Have you filled a bucket today?

Everyone is created by God and God looks at us as a treasure.  It is how we live our lives that determine if we are a treasure to others.  Are we consistently lifting others up by encouraging them and being compassionate?  Do we genuinely care what is going on in someone else’s life whether it is good or bad?  Do we just stay wrapped up in our own little world thinking that everyone is against us or that no one else cares?  These things can determine if we are being a treasure to others.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for KidsThere is a book that was popular a few years ago and circulated through elementary schools.  It encouraged people to think of others first and was about teaching others about bullying, name calling and put downs.  It also promoted environments to be respectful and encouraging.  I have seen it in action and it is amazing what it brings to your mind to help you remember.   The book is called “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”

The main premise of the book is that we all have this invisible bucket and when we do kind things for others such as saying something nice, helping others, or giving a hug — we fill their buckets and we fill ours at the same time. When we are unkind to people like calling them names, being a bully, degrading their character — we dip into their bucket and our own. The fuller your bucket is, the happier you are, so the idea is to keep your bucket full through kind deeds as much as possible.

This not only applies to children but to adults also.  It is so important that we show the examples to our children.  I see so many children that are so full of attitudes and not encouraging one another.  Sometimes you only have to look at the parents or the home life.  Some don’t have the home life that will encourage them.   As parents and adults, we need to lead by example making sure that we are forming the next generation to love and encourage each other.  It is important for us to be a generation that is not only creating heart treasures with the younger generation but also preparing them to have warm hearts for the future.

Be a rosebud among the thorns…

In the past couple weeks, my rose bush has exploded.  It needed a trim, but I didn’t want to trim it until the buds bloomed.  With the cold snap, the bloom process slowed down.  With all the rain, it has grown so much that I think it might try to come in my front door.  A rose bush is such a beautiful thing.  The blooms are so pretty but if you reach inside, you may get stuck with the thorns. My rose bush is taking over my entryway and needs to be cut back to allow for easier access to my front door and so that it doesn’t reach out and grab me every time I walk by.  I know that it will also bloom much more after a proper trim.  It made me think about how this applies to our life.

We all know people who may seem beautiful in some circles but we know them as a thorn who is always ready to stick someone with negativity.  In my experiences with these kind of people, it is hard to look past their thorny presence but God tells us in Matthew 5:16 that we should be a shining light to others.  We should be more like the rose and less like the thorn.  So how do we handle thorny people and allow ourselves to be healthy bloomers?

  1. We must recognize whether we are a rosebud or a thorn. Are you positively blooming in your circle of the garden?  Is your life representing the beauty of Christ or are you predominately a negative person which could be a thorn to someone else?  Without Christ in our daily lives, we can tend to be the thorn.  Pray each day that God would help you to be a beautiful rose so that people would see love and kindness instead of a thorn that would cut and bring others down.
  2. Maybe you are that small rosebud that is trying to bloom but you are always amongst thorns. Do you just immediately cut them all back and cut them out of your life?  No, you wouldn’t trim every branch from a rose bush or there would be nothing left to bloom.  The thorns protect the buds from animals that might just eat them.  When we experience thorny people, we still must bloom in a way that shows them Christ.  Negative people will try to overtake us but we must show them that the beauty of Christ is stronger than any negative person or action.
  3. Sometimes it is necessary to prune the parts of our lives that are out of control. If we are constantly among thorns, we need to get to a place where we are among more blooms so that we can multiply the beauty.  Negative people can bring you down and cause you to become more like them.  Soon you will go from being the rose to being the thorn.  When we prune some of that out of our lives, we will be more fruitful and a stronger witness for God.

The rose bush is a strong plant.  It can grow easily and doesn’t require much attention once it gets firmly rooted.  Our strength can show when we are firmly planted in God’s word, fellowship with others and showered with prayer by others and for others.  For people to see you as that beautiful rose bud, you must remember that your actions speak louder than words.  Steer clear of gossip, bad language and negative attitudes.  Remember that kindness counts in everything that you do.

Be the rose, not the thorn.

All trimmed and beautiful–ready to continue to bloom!

 

God’s plans are always Plan A!

Most of us like it when Plan A works and we never have to look at Plan B or C.  Many times we are only thinking of Plan A and don’t have a Plan B.  However, life sometimes throws a wrench into the plans.  This verse was on my desk calendar today and made me realize that if we commit our plans to God, we must be faithful to trust that His plan is always best!!

Usually when we look back on life, we can see distinct evidence of how Plan B was the better plan and most likely God’s Plan A for us all along!

Shampoo Bottle Anxiety

I threw away some shampoo bottles and had a slight anxiety attack.  It was similar, but not as rough, as the one I had the night the pastor search committee called to tell me that they had finished their search.  Now, before you think that I have gone off the deep end or that I need help, please keep reading.

I have a walk-in shower.  Mike kept his shampoo, soap and shaving cream on one side and I had the other.  When he passed away, I didn’t move them.  I would clean around them but I left them there.  I suppose it was my way of feeling like things were still normal.  They didn’t change the way that the sun came up each day or how I did my daily activities.  It was a subtle reminder that Mike might have been the only one keeping Prell shampoo in business.  However, last week I decided to replace the shower curtain.  This led to a complete bathroom cleaning.  I decided to throw them away.  After putting them in the trash, I felt my emotions wash over me (no pun intended).  It was just shampoo/soap bottles.

The night that I got the call that the pastor search committee had finished their search was difficult.  I was at Hannah’s cheer practice and it was almost over.  Once again, emotions swept over me and it was like a river of tears exploded from my eyes.  My heart sank again as I knew that the final closure had come.  Anxiety.  Tears.  Grief.  It wasn’t because I didn’t know that it would eventually happen.  It was just another thing I had to face.

The anxiety over the shampoo bottles faded quickly.  It is amazing how God can just help you to smile through it.  I could even feel Mike smiling as he shook his head at me.  Likewise, the day after I heard about the pastor coming to MHBC, I felt God leading me to contact him via email to introduce myself since Hannah and I would be out of town during the weekend of the call.  I also listened to his sermons online and felt very impressed with his style of preaching and teaching.   God was in control of this and I knew that He would send the right person to the church.  In less than 24 hours of the onset of anxiety, a peace had come over me.  Life goes on and God has a plan.

Anxiety is real and can sweep over you quickly.  How you handle it is what is important.  I don’t always like being an adult or doing the things that my husband used to do but life goes on and God has a plan.  Sometimes we must realize that our faith is created in simple things and we just have to be prepared to let go of the “shampoo bottles” and continue to live each day one breath at a time.

The Potter and the Clay

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  Isaiah 64:8

potterClay is made from various organic materials, some of which may contain impurities.  It starts as a ball of clay that doesn’t really have any meaning to it.  As it is shaped on a potter’s wheel, it is pinched, pulled, stretched and squeezed into a shape.  One of the things that the potter must do first is to make sure that the clay is centered and balanced on the potter’s wheel.  The potter must also hollow out the middle while ensuring a good foundation at the bottom.  As the potter continues to shape the vessel, he may choose to add features to make it unique.  For example, the potter may add a spout to turn the vessel into a pitcher.  After the vessel is designed, it is put into a kiln.  The kiln is set at a high temperature which helps to remove the excess water from the clay.  The clay becomes hardens and becomes stronger.  The final steps are to seal it with a glaze or add decorations which makes it ready to use.

It is easy to see why God referred to himself as the Potter and us as the clay.  Before we have a relationship with Christ, we are like that ball of clay.  We are full of raw material and impurities that need work.  As we begin to learn about God, He begins to mold us.  God makes sure that we are centered on Him and that we have a proper foundation.  He shapes us through life experiences, people in our life and those who minister to us.  As we are stretched and pulled, we are also given spiritual gifts that help add uniqueness to our vessel.  It may be like a spout so that we may pour out our gifts to others.  We are put through difficult situations that get the excess things out of our lives so that we may become stronger to serve God and others.  It is only when we accept Christ into our lives that He purifies us, forgives us of our impurities and sin and comes to live in our hearts to guide us every day.  Without that personal relationship, the vessel is not complete.

Do you know what happens to the clay if it is not fired in the kiln?  It doesn’t become a hard vessel that can be used.  It may be so beautiful as it sits on the potter’s wheel.  It may have the most intricate features and decorations and look perfect on the outside.  However, if it isn’t fired in the kiln….SMASH!  With one blow, it becomes a ball of clay again.  Just like the clay that cannot become a strong vessel without going into the kiln, we cannot be a complete vessel without a personal relationship with the Lord.

The art doesn’t stop when the clay comes out of the kiln.  Sometimes it falls and breaks.  Life isn’t always easy, because we don’t just sit on a shelf where bad things can’t happen.  Do you know how it can still be beautiful?  God picks up our broken and shattered vessels when life is hard and tragedies happen.  He takes those pieces and can still use them to make something new.  In the end, we are always a beautiful creation to God.

The Lion and the Lamb

 

March – A Lion and a Lamb

March is flying by very quickly.  I hope that your year is progressing along in a way that is drawing you closer to God.  I pray that you are able to see the abundant life that God has to show you and teach you new ways to adore Him in all the things around you.  I always remember my grade school days and the art projects that centered on whether March came in as a lion or a lamb.  It always refers to weather and we would inevitably decorate a paper plate as a lion or a lamb after we saw the weather for the first day of the month.

As I was thinking about this, it reminded me how God is referenced as a lion and a lamb.  How can God be referenced as two animals that are completely different and probably would not do well if they were in the same area together?  A lion is fierce, shows courage, and calls his own species to him by letting out a loud roar.  A lamb is meek, gentle and follows his shepherd or other sheep.  Yet the Bible refers to God in both ways.  One particular place where God is referred to as a mighty lion is in the book of Hosea. Hosea 11:10 says, “They shall walk after the LORD:  he shall roar like a lion:  when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.”  God is referred to with a lion’s roar which denotes His power.  His loud roar extends to all parts of the earth.  He calls all of us to tremble and fear Him so that we will also obey Him.  Sometimes it takes a loud voice or a startling event for us to tremble and remember that God is calling us to Him.  God is the Lion of Judah that sits upon the throne in heaven as a King.

The Bible also refers to God as a lamb.  The Old Testament uses a lamb in many stories of sacrifice.  It was the sacrificial lamb that was used to represent the Lamb of God that would one day come.  Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were used to offer atonement for sins. In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.  John 1:29 says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  When Jesus died on the cross for us, it was the ultimate sacrifice and the final sacrifice to take away our sins once and for all.  It didn’t mean that we would not still sin but it offered the chance for forgiveness to all of us if we ask God for it.

The lion and the lamb are two very different creatures but we have those characteristics in the same God.  The same God that would let out a loud roar to call us to Him is the same one that sent His own son to the cross to be the sacrificial lamb for us so that we may be forgiven.  In this world of chaos, storms, struggles and despair, we know that we have God who is both a mighty lion and a gentle lamb.  He will roar when we may be having trouble obeying Him.  He will be that soft lamb, ready to cuddle and forgive us when we humble ourselves.  Whether March enters like a lion or a lamb, we should start turning our focus to Easter and the events that led up to the cross and the ultimate sacrifice.

Watch Your Giants Fall

If we do what is difficult, God will do what is impossible.  This was a quote that I heard on the radio this week as I was driving into work. It reminds me of a verse Luke 18:27 where Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”  It reminds us that God has provided a way for us to have eternal life and can also help us overcome difficulty.   It takes faith to look at a situation and believe that it will change.

When you think about people in the Bible that allowed God to use them to do something difficult, it reminds us that there isn’t anything impossible.  God blessed Abraham with descendants as many as the stars in the sky.  He was with Job when his world had crumbled all around him.  He used a Jewish woman named Esther to become queen so that the Jewish people would be protected.  He saved Joseph when his brothers had tried to kill him and later Joseph was able to save his family from a drought.  There are so many stories that help us to see how God can do the impossible.  My favorite is the story of David.

David was the smallest of Jesse’s eight sons and probably the least likely to become king but he was anointed by Samuel to replace Saul.  David showed that he could do something impossible by killing Goliath, the nine-foot giant.  He first had to choose to do something difficult by taking a few small stones and a slingshot.  After proclaiming God’s name, he took a stone and slayed the giant.  It is such a great story that is told in many childhood Sunday School classrooms and Vacation Bible Schools.  Now as an adult, close your eyes and think about yourself in that area as David steps forward with the stones in his hand facing a giant that stepped up to the line.  The giant is laughing at this little boy with rocks in his hand.  David isn’t afraid because he knows God is ready to fight for him.

There is a song that is played on Christian radio called “Giants Fall” by Francesca Battistelli.  The chorus says:  Don’t you be afraid of giants in your way.  With God, you know that anything’s possible so step into the fight, He’s right there by your side.  The stones inside your hand might be small but watch the giants fall.”

small stonesSometimes we face difficulties in our life and we want to just hide until they pass.  From personal experience, I must be careful not to just stay in bed and wait for it to be over.  Truthfully, the difficulty may not pass until we face it head on and keep moving.  Facing a problem can help you become stronger because you learn to trust God during the situation.  It can be anything from just physically moving from one room to another to overcoming anxiety or dealing with a difficult person.  Don’t put your head in the sand, put your head up to the sky and give that problem to God.  Start each day with a fresh breath as you inhale the strength of God and exhale the difficult problem you are facing.  It may even take a couple of breaths – inhale strength of God, exhale the difficult problem.

If we do what is difficult, God will do what is impossible.  Live this way, facing life head on and believing in God who gives you strength and courage.  Then, watch your giants fall!