Master of the Stormy Sea

“And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  Matthew 14:26 -31 (KJV)

Fear is a very aggressive emotion. It can grip our hearts and cause our minds to race erratically down a path of negativity and anguish. Anxiety, doubt and confusion will swell within, whipping us into a frenzied mess. Sound familiar?

There’s a key word in this passage that puts a halt on this all-too-common behavior: immediately. Peter was known for his Type A personality: competitive, impulsive and impatient. Although Peter appeared eager to disembark from the ship and join his Lord, he quickly became distracted by the ominous storm swirling about. Fear overwhelmed him, and he began to sink.

No sooner did Peter utter the request, “Lord, save me,” Jesus responded instantly, reaching out and rescuing Peter in his moment of weakness. Jesus’ question was not intended to criticize but was a soft, gentle reminder that Peter’s faith needed strengthening. Jesus would not and could not ever fail him–and He won’t fail you.

None of us know what a day will bring: a poor prognosis from the doctor, an unexpected accident, the loss of a loved one. The next twenty-four hours in your life are unpredictable but God is all-knowing and all-powerful. The second we cry out for help, God immediately stretches out His Hand and provides us with the support and stamina to continue. His presence dispels the fears and replaces it with assurance that we walk not alone. He is there to carry us through the storms of life if we but keep our eyes focused on Him.img_0432

We can rise up with confidence, put our faith into action and tread water fearlessly and victoriously because the Master of the Sea walks beside us every step of the way!

 

Consider Great Things

Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24 (KJV)

happy new yearIt seems appropriate to start the new year off with a new blog–a fresh start, right? One New Year’s resolution I have made is that I hope to generate more blogs in 2016!

Today’s topic is a common January 1st theme, but it is one that resonates with all of us. As I reflected back on the last twelve months, my appreciation and awe for God’s great things kept surfacing to the forefront of my mind.

It’s become the annual tradition to distribute a Finn family Christmas photo card with a letter update to friends and family. Choosing the pictures that highlight events or capture the true essence of the previous year is easy–I only have to log into Face Book and find some great shots!

As I searched for the photos that I wanted to represent us for 2015, I was struck by the great things God has done in our home and lives. My heart got all warm and fuzzy, and an abundance of joy flooded my soul. Despite some times of testing and weakness, God was faithful and did not fail me. Although 2015 had its bumps (and bruises), I could lean on Him and learn how all-sufficient He is!

The verse I have referenced today has become my life verse. I like to re-read it from time to time, and meditate on its meaning. The Hebrew definition for consider means to see or gaze upon. Isn’t that what we do with past memories, a former year? We reflect back, gaze upon its significance, its challenges and lessons learned. Does that not motivate us into action, striving to charge ahead and grasp the new year with energy and purpose?

The counsel given “to fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart” can be heeded because our spirits have enthusiastically and lovingly considered the great things He has done for us. We are encouraged to stay close to God, surrender self and worship Him sincerely.

Can you attest to the truth found in this passage? Why not make a list of the ways God has shown Himself real to you in 2015 and thank Him for His goodness and grace.

May your New Year 2016 be filled with blessings–be watchful and ready to acknowledge the great things He will do!    

 

 

Donut Holes

Psalm 104:34 “My meditation of him shall be sweet and I will be glad in the Lord.”

What I am most thankful for? I am most thankful for donut holes!donut holes

We all like donuts, right? Chocolate-frosted, glazed, cream or custard-filled–yum!  Yet, what happens to the piece of donut dough that gets carved out of the center? I’m not sure exactly when or where it begun, but someone thought to take that section of the batter and form donut holes!

The donut hole is an isolated version of its pastry partner but surely as popular and plentiful. It is a finger-licking delicacy!

Aren’t our blessings like donut holes? There’s a bigger, larger situation that grabs our attention, noticing God’s goodness in a magnificent way. But then, in its aftermath, we notice all kinds of small “gems”—the little blessings that are often overlooked or overshadowed. The donut holes have the same ingredients and are just as fulfilling as their bakery counterpart—only in miniature, compacted form!

Here is my summary of what I am thankful for:

I’m thankful for FRIENDS (big donut)… but the donut holes are abundant: co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances and contacts I’ve made over the years from just living and  breathing amongst people!

I’m thankful for my FAITH AND SALVATION (big donut)but the donut holes are the characteristics of becoming more Christ-like on a daily basis: grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and wisdom.

I’m thankful for my FAMILY (big donut)… but the donut holes of a good church family are  also a blessing to me! And a grandbaby on the way….and the spiritual growth I see taking place in the lives of my husband and young-adult children.

The next time you are tempted to pop a tiny donut hole into your mouth, whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for the neglected sweet things in your life. Thank God every day for the donut holes!

The Gift of God’s Presence

What is stopping you from accepting the gift of God’s Presence? How would you feel if a gift you had given to a loved one was not accepted?heart shaped picture

After months of searching for a birthday present for a loved one, I came up with a great idea and eagerly bought it. The gift was not quite as well-received as I had expected. In fact, it hurt when the realization came to me that the gift had not ever been accepted; it had only appeared that way.

This made me reflect on the reasons for why someone would refuse a gift. Not just any gift–in the earthly sense, but the free gift of salvation. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” God’s grace is abundant and available to all. This wonderful truth is proclaimed in Romans 5:18b: “..even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” There is no cost involved and yet, many choose to reject both the Gift—Jesus Christ and the Giver—God the Father.

Could it be that one of these issues is a spiritual blockade in your life or the life of a loved one:
1.) Fear. The gift I had purchased for my loved one caused great anxiety, albeit not intentional. It was out of her comfort zone, for sure. Accepting God’s gift is not meant to be risky but full of trust and great peace.
2.) Excuses. The list may be short or it may be lengthy, but an excuse is an appeal for omission. It is a polite (or maybe not-so-polite) way of saying “no.” God has given us a free will to make decisions but ultimately, He desires fellowship with every one of us.
3.) Indifference. Much like an excuse, this reaction focuses on the insignificance of the gift. Imagine how insulting this response is to our Heavenly Father, who has prepared a perfect place for us and wants to share it with us!
4.) Lack of Faith. Why should we hold back on being the recipient of someone else’s generosity? We are under no obligation–the donor cares for our well-being and wants to enhance our moment with the special attention given. Why do we reject God’s goodness when it is so freely and unconditionally given?

God has a gift that He wants to give us. It’s called His Presence which can be with us always, once we have trusted His Son, Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Savior. The Holy Spirit comes in and takes up residence, providing comfort and everlasting security. It is the perfect gift. There is no other present that can match the magnificence of what He has to give us!

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Is There a Science to Parenting a Tween?

scienceYou bet there is! Times of testing and unseen results loom ahead—at least that’s what everyone who has “been there, done that” predicts. It used to be that the teenage years had the reputation for being difficult to maneuver through; now a title has been tacked onto the pre-adolescent years (10-12 years). Oh my!

Don’t panic. Keep calm and do what every able-bodied mother has done: PRAY! And, consult this five-step process which has been implemented in countless research laboratories all over the country; their similarity to the tween home-turf is eerily alike! First, let us identify:
THE HYPOTHESIS: Specific measures are needed for raising a young girl, prior to the onset of adolescence. A clear, concise plan of action must be utilized:
Define
Know your subject matter (a.k.a. your daughter). Observe her likes and dislikes; mentally note the strengths and weaknesses you see developing in her life. Your goal is to understand and encourage her through this time of transition. Exemplify the character of Christ. Your influence upon her is at its peak.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)
Plan
Develop a strategy which focuses on interactive parenting. (This “hands-on” approach will be even more beneficial once the teen years arrive.) Actively participate in your tween’s life, even when you sense indifference. Get to know her friends by making your home an inviting arena for socialization. Be flexible, be willing to make sacrifices, and most of all, remain approachable.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (KJV)
Find
Time for discovery! Tween girls need to know they are cherished, created with a purpose by an Almighty God. Abilities, attitudes, affections and appearances—all are shaped by a Biblical perspective and a firm foundation in Christ. How effective have you been in communicating this truth to your daughter?
Jeremiah 29:13 “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Evaluate
Are you pleased with the results? Make the necessary adjustments, when necessary. Parenting is an endless journey, requiring enormous amounts of patience and perseverance. Yet, it is also the most rewarding experience, reaping immeasurable peace and pleasure. Trust God to provide you with strength and wisdom. He will not fail you.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4
Reference
God has given us His Word as a reference tool, one to be used consistently and without hesitation. Don’t neglect its authority or application. The Bible is our source of knowledge and provides insight and truth for every decision we need to make. Our daughters’ spiritual walk is additionally strengthened by observation (of our godly habits) and communication (prayer). Results (a fruit-bearing testimony) will follow.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

THE CONCLUSION: Parenting a tween is a process of discovering new knowledge. It is gaining a familiarity with your daughter and observing her growth and development in all aspects of life: physical, emotional and spiritual.
But it doesn’t end there. Mothers must apply this information and use it to create an improved product. With God’s intervention and blessing, there is no limit to how victorious and far-reaching the results will be. And, that is the essence of science!

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”1 Corinthians 10:31

Dead or Alive?

I call this the “gnarly tree.” My girls are confused with my obsession about its eerie state of appearance, but I know that a spiritual application can be found in its isolated condition.

I have heard (not sure if it is true or false) that the gnarly tree is the remains of a majestic oak which has petrified over time, after being struck by lightning. It stands alone in an open field, naked and exposed, approximately 500 feet from a two-lane rural road. A backdrop of clustered trees frame the field on three other sides, giving the gnarly tree an even greater personality of detachment.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. The gnarly tree remains unaffected by the elements. Its twisted silhouette doesn’t change color or shape;  Is it dead? If it were, I would think that the structure would have weakened and toppled to the ground. Is it alive? I see no evidence of growth, no leaf formation or fruit-bearing acorn seeds.

I have only watched the gnarly tree from afar. I haven’t had the opportunity to get up close and personal. But here are my observations:

1.) The gnarly tree is set apart for a purpose. Psalm 4:3 says, “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.” Imagine that the God of heaven has singled you out and is tuned into your every need and desire! God deems us worthy and knows our heart’s desire is to serve Him. It is difficult to stand apart–unbelievers will mock or ridicule our choice to follow Christ. Our confidence can be boosted by this truth and keep us looking forward, not behind us.

2.) The gnarly tree has weathered the storms. I would think that without the protective cover of foliage or closeness of other trees, the gnarly tree is even more vulnerable when the winds and rain besiege it. Nahum1:7 describes the strength we can claim in such times of turmoil: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Often, the strength we acquire is above and beyond the ordinary; we can only attribute it to the One who is completely in control!

3.) The gnarly tree is an enigma. In other words, the gnarly tree is a mystery. There are no visible clues that tell an observer how the bent, bare branches came to be. The ashen coloring reveals no charred markings, which if present, would confirm the rumors of a previous lightning strike. Yet, its present state is quite distinctive from what its original one had been. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” When we make a decision to trust Christ as our Savior, we are physically still projecting the same image, but it is the inner man that has become new. Isn’t that a mystery in itself? It’s a miraculous (spiritual) transformation!

Perhaps my fascination with the gnarly tree is a bit overrated? The next time you see a rare visual display of God’s creation, remember the symbolism of the gnarly tree. It could be a reminder of God’s power,presence and protection.

Sit, Surrender & Speak

Psalm 73:28 “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”

I just returned from the Carolina Christian Writer’s Conference (CCWC) in Spartanburg, SC. It is the first time I have ever attended such a meeting; it was truly a blessing. The workshop speakers were an endless resource of knowledge, instruction and encouragement. It was exciting to “rub elbows” with fellow writers who understand the joys and frustrations of writing and attempting to get a manuscript published. Plus, a professional photographer was on the premises, offering services for photo shoots (that was fun!)

There was a common thread woven throughout the two-day event: prayer. It was stressed over and over again, how important it is that we bathe our calling to write in prayer. It’s not that that was new information to me; I know that prayer is essential. We can so easily get caught up in the performance and lose sight of the purpose for our writing. Prayer is sharing the deepest desires and concerns with the Lord.

Psalm 73:28 doesn’t use the word prayer; however, the steps given are the result of a prayed-up attitude: sit, surrender and speak.

1.) Draw near: I perceive this action as “sitting” close to the Savior. If we can visualize His presence as being immediate beside us, we ought to relax and allow God to have free reign with our writing endeavors.

2.) Surrender: The psalmist declares that he has put his trust in the Lord God. This means relinquishing the urge to hold back and think God needs our help. God has it under control; it hasn’t taken Him by surprise at all. A humble spirit, acknowledging God’s sovereignty and supremacy, is key.

3.) Speak: Has God done a mighty work in your life? Declare it! Don’t be shy or secretive about it! Give Him the glory and praise. This joy-filled attribute should permeate every aspect of our lives, not just our writing accomplishments.

We can have confidence in the future, knowing we have a Guide to face it with!   prayer picture

Frozen

It’s February and a deep freeze has engulfed the eastern region of the United States. Temperatures are sub-zero in some parts of the country; at least a dozen states are dealing with the after-effects of a wintry mix of freezing rain, sleet, snow and hail.

I found a description of wintry weather in the Bible, which quite ably captures the omnipotent (all-powerful) character of God:

Psalm 147:16: “He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold?IMG_0878

Scientists (specifically meteorologists) analyze the formation and direction of climate patterns depicted on the earth’s globe and will generate their forecast predictions based upon this information. I don’t doubt their expertise, but ultimately, every representative of frozen precipitation (snowflake, hailstone, frost) is divinely directed.

The verse continues with this observation: “…He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.” God speaks to His creation and it responds. There is an effect when God’s Word has been spoken.

Jeremiah 23:29 has a similar cause and effect scenario: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” A fire certainly catches our attention, doesn’t it? What begins as a spark, can quickly escalate into a roaring blaze! The heat given off can be warm and soothing–if it’s the right proportion.

Both the rock that has been hammered into pieces and the object burned by the fire, have been altered. God’s Word changes us, producing a result that is quite unlike the original. God’s Word is powerful and life-changing, not just concerning the icy precipitation that He has spoken into existence, but it will reach a hardened, cold heart and change it forever.

Who is the greatest?

In recent weeks, quite subtly, God has given me a renewed burden for souls. And it’s for the little children. suffer little children

Lately, I find myself noticing them, analyzing them. I’ll estimate their age or school grade level and begin to consider the following questions:

~What are their favorite activities?

~What excites or motivates them?

~Are they from a large family?

~What do they know about God and His abounding love for them?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” is such a warm invitation, filled with gentleness and promise. How adequate am I, reflecting that Christ-like tenderness and thoughtfulness for the spiritual needs of the little children?

After months of job-searching, God has opened up a door that enables me to be thrust front-and-center into the world of the “little children.” Just this past week alone, I instructed close to 300 students, ranging from ages five to fifteen. Three fourths of those students were due to my position as an elementary Art teacher–fun!

I enjoyed a whirlwind schedule for two full days, circulating six classes per diem. The faces were a blur, but the most innocently-posed question caused me to stop dead in my tracks…. and focus on one particular little girl.

I’ll never forget her carefully worded inquiry: “Who made you? Do you believe it was God?” I could tell it was a topic that had been troubling her. Oh, how I wish I had the opportunity to take her to the Word of God and share the truths of how “fearfully and wonderfully made” she is! I was caught off-guard, occupied with the task of being the substitute teacher in a public school classroom nonetheless! No time or attention could be given to her request–except for a hurried response, “Of course I do!” I was so limited in what I could say or do at that exact moment. Before I could discuss the topic any further with her (in private), the class was over and she was gone.

It was obvious that this child was searching. I have thought quite often about her since that day. I wonder, will she find the answers to her questions? Who will reach her with the Good News? Does she attend a church that is proclaiming that Jesus is God’s Son, who died for sinners and provided a way for us to live in heaven for all eternity?

In Matthew 18:1, Jesus disciples questioned Jesus, asking Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ” His followers were so concerned about status, reward and recognition, not ever considering the most basic of all attributes–humility. Little children naturally possess it. That sweet little girl in Art class symbolized the character of trust, and an open heart. A soul precious to God and valuable beyond measure. I hope I will see her again…soon; so I can tell her that.

I think 2015 is going to be a year of surrendering my will and embracing God’s. And striving to reach the little children–one at a time!

Worth a Mint

There are two more items required for our survival kit: a mint is one of them.

The mint is to remind us that we are worth a mint to our Heavenly Father. This is a play on words, because the “mint” we are speaking about, actually means a FORTUNE. Perhaps you don’t feel that valuable but you really are. There is a verse in the Bible which sums up how special you are:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I’ve been told to substitute my name in where the word “world” is, because if I was the only one that needed everlasting life, Jesus would have still come and died just for me. When I finally realized how set apart I was, that God cared so much for me…..it was mind-boggling! I grew up having an understanding of God and who He was—-I had all the knowledge in my head. But it wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I began to have it sink into my heart.

My husband and I had decided to attend a new church shortly after we moved to New Jersey. The preacher would share Bible verses that, at first, meant nothing to me. Yet, I was curious to hear more of it. At first I was stubborn, not liking to be told I was a sinner. In fact, I sometimes would refuse to go with my husband, who was truly searching for answers.God continued to draw me closer and began putting people into my life who had a close relationship with God–and it showed. I eventually came to realize that no matter how good of a person I was, it wasn’t about anything I could do—it was God’s grace—his unmerited favor towards me, offering me a choice to accept His Son. For so long I had looked around me, comparing myself to what others did and thought I could be a good enough person.

mint candySo, on July 8th, 1987, I made a decision to trust Jesus Christ as my Personal Saviour, admitting that I was a sinner and needed His forgiveness. Because Jesus surrendered Himself and died for me—I knew I needed to surrender my own desires and live for HIM! It’s a decision I have never regretted making.

It amazes me that God cares so much about little ol’ me! He’s the Creator of the universe, but Scripture tells me that He knows the number of hairs on my head. Psalm 139:17 states, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!”
I am special to God and that is all that matters.