Be Thankful

God our Father in heaven told the Jewish people he didn’t want their sacrifices of bulls and goats. In Psalm 50 v 14 and v 23 I read,

What I want instead is your true thanks to God.
But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.

It is good to thank God and thank others.

I was speaking to an elderly man of over eighty years. He told me as well as being thankful he tries to make someone happy every day.

When one is thankful he is like a flourishing tree. Letting thankful words come out of his mouth cause his sap to come up within him; like a bubbling brook that overflows. Others want to be around him. When one is bitter and complaining he becomes like a withered tree. Others shun him. There is no life flowing out.
I think of the words of Jesus again from Matthew 13 v 12.

Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have even what he has will be taken from him.

There is a chorus that goes,

“Count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Try it. Don’t focus on what one doesn’t have but be thankful for all what one does have.
You will feel better. The gloom will lift when you start to be thankful. Practise being thankful.

We are privileged people living in the Europe. We have good education, health services, travel and many other benefits. We often forget to give thanks and take these blessings for granted. Young people have so many choices in their lives that it is easy for them to want more instead of stopping to be thankful and enjoy what one has.

One’s husband, ones wife, ones friend, a mother or father, professor or teacher will brighten up when he is thanked or receives a greeting card.

God is the giver of all good things. He is a good, good Father. Thank him.

The Robin

 

In Ireland the humble bird the Robin is celebrated on our Christmas cards. Images of the bright eyed bird with healthy feathers, red on his breast and brown on his body and wings are displayed on many a mantle piece.

One forgets that this bird has had to survive a busy schedule in spring and summer building nests, hatching eggs, and foraging for food to keep himself and young alive. Brendan leaves out seeds and leftover bread on the fence for the birds. One bird waits expectantly every morning. It has come into our kitchen when we leave the door open.

If I am away for a few days the Robin welcomes us back by hopping in circles around me from shrub to hedge to get my attention. I haven’t been looking out for my friend for a while. But this morning I was up early. The bird must have seen me move about the kitchen. He was looking for food.

I fetched the seed box and laid out some seeds. The Robin came along. Sadly he looked a bit disheveled. His head was bereft of healthy feathers. He had few red feathers. He must have been in a few difficult situations; fights, hungry or thirsty.

Perhaps the hungry mouths he was helping feed this summer pulled at his feathers when he was sharing his morsels. Is it time to moult his feathers? Or was he in some territorial fights? I discovered from a bird blog that robins defend their territory fiercely.

He has some nice territory to defend. He has two gardens in which to forage and get plenty of food for his offspring. He has a home owner who leaves out treats for him every morning. He isn’t going to give up easily.

Can I learn from this little bird. Jesus said look at the birds. I see this Robin as a real warrior fighting for his home and his land where he gets provision for his young. I read in Nehemiah 4 v 4 that the men prayed for their families and their homes. They built with one hand and defended their property with a sword in their hands. Like the Robin I often get a few ruffled feathers as I defend my home and children. It is my space and I want to keep it a safe place free from evil.

Jesus likens a man to a house.
““When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. “”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:43-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can learn from this scripture Jesus warning to continue to keep our house free from evil spirits. They will always want to come back in. They will never give up. So one needs to be on guard to prevent evil coming back into ones life once we have been set free.

How does one do that. By believing in Jesus, by prayer, by reading the Word of God and by obeying what God has asked one to do.

Give Thanks

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
He killed powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living creature. His love endures forever.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭136:1, 17-18, 23-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In front of my window this morning blackbirds, a pigeon, wag tails, starlings, a chaffinch and robins feed. The God, who created the heaven and the earth cares for them.
It is a privilege to be alive to see the life around me. It is good to be still and take rest in the peace. I heard a pastor say that nature is a bible for us to see with our eyes. The heavens declare the glory of the risen Lord.

I remember back to many times in my life when I was feeling weak and helpless. I was doing my work looking after my husband, family and home. At times I felt overwhelmed. Our unseen enemies put pressure on us.

There were enemies in Israel called the Amelikites. God hated them because they picked off the weak ones among the Israelites. The elderly and the young are the most vulnerable. If they attacked the people the elderly and the young die first. They will not survive in war.

When Moses travelled through the desert he went at the pace of the people who were with young. He protected them. When Jacob was returning to see his father Isaac he went at the pace of the women and children.

The Amalekites are a symbol of spiritual enemies in our lives that are out to attack us when we are weak, to rob, destroy and kill. I believe a father and mother are so important to protect our young from the unseen spirits. Only with Jesus help can we overcome.

“He remembered our utter weakness. He saved us from our enemies.”

I can testify as we reared our children God covered our backs from our enemies who wanted to snare us.

It has been said that it takes a whole community to rear a child. In the past in Ireland neighbors and extended family looked out for one another. If a parent was under pressure a granny or relative would look after the children for a day to give respite.

Now families are independent and nuclear. One may think, “Oh I’m okay I won’t need anyone’s help.” The pressure comes when children are sick, the husband looses his job or other unforeseen difficulties. We need others.

I enjoy nature programmes. I have watched how wildebeest, zebra and caribou migrate in search of food and to have their young. When they come to the green pastures there are hungry enemies waiting who haven’t had food for days. A crocodile lies in wait under the water to gobble up some weak calf or sick animal who cannot get across the river and is cut off from the herd. Scrawny wolves lick their jaws when they see a meal coming their way. They hunt in packs and pick off the weak, sick, lame, old and young of the herd that have fallen behind. Lions hunt down the wildebeest that begin to stampede. The young and old can’t keep up with the rest so become easy prey for the lions who outrun them. There is safety in staying with the group.

Where our family lived was important. Our homes were always near schools, doctors, dentists, shops, hairdresser, bus stop, friends and recreation areas. There was a hospital, library and swimming pool in each town where we lived. The teachers knew our children as they passed up through the schools. They were kind to them. School friends were important. My eldest daughter still meets regularly with friends she met at school. Football coaches were supportive and looked out for my boys attending soccer, rugby or Gaelic. The clinic was nearby for care from the doctor when I was pregnant. I could walk to the supermarket from each place I lived. We felt safe in the places where we lived.

God brought us to green pastures and protected us from our enemies.

Christmas Shopping

image“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We remember Jesus birth at this time.  A time of joy, to thank God the Father for making himself know through his son Jesus, who was conceived in Mary’s womb and born in an animals’ home.
God our Father’s plan was to redeem mankind from the power of sin, death and the devil, who kept mankind separated from God and prevented them from going to heaven.  The devil stole the authority over all the earth and all living creatures, from Adam.  Jesus is the new Adam.

Jesus grew up in his family and lived humbly helping his parents.  He would have helped with the other children, just as my older children did when they were growing up.  His father was a carpenter.  He did not have a high school or university education.  When he was thirty years old he entered his public ministry.  For three years he went about doing good, healing and delivering all who were oppressed of the devil. He was bringing down the power of the devil, who was keeping people in darkness, believing lies, living in oppression and sickness.  Jesus is the truth.

He was the son of God.  He could have set up a kingdom here on earth and ruled and ordered people what to do.  Instead he allowed himself to be arrested and accused of curing people on the day of rest, working miracles and claiming to be the son of God.  His accusers were jealous of him.  They had to get rid of him before everyone started following him and upsetting the kingdoms that were ruling at that time, including Romans and Jews.

His own people the Jews wanted him crucified.  “Away with him” they said.  Jesus never opened his mouth when he was whipped by soldiers, a crown of thorns hammered into his head, nails pierced into his hands and feet to nail him to a cross and when a sword opened up his side.  He hung on a cross till he breathed his last.  He suffered and died.  He became the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.

A leader from India told us recently how people sacrifice their children in the fire or in the river, or cut themselves in order to get their sins forgiven.  Even after such pain they find no relief from their guilt.  This man told some of these people, “Jesus has forgiven my sins.”  I’m not guilty any more.  They were surprised.  “What sacrifice did you make.”  “How much money did you pay.”
He said, “I believe in Jesus.  He was the sacrifice for my sins.  He died in my place.  He shed his blood for me.  This is good news.  You too can know your sins forgiven by believing in Jesus.”
One woman said “Why did you not come sooner, before I gave my child to the God of the river.”  She was heartbroken.  She was prayed for and Jesus healed her.

“ But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who please God completely.. He is the sacrifice for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

‭‭1 John‬ ‭2:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What a wonderful privilege we in the west have to hear the name of Jesus.  We have good health care and good education.  Freedom to work, get married, have children, and live in peace in our homes and neighbourhoods.  But sadly many of us no longer know the power of the name of Jesus or the power of his shed blood or acknowledge, thank or honor him in our lives.   We have forgotten what Christmas really means.

We were travelling home from Dublin airport leaving at five pm yesterday evening.  The road out of Dublin was packed with cars.  On coming near Belfast the roads were packed with cars.  Why is this?   I have travelled at the same time earlier in the year and there were no holdups or roads full of cars.  Ah, people are out Christmas shopping!

Are they shopping for their children who are expecting Santa Clause to leave them some gifts?  Are they shopping for food and drink for fear the shops might run out of provisions nearer Christmas?  How can parents exhaust themselves and get into debt to buy presents for their children who think some mythical being drops them gifts down the chimney?  Are the father’s involved with the shopping, or is it just the mothers?  The children never thank them or appreciate the stress involved.  Why do they continue the lie of Santa Clause?

Do the refugees get presents?   Do the poor people of Africa or India get presents.  Does Santa just come to America and Europe and bless those who already have plenty.  I have asked myself this even when I was young.

Where does Jesus come in our celebration of Christmas?  “Joy to the World” the Christmas cards proclaim.   Brendan and I deleted Santa Clause out of our family when we had four children.  We told them the truth.  If we tell our children about Santa and years later realize there is no Santa, what will they think of mum and dad.  “They told us lies.”  We tell our children the good news that is at the heart of Christmas.  God sent the gift of his Son to us.  Jesus came to take away the sins of the whole world and the give the gift of eternal life.  We can be with him forever in heaven.  We tell them about the other gifts God has for us, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of children, the gift of life itself.

Many people did not agree with us, including family, friends and teachers.  The headmistress asked us to stop our children telling the other children there was no Santa.  Our children did not miss out on gifts.  We saved up and brought our children on summer holidays instead.  I refuse to get caught up in the hype of Christmas.  It does not satisfy!!!

I now live in the hope of going to heaven when I die.  I want to tell others this good news and tell them what Jesus has done for them.   God rescued me from an early death when he healed me of Malignant cancer.  I choose to follow him.  He is returning to the earth soon.  I want to be prepared.  I want to be of use in the years I have left.  I find comfort from this scripture,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paths of Peace

Brendan and I were visiting a friend today.

image

In her garden is an ancient olive tree.  It has a knarled and thick trunk. There are young trees springing up around the trunk from olive seeds that took root.  The olive tree is symbol of peace.  When invaders conquered a region in ancient times they cut down the trees.  This olive tree has remained standing.

Here is the view out the front of her home.

image

Her garden is a peaceful place, a little bit of heaven on earth.  As I walked through the garden and discovered the olive tree and took in the beautiful view,  I was reminded of some verses from Proverbs,

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.

Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:13-18‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Today I was walking along paths of pleasantness and peace.

The Arctic Terns Have Arrived.

I drove out this morning to town.  I parked my car along the sea front and walked on the sunny side of the street.  It was too chilly on the shaded side.  Resident gulls and Brent geese on the waters below were enjoying the warmth of the early sun too.

The winter slumber of people and nature has been awakened by the warm sun and noisy gulls eager to prepare for new life.

image

The population of gulls along the shore has increased dramatically this week.  Artic terns have arrived at their usual nesting place on an island near Strangford harbor.  They are safe from intruders across a short stretch of water, but near enough for the onlooker to enjoy their activities.  They gather in the evening, bodies white against the black, sea washed rock.

image

Another attraction for many black headed gulls this morning was the presence of a farmer ploughing up a field nearby.  It is seed time.  He is busy getting the land ready.  I was reminded of the poem I Will Go With My Father A ploughing, by Joseph Campbell.

I will go with my father a-ploughing
To the green field by the sea,
And the rooks and the crows and the seagull
Will come flocking after me.
I will sing to the patient horses
With the lark in the while of the air,
And my father will sing the plough-song
That blesses the cleaving share.

Instead of horses the farmer today is using a big tractor pulling a large wide machine which grinds up the soil.  Hundreds of gulls follow the fresh upturned soil.  They dive for tasty morsels of worms and insects destrubed by the machinery.  Rooks and crows live nearby in the forest.  They join in the foray, just as the poem says.  Joseph Campbell was born in Co Down.  Perhaps his father ploughed in the green fields by the sea near where I live.

Look at the birds of the air,  they don’t sow nor reap yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Matthew 6 v 26
I saw our Heavenly Father at work today feeding the gulls.