Saturday, January 24, 2015

Still Celebrating

How is it possible? It wasn’t really all that long ago that my husband, Steve, and I stood at the front of the church exchanging our vows – was it? But just last month, our daughter and son-in-law did the same. With heart-felt words and the exchange of rings, they began their lives together. My husband and I returned home to begin a new chapter of our lives.

A look back

In April, Steve and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. I still remember the countless emotions that washed over me on our wedding day – excitement, nervousness, nostalgia, joy. From the time I got up that spring day, I anticipated becoming “Mrs. Morgan.” I was marrying my best friend, the soul-mate God had provided for me.

Nerves took center stage as I thought about walking down the aisle. Never eager to be the center of attention, my heart beat in double time as I anticipated everyone’s gaze focused on me as I would slowly make my way to the front of the church. Just thinking about it made the butterflies in my stomach multiply exponentially.

The knots in my stomach eased when I thought of my sweet parents; nostalgia took over. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and a heart condition, my Dad had been ill most of my growing up years. The walk up the aisle on his arm would be unforgettable. My Mom had always been there as a faithful cheerleader. Both of them were proud of me.

Joy filled my heart to overflowing. God’s design for marriage was beautiful. Husband and wife together portrayed an exquisite picture that pointed to the gospel (click to tweet). I wanted our marriage to be that kind of picture.

Worth a thousand words

Pictures have changed so much since our wedding. I didn’t really notice it until my Mom commented on our daughter’s engagement pictures, “They’re so casual now-a-days!” And of course everything is digital too. Photo albums still have their place, but 24 years ago, they were all we had.

Ever since I was young, I envisioned myself getting married in a specific church nestled in the woods that was 30 minutes from my parents’ house. It had been the site of several weddings when I was growing up and it was where I wanted to get married too. Wonderful architecture with just a bit of a modern flair, the church was the perfect venue for our ceremony.

Arriving at the church, I remember being ushered to a big room downstairs where the bridesmaids and I had plenty of room to get ready. My hair had been fixed at a salon early that morning, and I already wore my veil. Slipping into my satin and lace wedding gown gave everything a fairytale-like quality.

Dozens of pictures followed; with our photographers taking classic pictures of me with parents and bridesmaids, and then capturing my husband-to-be with his family and groomsmen. Although I’d done a lot of smiling for pictures, nothing could keep the smile off my face as I stood in the vestibule with my Dad waiting to take that memorable walk.

Our conversation was light as we waited for the church bells to ring, signaling our entrance. Strains of Pachelbel’s Canon in D filled the sanctuary as we made our way toward the front. Elation replaced the jitters and my focus shifted to my groom.

Mr. & Mrs.

Long before any “I do’s” were spoken, Steve and I were already committed to one another. The ceremony itself made that decision public. In a flurry of well-wishes after the wedding, my husband and I got into the waiting limousine with our best man and maid of honor for a cruise around the town.

Our photo album just wouldn’t have been complete without taking pictures of the bridal party at Dow Gardens. The 110-acre gardens had been a favorite strolling spot for me and Steve; and very sentimental as well – it was where Steve proposed to me.


The photographers had a bit of fun in this beautiful setting, taking what were some non-traditional shots at the time. From comical group shots to more intimate portraits of my new husband and me, the photos highlighted our special day.

We were introduced as “Mr. & Mrs. Morgan” when we arrived at the reception hall, and made the most of the evening as we celebrated with family and friends.

Another Mr. & Mrs.

As I remember with fondness all the details that made up our special day, I relished playing my role as mother-of-the-bride on our daughter’s big day. I want to be a cheerleader for our daughter and her new husband as they begin their new journey together. I’m so proud of them. And my prayer is for their marriage to be a picture that never goes out of style; a picture that points others to Christ.


Maria I. Morgan is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. Originally an inspirational author and speaker for adults, Maria has widened her circle to include kids. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties – the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!
(You can purchase a copy of her children’s book, “Louie’s BIG day!” on Amazon. You can also find her devotionals and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking, at www.mariaimorgan.com)




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Being Faithful


 

In the Book of Ruth, we meet a perfect example of commitment and obedience. Even though her mother-in-law, Naomi, tells the young widow to return to her home in Moab, Ruth responds,

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NKJV)


Ruth had the perfect opportunity to reverse the consequences of marrying a foreign man, an Israelite. Naomi was offering her a “do-over.” But Ruth would have none of that. She would stick to her choice and stick close to Naomi (who must be the nicest mother-in-law in Biblical history.)


Obedient as well, she follows Naomi’s instructions about approaching Boaz, who eventually marries Ruth. He thus becomes the “kinsman redeemer” for Naomi and Ruth, the late Elimelech’s widow and family. Out of the union of Boaz and Ruth, future generations would produce Jesse, King David, and eventually Jesus.

 

The story makes me wonder about the choices I make every day. Which of them may be God ordained for His purposes? All of them? Just some of them? Will I ever see how some may have played a role in a divine plan? Perhaps there’s value in sticking to one’s original decision even when it looks like a mistake.

 

Many years ago, I volunteered to teach Sunday school. I did it only because it occurred to me to answer this request made during a Sunday service. I thought maybe this was something God wanted me to do. Not that I had clue about how to teach a room full of kids. I was given no instruction – just the material to be covered with “thank you and good luck.”  I soon felt overwhelmed and wondered if God really wanted me to do this, or was this calling I thought I had received just my imagination?

 

Yet, like Ruth, I hung in there for the duration. One Sunday, one of the little girls in my class raised her hand and asked, apropos of nothing I was teaching, why mommies give their children to be adopted. Wow. Where did that come from? What should I say?

 


 

 Then this came to mind.  “Some mommies love their children so much they give them to another mommy because they can’t take care of them. They want their children to have everything they need.” 
 

Though obviously ill prepared to teach Sunday school, I wonder if perhaps the Lord put me there to answer a big question on a child’s heart. Maybe it wasn’t about me teaching Sunday school, but about a little girl needing to know that birth mothers who give their children up for adoption do so out of love, even when it is so very hard to part with them.

 

Most of the time, I will never know if what I say or do impacts another for God, or even works to make me a better Christ follower. My vision is limited, like at early dawn when the world unfolds in only shades of black and grey.

 

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:12(NKJV),

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known”

 

I see only dimly in this, the early sunrise of my eternal life, what light God will shine through me. Like Ruth, the best I can do is hold the course and be obedient. I think the answer to my questions about being part of God’s greater plan is answered in Romans 8:28 (NKJV):

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

 

Website: Ecclesia! at www.susanledoux.net

 

Monday, January 12, 2015

One More Time, Because I Usually Don't Get It On the First Go-Round

2015 is a year in which my intention is to put aside all judgmentalism—but then to take it a step further. It’s not enough, I think, to say that I will be “tolerant.” That’s a horrible word—I tolerate black olives on my pizza, but I really don’t like them, and I prefer they weren’t there. To tolerate a person has the same implications: I don’t much like you. In fact, I’d prefer that you weren’t here. But I’ll tolerate you (it’s not like I have a choice.)
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And I want to take it farther than acceptance, too. Sometimes when I’m editing, I come across a piece of writing that I’d call “acceptable.” There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation, and it communicates what the writer intended to communicate. It’s fine, but I’m not enthused about it. It’s acceptable. But that’s not a good attitude to apply to a person. She’s fine, but I’m not enthused about her. She’s acceptable.

I touched on a better attitude in last month’s post—to think of every person with the phrase “for whom Christ died” after their name. You can read that here, if you missed it.

This morning, when I was thinking about what to write for this month’s post, it occurred to me that I’m not really done with this whole concept. I remembered something that a friend told me years and years ago, when she was having a difficult time with someone in her life. I don’t know if this was something that she’d been taught or that she came up with herself, but it worked for her then, and it’s a good next step in the process of fully embracing everyone who God has created (that is to say—everyone who ever lived).

Take the 139th Psalm—this exercise works for the whole psalm, but it’s most effective for the 7th through 16th verses. This psalm is written in first person—but if you agree that it’s true for the speaker, then it’s also true for everyone, yes? So take the name of the person for whom you are having difficulty getting past tolerance and even acceptance, and put their name in place of all the personal pronouns. You’ll have to do some fiddling with the verbs, too, but you can do this. Let’s say you’re having an issue with Aunt Mabel.

Where can Aunt Mabel go from your Spirit?
    Where can she flee from your presence?
If she goes up to the heavens, you are there;
    if she makes her bed in the depths, you are there.

(At this point, judgmental Jan is thinking, you bet. God’s watching her. He knows all about how awful she is.)

If she rises on the wings of the dawn,
    if she settles on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide her,
    your right hand will hold her fast.

(Oh. Well, sure. God’s holding on to her. To turn her around, probably. Because she’s so wrong, all the time.)

11 If she says, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to her;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

(Wait. So…you know she’s in darkness? And you’re still holding on to her? Being the light for her? Hmmm.)

13 For you created her inmost being;
    you knit her together in her mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because Aunt Mabel is fearfully and wonderfully made;

(But…but…)

    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

(All of them? Even Aunt Mabel?)

15 Her frame was not hidden from you
    when she was made in the secret place,
    when she was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw her unformed body;
    all the days ordained for her were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

(So you’ve loved and cherished Aunt Mabel for eternity. Just as you’ve loved and cherished me. Well. Okay, then.)

If you’re a person who memorizes scripture, verses 13 -16 might be a great way to start the new year. If that’s too many verses, just do verse 14, and remind yourself every time you use it that all of God’s children are fearfully and wonderfully made.


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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hunger and Thirst

Have you ever been really hungry? You know, the kind where you could legitimately come up to someone and say "I'm starving" and not be exaggerating?

I would venture to guess that most of you would have to say "no" to this particular question. Living in a "land of plenty," what we call hunger is a pale comparison to those who truly are lacking in food.

Yet, I'm sure we've all said we were hungry before - probably within the past day. So, maybe we think we can relate to what it means to hunger for God.
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Or maybe we can't. Maybe only people who have truly been on the brink of starvation can truly conceive of what it means to crave God, to need God as much as you need food and water.

Yet, that is how we should feel about our Lord. David felt it.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV
So did Paul and Moses, and other Biblical saints. Do you? Is doing God's will YOUR drink and your meat? Can you be satisfied with nothing else? Do you need it to live as much as you need food and water? Do I long for it when I've "skipped a meal?"

This has been very convicting to me, and I wish I could give a resounding "yes" to each of the questions above. Yet, I cannot. I love my time with the Lord, but I'm not sure I quite have this kind of craving for the will of God - at least not all the time. Other things take up my time, or keep me distracted, or blush I find other things to temporarily fill that "God-sized hole."
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But that's not what I want. I want to desire His will more than drink--His plan more than choice morsels. And with His Spirit, I can.

Heavenly Father, I confess that my desire for You is not as strong as you or I wish it to be. Lord, help me to desire Your will more deeply, to crave Your plan more strongly. Bring me to the point where I can say, with the Psalmist, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." (Psalm 42:1 NIV) In the name of Your Precious Son I Pray. Amen

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pray Without Ceasing

Are you already struggling to keep the resolutions you made for 2015?

Or did you even make a list?

Maybe you're the type person who sets attainable goals, then strives to achieve them?

One of my friends is a goal-setter and goal reacher, and she inspired me to make my own list of goals for the new year. And here I am at the first of the year, struggling to even motivate myself to look at that list. No, I'm not posting it. (I have 't looked at, remember?)

Maybe next month.....

Instead, following is an OLD resolution list that is still worth working toward and achieving.


Catrina Bradley


And we urge you, brothers,
admonish the idle,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak,
be patient with them all.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,
but always seek to do good to one another
and to everyone.

Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit.

Do not despise prophecies,
but test everything;
hold fast what is good.

Abstain from every form of evil.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 ~

As always,
BE BLESSED!
Cat

Catrina Bradley


PS: The Pray Without Ceasing graphic is free to share. Help yourself!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Re-calculating

With the advent of new technologies such as GPS systems, a new word has entered my vocabulary…re-calculating.  When I drive my car and I miss the turn it has in mind, I hear this very disgusted voice say, “Re-calculating.”  Sometimes a new route to my destination appears on the screen. At other times, on a repeating basis, it tells me to “Make a U-turn as soon as possible.”

If I want to reach my intended journey’s end, I need to listen to its words.

The same thing can happen in personal finances. A target amount can be set for the budget, with some money allocated for emergencies. But when there are back-to-back crises, some re-calculating needs to be performed. And sometimes your plans require a complete U-turn.

I’ve certainly done some financial re-calculating in my life.

In the fall of 2013, my husband, John, was diagnosed with cancer. After appointments with a plethora of doctors, the prognosis was given. “You have six to twelve months to live”. Imagine how perplexed the doctors have been as he continues to stay alive. They have had to do some re-calculating with their medications and treatments more than once.

It’s given us an opportunity to share that the re-calculating is in God’s hands.

Now we face a brand new year. As we look back over 2014, can we see areas that need some re-calculating? Maybe in some we need to make a complete U-turn. God will never speak to us with a disgusted voice as He helps us with our re-calculating.



 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10 (NLT)



Friday, December 26, 2014

One Name


But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

 

This past fall I had to make a number of trips to Iowa City with my son, Ben.  Iowa City is the location for my state's medical training school and the place where the highest level of care is available.  It's also where a lot of specialized care can be performed for individuals experiencing special needs.  That's why we found ourselves making the two-hour trek across I-80 multiple times in recent months.

 

This last time we were eastward-bound, my attention was caught by two different billboards.  The first advertised an adult video store.  The name of the business? 

 

Lion's Den Adult Video

 

I have a feeling that whoever chose the name for the store had no idea just how appropriate their choice was. 

 

I shuddered.

 

Later, I spied another sign to the north of the interstate.  It was huge.  I can't tell you how huge because I'm no good at estimating size or distance or things like that.  But this was a big yellow sign with dark letters that were probably the size of two of me at least.  It was simple sign, with only one word on it.

 

Jesus

 

I smiled.

 

It's all about that name, isn't it? 

 

It's Christmastime again.  As I write this, it's snowing (appropriately) outside my window.  Gifts are wrapped, menus are planned, and my kids are working themselves into a frenzy as they count down the days until their grandparents arrive and they finally get to tear into the presents.

 

I just want it to be over.

 

I'm not channeling my inner Ebenezer Scrooge.  It's not even that I'm worn out and tired of all the extra work required of me this time of year.  In fact, I normally love Christmas and everything about it.  But this year, like the last,  my heart is heavy, weighted down by a non-relenting grief.  Grief has a way of clouding one's vision, blocking out any rays of light that might try to shine into the heart. 

 

It's heavy and all-enveloping. 

 

It makes me want to tear down the lights and tree as soon as I possibly can.  I want to pack away the nativity and tinsel.  I want to retreat into January's cold and grayness - the outdoor heaviness that matches what is inside my own heart.

 

I want the celebration to go away.

 

But there's that name.

 

Jesus

 

The name given to that tiny Baby we celebrate this time of year insists on shining into the darkness of my heart.  Probing, blanketing, and encircling, it prompts me to turn my eyes outward and away from my own sadness.

 

Jesus

 

From the moment Adam and Eve took those first bites, mankind was crushed by sin.  No more would they walk hand in hand with their Maker.  Sin stood between them.  They would continually bear the weight of Satan's victories. Hearts would continue to be broken by the cruelty of sin and  death.   Until one night, a Baby was born.  He grew up and then was crushed.

 

For the broken-hearted

 

For my broken heart

 

And death no longer had the final say.  Its hold was forever broken.

 

One name

 

The only name

 

Jesus

 

 

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

 

Luke 4:18

 

 

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