RESPECTING OUR DIFFERENCES

Recently, I had an enlightening conversation with my older teen daughter that got me thinking that I think this world needs more people that respect each other and are open minded to the differences in others.
Every person is created by God with their own unique blueprint of qualities. The various life experiences we have all contribute to the way we look at things and even how we view the world around us. It is the same world, but every person sees it a little different…in a unique way. One person’s way is not the “right” and only way to see it.
Those of us who grew up in two parent families in a loving environment might well look at the world differently from those of us who were raised in a single parent home where making ends meet was always a struggle.
You might be very organized and want things a certain way, but to another person, that might not be important.  Maybe spending quality time with loved ones is what is important to you.
Maybe you are happy to be alone while your sibling always needs to be busy doing something.
Is going to an event important to you? Well, it might not be on someone else’s bucket list!
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Photo credit by Celestine Chua under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)
Does the way you do something make you a better person than someone else?
Is the way you look at something the ONLY way to look at something?
Because you see something this way, does that give you a right to judge the way someone else looks at the same situation?
Should you be cutting down others when the way they see something doesn’t match your way?
I think the answer to all these questions should be NO!
The next time you disagree with something someone says, try to catch yourself and ask yourself if maybe, just maybe, it would be better to NOT jump in and complain, but instead respect the other person and their point of view. Sure, you could gently share your thoughts, but ultimately, realize there are many different ways to see something and that’s okay!
Doing that may even expand your horizon and help you see something differently. There can be great blessing in that too.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  –Titus 3:1-2
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. –Ephesians 4:29

THE HUMANITY OF JESUS

One Easter season it occurred to me how Jesus Christ, while on this earth, experienced all the same basic human emotions and feelings as you and me! Yes, He is divine, being God’s Son, but He also came to this earth as a human.  Have you really let the power and specialness of that sink in?  To know that Jesus truly understands the different human emotions that we, too, experience?

The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Jesus wept when He found out that His friend Lazarus died.  Some people say Jesus wept because He loved Lazarus so much; others say it was because Jesus knew that some of the people gathered around still would not believe He was the Messiah, even after Lazarus’ resurrection.  Either way, in our humanity, we weep when our loved one dies, when our loved one isn’t following Christ, or when someone dear to us makes choices that take them down a “wrong” path.

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Photo credit by BK under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Did you ever stop to think how Jesus, the  Messiah and King, was mocked and laughed at while on this earth?  Satan tempted and mocked Jesus in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus was always empowered to return Satan’s temptations with Scripture. Many people mocked and laughed at Jesus when he was hanging on the cross for you and me!  I think Jesus’ heart must have been very heavy and saddened listening to the people mock and laugh at Him.  Many of the people in Jesus’ hometown did not even believe what Jesus was preaching.  Sometimes, people mock us and laugh at us when we stand up for our beliefs or our faith, or when we step out to share God’s love.

Often times when trials come our way, we pray to God that they may pass us by—just like the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemani before He was arrested.  Ultimately, Jesus knew He was sent to earth for that very moment to set us free. In our trials, hopefully, before long, we, too, can say, “God, let Your will be done.”

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Photo credit by Waiting for the Word under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Do you ever feel that God has forsaken you?  There was only one moment in Jesus’ life when He felt abandoned like that—that was the moment when Jesus, hanging from the cross, took on all the sins of the world.  God promises to always be there—it’s we and our sin that turn away from Him. Hanging on that cross, Jesus gave up His spirit peacefully because He knew He came to do God’s will. He knew He was called by God, led by God, and empowered by God to sacrifice Himself to set all of us free from our sin!

Jesus also left us with a great example of loving one another.  All along Jesus knew that Judas would be the one to betray Him, yet He had no bad feelings toward Judas.  Jesus still loved him—and, that is the love we are called to have for one another.

This Easter season may you take time to reflect on Jesus’ humanity and how He can relate to our emotions and feelings. He understands and wants us to know we can rely on God to help us on this journey. I pray you have a blessed Easter celebrating the Risen Christ and living out the empowerment we have in Him!

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil. –Hebrews 2:14

WHEN YOUR BEST ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH

Have you ever been in a situation when you tried so hard to succeed at something but in the end, your best just wasn’t good enough for you to reach that ultimate goal?

My son had that experience this week and as a mom I think that was probably harder on me. We always want the best for our kids, and especially when we see them work so hard for something, it is heart-breaking if they don’t quite achieve that.

This son especially has a great love for the sport of baseball. Years ago he played soccer which was cut short his last year by a broken arm. (From jumping off a swing at a classmate’s birthday party!) At that time in his life, he was also plagued by asthma so it was harder on him running back and forth down the field. Through the years, he has also been involved with the sport of basketball. It used to be when he was in basketball, we would find him saying that was his favorite sport and during baseball, baseball was definitely his favorite sport.

That mentality seemed to change this past year. Baseball became HIS sport! In fact, he didn’t want to play basketball anymore so he could just do baseball all the time. The problem is it seems rare to be able to do baseball year round (due to our snowy winters), so he did continue to play basketball to keep more active.

This past fall, my son played fall baseball at an indoor complex so they didn’t have to worry about the weather interfering with play time. This is when it seemed like the spark in him became even stronger to pursue baseball and when he started saying baseball was his life!

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Thankfully, a friend of his suggested to a coach of a travel baseball team that he should check him out. Well, the rest is history. My son has been practicing and playing indoor games ever since and can’t wait for the outside travel tournaments to begin. He loved the day he had practice, helped with another team, and had a double header! His passion is definitely with baseball.

This past week they had school, modified baseball tryouts. He so wanted to make the team this year. He tried out and didn’t make the team last year as they only took three players from his grade level. This year they took more players and sadly he was not one they picked.  We’ve heard our school sports are pretty political in nature and as in most things, it seems to depend on who you know. That is definitely a disadvantage for us as he came into the school district as a 6th grader, and because of where we live, we usually go to another town for the recreational sports so he is not really on their “radar.”

A bit after we came home from finding out the results from the baseball try-outs, my son comes out with two white boards that he wrote on. One was listing some goals and one was a workout routine for everyday to help get him more physically fit and stronger. That made my heart so proud, and made me rethink the heart-break I was feeling.
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He had risen above the disappointment to make some positive changes in his life. He is more determined than ever to be the best player he can be for the Broome Bandits, his travel baseball team, and to hopefully make the school baseball team next year. Getting in shape physically can only help those goals, make him stronger, and hopefully also help with the mental, positive aspect involved with sports too.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  –Romans 5:3-5 
I think so often in our society, there is so much pressure to be #1 …whether it be to climb the corporate ladder and be the top dog, or to be the #1 athlete in the state for a particular sport. It is definitely great to be one of those elite ones, but in most cases, there can only be one of those, so most people don’t achieve that status.
What is even more important I think is that along the way, we put forth our best effort in all we do. We all can’t be #1, but we can all put forth our best effort. It reminds me of a blog, entitled Perfect Effort, I read about the movie When the Game Stands Tall, one I definitely recommend viewing.
A major theme of the movie is that you can’t always have a perfect “game,” but what is most important is to put forth the perfect “effort.”
As I reflect, I am so proud of my son for putting forth his best effort in the sport of baseball.  Through the years, all of his coaches have said that he is such a likable, teachable kid who wants to improve. He will listen to the coach and try to incorporate whatever suggestion they have.  He is determined to be better through his list of goals. Thankfully, his travel coach has been so understanding and supportive of what my son is experiencing, so he has let him come down to the complex and practice with his son every day that he wants. My son always wants to get there early, and ends up closing up the place most of the time.  I’d say all those things contribute to him putting forth his perfect effort.
Maybe you will be able to relate to some instances in your life when your best wasn’t quite good enough, but hopefully you were able to make the best of the situation and turn it around for the positive. And, I think more importantly, hopefully realizing you put forth your best effort will bring you comfort!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  –Colossians 3:23-24

THE VISION

One day as I was feeling all alone in this world, I had a vision–a different type of vision that made me ponder the true meaning of this life.

In the vision, I saw myself sitting outside, in the middle of a huge park.  It was a beautiful, crystal clear day, and a soft, gentle breeze was blowing.  People were scurrying all about, but nobody seemed to notice me, as I sat all alone, lost in the vision.

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Photo courtesy of H.L.I.T. under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)

I couldn’t believe my eyes, as suddenly, one by one, “things” began to disappear.  First the trees, then the birds and the mountains.  Houses once seen in the distance were erased from existence.  Cars and buses were next–no longer to be found.  Last but not least, the people, one by one, disappeared–no more family, friends or even strangers around.  All the places where I had once seen God’s beauty in this world, suddenly vanished.

I looked around once more and there was only me surrounded by all this emptiness.  But, within my heart and soul, I had only an unexplainable peace.  I knew in my heart of hearts, that although all the “things” of this world were taken away, I still had “something.”

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Photo credit by Waiting for the Word under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0) Hopetoinspireyou.wordpress.com added verse

You see, I was not alone–I had JESUS living in my heart–a treasure far greater than any earthly “thing.”  It was then that I realized the true meaning of life.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 4:7

THE ROAD TRIP OF LIFE

Do you, like me, sometimes enjoy taking a road trip by yourself?
Cruising along on the open road, especially if there is good weather, and not much traffic, seems soothing to my soul. It gives me a peaceful feeling and I feel God’s presence while I’m cruising along the road. Of course, I can’t help but play Third Day music, which blesses me, the whole way to top it off!
I was truly blessed this past weekend to do just that as I had a chance to go to a Third Day concert because of an unexpected available ticket. It was a win-win situation for sure! It was so last minute that I didn’t know until about 6 pm Friday night that I was going at 9 am Saturday morning! It really was a wonderful road trip and a blessed time of worship to experience. Everything worked out just perfect.
On the six hour drive to Ohio, it gave me lots of time to pray for so many people that need prayer while playing my music. On the way back, it was more of a time for me to just play the music and reflect on the messages of the songs, even though I do that all the time. It was just more of a quiet time with God.
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Photo credit by AboutMyTrip dotCom under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)
Have you ever thought about how your life is like taking a road trip?
The destination is heaven to spend eternity with God & Jesus. Ultimately, that is truly the best destination and will be even better than anything we have experienced here on this earth.
It would be pretty much impossible to make a long trip without researching the way (back in the day) or making our lives easier nowadays, getting the infamous GPS out. Before I start out on a road trip, I always pull out the GPS and program it to the destination.  On our road trip of life, we’ve got Jesus and the Bible as our navigator as well as Christian friends. Jesus, the Bible, and our friends are there to help point us back in the right direction if we get off the beaten path or if we need a little bit more encouragement to make it through a trial we’re facing.
Just like there are many roads to travel on a road trip, along with many different kinds of roads, our lives can take us down many different roads….some are smooth sailing, some are bumpy and rough. Maybe we take a road less traveled in our life that is not a good one. We might even lose our way for a little and take some unexpected detours. Hopefully it won’t be long before we get back on the right road and continue on the straight and narrow road. Yet, through it all, our God is faithful and is always with us. He is there to help us find our way and love us no matter what.
On my road trip this weekend, I saw such beauty in all of God’s creation. The sun was out, in fact, on the way home I had the sun roof slightly ajar to get some fresh air to help me stay energized after a short night’s sleep! So many beautiful hills for my eyes to behold. I think the coolest sight was going over this huge lake and seeing some cross country skiers plowing through the snow.
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Photo credit by Steven Straiton under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)
On this road trip of life, do you take time to notice the beauty of your surroundings? There is so much beauty in looking at creation….the mountains, hills, valleys, even the vast flat land all have their own beauty. You might see some snow to grace the hills, the sun to brighten your path, the clouds that might bring some storms, the glorious sunrises where you see God’s beauty shining forth, or the full moon to light up the night sky…All of these things show God’s omnipresence and power to make such a beautiful world for us to experience while on this earth.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
–Luke 24:13-15

GIFTEDNESS

We must all search to find the special gifts that God has given us to share with one another.  Sometimes we may not feel we have any gifts, but Paul says in Romans 12:4-8,

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

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Photo credit by jublieelewis under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

We need to take time every now and then to evaluate the gifts we’re sharing, as well as where and how we are using them.  It is possible that our gifts may be used in different ways depending on the circumstances of our life.  God may be calling us to use our gifts in a different setting at various times in our life.

God may also call us to expand our horizons and develop other gifts that are needed at certain times in our life.  He wants us to continually grow in our spiritual walk.  Our giftedness will be a blessing for us, while also blessing the people around us.

Sometimes our gifts may be visible to others, and at other times nobody may see them.  What is vital is that we let God use our gifts at each stage of our life for His manifestation, and not to worry if others notice our gifts.  Then we can rejoice knowing we are serving Him and doing His will!

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Photo credit by jublieelewis under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  –1 Peter 4:10

WORKING TOGETHER IN HARMONY

Isn’t it neat to think about all the things in this world that work together in harmony?

As humans, but made in God’s image, I think all the more WE should look for ways to work in harmony and make this world a better place for others.

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I think that is how God wants us to be with one another…helping each other to live in harmony, whether through an encouraging word, physically helping another in some way, praying for another, or sharing some gift that we have.

This thought of how things work together in harmony occurred to me when I was attending a Philharmonic concert recently. Especially since I do not have the gift of music, it amazes me to think how, with the vast amount of instruments in an orchestra or band, and so many different people playing, that such great music is the result! I am in awe of how all of the instrumentalists, with their various instruments, know exactly the right time to come in and play their own parts. So many instruments and different people from all walks of life can work so well together and play some beautiful, harmonious music!

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Photo credit by Mike Fisher under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

How about how God made all of nature to work together in harmony? From the trees, to the flowers, to the animals, to the birds of the sky, each has their own job and purpose on this earth. Snakes help reduce the rodent population and mosquitoes are actually a great food source for birds, fish, and frogs among other creatures. Again, they all live together in harmony.

Think about the huge oceans in this world and how the many creatures there live in harmony. Each creature in the sea exists to live in harmony and fulfill a purpose. Why there are even major ecosystems making beautiful coral reefs for our eyes to behold.

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Photo credit by Derek Keats under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

If you have a career, think about how much more smoothly things work when people all work together in harmony. Being respectful and caring in our interactions, rather than demanding or mean is one way to work more harmoniously. How about letting people think about and have a say in the way something could maybe work better? Maybe the “lowly” person in the company holds the key to improving a process and save the company some money! Working together in harmony is much more beneficial.

In your home, especially if you have children at home, life is so much better if you can find ways to live in harmony. If the kids are always fighting or arguing, life can be so draining and it doesn’t benefit anyone.

Our churches should be places where people feel welcome and a sense of community where love is the center of everything that is done. People praying for one another and helping each other in whatever way they need. No one should be in need for physical things. Having programs to enrich and grow in our faith are important things to help us live more harmoniously with one another.

Reaching out to a stranger through a smile at the store, inviting a friend over for dinner when you know they are all alone, or sending a card to brighten someone’s day can help us live in harmony. You just might be the one God uses to help another see something in a different light, and that just might change their life for the better enabling them to live a life of harmony.

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Photo credit by Danielle Lynn under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)

I do think it is so cool how God can use every event and circumstance in our life to affect another. It might be to benefit you in some way or maybe it was just what the other person needed. God is so good and it is so powerful to see how everything is connected. I can help you, you can help me, and together we can glorify the Lord in all we do and say. It is awesome to be open to seeing the Lord working in all of creation and to live in harmony with one another.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. –1 Peter 3:8-9

THE LENTEN SEASON

In our life, I think it is a good thing to take time to reflect on our journey, what can be improved, and what changes we can make to become better people.
As Christians, I think the season of Lent provides for us a good time to do that.  Lent can provide us all with a specific time to refocus the direction we are headed. But, we certainly don’t need to wait until Lent to make changes we feel are needed. Anytime we feel inspired to change is a great time to start doing things differently.
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 Photo credit by brett jordan under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)
Are there changes you can make to improve and deepen your relationship with the Lord?
Are there changes you can make to help you be a better you?
Would reflecting on the supreme sacrifice that Jesus made for you make you more thankful?
Some ways to help us refocus can be:
Fasting
Repenting of our sins
Spiritual discipline
Almsgiving
As Christians, it is a given that our salvation is based on our acceptance of Christ as our Savior. Participating in the above actions are things we can do to grow closer to Christ in that relationship. Doing these things will not get us to heaven but they are more of a by-product to enhance our relationship with Christ.
It is interesting to note that Christ fasted, would take time out to pray to God, His Father, and helped the poor that He encountered.  If Christ did these things, can’t we learn from His example?  He spent 40 days in the desert where He fasted and was tempted by Satan, yet He knew the Scriptures and defeated Satan each time with Scriptures.
I love celebrating the holiest of days reflecting on the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and then Easter which are the pinnacles of our faith. For me, it is the most special time of year.
Thinking of how Jesus washed his disciples feet at the Last Supper was such an act of being a humble servant….commanding us to do the same. Reliving the Last Supper, where He sacrificed Himself, is always a powerful event for me.
Thinking about Jesus carrying the cross on Good Friday is such a humbling experience….to feel the agony that He endured for us.
And then there is Easter Sunday when He rose on the Third Day! He was victorious over sin and death in order to set us free!
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Photo credit by Art4TheGlryOfGod under Creative Common License (CC BY-ND 2.0)
So, I view Lent as a time to make us more aware of things we can do to grow closer to Christ…a time of reflection, growing even deeper in our relationship with Christ, and becoming better people following in His footsteps. And then when we celebrate that glorious Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead, we can join in His victory over death and truly be Easter people!
For me, being Easter people means sharing in Jesus’ resurrection and the joy that comes with knowing that He paid the ultimate price for our salvation! We have the privilege of proclaiming and sharing Him with all we meet by the way we live our lives. Knowing that we are also filled with the Holy Spirit who is always there to encourage us and give us power is a huge blessing.
I pray that you may have a blessed Lenten season growing in your faith, and then on Easter Sunday be filled with the love and joy of the Risen Savior!
Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  –John 11:25-26
Here is a link to a new song by Third Day entitled Victorious. It sums up what Jesus’ death did for us all.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHkFa8l9dQk

THE BLESSING OF CAREGIVERS

A few months ago I talked about some Inspirational People in my life. At that time, I did touch on the specialness of one particular caregiver, but I wanted to expound on that importance of the caregiver a little more. I truly believe they deserve a special shout out, and they need to know what a blessing they are.
I also mentioned in another writing, about the Bible Study I’m involved in this year encouraged us to do some type of “ministry” work outside of our comfort zone. The jail ministry did not work out, so when a Deacon in our Bible Study mentioned about praying for a gentlemen who used to go to our church who has had cancer for the last four years, right away, I felt compelled to go visit them.
To do something outside of ourselves and our little, familiar comfort zone can be scary but I am really finding that I need to continue to follow that little prompting and step out in faith. I will admit I kept going back and forth in my mind if I could really call them to see if they were open to a visit and then go and do that. And then I’m thinking, what will I talk about or say to them. Thankfully, I got brave, did call, not just once, but twice (as nobody answered the first time). The wife was more than happy to accept an invitation for a visit, and so I was off to their house the next morning.
It just so happened that the lady used to babysit my eldest child..only about 18 or 19 years ago!  It seems hard to believe that it was probably about two years ago when I ran into her at the grocery store and we conversed for a bit.  Other than that, I have not seen them too much through the years.
As always, it is delightful to see how God works things out. I had scheduled the visit around a birthday lunch with a friend of mine, allowing an hour visit before meeting my friend. In the end, it really worked out that my friend could not make the lunch date. That way, I did not have a time constraint with the couple I was visiting.
I brought some cookies for them, which they greatly appreciated, she made some coffee, and though at times I felt like maybe my words didn’t come out right, I know the visit meant a lot to them. We all had a wonderful time catching up on each other’s families, and reminiscing about the “old” days, and just being there for them.  More than three hours flew by before I left!
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Photo credit by garlandcannon under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0)
During my visit, I was very blessed to see the two of them interact, as well with their one daughter that was home helping them out. It made me realize once again how special the role of a caregiver is and the extreme sacrifices they make. The caregivers that I know personally, care for their loved ones with such love and devotion.
I’ve witnessed the caregivers:
–Serving their loved one with respect
–Serving their loved one with dignity
–Serving their loved one with such love
–Serving their loved one with such patience
–Serving their loved one with gentleness
–Serving their loved one with kindness
–Serving their loved one with such faithfulness
–Serving their loved one with words of endearment
I know the caregivers often sacrifice their own wants and desires in order to be there for their loved one. Many times, the caregiver can not just go when they want because they might not be able to leave their loved one without someone being there. This can be so draining on the caregiver, but they continue to give us a great example.
It really is a special person who cares for another with such a humbling, loving spirit. What a true example of being Christ to their loved one.
So, I would just like to thank the blessed caregivers who give so much of themselves for their loved ones. They have touched my heart, and I know they are certainly following Jesus’ humble example of serving others.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  –Galatians 5:22-23

THE SEED

Our lives can be parallel to that of a little tiny seed.  That seed is just being planted into the dirt when we realize the true purpose and meaning of life—life in Jesus Christ.

Growth of the seed will continue when we read and share God’s Word and reach out to one another.  This is the water and food that nourishes the seed.

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 Photo courtesy of  Andrew_Writer under Creative Commons License (CC NY 2.0)

In reaching out to others, we help ourselves grow, as well as bringing others to know and love Jesus more.  This is the “sun” which, when it shines brightly, helps the seed to blossom into something beautiful.

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Photo courtesy of Rennette Stowe under Creative Common License (CC BY 2.0)

At times, clouds and storms may come and shake us, but with the “Son’s” help and with friends to hold us up, the storm will pass, and soon the sun will shine again.  These storms help us stand taller and be stronger than before.

Again, He said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest see you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”  –Mark 4:30-32