A Year of Smiles – Day 176

Reason to SMILE #176: GRACE

John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.


God’s grace is not restricted to those who are powerful, those who are rich, those who come from the right neighborhood or those who behave a certain way.  God’s grace is freely given to ALL who believe.

So why is the grace we choose to show limited to only a select few?

Knowing that I am loved, forgiven and accepted by God no matter my past, no matter my mistakes and no matter my proclivity for messing up, is the greatest SMILE of all.

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Matthew 7:1-2 (ESV) Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.


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A Year of Smiles – Day 169

Reason to SMILE #169: SUPERMAN

“I’m Superman,” my dad declared. “Didn’t you know that?”

“No, you’re not!” my siblings and I all protested.

“I am! I can lift this car with one hand,” Dad claimed.

We all responded with cheers to see our dad prove he was indeed Superman.

“Ok, here goes.” Without hesitation, Dad continued, “Wanna see me do it again?”

We protested again, “You didn’t do anything!”

With a grin on his face, Dad explained, “I did it so fast you couldn’t see me!”

He may not have lifted our car but there has never been any doubt in my mind that my dad is Superman. There’s no better dad and I’m grateful for him. He is my biggest fan and I can always depend on him for support, for help, for wise advice and for prayer. 

I’m blessed to have such a good father in my life, someone I can look up to, follow in his footsteps and trust to always love and accept me. You may not be able to say the same – at least not about an earthly father.  But you do have a Heavenly Father who is always good. He loves you and will always be there for you. He will never let you down or disappoint you. He’s even better than Superman! ūüėČ

Cape or no cape – my dad always makes me SMILE and I know it’s because he’s following the example of the greatest Father of all!

Psalm 68:5 (ESV) Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

James 1:17 (ESV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

1 John 3:1 (NIV) See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

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A Year of Smiles – Day 75

Reason to SMILE #75 – ONE SIZE FITS ALL

Imagine¬†peering across a department store and spotting the cutest top you’ve ever seen.¬† You must possess it so you make a bee-line for it.¬† When you reach the rack from which it is hanging, you realize that the first shirt on the rack is too large.¬† You¬†look for a smaller size but they all appear to be the same. Then you¬†check the¬†tags.¬† One Size Fits All.¬† Your heart is broken¬†because you must accept that your wardrobe will¬†never be¬†complete.

This is the story of my life.¬† “One¬†Size Fits All” does not fit me – ever.¬†¬†And in no way does this sizing method¬†make me smile.¬† Well… I take that back.¬† The hilarity of the whole concept actually does make me laugh. It’s ridiculous.¬† Who came up with this idea, anyway?

Despite my wardrobe woes, there is one thing that¬†I am grateful uses the “One Size Fits facebook-romantic-smiley-with-heart-eyesAll” sizing method.¬† That is the Love of God.¬† Yes!¬† No matter who you are, no matter your shape, your weight, your height (or lack thereof), your¬†sex, your color, God’s Love for you¬†is a perfect fit.¬†¬†You’ll¬†never find it too small.¬† His love stretches to the farthest corners of creation to find you.¬† You’ll never find it¬†binding.¬† His love frees¬†us from¬†the¬†chains of sin allowing us to¬†live life abundantly.¬† You’ll never find it too¬†baggy.¬† His love nestles you in¬†His strong arms¬†keeping you safe and secure in His care.

God’s love is¬†for you. God’s love is for me.¬† God’s love is for¬†everyone.¬† One Size Fits All.¬†¬†There’s no better reason to¬†SMILE!

 

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A Year of Smiles – Day 45

love-smiley-with-heart-eyesReason to SMILE #45: LOVE, OF COURSE!

I found my Valentine twenty-one years ago. ¬†Like¬†in any new relationship, Valentine’s Day was everyday!¬† We called¬†each other countless times¬†a day, rushed to embrace like we hadn’t seen each other in weeks when it had only been¬†hours,¬†bought thoughtful¬†gifts and even¬†sent each other love letters (remember actually writing on a piece of paper? ūüėČ ).¬† Ah, young love.

Now that we’ve been married 19 of those 21 years, have raise one child to college years and are working on¬†just getting the 2nd kid out of 6th grade (3 more months!), the pitter-pattering heartbeat of young love¬†has¬†pretty much fizzled.¬†¬†It’s a good thing, too, because all that stuff we do to impress¬†and secure that¬†new love is exhausting!¬†¬†Don’t get me wrong, folks.¬† I love my husband more¬†today than I¬†did 21 years ago and he’d say the same¬†about me.¬† But after 21 years of faithfulness, of tackling life’s trials together and of learning to live as one,¬†there’s no question of our love for each other.

Maybe you haven’t found your Valentine, yet.¬† Or maybe¬†the one you thought was your¬†Valentine turned out to be just the opposite.¬† Today, you need to know that you ARE loved.¬† You are loved¬†by One who sees you as¬†worthy of a gift far greater than any diamond necklace,¬†fancy dinner or bouquet of flowers.¬†¬†You are loved by Jesus.¬† He gave His own life so you could find forgiveness, acceptance, fulfillment, peace, joy and eternal salvation.¬†¬†His love will satisfy the deepest longings¬†of your heart when the love of this world has failed you. ¬†Now that is a Love that will make you SMILE – if you let Him!

Oh, I almost forgot….

To my husband on this Valentine’s Day:¬†You can¬†skip the flowers and¬†the¬†jewelry.¬† (Seriously,¬†they’re too expensive and we have bills to pay.)¬†¬†A kiss on¬†the cheek¬†every morning is all I need from you to make me SMILE….¬†¬†And a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. ¬†A Reese’s Peanut Butter cup would make me SMILE, too! ūüėČ

It’s That Time, Again! Vacation Bible School

Of all the things I get to do¬†as¬†Children’s Minister at my church, Vacation Bible School is one of my favorites.¬† (Of course, I really do love it all.)¬† What a wonderfully chaotic¬†experience!! I love everything about it, from the planning to the decorating to the music and the crafts.¬† Even clean up afterward can be fun – oh, yes, I said “fun”.¬† If you’ve never felt the release that comes from tearing down and cleaning out a whole children’s wing, you really should try it! But don’t forget to have your VBS¬†music blaring in the background. ūüėČ

We’ve already had VBS this summer.¬†¬†Our kids went on a deep sea diving¬†adventure to discover¬†that God’s great love can reach¬†us wherever we go.¬† It was a blast – no wait, that was last year’s theme (Standard Publishing’s Blast to the Past).¬† This year our entire program took place¬†under the sea (a seemingly¬†popular¬†theme¬†among VBS programs)¬†and our kids and adult and youth¬†volunteers loved every minute.

Each night we dove into the depths of the ocean and observed mysterious sea creatures all around us.

We swam through a swarm of jelly fish and discovered a sunken ship where we learned awesome truths from God’s Word.

We crafted our own under the sea creations in a seaweed-filled cavern.

And we learned to serve others in our very own yellow submarine.

Our diving excursions began with registration at the Dive Shop on Pelican Pier.

And each night, we began and ended at Celebration Reef where we filled the ocean depths with our praises to God.

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Whew! I’m tired just recapping our adventures!¬† Can you imagine what it was like with 58 children and almost as many youth and adults swimming around each night?¬† It was exhausting but wonderfully amazing at the same time.¬† Just seeing the expressions on each face,¬†feeling the excitement in the air and knowing¬†these kids were having fun learning about God’s love made¬†all the effort, planning, decorating, hanging¬†and re-hanging and then hanging blue table cloth again worth it.

Oh, but the best part was those three precious children who stood up to say they wanted to be a part of God’s family.¬† Yeah, that’s why I love VBS!

You Weren‚Äôt Made to Fit: A Letter to my ‚ÄúSquare Peg‚ÄĚ

Every day, I watch you struggle to find a place where you ‚Äúfit‚ÄĚ.  I see how much you long to be included, to feel at home somewhere, to feel accepted just as you are.  I feel your hurt when all the “Round Pegs” around you push you away because of your corners.  Oh, how I wish I could take away that hurt.  I wish I could make the world see the awesome kid that you are.

The bad news is I can‚Äôt.  I can‚Äôt change people.  I can only leave them in God‚Äôs hands.

But the good news is you‚Äôre going to be ok.  You see, you weren‚Äôt made to fit into the mold of this world.  God made you a ‚ÄúSquare Peg‚ÄĚ for a reason.  He molded you in His image and He has a purpose for those beautifully pronounced corners.  He has a job for you that only you can do ‚Äď a job that requires your determination and resolve to go your own way, your imagination and creativity and your interesting perspective on life.

Knowing this won‚Äôt make life any easier, though.  You‚Äôll still be teased. You‚Äôll still hear ugly things that make you feel unimportant.  But when you are feeling down and you think there‚Äôs no place that you will ever ‚Äúfit‚ÄĚ or be accepted, just remember that God loves you just as you are, corners and all.  You will always ‚Äúfit‚ÄĚ perfectly in His great big arms.

How do I know this?  It‚Äôs simple.  I‚Äôm a Square Peg, too.  And, this Square Peg will always be here for you, ready to wipe away any tears, to polish up those awesome corners and to walk with you as you discover the great things God has planned for you.

‚ÄúI will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.‚ÄĚ Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

The Case Against Worry

There is no where I go that God is not there. In my home, at my job, on the streets, in my car – He is there. No matter my situation, He is there. When I am enjoying life’s mountaintop, my God is there. When I am grieving in life’s valley, He is there. When I choose to walk away, He is there. I cannot outrun Him. I cannot hide from Him. I am never and will never be alone.

He knows my thoughts. He knows my words even before I speak. He knows my dreams. He knows my fears. He knows my prayers before I pray. He made me. He carefully and skillfully crafted together all that makes me, me. He knows me better than I know myself. I cannot fool God.

I am wonderfully made by the Master of all Creation. I am His masterpiece! I am constantly in the thoughts of the Lord of all the Universe. I am His treasured love!  I am held by the hands of the Mighty Protector and Defender. I am His precious child!

I have no need to worry!

Psalm 139

What If the Whole World Smiled?

Today I shared a book that I wrote a couple of years ago with the children at my church to encourage them to share God’s love with those around them through simple acts of kindness. After the reading, I challenged the kiddos to find someone who needs to know about God’s love and to choose something they can do for that person that will bring a smile to his or her face. For each act of kindness, the kids will earn a “Smiley Face” to place on a large world map hanging in our church hallway. Our goal is to “FILL OUR WORLD WITH SMILES.”

While preparing for the challenge, I began to wonder. What would it be like if I could get even more people involved? Could we fill the social media world or the blogging world with smiles? What if we determined to find one person each day to serve, to make a difference in that person’s life, to bring a smile to that person’s face? How far could this challenge reach? Could we really fill the world with smiles?

So, I extend the challenge to you. Let’s fill our world with smiles. Choose to make a difference in someone’s life today and share the love of God through your simple acts of service. Then share your experience with me. Post a “Smiley Face” in the comments below and tell me where you’re from and how you made a difference in your world. Let’s bring light to the darkness and see if the whole world really can smile.

The Most Precious Gift

Frank strolled into our worship service one summer evening about two years ago.  He wore an old flannel shirt, cast-off work pants and a knit snow cap.  His clothes were ragged and dirty and his hair and beard were unkept.  No one could tell his age and Frank did not give an answer when asked.  He had no family to speak of nor did he have a home.  That particular night, Frank needed a place to get out of the rain for a couple of hours but he soon became a regular in our midst.

We learned a lot about Frank over the next few weeks.  Some things we learned from Frank himself; some we learned from local shelters and others we learned just from watching.  One thing we quickly learned, though, was that Frank loved music.  At the beginning of every service, Frank would sit on the front pew of the sanctuary.  He would clap and sway as the hymns and praise choruses were played.  He would sing as loud as he could and would applaud with great appreciation at the end of each song.  But as soon as the music stopped and the preacher began to speak, Frank would move to the very back pew, lay his head against the wall behind him and take a nap in the comfort of our sanctuary.  This ritual was a bit disconcerting to our pastor but harmless, nonetheless.

Our friends at the local shelters informed us that Frank was mentally challenged and as we observed Frank on his regular visits, we began to realize that Frank was more like a child than a grown man.¬† This explained his delight of all of the children in our congregation!¬† Often, Frank could be found at the children’s welcome center, passing out crayons, pencils and papers to the little ones.¬† Some of our parents were concerned with Frank’s involvement but all of our children loved him.¬† He laughed and played with the children and made each one feel welcome.¬† And boy, did Frank love to hear those children sing!

Before we knew it, Christmas had arrived.¬† The children’s choir had been practicing very hard for the Christmas pageant that year because each choir member knew that Frank would be in the congregation.¬† The special evening came and Frank sat in the front pew, as always.¬† He was fascinated with the manger scene on the stage and could barely sit still as he waited for the service to begin.¬† Finally, the children, dressed as sheep, cows, pigs, shepherds and angels, entered the sanctuary.¬† Frank stood and cheered and all the children giggled with excitement.¬† After Frank settled down, the music began and Frank watched as the children of our church told the story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.¬† No one had ever seen Frank so attentive and when the choir sang its final song, Frank stood and cheered once again.

After their performance, the children made their way from the stage to their parents in the congregation and the pastor made his way to the pulpit to preach.¬† Once in the pulpit, the pastor was surprised to see Frank still seated in the front pew and not settled in the back pew for his evening nap.¬† Though quite curious, the preacher began his Christmas sermon, looking down occasionally to see if Frank was awake.¬† Frank was awake, indeed, but he was not listening to the preacher.¬† You see, before little Mary left the stable stall that evening to sit with her parents, she placed the baby doll used in the pageant to portray baby Jesus back into the manger.¬† Frank’s attention was fixed on the little baby.¬† Then halfway through the sermon, Frank suddenly stood up.¬† We all thought that Frank was headed to his usual back pew but Frank was headed in the opposite direction.¬† Before anyone could react, Frank had made his way to the nativity scene on stage.¬† The pastor, still trying to keep his wits about him, nodded to a deacon to go after Frank but neither the deacon nor anyone else in the congregation was looking at the pastor.¬† All eyes were on Frank.

No one knew what to do.¬† Our first impulse was to grab Frank and pull him back to his seat but our curiosity kept us frozen in our pews.¬† We watched as Frank stood near the manger where the little baby lay.¬† Scratching his head and then wringing his hands, he inched closer and closer to the baby.¬† He reached down toward the baby but quickly pulled back his arms.¬† He looked out at all of us then back to the baby.¬† At this point, the pastor realized that God had a different plan for the evening, and he gave up all attempts at finishing his sermon.¬† The sanctuary, filled with hundreds of men, women, boys and girls, was still and quiet as God’s message of love and grace began to unfold in front of our eyes.

Frank’s obvious confusion ultimately pulled him to his knees beside the manger.¬† He reached over to pick up the baby Jesus, and the sounds of tiny sniffles throughout the room grew into uncontrolled sobs as one heart after another began to break.¬† Quietly, a little angel slipped from her seat and made her way down the aisle of the sanctuary and to the side of Frank.¬† A sweet little voice said, “It’s ok, Frank,” as she gave her friend a big hug.¬† Frank knew this little angel – she shared her cookies with him every Sunday – so Frank asked his friend, “Do you know whose baby this is?”¬† “That’s baby Jesus,” she said emphatically.¬† “He’s God’s Son.”¬† Frank replied, “He’s all alone….just like me.”¬† The little angel giggled as she said, “Silly, Frank, that’s just a baby doll.¬† The real Jesus is in our hearts and that means we’re never alone.”

Tears began to roll down the face of our friend Frank as little angels, sheep, cows, shepherds and all the other children gathered around the baby Jesus, and our silence was broken.  Sweet melodies of Christmas rang out from the sanctuary piano and our hearts overflowed.  It took some time but the pastor finally convinced Frank that the baby in the manger scene was simply a doll but most importantly, the pastor was able to tell Frank about God’s love and the gift of His Son, Jesus.  That night, Frank left our Christmas service a changed man.  In fact, no one in that sanctuary was ever the same again.

Jesus, sent from heaven for you and for me, was a gift so precious that even a host of angels could not contain their great joy in telling the Good News of His birth nor could the shepherds, after seeing the baby, keep from sharing with all who would listen that the Savior had been born.  Yet, we often keep this gift to ourselves, storing it away for safekeeping and sharing it only on special occasions.  We celebrate Jesus’ birth and retell His story year after year then we walk away, leaving God’s Love lying in the manger.  May we be more like Frank this Christmas season; may we embrace God’s most precious gift in spite of all that is happening around us and may we share His gift with the world.