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 Kudzu

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• Sometimes we feel swallowed by circumstances
• Too much of a good thing can bring dissatisfaction
• Getting carried away can result in more than expected
• Climbing over others can cause great harm to all
• Cooling off can put things into better perspective
• Good can be found in unexpected places
• Sinking our roots into good soil encourages growth
• Healing comes when we realize potential
• Tenacity can get us through difficult times
• The Vine is our source of strength and life

Pizza & Chicken Nuggets

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In my work with young children, I have found that most have one thing in common, their excitement and love of pizza and chicken nuggets. When talking about their favorite foods as a conversation starter, their eyes light up and they want to tell me all about it. Those children have tasted pizza and chicken nuggets. They know it tastes good and they look forward to having it again (and again) with the whole family, sharing a meal together and enjoying the food and the company.

Like those children, we enjoy good things. I was at a gathering recently and smiled to myself as the “roar of conversation” rose and fell as people welcomed others and passionately provided updates and expressed support. I think of how we as people of faith share our “pizza and chicken nuggets” moments, times when God has cheered us on in celebration and times when he has walked with us through grief and stress. Do our eyes light up when we talk about Him? Do we love Him that much and look forward to tasting Him, experiencing Him in our lives every day?

The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him” and King David “first appointed the singing of praises to the Lord.” * He said, “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!’” * We rejoice because God’s love, forgiveness, and provision is exciting news and good to taste.

When God has walked with us through some difficulty or when we’ve experienced a special time of worship, heard a new song, or gained new understanding … we can offer encouragement to others. God works in us and through us each day and enjoys our thanks and excitement as we are filled. As we tell others, they too can experience and taste of a God who welcomes us to Him… Like pizza and chicken nuggets, we can be glad and rejoice in our faith, whatever life brings.

*Psalm 34:8, 1 Chronicles 16:7-36

 

I Wish

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Stuff of dreams
Of hopes thought prayer

I wish for
A world of promise

I wish for
All to know the
Light that shines

I wish for
Joy down deep

I wish for
Peace within

I wish for
People to
Respect each other

I wish for
Compassion for all

I wish for
Others to be encouraged

Desires of life
Do justice
Love kindness
Walk humbly with God

 

*Micah 6:8

 

Hide and Seek?!

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“…98-99-100. Ready or not, here I come!” The excited words of the children’s game of “Hide and Seek” are familiar to all of us. I remember well my childhood days of playing outside in the summer twilight with my brothers and neighborhood friends. As we hid among the bushes, behind a shed, or a corner of the house, the one who was “it” would try to find and catch us, as we ran laughing about the yard.

Life is marked by a series of “seeking.” We all have those times of anticipation, doubts, and questions. What will I do when I graduate from high school? … Where will I work? … What do I really believe and why? … How can I honor God as I search for the best path? … Who will I marry? … Where will I live? … What is that next step in life, as an individual or as part of a larger community?

Like in those childhood days of “hide and seek,” sometimes the growing shadows and cooling air of twilight bring comfort and rest. Friendships and laughter encourage us, and faith is strengthened… At other times, we find ourselves darting about, straining to see through the darkness or to hear any indication of the presence of someone who cares. “Ready or not, here I come!” We may question life and wonder if there is a God. The writer of 1 Chronicles said, “If you seek him, he will be found by you…”

That is such a comfort! But, sometimes I have just been too exhausted and overcome to seek Him. The psalmist turned this around when he asked God to “seek your servant!” Luke reminds us that God’s Son “came to seek and to save.” There God is, already with us and looking for us while we struggle with our own confusion or need. Not hiding, but patiently and lovingly waiting before us.

I am so grateful for God, who seeks us and who encourages us to seek Him! I pray that He will grant each of us faith to trust Him more, knowing that He is with us even when we are struggling or unable to sense His presence. Thank you, God… for being that companion along the way, for next steps and new directions.

 

*1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 119:176, Luke 19:10