What’s Your Fragrance?

II Corinthians 2:14-17

I am a distributor for essential oils and use oils daily as a part of my wellness routine.  I carry oils in my purse and share them with anyone and everyone I meet who has a need.  I believe they are effective in keeping me healthy.

People will frequently say, “You smell good,” or “What is that smell?”  Generally, it is peppermint oil, my favorite.  But today, my heart was challenged by the verses in II Corinthians.  Do those who cross my daily path also detect another fragrance, a fragrance sweeter than any essential oil I could choose?  Do they detect in me the fragrance of Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of souls? Do they detect the aroma of kindness, goodness, and unconditional love?

As an ambassador or representative of an essential oil company, it is part of my job to “put on” oils and display their qualities.  But even more, I am an ambassador for God; and as His representative, I should display His qualities.  On my own, I could never achieve this.  My shortcomings are many.  But fortunately, I do not have to rely on my own strength.  “Not that we are competent in ourselves. . . but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers. . . ” (II Corinthians 3:5-6)

My prayer is that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the primary fragrance emanating from me will be that most compelling of sweet aromas—the Aroma of Christ–that people might, through me, be drawn to Him.

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A Virtuous Husband [redux]

A strong, sensitive, and spiritual husband—who is she that can find him?

He is far more precious than solid bars of gold, and his value is far above the wealth of Wall Street.

The heart of his wife trusts implicitly in his priesthood of their home, confidently relying in his spiritual wisdom.

He comforts, cares for, supports, and partners her in all their endeavors, and supports her and their offspring as long as there is life within him.

He spends quality time with each child in his family, learning the child’s bent and seeking to develop his or her potential to its fullest.

He finds joy in the accomplishments of his family.  He rises while it is early to study and seek God’s will for his life and the life of his loved ones, and stays up late praying for the growth and safety of his children.

He works diligently to provide for his family.  He considers business decisions in Godly context and does all things with integrity, ensuring his family’s future and well-being to the best of his God-given abilities.

He does not worry over his children’s futures for he has provided a solid spiritual and economic foundation from which to launch them.

He looks well to the care of his home and property and gives excellent care to those material things which God has provided.

He manages the family finances, giving tithes to the Lord and contributing to the needs of the poor and lost.

He is a leader among men and an example to all who know him, and provides whatever help he can to his neighbor.

He opens his hand to his friends and neighbors and shares the fruits of God’s bounty wherever he can.

He speaks words of Godly wisdom and is a father and spiritual guide to all whom the Lord brings across his path.

His children honor him and respect his advice, and he is blessed with grandchildren in his latter years.

He knows the importance of rest and relationships and takes time to celebrate the Lord’s Day and family events.

He takes time to acknowledge his wife—his life partner—and is sensitive to her needs.  He is rewarded with a solid bond, lasting through golden years.

Many sons have done virtuously, but you exceed them all. Brains and good looks are deceptive, and physical strength is vain, but a man who lives with God as Lord of his life shall be praised.

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Change

My husband always buys white tennis shoes.  In over forty years of marriage, he’s never bought another color—until this time.  This time, he bought gray tennis shoes.  I like them.  But every time I see them sitting by his chair or our bed, I’m confused.  For a split second, I wonder, “Whose shoes are those?”

We are creatures of habit, and change is hard.  Even when a change has no impact on what we do—like a new pair of shoes—it takes the brain a while to process.  If such an insignificant change can be so difficult to grasp, how can we ever change things in our lives that are of great significance?  How do we change bad habits into good ones?  How do we change prejudice into acceptance?  How do we change hate into love?

The short answer is, “We can’t.”  We often don’t have the strength, desire, or will power we need to make changes like that on our own.  No matter how much we determine we will power through, it takes very little to slip back into old, comfortable habits or mindsets.  That’s why I’m thankful for Jesus.  Jesus, Who came to earth and died for our sins, Who forgave us, and Who is the only One who can transform us into the image of God.  In Christ, all things are possible.  In Christ, changes can happen.  Thank God that in Him we “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18

Do you need to make a change in your life?  Ask God to help you.  The biggest change He ever makes is when He cleanses us from our sins when we ask Him for forgiveness and put our lives in His hands. From that point forward, He helps us make the other changes we need, whether it’s something big like transforming an attitude or prejudice, or something personal, like changing our lifestyles to healthier ones.

And speaking of healthier lifestyles, I believe I will go find my own tennis shoes and take a walk.

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A Prayer

Strengthen me, Lord; I am tired.

Strengthen me, Lord; I need rest.

Strengthen me, Lord; I’m your child.

Strengthen me, Lord. I am blessed.

 

Teach me, O Lord, how to love you.

Teach me, O Lord, how to pray.

Keep me, O Lord, in Your bosom.

Hold me, so I will not stray.

 

Hear me, O Lord, when I worship.

Hear me, O Lord, when I pray.

Hear me, O Lord, when I’m joyful.

Near you, O Lord, I will stay.

 

Yesterday’s gone now forever.

Tomorrow I never may know.

Today is the day that is promised.

I’ll rest in the Life-giving flow.

 

Jesus, the Lord, is my Savior.

Jesus, the Lord, is my Friend.

Jesus will love me forever.

Eternity means, there’s no end.

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The Gift of Hospitality

img_3897Hospitality is listed in the Bible as a spiritual gift.  But anyone can become better at hospitality if they just practice.  Essentially, hospitality is making people feel welcome; and when you open your home for a dinner, a business meeting, a holiday party, or a one to one conversation, you can offer hospitality and make your guests feel welcome.

I learned hospitality first at home.  My mom and dad often had people over after work, especially in the summer, for a backyard cookout.  It wasn’t anything special, really.  It was just burgers on the grill and a lounge chair seat.  But people liked to come, and we had a few single people who became regulars—almost part of the family.  My father always made people had something to drink—even when I returned home as a “guest” after I married, he was caring and attentive to my needs.

When I met first met my husband and began joining his family for Sunday and holiday dinners, I learned more from my mother-in-law.  She always had a beautifully set table, serving dishes, and frequently, little favors at each table setting.  She silently taught me about the little “extras.”  I learned through observing.

When my husband and I had been married for quite a while, we began to host Easter breakfasts at our home when our church stopped having them.  We lived near to the church during those years, and it was convenient for our friends to have breakfast at our house.  This is when I learned that my husband had also picked up some things from his mom, and probably his grandmother, too.  He was the cook at these breakfasts, as he had previously been at church.  His little extras included warming the plates so the food would stay hot, warming the syrup for the pancakes, choosing attractive serving dishes.  This is where I took on the role of table setting.  Fortunately, we had received some lovely things as gifts when we were married, and this was an opportunity to pull those things out of storage and use them.  This home had more storage in the kitchen than our first home, and I was able to keep those items in an accessible place.  One of the little extras I used was individual salt and pepper shakers—one at each place setting.  Extravagant? Maybe.  But I had them, so why not use them?

Wimg_3900hen we moved again to an older home and began hosting our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I began to hone my skills as a table setter.  My goal was for my guests to feel that the holiday was special and they were special.  I wanted them to be filled with delight at the setting, even if they only experienced it at a subconscious level.

I am not always good about planning ahead, and I would sometimes get bursts of creativity at the last minute, forcing me to rush around and sometimes improvise.  But over the years, I have gathered a lot of things for my collection for table settings:  my mom’s silver table service, cloth napkins, napkin rings, colorful tablecloths and placemats, water goblets, a varied collection of creamer and sugar sets, butter dishes, gravy boats, platters, a punch bowl (for larger crowds, which I bought at an auction for $2.00 and it included the cups), centerpieces, handmade name cards, holiday dishes, and figurines.  One year, I took a Christmas poem I had written (but you could use any appropriate poem), and I printed it, pasted it on a colorful construction paper background, and set it at each place setting.

As the family grew, I hosted wedding and baby showers. Now here is where I gathered some help.  I am not great at the gift favors, and I recently enlisted my sister-in-law to help with those for a shower I was hosting.  There is nothing wrong with enlisting the gifts and talents with others to assist you in your hospitality.

Nimg_4143ow, I have a home business, and I sometimes host gatherings in my home.  Though not as elaborate, I try to take the same approach so my guests will feel comfortable and special.  Everyone wants to feel special, and the little extras show that you have taken the time to care.

I recently hosted a customer event at my home.  I learned from others who had shared and then modeled my event after those. I purchased what I needed to make my customer event uniquely mine.  And I bought everything at the dollar store, so I didn’t need to break the bank to pull this off. I didn’t have a specific plan when I went into the store.  It developed as I found what was available.  I found silver (plastic) trays and silver frames, so I had a theme going.  I had already purchased gold and white dispensers I needed, and I thought those colors would work well together.  When I went out to buy more frames, I ended up with black ones.  Okay, still works.  I just went with what’s available and made it work.  I chose a coordinating color tablecloth, and I was ready.

Maybe you don’t feel table setting is your gift, but you can still be hospitable.  Perhaps you are a great cook.  You notice I don’t talk about the food for any of my events.  My husband does the cooking.  I make some things, but I stick to the few dishes I’ve mastered and don’t try to get too wild with new things.  And when it’s a business meeting or a make and take, food isn’t the focus so simple is best.  Or maybe decorating cakes and cookies or making desserts is your specialty.  Make a dish that makes your guests feel special.

And it doesn’t have to be formal to be hospitable.  I admit, I used to use the good china for every occasion, but I finally figured out that smoked ribs in the summer don’t require a china plate for a picnic setting.  I’ve succumbed to paper—but I always buy Chinet plates.  Thick and heavy-duty so the plates don’t sag in the middle when loaded with food.  You can also find lots of fun and colorful, seasonal, tableware at a dollar store to spice things up, even if it is just a centerpiece.

Each of us has something unique to offer when we invite guests into our home for a dinner, an event, or a meeting.  If hospitality is your gift, this is your chance to shine.  And if it isn’t, you can take one or two ideas to add something special for your own guests.

The most important thing is to be there to greet them, introduce them to people they don’t know, and then, relax and enjoy them.  They came to see you.

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The Colors of Christmas [redux]

Into a dark and sin-filled world

A blessed babe was born.

To rescue men with blackened hearts

He came that Christmas morn.

A promised King, at last arrived,

His parents tired and worn.

No one to welcome their new Son,

With Kingly robes adorn.

How could all men with cold, black hearts

Display contempt and scorn?

For the One who came to offer them

New life in Him, reborn.

 

He hung upon a cross to die,

Forsaken and forlorn.

To bear my sins and on Himself

He took my shame and scorn.

Blood of red spilled from His side.

He like a sheep was shorn—

Stripped and beaten, nailed and mocked.

His crown, a crown of thorns.

“Abba, Father,” was His cry;

His Mother, nearby, mourned.

And from the temple came the sound.

The veil, at last, was torn!

 

Ring out the bells, sing out the news,

Let heralds sound their horns!

A promised King, at last, arrived;

A blessed babe is born.

And now, He does, with robes of white

The righteous ones adorn.

To all who come and humbly bow,

To all who’ve been reborn—

Rejoice in Him. Sing out your praise.

Let Him, your life, adorn!

And celebrate the birth of Christ

This year on Christmas morn.

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The Rest of the Christmas Story (Luke 2:25-35) [redux]

Just a baby in a manger

Holy, precious heavenly child

Born in humble, poor surroundings.

First born Son so meek and mild.

Nearby shepherds hear the story

Told by angels, joyous news.

Born to you this day a Savior,

Resting now with cows and ewes.

Swaddling clothes, a sign of glory.

Angels sing, their voices raise.

Shepherds seek in haste to find Him,

Share the news and give God praise.

Mary ponders all their sayings,

Weighing thoughts within her heart.

Joseph’s quiet strength beside her,

Silent presence from the start.

Came the time for dedication.

Jesus was the baby’s name.

To Jerusalem they brought Him,

He, who’d later suffer shame.

Now there was a man named Simeon,

Righteous and devout was he,

Looking for the hope of Israel,

Promised death he would not see

‘Til the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed

Had been held within his arms.

And when Simeon held the baby,

At the moment safe from harm,

He revealed the Child’s appointed

Destiny—a Light to bring

Glory to God’s people Israel,

Salvation through a promised King.

Though an earthly King they looked for,

God had planned another way.

“And a sword will pierce your own soul,”

Mary heard old Simeon say.

And a prophetess named Anna

At the temple day and night

Offered thanks to God for Jesus,

Israel’s redemption now in sight.

Little baby, news so joyous.

The Messiah, promised King

In a manger, His life started

Born to reign, the angels sing.

But a coming shadow lingers

Prophets of His future told.

Destined death to save His people

To return them to the fold.

As we linger at the manger

Celebrating Jesus’ birth

Let us not forget the shadow

Of the cross—this baby’s worth.

Not to weep or moan in sadness

But to multiply our joy.

Saved by grace because He suffered—

Holy, precious baby boy.

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