What’s in Your Life Bag?

A group of women I know camp together every year. They enjoy walking around the
campground seeing what people bring. This year, one campsite had a huge motorhome and a full
fence for the dog to run in. One had just a small tent and nothing else. And another a humorous
statue that made everyone laugh! When traveling, people pack all kinds of provisions for their
trips from small items like marshmallows to large grills, electric bikes, and various shelters.
Some travel light, some travel heavily loaded. With gas prices high, some even may wonder if
they will have what they need to continue their journey.

It got me wondering. What provisions do we want? And what about our journey of life? What
do we truly need to thrive? Do we “pack” the right stuff? And what do we need to set aside?

In teaching how to pray, Jesus shared that we are to focus day by day, praying and knowing that
God gives what is needed for the day. Also, Matthew 11:28-30 describes Jesus sharing the
following: (The Message version) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned Out? Come to me. Get
away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me
and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay
anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and
lightly.”

Jesus knows that it was and is not an easy world. And Jesus shared the truth with people then
and now……..that God provides for us and provides what we truly need.

When we follow Jesus and his ways….when we pack our lives with time with God, with rest
each week, with learning the way of love; ….we are going to a spiritual gas station of sorts.
Jesus shows us how to be filled with God’s presence, and how to unhook the heavy things from
our lives that weigh us down. And Jesus rides along with us, providing direction along the way.

Chaplain Karen

Have a Happy Journey

A number of years ago my mini-van got a flat tire. Car engineers find creative ways to store spare tires. The spare tire was located underneath the car. As I was scraping my knuckles trying to reach the spare tire, a young man saw my predicament. He asked if I could use some help. I was a bit embarrassed to accept his offer, but I did. With a sense of relief, I watched as he got under the car and released the spare tire. He even removed the flat tire and put on the spare tire. I thanked him for his help.

We all can use some help now and then on the journey of life. The wise person accepts the help when God provides it. When we have a cavity in our tooth, we can complain about the pain for months or we can go to the dentist. When we have a leak in our water pipes, we can keep drying out our wet papers or we can call the plumber. When we want fresh fruit, we can go to the grocery store. Well, you get the idea…. Most days we are unaware of all of the people who came alongside us on the road of life. These caring and competent individuals help us thrive and be prosperous. Take some time and think about all of the people who helped you on your journey today.

When the Israelites were entering into the Promised Land, God gave them some advice for the journey. God advised them to read the Bible and to put it into practice. “Then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8). God wanted His people to thrive. The Children of Israel wisely accepted the help God gave them in their journey of life.

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2.

-Rev. Jeff Meyers

Thriving in God’s Peace

Peace does not come easily in this life and sleep, well, if we don’ have peace, we do not have sleep. Our verse assures us that we will BOTH lie down and sleep when we dwell in the safety of the Lord. 

Psalm 4 is an expression of David’s confidence and trust in the Lord. David is running for his life while being pursued by his conniving and manipulative son Absalom (2 Samuel 15)! I would imagine David was afraid and yet, because of his close relationship with the Lord, David let go of his fear and focused on the Lord. David begins by asking for God’s grace (vs. 1) and urging his enemies to stop rebelling against God (vs. 2). David is assured that, as a faithful servant, God hears when he calls to him (vs.3).Then David says, ‘do not sin’ think about what you are doing, search your heart, offer righteous sacrifices (this means do not repay evil for evil, rather offer a blessing) and trust in the Lord (a key word to peace and safety). David seeks God’s face shining in favor (vs.6) causing David’s heart to be filled with joy, like the joy of an abundant harvest of grain and new wine! 

At last, with David’s strong trust in the Lord, he was able to both lie down and sleep, not toss and turn, dwelling in the safety of the Lord. What a blessing that must have been for David. 

I encourage you to read Psalm 4 once a day, it is only eight verses, and notice if your confidence and trust in the Lord bring you peace. May it deepen and enrich your relationship with him. Write down what changes come into your life. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. 

So tonight, when you lay your head down, remember, God is taking care of everything. Trust him. Be confident in him, for you are dwelling in the safety of his Presence. 

Peace, 

Chaplain Val 

Thriving in God’s Presence

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

This morning the winds howled outside, snow and rain crashed against the windows, and I woke up thinking of a story told to me years ago.

The story took place on a farm in early April. The farm animals were scattered through acres of fields when an end of season snowstorm came in fast. Skies darkened, snow fell. Four inches, 8 inches, and it kept coming. The kids and their parents had gone into the fields to bring in as many of the livestock to the barn as possible. By the time most were safely in, the snow was falling so hard that the barn and house couldn’t be seen. Mom and two daughters were in the barn getting the animals settled. Two sons were still somewhere in the field, and the dad had gone looking for them. The boys later told of how they found a fence and followed it until they felt the familiar gate, which is where Dad found them. Dad had tied a rope around himself and each of the boys so they wouldn’t get separated, and they slowly made their way in the direction of the barn. They were guided by occasional sounds from the barn that weren’t blown away by the wind. When safely together, the family each held onto a rope with Mom in the lead and Dad at the back making sure no one got lost. Offering encouraging words and their presence, the parents eventually got the family safely back to the house where they waited for the storm to end.

When going through hard times, or simply just going through life, none of us can do it alone. The good news is that we don’t have to. We have God…. who promises always to be present with us. Like the parents in the snowstorm, God stays with us in all situations. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters, part of God’s family. God promises to be our refuge, shelter, and encourager. We can thrive in life because God is WITH us and God is FOR us.

As you go through each day this month, spend some time simply focusing on God’s presence. And remember that “the One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand.”

Chaplain Karen

What Are You Doing to Thrive Today?

Many of us know Psalm 118:24 because it is a popular worship chorus to sing.  “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Even though the Psalm was written for a national day of rejoicing, it can apply to every day of our life.  This day, the day we are living today, is a day which the LORD has made.  What we do with this day is a choice that we can make.  We can rejoice, be glad and see the opportunities to thrive today.

A friend sent me an uplifting writing about how they are viewing their day.  It reads:

“Today, when I awoke, I suddenly realized that this is the best day of my life. Ever!

There were times when I wondered if I would make it to today, but I did.  And because I did I’m going to celebrate!  Today, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life I have had so far, the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make me stronger.

Today, I will share my excitement for life with other people.  I’ll make someone smile.  I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.

Today, I will give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down.

Today is the day I quit worrying about what I don’t have and start being grateful for all the wonderful things God has already given me.

As the day ends, I will lay my head down on my pillow, I will thank God for the best day of my life.  I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, ever!”

Chaplain Jeff

Thriving in Prayer

For the month of February we are going to practice THRIVING in prayer. As Believers, we are rooted in Jesus Christ and our way of communication with him is through prayer.

One way to THRIVE is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path” Proverbs 3:5-6. Another way to THRIVE is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 where Paul encourages us “…to pray without ceasing..” in all the ups and downs of this life!

There are many ways in which we can THRIVE in prayer and I offer you four ways:

  1. Thriving in prayer in a quiet place – this ‘quiet’ can be difficult in our day and age, however, it does offer less distractions, and as we have conversation with God, we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18.
  2. Thriving in prayer outdoors – Jesus prayed in the wilderness, on a mountain and in the Garden of Gethsemane. You and I can pray in the very same places as well as a park, a river or while hiking. I challenge you to pray Psalm 19 while hiking and gazing upon the sky, or Psalm 42 while meditating near a body of water or Psalm 62 while sitting on a rock and “ finding rest for your soul in God your rock and salvation”.
  3. Thriving in prayer with others – Matthew 18:20 is encouraging, “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. Praying together is a time for you and me to be in community with fellow image bearers, seeing the very image of God in each other and bringing the work and power of the Holy Spirit into community. What an opportunity you and I have to practice this in our homes! If you and I don’t pray with and for each other, how will we THRIVE?
  4. Thriving in prayer using images – If we are new to prayer or going through a difficult time in life and cannot find the words to pray, we can use images such as a picture, a poem, some memorabilia, a sunset, or a sunrise. Romans 8:26-27: “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (The Message).

This month of February, I challenge each one of you to pray and write down how you see yourself growing vigorously and flourishing in communication with God, yourself and others! Like a tree planted by the water, you will never run dry, living water flowing through you, you will thirst for more of God! (Paraphrased THRIVE by Casting Crowns).

Happy THRIVING!!

Chaplain Val

An Invitation to Thrive

Last week I tended to some drooping plants.  Their leaves had faded and roots were failing. Some even had fallen over. These plants definitely were NOT doing well.  When doing well, they bloom, grow, and their color looks good. They reach up and engage with the environment. They thrive.

I know what thriving looks like for my plants, but what about for us?  We are beginning another calendar year when we consider what went well and what hasn’t, New Year’s resolutions, and hopes to better ourselves and lives.  But, …what does it mean to thrive?

We are struggling with so many challenges that seem to never end.   Family worries and discord    World crises and fighting.  Living paycheck to paycheck.   Asking “why am I here?  What is my purpose?” Boredom.  Letting go of ways of life that were familiar to us.  Often it can feel like we are simply surviving, just making it from day to day.

When his disciples were struggling, Jesus encouraged them saying, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16).  Jesus reminds us that we can do more than survive.  We are meant to thrive.  God desires our lives to be filled with purpose and value even in a chaotic world.

With my plants, I made changes to help them.  And yes, they are doing better!   I encourage you to read Isaiah 35:1-10 for some great imagery about people and society thriving.  But how about for us? What does it mean to thrive at home, with family, at work?  What does thriving look like as a whole person: body, mind and spirit?  What does it mean to thrive as a resident in one of Baruch’s homes?  As a staff providing care?  What does it mean to thrive as a company dedicated to serving God by serving our elders?

Not only are we entering a new calendar year, but we are entering the year of Baruch’s 25th anniversary.  With God’s help and direction, and a lot of hard work from staff and residents, Baruch has thrived.  Our hope and prayer is that each resident and staff will thrive (not merely survive) in the coming year, and that Baruch will continue to thrive for the next 25 years.

Peace and Blessings,

Chaplain Karen