Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples

By Jacqi Ballough

“Mom, can I cut up an apple?”

“Sure.”

“Do you want one too?”

“Yes, please.”

Due to the immense apple consumption of our household, my dear husband had just surprised me with a new Apple-Slicer and Corer.  It makes the job of cutting up apples quick, easy, and fun, and the final product is quite amazing: a delicately, spiral-sliced apple in tact without a core.

I watched as my son opened the refrigerator to return with the largest apples he could find. He washed each and within seconds had the first one sliced and on a plate.  Kindly, he brought it to the table where I sat grading his work. Then he returns a moment later with his snack.

“Mom, you know that Proverb that says ‘a man will be caught by his own trap?’”

“Yes,” I replied, bracing myself for the next statement.

Staring down at his plate, my son confessed, “Well, I had picked the biggest apple and thought I saved it for myself, but I just realized that I gave it to you. I was caught by my own trap.”

“What trapped you?” I asked.

“Greed.”

My mind bolted to Bible lessons on greed with Jacob and Esau, but then the Holy Spirit corrected me. I heard, “Meditate on my Word day and night, and confess your sins to one another.” (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; James 5:16) The message to me was clear. I did not need to add to the gentle correction and teaching of the Holy Spirit, which is a sin I often give birth to. I needed to praise my son for listening to His voice and receiving the lesson. He was meditating on God’s Word and confessed his sin when the Holy Spirit pointed it out.

“I am proud of you for listening to the Lord’s voice and learning. That is a great scripture to think about when we are tempted to sin. Thank you for telling me.”

My son said a quick prayer to the Lord asking for forgiveness of the greed and strength when faced with temptation. We then munched on our apples while he excitedly educated me on the horse facts in his book.

Lord, thank you for speaking to us. Continue to guide our family and my son in your ways. Help me to be as quick as he was to confess my sins to others and repent. Forgive me when I have tried to add to your correction and created shame in my son verses joy. You alone are the Mighty Councilor. Give me wisdom and bind Your truth to my heart and mind. Thank you for teaching both of us through the simplicities of life.

“If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself.” Proverbs 26:27

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

 

 

 

 

 

Allowing Him To Lead

Allowing Him to Lead

By Vicki Molinari

Ouch! The look on my father's face revealed the pain he was feeling. As we swayed back and forth to the music, it was evident I had much to learn about dancing.  The expected smoothness of our movement was interrupted over and over by my missteps resulting in stepping on his toes. 

My mistake, he said was that I was not allowing him to lead me. 

That was an unplanned lesson of love from my dad that would be carried over into my marriage.

You see, I was strong-willed and determined. From as early as I could remember, my independent spirit had resulted in selfish ambitions, with little love realized.

Imagine my surprise when I got married. My once self-ruling attitude and habits collided with a strong man with whom God had blessed me.  My idea of marriage and love was as a starry-eyed bride with a happily ever after mentality.  I knew I loved him, however I was ignorant of what the commitment behind that love really was, allowing him to lead me and knowing he was directed by God. 

Jesus set the perfect example. First, I must yield to His love.  John 4:14 says if we confess Christ, He perfects His love in us.  As He occupies every chamber of our hearts, our lives proclaim the truth that all mankind longs to hear. 

That pure love of our Creator isn't haughty, it is humble.  True love does not stand tall, it bends low.  Jesus demonstrated how true love is sacrificial at its core. The truest love of all stooped the lowest, so we might know the height of his amazing love.  1 Peter 3:18

Three plus decades later, I am very aware of my need for my husband's leadership and true love. He is a servant leader, continually seeking God for ways to serve as he leads me and our family.  Because of his leadership, I realized as a wife, true love stoops to gather the dirty clothes on the floor. As a mother, it bends down to speak kindness to a child.  True love kneels quietly in prayer, instead of spewing words of discord, choosing to be righteous instead of right, servant instead of master and meek instead of prideful.

I did not realize it as a young newlywed, but the heights of love can only be discovered in the depths of surrender.  It seemed unnatural to me and impossible on my own, but with Jesus there was victory.

Dear Lord, cause us to recognize You as our ultimate leader and the lover of our souls.  Show us how to follow our husbands with love, respect and admiration as we love them in the ways that please you.   In Jesus Name, Amen. 

 

It's About Time!

It’s About Time!

by Kellie Tipton

Walking into a busy crowded store I heard someone say, “Well, it’s about time!” and there were two things going on in my mind.  One was relief that it was not directed toward me!  I do try to be timely but have been known to struggle with it and still work on my concept of time to this day!  Ugh But the greater thought was how many times do I pretty much say that to God?

Yes, that may seem ridiculous but there are many times that I am pleading with God about something and just about the time I want to just give up, I see God working.  I am always thankful but many times I am thinking, “It’s about time!” 

The thing is, I know that God’s timing is always perfect yet I struggle in waiting for His perfect timing.  I also know that there are many factors to this timing as well. 

When I am honest with myself, many times I should have acted on something and I didn't or I acted thinking I would “help” God (cough) and had to deal with my “helping” before moving forward!  God’s timing is indeed perfect and He gives us free will to listen for His direction too.  Not always a good combination but I am working on that as well. 

Listening requires being still and not always physically but in our spirit.  Spending time in His Word and allowing Him to speak to us is just as vital.  That is so hard in our busy schedules or our busy minds! 

I am sure God is saying to me, “Well, it’s about time!”

Wait for the Lord;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!  ~ Psalm 27:14

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.  ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  ~ 2 Peter 3:9    

Desire or Have To!

Desire or Have To!

By Mavis Tipton

Here we are at the end of January…and how many of us vowed to make changes in our life for the new year?  Are we succeeding or have we already given up and put those vows on the back burner for another time? 

What sparked us to make the changes in the first place?

·      Because others were doing it and it is the first of a new year

·      Need to improve your health

·      Desire to mend broken relationships

·      Create a better work environment

·      Draw closer to God (last but certainly not least)

Desire is:  1. Wish or longing for, craving, 2. A request.

Have to or (Must): something that is expected or required. 

One comes from the heart the other from obligation.

Desire creates determination. It motivates us to press through and not give up.  Have to, in some situations can do the same thing, but for the most part runs out of energy and quits.

Our physical body and spiritual body have much in common.  They both require being taken care of.

Last year my husband had to have surgery on his carotid artery.  There was a blood clot about 1 ½ inches long clogging the artery.  This blockage created a strain on his heart due to lack of oxygen and blood supply.  Blockages can come from genetic reasons, or pour eating habits, lack of exercise etc. Some people desire to be healthy and fit others do it out of ‘have to’ if they want to live.

In our spiritual body the same thing can take place.  Blockages can come from many different things or directions and create a strain on our heart’s relationship with the Father. Which can cause us to not hear as we should, and to lose our desire to please the Father. 

In both the physical and spiritual it is up to us to desire to live in the healthiest way possible.  We can do this by determining to seek the Lord asking Him by His Holy Spirit to fill us with the desire to do our best with His help.

I encourage you today, to be mindful of what the Lord desires for you.  Seek His direction and encouragement. Run the race that has been put before you.  Ask Him to give you the desire, will-power and strength to run the race.

Phil. 3:12,14 “It’s not that I’ve already reached the goal or have already completed the course.  But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.  V.14 I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t be afraid of change, as change can be good.  Share with someone you trust who will encourage you and help keep you accountable in the changes you desire to accomplish. 

Remember every day is a new day, with a new start, so don’t beat yourself up on those days that don’t go as planned, just begin fresh and anew. 

You are not a failure, you are a Child of God. Your heavenly Father loves you dearly.  He cherishes you and only wants the best for you.  Zeph. 3:17

 

 

Frantic Love

Frantic Love

By Tammye Hamilton

The sudden, loud wailing was so startling it commanded our attention.  The young mother who stood a few feet from us at the theme park, sent up a panicked scream. “ALLLEXXX!!” she yelled with all her strength.  It only took a moment to realize that she had lost a child. Security arrived and calmly tried to get information from her.

She never stopped calling her child’s name loudly as she desperately fished his picture from her wallet.  The security guard relayed vital information on her radio. Alex was four years old. He had black hair and was wearing a blue shirt and denim shorts. He was last seen when the family exited a ride together.

Suddenly, they realized he was not with them.  Now nothing else mattered. What people thought of her as she ran this way and that, yelling his name, was of no concern to the distraught mother. Her precious child was missing.

My heart raced as the scene unfolded. I stepped up next to her and tried to reassure her.  She seemed unaware that I was even there as she doubled over in angst.

The panicked look on her face, her desperation, her extreme distress, all said the most important thing was to find her child.  It was such a raw, jarring example of how deeply we as parents love and value our children.

It reminded me of the story Jesus told of the man whose son wandered away from home. The father waited and watched for him to return. Jesus said, And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

The story Jesus told reflected His own Father’s heart for us.  His heart is desperate for us. His love for us so overwhelming He did all He could to rescue us.

Jesus constantly communicated the Father’s concern for us. He told his disciples, “...the very hairs on your head are all numbered.”

How can we grasp how much God loves us, how He watches over our lives with great care? When we are lost or wander from Him, how His heart must burst to reconcile with us. How deeply He feels the loss of our presence!  How much He longs to keep us close.

Jesus knew the Father’s love for us was the very reason He came to our world. He came through all eternity, outside time and space to find us, when we were lost.  He came for us.

About five minutes after the heartbreaking episode at the theme park began, it ended joyfully as Alex and his relieved father came around the corner and straight into the arms of the sobbing mother.  She couldn’t stop crying.  He was safe in her arms.

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!  I John 3:1

 

 

 

 

 

Speak Life

Speak Life

By Audrey Botts

Remember the old childhood line, “I’m rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you”.   These lines didn’t work then and they don’t work now.  Words are incredibly powerful! They can build you up and lead you in a positive direction or they can tear you down and lead you into darkness.

When I was in my twenties, I was in a relationship that caused me to question the stability of my mental health.   This person was a psychology major and labeled me with psychological disorders defined in the A.P.A. (American Psychological Association).   

Basically he was saying I was crazy.  The sad part was that I believed him.  I guess I needed an explanation for the anger and depression I was experiencing during that season of my life. 

It was easy for me to believe the negative words spoken over me.  These words were tearing me down.  Good thing I sought help from a licensed therapist to help me, because I discovered I was not crazy at all.  I just needed someone to help me get through the tough hurdles in life. 

The words that were spoken over me were not true.  I was not going crazy.   Why was I so gullible?   Well I guess I wasn’t very wise in choosing who I let speak into my life. I was young and immature and I really didn’t know how to choose my friends.  What a life lesson to learn.

Be careful who and what you allow to speak into your life.   Know the motive and condition of the heart.

 Matthew 15:18.   “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.”

Proverbs 18:21 “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  

We all have been victimized by harmful words and we are also guilty of hurting others too.  Especially when our hearts are filled with anger, selfishness, and other negative stuff.  Unfortunately, we can’t change this condition by ourselves.   Only Jesus can change the condition of the heart, and in turn, our tongue. 

The Lord wants us to use our words wisely and to speak life into the world.  If this is something you are struggling with, ask the Lord for forgiveness and have him change your heart and tongue.  

If you know someone who’s dialogue is not uplifting or negative, step away and pray that the Lord would change their heart. Jesus made it a point to tell us these things in the Bible: 

Matt 12:36. “for every careless word there will be an accounting in the day of judgment.”

Lord, help us to stand before you with a clean heart and an undefiled tongue.  We can’t do this without you.  We give you all the Glory!  Amen

 

 

 

 

Assuming the 'godly thing'

 

It is with great pleasure to introduce Pat Evans to you.  Pat has joined our team of writers, and I know you will be blessed as she shares from her life experiences and how God has guided her on the journey He has chosen for her.

Pat is the wife of Morris Evans and mother of 2 girls, Keely and Carly. She’s been a lover of God as far back as she can remember and has attended Central Assembly of God for 33 years. Pat loves serving the Lord through the ministries of exhortation, teaching, prayer, and the prophetic. She’s been blessed with the opportunity of using these giftings as a Cell Pastor and by being a part of the leadership team for the Women’s Encounters.  Writing is a new challenge for her and she welcomes a new opportunity to serve God in this capacity.

Assuming the ‘godly thing’

By Pat Evans

Sometimes I make decisions based on thinking it's the "godly" thing to do. I mean, it seems like the "Right" thing not to quit when you're being stretched.  

Shouldn't we endure hardships knowing God uses them to draw us closer to Him, strengthen our character, and teach us valuable lessons?

This is the way I thought about my job. I was close to retirement and had only a year and three months to go before I could get maximum benefits. My situation had gotten increasingly stressful and unpleasant at work. Still, in my mind, I convinced myself that I could do this for another year and three months because God would give me the grace. 

One day an incident happened that really added to my stress level and anxiety. Normally, I don't see myself as a fearful, anxious person, but this incident pushed me over that line.

Still thinking I was doing the "right" thing by toughing it out, I purposed in my heart to endure and rely on God for grace and strength to see me through

After all, isn't it usually God's way not to quit when the going gets tough?  Suffering and trials draw us closer and make us more like Him. And wouldn't He want me to receive maximum retirement benefits? That's just good stewardship, right?

A few days later I woke up out of a sound sleep in a panic attack. It took me a minute to even realize what was going on because I had never experienced one before.  As I lay there praying trying to regain my peace, I spoke these words: "Lord, I can't do this anymore". It seemed like it was only minutes before I fell back to sleep.

In my quest to be in the center will of God, He was trying to show me my error.  He spoke to me through my physical body because in my mind I was convinced I was doing the "right" thing. I had put God in a box, thinking I "knew" what He wanted me to do when, in fact, He was trying to change my mind to His Mind.  

Who would think that quitting when things got hard was God's way? I didn't. Though I do believe that sometimes it is God's will to endure for a season, the time had come for me to be rescued and enter His rest.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized that God visited me in that night season. I felt totally free and at peace knowing He had spoken to me.

The next workday, I put in my notice. I am so grateful that my lovingly, patient Heavenly Father broke through my incorrect thinking and taught me not to "assume" anything about His thoughts, ways, and will.  

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways My ways', declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8,9

 

The Wallet Prayer

This month we are introducing two new writers. We welcome Denise Schmeer.  You will be greatly blessed as Dense shares from her heart.

Denise Preziosi Robinson Schmeer

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Denise visited Florida for the first time when she was four (4) years old and spent the next 40 years trying to return.  The only child of Fred & Del Preziosi, she was raised in a Roman Catholic Church where a foundation of faith was laid for her life.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York – Albany and worked for Fortune 100 companies in the northeast.  In 1997, she finally made her way to Vero Beach, Florida as a single, divorced mom with her two (2) young children in tow.  Shortly after arriving, she was hired to work at Indian River State College in the Institutional Advancement Department where many wonderful Christians spoke into her life.  In 1999, she became a born-again Christian at Glendale Baptist Church and so began her journey to walk with Jesus.  In 2009, due to an unforeseen turn of events, Denise met and eventually married William Charles “Chuck” Schmeer and became a member of Central Assembly Church.  Together they have grown in faith and commitment to God’s command to spread His word and shine His light.

The Wallet Prayer

By Denise Schmeer

“Go to God in prayer for all things.”  Well, how many times have I heard that or been told that!  And I usually did – for all the BIG things.  But apparently, God really wanted me to learn He truly meant in ALL things – seek Him first in prayer.

So finally – I got it!  How?  Well, God definitely works in mysterious ways!  For me, it started with a phone call from my son, who was in college 1400 miles away from Vero Beach.  It was about 10:30 one evening and the call started with, “Mom, I can’t find my wallet!” 

“OK,” I say, “Did you retrace your steps?”  He replies yes, and goes on to explain how he went to visit some friends and wore these new sweat pants that had shallow pockets, etc.  So I stayed on the phone with him while he retraced his steps, AGAIN . . . and while he searched his desk too.  (You know, maybe he thought he took his wallet, but really left it at home.)  So now, it’s almost 11:00 p.m. and he says he needs to go to Kroger to pick up some groceries.  He assures me he can use the emergency money in his strong box.  “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, mom.  I love you.  Thanks for trying to help me find my wallet.” 

I hang up the phone and for the first time in my life (no exaggeration), I say to God, “God, you know exactly where my son’s wallet is and I believe you can show it to him.  Please, Lord, I’m so far away but you are right there with him.  Thank you, God, thank you.” 

And that was my prayer – immediate and for a small thing – my son’s wallet. 

About 20 minutes later the phone rings and it’s my son.  “You’re not going to believe this Mom, but I found my wallet!” “Where?” I ask.  “Well, says my son, “I drove my car to Kroger and when I came out, I noticed a “light” shining right on my gas cap door.  And the door looked funny, like it wasn’t closed right.  So, I go over to fix it, and when I open it – there was my wallet!  Can you believe that?  I mean, how did it get there?”  He continued to chatter about this seemingly unbelievable turn of events, but I had stopped listening.  I just looked up to heaven and thanked God while both laughing and crying.  “I got it, God,” I said.  In ALL things, in ALL things – go to YOU in prayer. 

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  Mark 11:24 (NIV)

For God, no prayer is too BIG, but no prayer is too SMALL. 

 

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

By Kellie Tipton

Growing up as the youngest in my family I have found that many of my memories are in fact memories shared by family.  Because of this phenomenon I always doubt if I actually have experienced this memory or if it is one told by my family. 

There is however a specific memory or I should say memories of each year as we approach the Christmas season you would always find us in the kitchen making cream cheese cookies with my mom. 

This has been one of many creations that has been a tradition and many times were gifts to friends and family.  To this day this cookie brings back such happy memories and as my brothers and I started our families, our children have become a part of this tradition.

I will however never forget the time that we were in the kitchen making cookies and my mom was sharing about her childhood and those memories she held dear.

I was older and starting to raise a family of my own.  As I listened to her, it dawned on me that my mom had not passed down a family tradition. 

This tradition started with her.  I started thinking about all the different things we did as a family from birthday to holiday celebrations and I was overwhelmed with an awareness of what my mom and dad had given my brothers and I.  I was very aware of the spiritual significance in this as well.

I knew my parents had determined early on that they were going to provide a stable and loving home for us.  As they went along figuring out what that would look like, they both came to know the Lord. 

While this was a revelation to me, it has been such a beautiful reminder of God’s love and how He makes all things new. 

You may have grown up in a family with generations of family traditions or maybe you can relate with me. We all have the opportunity to begin a new life in Christ and we all have the opportunity to start new things in our life.  This could be a new habit, or a new tradition but it all starts and ends with us. 

As I watch my children and my nieces making Christmas cookies I realize we are passing on to the next generation much more than a tradition. 

This Christmas cookie has become a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. 

So as you celebrate this Christmas season I pray you are reminded of all the gifts that God has given you even before you ever open a present. 

 

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

By Kellie Tipton

Growing up as the youngest in my family I have found that many of my memories are in fact memories shared by family.  Because of this phenomenon I always doubt if I actually have experienced this memory or if it is one told by my family. 

There is however a specific memory or I should say memories of each year as we approach the Christmas season you would always find us in the kitchen making cream cheese cookies with my mom. 

This has been one of many creations that has been a tradition and many times were gifts to friends and family.  To this day this cookie brings back such happy memories and as my brothers and I started our families, our children have become a part of this tradition.

I will however never forget the time that we were in the kitchen making cookies and my mom was sharing about her childhood and those memories she held dear.

I was older and starting to raise a family of my own.  As I listened to her, it dawned on me that my mom had not passed down a family tradition. 

This tradition started with her.  I started thinking about all the different things we did as a family from birthday to holiday celebrations and I was overwhelmed with an awareness of what my mom and dad had given my brothers and I.  I was very aware of the spiritual significance in this as well.

I knew my parents had determined early on that they were going to provide a stable and loving home for us.  As they went along figuring out what that would look like, they both came to know the Lord. 

While this was a revelation to me, it has been such a beautiful reminder of God’s love and how He makes all things new. 

You may have grown up in a family with generations of family traditions or maybe you can relate with me. We all have the opportunity to begin a new life in Christ and we all have the opportunity to start new things in our life.  This could be a new habit, or a new tradition but it all starts and ends with us. 

As I watch my children and my nieces making Christmas cookies I realize we are passing on to the next generation much more than a tradition. 

This Christmas cookie has become a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. 

So as you celebrate this Christmas season I pray you are reminded of all the gifts that God has given you even before you ever open a present. 

 

Christmas Bonus

Christmas Bonus

By Mavis Tipton

It was December 24th, 1969.  I was sitting in a rocking chair with my precious new baby boy lying in my lap.  He was only 7 days old. 

He was a promise from God’s Word “But seek the kingdom of God and all His righteousness and these things shall be added to you.” Matt 6:33

This promise was given to Buddy March 16, 1969, following the service where Buddy and I surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ.

As I sat looking and loving on my baby, I thought of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and what she went through to bring her precious baby into the world.  My heart was full and over flowing with the love and peace of God.

I was so happy to be celebrating Christmas as a Child of God.  I was blessed to be spending it with my family, and holding the desire of my heart a baby boy.

We didn’t have much money to spend on Christmas, that year, so we drew names.  My father-in-law handed me a gift that appeared to be a shoebox or slippers.  I handed my baby to his grandfather so I could open the gift he had for me.

As I unwrapped it and pulled the paper back, I was surprised to find the box was empty, or so I thought. No shoes or slippers.   As I looked deeper into the box there laid a $50.00 bill.

As I looked up through tear-filled eyes, my mother and father-in-law were smiling.  Their gift to Buddy & I was a true gift of love and sacrifice.  You see, the $50.00 had been Hubert’s (my father-in-law) Christmas bonus.

Christmas is all about love the greatest gift God wants to give the world.  Gifts are to be received, opened, taken out of their wrappings, put on and worn with love.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ will you receive God’s gift to you?

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

Merry Christmas. 

 Peace on earth and goodwill to all. 

Glory to God in the Highest.

For Unto Us A Child is born. 

I am so thankful for these very special Christmas memories.  I am thankful for the Christmas memories we make each year, as Buddy and I gather together with our son and his family.  None of this would be possible, if we had refused God’s gift to us many years ago.  I love you Jesus, thank you for your gift of love.

Wishing our son Paul a very happy birthday today December 17th.  You and your family bless us so very much.  We are so proud of you and the man of God you have become.  God has blessed you with a beautiful godly wife and three amazing children who each love and serve the Lord.  Thank you Jesus for the legacy you have given us. Truly a Christmas Blessing!

Creating Consistency

Creating Consistency

By Jacqi Ballough

During my childhood, Dad left for work and came home at approximately the same time everyday while Mom completed all the tasks of home-making.  My sister and I would be off to school and then complete homework after an afternoon snack and TV show.   Dinner was at 6 pm. Church was on Sunday’s, and dance practice, or biking around the neighborhood with my girlfriend, was the norm. We never moved, and my parents were dedicated to their marriage.

For the holidays, mom always cooked a turkey, stuffing balls, and casseroles, not to mention at least two pies. Dad built a fire in the fireplace and played Rummy with my sister and I while we watched Christmas movies or listened to Johnny Mathis’ Christmas collection. Every year after the Christmas Eve candlelight service, family friends came to our Christmas party and would stay until almost midnight when Dad would read The Night Before Christmas.

Then, I grew up, fell in love, and happily accepted marriage. It took a while to undergo the shock that this new life was not as consistent as my childhood experience, especially when marriage to my visionary man resulted in raising a child who is a visionary as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage, and I love being a mom. These are two of the Lord’s greatest blessings. I love the ideas my men come up with, but unlike me, they love change, bouncing around from one thing to the next. Me: not so much.  I am slow, steady, and happy with planning and order. I like knowing what comes next and staying in my box, so when plans change, I am like a deer in headlights.

Change is God’s refining fire in my life.

I will never forget the day I was in bitter tears crying out, “Change again! Why can’t everything just be consistent!” Then came God’s voice, “I AM.”

What!

“I AM. I am consistent. Trust me.” .

He was right. I had lost trust in Him and was seeking “family plans” as my source of peace and consistency when His love and truth was all the consistency I needed.

I think of Jesus’s mother, Mary, and her plans to wed Joseph and settle down into being the dedicated wife of a Jewish carpenter. Then here comes an angel announcing she will be impregnated with God’s son. That’s a change she probably didn’t plan, not to mention birthing Him in a stable, and then fleeing the country to save the life of her child for a few years. Her response to it all is so gentle and obedient. The Proverbs 31 woman exudes from her character. Her consistency relied wholly on God, not the circumstance. She trusted change.

Lord, help me respond in faith like Mary. Thank you for being constant. Thank you for the gift of change. Place my feet where you want them to go.

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

Finding Peace and Joy at Christmass

Feeling Peace and Joy at Christmas

By Vicki Molinari

It's December.  The hustle and bustle of Christmas has begun.  So has the pressure. It’s a subtle pressure, isn’t it?  We value our time with family and friends at Christmas but the struggle to enjoy it is real.  Decorating, cooking, shopping, and wrapping are the duties for most families and that often pulls us away from the REAL meaning of Christmas.  

How can we push past the chores on our list and embrace the season with peace and joy?  For me, I am being intentional to make a plan.  

Set time aside for me:  Today, I am home.  I delight in the ability to have a day at home to myself.  My life and work can become all consuming, but when I sit here and look around at our decorations, I am at peace.  I can focus on the joy Christmas brings, the plan of Heaven into my world and the true meaning.  There's nothing better.  We are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

Remember who's I am:  My blessings and acceptance don't come from providing my family a perfect Christmas.  I won't bow to the familiar Christmas chorus that drowns out the words of favorite carols and mixes my Christianity with its manufactured blessing.  I am a daughter of the King.  God loves me.  My soul knows that very well. Result? Peace.

Recall the memories:  This will be my 32nd Christmas since getting married.  Our first began with a meager tree my husband cut down from the empty lot next door to our home.  Small, sparse and scraggly was the tree but it was perfect, decorated with just a few ornaments.  Yearly, more ornaments were added to our Christmas tree.  This year, as we decorated together, hung each ornament and set each item on display, I realized these decorations carry a memory of origin. Each one, given or purchased at a special time or from a special person.  I love that!  Memories!

It is not about the gifts and grandeur:  Over the years, I remember Christmas Eve panic and gift-wrapping.  I remember Christmas day celebrations.  Later I landed exhausted into bed, and couldn’t clearly recall the happenings of the day because my mind had been so full of making it special for the family –Sound familiar?

It is about God:  As quoted by Valerie Murphy "I believe God loves that I stop, seek Him and realize that there is literally nothing that I can do to make Christmas better – more real – more exciting – than it already is….He listens to my cry to try to ‘make’ Christmas perfect when there is only One who is. What is more exciting than the celebration of a baby born to set our world free? What is more satisfying than looking around us and understanding that every one of us is a pure miracle…and our Creator senses pure joy when we turn to Him?" 

Scripture says, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son;  And they shall call His name Immanuel”  (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

This year, let's follow a new plan:  Let's be at peace as we prepare for the day of celebration around our tree.  The day we celebrate our Savior's birth.

"It is not about the gifts or the tree, Mom but it is the memories made around the tree that matter," Jillian wisely stated.

 

 

 

 

 

Did You Pass the Test?

Did You Pass The Test?

By Mavis Tipton

I recently read an article that caught my attention, called “Are You Ready For Sandpaper People?”  I would say most of us would respond with “No”, rubbing shoulders with people who can push our buttons and rub us the wrong way isn’t something we go looking for, nor do we enjoy it when it happens.  But it will happen, often when you least expect it, and sometimes when we do expect it.

So how do we handle those situations?  Luke 6:27-30 says; “…Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  If someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.  If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it.  If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.  If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” (Msg.)

Well there you have it straight from God Himself.  It is a test…an open book test, the hardest kind.  And how many times do you have to take this test…until you pass it with a nice big “A+.”

As I researched ‘sandpaper,’ I discovered it use to be made from sand, and in 1833 they even used glass particles.   Today they use neither of those two components.  The most common material is aluminum oxide.

There are many different shapes, sizes and grits for sandpaper today.  They are used according to what needs to be accomplished.

When sandpaper and glass-paper were used, sandpaper would prepare the surface to be polished and glass-paper would cut and rough up the surface to absorb glue or paint, etc.

As the Lord allows ‘sandpaper people’ to challenge you which type of paper is He using on you, Sandpaper or Glass-paper?

With the holidays fast approaching and our community filling with visitors and winter residents it is a great opportunity to get that “A+ and passing the test,” by praying for the driver who whips into a parking place ahead of you or the driver who cuts you off in traffic, rather than blowing your horn at them or other jesters or words, smile, wave and send up a prayer. For the person that always seems to set you on edge, because you never know what they are going to say or do, greet them with a kind word and smile, rather than going down a different aisle in the grocery store.  Or maybe you just got up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing seems to be going right for you, take a moment and pray and ask the Lord to help you live out His Word;

Rom. 12:18 “As much as it is possible, live in peace with everyone.”

We have all experienced different encounters with ‘sandpaper people,’ may we take every opportunity God puts in our path to be His light and love.

May the Fruit of the Spirit be the armor we wear as we encounter ‘sandpaper people.” And just maybe they will become less rough around the edges.  Gal 5:22-24.  And remember there are no statue-of-limitations on how many times you may have to take the test.

 

 

Eyes on Eternity

Eyes on Eternity

By Tammye Hamilton

“Are you going to go cry in your bed now, Gramma?”

My three-year-old sweetie asked me this question as I kissed her and baby brother goodbye. Her family was leaving us to start their journey home. They live on the other side of the world. It might be several years before we see them again.

Of course I cried, baby girl. I cry every time we get to Facetime and I hear your little voice and see how you are growing. I cry when I talk with your little cousins, who also live overseas.  I miss you all so much!

The sadness is real. While I’d give most anything to have them close by, that is not an option. Because, you see, they are where they are supposed to be. As much as my heart hurts when I tell them goodbye, I also feel an overwhelming peace, because, as followers of Jesus, we are not living for this life. We are living for eternity.

Recently, Anna and I read the book of Ruth together. The last chapter of Ruth’s story tells us that Boaz and Ruth’s son, Obed, was the grandfather of Jesse, David’s father.

Ruth didn’t know, of course, that she would be the great-grandmother of a king and the ancestor of Jesus when she bravely left her own family to journey to a foreign country to take care of her mother-in-law. She just obeyed, did the hard stuff and fulfilled her destiny.

C. S. Lewis wrote that to live with an eternal perspective means, “living as commandos operating behind the enemy lines, preparing the way for the coming of the Commander-in-Chief.”

We are called to make a difference. Most of the time that requires sacrifice.

If we keep our eyes on this life, we can become overwhelmed or even depressed. We can easily lose sight of our purpose in our day-to-day struggles.

In his book, Driven by Eternity, John Bevere writes about those who live with eternity in mind. He writes, "…they live with purpose and know their eternal destiny is being written by how they live on the earth. This will provide them a grand entrance into the Kingdom of God..."

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4: 17-18

So yes, I cry, and then I thank the Lord for the reminder from His Word that we are not living for this life. When we get to Heaven, you and I will meet those whose lives were impacted by how we lived. I will get to meet those who are there because of my children and grandchildren.  We will be rewarded for all eternity according to how we chose to live our short lives on this earth.

Today I saw a picture of my smiling little sweetie surrounded by children who look very different than her. She already knows the joy of living for eternity.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" Colossians 3:1-4

 

 

 

Sharing or Comparing

Sharing or Comparing

By Jacqi Ballough

“Mom, could you please not pack so much food in my lunch box next time?”

Having just picked up my son from playing sports all afternoon with friends, this comment sent up a major red flag. He is the typical boy who could eat you out of house and home and never rejects food.

As I glanced over, I saw his face. A face I have seen and experienced numerous times myself.

Shame.

He had forgotten his identity in Christ.

A friend had made a comment about my son’s abundance and compared it to his lack. In short, it hurt. My son felt shame for having too much and had lost all gratitude to God for supplying it. He wanted to be accepted and similar to his friend, not “different.” In these moments, my flesh considers returning criticism for the comparison, but thankfully the Lord has shown me to come into His presence with thanksgiving and blessing. What is the silver lining?

Sharing.

“Did you share with him?’

“Yes.”

“That’s great! We can thank God for giving us so much we are able to share.”

A discussion followed reminding my son there are always going to be people who have more and those who have less.  Comparisons take our eyes off the Lord and steel our joy and relationships. Sharing on the other hand brings us closer to God and others. The Bible is full of examples.

Think of the little boy who had two fish and five loaves of bread. Imagine if he didn’t share his abundance that day. The Lord used what he had to feed more than 5,000 people! (John 6:1-14)

King Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity was shared with all of Judah and Israel. “They were very contented with plenty to eat and drink. …The district governors faithfully provided daily food for Solomon’s court which required 150 bushels of choice flour, 300 bushels of cornmeal, 10 oxen, 20 cattle, 100 sheep, as well as other game.” (1 Kings 4: 20-34)  

The parable of the talents sums it up well too! We can burry our talent (or abundance) and hide it from everyone in fear (or shame) or put it to use, being good stewards of what we have been given. (Matthew 25:14-34

God will give us our talents, time, and resources to use according to His plan. If we reject those things, ultimately we are rejecting God. We thank Him for what he has supplied whether it is in plenty or want, pray blessings on those around us, and seek his guidance in how to use what we have. Trust God. Thank Him for what he has given others as well. We don’t need to be ashamed of His gifts but share them.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

 

Think About It

THINK ABOUT IT

By Kellie Tipton

I was asked one Sunday by a mom at church as to how I handled sibling issues such as fighting and bickering with my children.  She didn't want to handle it the way she always had, she wanted something more.  Sibling rivalry is a normal occurrence in families but she didn’t want to give into normal.  It brought me back to one morning when my children were young and I was noticing how they were being very ugly to each other. 

Sometimes it was just a little jab but then I could see it building as feelings were hurt and sides were taken.  I was taking care of some things around the house and I began to pray about it.  What would be the most effective way to handle it not just for the moment, but for the future?

I started going down the list of what my children were reading, watching and who had they been around recently.  Sometimes it can be they have not been home and there just always seems to be a time of readjusting when they come home whether it be a friends house or grandma and grandpa’s house. I always called it a “debriefing” ha!  Sometimes it is the influences and sometimes irritation is just contagious!

I started being intentional about specific books we would read together or movies that encouraged a good sibling relationship.  Many times it was older films or true stories of missionaries and martyrs.  I would see an almost immediate difference in those times where the family relationship was being influenced through those stories.  Whether fiction or non-fiction it was intended to bring out what is true and most important in the big picture of life.  It brought out a clarity in my children's minds and mine. 

Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”

Paul is talking to the Philippian Christians and encouraging them to guard their hearts, their minds, their relationships and keep what is truth before them.  What we allow our minds to think on matters and that goes for our children as well! 

What do you find yourself thinking on?  It might be time to go down that list.

Wait For It

WAIT FOR IT

By Audrey Botts

My husband and I just moved into our new home this past September.  We waited 8 months for it to be built.  I wanted a home ready to move in, but my husband wanted to wait and build a home to his specifications.  I was not happy about waiting, but I knew deep down it was the right decision.   When the Lord wants to bless us, we have to wait for him to manifest it.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”  Habakkuk 2:3

Building a home from the ground up can be a long and grueling process.   On the positive side, we did get to help create our home.   We choose a floorplan that was suitable for our family and personalized it with our own design style. 

I love to watch the reality shows that take fixer-uppers and make them into fabulous modern homes all in half an hour.   Wouldn’t that be nice if that were true?

There was so much planning involved before construction even began. It took weeks!  But once they broke ground, the building began.  It was exciting!   The pad was laid down for the foundation, the concrete block for the structure and the trusses were put on for the roof.   It seemed like our home would be done in no time at all…so I thought. 

Time passed and the construction seemed to slow down to a crawl.  It seemed like the smaller tasks were taking longer to do than the larger ones. This was a trying time for me.  

To test me even further, we spent the last 4 months, living in our recreational vehicle until the house was done.  I felt like a sardine trapped in a tin can.   I needed prayer!  I must confess that I didn’t wait patiently like I should have, but the Lord was merciful and helped me through it.

When the Lord blesses us with a vision or gift, it takes time and patience before it appears.  The Lord’s timetable does not revolve around our time frame.  He sees the big picture and the blessings that will come if we wait patiently for them to appear. 

If we speed up the course, we might unravel the process and knock us out of our destinies or blessings.  When we experience a period of pressure or testing we need to stay close to the Lord in prayer until our blessing are released.  This can be difficult but remember the Lord created you and He knows your weaknesses…pray it through.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

We are finally in our new home and we are rejoicing!  If you feel that the Lord is not moving fast enough for you, remember He sees the big picture and He will release your blessing at the right time.

 

Is Your Pocket Being Picked?

IS YOUR POCKET BEING PICKED?

By Vicki Molinari

Have you ever felt frustrated, confused and overwhelmed to the point that you lost your joy?  Perhaps due to a loss or a severe life change, there was discontentment and discouragement that lingered. Daily, you woke up wondering why the once exciting, full and blessed life was no longer there.

I have. 

While having coffee with a friend, I shared with her my recent struggle.  "How are you?" she asked.  I decided to be real and said “I am feeling discouraged with no ray of hope as if I was walking under a huge dark cloud.”  If you have ever been there, perhaps this blog is for you.

Following an encouraging chat, I walked away from our casual meeting feeling a bit less of a failure.  She encouraged me to pray, stay in the Word and worship God, even in the midst of this storm. 

I was ready to make some changes.  "GOD, HELP", was my prayer.

I was determined to keep walking and trusting the God who created me.  Despite my feelings, I knew my life had purpose, beyond a ho-hum meager existence.

Later that week, I opened my journal and began to look back on notes I had made.  "Is your pocket being picked?"  The words hit me hard and the revelation began. I knew what was happening in my heart and in my spirit.  

Though this has never happened to me, I began to think about the physical act of one's pocket being picked.  I found this article by Harry Mount which describes the technique by “the honest” pickpocket, James Freedman in Dailymail.com:

For years he’s been giving pickpocket demonstrations to teach people how not to become victims of street crime. I asked him to show me how those crooks go about their surreptitious trade.  First, they ‘fan the mark’. The ‘mark’ is the victim. ‘Fanning’ is using your hand to feel for valuables. ‘It’s a light, fluttering motion and, if executed correctly, the victim isn’t aware of it.  Next — and this is vitally important — distract your victim: pat them on the shoulder with one hand as you ask the time and use your other hand to lift their wallet. Most importantly, the act is unknown to the victim:  Harry Mount said, "Fixing my gaze, Freedman puts his hand lightly on top of my watch, unbuckles it and whisks it away. I don’t feel anything in the entire operation and don’t look down because our eyes are firmly locked. More oddly, I don’t notice the watch’s absence once removed." Finally, "People have a muscle memory,’ says Freedman. ‘They don’t notice if something’s gone, however heavy it is, whether it’s a handkerchief — or your notebook.’  With that, he hands me back my hefty notebook, which I thought had been securely tucked inside my breast pocket. Somehow, he’d removed it.”

This interesting information caused me to consider that just like Freedman's victims’, I am Satan’s victim. Busy, distracted and unaware I allow him to pick my spiritual pocket.  He is cunning, sneaky and catches me off guard, causing me to be robbed of things far more important than a wallet or cell phone.  This has to stop!

John 10:10-11say “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But Jesus came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 1:12 says "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."  

The truth:  I am a child of God. I was made for so much more than what I was living, but it was up to me to protect myself against the schemes of the devil.

How about you?  Are you walking through a storm? Has the devil picked your pocket, stealing your vision, joy and purpose? 

Let's put him on notice, believing that God has so much more for us.  If we will believe in Him, trust His word and follow His commandments as His children, He will renew us, giving us vision and strength for a far greater purpose than we can imagine. 

 

 

 

Sowing Tears

Sowing Tears

By Jacqi Ballough  

Three days before Hurricane Irma was supposed to hit us, we received an email from our brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the world: India.  

They had heard of the magnitude of the storm, which was deemed catastrophic by the media and headed our way, and they immediately took action. Wanting us to be assured of their prayers, they planned to fast and pray the day before the storm and encouraged us with scriptures of courage, strength, and protection: (Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 31:24, Deuteronomy 31:6).

Having been consumed by our hurricane preparations, I was not only encouraged by the email but also humbled.

The Lord had placed these amazing people in our life approximately 13 years ago. A man named George, whose daughter had received our operation Christmas Child box, contacted us via email as a thanks and praise to God for the box of gifts.  We cultivated a relationship between our families through prayer and email correspondence until one day I learned of their ministry with orphans, specifically where young girls were being sold and discarded. I was overcome with tears and a burden to help. I prayed for God to send me if he so chose. Miraculously, a small group of us were on our way to India to meet our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and see if there was anything we could do to help.

Now, 5 years later, here they are praying, fasting, and petitioning God fervently for us to the point of tears. Talk about divine intervention! I am in awe of the body of Christ, His Holy Spirit, and His church working, bearing one another’s burdens.

Once the storm had passed, we sent a praise email to George stating the Lord faithfully protected us and thanked them all for upholding us in prayer. They responded:

“We praise God, who hears our prayers and answers. While fasting and praying for you on Friday, …many were touched and felt the intensity of the Hurricane and rolled tears from their eyes. Not only we, but your tears, and many more knowingly or unknowingly have prayed for you, all the praise be only to our Dear God, Almighty and Powerful, who has control over the storms, who has all authority over His children, has saved you from the devastation of Hurricane Irma…

We all express our Thanks to our Dear Lord, where in the scripture He states, “those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting (Psalms 126:5).”

Father help me bear the burdens of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far, the way our friends in India have demonstrated. Thank you for utilizing them to be an example for us. Thank you for miraculously bringing them into our life. I pray their faith grows ever stronger and shines as a witness to all nations. I pray that we grow in our fellowship, prayer, and petition and that your Holy Spirit continues to faithfully bind us together throughout all of life’s storms no matter the physical distance between us.