Monday, January 30, 2012

Letting the Son's Rays Illuminate our Hearts!

In the middle of winter, particularly in the morning or evenings on the very coldest of days, every ray of sunshine coming at us from obique angles, feels so warm and good as it alights on us.

These gentle light rays surprise us as especially toasty and brilliant when they pierce through the dullness and sullenness of this frosty time of year.

This high contrast between the brightness of the ray and the surrounding dimness makes our encounter with each one a small delight and a special moment as we really take time to focus on it and to allow ourselves to feel it.

That moment of delicious delight is a little picture of how it can be when the light of  God enters into the spiritually cold, dull world we find ourselves enduring as we move through the harder seasons of our lifelong journey.

Jesus, the Light of the World, by His Spirit, can suddenly pour His light and life, warmth and love into the dimmest existence, touching us and raising our eyes to try to peer more directly and expectantly toward our Father God, the true Father of lights, from whom all goodness is already flowing out to us.

When these direct rays of divine light break into the gloom of our natural environment, we begin to see in the brilliance of this intense light all the particles of dust and dirt that were always there within each of us, kept hidden by the shadows created by our own inate human abilities to stay in denial and by our heart's own amazing self-deception.

The beauty and ardor of God's care and concern for every one of us ultimately overpowers the bitterness of the initial impact made by this penetrating new awareness of our selfmade drabness and squalor.

In the effulgence of His divine love and grace poured out on us in these precious moments, we can then be made beautiful even with all of our many imperfections, just as the floating dust in the intense beam of sunlight becomes illuminated as it dances in the convection-driven air currents, created and driven by the warm ray breaking through our murky, cold atmosphere.

Each time we are illuminated in this way, we are energized and enabled to begin to dance with joy in the love and acceptance of our Light of the world, Jesus, because of the powerful understanding that we are not just being enlightened in that brief moment alone.

We are actually being progressively transformed throughout our lifetime, by each and every experience we have as the renewing and envigorating Presence of the Spirit of the Lord comes once again into our hearts, so that we become more and more Jesus' lights set on a hilltop, brightening this sin darkened world with the blinding brilliance of His love!

Neil Uniacke, Executive Director

Monday, January 23, 2012

Warmth of God's Love

As I was shoveling snow the other day, I took many breaks and closed my eyes and just listened to the noises around me. I heard the snow plow as it drove by, the birds chirping in the trees, the four wheelers zooming by, squirrels chatting as they scurried about, the laughter of children playing in the new fallen snow, and a voice calling out to me. Shoveling snow is hard and tedious work but very rewarding when you see what you have accomplished. I love the feel of the cold wind against my cheeks and then the warmth of my home when I am finished and go inside.

How often do we take a break during our busy lives and just listen to the noises around us? Are we patiently waiting for God to speak to us, give us a sign, or send someone to help us? So many times we try to take matters into our own hands when we are too impatient to wait for God's timing. How many times have we been discouraged because we didn't wait and then we find ourselves in a worse situation than when we started?

Who is always patiently waiting for us to come in to the warmth and truly listen to us? Don't try to handle your heavy load alone but allow God to carry your burdens, wash your sins away and make you white as snow.

Take some time today to close your eyes and listen to the noises around you and to feel the warmth of God's love....

Elaine Campbell, MA

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How Great Is Your Love for Me

One of my favorite worship songs is "Amazed" written by Jared Anderson. The words of this song talk about how wide, how deep, and how great God's love is for us. What is it about God's love that is so amazing? For an answer to that question, let us turn to scripture.

John 3:16 lets us know that God loved us so much that he was compelled to GIVE. Love denotes an action:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life"

As we read in Romans 8:38-39, we are INSEPARABLE from the love of God. Things may try to enter in, but nothing can come between us and the love that God has for us: "For I am sure that  neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

God's amazing love also prompted him to consider us His friends. We read in John 15:15, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made know to you."

Because of the amazing love that God has for us, we are also commanded to love one another. As it is stated in I John 4:9-12, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and Hs love is perfected in us."

My prayer each day is to love God and my brothers and sisters in Christ more and more.

Lord, I'm amazed by You
Lord, I'm amazed by You
Lord, I'm amazed by You
How You love me.

Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Nurturing Father

I've been thinking lately about being a nurturing father. So much of what we hear and see portrayed in the media today regarding the role of fathers is either an image of a weak and uninvolved father or perhaps a father who is more like a dictator--angry, shouting out orders--or maybe a father who provides for the material needs of the family, but is absent emotionally.

The biblical model, especially in the New Testament, is that of a nurturing father. The Apostle Paul wrote to his Christian friends in I Thessalonians: "We were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children" (2:7). In the Psalms we read: "The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him" (103:13).

As a therapist I see my male clients struggling with what it really means to be a nurturing father. It is my belief that one of the most pressing needs in our society today is for men to be a nurturing influence in their marriages and families. What exactly does it mean to be "nurturing?" Recently one of my clients who is the father of two elementary aged children said to me: "I want to be nurturing but it's so hard for me to drop the 'hard side' of maleness." So we embarked on a discussion of how to "drop" this hard side. We did a comparison of what the "hard" and "soft sides" look like. Here's what we came up with (sorry about the alignment-the blog tabs weren't cooperating):

Hard Side                                                Soft Side
1. Show no emotion           1. Allow emotions to show outwardly
2. Hard shell outside           2. Show caring and compassion
3. Keep feelings inside        3. Share feelings
4. Never admit failure         4. Acknowledge shortcomings
5. Little physical affection   5. Show appropriate physical affection
6. Insensitive to others        6. Sensitive to other's feelings and ideas
7. No apologies                     7. Acknowledge wrong doing
8. Pride                                     8. Humility
9. Unaffirming of anyone     9. Affirm worth of others, esp. children
10. Dictatorship                   10. Partnership

This list is a work in progress. To those reading this blog, if you have any to add to the list, please let me know! As a therapist and also a husband and father, I have seen in clients and experienced in my own life that the "soft side" works within our families. Let's give it a try, men!

Tom Horst, Marriage and Family Therapist

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Letting Jesus Come to Us Once Again!

Last week, while quietly singing some of the Christmas carols, the singing became real worship from my heart. The words of each verse were specifically extolling Jesus, glorifying Him deeply and sincerely for who He is and what He has done for each of us. Choking up and just experiencing His love for me, stopped the day and reset it with Jesus as head over all and especially over me. It opened and expanded my heart in a real, deep way.

This quiet yet significant experience was a kind of mini-Scrooge celebration. Like when Scrooge was dancing around on Christmas morning after his harrowing night visitations, hooping and hollering and chuckling and admitting to his maid, Mrs. Dibler, that he had finally come to his senses after all these years. Or like when the Grinch's heart was expanding to twice its size and breaking the fluoroscope frame, inspiring him to return all the presents and toys to the Whos down in Whoville. Or, as George Bailey found himself back on the drawbridge, with Zuzu's petals in his pocket, acknowledging that he had gotten his "wonderful" life back.

Finding our Christ in the middle of Christmas is the most awesome experience, no matter how any of us express it, whether through these literary allusions, shouting right out with a rousing, "Praise the Lord!" or just silently letting tears of joy and gratefulness roll down our cheeks. Finding Jesus any day and any time is just as precious and powerful. All of heaven is rejoicing whenever any of us turn from our dead-end ways to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This brings us directly to Himself, who is seated on heaven's throne of grace, in the intimacy of His Father, our heavenly Father.

Receiving this kind of needed big hug from our heavenly Father is the one gift to wish for and pray for, for all those we love. It is this kind of moment that changes a day, a life, and an eternity for them and for all those they will be used to transform as well!!!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, come and touch those we love during this special season, as we remember how great your Love is for each of us through the sending of Your Son. We pray in the perfect name of Your Emmanuel who is with us and who saves us: Jesus Christ our Lord.


Neil Uniacke, MC
Executive Director