Encourage one another in Christ

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

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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

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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

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 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

New Year Resolutions

 Did you ever wonder where the tradition of making resolutions for the new year started? Apparently, the Babylonians began this tradition 4,000 years ago. They are the first recorded to hold celebrations for the new year which were not in January but March when the crops were planted.

The top resolutions for the new year today usually deal with exercise, healthy eating, or losing weight. It takes 66 days for a habit to become automatic. Eighty percent of New Year resolutions fail by the second week of February. I have certainly been in that 80% often. I do not want to get caught in the trap of making another resolution. Who likes to fail? None of us do but I do have goals; goals to strengthen my faith journey and to encourage others in my faith family.

These Googled resolutions for 2021 had many suggestions that would grow my Christian walk:

  1. Snail mail – Receiving mail from the post office still brings joy and excitement. Write a note to family, friends or to some shut-ins. Send notes of encouragement to essential workers, e.g., healthcare workers, gas station attendants, hairdressers, store clerks.
  2. Try something new – Learn a new craft, sewing, crocheting, or knitting. Use your new skill to benefit others, e.g., masks, ear savers, prayer shawls, hats and mitts for the homeless. Take a cooking class and make crockpot meals for low-income families or a family going through a rough patch.
  3. Theme verses – Memorize Bible verses, join a Bible study group. Our Christian Growth Committee holds a Beverage and Bible Study online. The Member Development Committee has a weekly planner for sale that focuses on a Bible verse each week. Get involved with your church Bible study or invite a friend for coffee and a short Bible devotion.
  4. Fast from spending – Curb that extra spending and support a charity. Instead of a drive thru coffee, manicure/ pedicure or a new purse/shoes set the money aside for a charity. LWMLC has some wonderful mission projects, support Canadian Lutheran World Relief or a Food Bank.
  5. Declutter – We all have those items or clothes we no longer use or need. Donate to a homeless shelter or women shelter.
  6. Journal a line a day – Start a gratitude journal and thank the Lord for all the blessings we receive daily.

Though we may fail at our New Year resolutions God still loves us. We sin daily but God still loves and forgives us. What is important is that God has kept His resolution – the promise that He sent His only Son to earth as a little Baby to be our Saviour, a Saviour who went to the cross for our shortcomings so we may have eternal life with Him in Heaven. That is a resolution that will never fail.

Annette, Manitoba

It was challenging for my husband and me getting our pre-teen and two teen boys to church this morning.  The logic of their older sister staying home to do homework with a friend while they went to church 45 minutes away in Montreal to respect our reserved in-church places didn’t sit too well. Finally there were two positive outcomes from the earlier morning dissatisfaction:

1. Pierre and I learned that advanced planning not only helps adults but also helps young people prepare and anticipate upcoming duties and events;

2. God saw to reward our parental follow-through for attending church in person today. One of our church friends whom we drove home treated us to Thai sandwiches and giant almond cookies! That was even after the boys waited half an hour for us parents talking after church to pastor and others.

So this is your encouragement to hold firmly to what you believe even when it’s hard. Your kids, grandkids, neighbours and friends are seeing what you’re made of and God, through trials, is strengthening your faith.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Fidèle à travers le confinement et la vie de tous les jours!

Ce dimanche matin il était difficile pour mon mari et moi d’amener notre pré-ado plus nos deux adolescents à l’église. La logique selon laquelle leur sœur aînée restait à la maison pour faire ses devoirs avec un ami pendant que nous allions pendant 45 minutes à Montréal pour honorer nos places réservées dans l’église, n’était pas très bonne. Enfin, l’insatisfaction du matin a eu deux résultats positifs:

1. Pierre et moi avons appris que la planification faite au paravant aide non seulement les adultes, mais aussi les jeunes à se préparer et à anticiper les tâches et les événements à venir;

2. Dieu a choisi de nous récompenser tous ensemble pour notre suivi parental pour aller à l’église en personne aujourd’hui. Une de nos amies paroissiennes que nous avons ramenés chez elle nous a offert des sandwichs thaïlandais et des biscuits aux amandes géants! C’était même après que les garçons aient attendu 1 / 2h après le service lorsque nous discutions avec le pasteur et d’autres paroissiens.

Voici donc votre encouragement à vous tenir ferme à ce que vous croyez, même lorsque c’est difficile. Vos enfants, petits-enfants, voisins et amis voient de quoi vous êtes fait et Dieu, à travers les épreuves, renforce votre foi.

Jacques 1:12 Béni soit celui qui persévère dans l’épreuve car, ayant résisté à l’épreuve, cette personne recevra la couronne de vie que le Seigneur a promise à ceux qui l’aiment.

Rena, Quebec

Bonus Post

A weekly planner has been created by the Member Development Committee of LWML-Canada – a handy place to keep track of your “to do” lists and reminders of appointments and such. Following is the prologue taken from the planner explaining how it is so much more than just that. Order now to start January 1 or order at any time…the pages allow you to insert the dates.

The planner may be ordered from the LWMLC Resource Centre via resourcecentre@lutheranwomen.ca. The code is M-20-11, and the cost is $15 plus shipping and handling.

What you are holding in your hands is a gift; a gift of God’s Word that will stand the test of time. Guaranteed. Let this weekly planner be more than a place to write your reminders, your to dos and other what nots. Inside you will see a variety of Bible verses (ESV) carefully selected, not only for your reading enjoyment, but for your continued learning of God’s Word.

Why take the time to learn and memorize these Bible verses? First, we are specifically instructed to memorize Scripture. Colossians 3:16 (ESV) says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching ad admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Memorization is the means for allowing the word to dwell within.

Next, memorization of the Word provides us with the weapons to fight spiritual attacks. St. Paul paints a picture of what we should put on to prepare for our daily walk. More specifically, he states that we are (to put on) “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17 ESV). Our most defensive weapon in our walk is the word of God.

Finally, having a variety of Bible verses in our memory bank will allow us to help others learn about the Good News. We are to be ready with the word, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

Helping others is what we do as members of LWMLC as featured in our motto. This motto, selected in 1993, is “Called to Serve,” based on Deuteronomy 10:12 NIV, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Let us now embrace, cherish and memorize God’s Word as we celebrate the gift of each day.

Amy Boudreau, LWMLC Member Development Committee

Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus

From the cross to the grave,

Jesus gave His life to save

The world from its gloomy destiny!

How can we comprehend-

The Son of God sacrificed

For the sins of all including me?

He carried all the world’s sins

To the cross on Calvary.

Only God can fathom such agony!

Nailed to the cross, Jesus said,

 “Father forgive them

for they know not what they do.”

In total obedience to His Heavenly Father,

He fulfilled His lifelong mission

To pay the price of our redemption.

The sky turned black!

The temple veil tore in two!

The earth shook asunder!

Graves released the dead!

Astounding wonder!

Such power, such strength

In his humble disgrace.

May His Spirit help us to appreciate –

God’s everlasting LOVE!

Laid in a cold and stony grave;

Sealed with a stone rolled in the way.

All hope was shattered, lost?

Sorrow of sorrows,

As His followers mourned;

Trembling in fear till

That first Easter morn.

But, up from the grave He arose!

Christ overcame death and the grave!

Now death, where is your sting?

“Victory in Jesus!”, we forever will sing.

“Alleluia!”

                                ~Irene Warpula (April 2020)