Fires Burning

#inspiration, encouragement, #JesusI am drawn to campfires. Sometimes I roast marshmallows and other times I am content just to sit near and appreciate the beauty a fire has to offer. I like to watch the flames lick and dance and when they have burned down, I’m enthralled with the glow of the embers.

Our eleven-year-old grandson, Logan, also has a love of campfires. Unlike me, he is not content to sit idly beside one. Instead, he wants to tend the fire, turning over and rearranging the burning logs.

He joined us for a fire recently and, poker in hand enjoyed rearranging the burning pieces of wood. When the flames died down, he used his poker to break up the glowing embers and move them away from the rest of the fire.

It didn’t take long before the glow left these embers, making them look like lumps of coal. Logan commented on this and we told him to move the dark pieces of charred wood close to the larger ones still showing the red and orange of fire within. Pieces recently removed ignited quickly; ones that had grown cold took a little longer. Some needed to be completely surrounded by the pieces with fire still alive inside them. Eventually, all of them burned brightly again.

I have had experiences where the flame of passion for life has died down. Just as an ember removed from the fire grows cold, the same happened to me when I distanced myself from other believers. I discovered the colder I became, the longer it took to reignite my spark.

This is a good reminder to surround myself with positive, encouraging people. Together we can fan the flames of potential each of us carries. As followers of Jesus, we can be the spark that points others to His love and light.

(Jesus said) “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

Come Up Kicking

#inspiration, life, committmentThe exercise instructor added some new challenges to our water aerobics class. We had to keep our feet off of the bottom of the pool while moving them in a cross-country ski motion. In order to keep afloat, our arms were busy sculling at the same time.

When we were allowed to touch the bottom again the instructor told us to come up kicking. There was to be no pause. We went directly from fighting to keep our heads above water to kicking our legs up high.

After the class (I was too busy trying to breathe during it!) I thought about the come up kicking statement.

There have been times when the bottom seems to have dropped out of my life and I’ve had to fight hard to keep from going under. It takes everything I have just to stay afloat.

Eventually, I am able to put my feet on solid ground. The natural inclination is to rest. Far more beneficial is to come up kicking. It isn’t easy but the head start I gain will give me a much better chance of reaching my goal.

Past experience has taught me that what I achieve is directly proportionate to the effort I am willing to put in. In other words, how committed am I to what I say I want?

The Conga

#inspiration, life cycles,outlook, purpose“Next, we’re going to do something called the conga.” It didn’t take long before I figured out this wasn’t a fun dance the exercise instructor was referring to.

We were to do the same exercise for three minutes. It was broken into segments with the first twenty seconds being easy, the next twenty seconds being harder and the final twenty going full out. Then we would repeat the sequence.

We were to think of it as, life is good, life is not so good and yikes! It was the intervals of varying intensity that would give us the most benefit.

I can see how this cycle is repeated in everyday life. As much as I would like to stay in the life is good phase, this is a period of rest and not of personal growth.

When life is not so good, I need to work harder to keep a positive outlook. There are lessons to be learned if I take the time to look for them.

Then come the periods when I’ve been knocked down and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get up again. Everything seems to be fighting against me. It takes every bit of energy I have just to put one foot in front of the other. It hurts to stay in this place and I have to find a way out. This is when I need to dig deep and find strength and courage to forge ahead.

Each cycle will eventually flow into the next and contribute to a higher purpose.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb

Karaoke Night

#inspiration, #Jesus, life, personaWe had no intention of singing. The visit to a Karaoke night was purely for entertainment purposes.

The range in vocal ability and style was vast. One woman was shy and faced away from the audience when she sang. Some were modest and sang from the heart. Others had fun and interacted with the audience. They all brought enjoyment to the evening.

We overheard conversations about practice and performance skills from a few. They took this very seriously.

I was fascinated to watch and listen as the singers took on a new persona when they picked up the microphone. Once the music started it seemed as if they thought they had become the original artists. Maybe the impersonation of someone they admire helped boost their self-esteem.

This is not a judgment, as I know I’ve done the same thing. When I see how popular and successful you are, it is only natural to want to duplicate this in my own life. The trouble is, I’m not you and never will be. Instead of striving to be like you, I need to be the best possible version of me.

Ironically, the way to do that is to model myself after a well-known figure. Jesus is the only one I should be striving to emulate. In fact, he wants me to mold my life after his. The more I am able to do this, the better my life will become.

I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. (Ephesians 1:17 GWT)

Amazing Love

#Good Friday, #Jesus, love,Have you ever loved someone so much you would risk injury to protect them? Would you go as far as giving up your life to save another?

Even before they were born I knew I would do this for my children. Now, the same holds true for my grandchildren.

But, would I freely give my life for anyone other than immediate family? Probably not.

Yet, this is just the kind of amazing love Jesus had for you and for me. He wasn’t forced but freely gave his life. I know this because of his words in the Bible found in chapter ten of the book of John.

Jesus knew he would be facing excruciating pain.  He was beaten, mocked and tortured. Why would he put himself through this?  It was to become the sacrifice for our sins.

I used to think that since I was basically a good person, I couldn’t be a sinner.  How wrong I was. I hadn’t considered the little white lies, judgments of others or a myriad of other so called small things.  Since it is not possible for me to live a ‘perfect’ life, I am guilty of sin and deserve to be punished.

The simple reason Jesus suffered and died is because he loves you and wants you to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. In response to this sacrifice, don’t think of Good Friday as just another day but consider how you will respond to His amazing love.

He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18 NLT)

The Snow Tires of Life

#inspiration, life skills, tools, knowledgeEavesdropping was not my intention. The conversation was taking place between two men standing directly behind me, so I couldn’t help overhearing at least part of it.

They were talking about the harsh winter road conditions and yet another March snowstorm. “Do you have snow tires?” one asked. The other replied he didn’t need them as he’d grown up in Winnipeg and knew how to drive in the snow.

The rest of their conversation faded as my mind processed this information. The knowledge and skill for driving in snowy conditions are good to have, but to my way of thinking, tires that give better traction would still be helpful.

I wondered how often I think I can do something on my own and fail to make use of the equipment or life tools available to help me be more effective.

Knowing what tools to use and actively using them are two different things. For example, I can grumble and complain about driving through the snow or pick up a life tool to allow me to see this from a different perspective. If I say, “I choose to drive for the benefit of spending the day with my grandchildren” the trip takes on a new meaning.

When a situation doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped I can get upset or ask what I could do differently. There is more than one way to get from point A to point B and when I combine this knowledge with the skills I possess, I will have increased traction on the road of life.

“Even the simplest tools can empower people to do great things.” Biz Stone

Snow Storms, Tail Lights & Life

#inspiration, life, light, shineLast week we had to drive through blowing snow. The line of cars was travelling at a reduced speed due to poor visibility.

A truck sped by, the snow swirling behind it creating a temporary white out. We were unable to see anything in front of us and no longer knew how close we were to the car directly in front.

To make matters worse, none of the vehicles ahead of us had their headlights on. They may have thought running lights were enough but because these don’t connect to the tail lights it made it difficult for those following to see where they were. For safety, we needed a visual of the car in front before they slammed on their brakes.

The main purpose of tail lights is to shine a light for others. I can’t see the effect mine are having but know their benefit is for more than me.

Maybe my life is like this. What if shining my light has a bigger effect than I’m aware of? I may never know who altered their course or saw their way more clearly due to my living on purpose.

When I shine the light of my talents and abilities, it is possible to make a difference in the lives of those around me. The gifts of teaching, encouragement and love may help someone find their way out of a dark situation. For this reason, it makes sense in snow storms and life to keep my light burning brightly.

“Make today amazing and let your light shine.” Stacia Pierce

Road Sign Advice

inspiration, signs, lessonsWhile driving in an unfamiliar area we saw a sign that said, Rough Road No Turn Around. I have encountered phases in my life where this could apply.

Maybe it was because I either missed or chose to ignore an earlier warning sign; the one that said Wrong Way. In some cases I wasn’t paying attention but in others I felt it didn’t apply to me. After all, I knew where I was going and this was a short cut to get there.

Except, this route lead me to the rough road I then had to travel. Once I realized my mistake, I was too far in to turn around. No matter how rough it got, I had to keep going. My errors in judgement couldn’t be erased. They had now become part of my story.

All I could do was put one foot in front of the other as I trudged forward, hoping to find the smooth road once again. Since turning back wasn’t an option, the only thing left was to find some value in this uncomfortable area I found myself in.

When I pay attention, there are lessons to be learned. I now know to watch for the signs and to heed the advice they give.

Jigsaw Tribute

#inspiration, tribute, motherThis week marks the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth. I can think of no better tribute than to share an excerpt from something she wrote years ago. She’s been gone for many years now but lives on in the following message.

At some time in our lives, I would imagine that each one of us has worked on a jigsaw puzzle.

Usually, the first thing we do is to study the picture on the box. It’s much easier to know how the pieces fit together if we have the completed picture in our mind’s eye.

The second thing that we do is to turn over the box and empty out its contents. Often our reaction to that pile of pieces is to wonder how such a jumble will fit together to form the picture on the box.

However, we set to work, turn all the pieces right side up and begin to sort them out and fit them together. Each piece has its own particular spot. Have you ever found one piece coming into your hand every few minutes? You try it here and try it there, and it almost fits, but not quite – so you put it to one side and go on with the rest. Whenever you find it in your hand again, you give it another try. Eventually, you find the right place for it.

Every piece of the puzzle must be there to start with, or we can never hope to see a completed picture.

Joining any kind of group is something like this jigsaw puzzle. Before we join we try to get an overall view of the whole picture. Then we look around at the number and variety of people who attend and wonder if we’ll ever sort them out and fit them together to make the picture we envision.

First of all, we have to turn them all right side up – that is, we have to find the right and good side of each. We can’t expect a piece to fit into our puzzle ANYWHERE. It won’t fit if we’re looking at the back, or standing it on its side, and trying for force it into where WE think it should go. We have to accept each person for who THEY are and not try to force them to be what WE want or expect them to be.

Some people are like the piece of the puzzle that keeps coming to our hand and we have difficulty finding a spot for. We must recognize the fact that everyone does not fit with everyone else all the time, but there is a proper spot where each of us belongs, and that no one else can fill. Every piece of a puzzle is absolutely essential if we are to have a completed whole.

It is my belief that our lives will be happier if we let each person take his place as an individual. Together we form the complete picture.

Rules of the Game

#Jesus, #inspiration, BibleI have happy memories of playing card games and board games. This enjoyment of games was passed on first to my children and now to my grandchildren.

Recently I pulled out a board game that had been neglected for many years. Nine year-old Emily and ten year-old Logan were excited to play a game their mom had played as a girl.

It had been so long since I’d played Big Deal that I had to learn the rules all over again. Fortunately they were printed inside the lid of the box so we had guidelines to follow. There were more rules than I remembered and it was easy to get confused and forget some of them.

We decided to start anyway and learn as we went. Many mistakes were made and I was grateful for understanding grandchildren.  They asked lots of questions and waited for me to look up the answers. The rules were always beside me and they let us know how to play and how to win.

Life also comes with a rule book.  It’s called the Bible.  Jesus came to show the joy and peace found through following God’s laws. He demonstrated how to play by the rules in order to win the prize of everlasting life.

I still sometimes struggle with or forget some of the rules. Jesus is always beside me to instruct me as I go along. He is the one who makes it possible to play by the rules and win at the game of life.

If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. (James 1:5 GWT)