Encourage one another in Christ

“But only God… makes things grow” (1Corinthian 3:7)

Our life of new norms has us working from home even if we are employed or retired.  The newscasts are filled with debates of what we should be doing.  A very close call with COVID-19 reminded me of what was important…my relationship with my Lord.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31)

Our “bubble” became unsafe, and we had to rewrite what it would look like. Our hearts were filled with fear and the waiting game of isolation was a time to rewrite our prayers. God answered those prayers, and our family is once again safe. But the world remains crippled by what is COVID-19; we treat everyone as if they have the invisible enemy.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

Know that I am God – something we take for granted till life challenges who we are, and what is happening to us in our daily lives. It was during the new isolation; God gave me sun on my face, warm days, and warm breezes. He daily encouraged my gardens to come to life. It may have been too early to prepare the garden beds for a summer of beauty, yet in this therapeutic job of pulling weeds, adding seeds to enhance the older plants and returning to the garden, embellishments that sat in the shed throughout the winter, I found a renewed relationship with my Lord.

“I am He who will sustain you” (Isaiah 46:4)

Leaves are peeking out; spring bulbs have grown and bloomed with all their beauty, birds have returned to my gardens and are nesting. Life is filled with hope. I never doubted He was with me, fear played in the sidelines of my life. Remember prayers give us the strength to deal with whatever happens, and He is always with us. Tomorrow will bring sun on my face, warm breezes, and my gardens will continue to come alive with summer’s beauty, but as I walk within my gardens I will not walk alone.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3)

Pam O., Ontario District Member Development

Just Because

Occasionally when my granddaughter comes for a sleep over, I prepare her favorite meal. We set the table with cloth napkins, fancy glasses, and candles. She enquires “What’s special Grandma? It’s not my birthday.” My response is “Just because!” 

The National Convention this year is unique and special in that it is virtual. There may not be a personal face to face meeting, restrictions may limit how many can come together but we can make it special “Just Because!” 

Have you thought about sharing a meal together socially distanced with all the finery at your home, on the patio, or at your church?

Consider ordering in a meal to support local businesses, everyone makes their own meal or bring a specific item to contribute to the meal. Remember Lunch Box Auctions where you bid for the surprise lunch box? A silent auction could be organized with proceeds going to Mites.

Some of you are exceptionally talented and crafty to design a table favor to share with your table mates or others attending the convention at home or other locations. Christian Growth had great examples of pray rocks in the Spring Tapestry.

Just Because we are meeting virtually does not mean it cannot be special. Just Because we are miles apart does not mean we cannot make a connection.  Just Because the convention is virtual let us make it special by sharing the one true faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Just Because!

Member Development Committee

Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – Canada

lutheranwomen.ca

During this time of COVID, something I have dearly missed on Sunday mornings is Bible study and the wonderful people I attend with. So, I joined a Bible study which is done over Zoom! Comprised of 12 – 15 women, we have taken a deep dive into the book of Genesis. Every Monday evening, we get together to discuss the questions and lectures that are provided for us each week. Unpacking one chapter at a time has been enlightening. This book is full, and I mean FULL, of amazing storylines. Creation, life, death, murder, greed, obedience and disobedience, homosexuality, incest, polygamy and jealousy, just to name a few! When reading it I think, “Why in heaven’s name wouldn’t God just start over again”? Surely His plan wasn’t for the mess that ensued? The sinful human nature of Adam and Eve set us off on a downward spiral right from the get-go! When someone says, “Things are different now than they were then, so the Bible shouldn’t apply anymore,” I know that’s not true. Everything happening today happened long before Jesus walked the earth. It has just been perpetuated through the centuries.

The first question of the study each week is “How have you seen God at work in your life during the past week?” I never answer this question; and this is not because I doubt that God has been at work. God is always working in my life – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. ALWAYS! I think I just tend to take for granted all the ways He is here, continually blessing me. He provides seasons for life and death; daytime and nighttime for our bodies to reset and be rejuvenated; animals for food; water for us to drink. The list of the essentials He provides is endless. Sometimes, though, He will do something extraordinary in our lives that we fail to give Him the credit for. We get so wrapped up in the moment that we fail to see how things are being played out just as He would order it. Oftentimes it’s not until we’re sharing the journey with someone that we stop and say, “Wow, God’s hand was in this.” Then we know that God is at work in our lives on a personal level. He reaches out to us where we are and provides what we need most. It may not be what we desire the most, but it is what we need the most!

So why is it that when our study leader asks this question the response is… crickets! Is it that we don’t want to boast about what God is doing for us? Do we doubt that it’s His grace at work? Do we question whether it was God, or ourselves, that brought about the desired result? In the end all these questions are between us and God. He knows where our hearts are. While we may fail to give Him all the glory, as we are called to do, He forgives us, loves us and continues to be with us.

Amen to that!

Roberta – Saskatchewan

Measuring Up

Do you ever feel like you don’t quite measure up in your faith walk? Do you compare your knowledge of Scripture with your friends or family, and think to yourself, I should know more, I should understand it better? Do you compare your gifts and talents to those around you? Do you wonder what gift you were given? I think we all suffer from the “I can’t write devotions or sew mittens,” or “I can’t quote Scripture or share my faith with strangers I meet,” feelings. I am a perfect example of those exact things. I often wonder what my gifts are, and how God is using me through my daily life. Quite often, I am reminded of them by other people, because I don’t always see my gifts in the same way as those around me. Thankfully, God doesn’t measure our worth in how many devotions we write or how many mittens we knit. We do these things because we want to, because we want to share God’s Love and God’s Word with all those around us and because “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

This piece of scripture is always a great reminder to me when I feel like I don’t measure up in the worldly sense. It reminds me that I don’t have to measure up, that He loves me, and, in that love and grace, I want to serve Him in the ways only I can, with the gifts that only He has given me. And along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, we will serve Him together, each using our gifts, in every aspect of this worldly life, which God prepared beforehand. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

My husband likes to tease me that I have this “special light” that shines on me. I believe God is shining His light through me. I could never shine without His Love and Grace. Just as He shines His Light through each of you!

Pam – Saskatchewan

Today I received a package with a gift I purchased. The purchase was made from a small store. With my purchase the store had also given me an individual tea bag and a note that said, “Enjoy a cup of tea on us.” This simple gift with my purchase likely didn’t cost the store very much but the gift went a long way in providing me with happy thoughts that they appreciated me, and I was important to them. This small gift made me feel closer to the person who packaged it, even though I have never met them personally.

It made me think of the small gifts God gives us through others when we receive a smile, a hug, a wave, a free coffee or meal. I am sure you can think of other small gestures you have received from someone who you perhaps didn’t know. These small gifts give us a feeling of being important to someone and we are left with happy thoughts and our day is brighter. It’s like sunshine to our soul.

When we receive these gifts, do we say thank you to the person giving the gift and ultimately to God for sending and encouraging that person to give those gifts? If you haven’t said thank you yet, you can still thank God…He hears you anytime you talk to Him.

Maybe you can be the person God uses to provide these gifts to others; “…remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Let God’s Son shine through you to others.

Penny, British Columbia

lutheranwomen.ca

Oh, what a friend!

My favourite hymn is “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” My grandfather sang this hymn on a regular basis while I sat on his knee and although I was only five when he passed away, I still get teary-eyed when I hear this hymn.

Especially during this lockdown, and since I am unable to attend regular church service, this hymn reminds me that I am not alone.  As the writer says: “What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” This reminds me that no matter how things are going on in my life, I can turn to prayer and my spirits will be uplifted.

In the second verse it says: “Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrow share? The writer reminds us we have a friend who is always there for us and who will share our burdens if we only ask. He will guide and lead us throughout what we are experiencing if only we go to Him in prayer and put our trust in Him.

I am including the words of the hymn. I hope that if you are feeling lonely, tempted or alone that you read this hymn and that it will bring you comfort.  I know that when I feel that life is giving me more than I can handle I go to this hymn and read those comforting words and I know that despite what I am facing I am not alone, and God is with me and will sustain me through what I am facing.

Diana, Ontario

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
  Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
  Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
  Thou wilt find a solace there.

Text: Public Domain

lutheranwomen.ca

The snow globe

There’s a cartoon posted at my school with a quarantined Earth sick in a hospital bed, a nurse standing by, while the rest of the planets stand and watch through the glass. It’s a depiction of Earth in this pandemic and separated from the other planets, just as we are separated from one another.

This past Christmas, I received a gift from a student of a snowman in a snow globe, sitting on a red mug with a handle attached. We all have a snow globe at home. How many of us have happily imagined being in a snow globe, visiting that famous spot of our souvenir collection, or being that tiny and watched? The sparkles shine in the sun and light. The snow or foam balls fall lightly to the base until we shake it up again and stir up the sparkles and snow. Life in the globe seems quiet, happy. I have globes to remind me of vacations to Victoria, my engagement and of special occasions. (I don’t collect them but they are cherished gifts.) I was thinking of my snowman this past Christmas, stuck in a glass bowl, not being able to move or be with anyone. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

If we are the snowman, stuck in our homes (glass bubbles) and alone during this pandemic, especially during the holidays, then I thought of his base. His globe is snuggled in a mug, like someone’s hand. We, like the snowman, are being watched by God, snuggled in His protective hand. God is taking care of us, watching from above, but very near to us through the Holy Spirit. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be with us in this sinful, sick world. Jesus walked the Earth 2000 years ago amongst sinners and sickness and healed them (and us!) with His Healing Power of hope, love, comfort and forgiveness, and then salvation through His death and resurrection on the cross. Have you ever broken your snow globe? What a mess! I used to work in a retail gift shop and every Christmas, we would say to the customer, “Don’t leave it in the car too long (it was cold outside) because the water will freeze and the glass will shatter.” (Funny how I remember that from 21 years ago!). If we break our globes (our bubbles), then we lose our joy and fuzzy-warm souvenir memories. There would be broken glass and clay figurines, water with sparkles and foam balls everywhere, waiting to be wiped up. There is the possibility of getting cut from the broken glass.

Despite this brokenness, God picks up the pieces in our lives and continues to mould and to shape us into the followers He would like us to be. So, take this quiet time to connect to God our Potter, who shapes us. Take this quiet time to reflect on the beauty of His creation and to connect in a different way with those around us – a smile, an act of kindness, a wave “hello” and listen and breathe in His Word. Jeremiah 18:6b says, “God says, ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.’”

You know the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands?” Yes, God does have this whole world in His hands and He’s watching us and taking care of us. As the songwriter Michael Joncas writes in the chorus of “On Eagle’s Wings” in our LSB hymnal, #727

“And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings

Bear you on the breath of dawn

Make you to shine like the sun

And hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Diane, Saskatchewan

www.lutheranwomen.ca

Learning “new tricks”

There is an old saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I haven’t an opinion on that particular statement, but some may consider me an “old dog” since I’ve been out of school for 48 years. Since I’m now a Nana for two granddaughters who will both be bilingual, I challenged myself to learn to speak French. Our daughters speak English, and their husbands speak French. All are probably considered bilingual now. Latin wasn’t a fun subject in grade 9, but it did help with derivatives and knowing what gender with words is all about. That stuck in my brain so at least I understood what they meant when using “gender” in French.

To date, I have learned many French words. Some I say okay. The frustration comes in being asked to speak a sentence. When I say what I thought was said and it’s not accepted, I get frustrated as I don’t realize what I did incorrectly. The computer will tell you when the answer is correct or, if the answer was incorrect, what it should have been.

The computer doesn’t tell you how to say the words correctly or what you did which made the produced sound wrong. On some occasions, I’ve been asked to speak a sentence or phrase until it was approved. It felt like 25 repeats, so you feel defeated when it doesn’t work. I’ve also noticed that sometimes the computer says the spoken part was skipped so I figure the volume was set too low and it was never heard on their end.

I have learned that committing a bit of time each day to learn something new is do-able. It is encouraging to read the report at the end of the week to see how many new words were learned.

For Christmas, I made a mobile for Céleste of eight different colours. On one side, I printed the colour in French and on the other side, I printed the colour in English. I will make one for myself and eventually one for Lena too. Hopefully, we can help each other learn to say the colour and will remember it in both languages.

I wasn’t convinced I would learn the French language when I began this journey. I know I’ve learned many words so far and realize it will take a while to get the accents. My family is supportive of this process and I look forward to understanding the girls when they’re talking continuously!

So, what does this have to do with us in our daily walk? I’m reminded how some people are reluctant to join a Bible study group. It seems easier to join a group when it first begins as you feel you’re all starting out the same. During the pandemic, with meetings over Zoom or YouTube, the hesitation can be magnified if you’re not in the know with technology (I know some but don’t understand lots). Then we might feel more anxious as our minds may talk us out of even trying to join a group.

We must remember that getting into a Bible study group helps us glean more from God’s Word as you may hear more than one translation of a section you have difficulty understanding. In my case, our pastor gives the historical background and how Scripture has been fulfilled. I didn’t enjoy history as a child, but as an adult I enjoy understanding the how and the why of what that means for us.

God’s Spirit does help us in reading God’s Word on our own! I guess my point is that I’m more accountable in a group as I commit to a certain time to study with others and we have good discussions too. I would encourage anyone to try group Bible study as pastors usually have lots of resources to explain themes better or Bible project videos which show you pictures while talking about the theme. Let’s dig into God’s Word with our Christian family through church Zoom!

Pat G., Laurentian District

lutheranwomen.ca

 Words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr., in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, 1968

This quote has a lot of truth and meaning to it, because we as humans have to go through the darkness in order to see the beauty in life. Is there anything more beautiful than a star-filled night sky or the beauty of the aurora borealis (northern lights)?

According to Christian tradition, the Star of Bethlehem, was followed by the three Magi —Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa — to reach the birthplace of Jesus Christ. As the New Year begins and we put away the trappings of Christmas, my biggest regret was: the symbolic Christmas Star that was visible from December 16 to 21, and was observed anywhere in the world. The star was best seen one hour after sunset.

Except… as often as I tried to see it, the clouds, fog and poor weather hindered my vision of this beautiful event. It was a different Christmas season, many changes, challenges and limitations yet filled with beauty, hope and promises of new beginnings. Like the sparkle of those stars, my Christmas tree held lights that sparkled in the evening, ornaments that reflected their light and represented the growth of my family, kids first ornaments, grandchildren’s first ornaments, homemade treasures and gifts from family and friends throughout the years. I may have missed this special star, but it will be repeated on March 15, 2080. My grandchildren may see it again in their life time.

The decorations will be put away, and 2021 will hold promises of new beginnings. No, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions – I do look forward to what 2021 will hold for me and am open to all that it brings. I pray that like those stars that shine on a clear night filling the heavens with beauty our blessings to will reflect the love our Saviour promises. As COVID-19 continues, remember to reach out to each other, a call, a card, and a prayer sent is a prayer received.

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Happy New Year, Sisters in Christ,    

Pam O., Ontario Member Development

lutheranwomen.ca

The gift of prayer

Our LWMLC society has a program called Penny Petal which members are encouraged to donate coins to give thanks for the birthdays, anniversaries of themselves or any family member. The contributions are used to purchase flowers on the altar for special occasions. The coins are collected at the end our meeting and a prayer is spoken. The Penny Petal prayers, read from lined paper with a German accent, are written by a special lady who captures in the prayers the seasons of the year, the church and the blessings and trials of the congregation. These prayers often contain verses from hymns or are written by her. Irma is now 90 years living in assisted care and not able to attend our meetings, but she has saved her prayers and we are blessed to continue to utilize them. So, I share this gift of hers with you.

November 2012

In a myriad of miraculous ways God shapes our lives and changes our days.

Beyond our will, or even knowing, God keeps our spirits ever growing

For lights and shadows, sun and rain, sadness and gladness, joy and pain

Combine to make our lives complete and give us victory through defeat.

Oh, love divine, Oh love excelling, in troubled hearts you just keep dwelling

Patiently waiting for a prodigal Son, to say at last, thy will be done.

Dear heavenly Father,

We thank you again for all your blessings and challenges we are facing today. Thank you for your protection and guidance. In our world of darkness, we hear plenty of devastating earthquakes, floods, senseless violence, murder, child abuse and fighting one country against another where innocent people’s lives are lost. Good news is seldom. But Jesus was born to lighten up even the darkest corner of the world and through His love there is peace between God and man. Soon we will approach the season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ our Saviour. May we always be prepared to share this Good News. We pray for all the people who seem to be walking in darkness. Their holiday seems to permeate thinking of only me, me, me. By the grace of our heavenly Father we pray for those people that they open their hearts toward Jesus Christ because He alone is the light of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross gives us love, teaches us love and empowers us to love. Lead us in your love, Lord Jesus as we love others in your name. Gracious heavenly Father, your mercies and blessings are countless. You have given your body and life and made us you own, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We thank you for all the birthdays and anniversaries in our church family. We thank you again for the precious gift of life. Tender and gentle Shepherd hold us in your arms, carry us when we have lost our way and guide us through to the path that leads to you. Amen

I often fumble when called upon to pray in public. Thankfully, the Lord understands those fumbles and   I am thankful to the Lord for those who have the gift of prayer.

Irma Barten as given to Annette – Manitoba