Friday, 30 November 2012
A Fresh Start
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I ran into a friend at work a few weeks back. She was a very close friend of my daughter’s clogging teacher who passed away in May. I asked how she was doing and we talked about what a tough year it had been. Like me, she had other difficulties and losses in the year in addition to losing such a dear friend. She said that God had been helping her through the loss and she was looking forward to a brand new year.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

There is something so wonderful about a fresh start. When I was a kid, we moved around a lot because of my dad’s job. I attended 5 different elementary schools and 2 junior highs (that was before they started calling them middle schools) before we settled down and I was able to complete all four years of high school in one place. Some might say that would be pretty hard on a kid, but my brother and I would tell you differently. It made us outgoing and more confident in new situations. Even though I hated saying goodbye to friends and I found the first few days at a new school a little scary, I loved being in a new place making new friends. We also had a new home to explore and make our own. I wouldn’t want to do all that moving around now, but I am in a different season of life.

A fresh start is the ultimate “do over.” We can wipe the slate clean and start again. Why do you think all these makeover shows are so popular? Because we crave that opportunity to start over from scratch and do it over – to get it right. Remember the movie “Groundhog Day”? Bill Murray’s character wakes up every morning to the same day and relives it until he finally gets it right and gets the girl. On January 1, people will make resolutions to start on new diets or fitness regimes. Many will fail, but they will do it again next year because they have that inherit desire to start over and try again.

Lamentations 3:22-23
It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Thankfully, we serve a wonderful God who is in the “do over” business. He has given each person that opportunity for a start fresh, to wipe the slate clean. We can repent of our sin and accept Jesus Christ in our lives as Lord and Savior. We can become new creatures in Christ. That doesn’t mean we will become perfect people, because . . . well, we are people. His mercies are new each day so each day is a fresh start when we live a repentant life. Lamentations 3:40 says “Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD;”.
When New Year’s Eve rolls around, it will be natural for us to look back on the good and bad of 2012 and to begin planning for a better 2013. Many of our resolutions will be about things like our health, weight and finances. But let us not forget to examine our spiritual life. If you don’t have a relationship with God, it is never too late for your fresh start. Certainly there are plenty of churches around and if you pray about, He will lead you to the one that is right for you. If you have been serving the Lord, but maybe have not been as committed or faithful as you should, it is not too late to get the relationship back on track – His mercies are new each morning.

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Merry Christmas and Happy, Blessed New Year! Thank you for reading and sharing these devotionals. This will be the last devotional for 2012. I am not sure what direction this will take in 2013, but the words I am hearing are “fresh start.” May you have a wonderful holiday season, full of God’s graces.

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Posted on 11/30/2012 8:07 AM by Susan Nelson
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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Overflowing With Thankfulness
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Psalm 5:12
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

I do try to keep my house clean, doing the weekly maintenance work regularly. But lately things had piled up and I just hadn’t had the time to deal with them, leaving us with the clean-but-cluttered look. When I got a couple of days notice that we would be entertaining some special company last Saturday evening, I kind of freaked out. I didn’t know how we would get the inside and the outside ready to where I felt it needed to be. So I did the only the thing I knew to do . . . I prayed. I worked some in the evenings and then all day Saturday. Over several days, my husband got all the wood chopped and stacked and also got the grass cut. I still can’t believe that we got everything done, so I know that it was only with the Lord’s help that it happened.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Our visit went well, but I was glad when it was over. As I was getting ready for bed, I was telling God thank you for the help in accomplishing this major task and for the doors He is opening in our lives. Then in the next breath, I was saying to myself how tired I was and wouldn’t it be nice if I could just sleep in. After all, I had worked very hard, and my sore back and muscles were agreeing with me. The next day was Sunday and I had already arranged for someone to teach my class. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to miss. Then I heard Him say, “Is that how you thank Me?” In the words of Pastor Cook: “Eech, ouch, ooch!”  There’s so much more to the story of that day that I won’t get into, but God was right. He had made a way that I didn’t think was possible and He had truly blessed us. I should have been more thankful. Staying home in bed instead of going to church and worshipping Him would not have been “overflowing with thankfulness.” I prayed for forgiveness and set my alarm!

2 Corinthians 9:10-13 (NIV)
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

God loves us and blesses us, but He doesn’t do it so that we can sit on those blessings. He blesses us so that we can bless others. Perhaps it is in the sharing of material goods or finances. But more often I think it is sharing our experience and faith with others and encouraging them. With my experience Saturday, I can say to someone that if God will do it for me, He will do it for you. Nothing is impossible with God. Each week in these articles, I try to share with you my experiences and what God has done for me or taught me through my trials and errors. I do it to encourage others, even if it is just to let them know that they are not the only one going through something and that God is always there for them. I can rest in my blessings, because I know that He is faithful, but I cannot rest on them – they are meant to be shared.

1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

This week is Thanksgiving, so everyone’s minds are on their blessings and what they are thankful for. Many of my Facebook friends are listing one thing each day that they are thankful for, and it is nice to read their posts. However, we need to be thankful all year round and not just at the Thanksgiving holiday. Our thankfulness is more than the words we use to express it. We demonstrate our thankfulness by always being faithful, kind and loving, just like our God, and serving Him every day.

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Posted on 11/22/2012 7:50 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 9 November 2012
He's In Control
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Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

As much as I love surprises, I was not very happy to wake up last Tuesday and see eight inches of snow. I am not a big fan of snow anyway, but perhaps if it were mid-January I wouldn’t have been so taken aback. It was October 30 -- I have never seen a snowfall like that so early in the Fall. In addition to the snow, our electric was out and didn’t come back on until Saturday.

It has been that kind of year. At the end of June, we were hit with a derecho, which I had never heard of but certainly have a new respect for after seeing the winds bend our trees like they were made of rubber. We were without electric for 10 days and it was about 100 degrees outside. People went a little nuts, fighting over gasoline and cleaning out grocery stores. Throughout the year there were several tornados that destroyed communities and took lives. October brought us Hurricane Sandy (aka Frankenstorm) which was billed as the storm of the century. It devastated many areas in the north, destroying homes and waterfront areas. This week, those same areas were hit by another storm that delivered up to 10 inches of snow. (In between those two storms was Election Day, which is a tempest of a different kind but just as volatile!)

Isaiah 45:6-7
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

It is human nature for us to try to control our environment and surroundings. Events like these are unsettling. They disrupt our routine and cause great anxiety. We realize that we are not in control and really never were. In these times we truly have to trust in the Lord and also keep a little perspective. Being without electric for a week is extremely inconvenient. I am as spoiled to the advantages of electricity as the next person, but I also realize that it didn’t kill me to go without it for a few days. I still had a roof over my head and I had plenty of food to eat. Within hours of the electric coming back on, life got back to normal. Others were not so lucky. Some people lost their homes and some even lost their lives.

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

I have been correcting myself when I say that we lost power. I know that it might sound a little corny, but we didn’t lose power, we lost electric. As long as we are trusting God, His power never leaves us. The power of God protected us and protected our daughter who was several hours away with friends when the derecho hit. She called me from their car and she was panicked with fear. I prayed for her over the phone and felt His peace go out to her. I fell asleep in the chair that evening praying for her protection and received a phone call later that night letting me know they had reached their destination safely. We may not have had electric, but we still had power!

The next day I was overwhelmed by the long lines for gas and food and wondered if we would be able to get what we needed. We waited until early evening and went straight to a gas station that still had gas and only had to wait in line about 10 minutes. During those 10 days, we never missed a meal. We were able to run our generator every day so that we didn’t lose any of our cold foods. While we had no control over the weather or how fast the electric company would restore service, we did have control over our response to the circumstances. You choices are: 1) whine, pout, complain and otherwise be miserable or 2) make the most of what you have and be grateful. Like the apostle Paul, I have “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”

Isaiah 55:10
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,

The untold story of these storms is what eventually results from them. The landscape is changed because trees fall and must be cleared. That lumber becomes firewood, which people need. When the trees are cleared, there is a place for new growth. The rain and snow water seeds that have been planted. Communities rebuild, often with better and stronger structures. What we see as storm damage is often actually the beginning of something new and better in our lives. It just takes a while to see and appreciate it. The same is true in our personal lives. Problems, challenges, and setbacks come into our lives and we tend to focus on the damage. However, if we will continue to trust in the Lord, He will surely turn all these things around for our good. We have to remember that He’s in control and turn it all over to Him. What seems like the end could be just the beginning of the plans He has for you.

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Posted on 11/09/2012 7:21 AM by Susan Nelson
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