Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hazel's Easter Surprise by Toni Star

Hazel’s Easter Surprise

It is eight o’clock in the morning, March the second and Hazel McGreedy is busy planning Easter dinner.  As she jogs down the sidewalk in her new red, white and blue spandex running outfit with matching jogging shoes, she listens to a tape recording she made the night before.  The tape begins with Hazel singing, “I love me, myself and I!  I am so groovy, groovy…groovy!”  At the end of her song she listens gleefully to her recorded plans….

‘Call the caterer.  Make sure that he brings three large hams, plenty of mashed potatoes, a bunch of veggies and a large tin of homemade fudge.  Have hubby buy some cheap gifts at Forever Discount Center.  Remind him, oh illustrious one, to get these gifts late at night so he won’t be seen by our “nibby and spying” neighbors.  Invite friends from church and a few neighbors, especially Jean Snooty.  Call Speedy Lawn care and get our yard cleaned up from the dirty, old winter.”

Satisfied with her plans, Hazel smiled to herself and started to sing, “Oh I love to be cheap, and I love to be cheap!  It’s fun and really, really neat!”

Days passed and Hazel completed all of her plans, per schedule.  She checked off each item in her Day Book Planner as it was completed.  Hazel’s family was in for an Easter surprise, for she hadn’t told anyone about her plans for Easter.  She loved giving her family surprises.

Well, Easter Sunday arrived and guess what happened?

No one on her list showed up but old Jean Snooty.  The children had to be nice to her, even though she ate almost everything in sight, stuffing her mouth full and talking at the same time.  The children thought to themselves, “How gross!”

Speedy Lawn care didn’t show up, so the lawn didn’t look so good and the caterers brought the wrong menu.  There was no Easter hams, no mashed potatoes, no veggies and no homemade fudge.  Instead, they had chicken and rice, a few veggies and a butterscotch pie, that was not well made.  Everyone found the menu boring, except Jean Snooty.  Jean Snooty would eat just about everything, and usually did.  (Later in the day, Jean blabbed to all of Hazel’s friends how cheap she was with the food.)

After dinner and visiting with Jean and family, Hazel went for a long walk.  She was depressed and tired.  She thought, “Why is it everything I do fails?  I make such good plans and yet nothing turns out like I want it to.”  As she walked down the street she saw some lilies planted in front of a small house.  Lilies reminded her of her youth, her family and the old church she and her family used to attend.

She thought out loud, “I have lost sight of what’s most important at Easter!  I guess it’s not about impressing others with a fancy dinner.  I guess it’s really about Jesus.  Why do I always forget that?”
Hazel’s fleeting moment of truth brought to her, if only for a while, a true insight to what Easter is all about—Jesus and love.

Copyright Toni Star 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Truth about Shadows by Rick Warren with a preface from Toni Star

This is not a post that comes from me; however, it is so good and relevant to the Christian life, that I felt compelled to put it on my blog. Shadows can be discerning but these words are so good and true, "Wherever there is a shadow, there has to be light." 

Think about the times in your life when shadows of fear, doubt or worry clogged your mind. Didn't you fear about the present and the future of your life? For example, if you or someone in your family came down with an awful illness, didn't you worry, didn't shadows of doubt fill your mind? 

But, when you turned to God and asked for help, didn't the worry and stress melt away? Sure it did; maybe it took some time but it went away. That is what God will turn when you turn to him for help. He is always there for you!

By Rick Warren — Feb 3, 2018
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Devotional image from Rick Warren

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me(Psalm 23:4 ESV).
One of the common sources of stress is loss. You can lose your job, your health, your money, your reputation, or a loved one.

When people go through loss, there are always two common reactions. One is fear, and the other is grief. Grief is good. Grief is the way we get through the transitions of life. In fact, if you don’t grieve, you get stuck! Grief will not kill you if you let it out.

On the other hand, fear is a bad thing. Not once in the Bible does it say, “Grieve not,” “Sorrow not,” “Weep not,” or “Cry not.” What it does say is “Fear not.” And it says that 365 times! Grief doesn’t paralyze, but fear does.

David says in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (ESV).
Shepherds always carried a rod and a staff to protect their sheep. David knew that in the same way, God has the tools to protect him, and he trusted God, even in the darkest valleys.
Perhaps you are going through the valley of the shadow right now — maybe the valley of the shadow of death. It may be the valley of the shadow of debt. It may be the valley of the shadow of conflict. It may be the valley of the shadow of depression. It may be the valley of the shadow of discouragement.

Shadows are scary. Remember being afraid of shadows when you were lying in bed as a kid? I’ve learned a few things about shadows.

First, shadows can’t hurt you.

Second, shadows are always bigger than the source.

And — here’s the good news — wherever there’s a shadow, there has to be a light. You can’t have a shadow without light. So the key when you’re going through the valley of the shadow is to turn your back on the shadow and look at the light. Because as long as you keep your eyes on the light — Jesus, the light of the world — the shadow won’t scare you.
That’s how you go through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s how you lower your stress. You trust God in the dark valleys, just like David, who prayed, “When I am ready to give up, he knows what I should do” (Psalm 142:3 GNT).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Make the New Year work for you!

Make the New Year work for you!

I don’t know about you but I’m glad the Christmas season is over! Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music and some of the movies on cable TV are worth watching and quite uplifting.

What I don’t miss are the endless commercials, the hype about being in the Christmas mood and the hype of working hard to make it the perfect Christmas. Also, I don’t like how some networks are pushing even more materialism for the coming year—new cars, new electronics and getting a job that make oodles more money.

You can probably guess about what I might say next. You got it! I am going to do my level best next year to spend less, read more and make my life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Here is a small list of how I am going to accomplish this:

1.    My first priority is to pray each morning and night and read scripture from the Bible. I am doing this now but my plan is doing more each day the coming year. Actually, I am going to start this now.

2.    Then, I am going to eat less. Yes, I've said this before and I failed miserably; however, this time I am going to draw up a plan to ensure that I put less into my stomach. I will, instead of eating a whole sandwich for lunch, only eat a half sandwich; at least twice a week. I will also cut back on snacks and chocolates. (This will be hard but my good health requires this.)

3.    I will also communicate more to several ladies at a nursing home, write to my sister more often and most importantly, help and appreciate my husband much more. He works so hard to keep us going.

4.    I will also treat others the way I would like to be treated

5.    I will also try new things this year.

6.    I will also look for other ways to make money online.

The New Year offers ways to make positive and healthy changes. Changes don’t have to be big or unusual; however, they do need to be changes that  make your life better and more fulfilling.

I will try harder, too, to not let negativity from others get me down. Do what you can to do this, too. Remember, God loves you. Once you feel in your mind that God loves you, you will feel better about who you are and about your life. Let God come into your heart and mind and understand, no other love is stronger or better than love that comes from God. God is spiritual; you can’t see Him but He is there 24/7

So, have a great 2018, don’t let the small things get to you, trust in God, love Him and you will have a good and happier New Year!

Copyright Toni Star 2018

Monday, December 4, 2017

This Christmas focus on Christ and watch what happens

This is a wonderful post online that I would like to share with you. This post comes from by Stewardship Team on December 2, 2015 

1. Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday
Instead of a pie at Christmas dinner, bake a birthday cake and let the kids decorate it. Then round out your meal by singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Just don’t try sticking a few thousand candles on top.
2. Read or Watch The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
This ’70s children’s classic by Barbara Robinson (made into a TV movie in 1983) is substantial enough to be a favorite of adults too. It reminds us that Christmas is the perfect opportunity to love the unlovable and to share the story of Christ’s birth with them. You may have something to teach, but you’ll probably learn a thing or two about love and acceptance as well. So snuggle up with some cocoa by a warm fire and enjoy this story as a family.
3. Tame the Gift Monster by Instituting a Three-Gift Rule
If we aren’t careful, kids can begin to see Christmas as an occasion for tearing into a pile of gifts. To quash any budding sense of materialism, buy everyone in your family three gifts apiece to mirror the three gifts the Magi brought to Jesus. If it was good enough for the King of kings, it’s good enough for your little princess. Then pull last year’s gifts from the bottom of the toy pile and donate them to charity. Contentment? Check. Generosity? Check. A bank account with money in it? Check.
4. Give Gifts to Jesus
Speaking of generosity, what better way to honor Christ than to be His hands and feet for others?Buy some chickens for a hungry family through Compassion International’s gift catalog. Help your kids save their money to contribute to a special family offering at church. Tip your waitress a few hundred dollars on Christmas Eve. Each time you show Christ’s love, write it down and put the paper in a gift box under the tree. On Christmas morning, open it up and read through each gift for Christ.
5. Remember the Greatest Gift of All
Start Christmas morning by reading the gospel accounts of the Christmas story and saying a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the greatest gift of all—salvation through Christ. If you have children, carry the message home by placing a baby doll on a bed of straw in a basket. Then put the basket under your Christmas tree along with the other gifts.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Thanksgiving at Grandma's by Toni Star

Thanksgiving at Grandma’s by Toni Star
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 tradition; however, due to a food allergy and needing to follow certain nutrition guidelines I have made some changes. Instead of preparing turkey, dressing and several pies, I prepare spaghetti with garlic bread and a cherry cobbler and cool whip. Family members live too far away and some have health conditions that prevent t hem from coming. But, there is still a wonderful Thanksgiving feeling in the air as my husband and I prepare the meal and give thanks for everything God has given us. Grandma is g one but her Thanksgiving memories and love continue on in a woman from the 50’s.

Something I am learning as I grow older, something I wish I could have learned a long time ago--never take anything for granted--the day, your husband or wife, good health and feeling safe. Give thanks each morning and evening for all that you have and always remember that everything comes from God. God Bless.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What to do when life becomes stressful

Life can be stressful and difficult or it can be wonderful and easy-going but when things get tough and you feel that the "dark" one is trying to interfere and disrupt your life, there are two steps you can take that will bring you through. Actually, these two steps should be taken even before anything stressful or awful happens--and that is to read your Bible and pray.

Many have found that by reading the Bible and praying the first thing in the morning, that their day goes better. Of course, problems will occur, that is life but when those problems occur, you have the good Lord by your side. He will be there to see you through. Remember, Jesus said, "I am with you always." And, the best part is, He will be there with you and He will guide you through, no matter if you or someone you love is ill or dying or if money is short or if everyone is turning against you.

Isn't it a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what happens, Jesus will be there and give you comfort and a helping hand! That is the love of Christ. You see, He loves you more than anyone on this earth--your parents, siblings, friends--anyone! You don't have to face the future alone. Jesus will be there for you.

I have found that by reading the Bible and praying first thing in the morning that my day goes better and my soul feels refreshed with the word of God. When you feel that the "dark one" is pouncing on you, read some or all of the following scriptures:


So, don't let the dark one get you down. Turn to prayer and your Bible in the morning, afternoon and evening and you will feel the refreshment of the highest power on earth!

Copyright Toni Star 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What is faith and how to make it stronger in your life!

In Hebrews 11:1 the Bible tells us that "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Sounds a bit confusing, doesn't it? But in truth, faith is feeling confident of what we hope for--be it less anxiety in our life or confident that we can be a stronger person. I think before you and I have faith, we have to truly believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we don't believe that Jesus did what he did--especially when he rose from the dead, returned for many to see Him and that He will come again to judge the quick and the dead, then there is no strong foundation for faith. In addition, when you really think about it, faith is necessary, even critical, to get through the day. Without faith, we can't please God and that is so important. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, body and strength and when we do that and then believe that God will give us the faith and strength to meet and exceed the day's needs, then we will have pleased Him and given Him glory.

So, how do we strengthen our faith? Here are some suggestions that will help. These suggestions come from the Reverend Billy Graham:

First, love God and love one another. These are the first and second commandments.
Then, rejoice in the Lord. Billy Graham  said something wonderful long ago, ""Only the forward-looking Christian remains sincerely optimistic and joyful, knowing that Christ will win in the end." What could be more joyful than knowing that at the end of our lives and the end of the world, Christ wins!?

Then, live a peaceful life. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Another way to strengthen your faith is to be patient; be patient with the world, yourself and others. Always remember how patient God is with you and me.

Still another way is to be kind. Perhaps one of the best passages in the Bible is Philippians 2: 3-4 "count others more significant than yourselves" and look to the interest of others." Kindness can bring about so much good!

Practice goodness. God wants us to have true, right and pure thoughts. God calls us to love everyone, even our enemies. And, always do the right thing for the right reason. Most importantly, be faithful to God and not put other things above Him. This could include idols or anything you may put above God. God is a jealous God and wants you entire attention.

Being gentle and not overly critical or angry with others, is another way to grow your faith. In other words, build other up and don't tear them down. And, keep away from gossip; gossip is destructive to those who speak the words and especially for how those words impact on others. Self-control is also so important in building your faith. Everyone is tempted but we don't have to give in. There are times when we should distance ourselves from whatever is tempting us--such as food, an attractive person or watching a program that is indecent. Keep in mind; "God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Faith "is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Because this is true, you and I can be faithful and with our faith lead lives that are positive, godly, fruitful and joyous! With faith and love in our hearts, we can look to each day like this photo--joyful, happy and with hope in our hearts!

God Bless!

Copyright Toni Star 2017