Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

Sowing new seed

 

A corn crop in Nebraska nearing harvest time, across the road from where I live.

 

Spring is a season to plant and grow what is sown into fertile ground. We wait in anticipation for the first signs of growth as they become visible and with diligent watering and maintaining our garden or crops we later celebrate a harvest reaped from our efforts.

In normal times and weather elements conducive to our planting schedules we don’t usually expect to see catastrophic results that wipe out, destroy or wash away what we have planted except by means of devastating storms like floods,tornadoes or drought. My son-in-law is a farmer in Nebraska, and each day he goes out to the farm and fields where he plants, grows and manages the crops. Because of these crops and so many others like it our health and lives are  sustained and we are fed.    

Lately however it is not the fertile ground beneath our feet where our attention and focus has been drawn, but instead that of our own well being, and the lives of all concerned.

We are in a storm of catastrophic proportions now that require from us all sacrifices that we are needing to make for a time to protect, guard and care for. It is our very existence on this earth, so giving and fertile to the seeds we plant. Indeed our life is dependent on the crops and seeds planted on our earth, but while making changes and sacrifices that we once took for granted we are also seeing the effects of those areas we always expected and took for granted; the basic necessities, simple ways we enjoyed life, the pleasure of roaming, traveling and experiencing life as we came to enjoy it. What can we do but follow the rules and guidelines during this Coronavirus/ Covid-19 crisis in our land and around the world? A lot of wonderful good things are being done by so many people who are creative, caring and helping in this crisis for all the people affected. Some might ask, “That’s all good, but what else can I do? How can I make a difference besides what is advised or expected of me in following the rules engaged?”

For us all there are seeds we can plant in fertile soil. They can be merely kind words, simple deeds; prayer, a phone call, text or note sent to family and friends to help those struggling with faith, and hope. Spreading cheer, joy and optimism to others instead of worrying about spreading our germs and keeping a safe distance might be just what another needs. We can follow all the rules to stop the spread of this disease but there are those who struggle with anxiety, despair and worry that they will contract the virus themselves, or a loved one and they feel more isolated internally than externally. Sharing seeds of faith, hope and encouragement can make all the difference to get us all through this and may be one of an eternal change that turns one’s life or perspective around. 

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self discipline.” II Timothy 1:7 NIV New Testament Bible 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce E. Mannhalter (C) March 2020

 

 

Where there seems no way

When frustrations mount,

Your patience and faith tested,

You have no control;

All you know is to worry.

Give it to God, and let go!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce E. Mannhalter © March 2020

Have you ever felt like this? You don’t understand what or why things happen in your life, or in the world that leaves you frustrated and worrying. You wonder what good can come out of a situation that has gone awry and out of control. But, when we let go of our fears, our worries, our hold on what consumes our thoughts and takes up residence in our mind, body and soul, we can experience a kind of peace that brings instead joy, contentment and assurance that all will work out for our good and according to God’s plan and purpose. Putting all our cares on Him and trusting Him in all that goes on in our life and in the world frees us from the bondage that the enemy, Satan uses to deceive, manipulate and control what we give him access and license to. Letting go of the fears that cripple us from experiencing all that God has for us and what He can do in and through us means using ‘Spiritual Warfare’ (God’s word) against our enemy’s attacks. Two scriptures I love that can help us find that help and peace of mind in these situations are found here,

Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me: he delivered me from all my fears.”

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” NIV

JEM

 

Coming Against Our Giants

Growing up in a Christian home as a child I learned early the biblical stories of people; men, women, and children who made a difference or left an impact on the lives of those they came to know, ones they encountered by choice, accident or by divine intervention. One way or other they all left their traces and footprints on the pages of history in the old and new testament, and today we still can learn things, gain new perspective and insight into how their story and what they did can influence and affect our lives by learning from their experiences.

One of my favorites was the stories of David, a small boy who grew up to be a great king of Israel. But, his journey to get there was a long, arduous one. It was difficult, full of obstacles, danger, intrigue, cunning defensive counter attacks, preparation and planning. One would think that the first phase of his military accomplishments should be a long extensive stint of training and knowledge of tactical weaponry and a ‘tour of duty’ serving under Israel’s present king, Saul. But it did not start that way. It started with a mere stone and small sling. How does a young shepherd boy, small in stature, dressed in an animal skin tunic and sandals kill a burly, mean, threatening bully over seven feet tall, armed with steel armor, javelin, spear, and helmet? With faith, confidence and the power of a God that assures us that all things are possible with, and through Him (ref. Philippians 4:13). With the assurance that God was with him in his battles David stood his ground facing his giant.

We don’t know the battles we will face, nor have the option to choose them, the time or place as they might come unexpectedly at any time from any direction or source, and we are faced head on with them. It may not be a lion or bear, or a nine-foot giant dressed head to toe in steel armor with spears or javelins. Our giants come in many shapes, forms, and sizes. The devil chooses weapons that can deceive us, destroy us, diminish and drain us of the things we need to fight with; faith, confidence, and courage.

God’s word comes as a sword preparing us for battle. It is the stone, the rock we carry in our sling that leaves the biggest impact, with the power and strength that knows no limitations to what it can do for us, the giants it will take down and the battles we will win. If God goes before us, we cannot lose, but win. We cannot fail but succeed.

But the enemy is sly, deceitful and deceptive. It looks for cracks in our armor and can gain access if we don’t fortify our walls and strengthen our defense. After David’s victory in killing the giant, Goliath he then had to deal with another, the present king, Saul. From that point on David’s battles came; bigger, greater, one right after the other.

Fortifying our walls, strengthening our defense, choosing our rock determines the outcome of our battles, win or lose. Our battles belong to the Lord to fight for us.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold,” Psalm 18:2 NIV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce E. Mannhalter (Jan. 2020)

 

Setting attainable goals

Accepting failure

For the unattainable

can move us forward

~~~

To strive instead for

What is attainable now

That which is in reach

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In Philippians, chapter 3, verses 12-16 Paul was addressing the church of Philippi about the highest goal of which we can all attain, that being the one called by God; to live according to His plan, for His glory not of our own flesh and earthly desires but of that which brings Him the glory for what he can do through us and in us. We may work hard and diligently at things that are self-seeking, things we want for ourselves, our goals and dreams for those that we think will bring happiness, success and gain. But what is not sanctioned, blessed and directed of and by God can only bring failure, dissatisfaction, and a searching for truth and reward. Only that which God offers can bring what we need and ultimately want to have; what no man or anything on this earth can take away or destroy, that which is called the “highest goal,” the “prize of the high calling of God” that Paul speaks about. To press on, to attain that goal is the easy and best part, but to work at being what God has called us to be requires commitment, dedication and is not self-seeking, but the reward is eternal. So many times I have worked and sought to bring about a result of self-satisfaction and gain for myself in what I have tried to do as a writer, or at anything I felt led to do on my own, only to fail at attempts that proved we are nothing without God and can only move forward by His grace and know a real peace that only He can bring. It is not what the world can give or anyone else but only through Him we have that which is the highest of goals attainable.

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16 NIV

Joyce E. Mannhalter © August 2019

Things I do now

 

 

Tread carefully and carry a sharp hoe. That’s what I do now while traversing across the uneven terrain in my back yard where tree roots have created a rough surface above ground making it difficult to maintain or mow. Trying to keep up with the yard maintenance is not an easy task and one that requires a lot of work as I am now single and on my own. I spray, hoe and dig up all kinds of weeds, fight off swarms of flies, filled a dozen trash bags full of raked leaves from the huge trees in my front yard, cleaned out the wet, slimy gunk from my gutters, shoveled and scooped huge piles of snow off my deck, driveway and walk numerous times from record snow storms and cold harsh weather, freezing temperatures, lightning and thunder storms. But when the storms passed I planted and potted new plants in containers for the front and back yard, then enjoy them feeling rewarded from all my labor.

Lately, I have added snake killing to the current list of activities after seeing several garden snakes slithering about from open holes and crevices in an area where I had planned to plant a vegetable garden, but have since scratched that idea.

One day I saw a green metallic colored snake slithering around under my deck just a couple feet from my patio swing where I love sitting while watching and listening to the birds in my yard and trees. I am no Annie Oakley, but am beginning to think I should have come out here to Nebraska’s farmland with a whip, saber or machete.

Jokes aside, it isn’t always the forces of nature or the unexpected chaotic interruptions in life that bring about character building I see God using to make me more the person He wants me to be, but the things and ways each day and the growing process He takes me through that leaves the biggest impact.

The one thing I am sure to learn through this is perseverance, patience and determination.

James 1:2 & 3 & vs 12, New Testament, NIV says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Vs 12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

This brings me comfort and assures me that whatever new challenge or test that comes my way I have God to lean on and trust that He is there, directing my every step.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce E. Mannhalter (June, 2019)

 

 

The Wayward Son

“Dad, I’m taking what’s mine and leaving.”

“Why? I hoped you would want to work with your brother and I in the business. When I retire the business will be yours, and your brother’s. ”

“No. I want to see the world, travel.” He turned away avoiding the crestfallen look on his father’s face.

A few days later Mick closed out his accounts, cashed in his trust fund, took his share of the estate and left.

For months following he traveled the world, living like a man with no responsibilities or obligations. No concerns or thoughts to who or what he left behind and none for those he met along the way. He dined and partied with men and women who showed him a good time, drove fast cars, stayed at five-star hotels and resorts eating and drinking at expensive restaurants while spending, and charging all without a care. Life was good, easy. He felt free. But the money ran out, credit cards expired, loans defaulted, and he was broke, unable to pay his debts.

Now desperate and hungry he hauled grain and feed to the stock pens of a farmer eating what he could glean. When he asked for food, they replied. “Go away, can you not see all the hungry who still have no food to eat. There isn’t enough for our own.” So, he searched through alleys for scraps in waste bins behind the bars he once hung out in.

I will go home and apologize to my father and ask if he will hire me on as one of his construction workers. They at least eat well and are paid for their wages earned. I have earned nothing but the shame and disrespect of my family. Will even God forgive me for all I have done?

While walking up the long-gated drive to his father’s home he was met with the warm loving arms of his father, never asking where he’d gone or what he’d done. Only how happy he was to see him and know he had ‘come home.’ His father asked his servants to prepare a very special, festive dinner and celebration with his best wine for his youngest son had returned home.

But when Stan Jr. the older son saw all the commotion and celebration going on, he came to his father and asked what he was doing and why.

“Did I not work for you all these years faithfully running things at the business just like you taught me? And yet, now you spoil him with an outlandish display of gifts and party. Do I not deserve the same or better for all I have done?”

“Stan Sr. replied, “Son, all you need do is ask and it is yours to enjoy. All I have is yours already. But your brother was lost to us all those years and now has returned. It is time to celebrate, not be bitter. Let’s party.”

_________________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter © 2019

The above story is fiction, but the truth and parable are scriptural. The story of the prodigal son is found in Luke 15: 11-32 of the New Testament Bible. It is one of many parables or stories Jesus shared with his disciples to illustrate a truth or lesson. This parable story is one of my favorites as it depicts the love our Father God has for us who come to him lost, with a repentant heart seeking forgiveness and wishing for a new beginning, a new life in Him. receiving the gift of salvation and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in directing our steps while on our journey of faith. I love how this father reached out to his lost son in love with no condemnation or questions as to where he’d been or how he conducted his life before his return. As Father’s Day is approaching on Sunday, June 16th I thought this parable story a perfect one to share and hope you have enjoyed reading my own fictional modern version of the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’. I want to wish all fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day. Best wishes to you and yours on this special day.

JEM

A year like none other

It has been a year unlike any I have ever experienced in my life. Sometimes, because of our choice or decisions made there are circumstances that change or alter the course or direction for our lives. Other times it is God who has appointed and chosen one for us by allowing things to happen that require us to set out on a new path. We might wonder what He had in mind or wanted to accomplish in it. But we can only appreciate it if we realize He is teaching us to grow and learn how to trust him. It was that way with me this last year, although it was difficult and challenging.

I have so often thought and wondered what it must have been like for Mary, the mother of Jesus as she tried to understand or comprehend why she in her tender teenage years was chosen to be the one God used to carry and deliver His gift to the world. What a tremendous challenge it must have been for her as maybe she thought or wondered if she was worthy or ready for it. Maybe she went through a time of doubt or unbelief while hoping people, family and friends would see and understand that she was not a woman to be shamed, stoned or ostracized, pregnant with a child before her espoused marriage to Joseph, but instead God’s chosen vessel by appointment to deliver the Savior, King and Redeemer to a lost and sinful world. Scripture tells us there was great joy and jubilation at the birth of Jesus as angels heralded his birth before men. (Luke 2:9-18). But not all were rejoicing in his birth as King Herod sought him out to kill him. (Matthew 2:1-16). At that time of celebration and jubilation she had no knowledge or thought that one day she would weep for Jesus’s suffering too, as once again He would be sought out and killed. Yet, He went willingly to the cross for all. (Luke, chapters 22 & 23).

We cannot fully appreciate and comprehend the miraculous birth of Jesus, born to a virgin or His death and resurrection until we fully appreciate the new and miraculous rebirth in our own lives. The rebirth of our soul is only dependent on this one thing; that we believe in Jesus, the Son of God who came to forgive us our sin and trespasses and offer us hope and a new life. John 3:16&17. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if not knowing my Savior during this difficult year. It is what held me up, what lifted me during my down times, what buoyed me when I felt I was being pushed under with the strain and stress.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my faithful blogging friends and readers who have visited my blog through the last year, and for all the kind comments, feedback, thoughts and prayers as I went through a difficult period of my life with a divorce and relocation, as I set out on a new path of my own. We cannot know what our tomorrows bring, but we can grow through them, and learn to trust God as we move forward.

Merry Christmas and God bless you and yours in 2019.

_________________

Joyce E. Mannhalter (Johnson) (Dec. 2018)

Posted December 14, 2018 by Joyce in Chrisitanity, Christmas, Devotional, Faith, My Writings

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Enjoy today; worry not about tomorrow

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV

I have always had a problem worrying over things I dreaded, things that could not be avoided like a dental appointment, a medical procedure, or having to drive somewhere where I didn’t want to go, taking me out of my comfort zone. I worried about getting lost, being alone in a crowd of people I didn’t know, getting in a bad car accident. You name it; the list of dreaded things I could not avoid would grow and increased my anxiety to a point that what I was really feeling was out-right fear, the fear of tomorrow, the fear of the unknown.

Worrying over our tomorrows takes our focus off what is important today, and steals the joy that God has for us. What God wants to do for us today, in us, or through us the devil wants to steal. When tomorrow comes we may have regret that we did not put more effort into making our yesterday the best it could have been. Even the memory of it might not be a happy one. Experiencing the joy of today enables us to not fear or worry about tomorrow. Fear sucks the joy right out of our very soul. It can cripple us from walking (daily) in the spirit.

I realized that more than the things I dreaded tomorrow was the inability to appreciate what I have today, an opportunity to make it my best day, to live in the moment and not dwell on what would come in its own time. Learning to take one day at a time even when there are things I knew were coming did not have to steal my attention off of today. For this day I choose to make it my best day, and be hopeful, expectant that whatever today brings I will rejoice and be glad in it because I know that God has all in His hands, and I know He has all my tomorrows as well.

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2018

Posted February 28, 2018 by Joyce in Chrisitanity, Devotional, Faith, My Writings

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The Promised Rock

 

 “Lady, do you want a pretty rock? I got pretty rocks. It just costs a nickel.”

The little red-haired, freckled boy stood outside my front door with a hopeful, expectant look. I didn’t think he could be over five years old. I smiled and said. “Sure. I’d love a pretty rock. Can I pick one out?”

 “No, I have to go get it. I will be right back.” Then he ran off down the street.

I went to get my nickel, then waited a few minutes at the door to see if he would return. He did. Running up to my door again, he held out his hand and a small, white, triangular-shaped rock lay in his palm. We made the exchange.

I said, “Thank you. That is a pretty rock.” Then he took off. As I watched him run back down the street I smiled and wondered if the little entrepreneur went looking  for another who might buy one of his rocks. There is nothing in particular about this little rock that stood out as anything special. But, it reminded me of the story in Matthew in the New Testament about John the Baptist who came as the forerunner telling all he met that God was sending the Son of God, the prophesied Savior. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11

Christ came as the promised rock, the One whom we could place our trust  in and build our foundation upon. All that He asks from us in exchange for this gift of eternal life is to believe in Him, seeking forgiveness for our sins.

Jesus never demanded attention, did not dress to stand out in a crowd, or use other means to draw people unto Him. Yet, His love and compassion compelled people to come to Him. He stood out among the masses while doing what his father sent Him to do; loving all unconditionally, healing the sick, ministering to the poor, the hurting and brokenhearted, teaching grace and forgiveness. He came to fulfill the will of his father, to be the sacrificed lamb, the ‘promised rock’ of salvation. There is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ, His son.

“The Lord is my rock and my salvation.” Psalm 18:2

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2018)

Just one day at a time

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (New Testament Bible), NIV.  Those were the words of Jesus as he spoke them aloud to his disciples and the throngs of people up on the mountain top who came to hear him speak when he began his ministry. If we are honest with ourselves and God we all can relate to this.

When I first drafted this post it was way back in March of this year before I went on a trip to Hawaii, and weeks before my life took a drastic turnaround from the more normal days I was experiencing. Little did I know that a few months later into the summer I would go through a personal crisis that set me back. See the post and story here. Before that time I would just go about my days with the same routine, enjoying time and seclusion at my computer, writing, looking for some new inspiration, working on writing projects. Then something happened to disrupt it all. When I came back to this post to read or revise it, it seemed almost prophetic, to what I felt and what happened later.

There are times when we need to take stock of what we’re doing, hit the ‘reset’ button, rethink our priorities. Sometimes it means being ready for the immediate and the unexpected that ultimately determines what is most important, putting aside everything else, indefinitely.

I have learned it is best to live one day at a time, to make it the best I can, maybe even better than the day before. Then I am not disappointed in myself, but instead encouraged by what I’ve done that day and ready for the next day. I’m not against making plans and setting goals, but I do so with reserve that something could happen that might change it, or set it back. I don’t set my sights on tomorrow if I am not yet finished with today.

______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2017)

 

Posted October 27, 2017 by Joyce in Chrisitanity, Devotional, Faith, My Writings

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Elevator Shaft

His hand gripped tightly. With grunting, gasping breaths he climbed up, and saw nothing but the tunnel of hard, cold steel that went on, endlessly in the claustrophobic tomb.

“Help!” He cried out.

Save your breath. It will only tax what energy you have left and be your downfall.

A hoarse cough broke from his parched throat.

My ‘downfall.’ Yeah! Done that! 
Don’t look down. The bottom is endless, too. Grab hold! Anything!

His feet felt like iron weights.

Climb! I can do this.

Please! Someone!”

The elevator shaft opened.

Light! Voices! 

Oh, thank God!

_______________

Psalm 31: 2, Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of rescue, a strong fortress to save me.  NIV, Old Testament

The above short story is fiction, but I used it as an illustration of the times when we need to be rescued from some trap or downfall, either by our own doing, or one of a literal sense. To acknowledge God, and His power to save, rescue and heal us, however it happens is when we need him most. The Psalms are full of the many stories and pleas of David, King of Israel who often found himself trapped by his enemies, or caught in literal or personal traps he’d set for himself. I’m thankful for the way God always provides us with a way of escape from that which the enemy sets up for us, either to catch us by surprise, or one placed there, warning us of what might come if we do not acknowledge Him, or seek His help .      

Joyce E. Johnson © 2016


When I gaze upon heaven’s blue sky

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I turn once more my eyes toward you

when I gaze upon heavens’ blue sky

your promise of faithfulness I keep

though I don’t always know just what to do

when confusion swirls about in my mind buried deep

 my muse grows mellow through time when I’m weak

and though I seek, but not always find

every answer that comes to all that I see

I know without fail you’re there in my need

and I hope the image one sees in me

is a reflection of the greater one seen in thee.

_______________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

The scarlet cord

“Go! Check out the land, especially the city of Jericho. Then report back to me.” Joshua said.

The two men entered town under the cloak of darkness. A thick wall rose above them encompassing the entire city.

They went directly to the home of Rahab, a prostitute whose house was built into the high wall. She agreed to hide them under stalks of flax on her roof.

But, the king learned of their mission and where they were. He sent his men after them. “By order of the king, you are to release the spies to us.”

“They were here, yes, but they have left. I didn’t know who they were, or where they’d come from. But if you go now, and hurry you might catch them before the city gates close.” Rahab said.

When the king’s men were gone she went to warn the spies they would be pursued.

“Everyone knows of your strength and reputation. All the people fear you. They’ve heard of your victories, how you have conquered all where you have gone. Promise me you will spare my family and household when you return, since I have been good to you.”

“You have our word. Hang this scarlet cord from your window the day we return and you and all your family and household will be saved.”

Rahab agreed. “It will be as you say.”

They lowered themselves down by the scarlet cord from her roof, and ran into the hills where they hid for three days until it was safe to return to their camp.

On the day that Joshua and the Israelites took possession of  the city of Jericho Rahab and all her household were saved because she hung the scarlet cord from her window above the city wall.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson © 2015

Footnotes: You can find the story of Rahab and the spies in Joshua, chapters 2 – 7 of the Old Testament bible. Rahab put herself at risk hiding the Israeli spies, and lying about their whereabouts. But she chose to take an active part in their plan to capture the city of Jericho because she knew they were God’s chosen people. Because of her courage she and all her family were saved.    

The ways in which God performs His miracles will astound us because in the natural we cannot comprehend it. Our walls may look impenetrable, doors and gates firmly shut beyond our control. But, when Israel’s army marched in and surrounded the city their loud call and shout brought down the wall, collapsing all at their feet, and the entire city was open to them so they could take possession, because they believed. “Everything is possible for him/her who believes.” Mark 9:23

If Jesus had a blog

What  do you think He would post? How many ‘likes’ and ‘follows’? How many views? Do you think He would post to Facebook, WordPress and Twitter, put pictures, awards or success stories up to promote himself, or be found in the search engines of Google and Bing? Jesus never needed to promote himself. He humbled himself and people were naturally drawn to Him by the thousands.

At times I wonder what it would have been like to have been born back then when He socialized with tax collectors, rebuked the critical Jewish pharisees and ministered to the crowds of people in the villages of Israel, or on the streets of Jerusalem with his disciples. Would we just watch and accuse Him like all the rest while He carried his cross to Golgotha’s Hill to Calvary to be crucified?

If Jesus had a blog today, He might use it to tell his parables or stories about what His kingdom is like. He might post the Beatitudes, or His sermons preached to the thousands on a hillside. He might share the memories He had of His life before, photos and stories of His friends and disciples he came to love. Maybe he would share with all how He would leave for a while, be put to death, then be resurrected on the third day and rejoin His disciples and friends again before ascending up to heaven to His father. And in leaving He would promise that the Holy Spirit would always be near to help and comfort us all.

Even though we have all this contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible today with easy access to all, and in many different languages and versions I think Jesus would have multiple stories to share that there would be no room or time to tell it all. I think He would post stories about people who have been healed of disease and disabilities of all kinds, and stories about restored relationships and marriages that would give us hope to get through difficult or troubling times, how to raise our children and gain wisdom along the way. But, most importantly I think He would tell people how much He loves them.

______________

Footnotes: Jesus’s history, his life, stories and miracles performed can be found in the gospels of the New Testament Bible in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Posted April 1, 2015 by Joyce in Devotional, Easter, Faith, Inspirational stories

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Life found where we least expect it

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Nature won’t give up

on what it breathes life into;

but comes back, stronger

___________

One and a half years after the disastrous flood of September 2013 in our town in northern Colorado we have amazing sights that surprise us like this old cracked tree stump that was surrounded by destroyed trees and washed out trails, roads and demolished buildings. But, last summer while on the walking trail we spotted this old tree stump cut down where others had been trimmed or uprooted from the flood, many that literally floated down the raging river during the flood. Thinking the tender green shoots were growing up from the ground near it, I decided to get a closer look at it and found that they were actually growing from out of the cracks or crevices in the stump. I was glad I had my camera along.

I was immediately reminded of a favorite scripture in Job 14: 7 of the Old Testament that says, “At least there is hope for a tree; if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” (NIV) And I thought about how often I had given up on dreams or things in my life because I felt as if they were ‘dead in the water’, like the trees that washed away in the flood, or having been cut down of ever producing any life or fruit again. But, God’s word is true. It is the same promise for today as it was in the days of Job, and there is the faith and hope that new life, new growth can begin again and we will bear new fruit.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Like a lost lamb who wandered away

Photo of a rescued lamb recently found in a dumpster in England.

The story in the 23rd Psalm of the Old Testament Bible of The Good Shepherd was always my favorite, growing up, as was the accompanied photo of the Good Shepherd, used to depict the famed bible story. A shepherd leads his flock of sheep through valleys of green pastures and gentle slopes overlooking meadows and brooks flowing with clean, cool water to quench their thirst. It is a beautiful image. But, the story goes on to describe a darker, difficult journey on their way to the meadow’s brook before they can rest and take nourishment from all that the Good Shepherd has led them to.

Sometimes we walk through valleys in our life, into a path of uncertainty and we need the reassurance that our Savior, our Shepherd walks with us, leading us through it. My family had an experience like that once, over thirty-five years ago.

We were on vacation visiting my husband’s parents in Miami Beach, Florida when our daughter, age ten at that time, went walking one Friday night with my husband and his step-father.

The three followed the sidewalk along the edge of a baseball field during a game. Skipping along at a faster clip, she took a wrong turn, losing sight of them and lost her way. Realizing after some time that she was not around anywhere they looked they came back to my mother-in-law’s house with the news and to inquire from neighbors and enlist their help to look for her. There was no Amber Alert back then, but the neighborhood watch group wasted no time, got in their cars and drove around looking for her as did my husband and his step-father, in separate cars.

I immediately called the Dade County police dept., and reported her missing. They sent out two patrol cars to help, and hours later with no success an APB went out on their car radios to alert other officers.

As the agonizing hours passed during that time while waiting at the house with my mother-in-law and our youngest child I prayed fervently that God would watch over her and get her safely back home to us.

It was nearing midnight, and still no sign of her. I imagined filled bars and nightspots on a Friday night in Dade County with its heavy traffic. We refused to dwell on the possibility that she might have been abducted.

As my husband drove through a section in a well-lit commercial district miles from the site of her disappearance he spotted her bright orange tee-shirt on a crowded street. He honked till the horn went hoarse, sped to a stop and ran to her across the street.

When she was back home safely she told us how she’d gotten lost, couldn’t find her way back and just walked on, desperately seeking her father. The darkness, the fear and dread of that night was gone. We knew it was God who watched over her the whole time. Finding our lost child brought indescribable joy and celebration to our reunion that night.

When our ordeal was over, a police officer said to us, “You people are lucky. It does not often end so well.”

When difficult times come it is then when we need to know our Shepherd, our Savior has not left us, that we are not out of His realm of protection and grace.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

One bite of the forbidden

It slithered into their lives with no warning. They felt there was no reason to fear it. They thought there was no reason to mistrust it. It was cunning, crafty and deceptive.

The tree, the most beautiful in all of the garden stood in stark contrast to all others in the Garden of Eden, a garden where foliage flourished under a bright sun, where nothing ever died or wilted. The fruit looked like succulent scarlet jewels adorning the tree’s outstretched arms.

Declared the, ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil,’ the, ‘Tree of Life,’ belonged to God. From all other trees of fruit in the garden they could eat; but not this one.

But, why? What could it hurt? How could one bite of the luscious fruit make any difference? Those were Eve’s thoughts.

Satan, disguised as a serpent used his deceitful manipulation on Eve, daring her.

“Go ahead. Take a bite. What harm can it do? Did God not give you all of it to enjoy?” He said.

So, she gave in to the flesh, and persuaded her husband Adam to eat of it too. The fruit was good.

Ashamed of their sin, and naked they covered themselves with leaves and tried to hide from God. But, God could see all which He had created. They were banished from the ‘Garden of Eden.’

Adam and Eve were a part of God’s master plan of creation. Now, they became a part of ushering in His plan of redemption.

_______________

To learn more about Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden you can find their story in the book of Genesis, chapters 2 & 3 of the Old Testament Bible. The above is my own paraphrased interpretation.

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

 

 


Life; more about the climb than pinnacle climbed

A view of Long's Peak in the Rocky Mountains from Estes Park, Colorado

A view of Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountains from Estes Park, Colorado.  Photo credit; Thomas W. Johnson

Life is not about

the mountain top experience

but the climb that counts

_____________

I have never climbed Longs Peak, shown in this photo, but my husband, both our girls and grandchildren have, more than once. It is a very arduous, difficult climb and gets technical during the last two hundred feet or so as the climb becomes more vertical and slippery on the granite face of the peak. There is a dangerous ‘cliff hanger’ known as the ‘Keyhole’ where it becomes slower, steeper and grueling. Climbers have been killed or fallen and rescued from the summit ledge, near the north face on the peak. But, reaching the summit is a euphoric ‘high’ for most, a pivotal point of success, as one can scratch it off their  ‘bucket list’.  Longs Peak at 14, 259 ft. in elevation, is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains. My knees are too weak and unstable to try it, so I’ve just settled for shorter hikes, up the trails to the trail heads, usually no more than two – four miles long.

I used this poetic metaphor to illustrate the way life can deal us difficult challenges along the way. Often times those things come doubled or tripled when we struggle to get through one before another one comes right behind, and often requires a determination that makes the going rough, the ‘climb’ harder. But, climbing it with God’s help makes us stronger in the process, in faith and perseverance when we go through it with Him.

I hope the new year will hold success and prosperity for you, and you will have that inner strength that comes from knowing Him if you face such challenges and find the ‘climb’ in life a difficult one. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” NIV  It is in knowing Him and knowing what He can do through us that the ‘climb’ becomes easier and the ‘mountain top experience’ all the more real.

Happy New Year to all,

Joyce E. Johnson (2015)

Merging cultures and diverse backgrounds

Mayflower II - Plymouth, Mass.

Mayflower II – Plymouth, Mass.

Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Plymouth, Mass.

Pilgrim Memorial State Park, Plymouth, Mass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Thanksgiving Day in 1967 my husband and I were invited to spend the holiday at the home of a Hispanic friend’s family. We were nineteen, newlyweds, and living in California while attending college and working, having moved there from the Midwest.

I remember the disappointment when I saw the food placed on the table; tortillas, refried beans, and other Mexican dishes. Because they were not the ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving Day dishes like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie we were used to eating every Thanksgiving I was not sure I was going to enjoy this day. We also did not speak Spanish, so could not understand everything said. We felt like ‘pilgrims’ encroaching on new territory. I brought a Pumpkin pie to share, thinking at the time, At least we will have one favorite dish.

Yet, there was no culture barrier that could dampen our spirits, but instead a mutual desire to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Their smile, graciousness and hospitality made us feel welcomed.

It had me thinking about the first wave of pilgrims in a new country imagining how it was for them as they perhaps sat down at a rustic table in the woods of Massachusetts to share a meal with a group of natives so foreign to them; American Indians. Settlers from far away England and American Indians coming together, each bringing their native foods, sharing their harvested crops, celebrating as one. A new country was born, two groups united for that one day, supping together and giving thanks to God for their many blessings.

While vacationing on the east coast in 1998 we visited the famous Plymouth Rock landmark and the Mayflower II (an exact replica of the original ship the first settlers took on their journey to America) at Plymouth, MA. As we took a self-guided tour of the Mayflower, I was in awe of the sacrifices, ingenuity, and creativity the new Americans had, and the hardships they endured, how they could make their home inviting and hospitable.

The newcomers from England had lost so many settlers to death, disease and hunger. Yet, maybe there was expectation, excitement and celebration in the autumn air for the first of such feasts, gathering, coming together. Neither group could understand the language or culture of the other. The Indians could not have known what it was like for those new settlers to survive the storms at sea, suffer through disease and hunger on their crossing. Neither could the new Americans understand the difficulties and challenges the Indians faced living in a wild, untamed land. Yet, each shared their food and bounty to celebrate perseverance under the cloak of life’s burdens; American Indians, an existing group came, by right to belong, and the other, foreigners wanting to belong, determined to stay and build a new life.

On that day as my husband and I celebrated that Thanksgiving away from home, I realized how much we did have in common with the Hispanic family, and we began to relax and enjoy ourselves with them, and their own “traditional” holiday fare. The aroma of those homemade tortillas and Mexican dishes was tantalizing. It compelled my senses to welcome the experience.

They were not there to act as substitutes for our immediate families, but instead to be an extension to the family we already had of friends made while living in California. They shared the heritage of a people whose ancestors were original settlers of this state with its rich history. They were our hosts. We were their guests; but on that day we came together as friends, and we went away full, blessed and thankful.

Those four years we lived away from’ home’ taught us how to appreciate other cultures, and ethnic people of other nations. There were many other ethnic groups and people from other countries we came to know while living there. Our eyes opened to the ways that are different, but no less important than our own, and our hearts became tender towards those whose lives touched us with a diverse style of celebrating what is special to us all; giving thanks to our forefathers for their sacrifices made to birth a rich heritage in America.

Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

   _______________

   Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

Living Water

Boyd Lake, Loveland, Colorado

Boyd Lake, Loveland, Colorado

‘He who drinks from the

pool of living water will

never thirst again’

 

A woman came to a well to draw water when she came upon a man, a stranger weary from a long day who asked if he could have a drink.  She inquired as to why he had no vessel to use for water. But, he replied if she knew who he was she would not have asked why, but instead would have asked for the, Living Water. He was not a mere stranger, but one who knew everything there was to know about her and could read her life like a book. He was not a psychic, fortune-teller, spy or stalker.

She soon realized that it was Jesus she was speaking to, the Son of God who spoke with the authority and knowledge of His father in heaven. When he asked her to go share this news with her husband she replied, “But, sir I have no husband.”

He said, “Yes, that is true, for you have had five husbands, but the one you live with now is not your husband.”

She wanted to hurry home to share her news about the man who knew all their was about her and offered her the gift of Living Water. She only needed to believe and trust in Him.

____________

Footnotes: I love this story because it tells about the caring, loving, compassionate Savior who makes that gift available to everyone, whatever their background or ethnicity, if they will only believe in Him. This is a true story, and can be found in the New Testament Bible in John, chapter 4. The above haiku poem is just my own paraphrased interpretation of the gift of Living Water. 

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

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