Reflections on Lamps

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• Small lamps are of great importance
• Light is produced when the connection is made
• We are connected through prayer and faith
• Lamps provide guidance and comfort in darkness
• Without light we often stumble or fall
• Casting light on a subject encourages clarity
• A light in the window welcomes
• A quiet lighted corner is a good place of rest
• Lamps draw others to them
• Care for your lamp so you will be healthy and prepared

Welcome

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“Welcome,” I read on the door mat as I crossed it and entered my home. This small mat was more than a place to remove water or dirt from shoes before going in. When we welcome someone, we invite them to enter and we offer hospitality.

Many stores now have greeters who stand or sit near the entrance and welcome those who are coming in. What a difference a smile and a friendly hello and welcome can make on a busy day! My church also has greeters, someone who welcomes those who enter, offers assistance, and provides any needed information.

When we find ourselves in a new place or are unsure of where to go, a welcome is much appreciated! The book of Matthew in the Bible says, “… I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” There is something about feeling welcome which eases stress and encourages us.

How aware are we of welcoming others?

We can welcome others to join a discussion in process, catch up on news, share our day, tell about something that happened. This is just as important as the “hello” we may hear as we enter a business, if not more important. As we welcome others, we are saying you are important to me. You are of value. I recognize you. It is reflecting God, who cares about them.

Jesus welcomed all people to come to him, although some of the religious leaders grumbled about that and criticized him. What an example he is to me and a reminder not to be so critical of others. Sometimes we lose sight of the person on the inside, or we forget that there is always more than we can see, know, or understand. When have we been unwelcoming toward someone because they were different from us or did not live up to our standards?

I’m so glad that God welcomed imperfect me! Just as he welcomed the little children to come to him, he welcomes us all. My prayer for us is that as we are out-and-about each day, we will be more mindful of welcoming others as well.

*Matthew 25:35, Luke 15, Matthew 19:14

Reflections on Boxes

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• We all have a purpose and use
• When we are empty there is hope of good things to come
• The imagination of a child turns the everyday into awesome
• Treasures can be found within each of us
• Some of us are gifted in organizing
• Anticipated arrivals are bright spots in a day
• Care for your boxes lest they fall apart in the rain
• The Maker of boxes has a use for all sizes and types

PROVISION

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I admit to loving the warmth of summer with its planting, gathering, family cook-outs, and time outdoors (yes, even mowing the yard). As the days begin to turn cooler and a hint of fall is in the air, many people are busy bringing in final offerings from gardens, vines, and trees. Others gather groceries and supplies and check to see that all is ready for the colder months ahead. Each season’s change marks new tasks, expectations, and hopes.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with the daily tasks: bills to be paid, cars repaired or replaced, income secured, homes maintained, food and clothing provided… For me this past year, as soon as one need was addressed something else came up… and often two or three challenges pounced at once! Yet each time, even as worries threatened to invade my thoughts, my thanks and prayers turned to God’s provision. As I get older, I am more and more aware of my parents’ model of quiet assurance that God will meet our needs. “One-thing-at-a-time,” my mother would reassure me. They instilled in me an appreciation for the simple, and the calm, and the good in small things. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate what I have rather than always wanting more and I’m growing to trust that things will work out, not always as expected or desired but trusting that good will grow from challenges and needs.

One well-known passage in the Bible, Psalm 23, speaks of God’s provision for us. It doesn’t promise that there will be no dark valleys, but it does promise that God is with us always. What wonderful assurance that we will lack nothing and that we will be refreshed, guided, comforted, and provided for even in the presence of adversity and difficulties! The book of Psalms is full of these reminders.

In the New Testament, Matthew had some great things for us to consider about worry and God’s care for us. “Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Then he reminded us that God knows that we need them. My mom would say, “It’s okay to be concerned but we shouldn’t worry” and Matthew echoed this thought when he said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

In this season of gathering and preparation, I pray that we will be strengthened and assured of the provision of God, who cares for us all.

Apple of His Eye

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Apples! I love apples! …I remember the taste of crunchy, sweet apples fresh off the tree in the backyard of our small-town home when I was growing up. The smell of apples cooking as Mom busied herself about the kitchen making apple butter and jelly, pies, and applesauce still lingers in my mind! Those wonderful summer days of gathering apples, listening to the neighbor’s honeybees about their work, and resting in the cool shade of their boughs are forever etched in my memory. I can still hear the sounds of laughter as my three brothers and I played, worked, and ate our fill of those apples!

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “the apple of my eye” came from? The writer of Deuteronomy says that God found his people in a desert land, “a barren and howling waste,” but cared for them and guarded them “as the apple of his eye.” The psalmist prayed to God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye”! This phrase is literally translated “the little man of the eye.” …If you look closely into the eyes of someone, you can see your own image reflected in that round central circle of their pupil. Think about it. Our very image is reflected in the eye of God! How awesome is that?!

God watches over us. Cherishes us. He keeps our very image before Him! Like those childhood memories, He brings comfort and joy to His children.

REFUGE

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Have you ever noticed how a mother bird will spread her wings over her chicks to provide protection and to hide them from the eyes of predators? That space under the shadow of her wings is a refuge, a place of safety and comfort. The chicks trust the hen and so they stay close-by and are nurtured, protected, and guided.

What a powerful image that is for us when we feel overwhelmed, attacked, or swallowed by grief and despair! In the books of Ruth and Psalms, God is a loving protector who gathers us in the shadow of His wings. Like the chicks, we are His children, knowing our own weakness and need. When we come to Him, He offers us a place of security.

Ruth realized that her mother-in-law Naomi had something special; she came to God when all seemed lost. The psalmist said, “Hey, this is a good thing! I’m going to stay here with God forever, walking close-by and covered when times are tough!”

How easy it can be to wander off. Jesus lamented, grieved deeply, for the people of Jerusalem who had turned away those God had sent. “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34). At times my own thoughts churn endlessly, stressing over a day’s events or unresolved issues and troubles. This image of God surrounding us with His sheltering wings provides comfort, security, and hope for everyone and reminds us to stay close to Him.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7 (NIV)