NEW BEGINNINGS

New Beginnings……

When you first hear those words, what kind of thoughts or feelings does that illicit from you?
–Feelings of happiness?
–Feelings of dread?
I think it might depend on 
–If you are instigating the new beginning
–Or if someone or some event is responsible for the new beginning
Your response might also be related to
–If you think it is a good, new beginning
–If you think it will be a difficult, new beginning
–If it might first appear like a “bad” beginning
What new beginnings have you experienced recently or stand out in your mind?
–Maybe starting a new school
–Maybe starting a new career
–Maybe starting a new church
–Maybe moving to a new state
–Maybe starting a new ministry
–Maybe starting a new life without a loved one
–Maybe starting a new team sport
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Photo credit by BK under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)
What would make your experience of any of these new beginnings a good experience?
–Maybe be welcomed with open arms
–Maybe having at least one person you already know
–Maybe having confidence knowing you will do a great job
–Maybe knowing the Lord opened the doors for you
–Maybe knowing there were others supporting you in prayer
–Maybe knowing you are never alone; the Lord is always there with you
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When Jesus died on Good Friday, did you ever stop to think how Mary, Jesus’ disciples and friends must have felt? They lost their son, teacher, friend; they watched him being tortured and hung on a tree, left to die.
Can you relate to the sense of “abandonment” they must have felt – as they were left behind? They probably  thought their lives could never go on. The feeling of helplessness they must have felt.
Mary, Jesus’ disciples and friends had to face a new beginning in their lives…Life without Jesus in their midst.
But as time passed, I think they realized that terrible event, Jesus dying on the cross, had to happen and had a much larger purpose. All who give their lives to Christ can enjoy eternal life!
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With recently celebrating the Easter Triduum , it  made me think about Jesus’ last days on this earth. Holy Thursday was a new beginning in Jesus’ life. The beginning of His most difficult last few days on earth.
Jesus was going to leave this earthly life He had known for 33 years, the people He knew intimately and loved, and endure much suffering and pain. How did Jesus prepare for this new beginning that He knew had to happen since it was God’s will for Him?
–Jesus went alone to pray to God the Father
–He accepted what was to come
–He endured it all to set us free from our sin and bondage
–He bravely walked the hills to Calvary
–He endured great suffering being mocked and even spat on
–When Jesus knew the final moment came, He said “It is finished!”

When we are faced with new beginnings in our lives, may we stop to think about Jesus’ example to help endure whatever our new beginning is.

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Photo credit by Sapphire Dream Photography under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
What can we learn from new beginnings?
That it is good to grow and stretch ourselves
That the Lord is always there to guide us
That change can be a good thing despite it being hard sometimes
New beginnings are not unique to people only!
With spring quickly approaching, flowers are starting to bloom, the grass is getting greener and the birds are returning from the south.  All of creation experiences new beginnings!
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  –Isaiah 43:18-19  (NIV)

GOALS

These thoughts this week are actually a kind of continuation from a post I did about a year ago entitled, “When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough.”
A quick synopsis of that post is:
–My youngest son loves baseball
–Very disappointed to not make the modified school baseball team in 7th or 8th grade
–Night of notification of not making 8th grade team made a list of goals
Pondering the events of this past year regarding my son and his baseball adventures made me see how God’s hand has been working in his life through the year. When his best wasn’t good enough to make the modified, school baseball team last year, he turned it around into something positive by working on some goals.

In my sharing the events of this past year with you, it is my hope and prayer that you will be able to relate to some issue in your life where your best wasn’t good enough, yet you saw God working in your life through that adversity.

It was such a blessing to see how his travel team coaches were so understanding and supportive of my son when they learned he did not make the school team. The main coach would let him come down to the indoor complex anytime he wanted to practice and play baseball with his son that was always down there.
That actually led to my son being able to help out and coach a few of the younger teams to help share his love and knowledge of the sport with younger boys. This is helping him build some leadership qualities and to be a role model for others.
It was also at this time that the two travel team coaches thought it would be a great opportunity for my son to start playing the catcher position for the team. My son had been a catcher just a few times in Little League but not really for the older leagues. Not making the school team allowed him time to practice in this new position.
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Another blessing was that the coaches had extra equipment that my son could use…they just gave it to him to save us that expense. They said being a catcher is actually one of the most important positions because you have to be aware of everything going on and knowing what to do when is so crucial as a catcher.  They felt confident my son would handle the pressure well.
My son picked up the position rather quickly and became 2nd string catcher. His confidence has definitely grown over this past year in that position with the extra practice time he gets as well.
Seeing the growth in confidence in my son through the opportunities afforded him by not making the school team last year was very rewarding as a parent. Sometimes I think we need those things in order to grow more. It might not be our plan, but ultimately the Lord knows and wants what is best for us. It reminds me of my favorite Bible verse, Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  (NIV)
When the indoor baseball started up again in October this year, it was great to see my son be confident enough to kind of “lead” the team, especially since there were many new players on the team with only four returning members. The voice yelling the number of outs, where the play should be, etc. will be my son.
With the travel team this year being extended to younger age groups, my son has gotten to be “friends” with a few other coaches. What a blessing it has been to see the support and encouragement two particular coaches have been for my son. I am so in awe of these “mentors” that God has placed in my son’s life.
It made me think about what a gift we can be to others as mentors in others lives…whether spiritual or for a sport or art.

Can you be a blessing to someone or have you thought of and thanked some special mentors in your life?

This is the picture of the goals that my son came up with a year ago:
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—As with most people, he was working very hard on the exercise routine in the beginning but as time went by, that kind of fell off.  But, he  continues to lift hand weights sporadically to try to gain more strength.
—Though my son didn’t make his weight goal this year, he is definitely in better shape than he was a year ago. He has thinned out which has enabled him to be faster in his running and moving about the field.
—I would say his goal of being primary third baseman was pretty much met.  He is versatile in just about any position so he had opportunities to play in every position.
—During the travel team baseball season last year, my son started out well with his hitting goal but that kind of fell off.  At some points, he was actually the lowest rank in hitting.  But, he continued to keep fighting through and with the support of the coaches, things eventually improved little by little.
A week ago my son had JV school baseball tryouts for four days. They do a lot of running and the one day he related the story that he was probably in the bottom four of a pack and at the end he sprinted out ahead of that group. He thought the coach saw that, hoping that would be a good thing for him to see his determination and putting forth the extra effort.
My son also wasn’t going to try out for the pitcher position because he feels he’s not as good as the other people, but I’m happy that he changed his mind at the last minute. When he asked if he should, I encouraged him saying that maybe if he did, it would show that he was more versatile.
Last week, my son was quite surprised, pleasantly surprised and so excited, to learn that he actually MADE the JV school baseball team as a freshman!! He was in shock, but oh, so happy.  He actually seemed to beat the odds of political school issues as well!

What a huge blessing to see that my son’s ultimate goal from his goal list from last year….

 MAKE THE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TEAM!

is met!

In fact, we still have that white board, which I see included a few extra goals during the year.
Vestal JV final
After finding out he made the school team, he headed to the indoor complex for practice with the travel team there. The first person he ran into was one of the two mentor coaches. Right away, he gave my son a huge hug through the netting separating the field and walk area. The two guys were just so happy for him and gave him some peps talks to help boost his confidence. It sure made this mama’s heart happy to see that encouragement from the coaches and thinking about what a blessing we can be in other’s lives.
My son admitted to the one mentor that he does honestly feel he has the “weakest” arm on the team. The mentor is willing to help him, on the off season, to come up with a weight training program where he will be able to work on that. He said by next year, he will be just as strong as the others on the team.

When you experience times when your best isn’t good enough, look to see if there are some goals you can work on to maybe make your best good enough next time.

And, remember it is good to be working toward some goal or goals though we might not always meet or exceed them.

Working to improve ourselves is a good thing…..little by little we can be different, be better, and shine more for the Lord.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 4:13-14  (NIV)

SHINE YOUR LIGHT

Have you ever been in a situation where YOU were heavily burdened, in a room full of people and yet you felt so totally alone?

The people were busy chattering and nobody seemed to notice you?

Did you need someone to be Christ in the flesh to you?

Lonely, hurting, burdened people are all around us.

What will YOU do about it?

How can YOU be Christ for someone who is hurting?

Christ told us that WE are the light of the world.

We are to shine brightly, so that all people will see our light.

We cannot afford to hide our light–it is so needed in this world.

One way to let our light shine is by being there for one another during the rough times, and being truly concerned about them.

We should be attentive enough to see when someone is heavily burdened, and then care enough to listen to them with our heart, not just our ears.

Then, we may begin to understand the situation they’re facing, and what perspective the person has. It is then that God can use us to help them through their problem.

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Photo credit by listentothemountains under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Is there someone you know who…

 

…needs some prayer to help them through a rough patch? Maybe they just don’t have enough faith on their own.

…could use a few dollars to buy some food?

…could use a ride to church or to the store?

…needs some handiwork done around their house?

…just needs to talk over coffee or lunch?

What are ways you can shine your light and be Christ to those in need?

 

…Can you pray for them?

…Can you encourage them through a kind word or note?

…Can you share some of your treasure with them?

…Can you share some of your time with them?

…Can you share some of your talent with them?

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  –Matthew 26:40  (NIV)

When the time comes and we meet the Lord face to face, I can’t help but wonder if some questions He might ask are…

 

…Did your light shine enough to care about others?

…Were you there for them?
…How much of the Christ that is in you did you share?

…Did you sacrifice your comfort to be Christ for others?

final light

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. –Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

PONDER THESE THINGS

A phrase from the Bible that has sparked a chord in my heart (no pun intended!) recently is that
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered all these things in her heart.”  Luke 2:19 (NIV)
and
“His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  Luke 2:51  (NIV)
The background to the first line is shortly after Jesus’ birth when an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the fields nearby bringing them the good news of great joy for all people announcing the birth of Christ.  Once the shepherds saw Jesus lying in the manger, they spread the words that the angel told them.  How amazing is it to think that Mary, the mother of baby Jesus, took time and pondered all these things in her heart?
The passage from Luke 2:51 is when Jesus was about 12 years old and Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.  When Mary and Joseph were heading home, after a day into the trip, they suddenly realized Jesus was missing. They headed back and THREE days later they found Jesus teaching in the temple.  Jesus told Mary, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Luke 2:49  (NIV)  And, again, Mary treasured all these things in her heart.
I think we can relate with Mary on many levels.
…Her willingness to do what God asked of her–to be the Mother of Jesus…not telling God she would not do it.
…Pondering in her heart what Jesus’ life would be like…not announcing to everyone that He was the Holy One.
…Treasuring the thoughts of what Jesus would do for His Father…not getting angry at Jesus for not being with them.
…Knowing that Jesus was really here to do God’s will she had to release Jesus back to God.  Imagine watching your Son suffer an excruciating, painful death being hung on the cross…
Mary
Have you ever thought about the hardship Mary endured as the Mother of Jesus experiencing these things? Yet, she left us a wonderful example.  If she, being the Mother of Jesus, pondered and treasured all these events in her life, how much more should we ponder and treasure the words and parables Jesus shared with us?
Do you ever “ponder” things in your heart or “treasure things in your heart?”  I think that is probably a natural thing to do especially if you are a parent.  Different milestones in your child’s life might be something you ponder or treasure.
How about even Scripture passages or prayers for people? Do you “ponder” or “treasure in your heart” those things? How about the many “God incidents” you experience in your life? Do you share them with others to strengthen their faith too?

Here is a link to a song, Mary Did you Know, that I think is truly beautiful and makes one ponder what Mary was thinking. Listen and be blessed.

Mary lived a gentle, humble life pondering and treasuring even the little things…..Let us strive to be more like Mary in our lives.
2 Timothy 2:7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.