Thursday, March 2, 2017

Goes with you wherever you go!

Here are good words to remember: "Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
How many times have you and I been afraid of someone, some thing or event and felt so alone? Perhaps it was an upcoming surgery that scarred us or it was a co-worker who was causing a problem.
Isn't it comforting to know that no matter where you or I go, God is there with us? Maybe there are time we think that God doesn't care about us or even paying attention to our ordinary lives. Remember what God told Joshua? He said, "The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." So you see, we don't have to feel alone at all. God is with us; He is working out our problems and we usually don't realize it.
I have had chronic back pain for years and in the last six months I have struggled with insomnia. Now, I know that it will still happen on occasion; that is the way I have been built. However, the good Lord is giving me advice on how to lessen the pain and how to get better sleep. I am exercising more, using certain medications that help ease the pain but more than anything, I am trusting in God to show me the way--and He is!
I am getting on my knees at night and praying to God. I haven't done this in years but I am going to stay with it because my connection with God is closer and He is  helping me to enjoy my life more. I encourage anyone who is struggling in life--with pain, sleep or whatever it is--to get closer to God.Start reading the Bible more, pray throughout the day and more than anything, trust in Him--no matter what problems you have!
Keep these words in mind, too, whenever you feel afraid or unloved, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.... From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions.Isaiah 43:1-3, 13
Most importantly, trust in God. No matter what is going on in your life, He is there! God goes where you go.
Copyright Toni Star 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Christian life: you, me and helping those in need

As a Christian, you and I are followers, disciples of Jesus Christ. When you understand and accept certain Biblical truths, you become a Christian. The basics of Christianity are:  you and I have sinned against a holy God, the penalty for this sin is eternal judgment in hell, there is nothing you can do that will make it right between you and God but you and are saved from hell because of Jesus Christ.

·       He lived a perfect life, died for our sins and was raised from the dead.
·       Our sins were placed on Jesus, who suffered, was buried and raised from the dead. That perfect moment rescued you and me from eternal damnation. Christ is the reason you and I are saved and will be with Him in Heaven when we die.

The very moment you became a Christian, amazing things happened. You and are united forever with Christ; we are in God’s holy family. However, we still need each other so that we can encourage and love each other so that we can be sisters and brothers in Christ.

One example in the Bible that we need each other comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV:  “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Encouragement is like getting a warm hug; it is a wonderful way of saying, “I am a Christian, too and I will walk with you in your path toward Christ.”

1 Peter 4:8-10 has wonderful words,
·       “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."

·       Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace”
·       It is love that covers many sins because God first exhibit love to us and then sent His Son Jesus to keep that love going.

Galatians 6:2 ESV explains further why it is so important for Christians to love and help one another by saying “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” When you offer help to someone who is hurting, you not only help that person but you also help yourself and fulfill what Christ would have you do for another human being.

One Bible verse that has inspired and helped many comes from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

How true is this, especially in our world today? When two or more are together, how much more are they able to withstand the trials and tribulations of the world? When we stick together and help each other, we are more apt to be successful and be less prone to accidents, worry or other bad things that can happen.  

Proverbs 12:25 offers a simple and wonderful piece of advice: “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Think about the times when you felt anxious or afraid; maybe you’re thinking about your job or someone who has been cruel with you. Then, think of these words and how true they are!

To conclude, being a Christian and following Christ are most important in being a Christian; however, to be a true follower of Christ, we need to love and help each other. Daily Bible reading and praying can keep us close to Christ; take time each day to do both and be prepared for God's blessings!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

There is something healing about the word Content

I just read an article by Holley Gerth titled, "What's your one word for 2017?" Her one word for this New Year is "content." Like many, I have never thought much about the word content but the more I read her article and her reference to it in Php. 4:11, where Paul in the Bible said, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."

Two things struck me as I read this; Paul had to learn to be content. What does that mean to you and me? It means that being content doesn't come naturally to we humans. As Holley Gerth goes on to say, what does come easy to her and others is "striving, anxiety and fear."

In Ps. 131:2, we read, "I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content." One way you and I can keep track of how God takes care of us is what Holley is doing; "writing a quick, simple gratitude journal entry every morning abut the day before."

Yesterday was the first day writing in my journal my gratitude that I have for God helping me. For example, yesterday I had a trying and stressful day at the hospital. Got a Cat Scan and blood test. It turned out to be much more--stressful and challenging. Came home and later wrote in my journal what happened and then wrote more about it today. God was with me every step of the way and brought me through it all.

And, I learned a great day about what to do and what not to do the next time. Most of all, I learned the importance of asking questions and not stopping until I get the answers I need.

So, before life presents a trying time to you and even afterwards, practice being content in all that you do. You will find, like I did, the peace and comfort that comes from being content. And, always remember, no matter what happens, God is with you and He loves you more than you can imagine.

Copyright Toni Star 2017

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

 Henry and Harriett knew that their Christmas dinner this year would be like all the others, catered!  In fact, neither one of them could recall their mother, Hazel, ever cooking a real Christmas dinner.  For years, all dinners had been brought in and it looked like nothing but catered, for the future.  This year Harriett and Henry decided to go on a “catered food strike.”  Yes, rebellion was in the air!  They wanted a real home cooked meal and that was that!

The children spoke to their father, Harold about getting a real home cooked meal for Christmas.  Harold shoke his head, knowing his wife never cooked anything bigger than bacon and eggs or a quick mix pizza.  Hazel hated cooking and made sure everyone knew it.  Harold tried to explain this to the children but finally advised them to ask their mother.  Maybe, just maybe, she would relent, he thought.

Henry and Harriett thought over their father’s advice.  After thinking the situation through, the children decided that rather than face their mother’s wrath, they would endure another brought-in meal.

Christmas day arrived.  At noon the caterers arrived.  Their mother, Hazel, sat at the head of the dinner table ready to be served while the children and their father sat on either side of the table, attentive to her needs.  The children nibbled some of the food laid out before them.  A huge cooked turkey sat in the middle of the table. It was about  20 pounds, the children guessed.  Dressing, cranberries and desert surrounded the huge turkey.  Soon, the children lost all interest in the dinner and left to watch TV.

In the afternoon, Hazel wanted to go to the Mall to see if any stores might be open so she could exchange some gifts she received.  She often didn’t like what people got her for Christmas.  Harold packed his family into their brand new station wagon and all were on their way.  He used a short cut, going down some side streets.  Henry and Harriett looked through the car windows and realized their father was driving through a bad part of town.  They became frightened and nervous.  What would happen to them if the car broke down?

“Hurry up, father!  Drive faster!” they both cried.

“What are we doing in this part of town anyway?”  Hazel asked.  “You know that this is a dangerous area, don’t you, Harold?” 

“Yes, I do, he answered.  ‘I wanted all of you to see something before we go to the Mall.”

Slowly Harold pulled into a gravel driveway and stopped.  In front of them was an old, one story brick building, all run down.

“I want the children to come with me,” he said getting out of the car.” Where are we going, father?”  Harriett was a bit anxious.  This was something the family had never done before.

“We are going to take the remains of our Christmas dinner to the people who live in this shelter.  Every year your mother orders more than we can eat and every year I bring what’s left here for these people to enjoy.  This year I thought maybe you’d like to help me.”
Hazel sat in the car listening to her husband with an astonished look on her face. She thought out loud, “So that’s where the leftovers go!”

“That’s right, Hazel.  OK kids, let’s go!”

As the children followed their father into the shelter, they saw many people waiting for them.  Never before had the children seen people who had so little to eat.  The people looked tired, poor and hungry.  All of their lives Harriett and Henry had everything they wanted.  Today their father brought them face to face with an entirely different world.  For the first time in their lives, they learned what Christmas and sharing was all about.  For them, Christmas would never be the same.  They would never forget the smiles and joy of the people in the shelter.  Harriett and Henry finally had a wonderful Christmas and so did the people of the shelter!

Post script: Christmas is a wonderful and joyous time of year but when material things become more important, as in the story above, then it loses the real meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas for all Christians is that Christ was born to save sinners. Without Christ, there would indeed be no Christmas. 
Merry Christmas to everyone!

Copyright 2016 Toni Star 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Preamble to the below post on Grandma, me and Thanksgiving

This is a poem I wrote about my grandma years ago. The words and feelings about grandma still reign in my heart:

What is it about Grandma that I cannot forget?
I'm over 50 and much wiser now.
You'd think life would diminish the sweet, sad memories,
And yet, I can't forget.

I still remember the night we sang "Silent Night" together.
She was fifty-five, gray and I was seven.
It was such a peaceful night and snow began to fall.
We were so happy then. Where did the time go?

Grandma is gone now but her love remains within me.
She cared so much, gave so much; her talents were always present.
Memories of dinners flash by, the smell of pies baking.
And always her love of life shining, no matter how good or bad things were.

Life without Grandma is hard; she taught me so much.
She taught me how to cut hair, cook and bake delicious food.
Proper manners and dialogue, too.
In my mind she left a legacy of life and goodness.

That is why I cannot forget Grandma.

Originally published in 1980

Copyright Toni Star 2016

Grandma, me and Thanksgiving: 1950s

November, then and now, signals just one thing to me, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.  Thanksgiving at her house was paradise!  The atmosphere of food, laughter and love was wonderful and unforgettable. 

Thanksgiving morning at our house was busy.  Mom would prepare a salad or pie; we kids would dress up in our good clothes and then go outside to play. We had to be careful not to get dirty.  Good clothes in our family didn’t come easy.  We weren’t poor but we were very frugal with money and food.  Meanwhile, Dad stayed busy in the garage checking out the old Chevy.  He’d check the oil, water and the battery and then give the tires a kick, for readiness. 

Often, I would go into the garage from time to time to see how he was doing.  Often, he found things for me to do-such as checking the oil and water and inspecting the car battery to see if was clean and water filled to the proper level. I always felt important helping Dad, especially on holidays, when there was much to do. 

Later, around 12 we all piled into the Chevy, eager for Thanksgiving dinner. We would arrive at Grandma’s, all dressed up, gifts in hand, with offerings of a waldorf salad and pie. As we walked through her door the aroma of turkey and onions would fill our senses with the joy of delicious food to come.  That first whiff of turkey and steamed vegetables was delicious!  We walked through the house into her kitchen and put our donations of food and small gifts, (often a bottle of Rum) onto the kitchen table, kiss Grandma and then go into the living room where we would sit and talk.  Later, Mom and I would return to the kitchen and help Grandma with the meal. 

It was my job to help Grandma prepare the dressing, with ingredients of butter, celery, bread, milk, and onion, then help with the progress of the turkey.  Mom would put her donations of food into the already crammed refrigerator and then prepare green beans or another salad for dinner. Inside the oven the turkey was roasting, and occasionally Grandma would let me use her large ladling spoon to baste the turkey.    Later, Grandma and I would finish preparing a pie—often apple or cherry.  I would round out the crust while she prepared the filling.  After that was done, we’d check on the vegetables and then I would set the table.   

I loved that job because she had beautiful crystal and China, with delicate pink and blue patterns on the dishes and matching pink crystal for glasses. She also had beautiful silverware that was kept in a special drawer in the living room.  I would carefully remove the dinnerware from the old ornate cabinet in the dining room and tenderly place each piece in the proper setting.  I loved how it all sparkled on the table.

The meal of Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes; real green beans, cranberries and pie filled us up till we could eat no more.  We would all sit at the large table, enjoy her traditional Thanksgiving meal and talk about the latest “Uncle Millie” or “Jackie Gleason” shows.  We all loved those shows and each of us tried to “out do” each other, with our imitations of “Uncle Miltie” or “Jackie Gleason.” 

The adults would later have wine or brandy and we kids would go out and play in the small backyard.  Sometimes I would deliver food Grandma prepared for an old lady across the street.  The old lady lived alone and was often too ill to prepare food for herself.  I loved doing this for Grandma, and the old lady was always happy to receive it. I took pride running this errand because I helped Grandma prepare much of the meal.

Today, I continue Grandma’s Thanksgiving meal.  I prepare many of the same kind of foods she prepared ---homemade turkey dressing, several salads and pie.  Many in my family can’t attend because they live too far away.  But, those who do enjoy a Thanksgiving meal of the 50’s.  You see, Grandma’s gone, but her traditions live on in a woman from the 50’s.

Friday, September 30, 2016

If you are suffering from insomnia, here are some tips

If you are suffering from insomnia, and many people do from time to time, there are some tips I can share with you that may help such as going to bed and getting up at the same time. Keep in mind; your body is a marvelous machine that was created by God and God is a very punctual and organized being. Because that is so, He knows that our bodies need sleep and one of the best ways to do this is to keep a good sleeping routine.

Also, keep your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable. Sleep goes better when there are no lights, no distractions and the temperature is cool and comfortable. In addition, leave your worries and problems out of the bedroom. If something is bothering you, take it to the good Lord, write it down on paper and then go to bed. And, if you find that you can't sleep, get up and read, listen to some soothing music or watch something boring on TV. Stay with that activity until you are tired, then go to bed.

It also helps to either read or listen to calming music before going to bed. Physical activity should end at least three to four hours before going to bed. Exercise during the day; however, can prepare you for a good night's sleep. Walking or bicycling, for at least a half hour to an hour each day, are exercises that calm the mind and body down.

In addition, sleep medication, under the guidance of your doctor, can also help. Non-prescription sleep aids can also help, something like Melatonin. However, sleep medication should only be taken under the guidance of your doctor and only used as a temporary measure to treat insomnia.

One other method that is longer-lasting and effective in treating insomnia is behavior-modification therapy. Behavior-modification therapy is helpful because it works to change the behavior or behaviors that are keeping you awake at night. For instance, if you are watching too much TV at night, especially shows that are violent, loud and disturbing, they could be causing insomnia. Or, if you are exercising an hour before bed, that, too can keep you awake.

Food that is high in fat and salt can also keep you awake. Foods like spaghetti, steak or casseroles that are heavy in fat and calories, food that is eaten several hours before going to bed, can keep you from sleeping. Or, if you lie in bed thinking about all the negative things of the day or worrying about what might go wrong the following day, all of these negative actions can keep you awake.

To change your behavior, first find out what is keeping you awake--food, exercise, worries or too much TV. Once you zero in on what is keeping you from sleeping, then you can begin to work on correcting those issues. If worries about sleeping or anything else is keeping your eyes open, try telling a short story to yourself, where you make  a clear decision in your thinking to solve the problem. In other words, try repeating in your mind something repetitive every night, where you provide an answer that leads to sleep. For example, set up a brief story such as making a decision about how and where you will sleep at night. Create a simple and clear dialogue with another person about where you prefer to sleep. Give a standard answer in your mind and as you drift off to sleep, see in your mind where you will be sleeping. It is a comforting thought because every night you make similar decisions and before you know it, you are sleeping because the thought is repetitive, relaxing and comforting. Try it and see what you think!

Try one or more of the above tips and get a good night's sleep! Remember, God wants you to sleep and be healthy and He is always there when you need Him. Because He is the Creator, He will never leave you nor forsake you!

Copyright Toni Star 2016