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Archive for April, 2019

My Lent blog posting adventure (marathon) is complete, but I’ve kinda, sorta gotten into a routine writing again so I don’t want to stop completely. Really enjoyed writing the Five Favorites post last week, so you’re going to get another list of five of my current favorite things.

(1)  Spring Flowers! You have to be honest – this winter in Iowa was brutal. Cold. Snow. Cold. Snow. The cycle that never ended. But within the last week or so, we’ve had some absolutely lovely weather and so spring has sprung in the gardens, trees and bushes around Cedar Rapids. I love to take nature photographs with my little iPhone so if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a few flower shots. Such a reminder of fresh beginnings. Something we all need occasionally.

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(2)  “Lay It All Down.” Saw a friend post about a song she has on “repeat” this week. I love it when friends share music because I don’t always know when good stuff comes out, especially with artists I’m not familiar with. img_2563It was a definite perk of having music-loving sons living at home. So when I began listening to Will Reagan’s “Lay It All Down,” I also put it on repeat. All day. Each day. I have Spotify so I listen to Will’s music on my long walks, but you can also enjoy this on his YouTube video. Please listen. You’ll be singing along in no time.

(3) Iowa Coffee Roasters. My Lenten caffeine fast is over!!! My wonderful husband took me out for good coffee on my first day back but I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who roasts coffee. A personal coffee roaster! How cool is that? Well, he roasts for lots of people (and my office, and many other offices, too) but I hope you’ll check out Lee’s website and retail space in Marion, Iowa.

(4) My Uncle Dan. img_2561Today is his 80th birthday. I was so glad I was able to attend his party last weekend. My nephew Matt took some wonderful pictures of Uncle Dan out at the farm he was raised on (and lived at until the mid-90s). Matt posted the photos on his Instagram account and I was in awe (and a little teary) when I read some of the comments. Dan, a life long bachelor, is a retired middle-school English teacher who has touched so many lives through his teaching, volunteering and church work. He enjoys attending local school sports and music events and is a well known and loved member of the community. We are so blessed to have him in our lives.

(5) Monthly Bible reading plans. Since the first of the year I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s Bible reading plans to focus on one characteristic of God each month. In May, she is using God’s magnificent power. She provides a journal to download, plus a daily reading that only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete. I’ve been using a plain notebook for my journal, and as I read the Scriptures each morning, I also write them out in my own words. It has been a powerful exercise for me – to get those life-giving passages deep into my spirit for the rest of the day. Rachel has many plans to choose from – you don’t have to do them in any particular order…confident trust, pure joy, perfect, names of God, and more…I have enjoyed every one.

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand, it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:10-13

 

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I hope you were able to celebrate the true meaning of Easter today. We love the Easter bunny (especially the chocolate kind), egg hunts, jelly beans, family dinners and baskets filled with goodies…but Easter isn’t really about those things.

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Pastor Don McGarvey, Troy Mills Christian Church

Easter is about our risen Savior Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and raised to new life. My husband preached a great sermon this morning (yes – I’m biased) on the Odds of Easter.

He related the story of Dylan McWilliams who, in three separate incidents in three separate years, survived a rattlesnake bite, a bear attack and a shark attack. Some math geek somewhere figured the odds of all three incidents happening to one man is 893.35 quadrillion to one. In case you don’t know, a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeroes….it looks like 1,000,000,000,000,000.

By comparison, The odds of being struck by lightning is 1 in 5,000; the odds of being bitten by a venomous snake in the U.S. is estimated at 1 in 37,500; attacked by a shark, 1 in 11.5 million and attacked by a bear, 1 in 2.1 million. Some say Dylan was a very unlucky guy. If I believed in luck (I don’t), I’d say Dylan was a very LUCKY guy.  He told a British reporter that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But compare Dylan’s adventure to the odds of Easter. The Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning Jesus…his crucifixion (Isaiah 53:6, 10), his scourging (Isaiah 50:6), the piercing of his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16); the piercing of his side (Zechariah 12:10), the disfigurement of his appearance (Isaiah 52:14); that none of his bones were broken (Exodus 12:46), his burial place (Isaiah 53:9) and his resurrection (Psalm 30:3). The odds that all eight of these prophecies would be fulfilled by one man in the course of three days are 1 in 10 to the 17th power…100,000,000,000,000,000. Unlucky? No – supernatural.

There are 48 prophecies concerning Jesus’ life in the Old Testament – and the odds of all 48 prophecies being fulfilled by one man, Jesus, are 1 in 10 to the 157th power. Too many zeroes for me to type out. A 1 followed by 157 zeroes!

e52ac01a-3514-4f75-b4b6-e5aca107a96bJesus, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, betrayed by his Judas, unjustly tried in a bogus court, scourged and crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, but raised to life on Easter Sunday morning. He wasn’t a good man. He was God in flesh, sent to take our sins upon himself so that we would not have to bear them. It wasn’t luck or lack of luck. It was love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

 

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The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter can be spent in a frenzy of activity, scrambling to buy jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, baking hams and pies, scrubbing bathrooms, and laying perfect dinner tables.

Or maybe this day was spent in reflection, contemplating the hours the disciples mourned their rabbi, their Messiah, hiding in fear for their lives after watching an innocent Jesus crucified by the Roman soldiers.

Holy Saturday. Black Saturday. Joyous Saturday. The day of despair, hopeless, fearful, wondering “now what?” It is easy for us to skip over the importance of this day. We know the story. We know what’s ahead. Sunday’s coming. Easter will bring new life, our resurrected Savior.

But the disciples didn’t know. They heard what Jesus told of this time but how do you really prepare yourself for this day? Do you hope? Do you hide? Do you leave? Do you stay?

Did they trust? Did they believe the One who poured Himself out, teaching, praying, healing?

Maybe your life is currently sitting on a Black Saturday. Your dream seems dead. You’re fearful, hopeless, despairing. You grieve and hide, questioning “now what?”

Do you trust? Do you believe the One who poured Himself out for you? Stand firm and know – Your Easter is on the horizon.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:18-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”

‭‭John‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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Don and Kris McGarvey, Troy Mills Christian Church

My husband is a rock star. I asked if he would write a guest blog and as always, I’m blown away by his depth of insight into the Scriptures. I hope you will be challenged as much as I was. Thank you, Don McGarvey – for loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and sharing your  wisdom with us.

 

 

I’ve recently had a unique encounter with Proverbs 24:10:
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (NKJV)

Solomon was warning his son about tough times. Solomon in his wisdom understood the temptation to withdraw during tough times. But his warning to his son was if he withdrew from tough times, he wouldn’t grow.

Solomon understand that tough times make us stronger. Knowing and watching God sustain us during tough times causes our confidence (faith) in God to grow.

Solomon wasn’t blaming God for tough times; he was reminding his son of how God promised to work in tough times (Romans 8:28).

A few days before my encounter with Proverbs 24, I was being challenged with the thought that “set-backs” are often “set-ups” for God to work.

Again, I don’t believe the setbacks are from God. They come from a variety of places including our own poor choices. God is never the source of set-backs. But He is the source of set-ups.

Today is Good Friday. Perhaps the greatest set-up ever.

If we could read the biblical account of what happened on this day without knowing how it ends, we might raise an eyebrow at the use of “Good Friday” to describe the day. It looked more like a “set-back” than anything else. Certainly, the two men walking along the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 felt as if it was a set-back.

But it wasn’t. What looked like a colossal set-back was really a set-up for you and me! It brought life and life abundantly (John 10:10) that goes above and beyond imagination (Ephesians 3:20).

So, when adversity comes, don’t faint or withdraw. Keep moving forward; do the good works God has called you do (Galatians 6:9); and know in your heart that this too could be a set-up.

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Easter at Troy Mills Christian Church, 2016

Don McGarvey is the pastor of Troy Mills Christian Church in Troy Mills, Iowa. If you are interested in reading more by Don, his blog is located here.

 

 

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Have you ever considered what you would do if you knew you only had one day to live? Would you celebrate all the blessings in your life with those you love? Would you call people to ask forgiveness for any offense or hurt from the past? Would you care what people thought of you? Would you eat your favorite meal? Would you take a hot air balloon ride or zip line adventure or sky dive? Would you sit peacefully waiting for the end to come?

One of my favorite songwriters is Ben Rector. He recorded a song called “Like the World is Going to End,” addressing some of these questions.

If we found out that the world 
was gonna end on Tuesday morning
What would everybody do
It’s funny how the thought of that 
can make something real important
And a lot of things pretty worthless too

The lyrics are poignant, the tune is catchy, but the thoughts I’ve had since first listening to it a few years ago have stayed with me. Read the lyrics of the final chorus:

‘Cause I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d eat ice cream every mornin’
I’d call up everyone I loved
And drive them out to California
And we’d say the things 
that we’ve been scared to death to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe we should always live like the world is gonna end

Today is Maundy Thursday. It signifies the last 24 hours of the life of Jesus. What did He do?  No big meal – just wine and bread.  No apologizing for wrongs done – He had no sin. No selfish adventures – he served and prayed and forgave. He ate one last meal – with those He loved but knew would abandon Him and the one person He knew would betray Him.

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On Maundy Thursday Jesus knew He was headed to a painful, gruesome death. He knew He would be abandoned by friends and forsaken by His Father, yet He chose it anyway. He chose US anyway. Maundy Thursday – our opportunity to receive what Jesus offered on his last day. My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee provided this graphic to help visualize all that Jesus did for us BEFORE the cross. On his last night. At his last meal. With his betrayer.

On His Last Night

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Attention: Technology blog – if you have no interest in televisions, cable, or live streaming services, stop reading now.

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Last August we said “Goodbye” to our cable TV service. It was a frightening decision but motivated by greed. We were paying A LOT for our cable TV services, and it was rising every month. Since the boys are out of the house, the remaining McGarveys aren’t much for TV viewing, unless it’s sports. We don’t really care about movies or TV serials. No need for Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc. But we do love our sports.

After consulting with Don and my sons, we decided to make the big switch: cable out, live streaming in. For Don, it meant he would get his beloved St. Louis Cardinals games every day, PLUS less $$ out the window. But he would also have to learn a new system. Cable does make finding programs very easy.

The non-negotiables for me were Cubs games and… well, nothing else really. I was willing to learn a new way of doing things, but I wasn’t about to let my Cubbies go.

David did all the research (Thank you, thank you, thank you) and he determined that YouTubeTV was the best option. Plenty of the sports we love to watch, plus less money each month. Then I did the research on how that would happen.

First, our internet service was way too slow. We cancelled our current internet service (and landline phone) provider with some reluctance. We had had our phone number since moving to Iowa 30+ years ago. and we had just purchased a new modem. But our current service just wasn’t going to be strong enough for what we needed. So we cancelled our cable TV with Mediacom and added high speed internet.

Second, I researched various devices necessary to live stream to our current televisions. We had an old Apple TV left behind by David but with three TVs, I needed more options. I did make a mistake here – I purchased a Chromecast. It worked fine but we needed to use our phones as the channel remote, and that was a clunky process. Later in the year, I received a Roku through a live stream service offer and we’ve enjoyed that much more: easier to operate, a more traditional remote and the ability to add free services and apps. One of the best decisions I made was purchasing small antennas for two of our TVs. We still have a DVD/VHS player in our basement so attaching an antenna to allows us to watch any over-the-air channels without using any internet data. Same for our bedroom TV. The person who wants to watch the news or the Cubs on 9.2 plans on watching in the basement or bedroom.

Toward the end of the year we decided we missed a few of the channels we enjoyed that were not offered on YouTubeTV. After more research and advice from friends, we began our SlingTV subscription. That’s how I got my free Roku. During the long, cold winter, we found ourselves maxing out our internet usage, so we had to up our data plan. Yikes. And then in late January, we dropped Sling and switched to the cheaper, less sports option of Philo. We don’t watch it all that often, but it’s nice to have the option of watching Food Network or History Channel if we want.

We received a brand-new Apple TV from David and Tristen for Christmas. It is awesome!! A little harder to get used to the “swipe” remote, but we aren’t opposed to learning new things. The Apple TV gives us access to all our TV watching wants and needs, including Prime Video, PBS, and every sport we could want.

Long blog to say: Don’t be afraid to let go of what you’re comfortable with to embrace something new. Get advice from people you trust, do a little research on your own, try something new and if it doesn’t work for you, try something else. This isn’t life-or-death or rocket science but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing we aren’t too old to accept new technology and enjoy it!

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Every morning, after my shower and before eating breakfast, I sit down at my kitchen table and open a journal. Lately I’ve noticed I’m nearing the end of the empty pages, so soon I’ll go purchase another book to fill again.

img_2447Each morning I write down five things I’m grateful for…five gifts in my life. Some are silly (longer extension hose on the sump pump), some are monumental (healing), some seems small (the smell of brewing coffee), some are large (the furnace has worked great all winter long), some are spiritual (thankful for God’s unconditional love), some are physical (warm socks on a cold day), some are mental (clear mind for today’s work), some are emotional (joy over times with family and friends).

I began my gratitude journal on January 1, 2018 – by the end of the year I had written 1800 lines of thankfulness. I’m sure a few were duplicates (I love the smell of coffee – it probably showed up a couple of times). Today I wrote numbers 530-535 of 2019. It takes some introspection, some self-awareness. Those first few pages were easy to fill, but now it takes some real work to find those things that I’m thankful for. The practice of gratefulness has caused me to look over my day, even as I’m living it. What will I write tomorrow morning? What am I living right now that I’m grateful for? Who has caused me joy, or pain, that I can turn into a journal entry?

I know God has blessed me with health, love, joy, family and friends I treasure. I have work, shelter, provision, food on my table and blankets on my bed. I enjoy electricity, hot water and air-conditioning. We drive two cars, worship the Lord with freedom, and eat meat every day. And I know most of the world doesn’t have any of the above.

Would you take on the gratitude challenge? You can use a cheap spiral notebook, or purchase a fancy journal, but no matter what the pen and paper look like, it’s the expressions of gratefulness that will change your outlook on your life. And it will definitely spark joy!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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