Wednesday, November 25, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - 1620 to 2016

This week we will gather around our tables with so much food, that we will be eating leftovers for the next few days. In our family, we go around the table and share our personal "thanks" for people and things that happened over the past year. I remember as a child my sister and I would dress up like pilgrims and put on plays for the family. I always loved thanksgiving because it was the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year.

This summer we had the opportunity to see the Mayflower and Plymouth rock. It was a little disappointing compared to what I remember reading in the history books in school. The actual Mayflower was really not much larger than a large yacht. The accommodations were definitely not your luxury cruise line and no bathrooms! The Mayflower set sail across the Atlantic ocean from England to the new world in 1620.  The pilgrims wanted to leave England so they could be free to worship as they wanted.  I learned so much this trip about the pilgrims and who they were.

The pilgrims had left England earlier and moved to Holland for a short time because they were unhappy with the way the Church of England had become.  They wanted to be free to worship as they had and left the country in order to do so.  The King of England had requested them to return and nothing had changed. They were under such oppression, they were willing to venture off to an unknown land.  If they had only known what the trip ahead of them would be like.  It is thought that the King wanted them to go to the new world to stake out some land. It's hard to believe things could have been so terrible that they were willing to risk the unknown.

For three months they lived on this tiny boat carrying 102 passengers and about 25-30 crew and 3 of them were pregnant women.  One baby was born while on their voyage.  I never thought about it, but they traveled during hurricane season!  They didn't have doppler radar back then to help them navigate weather.  I can't even imagine what it was like sharing a small boat with all those other people.  No privacy and no dramamine!

I can't imagine that life could have been so bad that they would rather sail across a big ocean just for religious freedom. It must have been pretty difficult. It's sad to think how often we take our religious freedom for granted. When they arrived, they set foot on Plymouth rock, which now there is not much left of it. The rock broke when they moved it to the center of town as a reminder of what they endured and the reward. After centuries of visitors, this little rock is all that is left.
This story reminded me of a passage in the Psalms that we read every Thanksgiving eve.  It's Psalm 107.  It begins with "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south." (Psalm 107:1-3)  I wonder if the Pilgrims thought about this passage while crossing the endless ocean. Later in the passage, it says "Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters.24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end.28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." (Psalm 107:23-30)
I am sure, after 3 months on the sea, they were beyond grateful to see this new land that greeted them.  It wasn't long after they had arrived the harsh winter came and diseases took the lives of most of the people. All that they gone through to get to the new world and then they didn't live to see their dreams fulfilled.

This story touched me as I listened to the lady at the tourist center tell me all of this.  I had no idea and to be honest never really thought much about it.  But it has changed my perspective of what people are willing to endure for freedom.  

The pilgrims landed in the new world in 1620.  Here we are 2016, almost 400 years later, still celebrating their victory.  I am thankful God has blessed us with this great country! I am grateful for those who had the courage to make the journey and prepare the way for us. I am grateful that to this day we still have the freedom of worship! I am grateful for those who gave their lives to keep our freedom!

Jesus did that for us when he came to earth as a man.  He stepped down from Heaven to the depths of the earth.  He calmed the wind and seas. He healed the sick. He saved the lost. Then he was willing to go to the cross to bring us out of our distress.  Because of his willingness to give his life for us, we will one day be in our desired haven called Heaven and gather at His table for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and give Him thanks! (Revelation 19:9) Oh what a Thanksgiving day that will be! One that will last for eternity!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and may God Bless America!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: The Keep-Sake Tree

It's once again that time of year when my house begins to transform into a Christmas wonderland. As the days get shorter and darkness comes early, the sooner I can get my house transformed means in those dark hours, the lights from my trees light the room.  Yes, I did say trees.  I am one of those people that loves to have a tree in every room. From table top trees to 9 foot trees, every room has a Christmas tree.

 Each tree is themed. To me, a Christmas tree can tell a story by the decorations it holds.  I love all of my trees, but there's one that is actually where my heart lives.  It's our keepsake tree.  It's the tree that began in December of 1992. Jeff and I got married in November and we received ornaments as gifts. My mother-in-law started a tradition of giving us a Hallmark ornament with our picture every year.  This tree started out as a 4 foot table top, but has since grown into the 9 foot tree. The tree if filled with special ornaments from Hallmark keepsakes, vacation destinations, handmade by my children, and ornaments I've inherited after the loss of loved ones. This tree truly is the heart of our home.

 As I began unpacking the crates with these precious decorations, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart with some thoughts. It all came together in my morning devotions when a particular scripture jumped off the page.  This scripture pulled it all together for me.  This is the story of the eternal keepsake tree.

 The Christmas tree is usually an evergreen. This means it never changes color like trees with leaves. This tree is green, even in the coldest and darkest months. This symbolizes eternal life. The lights in the tree are symbolic of Jesus being the light of the world. As I looked at my tree, I realized the tree really symbolizes the cross. Over 2000 years ago, the light of the world hung on a tree to conquer sin and death once and for all.

One morning I was doing my daily Bible reading and I came across this scripture in Isaiah. "Look around you and see, for all your children will come back to you. As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “they will be like jewels or bridal ornaments for you to display." (Isaiah 49:18 NLT) All of the sudden, I looked at those ornaments that are placed so purposefully on my tree and realized we are God's ornaments. Each of us is like an ornament to God. Jesus died for every one of us. Just as my ornaments are from special people and places and given or bought throughout our marriage. We, like these ornaments are different and even though we were purchased at Jesus' death, we are placed on the tree in purposeful locations and are collected over the years.

Thinking about what keepsake really means, I felt the Holy Spirit ask me to separate the word and define each word. The word "keep" is to have possession of. The word "sake" is in order to preserve.  Think about that. Jesus died for us so that we could become His "keepsake." First Peter 2:9 says, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." We were chosen by God to be His ornaments to show others the goodness of God. The light of Jesus shines through us, just like the lights on the tree highlight the ornaments. It's really the light behind the ornaments that give them their beauty. 

What a picture this is to me of salvation and what Jesus did for us at the cross. As we head into the darkest days of the year and not only seasonally, but truly as we seem to be heading into the the darkest days of this pandemic, it's time for the ornaments of Christ to shine. It's in these times when we can allow the glory of God to work through us giving a lost world hope for the future.

We were are here on this earth for such a time as this. Jesus told us we were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). It's time for us to shine the love of Jesus to the hopeless, fearful, sick, and the lost. This Christmas, my prayer is that the Keepsake Tree of Jesus would be surrounded with those who choose the gift of eternal life. He said in John 12:32, "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (NLT) I pray this Christmas the cross shines brighter than ever.



Saturday, November 14, 2020

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: The Path of Life

I took a walk this morning and decided to take a different path. I came to this mosaic walkway. The ground was damp and a bit slippery so I was careful as I walked it. Then I stopped and listened to that still small voice. This is a picture of life. Psalm 119:105 says “God’s word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

This was such a visual of life for me. The fear of making a mistake, being hurt, missing something, has kept me from being courageous. I was careful as I walked because I didn't want to fall.  Falling is humiliating and embarrassing. But the truth is, we have already fallen. When mankind fell at the beginning of time, it was then the path of life became broken. (Genesis 3)
In the course of our lives, our broken pieces get broken too. Today as I stand on the other side of a difficult season, I can see God at work, reshaping, replacing, and restoring. Even the shadows on the path remind me of the times when it’s dark. I love mosaics because they are so amazing to look at. How each piece is placed perfectly, even in it’s imperfect form. The Holy Spirit is the mortar that fits it all together. We are broken people living in a broken world, walking a broken path. But if we allow the love of Jesus to fill us and the word of God to lead us, the journey can be a beautiful one. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT God takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes a beautiful mosaic.