Bile (Boil) That Cabbage Down

If you’ve lost a loved one, then you will understand this scenario:  I’m preparing to teach elementary music when my eyes fall on the 5th Grade Chorus music—Bile That Cabbage Down.  I choke and a tear springs to my eye because it brings back a very fond memory of my father who passed away in 2009. He didn’t play the guitar often and he didn’t sing often, but when he was being silly, he would sing this song while playing the guitar… and I loved to hear it! My dad, who was very private with his feelings and not an “in front of people” guy, could be so different in the shelter of our home. He was silly! He loved to tease. Oh, the memory just makes my heart ache for him!

Then my next thought stopped me short. I wish I had…

  • Spent more time with him
  • Not wasted so many moments being a rebellious teen. (One summer we rode to work together and they were the most silent rides of my life! Why didn’t I try harder to talk to him? I hear you saying, “But he should have talked to you.” True, but now he’s gone.)
  • Worked harder to know him better
  • Been more patient with him

Even though these are relatively minor regrets, they do come to mind and bring with them a lesson for today that I would urgently suggest you consider…

  • Spend more time with people than your computer
  • Get out of your comfort zone and SAY SOMETHING!
  • Work at family relationships. They can become so strained by miscommunications, lack of time together, morbid self-introspection, jealousy, selfishness, and just plain meanness
  • Be more patient, especially with elderly folks and teens. These are two groups of special needs people.  We’ve all either been there or will be there! Teens bark more than they bite, and I have yet to be bitten by one because I started a conversation.  And as a pre-older person 🙂 (OK, so I might not be speaking the truth in my heart!) I’m beginning to understand the aches and pains, the disappointments life seems to throw at us, and the frightening thought that time is changing more than I can handle.

You may say…

  • “But I can’t!” Are you sure?
  • “You don’t understand.” No, but God does!
  • “It’s impossible.” But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
  • “It won’t change anything.” Oh, but you don’t know until you try! Sometimes we are so busy looking for the other person to change that we fail to realize the change that needs to happen in our own hearts!

Sometimes, when counseling with someone or in a teaching moment when I’ve tried to encourage someone to make right choices and do the hard thing, I wish that I could play back all the excuses I hear. But then there are those precious moments when the listener hears with a heart surrendered to do God’s will, and I know there’s hope for that one!

I hope this challenge blesses and changes you—I know it has touched my heart!  I needed it. Praise the Lord!

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Stuck or Planted?

Do you ever feel that way—stuck! Perhaps you are stuck in a job you don’t like or a marriage that is loveless. Are you facing a life of illness where the situation you’re stuck in includes hospitals, prescriptions, and overwhelming medical bills? Sometimes, our “stuck spot” is more petty, like a bad haircut, twenty pounds too many, or a lacking wardrobe; however, those daily grind stuck spots are difficult to overcome too.

Stuck—can’t get out—can’t change it—HELP!

This powerful little prayer is such a challenge! Let us consider…

  • John Bunyan, who wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress” while he was stuck in jail
  • J. S. Bach, who wrote 46 pieces of music while in jail
  • Paul, whose imprisonment gave us Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon

All three of these men were stuck in situations that were unchangeable, and yet Bunyan turned his cell into a allegorical backdrop, Bach changed his prison into a concert hall, and Paul traded his chains in for a Spirit-led quill!

And when we consider our Bible heroes, like Esther, Daniel, and Joseph–just to name a few–we realize that they too made lemonade out of their lemony situations.

Stuck or planted?  Are you stuck because you will not make necessary changes, or are you planted right where God wants you to be? 🙂 Hmm. That’s good for thought! Just some helpful conclusions:

  • If I can’t change it, I MUST accept it serenely.
  • If I can change it I MUST elicit God’s grace and power to do so, surrendering my will to His.
  • I MUST depend on the Word of God for wisdom, reading it, studying it, and allowing it to keep my thinking biblical.

Perhaps a picture IS worth a thousand words!

Related image

STUCK…

Image result for dead plant in pot

 

 

OR PLANTED?

 

 

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

An Overflowing Heart

ID-10051375Is there any better time to write a post than when my heart is overflowing? You may ask why? … a raise? … a new sofa? Is it because of the beautiful covering of snow this morning? … the 25+ birds on my feeder? … my terrific husband? …wonderful kids? … adorable grandchildren? No, none of these.  My heart is overflowing because of the feast I just enjoyed this morning from the Bible! Oh, the joy of precious time alone with my Lord and Savior! It brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my chest because my heart is ready to burst!

Just a little background …

I started off this year using a new Bible reading plan which will take me through the Bible in 90 days! That’s a lot of Bible, but I wanted to give it a try.  Now, here on day 13, I’ve been able to keep up with it, but it’s been a challenge. The greater challenge is getting something from the Word.  With that much Bible pouring into my brain, there hasn’t been the luxury of “studying” the Bible, and I’ve missed it.

So, this morning I studied God’s Word. My friend, Matthew Henry, was a great blessing and took me over the top! I suppose I love his writing because he wrote before…

  • The 2000s millennial worldview
  • The 1990s fundamental shift
  • The 1980s contemporary movement
  • The 1970s Christian school movement
  • The 1960s anti-establishmentarian movement
  • The 1950s post-war era

He wrote before…

  • The colonies were even established in America!
  • Voltaire made his inroad into “modern” thinking
  • World Wars
  • Hitler’s diabolical Third Reich

However, his times were not without troubles:

  • His father was ejected as a pastor from the Church of England because he would not conform to church policy (Act of Uniformity 1662)
  • Matthew Henry himself was a Nonconformist, which certainly meant swimming against the tide!

That was a bit of a sidetrack, so back to this overflowing heart and a challenge:

Will you be at church tomorrow?  Why do you go to church? You see, when we spend time with God it will make our hearts overflow with joy, gladness, thankfulness, adoration, praise.  We just want to honor and praise and glorify our wonderful God.

We go to church for those reasons: to glorify, praise, worship, and honor God. We go to express our love and thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us! We don’t look at the color of the carpet, the outfit someone is wearing.  We don’t complain about what hymn or song is sung.  We don’t go to critique the teacher, pastor, song leader, pianist or instrumentalist.  We don’t ultimately go to see our friends, but we go to focus on God and realign our hearts and lives back to HIS normal.  It’s sort of like going to the chiropractor!

Here are the thoughts and Words from God that triggered the overflow:

How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!  My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Psalm 84:1-2

The whole sparrow thing took me to Matthew Henry.  Look at this:

 David … would rather live in a bird’s nest nigh God’s altars than in a palace at a distance from them.  It is better to be serving God in solitude than serving sin with a multitude.  David envies the happiness not of those birds that flew over the altars, and had only a transient view of God’s courts, but of those that had nests for themselves there. David will not think it enough to sojourn in God’s house as a way-faring man that turns aside to tarry for a night; but let this be his rest, his home; here he will dwell. And he takes notice that these birds not only have nests for themselves there, but that there they lay their young; for those who have a place in God’s courts themselves cannot but desire that their children also may have in God’s house

I hope your church is your “home away from home” –a place where you gather with your fellow journeymen and gain strength, rest, and the satisfaction that you have done what God commands, not grudgingly, but with a heart overflowing! Make your “nest” there! Own it! Make it yours! 🙂

 

Sail On!

DONT QUITA new year, a new resolution—it’s January 3rd, how are you doing? Perhaps January 1st is just another day for you, but for me, it’s a new beginning!  I love new beginnings; however, the challenge to accomplish something—sticking to it to the end—can be overwhelming! Last year’s Master Club* Award’s ceremony brought this into clear focus for me.

One young lady received an award which some of the students had never seen before because it requires three years of complete dedication to earning every badge in the program.  This is not an impossible feat, but it does require a lot of commitment. Several students who would return the following fall showed great excitement and interest in earning that award. Now, here we are in the middle of that particular challenge, and I’m having my doubts that any of them will complete all the requirements. How does it happen: completing a task, sticking to it to the end?

Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7).”  Isn’t that every believer’s goal? Sometimes the Christian race can seem daunting. Yes, we break forth at the starting line with “new babe” joy and expectancy, but sometimes, when we are out there in the middle somewhere with no end in sight, it can be lonely, discouraging, and seemingly impossible to keep fighting “a good fight.” You’ve probably heard of the farmer who keeps his eyes focused on a certain post or tree to ensure that he has plowed straight rows, but if there’s nothing to focus on, what do we do to keep the line straight? Here’s what my hero, Ron Hamilton has to say:

                        When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

                        When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

                        Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

                        If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

 

Do you see Him? Can you sense His presence? Do you feel His guiding hand upon your shoulder? He is there beside us… IN us! Wow! So…

  1. Remember that you have a Friend that sticks closer, cheers louder, sees better, loves deeper, and knows you better than you know yourself!
  2. Don’t forget all of God’s helpers! Hopefully, you have a pastor, pastor’s wife, Sunday school teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or family member who can help and encourage you on your journey. Don’t be afraid (or too proud—I can say that because I struggle in that area!) to ask for help.
  3. Set goals! You will never hit the bull’s eye if you don’t put up the target! It’s OK to be hard on yourself and stretch yourself a bit further. This year, I’m trying to read/listen to the Bible in 90 days. That’s a big one for me, but here’s the plan:
    1. I’m using Youversion.com which puts the Bible at my fingertips.
    2. I’m mostly listening to it in pieces throughout the day. (Praise the Lord for earbuds!)
    3. HERE’S THE BIG ONE: I’m not listening to anything else until I am finished with my Bible listening for the day! When I first wanted to become faithful in my Bible devotions, I would not eat until I read the Bible. That worked!
    4. Keep focused on the goal. Sometimes we crash and burn and Satan is right there at our elbow to feed us his lies, like: “You’re being legalistic.” “This really isn’t necessary.” “Who says you have to read the Bible to be a good Christian?” “You’re just doing this for prideful reasons.” Then your flesh comes along and says, “I’m tired.” “I don’t want to read anymore.” “You should be doing…” “I can’t concentrate anymore.” “My eyes hurt.” “My head hurts.” “My feet hurt.” Then the dog barks to be fed, or the kids need help, or hubby interrupts.

When the going gets tough, sail on! When the sea gets rough, sail on!

 When you’re tempted to quit, sail on! Don’t give up the ship, sail on!

 Trust in God’s might. Don’t give up the fight.  Come on! Keep on! Sail on!

If you want to succeed, sail on! Christ is all you need, sail on! Sail on!

Is it worth it? Oh, yes! Can you imagine hearing this from Jesus:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:21

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

* a children’s Bible club in which the students earn badges, etc.

 

If Only in My Dreams

61MS3M5UGILBing Crosby made “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” popular in 1943. With US troops fighting both fronts of the Second World War, it’s easy to see why this Christmas song struck a common chord both here and abroad.

We all have dealt with separation from loved ones at one time or another, but the Christmas season seems to magnify the ache. Memories of past Christmases when all the bambinos were under your roof, or a loved one who is now missing was still sharing the holiday gatherings with us can turn our moods blue in a heartbeat!

As my husband and I listened to our Christmas gift from our youngest son—a collection of family favorites played by him on the piano and cello—brought tears to our eyes. Tears on Christmas morning? It happens but it’s OK. Tears are so necessary in this life!  They wash away the hurt, release the pain, and clear our vision.

Separation at Christmas—do we stop to realize that, even though we praise our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for coming to this world, this greatest gift would mean separation for them? We cannot comprehend God’s omnipresence. Were they really ever separate? Certainly, on the cross, Jesus’ words would indicate that His Father forsook Him. I believe it is Martin Luther who pondered this thought: God forsaken by God. We cannot understand, but we can be grateful. We can allow the Father’s sacrifice and separation to be a comfort to us when we are separated for a time from those we love. The greatest blessing for every believer is that we will never suffer the separation from our heavenly Father that Jesus felt on the cross. Hallelujah!

Family is a wonderful bond that cannot be broken. We may be separated emotionally, spiritually, mentally, politically or even physically from family, but the bond of relationship cannot be dissolved.  Whoever said, “Blood is thicker than water” was right. As this precious, festive season draws to a close and we start another year, may I challenge you to do all that is within your power to restore lost relationships as well as find comfort and peace in our forever Father when separation cannot be helped? Blessed Christmas to you all! Emmanuel—God with us!

Pr 18:24 ¶ A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Christmas Lights and Jonah’s Gourd

 

 “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” Jonah 4:6

24852525_10215477430155882_3326722355540250083_nChristmas lights—a source of great delight and fierce frustration! I’m sure you’ve all experienced the irritation of placing LIT lights on your tree or around the highest point of your house, only to descend the ladder, look up, and see a section that is not working!  So was the case at the MacAvoy household this year.  After pitching three half-lit strands of lights, I finally got the tree completely illuminated; however, the following week while serenely sipping coffee and reading my Bible beside the tree (what ambiance!), I noticed a flicker of light in my peripheral vision. When I looked over at the tree, I saw the lights go on and off once again in a section of the tree!

They stayed unlit for a few days until I had a chance to check it out. When I did, I felt like someone working for their salvation.  Surely, if I pull out each darkened bulb and replaced it, checking to make sure that all the wires were intact, God would reward my efforts.  As in Naaman’s situation, God waited until that last bulb before intervening, but when I pulled out that bulb the rest of the lights came to life! I looked at the empty socket, and then at the bulb in my hand! A miracle!

The following morning I was talking to God, praising Him and thanking Him for the blessing of the previous day, when I remembered the lights. With “exceeding gladness,” I thanked Him for lighting my tree!

Isn’t that just like Jonah? He was so glad that God took pity on him and make a vine to shield him from the hot rays of the sun. He did not thank Him for having pity on the eternal souls of men, including himself, but rather was overwhelmed with joy because of physical comfort.

The Lord’s challenge for me this Christmas season is this:

 Can I look past the pressing things, the daily trials, and the difficult circumstances, and focus on the blessings and needs of those around me?

To do so takes extra time which is already limited at this time of year, but so many of our friends and families desperately need to see Jesus in a tangible way! So, do the extraordinary for Christmas. Think out of the box.  After all, Jesus left the dazzling perfection of heaven to be entombed in Mary’s womb, to undergo the pangs of labor, and to surround His deity with the scent of barn animals and smelly shepherds. Can’t I do something extraordinary for Him for His birthday?

And, by the way… “Doest thou well to be angry [with the Christmas lights] (Jonah 4:9)?”  🙂

12 Days to Celebrate

Every year, I ask the Lord for something insightful–something I may not have seen before about this special time of the year. This year, He gave me several blessings!

I came across these words for “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I’m not certain of their origin, but some claim that, as was so often the case, the words were cryptic and used to teach biblical truths during a time of persecution. If true, how special and meaningfully crafted were these words!

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A partridge is a small bird, quite defenseless; however, like many small birds, they will fight to the death against much larger foul to protect their young.  I’m so glad that I have no foe bigger or more powerful than our God! The pear tree brings forth fruit.  Think of all the “fruit” our Lord has produced because of His great sacrifice on the tree!

Two turtle doves, perfectly matched, work together not only to build their nest but to care for their young. How beautifully the Old Testament and New Testament complement each other, giving us security and nourishment!

Hens produce one of the most valued ingredients in baking: eggs! While most bread recipes, a staple food, do not take eggs, cookie or dessert recipes are limited without these oval gems! Faith, hope, and love are some of the main ingredients in our lives, and because of them, we are able to have a sweet walk with the Lord and others.

The “calling” birds were originally the Colly bird, which is a black, nondescript songbird. And is there any better symbol of what the Gospels do? They tell the story of our dear Savior, and, in the process, the Gospel goes forth calling out the Good News that Jesus saves. Often, the most effective messenger for our Lord is the quiet, still, small voice which goes forth without much pomp or glamour!

The Pentateuch: five books which contain our history from the Creation account to the completion of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They are foundational, and like five golden rings, they link together to tell us about our rich heritage as well as our promised future!

Geese a-laying–once again we see the beginning of life. What better image for creation?

Swimming swans–From Isaiah 11;1,2 “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”and piety (derived from the following verses), the gifts of a Spirit-filled life are portrayed by the power and graceful swan. And is there a more beautiful image than a swan gracefully swimming through water? As born-again believers, we go forward, showing forth a beautiful testimony when we “put on” these gifts from the Holy Spirit which become available to us at our spiritual birth.

Maids a-milking conjure up images of hardworking women.  The idea of a fruitful life–one which is truly blessed when we practice each of the beatitudes–is portrayed as working maidens. Ladies, if we parallel the Trinity with the home, the only Person left to represent Mother is the Holy Spirit. Just like that daily milking that would begin the day of a milkmaid, we must drink from the Word every day if we wish to grow these nine fruits!

Leaping lords! Walking lords? Running lords? No, leaping! This image shouts of joy, and truly the commandments of God bring joy to our lives. I often quote Proverbs 13:15b, “… the way of transgressors is hard.” But these lords are leaping because of the first half of the verse: “Good understanding giveth favor.” Although life can be hard, living “by the Book” not only gives us strength for the day by puts a hop in our step!

Ladies dancing–Another picture of grace. When ladies dance together, as in a ballet or 18th-century minuet, the effect is beautiful. As one, they move, not drawing attention to the individual but to the collective motion. Think of nine ladies–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, all working together to bring praise and glory to God. And where is this dance being performed? In your heart, dear friend!

Drummer–the percussion section of any band or orchestra gives a pulse to the music. Pulse means life. What is our life–our true, spiritual life? Is it not our beliefs? Here they are summed up for us in the Apostles’ Creed:

  1. I believe in God the Father almighty;
  2. and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
  3. Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
  4. Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
  5. on the third day rose again from the dead,
  6. ascended into heaven,
    sits at the right hand of the Father,
  7. whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
  8. and in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy Church, the communion of saints
  10. the remission of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the flesh,
  12. and life everlasting.

Who is the One who gives us all these gifts? Our True Love! So… Whether a tool to teach children their catechisms or a reminder of the blessings of our great Christian heritage, I hope when you hear this tune, it will be a blessing! Merry, meaningful Christmas!