jesus.

All of this says there’s never a wrong time to start to get to know God or to rebuild your relationship with Him. There’s nothing going on in your life that God hasn’t been through with someone else before. There’s nothing you can tell Him that will surprise Him. You can share the Good News with anyone whenever God gives you an opportunity. You can have your new day whenever you need it. Grandparents can sit and read Bible stories with grandchildren.  Partners can read together.  Parents and children can read together.  Anyone can join a Bible study and develop their faith and their faith community.  What have you learned and how has your faith journey changed as you’ve grown?

What God Asks of Us

Recently I have been thinking about the plans that God has for our lives and how they all work out. So today I thought I would share some verses I came across about what God asks of us and calls us to:

To be forgiving: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13

To live with honor: “If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8

To live with and show mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

To do what is right, love mercy and be humble: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

To pursue righteousness and unfailing love: “Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21

To be a servant: “‘The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.'” Matthew 23:11-12

The things God has called us to and asked of us aren’t things we have to do alone, nor can we, they all require that we work with others to make it happen. This week I encourage you to choose one of the things God has called you to and make it a part of your life.  God doesn’t ask us to do or be things without a reason, I pray that He reveals some of that to you as you work with Him this week.

Hope In Responsibility

It’s hard to believe that we’ve only got 4 months left in 2018. It seems like just yesterday we were cleaning up the Christmas decorations from 2017, working our way through snowstorms and planning Easter celebrations. But the reality is that many months have passed. I think one of the greatest challenges we face is the amount of time some things take to accomplish or get done, the amount of hours in a day and the amount of things we want or need to get done. I have a feeling that some day people will look back at us and wonder if we were all crazy for trying to do all that we do.

With today having been Labor Day here in the US, it seems like talking about this month’s topic is even more fitting: responsibility. I know, it’s a tough topic to talk about often because we feel we have so many responsibilities and so many people that we’re responsible to and for. And I’ll be honest, often the case is that it doesn’t all get done. And it would be good for us to all take a step back and lighten our loads and burdens a bit.

But in thinking about the topic for this month and Labor Day this weekend I’m reminded that sometimes responsibilities aren’t a burden in the sense of creating a weight that we have to carry along. Sometimes it’s a relief to have a responsibility, or to know what’s required of us. Having a job, having a family relying on us, and being called to bring God’s message of peace and joy to the world can bring us a sense of hope and peace because we know that we’re not alone in the world, that we’re able to provide for ourselves and others, and that we’re here for a reason and our life isn’t meaningless. It becomes a burden when we’re overwhelmed with quantity, can’t figure out how to fit it all in, aren’t able to find an answer or feel like we’re all alone trying to navigate everything.

If your responsibilities are feeling like a burden to you, it’s a sign that you need an attitude change, need to reevaluate what you want to be responsible for in life, and/or need more support.  If that’s how you’re feeling I encourage you to take a step back this week and do some reevaluating as we shift into September and soon autumn. Make sure that you’re holding up your end of the deal and that you’re on the path that God has for you.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13