Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 2)

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How do we give thanks in a culture that continues to tell us we’re not enough, we don’t have enough, and that our self-worth is only measured by all that is external?

Thankfulness can often be stolen from us, not only as we navigate through the retail stores during the month of November, but during any month.

You only have to glance at the magazines lining every check-out in every supermarket.

The messages that we’re hit in the eyes with are how to fix ourselves, our families, our relationships, our houses, our diets, our hair, our skin, our figures, our finances and how to have the best, be the best, want the best and never rest until we get the best.

Whoa!  Put on the brakes.

If we buy into all those plastered/plastic messages sprawled across the media, the advertisements, the displays or we get pulled into the enticements at the magazine counters how will we ever be thankful right here; right now?

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As I count down the days to Thanksgiving, I’ve been purposely keeping my focus off of the commercialism that begins this season and all the other messages I’m hit with at every checkout counter.

Before I start focusing on Christmas (too early) I’ve tried to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and finding one thing to give thanks for daily.

Often that one thing leads to many more things but concentrating on one is a great place for me to start.

One of the benefits of giving thanks daily is that the by-product of thankfulness is JOY.

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You can’t give thanks and be discontented, downcast or distracted at the same time and you really can’t give thanks and be depressed or angry either.

The out working of a thankful heart is always JOY and it’s deeply rooted in being aware of the blessings from God and it’s not dependent on circumstances.

Even in the middle of undesirable circumstances we can still have JOY.

Maybe that’s why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances.

As an overwhelming sense of gratitude works its way in and through our lives, we’re often moved to give thanks in new and unique ways to God.

A few of the ways we can offer thanks is through worship, by our lifestyle, by telling others about what God has done and is doing in our lives and by giving generously.

I don’t think there’s a better way of giving thanks to God for all He has given to us than by giving to others…in time, talent, resources, or other ways we may feel led to reach out to someone in need.

After all, we’re told in Matthew 25:40 that whatever we do to the least of these we’re doing it to Jesus.

When I concentrate on the simple truth that everything that I have belongs to God, and that I’m just a steward of all of it–even my very life–I’m more ready to loosen my grip and give to others.

So as I cultivate an attitude of gratitude in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve also included a simple prayer–Lord, who is it that you want me to help this season?

I pray my simple gesture (to whomever God leads me to this year) will have a ripple effect and that they would see it coming from the hand of God and offer thanks to Him.

Then the gift of thanksgiving won’t stop with me but will keep on going…

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014

Don’t Let Them Steal Thanksgiving (part 1)

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No sooner the costumes and scarecrows get put away, the last traces of candy vanish and the pumpkins get discarded, no sooner the fall harvest items disappear from store shelves–then all the shiny glitz and adornments for Christmas start appearing.

One by one they start lining shelves.  Sometimes Christmas appears alongside autumn, even before November.

I try to put the blinders on and walk past the displays.  But it’s all there, trying to grab my attention.

So what happened to Thanksgiving?

In the world of retail and advertising I’m sure that the purpose isn’t to conjure up feelings of thankfulness and contentment in us.

The message that seems to bombard us is that more of anything and everything will make us happier.  The message is reach, grab, take, more is better and we’re inclined to think that what we want is what we need.

Frantic, trying to create Christmas, thinking we have to keep up with all of it…well, it can make your head spin.

During this season that’s all about giving thanks, we feel it deep in our bones as the glossy; slick fliers start appearing in our mailboxes.  It’s like a pressure that pushes against us to hurry up.  Hurry up and get things done.

We may even start dreading the holidays when the countdown to Christmas begins and it’s printed in big letters across the pages of advertisements.  There are 50 days left until Christmas, then 49, 48, 47, 46, 45…and on it goes..until we get to 1 more day and then THE day.

Catalogs, magazines, newspapers, oh my!

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Take a deep breath–now let it out.  We don’t have surrender to the pull.  Easier said than done, you say?  I get it.  It’s not easy when we’re surrounded by everything that is telling us what we have to do, buy, be, and become to bring Merry and Bright into our homes.

Our environment is a far cry from the Plymouth settlers when they arrived in the new world in 1620. Arriving just as the cold weather was about to set in, they weren’t prepared for the harsh New England winter.  Half or more of the settlers died.

It was with the help from a tribe of Native Americans, who taught them how to fish, hunt, farm and survive, that they had a bountiful harvest in the fall of 1621 and they celebrated.  Boy did they celebrate…they had a 3 day feast (inviting the natives to join them) and gave thanks to God.  Thanking Him for His provision, bounty and help.  It was the first Thanksgiving day that would eventually become a national holiday.

Giving thanks, for the Plymouth settlers back in 1621, came from a deep place of gratitude to God for sustaining them and giving them a harvest that would carry them through their second winter in the new world.

What they saw coming from the hand of God, we can easily take for granted these days.

We who have supermarkets rarely go hungry but if we look back and reflect over the past year–on the third Thursday of November–I bet we can come up with a pretty comprehensive gratitude list.

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Everyday, not just this month, I’d like to live with a thankful heart…sort of like thanks-living!  Living in thanks but especially this November I’m going to concentrate on not allowing the retailers to steal Thanksgiving from me.

I’m going to try hard not to fall for their traps with the glitter, dazzle, this new gadget and that new thing to make me feel discontented.

We can’t give thanks when we focus on all that we don’t have.

How about you?  Will you join me?  As you look over the past year, what are you most thankful for?

Then tell God.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

The more we give thanks the more we feel blessed.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014

He Keeps Weaving ~ We Keep Becoming

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It’s getting cold.

Leaves from the trees are drifting in the wind along with some pretty big snowflakes today.  The once full branches, on the trees, are starting to bare.

The days are getting shorter, the air that once brushed my cheeks with warmth has a chill to it now.

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In the evening as the sun sets, my home becomes a cozy sanctuary.

Wrapping up in a blanket last night, grabbing a book on the table next to me, I thought about my youngest son’s blanket.  The one he once cherished.  It was a gift to him at birth and it became his special blanket through his toddler years.

He slept with it, snuggled with it in the morning while waiting to wipe the last traces of sleep from his eyes.  He carried it around with him most of the day, traveled with it and even ate with it on his lap sometimes.

I have a similar attachment to my blanket too.  Maybe not exactly like my son had but it’s still a special blanket.

My mother made it for me about 15 years ago.

I was with her for a couple of weeks in Florida that year.  It was her first attempt at Swedish weaving and often we’d sit and talk while she worked on it.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that it would one day become mine.

While working the thread through the fabric, one afternoon, she gasped.  A quiet hush fell over the room.  She made a mistake.

Setting the cloth down for a while, thinking about her options to correct the mistake, my mother came to a creative solution.

I let out a sigh–one of relief.

Instead of taking the section apart to start over, she weaved the mistake into the design.

No one will ever notice that, mom.  I assured her.

After she finished that first blanket, she made a couple more.  She gave one to me and the other two were given to my sisters.

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I received the one with the mistake.  Deep down I was glad that I got that one, because I was with her as she weaved some of it.

For a while I knew exactly where the mistake was.  Now if you asked me to point it out, I wouldn’t be able to find it.

The blanket is one big beautiful piece of art.

I love my blanket.  Not only because my mother made it but because it reminds of God.

Often when I look at it, I remember how God takes everything in my life–the good, the bad, the beautiful the ugly and every mistake I’ve made and is weaving everything together into something beautiful.

Nothing is ever wasted in God’s hands.  Nothing.

Even when we can’t make sense out of life, as questions arise or we are trying to make it through a difficult season, when we wonder how anything good can come from the bad, he weaves it through our lives to give it meaning and purpose.

Some situations may look hopeless but when given to him he creates a wonderful design.

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Did you know that YOU are God’s handiwork, workmanship, masterpiece?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)  

For we are God’s masterpiece…(NLT)  

For we are God’s workmanship…(ESV)

The ‘good works’ it speaks of in Ephesians 2:10 stem from our relationship with the Lord and from every circumstance in life–even the pain and sorrow of sin–whether caused by us or caused by others toward us–the truth is we live in an imperfect world where the good resides with the bad and nothing is perfect.  We learn how to help others as God forgives and helps us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  (2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 NIV)

Ah…I love that.  Our suffering becomes a gift.  There are certainly experiences that send us running to God for comfort.  It’s often there that we truly experience God.  Then that same comfort overflows from our life into the lives of others.

How else would we know how to comfort people?  That’s why it’s woven in.  Everything is miraculously recycled to become something new.

Every situation in life is working in and working out for our good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

He’s working it all together for our good.

Then He takes it a step further:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  (Romans 8: 29)

The ultimate purpose of all our experiences is to transform us into the image of His Son.

As God weaves everything in life together for good to those who love him, we become more like him.

Our life is in process of becoming a perfect whole.  Just like I can’t see the mistake in my blanket anymore, many people won’t see how God weaves our mistakes–and the difficult circumstances in life–together with the good.  They’ll just see what we’re becoming.

We’ll keep being fashioned into the image of Christ and he will be revealed in and through the fabric of our life.

He keeps weaving.  We keep becoming.

Written By:  Nancy Janiga ©2014

Throwing off and Putting on

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We traveled north down some winding roads.  There was a spectacular show going on outside the windows of our vehicle.

The beauty of autumn surrounded us.

I said, “Isn’t it amazing that all this brilliant color is a result of dying”?  My husband nodded.

Autumn in its brilliance looks spectacular, beautiful, vibrant, lovely and all because of death.

I think that’s true of us in a Spiritual sense as well.  I’m thinking of the act of dying to self that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 16: 24-25 and Mark 8: 34-35.

When we die to self and come alive with Christ we are being transformed into something beautiful.  Just like the autumn trees.

It’s not because of anything we have done but everything that Christ has done and we simply decide to yield to His life in us.

It’s the exchanged life and an act of putting off the old self and putting on the new self.  See Ephesians 4:22-24.

The leaves are in the process of death.

We are in the process of dying to what we once were and becoming like Christ.  It’s not an overnight miracle but the more we put off what belongs to our old self and put on more of Christ the more vibrant we become.

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As we allow Christ to have more of us everyday, we become more attractive as believers.  There will be a Christ-radiance that will emanate in us and through us.

Dying daily to our selfish nature isn’t easy.  That’s why it’s often called a process.

Jesus said, For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 16:25)

So the goal in death is LIFE–here on earth and on into eternity.

The exchanged life cannot be seen more clearly than in Saul of Tarsus (who later became known as the Apostle Paul).  In regard to putting off his old self and putting on the new…what a contrast!

He went from hatred to love, killing to offering life, and from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the greatest Christian teachers of all time.  There isn’t another person in all of scripture, apart from Jesus, that shaped the course of Christianity more than the Apostle Paul.  His conversion story is in Acts 9.

Paul, even with his strong personality, yielded his life to Christ.  Yet he also admitted that he was in process and that he hadn’t fully arrived.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3: 12-14

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And Paul even referred to himself as the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15-16.

He was shown mercy but he was in process, daily choosing to take up his cross and follow Christ by dying to himself.

How do we do this thing called ‘dying to self’?

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Look at the disciples.  They were called by Jesus but had their own distinct personalities and gifts.  I think it’s more about dying to self-will, control, ego, pride and anything that places us on the throne of our life and at the center of the universe.

Anytime we feel the pain of rejection, heartache, disappointment, experience something bad or unpleasant, illness, hardships, trial, suffering, when we’re treated unfairly–we can choose to throw off our old way of reacting with pride or ego and die to ourselves.  We die to sin and self.  We throw off the old way of reacting and respond in a new way.

So this autumn as I enjoy the beauty of the dying leaves on the trees, I’m reminded that the more I keep choosing to die to self the more beautiful I’ll become–not from outward appearance but by what comes out from within.  Death brings life and dying is beautiful.

Written by: Nancy Janiga©2014

Unplug to Plug in

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I made an effort to get up earlier than usual this morning.  It was quiet, still, peaceful.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  (Mark 1:35)

Just give me an hour with you, Lord.  That was my prayer.

Then came a ding from my cell phone.  A text.

Already?

Then the ring from our land line.  Those political phone calls start early.

Bob was up bright and early too.  He wanted to call our internet service company about our weak wifi connection.

So our day began with a service representative on speaker phone with all of us trying to trouble shoot our wifi problem.

After being on the phone for an hour, I still don’t think the problem has been solved

Life is loud.

It seems we stay connected 24/7.  Everything is instant and there’s more news and media coming at us than ever before.

We get pictures in real-time, see the events of friends happening right before our eyes, games, offers, advertisements, slogans, recipes and more come at us as we scroll down the news feed on facebook.  Then there’s instagram, pinterest, twitter and who knows what else that may keep us connected with others non stop.

We’re on high alert…always plugged in.

I read an article recently where the author (a psychologist) stated that social media is robbing people of their attention span.  One of the points she made is that we have re-trained our brains to want and need never-ending stimulation.  Being silent and still is foreign.  Settling down and being quiet is hard to do.  We have a whole nation that is becoming more and more ADHD.

Trying to turn our brains off seems harder and harder these days.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.  Luke 5:16

We don’t like lonely.  Solitude is becoming a lost experience.

Jesus taught us how to pray (and continues to do so as we follow him through the gospels)  Also, he shows us the value in finding a quiet spot, away from distractions where the only other person present is God the Father.

If our own Lord needed to pull away, we too need it and more than ever today.

Jesus was fully God and fully man.  His humanity knew how necessary it was to stay in complete communication with his father.  There was a dependence that he perfectly models for us.

Not only that, the trinity communicated with each other.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had complete unity and interaction with one another.

The Holy Spirit leads us in prayer and interacts with God the Father as well and–teaches us how to pray.

That prayer I prayed earlier for an hour of time?  It’s being answered now.  It’s quiet in my house again.  My phone is off.  I’m unplugged from the internet.  I need this silent space, and feel compelled to focus on Jesus and his alone time.  What an example he is to me and a true leader in the blessing of solitude and prayer.

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Jesus would dismiss the crowds so he could be alone with his father.  (Mathew 14-22-23)

He would spend the night alone praying.  (Luke 6:12)

Jesus interceded for his followers.  (Luke 22: 31-32)

He petitioned God on behalf of others. (Luke 23:34)

He gave thanks to God for answered prayer.  (John 11:41-42)

Jesus was truthful about his emotions with God.  (John 12:27-28)

Jesus prayed for his disciples and for all believers.  (John 17: 6-26)

He cried out loudly to God to save him from death. (Hebrews 5:7)

I like the contact that I have with family and friends on facebook.  That’s my only social media connection.  I enjoy hearing from others, seeing their pictures, learning how I can pray for them…rejoicing through the good and mourning through the bad with them.

I don’t think I’ll be giving up that connection but I do need to unplug from our modern-day devices to plug into God who recharges me with his power and life.  That’s a connection that I can’t afford to lose.  If Jesus couldn’t live without communication with his father, I certainly can’t live without it.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga©2014

What not to carry

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A friend of mine mentioned to me today that she’s done carrying the burdens of others.  She declared, “I’m learning how to put things in their proper place, like taking them off of my shoulders and placing them on a shelf, so to speak.”

“So you’re going to care but not carry?” I asked.  She chuckled and said, “Yes and stop trying to FIX!”

She shared how hard life was getting, because so many of her family and friend’s issues were consuming her thoughts and time.

“We aren’t designed to carry a load that heavy,”  I told her.  “That’s God’s job.  We will surely be crushed beneath the weight if we don’t lay it down.”

What I was saying to her is what I have to continually tell myself too.

The nurturing, compassion, caring, helping, qualities (especially in women) are beautiful God-given gifts that when expressed properly result in a blessed heart, not only for those we help but for us as well.

It only becomes harmful when we allow all those wonderful qualities to push us into overdrive.

I can think of several times when I’ve gone into overdrive–driving myself to the edge of exhaustion by thinking that I could fix a problem by trying to gather the pieces of a situation and (like a puzzle) try to put them back together again.

That’s a good way to create undue anxiety.

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A verse that comes to my mind now is Galatians 6:2 — Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (NIV)  In that verse we’re called to carry one another’s burdens BUT we were never called to try to fix the burdens.

What does it mean to carry the burdens of others?   I think it means we pray, help when we can, guide, point in the right direction, comfort, mourn with, listen to, be there, but we can’t repair anything.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of fix is: to make (something) whole or able to work properly again: to repair (something): to deal with or correct (a problem).

We can love, care, help but we can’t fix.  That’s God’s job.

Those scattered pieces we see may actually be the way God will get the undivided attention of the person we are trying to help.  If we zero in and start picking up all the pieces for them–well maybe, just maybe we’re interfering with a bigger plan.  It’s impossible to see the big picture from our finite perspective.

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Quick fixes don’t last.  Healing does.

God is the expert at picking up the pieces of broken lives and putting them back together again and only he knows where the pieces fit to create the big picture and it will be immeasurably more beautiful than we can ask or imagine.

Think about your life.  If there was always another person there to rescue you from distress, stop you from hurting, picking up your pieces, where would you be today?

For me, most likely, it wouldn’t have gotten me to the place of — if I may use the cliché–letting go and letting God.

It was when I humbled myself, admitted to God that I couldn’t pick up my own pieces that he came to my rescue.  It was giving up control and allowing him to gather the pieces and put them back together the way they were exactly meant to go together.

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Another person can’t do that for us and we can’t do it for others.

Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-30:   “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

His yoke is easy and his burden is light. 

My friend who is learning how to put things up on the shelf has uncovered the truth.  She was carrying things to a point where her burden was not light anymore.  Actually, it became so heavy that she began to break under the weight.

Helping when really needed, praying, doing what she can then taking all the concerns and placing them on a shelf is releasing my friend from the heavy yoke others were placing on her shoulders.

God never places heavy yokes on us but people can and sometimes do.

Jesus’ yoke is easy and it creates rest.

In the literal sense a yoke in biblical times was a bar of wood that was constructed to put over two animals, like oxen, to unite them. This made it easier to pull equipment used in farming.  One animal would have a harder time pulling the load.  Two yoked together made the job easier.

To be yoked to Jesus makes our journey easier and lighter to bear.

I also read recently that farmers used to yoke a young ox with an older more experienced ox for training purposes.  The older ox would take the major load and the young one would walk next to the older one learning how to walk.

I think that’s a beautiful picture of what Jesus offers to those who are exhausted, weary and burdened.  It truly is comforting to know that Jesus walks along with us teaching, guiding and strengthening us every step of the way.

We don’t have to do it alone and he doesn’t want us to do it alone.

I like the image of placing things on a shelf that my friend described.  She said, “I’m actually letting God have control of them” and He knows it.

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It’s like having several baskets on a shelf and taking all our concerns and placing them in the baskets.  Putting the burdens that we weren’t designed to carry inside the baskets doesn’t mean that we don’t care.  What it means is that we know what our job is and what God’s job is.

Then we pray.  We tell God about the concerns (all those complex puzzle pieces of life) that we put in the individual baskets.  We ask him to take care of them and to put the pieces together in a way that only he knows how to do.  Then we trust.  Then we rest.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga©2014

The Certainty of Change

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One thing that we can always be certain of, in an uncertain world, is that life changes.  Sometimes it changes swiftly, sometimes slowly but it is always changing.

I’m looking out my window and see change.  The once green reeds blowing in the wind on our hillside are turning yellow.  I see Goldenrod between the fronds from the tall grasses that edge the side of my house.  There are pops of color especially red sparkling in the sunshine on tree branches.   The hues in the foliage dotting the landscape are turning different shades of gold, my summer flowers are fading and my mums are starting to bud.

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I’m writing today but haven’t been doing much of that lately, because I’ve had migraines.  They often intensify while sitting in front of my computer screen so I’ve had to put the screen down on my laptop.  I tried to string sentences together in my mind, write them out with pen and journal but I needed rest more than I needed to write.

This is a change.  I’ve never had migraines.

A friend of mine asked how she could pray for me today.  Before I could share about how I’d like her to pray for Bob, she said “For YOU!  How can I pray for YOU?”

Bob has been at the top of my prayer list and he has been in many of your prayers too.  He is handling his chemo medication well and the markers for the leukemia are decreasing in his blood.  God is answering our prayers.

Bob’s illness was a big change.  We’ve had to make adjustments in our life, we’ve learned a new medical language with our visits to his Hematologist/Oncologist and this will be on-going for the rest of his life.

So when I’m asked how someone can pray for me, I immediately ask for continued prayers for Bob.

Getting back to my friend’s question…I finally shared with her that I’ve experienced migraines lately and haven’t been able to write much.

Relief has come and I’m able to write again.  I’m thankful for my friend, Sherry, for asking about me and for her prayers.

Yes, things change.

I see it when I visit my parents.  It seems like yesterday that they were young, raising 6 children and we were all a big lively family doing life together.  Now they are in their mid and late 80’s and all their children have children and some of us have grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our own.

A year and a half ago my 57-year-old brother passed away, unexpectedly, in my parents’ home.  That was a big change and an adjustment for his family and especially his children.  I know my parents have felt the intense pain of it at a different level from most of us.  Yet they are strong in their faith, know he is with God and when they have a hard day they hold fast to that truth.  The God who is taking care of my brother is taking care of them too.

Friends have moved to other cities, new friends have come into our lives, Family and friends have gotten ill–some seriously and some have gone home to be with the Lord.

Time marches on and change is inevitable.

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I glance at my reflection in the window as I gaze out at the ever-changing landscape.  What happened to the young woman I once was?  What happened to that young woman raising kids, going to their sporting events, parent teacher conferences, and making dinner for more than two people everyday?  Where have the years gone?

My husband and I have a quiet home.  It’s just the two of us.  It’s a different time, a different phase of life.

As the season is changing out my window, our lives have seasons too.  Change is hard.  Maybe it’s from wisdom that comes with age, but change isn’t as scary as it was when I was younger.  Or maybe it’s because of God’s grace.  Looking back at how he’s seen me through so many changes already gives me confidence that he’ll be there through whatever lies ahead.

In this season of my life, instead of thinking that life is passing me by, I lean into each new day and grab hold of it right where I am.  I grab hold of it knowing that tomorrow may never come.  Someday I will close my eyes here on earth one last time and open them in the holy presence of the Lord in Heaven.

Leaning into each new day and grabbing hold of it doesn’t mean that I find some new adventure or experience to wrap my life up in.  To me it’s as simple as finding something to give thanks to God for everyday.

It’s harvest time and the new apple crop is in.  I think I’ll lean into it and make an apple crisp soon.  Thinking about filling my home with the scents of fall…apples baking, cinnamon, pumpkin pie, harvest spiced candles is a comforting thought.  There’s always some element of joy in the midst of every season.  I want to see everything through kingdom eyes, lean into it, grab a hold of it and find joy.

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Seasons have come, seasons have gone, change will come slowly or swiftly but change will come.  We can be certain of that.

But there’s also one more thing that we can always be certain about.  God never changes.  In the middle of our uncertain world and a life of constant change, he is immovable.  He is a solid rock and a firm foundation and he’s never surprised by change…whether it comes slowly or swiftly, it never surprises him.  It’s under his control and he has everything in control.

Before I can fully lean into each new day, find joy, and be thankful in it, I need to make sure I’m leaning in God’s direction first.  As I lean into and on him, he keeps me steady so I’m not tossed about by the ever-changing circumstances of life.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2014

Spreading the Kingdom

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So I was reading the Lord’s prayer today.  You know the one that Jesus taught his disciples.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…

Then I stopped.  What caught my attention is the part that says ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

If Christians throughout history have prayed those words and we have prayed those words, you wouldn’t know it by the headlines.  I don’t see it in the news.  If his kingdom is coming and his will, at this time in history, is being done where is it?

I see war, talk of more war, prejudice, hate, violence, heartache, shootings, looting, abuse and the repeat button gets pushed daily.

Our Prince of Peace, more than likely, is weeping over all we hear and see in the news.

Hatred starts in the hearts of people.  People start wars.  People hate.  People become violent.  People cause heartache.  People are their own worst enemy.  The enemy lies within.

Where is the remedy?  Where is the peace?  It comes through the Prince of Peace and that is a heart issue.

We can’t legislate it, push it, create a law to follow it or demand it.   Even God had laws…the Ten Commandments.  They were all broken.  They were broken not only by them but by us–each one of us.  Maybe we didn’t break all of them but, I can pretty much guarantee, that we each have broken some of them.

Following rules are things that we do outwardly.  It’s a good thing to have a plumb line and boundaries but it’s not what changes us from the inside out.  Before real beauty, love, peace, community, and a ‘one another’ living together in perfect unity can ultimately be brought into the world, it has to come from REAL beauty, love, peace–all that and not only that.  It’s so much more.

It’s a person.  It’s not a religion, a program, a method.  It’s not morality, good behavior, a good example, a good message.  It’s a person.

Once that person…God himself through Christ occupies a person’s heart (the core of his being) then and only then, can the Kingdom come and his will be done.  It happens one person at a time and then has the potential to spread.

When Jesus’ light breaks through the fog of someone’s earthly existence, rest is found and peace follows.

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I needed a ‘Kingdom Come’ person–someone to point me to the truth.  We all do.  We all need truth.  It’s only truth that will set us free from ourselves and that is the only power that can ultimately change our headlines, one headline at a time.

Think about the person who was your ‘Kingdom Come’ person.

Who told you about God’s love?

Who told you that you could never pay the debt or work off your sin?

Who told you that it’s been paid in full?

Who told you that you can live in joy and freedom?

Who told you that you can’t change yourself and being moral isn’t the answer?

Who told you what Jesus’ death on the cross was about?

Who told you that because he is alive and because he lives forever you will too?

Who? What? When?

And if someone never told you then I am.  It’s simple. It’s Jesus.

When Jesus walked the earth, he spoke to two groups of people.  He spoke to the sinners and the self-righteous religious people ( who, by the way, were sinners but they didn’t think they were).  They thought that following the law could save them and make them righteous in God’s eyes.  The religious people hated Jesus, because he loved ‘sinners’ and spent time with them.

The truth is both groups needed Jesus then and they need Him now.

Once we get this straight, we can become ‘Kingdom Come People.’

There’s a world out there who needs Jesus through us–me, you, us!  It needs Christians to spread His LOVE.  One person at a time.

Then we must pray that the seeds of love that we sow will germinate, root, and grow deep into the soil of the hearts whom we share it with so His Kingdom Can Come On Earth As It Is In Heaven.

Written by: Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

There is Singing and there is Light

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As a young child, I can remember my mother singing through the house as she did her chores.  She had the gift of a beautiful voice and she filled our home with it.

I was the oldest and then came my sister, Diane.  We were the first two of six children.  When she and I were very young, my mother often sang us to sleep at night.

There on our bed all tucked in after a warm bath, clean pajamas slipped into, our hair towel dried, and prayers said, she sang.

When darkness set in, often thoughts that weren’t there in the daylight hours would surface.  Like those unrelenting thoughts of monsters that are common in the imaginations of small children.

I needed a glimmer of light somewhere close by to pierce through the darkness.

A night-light tucked in the corner of the room helped.  Or the low-wattage hall light that could be seen shining dimly outside our bedroom door brought some security to me and, I’m sure, to my sister as well.  The twinkle from the light helped ease us into the night around us.

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Then came my mother’s voice, soft, mellow, and sweet.  She sang over us and we became comfortable in our surroundings and slipped off to sleep.

As time went on, my nightly fears lessened and eventually vanished.  But when I think about sadness, depression, hardships, grief, those difficult seasons of life, even as an adult, the night can often be the hardest time of day to make it through.

Our fears tend to heighten when the light slips away.  The difficulties that are challenges during the day can seem like insurmountable mountains at night.

Someday we will no longer have night and we won’t need the sun (or the moon) to give us light.  The glory of God will be our light.  See Isaiah 60: 19-20 and Revelation 21: 22-27.

On the other hand, there is a darkness that can consume us even in the daylight.  This has more to do with the darkness of our soul.  It’s what happens to us when we run away from God–when we think that we can handle life alone.  It happens when we don’t allow his light to penetrate our dark areas.

When we let him in, our eyes open and we see life from his perspective.  We see and know the difference between true light and true darkness and we view everything here on earth–the good, the messy, the awful, the beautiful as it is…temporary.  A light dawns and God brightens our way and illuminates our path.

Isaiah put it this way when he told the people of Israel that a light would be coming into the world:

 a light has dawned...

Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

It’s easy to get lost in the dark but he actively seeks those who can’t find their way, because he is light and deeply loves every single person that he pursues.

I like that God provided a way to pierce our spiritual darkness.  Whether it’s in the bright of day, or twilight, the evening hours or overnight hours, he is there and is always casting light on our circumstances, our shortcomings and showing us how to maneuver our way through the dark avenues of this world.

He steers us clear of the pitfalls, takes us through detours, over the mountains and through the valleys.

When we think our path should always be easy, he shows us that the easy way isn’t always the best way to get to our destination.

So we follow.  We follow the light.  Allowing him to guide us through this great adventure of life.

When we forget to follow and don’t listen to his words–which are actually light too–( Psalm 119: 105), when we veer off the road, get lost in the dark and cry out for him there he’ll be to guide us back again.

He comes after those who call out to him.  I love that about him, because although he is always faithful we, at times, are not.  Sometimes we wander.

When we lay our head upon our pillow at night, we can always be assured that he delights over us – watches over us – and did you know that he even sings over us?  Zephaniah 3:17 tells us so…The LORD your God is with you…He will take great delight in you…He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Just as my mother comforted my sister and me with her singing, God sings over his children and as our night-light cast a glow through the darkness, Jesus does the same in our life.

After all, we are all like little children to him and he is our father.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2014

When We Need Each Other

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“It’s kind of scary,”  she said.  A young woman, who stood on the threshold ready to walk through a new door, summed up her thoughts with those four words.  It’s.  kind.  of.  scary.

I sat with her for a couple of hours.  I listened, offered some suggestions but those four words didn’t leave me once we left one another and drove home in different directions.

Sometimes doors that we don’t want to go through appear and we have no choice–we have to enter them.  Others may look beautifully inviting but may not be the best ones to open.  She and I tried to sort that out together.

Although years separated that young woman and me, we actually weren’t that different.  It’s the unknowns that lie ahead that can overshadow our faith sometimes.  They can paralyze us with fear if we allow them to consume us.

She was growing up, about to venture out into the world, taking on new responsibilities and she was afraid.

I, a mature woman, recently had a few of my own fears.

My husband, Bob, started his treatment for CML last week.  As he was preparing to take his first dose, I read all the possible side effects from the information sheet that came with it.

That did it.  I allowed my thoughts to spin out of control.  All of a sudden the scenarios of what could happen played out in my mind.  Those scenarios overshadowed my faith.  I began to tread on shaky ground but caught myself before I got too far.

That’s when I asked others to pray for Bob (that he wouldn’t have any adverse side effects from the chemo drug) and that I would regain my peace.

It’s times like this that we need each other.  That’s when we need others to speak back to us the faith that we announced, pronounced and were walking in just hours before.

We aren’t lone rangers.  In a world that glorifies independence it’s difficult, at times, to step back and then turn back to what is true–we need each other.  It’s called interdependence.

Independence proclaims, “I don’t need anybody.”  Dependence says “without you I can’t survive.”

Interdependence throws off pride, doesn’t pretend to have it all together, isn’t a burden on others but knows when it’s time to reach out to someone.

It’s the way we’re designed.  We weren’t designed to handle life alone.

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In our fear we should never be afraid to share what we’re experiencing with the right people.  Often it will lose its grip on us just by telling someone else about it and talking it through.

It also loosens its hold on us when we allow others to carry us to Jesus when we’re too weary or afraid to walk toward him ourselves.

Like the paralytic man in Luke 5: 17-26 who needed someone to carry him to Jesus we, at times, need others to carry us to him when we feel paralyzed by fear.  You’ll notice in the story that Jesus commended the faith of the paralytic’s friends and then ultimately healed the man.

It wasn’t long, not even a few hours, when my fears washed away and faith returned.

Also sometimes it’s good to go to a familiar place where we are alone or a place that we know will help us to enter into the presence of God.

For me, one of those places is the lake near our home.

The night of Bob’s first treatment, after he took his first dose and I asked others to pray, we drove down to the lake.

It was chilly.  We sat in the car and watched the sun begin to set.  Then I walked down to the water’s edge.  Very few people were on the beach in the chill of that evening.  It was peaceful.  Some sunsets are brilliant and other times the sun looks like a ball of fire against a dark sky.  The only way to describe the one before us that night was tranquil.

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Bright light broke through the sky with ribbons of pink around it.  Waves washed up on shore and light reflected on the wet sand from the light above.

As I think about that night, I’m reminded of the words from “Hosanna” by Paul Boloche–“In your presence all our fears are washed away.”  My fears were washed away…in his presence that night on the beach.

With every wave, in the peaceful tranquility of the sun setting, I was able to carry Bob in prayer to the one who would keep him, hold him and use the medicine to heal him and not to harm him.  Other friends and family came to mind too.  As I carried Bob, I carried others.

And today I’m able to carry my young friend in prayer.  The one who was about to walk through a door into the unknown.  The one who spoke those four words to me, “It’s kind of scary.”

Written by: Nancy Janiga©2014