Category Archives: Faith

This category is where I will post about favorite Bible verses, devotions, the Bible and how it applies to our life, and everything about God! My hope is that this blog will be a place where people of all ages can share their faith without fear of being judged. I love God, and I believe that He wants me to help spread the Word, and I am going to use this blog to do just that. If you don’t share my beliefs, that’s totally fine – you are still welcome to visit SOTR and comment whenever you like. All are welcome to visit this site! But this is what I believe, and I am going to spread the Word of what I believe.

Spring Has Sprung

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Hi, everyone.

Several weeks ago, I was sitting outside with a book, as I often do, and I was suddenly overcome by the gentle beauty of the world caressed in spring’s sweet embrace. I ran inside to grab my camera, and snapped these photos in my own backyard, inspired by the grace and delicate beauty of the world in springtime. I hope you enjoy this compilation of spring photos and quotes, and I hope they inspire you to get outside and take notice of the beauty of nature as the world awakens from its long, wintry sleep.

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“Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” ~Robin Williams

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“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” ~Virgil Kraft

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“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” ~Gustav Mahler

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“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.” ~Song of Solomon 2:11-12

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“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

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“Awake, thou wintry earth – fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth your ancient gladness!” ~Thomas Blackburn, An Easter Hymn

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“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” ~Isaiah 35:1-2

Your friend, Olivia

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Musings on Psalm 23

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“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothingHe makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” ~Psalm 23

These are the words of Psalm 23, a psalm of David. Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the best-loved psalms and most beloved Bible passages, for it calls us to stop, to breathe, and to rest in the love of God. It calls us to take notice of the quiet beauty of the world around us, and to find comfort and strength in knowing that the Lord Himself is our protector. Its gentle, soothing language almost reads like a lullaby. I think that Psalm 23 captures the essence of a God who cares for us with a love that is incomprehensible and unfathomable in its depth, a love that will follow us all the days of our lives, no matter where we may go or what we may do, whether we succeed or fail.

I’ve been musing on this particular passage for a while now. I am a girl living in a busy, fast-paced society. Lots of things are competing for priority in my life: school, outside activities, friends. I feel a lot of pressure to succeed in school, perform well in my extracurriculars, and fit in with everyone else. I also struggle with OCD-like tendencies, which makes it especially difficult for me to slow down and relax and see things in proportion. As such, I am constantly trying to slow myself down and force myself to take breaks. I am trying to make sure that my life is a healthy balance between work and “me time.” It is important to work hard, but it is equally important to give ourselves rest so that we can relax, recharge, and have fun! We were not created to simply exist. We were created to LIVE, and there is an enormous difference between the two. In order to really LIVE, we have to have balance. And we have to have God.

I was reading Psalm 23 a few days ago, and something struck me that I wanted to share with you all. In the second verse, I noticed that it read specifically, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Not “He encourages me to lie down in green pastures.” 

God makes us slow down and rest. Because whenever we spend time with our Heavenly Father, we are resting and being restored by His grace.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

A lot of us – and I know this, because I do it too – tend to shut God out of our lives. With all our other obligations in life, God can seem like just another thing we have to make time for. But we were not created to be machines, going and going and going all day long, from sunup to sundown, every single day. Spending time with God heals us and restores us. Without God in our lives, we are simply existing, dragging ourselves through each monotonous day, numb to the vividness of true living.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

God wants us to experience life fully. And the only way we can really live is if we make time for ourselves and for Him. God calls us to slow down, but many of us are simply too busy to take notice. Today I challenge you to listen for God’s call to rest! Today, take some time for yourself and do something you love to help you breathe and find God. For me that would be writing, playing guitar, or reading the Bible. Do whatever helps you de-stress – go for a walk, bake chocolate chip cookies, play an instrument, read, draw, listen to music, play with a pet… It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it helps you to release some of the burden that you have been carrying with you, whatever that burden might have been. You cannot fully embrace the beauty of life if you never allow yourself time to rest and recharge, and shut God out.

Many of us complain that we never have any free time. I think that most of us do have more time than we think we do, but that time is often consumed by mindless activity, such as social media, texting, or surfing the Internet. Technology is a wonderful invention and has greatly improved our lives, having increased convenience and comfort. However, it is easy to get sucked into the world of Facebook and Instagram, or lose oneself mindlessly surfing the Web. It is perhaps too easily accessible, and it drains our free time, time that we could be spending with God or doing things we love. In my free time at school, I used to pull out my laptop and surf the Internet. But I realized that I could be using that precious time in better ways, and I packed my Bible in my backpack. Now, I have changed that time mindlessly surfing the Internet to time spent with my Father, reading and reflecting on His Word.

It is so, so important to give ourselves breaks. At some point, it is important to say “Good enough for now,” set aside whatever we are working on, and forget about it for a while. Spending time with ourselves allows us to breathe, to recharge, to step away from the demands and obligations of daily life and escape. When we allow ourselves into the slow lane, we begin to see God all around us, healing us through His grace and love.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock

Your friend, Olivia

“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”

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Hi, everyone.

I hope you’re having a relaxing and fun summer! I know mine has been – the lack of homework has been a bit of a shock to the system, I have to say. I’ve been sleeping in, reading a lot, and spending time with God – three things I haven’t been able to do much during the school year. So far, I’ve been able to keep up with my Bible reading and I am now onto Jeremiah, and let me just say that it’s been hard not to get depressed while powering through the book of Jeremiah! Jeremiah was a prophet during the time period described in 2 Kings, and his job was basically to deliver bad news to the people of Judah. God had warned them many, many times over the years not to serve idols, but to serve only Him, and these stiff-necked people just wouldn’t obey. They were determined to keep their evil ways and keep sinning against God. So God finally put His foot down and said “enough’s enough,” and Jeremiah was the guy responsible for warning all the stubborn, wicked people of Judah to turn from their ways before God brought disaster on them. Of course, this was NOT what the people wanted to hear, and Jeremiah was mocked, imprisoned, and threatened with death, all for doing God’s work.

Of course the people of Judah deserved every bit of the trouble that God was planning to bring on them. They had been persistent in their wicked ways, serving gods of other peoples, worthless, powerless images that were created by human hands, even after being warned not to. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes bad things happen when no one has done anything to deserve it. Sometimes bad things happen and there is no explanation. Sometimes bad things happen to the kindest, most generous, and most faithful of people. When this happens, we start to wonder, “Does God really love us?” The Bible tells us that He loves us always, and that His mercy is great, but when horrible things happen to people for no reason at all, it is not easy to believe that.

Just a few weeks ago, in church, the choir sang a passage that really touched me. Usually I recycle the bulletins after the service, but this time I held on to it. When I got home, I cut out the lyrics of the passage the choir sang, which I found just so beautiful, and tacked it up on the bulletin board beside my desk. Whenever I read the lyrics of the poem, called “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” I feel a certain peace come over me. The poem offers gentle reassurance of God’s great love and kindness, and it is a sweet, simple reminder that we are loved and forgiven no matter what. It brought me great comfort, and I hope it will do the same for you.

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;

there’s a kindness in His justice which is more than liberty. 

There is no place where Earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in Heaven;

there is no place where Earth’s failings have such kindly judgement given.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;

there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands of new worlds as great as this;

there is room for fresh creations in that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;

and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed;

there is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.

‘Tis not all we owe to Jesus; it is something more than all;

greater good because of evil, larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word;

and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter like a crowd of frightened sheep?

Foolish hearts! why will ye wander from a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty, but is mightier than it seems;

’tis our Father: and His fondness goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own;

and we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd, half so gentle, half so sweet,

as the Savior who would have us come and gather at His feet?”

~ Frederick W. Faber

I think these lyrics are just lovely. They are written in a very simple, almost childish manner, but the message comes across loud and clear: God loves us! He loves me, and He loves you! I hope this poem brings you comfort and peace today, as it did for me, and helps you to know the Father a little bit more.

Your friend, Olivia

God’s Beautiful World

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Hi, everybody!

So I’m onto the book of Job. Job’s story is important because it has a message that is relevant to all of us who have at some point struggled with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Job lived at around the same time as Abraham, in the land of Uz, with his wife and family. Job had a pretty good life — he had a nice house, a large family, and extensive livestock and servants. Yet, despite all that he had, Job did not grow vain. He  helped the poor and the fatherless, and people knew him for his deeds.  And Job recognized that all of his blessings came from the Lord; he was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Then one day, Satan challenged God, saying, “Your servant Job worships you only because you have blessed him abundantly. If you let me take away everything he has and strike him down, he will surely turn away from you.” God accepted the dare, saying, “Very well; everything Job has is in your power, but do not harm the man himself.”

Satan took everything away from Job, until the poor man had nothing left. He took away Job’s livestock and servants, destroyed his house, and killed his children. Yet, despite his tremendous losses, Job continued to praise the Lord and did not charge Him with wrongdoing. God granted Satan one more opportunity, this time permitting him  to harm Job himself, while sparing his life. Satan afflicted Job with painful, festering skin sores all over his body, adding to the poor, mourning man’s wretchedness. Job was suffering tremendous pain, pain that he could not escape from; Satan had struck both his body and his heart. There had never been a more miserable existence than Job’s. Job turned against God, blaming Him for all the bad things that had happened to him, cursing the Lord’s name and his own existence, though Satan was really the one to blame, not God. Job questioned the Lord’s fairness and justice, protesting that he was blameless and had never done anything to deserve his afflictions. But it was only when God asked Job a few questions of His own that Job realized that the the Lord deserved to be glorified and praised because of who He was, not because of what He gave. All along, the Lord had been testing Job’s faithfulness, as He knew that He would be the one to triumph in the end. Once Job realized what he had done, he apologized to God, and God gave him back everything that Satan had taken away from him, and much more.

Bad things happen to us. They just do. At times, it may be difficult to remember that God is the one in charge, and that He has our lives in His hands. However, sometimes, when it seems as if our life is ending and the world is against us, I have found that it helps simply to step outside. Especially in the spring season, as flowers are blooming and plants sprouting and new life beginning, God’s magnificent creation is in full display. We can see little glimpses of God’s divine majesty and heavenly authority all around us amidst the simple beauty of nature. He is the Lord who made the heavens and the earth! Can’t we trust Him to take care of us, as He cares for the flowers and the trees and the animals? Can’t we hope in His unfailing love and justice, and trust that everything He does is in our best interest? Can’t we understand that we will NEVER understand, and can’t we praise Him anyway? Today I ventured outside with my camera, and was surprised at the beauty I found all around me in my own backyard, reminding me that God is with us always; we just have to look for Him.

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

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“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”

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“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?”

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“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken.”

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“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!”

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“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?”

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“Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen? Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?”

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Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’? Who gives the ibis wisdom or gives the rooster understanding? Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?” 

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“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” ~Job 38

Happy Spring, everyone!

Your friend, Olivia

What is Love?

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Hi everyone! 🙂

Now, as you’re probably aware, Valentine’s Day is this Thursday, February 14th. (Wow! The winter is just flying by.) I don’t know about you, but I am SO excited to make pretty valentines for all my girlfriends out of colorful paper, lace, glitter, stickers, stamps, markers (well, if you’re a guy, I guess this doesn’t really apply)…and my mouth is watering at the thought of all that yummy candy. Mmm!  Valentine’s Day is a day full of fun and sweets. It is also the perfect time to let our family and friends know why we love them, and to reflect on the gift of love given to us by our Heavenly Father.

I’d like to begin with a question: what does love mean to you? Does it mean having a humongous crush on the adorable boy (or girl) who lives next door? Does it mean that unconditional love you have for your family? Does it mean having a passion for somebody or something?

What is love?

Well, a few days ago I asked myself this question, and I decided to see what God had to say about it, so I consulted my trusty Bible to get the real answer. Here is a passage I found addressing that wonderful gift that comes from none other than God Himself:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” ~1 Corinthians 1-7

It looks as if God’s definition of love is a whole lot deeper and more complex than our own. There is so much more to God’s definition of love than simply feeling passion for someone or something. This makes it all the harder for us to love — truly love, in a way that is good and pure in the Lord’s sight.

Right now, these words may not make much sense to us. There is so much to understand and to grasp about real love that we may be tempted to give up before we begin. It may seem hopeless. You might be thinking, “Gosh! How can I ever be like that? How am I supposed to remember and understand all of that?” But I feel it is important to remember that we were not meant to understand. As I stated earlier, love is a gift given to us from Above, the splendid work of the Lord Himself, and we are too feeble-minded and shallow and HUMAN to ever be able to grasp its full meaning. We are not capable of this kind of love, of true, godly love, because our sins stand in the way. Even if we did not have this obstacle, we simply do not have the capacity to comprehend perfect love. We are too imperfect to be able to do that.

However, you may have been able to get a handle on the basic idea. Love is a reflection of God Himself, and without it, we are nothing. Love is pure and perfect. And, most importantly, love is 100% completely and totally NOT about you or me. It’s about other people, and it’s all about God. But there is so much more to it that we will never understand, until we meet the Lord face-to-face in Heaven someday.

Why is love such a gift? Because God gave it to us so that we may better know Him. He gave it to us to draw us closer to Him. God is love, and we will never know true love if we do not know Him. I believe that our purpose here on this Earth, as human beings, is to spend our lives learning how to love so that when we enter God’s Kingdom one day, we will be able to exist in faultless harmony and perfect love amongst one another and the Lord. Every experience, every action we take, every event in our lives is teaching us about love, love that is pure and good in God’s sight. On a similar note, every experience, every action we take, every event in our lives gives us the opportunity to get to know the Lord and see His marvelous works. For we CANNOT love if we do not know Him, and we CANNOT know Him if we do not have love.

I would like to end today’s post with this: God commanded us to love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~John 13:34-35

“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'” ~Matthew 22:37-39

We are the Lord’s people, and He has spoken. We need His help more than ever before as we embark on the biggest journey of our lives: learning to love. This is the ultimate challenge, and we are hopelessly incapable of doing it on our own. Therefore, we must ask Him to help and strengthen us. We must seek Him throughout our entire lives, for we can know love only if we know Him.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

Your friend, Olivia

A Servant’s Heart

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Hey, everybody!

As I finally have some time to sit down and write, here is the promised post. I hope you enjoy it; I am super excited for this one! As you know, I’ve been working on a “Through the Bible in a Year” plan, which takes me through the entire Bible in 365 days by breaking down into itty-bitty chunks. With dedication and much prayer, I have been able to find time each day since the New Year to read, and I just finished the Book of Ruth. (Which isn’t saying much — there are only four chapters in the Book of Ruth, so it only took me one day’s worth of reading to get through this one!) And, so far, Ruth’s story is my favorite Old Testament story of all. I just adore a good love story, and the Book of Ruth shows us God’s grace towards all those who do nothing other than love and serve Him. Ruth was such a model lady for everyone seeking a pure, honest, and loving life in the Lord.

Here’s a quick (okay, well maybe not quick) summary of the Book of Ruth:

There was a woman named Naomi, an Ephrathite from Bethlehem, Judah, who lived with her husband, Elimelek, and her two sons Mahlon and Kilion. The family went to Moab to live there to escape the famine in the land where they had come from. Not long after, Elimelek died, and she was left with only her two sons, who married Moabite women, and then died themselves about ten years later. (The Bible doesn’t mention how they, Naomi’s husband or sons, died. But all I can say is that poor Naomi had some pretty bad luck!) So Naomi was left living with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.

Then Naomi got word that the Lord had come to the aid of His people and had ended the famine, she decided it was time to return home to Judah. So she packed up what little she had and set out on the journey home, with her daughters-in-law following closely behind her. But Naomi turned to them and said, basically, “Thank you for your kindness, and may the Lord show you the same grace you have shown me. Go back to your own home now; the Lord help you find rest in the home of another husband.” (Aww, nice!)

At first, Ruth and Orpah protested, saying, “No! We’re staying with you.” Naomi eventually convinced Orpah, and she left to go back to her mother’s home. But Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law.

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.'” ~Ruth 1:16-17

Okay, so once Naomi heard this, she knew that Ruth was serious, and that she really was going to stick by her side. So the two women arrived at Bethlehem, and lived together there. Ruth followed harvesters at their work in the fields, picking up any leftover grain they left behind to feed herself and Naomi. As it turned out, she was working in the field of Boaz, a man from the clan of Elimelek and a relative of Naomi. He noticed Ruth gathering the leftover grain in the fields, and asked the overseer, “Hey, who’s that girl over there?” So the overseer told him who she was and what she was doing there. And Boaz said to her, “Hey, listen, stay here in this field; don’t go find another field to glean in. Stick with the other women in the field. I’ve told the men not to lay a hand on you; you’re completely safe here. And whenever you need a drink, help yourself to the water the men have gone to fetch.”

Ruth, naturally, was surprised and delighted, but confused. She didn’t know what she, a foreigner, had done to make him notice her. Boaz told her, “I’ve heard all about what you’ve done for your mother-in-law after your husband’s death — how you left your parents and your homeland to come live with an unfamiliar people in a new land. May the Lord, the God of Israel, whom you have come to take refuge in, repay and reward you for what you have done.”

And so their relationship began. Ruth continued to glean in his fields and tried her very best to be the most obedient and faithful servant she could be. Boaz kept his eye on her the whole time, making sure she was all right, once inviting her to share mealtime with him, and even ordering his men to pull out some stalks from their sheaves and leave them for Ruth to pick up. (Double-awww!) When Ruth came home each day with enough grain to last for a week, Naomi got curious and asked, “Where did you glean today? God bless the man in whose field you worked!” Ruth then told Naomi about Boaz, and then Naomi told her that he was, in fact, of the clan of Elimelek, and a relative of hers.

Naomi knew that she had to find a husband for Ruth, and Boaz had obviously proven himself as a man of the Lord. She hatched a plan to get things moving between them (see Ruth 3-4). Boaz could see what a loving and devoted servant Ruth was, both to him and to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and he married her. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of David, of whom Jesus Christ was a direct descendant.

Think about that. That’s a huge deal! So, if Ruth was the mother of Obed, and Obed was King David’s grandfather, then that means that Ruth was directly related to Jesus, the Savior of Mankind! Why is this such a huge deal? Well, Ruth started out as nothing special. She was just a poor widow and a foreigner in Judah. But Boaz took notice of her good deeds and saw what a loyal, loving person she was, and so did God. The story of Ruth proves that God can take even ordinary people and transform them into something wonderful. It proves that God has the power to write a beautiful happy-ever-after for all those who love and believe in Him, just like He did for Ruth, the poor Moabite servant girl. This is great news!

All her life, Ruth was nothing other than loyal, obedient, and full of love for her mother-in-law and the Lord. She didn’t do anything amazing to deserve credit. But the Lord took notice of her because of her gentle and obedient spirit, and her servant’s heart, loyal till the very end. Her life was a true model of the way God wants us to live. What if, starting today, we took Ruth’s story as an example for our own lives? What if we stuck by our friends through thick or thin, no matter what life threw at us? What if we carried out all our tasks obediently and without question? And, most importantly, what if we loved the Lord God with our whole hearts and surrendered ourselves completely to His unending love? If we managed to do this, we can be sure that the Lord would write for us the same happy ending he wrote for Ruth so long ago. God has wonderful plans for you and me, plans of unimaginable joy and peace with Him! However, before we can know of these plans, we have to put our whole heart, soul, body and mind into living like Ruth did. Of course, as humans, we are incapable of doing this on our own, but the Lord can help us to live the way He wants us to. All we have to do is ask Him!

So today, let’s try and turn our lives around and begin again with a new perspective: the perspective of a loyal servant of the Lord. Surely our deeds will bring us much happiness in our lives, and much joy to others; for God never forgets any of His servants. He has wonderful plans for all those who live the way He commands us to, and the story of Ruth is assurance that no good deed or act of kindness goes unseen.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” ~Matthew 25:23

Your friend, Olivia

The True Meaning of Christmas

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Hey, all!

First of all, I am so sorry I haven’t had time to post for a while. The past few weeks have been a blur of craziness – you know how the holidays are! Anyway, as I sit at my desk in my warm, cozy house on this chilly morning of Christmas Eve, I thought now would be the perfect time to reflect on the true meaning of this magical holiday, Christmas.

What does Christmas mean to you? Does it mean large, elaborate feasts and lavishly decorated tables? Does it mean sparkly ornaments and twinkly lights? Does it mean spending time with loved ones? Staying up all night, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa? Eating sweets? Enjoying parties? Exchanging gifts? Getting gifts?

All of these are wonderful things. I know that I look forward to seeing the first Christmas lights go up and presents start appearing under the tree every year as Christmas comes around. However, is this all that Christmas is? Fancy decorations, tasty food, and presents?

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says that Christmas is about.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:14

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to Earth to save God’s people from their sins. It is a joyous and magnificent celebration, because on Christmas Day we are reminded that God loves us and does not want us to perish from our sins. It is a time of peace, love, and great joy towards man.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16

If you think about that, it’s pretty amazing. God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son to save it. He sent His only Son into the world to be cruelly sacrificed on the cross to rescue ordinary, unworthy sinners like you and me. He must have loved us a whole, whole lot to do that. And THAT is why we celebrate!

However, society has turned Christmas into a entirely different ordeal. The day after Thanksgiving, all the Christmas stuff starts appearing on store shelves. Advertisements pressure you to “buy it before it’s gone,” and huge holiday sales events cause anxious shoppers to flock to the mall by the hundreds. Tacky decorations and cheap blinking lights start to appear in peoples’ lawns and twisted around trees, and images of Santa Claus and smiling snowmen are everywhere. People rush out to get all their holiday shopping done as quickly as they possibly can, spending the least amount of money they possibly can, and then, when it is all over, breathe an enormous sigh of relief. We mark off the days of Advent as they pass, in anticipation of piles of beautifully wrapped presents underneath the tree, rather than in anticipation of the coming of the Lord Jesus. The real meaning of the season has been lost under all the decorations and sweets and gifts.

Hey, don’t get me wrong here. Presents are fun! I love getting presents, and I am guilty of creating Christmas wish lists that are 2-3 pages long, filled with all the stuff I would love to get. It is so much fun to own stuff! And there’s nothing wrong with poking and prodding all those wrapped boxes underneath the tree and trying to guess at what’s in them. We are human, and it is natural for us to like things and owning things. Material wealth is important to us, and makes us feel important. But the fact is that stuff is just stuff. It can be stolen or broken or destroyed. It doesn’t hold any true value. God’s Word reminds us that the real treasure is found in our hearts, and we can obtain that wealth through acts of kindness and love towards our neighbors and friends. We can be happy knowing that we have bountiful treasures awaiting us in our Father’s House.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:19-21

Like I said, there is not anything wrong with being excited to receive gifts. But presents are not all that Christmas is about. (After all, when Jesus was born, there were no presents! The night the Son of Man came to Earth, there were no royal servants, no throne, no crown. And there wasn’t a present in sight. God’s Son was born in the lowliest way – in a little stable in Bethlehem, amongst dirty, smelly animals and mountains of hay and who-knows-what! See Luke 2) The gift of love and salvation given to us from our Heavenly Father is the only gift we will ever need. It is important for us to remember, I think, that our true wealth is stored Above, not here on Earth.

So today, I encourage you to spend a little time sipping hot cocoa by the fire and dreaming about all the presents you’ll get, then spend some time in prayer or reading the Bible (read Matthew 1:18-2:6, John 1:1-18, Luke 2:1-20). And please consider attending a Christmas pageant or candlelight service tonight with your family – what better way to praise the Lord than to raise our voices in song, or to be taken back in time 2,000 years ago to witness the birth of Jesus? Every year, my family attends a small live nativity in the side yard of a church near us. There is a little stable set up, with goats and sheep meandering around to set the mood, and actors and actresses dressed up as Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the angels, and even a little baby Jesus! All the people who come to watch huddle in the darkness around the stable and listen as the narrator retells the story of Jesus’ birth so long ago, and then we all sing carols. There is something so powerful about just voices, no accompaniment, lifted up in joy and praise as night falls on Christmas Eve. It is so wonderful, and I look forward to it every year.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And don’t forget the true reason for the season! 😉

Your friend, Olivia