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The Faces of Christmas

                                      

The Faces of Christmas

by
Merrily Bjerkestrand

 

Today I saw an angry face, raging, caused by impatience and inconvenience.

Today I saw the face of unkindness, caused by a perceived threat, insult, or nagging disappointment.

A judgmental face appeared today. It was accompanied by a raised eyebrow, a sideways glance, and a cold shoulder.

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God: My Provider and Defender

God: Provider and Defender

By
Merrily Bjerkestrand

          If I dialed Heaven, and God picked up the phone and answered it, what would I say?  How would I talk to Him?

Would I . . .

  • Talk to Him like I did to my parents when I needed to ask for money?
  • Talk like I did to my parents when I just needed to hear their voice and be reassured everything was okay because they were still there?
  • Talk like I did to my parents when I was a mess or had messed-up and hoped– knew, they’d love me still and take care of me?
  • Talk to Him like I did to my dad when I wanted him to tell me what to do? And tell me I was strong, capable, and could handle this thing.
  • Would I call seeking support, approval, or validation? Permission?
  • Would I confess all my shortcomings, bad habits, and self-indulgences, hoping God would bring them all to an end…now? And also hope that those who had been harmed or impacted by any of these would forgive me too.
  • I can’t imagine telling Him I don’t have enough “stuff ” and ask Him to give me more.
  • When would my thank-you’s enter into the conversation?
  • At what point would I talk to Him about the needs of others? Those others I know, and those I don’t.
  • Would I read Him a list of aches, pains, disappointments, sorrows, failures, and hurts, hoping he’d heal or fix them all. . . now?
  • Would I ask Him to remove my fears and concerns?

If there were a phone in Heaven, I wouldn’t blame God for ignoring the constant ringing. Just like I try to ignore or avoid all the troubling or overwhelming things in my life. Thus the reason for my phone calls in the first place. But I’m not God.

If I dialed Heaven and God answered, I hope I would say, “Hello, God, it’s me…again. Thank you for taking my call. I’m ready to listen.”

(Jeremiah 29: 11-12 NAS)

Hope

HOPE

Hope is always—

Something, somewhere, sometime, someone, somehow.

Can’t it ever be –

This, here, now, us, together?

                                                                                                 Merrily Bjerkestrand

A Box of Special Blessings

A Box of Special Blessings

Merrily Bjerkestrand

     I am grateful for all the many blessings that God has sent in my direction throughout my life. Because I know His love and mercy are endless and never ceasing, I am confident that there will be a few more blessings headed my way in the future. I know this because of who He is, not because of who I am or try to be. I am continually grateful and appreciative for all His gifts and care. My thoughts of God’s grace and blessings today, however, are not about those intended for myself.  It is my hope that God has a box in heaven. I hope He has a box of special blessings.

The blessings in this box are not for those who anticipate, expect, or have a confident understanding of God’s love and care. The blessings in this box are for those kind and selfless strangers who randomly cross our paths throughout the day. The ones who help with a flat tire or maybe return our shopping cart to the store, from the other side of the parking lot. The ones who see us somehow struggling and offer a, “Can I help?”.  Those who see us lost and not only give us directions  but offer a suggestion to “follow me, I’m going that way.” The ones who find your wallet or the purse left under the restaurant table, and catch up to you to return it.

The blessings from this special box are for those of our species who take the time to see others in need and act. Those who forfeit their time or effort to help someone else. These individual efforts, from a total stranger, could seem to them like a small act or gesture but can make a huge difference in the day or life of someone struggling, frustrated, or downhearted at that moment.

Most of us, usually, get so caught up in our own thoughts, schedules, or timetables, we are not always aware of the needs of those directly around us. We can get so focused on ourselves, or global hurts trended through the media, we don’t always see the hurt or struggles others may be experiencing, right in front of us. But God does. And every once in a while someone down here does too. And I am very thankful for them.

Yes, I hope heaven has a box of special blessings for those people who, without fanfare, without bravado, without Instagram or posting, quietly and selflessly offer a gesture or act of simple kindness to a stranger. These are the actions of the connected people that keep us and remind us, that we are human. I hope there’s a box of special blessings for those who know we need each other . . . and act like it.

A New Year’s Challenge

A New Year’s Challenge

by

Merrily Bjerkestrand

This is the year. This is the time.

Most of us make our New Year’s resolutions the first part of January, if not before. The eleven months to follow are supposed to be used to tweak, break, or revise them. Hopefully, some of us may even achieve a couple of them. (I wish any of you extra good luck and discipline on that worthwhile debt-free one!)

By early February however, we’ve moved on to thoughts of Groundhogs, Valentines, any federal holidays with days off, and taxes. Commitments to New Year’s resolutions may already be waning as the need for added discipline to develop that 21-day-habit-forming routine gets more challenging. Our perseverance may already be beginning to falter. I suggest a different challenge this year.

At this time and in whatever place in life or routine, you may find yourself; I suggest you take up a different challenge requiring a different type of resolution. I challenge you to set your resolve to becoming a more authentic self.

As do all worthwhile endeavors in life, this challenge to find your authenticity and live a more authentic life requires some basic first steps:

1. Dare to be curious. Wonder about possibilities.

2. Dare to dream that life can be different, deeper, and more meaningful.

3. Take risks and chances.

    Gradually start to open up to yourself and acknowledge those hidden hopes and dreams you’ve stuffed away into the dark corners of your heart. Pick one to investigate.

4. Connect with your Creator on a daily basis.

    Find peace, guidance, and strength in quiet times shared in His presence. He walks with you on this path. What better hand to hold?

5. Embrace life and a routine beyond just the practical.

    Life is often survived through the practical, but the spirit finds joy, purpose, and delight in the impractical.

6. Pursue dreams by letting go of fears and bondage to a past self.

    Face the fears that stop you from living the life you were created for;  one of truth, goodness, and connectedness. Find a motivation and purpose.

7. Accept yourself as you are and where you are at this moment.

    Realize that authenticity is about becoming. We don’t follow a map, a plan, or GPS and arrive at authenticity. It’s not a destination. We become our true self. We become authentic. Be kind,  forgiving, and patient with yourself as you step toward this adventure. Starting right where you are.

8. Gain perspective.

    Step back and begin to observe life through your own eyes. Not the eyes of others who filter or paraphrase it for you, or tell you how life is supposed to be “for you.” (Caution: This is not a suggestion to rebel, become militant, or “Question authority” or any other retro rhetoric or activism of the leftover 60s generation.)  Gaining perspective means searching for truth that matches the heart and spirit of you. Sometimes this means being an observer of life and not just an absorber of current circumstances.

9. Connect with what matters to you.

    On a regular basis, make time to appreciate music, beauty, nature, play, or creativity. Connect with people or events that inspire life, joy, fun and laughter, or give a lift to the spirit.  Make this effort a “have to” in the beginning, if necessary. But do it until it becomes a “want to”.  Soon you will realize it is a “need to” of the authentic self.

10. Develop a “Have a go” attitude.

     The most important step to becoming an authentic self begins with a right attitude. An attitude of openness to possibilities, a willingness to take a risk, and a fortitude to move beyond fears and to simply try.  An attitude gained from a knowledge and an acceptance of the good and the bad of the self, and still wears a smile.

     Most of all, an attitude of courage is required. Courage to allow your true heart to be awakened. Courage to shake your dormant dreams or passions to life.  Courage to believe and trust in the gifts and talents begotten into you. Courage to be free.  Courage to act. Courage to awaken the true you that has been smothered, or stuck, or lost, or afraid, or wounded, or just plain existing and not truly living.

Are you courageous enough to accept a challenge to become an authentic self, living an authentic life?  Jerry Sittser, stated in a 2016 sermon at First Pres. Church, in Spokane, Washington,

“Once awakening happens, do something.  Act!”

So, that is the challenge.

This is the year.

Now is the time.

Have a go!

Holiday Greeting Card Etiquette – Part III: Business Holiday Gift Giving

Bigstock_1031045There are no hard and fast rules governing the giving of gifts in the office setting, but good judgement suggests some guidelines.  Gifts should be given in good taste and with discretion.  Presents that are inappropriate or improperly given will create problems.  This holiday season is the time for management to shine and an opportunity to boost morale, show appreciation, and set a tone for polish and thoughtful consideration for those who have worked hard throughout the year.  The decision management makes is an important one.  Read More →