Read: Ecclesiastes 1

Perhaps you are a bit like me, wondering what this life is really all about. When I ponder the sameness of the days, months, seasons, years – I feel a bit overwhelmed. What really is the purpose and meaning of life?

Even the question is not new. People have been asking it for thousands of years. Look at what Solomon says in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes:

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

I would like to explore what Solomon learned in all his experiments to find meaning in life. Join me as we take a quick walk through the book of Ecclesiastes in an attempt to answer the question: what is the purpose of life?

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6

Read: Psalm 23

Prepare to see the goodness of God pursue you today!

If you missed it yesterday….

If you don’t know how to start the process of changing what’s on the inside, this song provides an excellent starting point.

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Luke 6:45

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23

In the church I attend, the last service of the year is called “Praise, Pajamas and Pastries”. We literally do all three: we wear pajamas (if you want), eat pastries and share praise from the past year. This year was no exception.

Our pastor gave a short message on praise and trust. He talked about praise coming from the overflow of a heart that is full of gratitude, just like the verses above indicate. Praise comes from a heart of gratitude. He went on to challenge us that if we don’t like what is in our hearts, we can change it by changing what we say.

That struck me. I pictured this well inside of hurt, pain, fear, worry, anxiety, distrust, grief…the kinds of things that are really hard to overcome. And then I pictured a vessel slowly pouring into the heart the qualities it so deeply needed. Into the heart went words of trust, joy, hope, peace, love, healing… and I began to see that we can change the contents of the well inside.

I don’t mean we ignore the pain or fake it ’til you make it thinking. I mean genuine praise and gratitude falling into the hard, painful places and slowly, steadily softening the soil and replacing the worry, anxiety, grief, distrust with praise! Praise for the One who never leaves me alone. Praise for the One who is for me and not against me. Praise for the One who makes a way where there is no way. Praise for the One who levels the hills and straightens the curves. Praise for the One who makes paths through the wilderness and rivers in dry lands. Praise for the One who declares that something new is already started! (See Isaiah 43 and 44)

The words we speak come from our hearts, expose what we believe and determine the course of our lives. If you don’t like where you are going, consider changing what you are saying!

There is a children’s song that cautions us to be careful. To be careful about what we hear, say, see, walk, do…I’m sure you know it. It goes like this, “Oh, be careful little ears what you hear. Oh, be careful little ears what you hear. For the Father up above is looking down in love. Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.” And the song goes on, changing out the words “ears” and “hear.”

It is important to be careful what we listen to. Most often we emphasize caution in choosing music, podcasts, comedians or whatever plays in your ear buds.

Today I want to caution you about listening to messages about YOU! What kinds of messages do you take in about who you are as a person? Do they affirm your worth and value? Remind you that you are enough just like you are?

As I worked out the other day, I contrasted what I was hearing with what I have heard in the past. You see, my best option for exercise is online. I don’t have work out studios close to me, I am not motivated by a room full of exercise machines and a Peloton isn’t in my future. An online workout meets my needs for movement at this stage of life.

As I listened to the instructor, I was so blessed. She didn’t scream or yell at me. I didn’t hear about beach bodies, six pack abs or, anything actually, about how my physical body appears on the outside. It was all about how I feel in the body I have been given. I was encouraged to honor where I am while at the same time invited to challenge myself to go deeper. She affirmed my beauty and reminded me I am enough – just like I am.

Today, I encourage you to evaluate the voices you give permission to speak into your life. Do they build you up? Encourage you to be your best? Do you feel affirmed and honored? Belittled and less than? Never enough?

Shut off the ones that don’t honor who you are as a child of God and turn up the ones that do!

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Happy 2020! Welcome to the new decade!

In just a few short weeks, we will welcome our third granddaughter. She is the first best gift of this new year and I can’t wait to meet her.

As I anticipate her arrival, my mind wanders around titles changed by her birth. She will be the first great-granddaughter to one, the first granddaughter to another. I pondered that time in the future when I will be a great-grandmother and it makes me smile. It seems a long way off since my oldest grandchild just turned three. And it is.

But, it isn’t.

Time moves so quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that I looked forward to the birth of my first child. This year she will be thirty-one. Another thirty-one years, I will be a great-grandmother…maybe.

I don’t write this to be depressing. Because it isn’t. It’s a reality check for me. I get so caught up in me and what I am doing and am I doing enough and am I doing it right and will it last and who will remember me and ….

When truly, my time here on this earth is short. Psalm 90 reflects on the brevity of life. It is a psalm of Moses, written in the context of desert wanderings and the disobedience of the children of Israel. Moses rightly contrasts God’s holiness with humankind’s frailty. Seen from a New Testament perspective, God’s wrath toward our sin is justified, but his love toward us, shown in Jesus, is guaranteed.

The psalmist says it like this:

Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away…

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalm 90:10, 12

I love the last sentence. Understanding that our life is quite short is a step toward growing in wisdom. And I know I want that.

How does understanding the brevity of life help me grow in wisdom?

Knowing life is brief, I want to live firmly tethered to my identity as a child of God. The amount of money I make, writing a best-seller, seeing my name in lights – all pale when I understand how brief those accomplishments will last. Someone else will be right behind me to take my place.

Knowing life is brief, I want my focus to be on people. Living vulnerably, taking a chance, believing the best are qualities I desire to possess.

Knowing life is brief, I want to smile more, frown less; hope more, worry less; hug a friend, help a stranger; eat less, enjoy it more; encourage first, criticize never; serve with joy; work hard, sleep deeply, rest well; listen intently, love freely!

Knowing life is brief, I want to hold my grand babies, enjoy my children and love life. I won’t wait until tomorrow to say, “I love you!” “I’m proud of you!” “You’re the best!”

Knowing life is brief, I want to give every day my all even when “all” doesn’t seem like much. And then I want to give myself grace to be okay about that.

What does it mean to you that life is brief? How does understanding brevity make you more wise?

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Last week, I was watching a news channel and they highlighted the preparation taking place in Times Square for the dropping of the crystal ball later today. It is truly a magnificent creation. Patch.com describes it this way:

The 2020 Waterford Crystal sphere set to drop on the last midnight of 2019 arrived in Times Square Friday morning.

The 12-foot-wide ball is covered with 2,688 crystals illuminated by 32,256 LED lights and is topped by a seven-foot-tall “2020,” which arrived in the city earlier this month.

The whole thing weighs in at 11,875 pounds, roughly the weight of an African elephant or a killer whale.

https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/new-years-ball-arrives-times-square

Several years ago, Dave and I were traveling in China. We asked our tour guide if he wanted to come to the USA. He said, “Oh yes!” in a boyish, childlike way. It humored me. When asked what he hoped to see, he replied, “Las Vegas, someone with a southern accent and the ball dropping in Times Square.” Interesting combination of interests, for sure.

I gave his interests some thought. I have already seen Las Vegas, I know lots of people with southern accents, but I had never watched the ball drop in Times Square. I decided that year I would watch the celebrated event.

New Year’s Eve rolled around and I sat myself in front of the TV to watch the festivities in Times Square. The countdown began to usher in the new year and the ball started to drop.

Well, drop is not the right word! It slowly and in a controlled manner, moved downward in the first moments of the new year. Drop is a good word for what happens when I fumble my phone and I drop it on the ground. Or when I drop a glass off the counter. Both of those events reward me with a clatter and sometimes a shatter. The ball does not drop from its suspended place. I was disappointed.

How has life this past year been unexpected to you? You expected one outcome and reality was very different? How will you adjust your thinking to accomodate these differences?

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:12-14

In addition to forgetting what is in the past, I encourage you to look ahead with joy. Anticipate life! It is something to enjoy and experience, not dread.

In an article I read regarding resolutions, the following five questions were given as guidelines to help make realistic goals for the upcoming year.

The questions are:

  1. Why do you want to make the change?
  2. Is your goal concrete and measurable?
  3. What is your plan?
  4. Who can support you as you work toward change?
  5. How will you celebrate your victories?

If you are the resolution type person, these questions are excellent to guide informed commitments that have the possibility of becoming reality. In considering these, I encourage you to be bluntly honest answering the first question. After all, no one knows what you are considering so go ahead and put it all out there. Put your desire to the test.

If I was a resolution girl, I would make this resolution: I want to honor who I am as a child of God and live from the place of being deeply loved and accepted just like I am!

What about you? Will you make resolutions? What is your motivation to make the change?

The year is widing down and many of us look to the New Year with hopes that things will be different, better somehow. The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate our lives and make changes. This often involves resolutions related to health and wellness, both financially and physically.

Unfortunately, statistics say that resolutions last about 12 days. Yikes! That’s not very encouraging. The good news is, with a little extra thought, those resolutions can become reality. It just takes a dose of realism.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:12-14

First, we need to forget the past – failures and successes. Don’t live off the elation of a past success and don’t drag your feet because of some past failure. This is a new day and a new time. Your situation has likely changed so your goals and methods should as well. Whatever worked ten years ago, might not work now. Give yourself room to be different, older, wiser. Enjoy who you are now. Celebrate this stage in life, whatever that is.

I’m not an expert on resolutions, but I am getting better at giving myself grace. And for a person who has high expectations for herself – too high to attain – it feels good to experience grace from myself.

I dare you to give it a try in the new year!

Today would have been my mom and dad’s 68th wedding anniversary. My dad passed from this life into his eternal home in September of 2009. I still miss him and his stubborn ways. But one thing that lives on is his commitment to family and faith. I cannot thank him enough for his stubbornness in making sure we were immersed in truth and his love for family. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

The day after (Christmas) turned out to be a real bummer for me. I woke up not feeling well and the longer I was up, the worse I felt. I spent the day on the couch under my weighted blanket, watching hours of Hallmark Christmas movies.

The next day, four more family members had the same thing, crawling from bed to bathroom and back again. It always makes me appreciate health when I get sick.

As I recovered, I found another movie to watch. This time I chose “Heaven is for Real.” I read the book a few years ago, but it was inspiring to watch this account of a little boy’s interaction with Jesus.

After my dad passed away, I struggled. One afternoon soon after his death, I was driving and thinking about Dad and heaven and I found myself wondering, “What if this is all just a big joke? Where is Dad now?”

As quickly as I thought it, I “heard” a voice say to me, “If it weren’t so, I would have told you. But I am going to prepare a place for you…and I will come back and take you to be with me there.”

If you are familiar with scripture, these are Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 14. As I listened to the words replay in my mind, I immediately felt peace that I cannot describe. I knew in that moment that heaven is real. My dad is there with Jesus and the angels and all the others that have gone on before me.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. ”

John 14:1-6

May the words of Jesus comfort and bring you peace in whatever you are experiencing today!