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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Spark of Joy by Naomi Raddatz (Guest Post)

We have been doing some remodeling.  This easy sentence comes attached with
 a million decisions, much compromise, some personal reflection and of course
 a lot of mess.  Last week as I was in the middle of Marie Kondoing my extra
 bedroom/ daughters’ room/office / dog room/ storage/multipurpose room, (you know 
the room being referred to) I had a revelation.
One of the procedures Marie Kondo so simply states in her The KonMari Method
 of Tidying, is to gather every item from a category, or sub- category and lay them
 all out on the floor.  Once you have done that you are to pick up each item and ask yourself:

                “Does this spark joy?”
                “Does this item touch your heart?
                  If it does keep it.
                  If not, consider giving it a new home.
This sounded like a decent plan, so I started by tackling 
something that surrounded every corner of the room-- my books. As I took the books out of their
 bins and dumped them on the floor, I noticed the themes: marriage advice, children’s picture
 books, art books, text books from college, parenting books, gardening tomes, exercise manuals, 
the list went on and on.   Wow, I really need to book an appointment with myself to read a few of
 these books. Even digesting one from start to finish would be an awesome accomplishment! The
 pile of rediscovered volumes started on the floor and towered 
over the bedside.  I felt overwhelmed,  but pushed on .
 Does this book spark joy? Does it touch my heart?  Do I really need to keep it? 
For some yes, some no, others pulled in directions that hurt the soul.  Books
 are powerful that way.   Maybe that is why I have so many.  
Ok, back to tidying…  As I worked through the process of discarding  a few of
 the many books, a small voice whispered. “Just one, one is all that you need.”  No, this voice was not
 from Marie Kondo.  believe it was from above, leading me to that large brown book that was given to
 me by my grandparents on my confirmation day.   A children’s tune played in my head:  “the  B-I-B-L-E
 yes that’s the book for me I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E. “
No other book ever written claims within its pages to be:  The Armor of God,  (Ephesians 6:10-18)
 Alive and powerful, sharper than the sharpest two edged sword, (Hebrews 4:12)  A lamp to my feet
 and a light for my path, (Psalm 119:105) God-breathed, (2 Timothy 3:16 )  Divinely written,
 (2 Peter 1:20-21)  Unchanging (James 1:17) (Isaiah 40:8) The Word of God.  (I Thessalonians 2:13)
As I looked upon my enormous stack of books ready to instruct, council, or entertain, I realized that
 books must be important to God, since he used one to communicate his plan of salvation.  
 My help comes from the LORD the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-8) The Scriptures are alive 
and active!  They were written to show us God’s grace plan for our salvation.  It is my prayer that this 
 book will spark joy in your heart as you face the challenges and blessings  of each new day. 
God’s love and encouragement is just one book away. 

Guest blogger Naomi Raddatz resides in Manitowoc, Wisconsin with her husband and four children.  She is a
 graduate of Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN with an elementary education degree in teaching. 
The Lord has allowed her to fulfill calls in three schools  over the scan of two decades in the teaching ministry.
Raising her own children and volunteer work in the church and community is now her passion.  Community
service through the board of directors of Clipper City food Co-op takes up a  chunk of her time and energy
these days.  She has always had a passion for children's literature and loves how picture  books light up the
eyes of children. She is in the process of publishing her first children's novel!
Being able to write with a Christian perspective is a true joy that she hopes will enhance the perspective
and faith of all of who read her work. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Why Does God Remember (Insignificant) Me?

(Reposted from www.HolyHenHouse.com)



Out of ten billion galaxies why did God choose earth?
Descending from his powerful throne, why Immanuel through birth?
Was it a mistake, in a perfect garden to give man-kind free-will?
Did Eve in sin realize the debt He would fulfill?
The complexity of  human life confuses explanation.
The Lord’s omniscient wisdom is beyond imagination.
Why the promise, the exchange, the cross, the assurance of salvation?
Move us God, to share the plan of grace to every nation.
The Source of holiness and love had to require justice,
But Christ’s willing sacrifice has overcome sin’s darkness!
Now He soothes our anxious hearts, not leaving us alone.
Spirit, guide our footsteps until we reach our heavenly home.


Whenever I look up at your heavens, the works of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place—
what is man that you remember him,
the son of man that you pay attention to him!
Psalm 8: 3-4 EHV

Holy Hen House

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Blizzard Blessings?


  
   Was the phrase, “in the dead of winter” invented in Wisconsin?  After the last two weeks of blizzards, hazardous travel, and negative temperatures, it is apropos. In our area the schools and most businesses were closed for three days. Thankfulness for people in the public service fields, especially snowplow drivers, was increased and expressed.

   Those of us who were able to stay warm in our homes, put soup on the stove, enjoyed a change from hectic routines, and counted blessings in the midst of windy whiteness.  

   
   How often do the hardships things of life: bad weather, pain, sickness, and tragedies of all sorts, motivate hindsight gratitude?   This has repeatedly been the case in my experiences. The disruption of normalcy gives a cause to pause, a retrieve to breathe. Allowing an escape from culture’s busyness trap, the unexpected prompts me to mindfully seek God.   


   Have funerals served this purpose in your life? 
For Jesus-followers burying a Christian loved one, the ceremonial goodbye is usually a mix of competing emotions.  Shock, numbness, sadness and lonely despair are covered (by God’s promises) with a blanket of heavenly hope. No more hardships for the casket-dweller: only indescribable joy with the Savior. People navigating grief journeys remind us to be grateful for the together times we currently enjoy.   

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

  
   The Psalm writer, King David, had his share of sins, hardships and tragedies. His reactions to them make him relatable to us 3,000 years later. For the dedication of the temple property, David crafted a song expressing insight gleaned from his ups and downs. (Psalm 30) 



I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths  and did not let my enemies gloat over me… 11 You turned my wailing into dancing;   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.


Reflect: Have you gone through bitter winters of change or loss that God transformed into thanks-giving?


Dear Lord, 
Teach us to put on the joy clothes you provide, especially during weather and emotional storms. Please give us a David heart that sings your praise, and appreciates our countless blessings. Thank you for unexpected disruptions of our daily plans that direct our eyes to your Word. When it seems we are caught in the middle of “always winter but never Christmas,*” renew us with your sure promise of a resurrection Spring.  In Jesus‘ name.  Amen 


*C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What Retirement Planners Don't Mention




   Are you thinking of enjoying more of life by retiring before age 60?  Sounds good, until you discover that doing so increases your death risk by 51%, especially for men. (https://www.verywellhealth.com) In other cheery words, when you stop working, you'll have free time to kill, but it may kill you. Health professionals encourage waiting until 65 and doing cardio exercises.  I am wondering how to make snack retrieval (computer chair to kitchen and back) an aerobic activity.  


  As soon as my Medicare supplement said they would pay for an eye exam, I splurged on new prescription glasses. You might want to consider this purchase for yourself, but with caution.  Why?  With improved vision you see previously unnoticed things in your home: cobwebs, faded paint, ceiling cracks, bugs in all the light fixtures, and a surprising amount of clutter! I don’t recall my investment advisor including plans for dumpster rental costs.  



   Sadly, I can no longer claim the “no time” excuse to ignore my 20+ years’ worth of tightly packed closets, treasures stuffed under beds, a workshop that has no space for work, and various clutter collections.  The transition from work life to house to-dos now includes the revelation, “Why am I keeping this stuff?”  Perhaps purging will provide some much-needed memory tests.  Had the younger versions of me and my husband attempted to answer life’s purpose by accumulating possessions? My new adage is the disinheritance strategy, “Throw it away so the kids won’t have to.”  
 

   One item I elected to keep is a full length mirror.  As I walk past, the mirror becomes a valuable reminder to change clothes from pajama casual to clean, public presentable. Additionally, keeping and using two morning alarm clocks helps counteract my sleeping-in (retirement transition) addiction.



  There is one type of person for whom the relaxed retirement mode may cause emotional strain.  Typically this individual was in a caring-for-others career, came home to ambitious multitasking for family needs, and often postponed doing anything ‘just for myself.”  If this sounds familiar, here are some guilt-reducing reasons and actions to include in your retirement plan:


*Investing in self kindness recharges compassion energy for others.

*If you stop using your mind and muscles you won’t be able to get on the floor to play with grandchildren.

*A yoga and/or stretch class is a lot cheaper than physical therapy.

*Taking classes or trying new experiences slows aging and prevents boredom

*A person who pursues the things he said he would enjoy in retirement, affirms his integrity.

*Laughter is important for the digestive system.

*Retirement is life’s mulligan, the ultimate repurposing opportunity.

.



Which bits of wisdom for retirement plans will
 you put on a well-placed sticky note?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Recipe for Writers


     For a lot of meal makers, the toughest part of cooking is the start--deciding what to make. The same could be said about writing. It’s most helpful to have a literary meal in mind that realizes and satisfies a reader's hunger.

   The what-to-write decision is also determined by purpose: entertainment, information-sharing, or following a Writer’s Guidelines recipe for a specific publication. 
 

Following a Recipe

      The process of writing depends on confidence and experience levels. A beginning baker will carefully read recommended recipes, double check each ingredient and amount, and seek expert advice.  Likewise, a wannabe author will study the writing craft through classes, reading (tasting) examples of renowned nonfiction or fiction creators, and/or read how-to books and blogs. Helpful resources include:  Bird by Bird by Ann Lamont, On Writing by Stephen King and (my personal go-to) anything by Jeff Goins (goinswriter.com).  



Preheat Oven

       There has been several times when I wondered why my pizza crust was soggy, or the pumpkin cookies took so long to bake. The problem was not preheating the oven sufficiently. (It took me years to notice the little light that would go off after reaching the desired temperature!)

       Preheating in the writing world is important also. Has there ever been an author that wrote a masterpiece in a few hours, without edits?  (If you know of someone, I’d be interested to know.)  My current struggle with warming up for writing, is repetition of otherwise prudent activities I do to postpone cooking the main dish!  This procrastination practice involves extensive journal-writing, joining a writers group but not writing for it, entering contests, and continual researching without limit. It’s comparable to eating lots of appetizers and not getting around to enjoying the main course.  


Cooking for Whom?

       When I prepare food for people, I keep in mind their likes and dislikes, as well as  their nutritional needs. My young adult children enjoy trying new foods, especially if they are from different cultures.  I question why food needs to be painful, as they endure spicy hot dishes.  My 88 and 90 year old parents prefer old favorites like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, with desserts, “like my mom used to make.”
  
      Writers also need to know or find out the preferences of their potential readers.  Bestselling Christian author Lysa Terkeurst thinks about the personality, situation, age-range and spiritual maturity of her audience, even picturing them in her mind as she writes.  As an editing technique, she reads her work out loud, as if she is talking to a friend.

Stir the Pudding

       Another one of my (many) cooking and writing sins is allowing distraction to damage the final product.  I use a “multi-tasking” excuse when I’m being inattentive to both my pudding and blogging. Yes, it gets boring standing next to the stove and stirring until it reaches the proper consistency.

     Sitting at the computer, editing and re-editing, letting the words simmer for a bit and maybe asking friends to taste-test, is tedious as well.  But the goal: providing nutritious, delicious, fulfilling reading, is work-worthy. It's a vital part of the writers recipe I encourage you to try. 


And I’m betting it’s less strenuous than a baking competition!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Motivating Meaningful Resolutions


   Do you enjoy making New Year’s resolutions? Are you an assertive goal creator, a believer in accountability or do you have resolution-avoidance anxiety? 

   It is difficult for me to believe it was an entire year ago when I put these goals and time frames on my bulletin board:
 


1.) Work: 2 days a week
2.) Worship & rest/recreation: 1 or 2 days a week
3.) Write: 3 days a week 
4.) Workout/exercise/walk: 4 days a week
5.) Read/study God’s Word: 2 days a week



In keeping with an honesty-is-best policy, I need to admit that #1 was the only goal kept consistently.  Even my attempt at simplifying and alliterating the list did not inspire success.

   To motivate goal-writing and following, I need to be persuaded and even excited about the advantages.  Since I am convinced that spiritual health affects all facets of a person’s life, my latest resolutions intermingle #2, # 4 and #5 above.

   Just like an exercise regimen is used to improve physical health, there are recommended “work-outs” to help strengthen souls. Do you have an interest in firming faith-muscles? Perhaps we can be accountability partners for these health program suggestions: 


++1.   WARM UP with prayer, asking for God’s guidance in pursuit of spiritual wellness. Prayer can be simple communication from weak individuals to the all-powerful, always available heavenly Father.  Good communication between people benefits relationships; talking to God in prayer and listening to his Word draws us closer to him.



Psalm 66:20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Ephesians 6:18  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.




++2.  STRETCH AND TONE spiritual muscle by memorizing Bible verses. Even Jesus learned, memorized and used Scripture to fight the temptation to sin. The devil hates it when we do that too!


Psalm 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart  that I might not sin against you.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


++3.  CARDIO WORKOUT:   Faith-filled hearts receive essential protein from the “solid food” parts of the Bible.  Reviewing Old Testament laws and regulations, learning the reasons for them, what they foreshadowed, and being reminded of the just demands of our holy God, pumps Holy Spirit power through our sin-clogged veins.

Isaiah 5:16  But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts.

Leviticus 11:45  I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

Hebrews 5:13-14  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
  
++4.  LIFT WEIGHTS of personal application by admitting sins, repenting, and applying Biblical standards to thoughts, words and actions. We can ask Jesus to be our personal trainer through these honest, painful, faith-muscle building exercises. No worries that guilt will be too oppressive to bear. Our Savior already carried the required, heaviest weight for us, on the cross.


Mark 1:15  The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Galatians 5:24-26  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  
++5. COOL DOWN after the above soul stretchers by breathing in blessings (to the count of a long list) and breathing out a long, deep thanks to the Giver.  Ask him to instill awareness of and enjoyment in  the gift of every redeemed moment. Relax in the trustworthy promise of eternal perfect health in heaven, because of Gospel grace. 



James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:24  All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.


++6.  NUTRITION  Most people don’t need a reminder to eat/drink something at least three times a day, every day of the year.  How about giving our soul the consistent nourishment it craves?  In God’s gym, the Church, we share food and encourage with other believers, and are fed by His Word and covenant sacrament.

1 Peter 2:2  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.


2 Timothy 3: 14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.


Hebrews 10:24-25   And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.


Jesus’ Resolution


Luke 9:51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven (i.e. facing torture, crucifixion, separation from his Father, death, then resurrection and ascension), Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.



   Jesus accomplished his goal of being the spotless sacrificial “lamb of God” (John 1:29) .  His resurrection secured his and our victory over death and Satan.  The Savior continues to pray for his redeemed until we meet face to face.

Can there be any better resolution-making motivation?





Thursday, December 20, 2018

Are Faith-fruits a Requirement in Receiving God’s Grace?




     


   Tanya and her husband Greg live with the excruciating grief of losing their six month old son to SIDS. Although they have continued to be faithful in worship and well-grounded in the Word, their questions continue.  “Why was our baby taken? What assurance do we have of holding Luke again?” 

Matthew 21:16 From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise.

   Luke’s parents can count on a reunion in heaven: not because their child understood justification, but because of a trustworthy God.  Baptism gifted Luke with saving faith. This miracle is the work of the Holy Spirit, not an effort or action made by Luke or his parents. The grief journey continues life-long for this family, but their hearts also carry the certainty of resurrection joy.

Acts 2:38  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved

Handicapped Hearts    

   Twenty-six year old Andrea has Downs Syndrome. Thankfully, she was given Sunday School and catechism lessons at her level of understanding. The members of her congregation smiled and were inspired by her loud, “You betcha!” in answer to Pastor Mike’s confirmation service questions.  Despite a low reading level, it does not hinder Andrea’s bold and sincere singing of hymns. Does the Holy Spirit give an extra dose of trusting faith to those with special needs? Or is it that people who are rich in cognitive ability think of more reasons to ignore or reject God’s gifts?  


Matthew 19:14  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Mark 10:24 (EHV) “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of God!

Damaged Minds

   Mrs. Sanders was one of those Christian grade school teachers who did it all: showed the love of Jesus to the 3rd and 4th graders through devotions and academics, played organ, volunteered for the grimiest church kitchen chores, and was an encouraging, loving wife. Friends respectfully referred to her as a Proverbs 31 woman. 
"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

   But that was before the car accident caused irreparable brain damage.  Ten years later, despite therapy and antidepressants, Mrs. Sanders doesn’t “feel the need to go to church.”   She is unable to read the Bible or keep focused attention to anyone trying to share its truth.  This once very capable servant of Christ is now is too confused to do simple necessities for herself.  The cognitive, emotional, and physical systems misfire or don’t properly connect. Caregivers in the assisted living center understand her anger, rudeness and frustration as results of the injury.  Caring friends and family members have learned what behavior to expect and what might be helpful. Listening to hymns often has a calming effect.  Sometimes Mrs. Sanders sings along, remembering most of the words.  Her husband prays that God does not hold his wife responsible for her occasional Christ-denying outbursts.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither things present nor things to come, nor powerful forces, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 11:6 Now it it is by grace, then it is not the result of works--otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 

What are the LORD’s expectations of believers who are suffering with a serious illness that seems to have damaged their faith?   

2 Corinthians 12:9  And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Romans 5:20 (EHV) But where sin increased, grace overflowed much more.




Weary Souls

   Frank was raised in a Bible-believing church.  He bragged about marrying Kalinda;  “the best looking woman in the choir.” They thanked God for three healthy daughters, whom they taught and modeled a love for the Lord. When Joelle had married and Akira and Brianna were in college, cancer took their mother’s life. Frank knew his Savior would lead him through his grief journey.“I know God has a plan for me, but I don’t want to face it without my wife.” The crying wouldn’t stop, and the sleep wouldn’t come, so he turned to alcohol to numb the pain.


   Along with adding to his depression, Frank's drinking prompted poor decision-making. It was as if Satan was speaking through the vodka: “ This is helpful therapy!  When you are coping better you can always stop. Then you can just ask God for forgiveness.”  Frank stayed alone in his house, venturing out only to buy fast food.  When he got caught driving under the influence, the ticket added shame to his despair.

   For the past six months, Frank has been too embarrassed to go church services. He knows what he is doing is not God-pleasing. Despite praying to make better choices, he continues the cycle.  He told his sister, “It would serve me right if I died, condemned, in this sin.”   

1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

John 1:16  For out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. 

Romans 7:15-25   I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do...Now if I do what I don not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it...Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

An Example of Mercy

   John (chapter 8) shares what happened when Pharisees (and others who took pride in following the Law), wanted to stone an adulteress woman.  The words, “caught in adultery”, infer she was not the one who stopped her sinful behavior.  What was Jesus’ response to this woman who hadn’t asked for forgiveness? The Savior humbly stooped down into the dirt with this sinner and offered her grace.
John 8:11  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
   Sound familiar?  Jesus left the perfection of heaven to walk in this dark world, and offer forgiveness to God-rejecting, slow-minded, self-righteous sinners.


 Ephesians 2:4-5  (EHV)  But God, because he is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trespasses.

 

 2 Timothy 1:9-10 He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,  and it has now been revealed through the appearance of our Savior Christ Jesus.

What Grace Requires


    There are times when fruits of faith (Galatians 5:22-23) are more apparent in a believer’s life.  There are also many back-sliding, sad, dark situations when the Holy Spirit’s faith fire might not be detected by the human eye.  But when it comes to salvation, whose actions are the only ones that count?  Which of our faith-fruits could qualify to be added to Jesus’ death and resurrection?  His "It is finished" shows us the answer: NONE. Our heavenly Father sacrificed his beloved son, in order to uphold the requirements of holy justice. God’s perfect provision of grace means “no prerequisites needed.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice confidently on the basis of our hope for the glory of God.


   God has sections of heaven reserved for Luke, Andrea, Mrs. Sanders, Frank, me and you!  When we are incapable of making decisions, unable to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, depressed, confused or stunted in faith by sinful actions or illness, we can count on his faithfulness.

Romans 7:24-25  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Psalm 86:15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people.


With whom could you share the truth of God's grace ?