A Gift Beyond Measure

God sent His son to us as a little babe. A gift beyond measure,wrapped in swaddling cloths.

This is such an important Bible verse. Probably, many of you have it memorized. It tells us about our God, the creator of heaven and earth, loving us so much, He willingly sent His only Son to earth, so that we might have eternal life.

If we turn to the first verse in the Bible we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (NKJV) He made the world, then the animals, then man and woman. See in Genesis 1:31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Yes, “God so loved the world.”

We see how much God loved the world, in which, He created. Therefore, one can only wonder why God sent His only begotten Son to earth for us? We seem to forget about the fall of man. In Genesis chapter 3, we can read the account of this tragic event and the consequences of it, for us all.

All creation had sweet fellowship with the living God before the fall of man. After this tragic event, everything changed, our sin separated us from God the Father. In ourselves there was no way back, we were now lost. However, our loving God had a plan all ready for us. He had a plan to save His creation, whom He loved greatly.

His plan began by sending His only Son to earth. He was sent as a little babe. This was the first step. If He never came it would never have worked. We see in The Apostles Creed, the plan. It is stated as follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven,
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Now this sums it all up for us. God sent His Son, Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirt, born of the virgin Mary, was crucified for our sins, actually died, and was buried. He descended to the dead, yet on the third day He rose from the dead. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. This is also stated in the scripture verse, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” He was sent, He came, He died for our sins, He rose again and is seated with God, in eternal life. It is now up to us to believe in Him and what He has done for us, so we too, can have eternal life with Him. As I said at the start of this blog, John 3:16, is a very special Bible verse.

Look closely at the photo of the sun setting. As it is going down the glow that is emanating from it is reflecting the symbol of the cross onto the river. It is reflecting the color red on the water. I think about the blood and water that came out of Jesus’ side when pierced. He shed His blood for us that we may have eternal life. Isn’t this truly the gift beyond measure? As Christmas is quickly approaching, take time to ponder the depth of this act for us. This is the reason and meaning of Christmas.

1John 5:6 (NKJV). “This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”

May God richly bless you this Christmas. Rejoice in the new born king.

©️Denise L. Calandra 2021

Scriptures for daily thought and encouragement !

https://denisecalandraphotography.picfair.com

Are you watching?

Out in the wilderness, along a hiking trail, stands the watchtower in the photo above. What is the significance of a watchtower anyway? A watchtower is built with an elevated observation platform. The purpose is to provide a high safe place from which a person, such as a guard, can observe the surrounding area. Primarily, they have been used by the military, where a person is appointed to keep watch over the area for any signs of danger.

The tower, along the trail, stood alone and was empty. Only when we climbed it did it become full. Then we were able to stand and look around or “watch.” In this case, if my husband and I never chose to climb up and look around, we never would have seen the lake. We would have missed it, because it could only be seen by looking over the top of the trees!

God wants us to watch in our daily lives. He admonishes us in His word to watch and pray. What do we miss when we do not listen to His Word? Let us read some Bible verses about doing just that!

Luke 21:34-36 (NKJV) “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Matthew 24:42-44 (NKJV) “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Matthew 25:1-13 (NKJV) “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But He answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Matthew 26:40-41 (NKJV) “Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ He asked Peter. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

From reading these scriptures, we can see, God is telling us about the importance of practicing this discipline in our daily lives. He tells us to watch and pray in several verses. Because God is ever concerned about us and how we are doing; He warns of danger that can come upon us if we are not careful. As believers we need to obey a loving God who saved us from our sin. We want to do His will for us. He knows that our flesh is weak, and we can fall into various temptations in the world. We must always be learning and growing in our relationship with Him. Watching and praying keeps us close to God. If we are not diligent and wise, we may miss what God has for us. Always be prepared and ready for we do not know when He is going to come or need us to fulfill a specific purpose. Are your lamps trimmed? Are You ready? Do not miss out and have the door shut on you. Desire to be your best for God. Be ever diligent so you do not miss Him. Do not be caught off guard as in the parable of the ten virgins!

Are You Watching?

 ©Denise L. Calandra 2021

Scriptures for daily thought and encouragement!

https://denisecalandraphotography.picfair.com

Changes

Are you caught in a time of change? Life is full of them. We can learn and grow from them all, good or bad.

How do you look at change? Life is full of them. Some changes are good, which we openly welcome. Others we find not so pleasant and are not as eager to embrace them. Regardless, in this life, there will always be changes for us to face.

This photo shows a flower going through a conversion process. It is not the more familiar process, which shows new life bursting forth, like in spring. The flower is going from a season of full glory to a dormant stage, a time to rest. The flower loses the color it had and quietly fades away. Yet it does not lose heart! Hibernation helps to protect the plant through the frigid winter season, so once again, it will thrive. During this period, the roots continue to develop and grow, enabling the flower to appear again.

We too, as humans, need to learn from the plants and the process God has put in place. When going through a change point in life it is okay, and even a necessity, to step back. God may have pulled you out for a season to reflect, to rest, study and renew oneself and emerge stronger than before.

God speaks to us through His word. Let us examine scripture verses to see what God has to say concerning this.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.”

Do not fear or resist the change God has for you. Let go of the old and allow the new to emerge. God, in His way, does not want us to get too comfortable, change is a way He uses to guide us on. He wants us to embrace all He has for us. Remember, we are just passing through and the best is yet to come. Look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. God Bless You!

© Denise L. Calandra 2021

Photo available at: https://denisecalandraphotography.picfair.com

Renew and Refresh Your Soul

Take the time, be still or dormant for a season, then the refreshing will come.

Many of us would not consider the winter season to be refreshing, as said in Proverbs 25:13.  Living in the north country of New York, I had to learn to deal with winter.  Winter is the longest season up here.  It can be extremely cold, very snowy and yes quite long to endure.  Since most of the time is spent indoors, using it wisely for a season of refreshing, or better said as renewing, is helpful.  Actually, this is a scriptural principle.

Ephesians 4:23(NKJV) tells us, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”   

There are the seasons of busyness in our lives, all throughout our years.  Taking a “time out”, being dormant or still is needed to grow and gain renewed strength.  Let us learn from nature around us.

John 12:24(NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

The pictures of the grass, wheat, and plant appear to be dead or barren.  The river is frozen; it’s very still.  They all seem to be in a state of uselessness, when really, they are resting and refueling for the next season of fruitfulness.  Whether a beautiful flower to behold or a delicious fruit to eat, they are busy preparing to emerge again. It is hard work, and the dormant season is necessary. They are being still, resting so they can be revived once again.

Do we take time to be still?  God tells us in His word,

“Be still, and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10 (NKJV).

I look at winter as a “time out”; a time to reflect, prepare and refuel.  We also can be ready for the busier seasons ahead. A day of lightly glittering, quietly falling snow can be peaceful and cleansing.   It is a beautiful sight to behold.  Being still and enjoying the wonderful beauty winter has to offer can help bring renewal and refreshment to your soul.

Thoughts, Resolutions, Pondering and Contemplation…As we consider a New Year Ahead.

Consider all that may be ahead. A vast amount of opportunity lies before us.

Looking out from Whiteface Mountain, we see hills, valleys, waterways; what an endless display of natural beauty. It can bring peacefulness to us, as we behold such grandeur. We clearly can see all the landscape in front of us. Thinking forward, at this point, consider that we cannot see into our future and know all that will befall us; as we travel on our life journey.  However, we can carefully consider and contemplate the paths and choices that are ahead.  Thoughtfully pondering the situations before us, can help us to choose wisely our direction.

Yes, a “New Year” is once again upon us; actually, it is in full swing. Sometimes we think about it as a time for a new beginning, a fresh start, or a change of some kind. We might reflect on the past and ponder as we consider our future. Thoughts about what was helpful in the last year may go through our minds. We also, might question ourselves about what wasn’t so useful. We can contemplate about both aspects; learn from them and make any changes that can be a benefit to us. We may even make a “New Year Resolution,” that many times we do not keep. Maybe, it has already been broken! 

There are many paths, roads, situations, challenges and choices that lie ahead for us this year. Let’s look at what some of these paths might be like. Use these photos, below, to visualize some situations we may encounter.

Some paths are leisurely and pleasant.

 Some paths or circumstances are challenging.

Other paths may be choppy or unsure.

There are ups and downs, highs and lows, along with twists and turns.

Some paths are clearly marked, others are not. Some are long, some lonely and dark. Other ways are busy and crowded and some definitely connect one place to another.

Paths have a destination, some lead us to safety, others don’t. Some are lighted along the way, others are not. There can be hope at the end of certain roads, if we choose wisely the road to take.

As we can see many things await us each year. Some will be very welcome; others may not. There will be countless choices and decisions for us to consider. It can be difficult or complicated as we navigate our way through the trials of life. We all will need great wisdom to help and guide us along. I go to God’s word, The Bible, and see what the scriptures say. There is a verse for every situation. My thoughts and reasons for this blog is to help us to thoughtfully consider and ponder what lies ahead and prayerfully contemplate wise choices. May God Bless you all this year ahead. Have a wonderful journey.

Below are a few verses to help. Go search for yourself, there is an endless supply of wisdom available to you. Seek the words of the Lord. Happy travels.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills-From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1 NKJV

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NKJV

“Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:26-27 NKJV

© Denise L. Calandra

The Greatest Gift Of All

God Sent His Son This Is True Love

The glowing warmth and radiance of God reaches down to us.  This is a marvel to behold!  Let us consider how glorious heaven must be.  In the picture, we capture a burst of God, just a glimpse of His grandeur, which He allows us to see.  The glory of God is glowing brightly for us to grasp.  God is yearning for us to turn our hearts toward Him.  We, as humans, have fallen from grace. We need a Savior! Although we may feel the need to hide ourselves from God, He still reaches out to us.  The rays radiating toward us symbolize God extending His love and forgiveness.  How does He do this?  He does this by sending His son to earth.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16(NKJV)

Let us take a moment and turn this verse over in our thoughts.  We are in great need and God, in His love for us, sent the greatest gift of all, His only Son.  He gave Himself fully to take the punishment we deserve.  This is Christmas, Christ with us.  As we give our loved one’s gifts, let us also lift our eyes and hearts to Him. God gave His Son as the greatest gift to us.  Therefore, we can give Him our hearts, as our finest gift to Him.  This is the true gift exchange.  

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”    John 1:14

To God Be The Glory

In Everything Give Thanks

Looking Into The Heart Of God

While taking this photo, through the trees, I was trying to capture a feeling of depth and continuance. The opening in the trees forms a heart shape. It draws you into a continuity that stretches quite far. There is a ceaseless depth to God, which stretches into eternity.  Looking through these trees, is like looking into the heart of God.

Thankfulness came upon me as I pondered the awe of God and His unending love for us. This led me to consider the thoughts of being appreciative and giving thanks. What is being thankful? I think it is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for someone or something.  Being thankful should not be just a one-day event. Thankfulness really is a state of mind. Perhaps, looking deeper, we can even say it is our very being.   In the Bible, God tells us to be thankful.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18(NKJV)

It very explicitly says, “In everything give thanks!” This doesn’t mean, in some things, but EVERYTHING or better yet, IN ALL THINGS! Let us truly give thanks to God for all He has done and is doing for us; let it not last only for “Thanksgiving Day” but be continuous without ceasing.  Enjoy and God Bless you and your families as we reflect on our blessings this Thanksgiving Day.

© Denise Calandra

God Continually Renews And Refreshes

You Shall Be Like A Watered Garden

Be renewed and be refreshed; God is always there.  He is continually flowing in us, taking care of our being.  This photo is of a peaceful river with lovely green foliage thriving all around.  Along the riverside are purple flowering plants in bloom.  Looking at the setting in this picture brings about a relaxing sensation, a feeling that all is well and taken care of.  

“The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (NKJV)

The river is a ceaseless source of flowing water, which shows the perpetual love and out pouring from God to us.  Both are the seedbed for our refreshment and nourishment.  The richness of the river and its surroundings, reflect this.  Our lives, as well, are deeply enriched by His constant renewing and refreshing, which He desires for us.

“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”   Ephesians 4:23-24 (NKJV)

Our Heavenly Father is the living God, our everlasting refreshment and flowing spiritual guide. He is the director of our life.  Read, reflect, meditate on His word; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.  Let Him, ever be your nourishment. To God be the glory!                             

Physical Reflections and Spiritual Reflections

Reflections

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror, for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”  James 1: 22-24 (NKJV)

There are physical reflections and there are spiritual reflections, for us to see.  Let’s look at the physical aspect of reflections.  We use mirrors to capture the physical aspect. Mirrors are used to reflect an image. When we look in a mirror, we might not always like the image that is staring back at us. We physically can see this. There might be some things that we can do to change our picture.  Perhaps, we need to smile.  A good brushing of the teeth could help. You might consider grooming your hair nicer.  Let us not forget a little make-up to the rescue! All of these affect our outside appearance. Although this isn’t the most important factor about us, it can help us to be more confident.  It is our storefront!

Now we want to focus on the spiritual reflection, which is the more important part of us; the actual product of the storefront. The Bible speaks to us about the inner self, the person we truly are. This is harder to be seen.  It can encompass what we believe, our thoughts, our desires, our reactions, our nature itself, for good or bad.  Although I say it is harder to be seen, believe me, what is on the inside, is reflected outward for others to see. What are you showing?

God’s mirror reflects the spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects of our life.  We use a glass mirror to show us our outside appearance.  What can we use to show us the spiritual reflection?  We need to use God’s Word, The Bible, as our inner mirror.  Think about this, God’s word is a guide for us to live by.  Are we learning and living what God teaches us in His word?  As it says in James 1: 22-24, we cannot just read the word; we must also do or live what it says, as well.  

 What are some of the reflections we should be able to see?  Let us look at Galatians 5: 22-25(NKJV): 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

How is your spiritual mirror?  Are you reflecting what is in God’s word?  We need to read, study and learn God’s ways.  Let the fruit of His Spirit flow in and out of you.  His light will beam forth; and reflect from you to others.