Do You Trust Me?

Do You Trust Me? 

By Vicki Molinari

I was so excited! The weather report said snow and this Florida girl had only seen snow a handful of times.  With great anticipation I waited, however day after day nothing happened.  

My anticipation dwindled and therefore my expectation of it ever happening became squelched. My hopes were dashed and I was just about to give up when on day five the flakes began to fall from the sky! 

It was here. Not just a dusting either! The snow fell for hours and the beautiful white snowflakes blanketed the earth fifteen inches thick!

What a blessing and an answer to my prayers! 

I spoke to the Lord quietly, thanking Him for what had happened.  The word I received back in my spirit was ‘trust’. I sensed Him asking me, “Do you trust me?” 

I began to think do I trust God? I say I do but my actions do not show it so often in my life.  When He does not answer my prayers as I see fit, I doubt and often share my disappointment verbally, causing those around me to be uncertain, too. 

Where was my faith? I was convicted quickly and my words of repentance flowed to the God who created me!

Can you relate? Have there been times of doubt in your life when you saw no results to your fervent prayers?

Perhaps you have worked so hard and dreamed so long for something only to be disappointed when it did not happen as you had hoped?  

Doubt comes in like a flood and your first instinct is to give up.

Don’t do it! Fight the urge to quit! God is faithful!

The Bible says in Psalm 33:20-22, “We put out hope in the Lord, He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord for our hope is in you alone”.

So in our day to day lives we should have hope that He will answer our prayers, big or small, expressing gratitude even when we don’t see a glimmer of prayers answered. 

He loves us so much more deeply than we can conceive.

May we trust in Him and in His unfailing love for us.

 

 

 

 

Daddy Time

Daddy Time

By Jacqi Ballough

While walking my dog early one evening, I heard an exuberant yell, “DADDY’s HOME!” I turned to see our little three-year-old neighbor bolt out the front door, arms wide open, and grinning from ear to ear. 

As Daddy emerged from his truck, the little boy ran at lightening speed only stopping when Daddy grabbed him up in an embrace. 

It made me smile and remember when our son was that little. But even though ours is now eleven, size is really the main change. His elated expression and desire to be with Daddy has only increased, and he will still yell “Daddy’s home!” excitedly, even going to the extent to await his father’s arrival in the garage, not wanting to miss the first glimpse of his appearance. 

There is an unexplainable joy that comes home with Daddy. After having missed his presence all day, not an ounce wants to be missed once he arrives.

Even the smallest children know Daddy-time is precious.

To little girls, he is their knight in shining armor and to little boys, a hero. The time spent with Dad fills their hearts with love and satisfaction. 

There is also something about having alonetimewith Daddy. Children tend to want Daddy to just be with them and have his undivided attention. Whether it is playing with them, watching them, teaching them, experimenting with them, or simply sitting with them, whatever it is doesn’t matter, the undivided attention from Daddy is the delight.  

As God’s child, I feel this way too. I have the same desire to yell his name, jump into his arms, and to sit with Him, not missing a moment of His presence. 

I want to be alone with him, listen to Him, embrace Him, and have Him pick me up sharing my laughter and tears. 

When I become irritable and dissatisfied with life, I know I have not been in His presence, and I yearn to see Him. I need to get away with God. It is for my spiritual and physical well-being. 

Jesus did this in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1) and on a mountain (Matthew 14:23). He gave me the model but some days I wonder “how Lord?” I notice Matthew 14:23 states “he dismissed” the multitudes. Well, I can’t dismiss my family and obligations, but I can prioritize my time and assert boundaries. 

Susanne Wesley (who was the mother of John Wesley and a total of 19 children) prayed daily. She told her children that if they saw her sitting with her apron over her head, she was in prayer and not to be disturbed. 

What a wonderful example to her children and to me! I’m sure God, like all fathers, appreciated her time and dedication to their relationship. 

I can imagine an apron over my head imprinted with “Do not disturb. Daddy timein progress.” 

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
   I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
   meditating on you through the night. Psalm 63:5-6

 

Is Time the Enemy?

Is Time the Enemy? 

By Tammye Hamilton

"Where does the time go?"

How often do we say this to ourselves? Sometimes in the middle of a busy day when we are getting nothing checked off our list. Other times, in those moments when we look at our littles, who all of a sudden, in a blink, are not little anymore!

One day you're cleaning peanut butter off the ceiling and the next you are attending graduations and hosting weddings. It feels just that fast.

When Billy Graham was asked what was the greatest surprise of his life, he responded without hesitation, "The brevity of it."

Last week, or actually twenty years ago now, I had two young teenagers and five littles who filled my crazy, chaotic days. This week, just their baby sister is home, somehow a teenager. And last week's children? They are suddenly becoming moms and dads. How did THAT happen? 

When our sixth child graduated from high school, I had one of those moments. "Where did my life go?" I exclaimed to my family. One of my older children replied, "You gave it to us, Mom!" 

I admire the moms around me who are giving their all to love and nurture their babes. I see the stress, the sleep deprivation, the desperation to "get it right". I see the pictures they share of their children growing too fast and echo their exclamations, "Where did the time go?" I am one of them and yet, so are my children, as they watch their own babies grow. Time flies for us all. 

Be encouraged today. Love isn't something you check off your list. It's all of the selfless things you do that take your time and fill needy hearts with your love. It's that mountain of laundry you gather the courage to tackle. It's the thankless jobs you do that no one sees. 

When you fill your moments with sacrificial love- when you do the same phonics lesson every day for six months because he's just not getting it or you feel like you lose your days at the doctor's offices with your aging parent, you are giving your greatest gift.

Time is not our enemy. When we realize our days on earth are each a unique gift given to us, we tap into the enormous power of time. You are investing your life in those you love! 

Psalm 139 says, "Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."

 What a priceless, fleeting gift.

In Psalm 90, we get a glimpse of the heart of Moses, who is right there with us, realizing how quickly time flies. He writes, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." 

Yes, Lord. Teach us. As we feel the discomfort of time flying by, remind us that you have ordained all of our days. Assure our hearts that every moment given is written in your book. Let us weave our days with selfless love. 

 

It's All In The Timing

IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING

By Kellie Tipton

Driving to work one morning I was frustrated by the fact that somehow I was in the rhythm of red lights!  You know what I mean when I say that, right? YES, every time I approached a traffic light it was turning red.  Such a frustrating situation as I was feeling the time and when I say that, I am sure you know what I mean.  YES, I was running late, well later than I had wanted to be.  

I have a habit of counting when frustrated and somehow that eases my frustration.  It helps me realize that how long it feels is not actually how long it is.  Do you ever do that?  Okay, so maybe I am weird, but never the less it helps me which in turn helps those around me! 

What came to my mind while counting was that if I slowed down I could actually get in a different rhythm and start catching green lights and possibly save on time.  

I have seen people do that and when it first happened I was frustrated and wondering why this person was driving so slowly!!!  Then I observed that it actually helped put us in synch with the green light rhythm. While it does not always work, you can imagine my delight when it does.

Traffic lights are not all that different in how we move through life, not physically, but more in our relationships.  We can sometimes be in such a rush whether it is needed or not and miss out on opportunities to be in synch with our family, friends and co-workers, as well as those we cross paths with in our daily routine.  

If we do not take the time and observe, we will be out of synch and our communication will be in bits and pieces with no real connection with those we love and appreciate.  However, if we will slow down and observe we can find a way to capture those treasured moments.

Time has not always been my friend.  I have fought over the years the tendency to not grasp how long it takes me to do things or get ready or whatever.  I have been that person who says “five minutes” and realistically I needed fifteen or thirty.  

Over the years through the Lord’s help and my husband, I confronted my time issue and while I cannot say I conquered it, I definitely have improved.  One thing I have learned is that how you handle time affects how people trust you and how they trust your word.  

How you handle your time affects the rhythm of those you come in contact with as well.  You can cause chaos, step in synch or even help them get in synch.  

I have experienced each one of those scenarios and my heart’s desire is to do the latter two.  I have had to make some sacrifices in order to keep my word, but it has always been worth it.  

I have heard it said many times “We all have the same 24 hours in a day, make it count!” God gives us the choice in how we use our time and we can choose to cause chaos, or step in synch with His Will and help others get in synch with His Will.  How do you choose to use your time?

Psalm 39:4

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 90:12

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.

 

Strike The Ground

Strike the Ground

By Audrey Botts

As I was praying one day, I sensed the Lord wanted me to spend more time in prayer.   He wanted to answer my prayers, but it almost seemed that he wanted more from me than what I was willing to give.  

What did the Lord desire?  Passion.  I remember when I first gave my heart to the Lord I was on fire for the Lord.  I was sharing my new love for Jesus to everyone I knew. 

I’m not sure how I lost my passion, but we all do if we are living in this world.  The world is full of disappointment and difficulties that make us lose the zeal we once had serving the Lord. 

When we lose our passion, everything becomes routine and we lose interest in the areas the Lord has called us to serve.  We become lukewarm and a target for the enemy to destroy.

As I was reading scripture one day, I came across this verse in 2 Kings 13: 17-19.  

He said,"Open the window toward the east," and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot!" And he shot. And he said, "The LORD'S arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them." Then he said, "Take the arrows," and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground," and he struck it three times and stopped. So the man of God was angry with him and said, "You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times."

Elisha was angry with the King of Israel, and I thought why was he mad?  He didn’t tell King Jehoash how many times to strike the ground.  Elisha only said to strike the ground.  

But Elisha knew the king lacked zeal in seeking victory for his kingdom.  Instead of asking how many times do I need to strike the ground to defeat the enemy, King Jehoash only did what he thought was required to get by with God.  

He had no passion for his victory.  I know I have been guilty of this as well.  I too have lacked the passion to strike the ground with fervent prayers and service to the Lord.  

So how do we get our passion back?  First take action by confessing it to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness and guidance.  We can’t do anything without prayer.  

Engage yourself in the church again and stay connected to your church family.  Then let the Lord take care of the rest.

So, like the prophet Elisha said “Strike the ground!” and don’t stop until your passion is ignited once again.

Soft Dry Sand or Wet Firm Sand?

Soft Dry Sand or Wet Firm Sand?

By Mavis Tipton

I enjoy walking on the beach from time to time. It is a great place to clear my mind of all distractions and focus on what the Lord would like to say to me.

I prefer to walk when the tide is out, and the wet sand is packed nice and firm so when walking on it I don’t sink. 

One day as I was walking and noticing the foot prints in the sand, the Lord began speaking to me about the different footprints and where they lead.

In the soft sand there are footprints everywhere, all shapes and sizes.  As you move closer to the water you can see the footprints and follow them until the next wave comes in and washes them away.

Then on the wet-firm sand footprints last only for a moment and they disappear.

Which footprints should one follow?  For myself trying to follow the footprints in the soft sand is very hard. My feet sink in the soft sand, and there is seaweed to deal with, and my concentration to stay on course is distracted by trying to keep my balance and moving in the right direction, very quickly I can lose sight of where I’m going. 

Following the footprints that remain until the next wave washes them away can become frustrating, trying to stay ahead of the waves and keep the next set of footprints in sight. These things become distractions and we easily lose sight of our destination.

On the wet firm sand, to watch the footprints your head is down and all you are seeing is the sand, sea shells, waves and anything that is lying directly in front of you. These are distractions to keep you from your goal as well.

The Lord was showing me that our walk with Him is similar, and it is up to us if we are going to allow distractions to take us off course or keep our focus on Him our goal.

We can choose to walk in the soft sand and follow many different sets of footprints that don’t lead us to our goal, but hey we are having fun and being carefree and there is always tomorrow to get back on track…right! 

We can follow the footprints we see just ahead of us until a wave (circumstances) washes them away, and we become frustrated trying to find our own way, rather than keeping our eyes on our goal, and the One who can guide us.

When we choose to walk on the wet firm sand, the footprints disappear almost as soon as they are made. Our heads are down as we try to watch for each footprint. Keeping our heads down we don’t see the obstacles we may be headed for. Keeping our heads up and focused on our goal will help us to avoid those pitfalls and lead us to our goal.

Obstacles, hardships and circumstances help us to grow and mature, which is “the path that leads us to the Kingdom of God”. Quote by Jon Hamilton.

When I walk on the firm-wet sand my walk doesn’t take as long as it does when walking in the soft sand. I’m enjoying the things around me, as I keep my goal always before me.  My walk helps me build strength, confidence and assurance, knowing I can go the distance, because my eyes are on the goal. 

Soft Dry Sand or Firm Wet Sand?  You have a choice, it is up to you. The Goal Keeper is waiting to guide you.

Rom.6:23“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”

Prov. 4:25“Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you.”

Heb. 12:1-2 “Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us.  We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.  We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith…”

 

Kindness

Kindness

By Vicki Molinari

She was late picking me up, which was not unusual for a mommy with three children. She would daily give directives to her girls as they began their day. I like to call them nudges, prompts or gentle reminders of the task at hand. "Please tidy up. Brush your teeth. Put on your shoes." They did the same thing daily getting ready for school, yet some days delays were bound to happen.

On this day, my daughter and her kids left their house in plenty of time. A quick stop at the bank, then they were headed to me. So what happened?

"I am sorry for being late. This guy...he ran out of gas and I was stuck right behind him", she said. She continued the story which involved a gas can and the process it took to get him moved, no longer blocking the turning lane.

The rest of the story blessed this Mom.

She said he looked at her with embarrassment and shame. It was obvious he was horrified by the fact that an entire line of cars could not turn left and proceed as they planned. She smiled and waved as if to say, it is ok, I understand you made a mistake, it happens. The other drivers were not so understanding or patient. Instead, they drove by glaring, honking and waving at this poor guy, showing their disapproval of his carelessness. She, instead waited for him to add enough gas to move out of the way. He looked and smiled with a hand wave of thanks.  

Taking the opportunity to teach her girls, she said, "This morning we learned the importance of kindness, Nana".

The girls told me about the entire story and ALL of the details.

Often times, the best lessons in life are not taught but are caught. I witnessed this. Today, these precious girls watched their mommy practice the kindness she had been taught in the Bible as a young girl.

Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

1 Timothy 6:18 says, "They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share."

I pondered this happening throughout the day. I smiled and thanked God for the little things He allows to teach us valuable lessons.

Dear Jesus, thank you for allowing us to experience life in ways where we can show love and kindness. May our actions always line up to the Bible. In your name, Amen

Happy Mother's Day

 

Seeds, Seeds and more Seeds...

Seeds, Seeds and more Seeds . . .

By Denise Schmeer

I’m the type of person who thrives on immediate results – whether repairing the clothes dryer, securing a downspout to the gutter, making lasagna or whatever. 

So when I need to redo a repair, rip out a seam, or wait for a part to be delivered, I get “antsy.”  Needless to say, when I’m going about doing God’s work, as in, sharing His Word, shining His Light, praying for others, usually the response is anything but immediate.

Why is that?  What am I doing wrong?  Am I using the wrong words, being to “pushy,” not being “pushy” enough?  I think to myself – this is eternal salvation my friends (my children) what are you waiting for?  Give your heart to Jesus!

Then God reminded me of me.  How many times had people spoken into my life (sowed a seed) before I ever gave even one small thought to salvation?  

I mean, there was my Dad who took me to Church every Sunday.  My mom, who always made arrangements to get me to Wednesday Catechism classes – even sending me by taxi cab when necessary. And my grandmother Connie Pucarelli Preziosi who everyone said had a direct line to Heaven.Someone was always asking her to “light a candle” for them.  

Then there was LaWanda Kent (looking back, she must definitely have been from a Pentecostal Church) whose incredible joy about everything was contagious! Not to mention Ralph and Gerri – they definitely walked the walked and talked the talk of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Yes, all these people sowing seeds of salvation into my life – so many seeds, so many years!  And most of them never saw the fruits of their labor – me finally giving my life to Christ, acknowledging Him as my Lord and Savior.

But each one was diligent – sowing seeds, wherever they went and believing in the harvest to come.  

And it must be this way for me as well – to sow as many seeds as I can into family, friends, strangers, anyone and everyone God puts in my path.  

I must learn to be content with the sowing, patient that others will sow as well.  Some will water the seed planted by me and some will see the harvest.  

Thank you, God for reminding me that our calling is to sow.  You and the Holy Spirit will change the heart. 

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 & 9; "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth . . . For we are God's fellow workers.”

 

Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation

By Jacqi Ballough

Have you ever received a package with anticipation of the expected item inside only to unwrap it and find disappointment because it wasn’t quite what you were expecting?

That’s what happened a few months ago when my husband had ordered a used Message Bible off of Amazon for the family. We happily received the package, but upon ripping into the box we pulled out a hot pink Bible. My son recoiled, “It’s pink!” Unfortunately, the grey cover attached to the original sale item was not very accurate.

Once the original shock that my men now had a neon pink Bible was over, they warmed up to the fact that it was still God’s Word no matter the outward appearance. The most positive aspect of this translation is that it breaks God’s word down into modern day language and even uses our slang terminology which is better understood by the majority and brings some laughs when you have been accustomed to reading the more “traditional” versions.

One morning while I made breakfast, I noticed my son reading it. I asked what he was reading, and he mentioned Exodus 32 when the Israelites made a false idol, sinned against God by worshiping it, and were to be punished. Then he stated, “I don’t like this.”

“What don’t you like?” I responded knowing he has read this story over and over from the time he was little.

“It says, ‘Moses tried to calm his God down.’” (Verse 11)

“What don’t you like about that?” I questioned.

“It sounds like God can be manipulated by man.”

“What is wrong with that?” I quizzed.

“Then He wouldn’t be God. God can’t be controlled.”

We continued the discussion by searching for another translation in the New International Version. This read, “Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God.” We both agreed this seemed to be a better translation as Moses wanted to please God. He was in a loving relationship with Him. He wasn’t trying to manipulate but instead came before him humbly requesting.

Digging in further and with the help of a dear friend, we found the original Hebrew word “chalah” which is best translated as “entreat or entreaty.” Subsequent research in the American Heritage dictionary defines entreaty as an “earnest request.” Request shows love, honor, and reverence whereas “trying to calm” implies control.

Because of Moses’s sincere heart toward God, I believe that is why the LORD changed His mind. God responded by listening and discussing the issue with Moses. Moses came before God requesting as a child in a loving relationship with a father.

The father will listen and consider the child’s words out of the relationship they have. Children can be frank and loving at the same time and can, in healthy relationships, question their parents without the fear of condemnation. They are able to discuss matters at hand (when the time is right) and with an attitude of humility.

Reading God’s word may be confusing at times, but I was grateful yet again that the Holy Spirit showed up to teach us. I want His truth written in our hearts and not lost in translation. 

Alabatar Jar

Alabaster Jar

Audrey Botts

In the month of February, we celebrated Valentine’s day.  My sweet husband of almost 5 years, surprised me with a trip for two to Cozumel, Mexico.  We boarded a beautiful cruise ship for 5 wonderful days at sea.

We had an amazing time celebrating our love for each other. It’s like we were created for each other.  But life was different for me over a decade ago.  My perception of a blissful marriage was something only found in fairy tales.  

My previous marriage ended horribly, leaving unmended battle wounds. I felt incapable of ever having a healthy marriage.  I felt like a failure to my kids, myself, and God.   I was scared I would live the rest of my life alone and labeled as damaged goods.  Then Jesus came into my life.

Luke 7:36-39 (NIV)

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who this is and what kind of woman is touching Him—for she is a sinner!”

This scripture portrayed my life, a sinful woman laying down her broken life (Alabaster jar) at Jesus’ feet. When I surrendered my life to the Lord, He healed my broken life and restored me to who He created me to be.  

Jesus had his work cut out for Him… but nothing is too Great for my God!  Hallelujah!  I didn’t have to worry about what others thought of me, I wasn’t damaged goods.  He showed me who I was in his eyes.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you are saved!”  (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Our Lord is in the redemption business.  He is near to the brokenhearted, ready to heal them with His love.   So as you break your alabaster jar and pour your oil on His feet, remember the price He paid for you and me.

Lyrics by Gateway worship:

“This alabaster jar is all I have of worth
I break it at Your feet, Lord, it's less than You deserve
You're far more beautiful, more precious than the oil
The sum of my desires and the fullness of my joy
Like You spilled Your blood, I spill my heart
As an offering to my King

Here I am, take me as an offering
Here I am, giving every heartbeat for Your glory
Take me!”

Something About Amanda!

Something About Amanda

By Denise Schmeer

 

A sweet baby girl was born recently into our church family and it sparked a flood of memories about the birth of my sweet girl many years ago.

At that time in my life, I was so very far away from God, but God, in His goodness, was not far away from me. It seemed everything that could go “wrong” with my baby- went wrong.

At just 24 hours old, she apparently stopped breathing and was turning blue in the nursery. But, thank God, a new nurse had just started to work there. She noticed the crisis situation ands saved my sweet baby girl.

The nurse was a NICU specialist and quite familiar with symptoms of newborns. She had just arrived (literally one week before) from the United Kingdom. (How’s that for a God thing?) So my sweet baby girl had to be put on a heart monitor. We had to learn infant CPR and the local power authority was put on notice, so if we lost power, a portable generator would be rushed to our house.

One week later we were able to take our sweet baby girl home! And a few days after that I noticed she was burning hot- something is very wrong, I thought. So we rushed back to the hospital. Our sweet baby girl was diagnosed with viral meningitis, and then we were told a valve in her heart hadn’t closed and she might be blind, deaf, and by the way, there could be some brain damage. Looking back, I wonder, how did I manage without comfort, strength, faith, hope, and peace which only comes from God?

But God is good, and He kept sending people to bring His gifts. He sent my Uncle Joe (who was terrified of hospitals) to come and hold my sweet baby girl- a tangle of tubes and wires attached to her. Only by God’s grace could Unkie Joe have done that! Then God sent the #1 heart doctor and the #1 neurologist in Westchester County to help heal all which seemed to have gone so very wrong.

Yes, the reckless love of God, as the song goes…no shadow He won’t light up, mountain He won’t climb up, running after me. No wall He won’t kick down, lie He won’t tear down, running after me.

So I wonder…how different would that journey in my life, and the life of my daughter, have been if I had known Jesus as my Lord and Savior? The peace, comfort and strength from all those offering prayer on my behalf and that of my sweet bay girl. What a blessing was out there for me, if only I had drawn close to God. But, I’m living proof that God is so good, so kind, so loving- seeking me, even when I wasn’t seeking Him.

Investing In Eternity

Investing in Eternity

by Kellie Tipton

Standing in our worship service at church I became so aware of God’s hand in my life, more specifically in my children’s lives.  I was experiencing worship being led by a team of musicians that consisted of all three of my children.  I stood in awe of His presence and of this moment in time.

When I think back, I remember the conversations with my husband about how we would make sure music was a part of their curriculum.  Each child was to take a few years of piano lessons to begin and then we would give them opportunity to choose an instrument to explore.  As they made their choices we then needed to figure out how to orchestrate their practice times for piano, guitar and drums!  It was an investment and we chose to make it a priority.

Oh, the music they would play, but it sounded so different on this evening.  It wasn’t an overnight progress, it was years of practice at home, at band practices, a lot of conversations and prayer.

For many years we have had a worship team in our children’s services.  It started out due to a desire to raise up worshippers and we had so many of our children who were musicians or had a desire to be one.

Pastor Billy and I started them out observing experienced musicians and eventually they would be given opportunity to play during the practices.  This prepared them for the future opportunities they would be given if they showed they were committed and were faithful to be at practices.

Many children, youth and young adults have been a part of that process over the years and my three children were in that mix as well.  What challenges and what joy to see the fruit of those years as we saw them step into the worship team, step out of their comfort zone and lead worship.  Many have grown up, gone to college, are raising a family of their own and are world changers.

While we have had many seasons, I believe the best is yet to come but right now, in this moment, I am tasting some of the fruit and so thankful for what God has done and what God is doing!

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness. 

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

What If I Can't Fast?

What If I Can’t Fast?

by Tammye Hamilton

I plopped down in a chair in the back corner of the sanctuary. It was time for corporate prayer after our monthly Day of Fasting and I was feeling anything but spiritual. In fact, I had a terrible attitude. Then I started to beat myself up for having a bad attitude.  People were praying and I tried, but I was too angry with myself to really focus on the prayer service.

Most people believe that fasting helps you to focus more on God without distractions. When I fast I usually do NOT feel more spiritual.  The longer I go without food the grouchier I get and the harder it is for me to focus on anything

As I sat hunched over on the back row, struggling to join in prayer, I asked myself, and the Lord, “Why is this happening? I fasted all day, not usually something I can do physically, I came to the meeting, I’m expecting great things for our church. Why am I so angry?”

The deeply insightful response in my head was, “Because you’re hungry”.  Well duh. I felt pretty silly.  I felt like the hangry person in the Snicker’s commercial.

Later, after I had a wonderful dinner and truly repented, I began to think more about fasting.  I went to the Word and immediately found Matthew 4:2. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was hungry. So at least in that way I was like Jesus. (So he fasted for 39 more days than I had. Who’s counting?)

Fasting is hard. If it was easy, what would it accomplish? As I push through my fleshly response to hunger I am doing the hard thing. I am proving I love God more than food. Realizing that it is in the hard places we can most see Him, most hear Him, if we can drown out our screaming flesh. And if we can’t, He is still with us. He loves me when I don’t have a spiritual response to fasting. He forgives my grouchiness.

I like to think He was sitting there beside me on the back row and when I complained He said, “You’re hungry.” He understood because He’s been there. He knows. He probably wasn’t feeling very spiritual either but in His heart He longed to please the Father more than His own flesh. And He was flesh.

So as someone who struggles with fasting, I would like to offer a few tips. Most of these I gleamed from others because, again, I’m no expert.

1.    Get focused BEFORE you fast. Get ready. Get ready spiritually and physically. Don’t indulge on your pre-fast day. Eat consciously. Begin to prepare spiritually. Read the Word, and encourage yourself that you can do all things through Christ.

2.    Fast with purpose. Jesus fasted to prepare for His destiny. Pastor Jentezen Franklin writes, Jesus fasted in the desert before He preached one sermon, before He healed anyone, and before He called any disciples. When Jesus successfully completed His fast, He was prepared for the spiritual battles ahead as He stepped out into His destiny on earth.”  Whether you are voluntarily participating in a corporate fast or have purposed in your heart to fast for a specific reason, we are always fasting for breakthrough. We fast out of obedience and in faith for God’s purposes to be accomplished.

3.    Make sure your fast is more than “not eating”. This was a big part of my issue. I had been traveling the week before but I knew it was the day our pastor called for a corporate fast so I decided I wouldn’t eat that day. I did pray but then I just went about my day. The only thing significantly different was that I didn’t eat at all. So, when I showed up for the prayer meeting, I was unprepared. I had not eaten but I also had not pushed through the hunger into the presence of God. Jesus did it, which means I can do it. Even if I need to eat a little something to keep from hulking out, I can fast, focus and submit to what God is wanting for me.

4.    Give yourself a break. Seriously. If you can’t go all day or 40 days without eating, it doesn’t make you unspiritual. Fasting is a heart issue. Anyone can do a modified fast. You can still deny your flesh and thus open your heart. Evelyn Christenson, who wrote the classic What Happens When Women Pray, could not fast for medical reasons and so she fasted sleep and her time. She rose very early to spend more time in prayer.

He wants us. All of us. He doesn’t just want spiritually focused and on target me. He wants hangry, confused and irritated me. He loves ME. He says I am an overcomer and as I continue to push through, He is right there with me.

In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:3-4

Seeing Through New Eyes


Seeing Through New Eyes.

By Mavis Tipton

It was April 6, 1969, our first Easter as brand-new Christians.  Just three and a half weeks earlier on March 16th, Buddy & I had surrendered our lives to Christ Jesus and made Him Lord of our lives.

I was raised to go to church.  My family believed in God, and in Jesus. We knew the Christmas story of Jesus being born of a virgin, and the Easter story of Jesus being crucified, and then raised from the dead. 

However even though I believed in those stories, I had no clue to their true meaning nor of the significance they could make in my life. I did not understand, because I had not been taught, that I needed to repent and turn away from sin.  (After all I was a good girl, so I thought I was ok.)

In the blink of an eye Jesus forgave and transformed me and set me free of all my sins.  He put a love in my heart for Him.  A desire to live for Him with all my heart, mind, body and soul. 

I had come to a place where I couldn’t trust Buddy to do what he would say and promise to do. Jesus instantly replaced distrust for trust (which only Jesus can do.)

For the first time in my life I saw the celebration of Easter through new eyes and I was filled with thankfulness.

I realized the great price my heavenly Father paid to send His only son to be the sacrificial lamb for the world.  The price Jesus paid by bearing all my sins and the sins of the world upon the rugged cross.  For the blood He shed to cleanse each of us of our sins.  For the stripes on His back for our healings.

That was only the beginning.  Jesus has been my Lord and Savior for 49 years.  He has picked me up when I was down, healed me when I was sick and has kept me in His loving care as only He can do.

He has forgiven me when I have failed, He has filled me with His Holy Spirit, used me for His glory and kingdom.  Provided for us each step of the way.  There is no other god that can do what my God can do.

If you are like I was and only knew the stories of the Bible, but not the truth, I invite you to stop right where you are and simply ask Jesus into your heart to forgive you and be Lord of your life.  Surrender it all to Him, don’t hold back anything, because all that He has to share and give to you is far greater than anything else you could possibly obtain in this world.

May you see Easter 2018 through new eyes, which will compel you to share His love everywhere.

P.S. there is a bonus that comes with becoming a child of the King and that is Eternal Life with God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit for all eternity.

Happy Easter

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found,

Was blind but now I see.

 

 

 

Lord, I Want To, WantTo!


                                                   

“Lord, I Want To, Want To”

By Pat Evans

I can't remember the first time I said this to God, but I know it was usually when I was struggling with obedience.  Being raised strictly, I learned early in life to obey because it's the right thing to do and I feared the punishment of disobedience.  

So, for me, I learned to obey because I was afraid not to.  This mindset shed a negative light on obedience because I associated it with fear and that transferred on to my relationship with God. It was difficult for me to discern whether I was hearing God's voice or whether it was the voice in my head from my past that said, "You ‘have to’ obey or something bad could happen." 

After reading Mavis’ blog from January 28th, I realized she was describing exactly how I felt. She explained the difference between "have to" and desire, or as I called it, our "want to". To review her words, feeling like you "have to" do something because it's required or expected drains us of energy which eventually causes us to give up. On the other hand, if we desire or "want to" do something, it creates determination, motivating us to press on and not give up. Making the choice because I felt I “had to”, never caused the change in me to become a permanent one. Only when God put the “want to” in my heart was it possible for me to overcome. 

For example, I felt that I was lacking passion, so I decided to fast and seek the Lord for a way to create passion in my heart for Him. About the same time, I was asked to participate as a leader in the Passion Propel Series. I quickly agreed as I knew that God had already laid it on my heart to seek Him for more passion.

Though I learned a lot from the passion series and my time with the Lord, I still had not received a breakthrough. However, I did learn that Passion was directly related to obedience. 

On the last day of my fast, I was reading my devotions which “just happened to be” on obedience. Oswald Chambers wrote that the Lord tells us emphatically what we ought to do, but He never meant to make us obey.  Rather, He desires obedience to flow out of our oneness with the Spirit.  

Chambers writes: "...if I obey Jesus in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. Then, when I stand face-to-face with Him, I discover through my obedience thousands were blessed." Wow! Think of it!  Every time we obey, we see more of God’s face! This is my motivation to obey Him: Passion and seeing His Face. Passion is the reality of God created out of Obedience. 

 There it is Ladies…My "WANT TO"!

"What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice…” I Samuel 15:22

 

 

How Flexible For God

Flexible for God

Denise Schmeer

“Thanks, Mom for being so flexible.”  I cannot even begin to count the number of times my adult children said that to me over this past holiday season.  As their plans changed, as their friends plans changed, and as every situation seemed to change at lightning speed, etc. etc, etc. . . .  “flexible” became my middle name.

And I can certainly recall a time in my life when I might have been called many things, but “flexible” was not one of them.  But, God is so good.  He taught me to be flexible, trained me to be flexible, and prepared me to be flexible because He knew a time would come when “life” demanded I be flexible – bend or break.  Flexibility saved me . . .  allowed me to bounce back, so to speak.

How did God teach me?  Little by little . . . at first it was just an appointment that needed to be changed, or a job at work that was delayed.  Then we moved on to snowstorms stranding my children in New York while I waited in a panic at the airport in Florida.  And of course, there was the November when the water pipe burst under the house two weeks before Thanksgiving, I was told I needed a root canal on my back tooth and the optometrist determined there was a hole in my left eye.  But the more I pressed into God, the easier it was to be flexible – roll with the punches and ride out the storms. 
Ahhh yes . . . God was teaching me to be flexible. 

And so recently, I started wondering . . . how flexible am I (are we) when it comes to God?  Am I (are we) ready at a moment’s notice to be flexible and change our plans for what God has for us on any given day?

My Heavenly Father has taught me to happily be ready to change my plans and/or rearrange my schedule for my husband, our children and our friends.  He has prepared me to bend and not break when life seems crazy and out of control.  But what about when God asks me to be flexible?  Am I bending to His will when He calls me to be flexible?  When he calls me to witness and go “out of my way” to do His work, am I flexible?

Am I taking every opportunity to “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)

When God patiently and lovingly teaches us to be more loving, giving, forgiving and, in my case, “flexible,” I pray we remember to use these gifts to spread His Word, shine His Light and glorify His Kingdom.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. 
(
Proverbs 16:3)

Will You Praise Him?

Will you Praise Him?

By Audrey Botts

It is so easy to praise God when life is good and things are going our way, but do you still praise Him the same when difficulties arise in life?

Last year my step- son was experiencing gastric and esophageal pain that was uncharacteristic of your average indigestion.   My husband was concerned, so he took action immediately… he knew all too well what these symptoms could lead to if he wasn’t pro-active in our son’s health.   My step-son’s mother, passed away at the age of 36.   She died of Esophageal cancer.  Her cancer went undetected for a few years before they discovered it. 

Needless to say, we made an appointment with a Gastroenterologist.  The Doctor performed an endoscopy, where she discovered a huge mass in our son’s trachea.  The doctor believed it was cancer and sent it out for Pathology consultation.  My husband’s worst nightmare came to haunt him once again.  We were so scared of losing our son, he was only 20 years old.   

Questions were racing through my mind.  How would my husband cope with another tragedy?  He not only lost his former wife from cancer, but he lost his daughter in an accident shortly after.   We needed divine intervention…we needed a miracle!  

We contacted our church that day and immediately had our prayer warriors interceding for us. We cried out to Jesus and prayed for our son’s life.  The next day we got the Pathology report.  We held our breath as we listened to the doctor say…the mass in his trachea was benign!   Praise God!

  This year our son went in for his one -year checkup and there was no sign of the prior mass anywhere in his esophagus.   God is good.

  We are told to in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 

I am so grateful for the blessing we received, but I couldn’t help but wonder, what if our son did have cancer?  Would I still be able to praise God under the circumstances?   I thought of other families who were currently suffering from their misfortunes and I felt sorrow for them.  Why do they have to suffer?  

Then I read this scripture where it is clear the Lord tells us that we are to have an attitude of joy, thanksgiving, and prayer at all times… no matter what the conditions or circumstances are that surround us.

This verse does not mean that we are to thank God for bad things and tragedies that come our way.  It means that we are to remain joyful no matter what is happening in our lives because we have the Lord, and in Him we shall overcome no matter what is thrown our way.

If this sounds too difficult to do, I can relate to your feelings.  Praise Him anyway and experience the peace that’s worth more than gold.

 

 

 

 

Open Mind or Open Heart?

Open Mind or Open Heart?

by Tammye Hamilton

Open-mindedness is highly valued in our culture. Everyone likes a person who seems open to new ideas. Being open-minded opens the door. It says, “I will listen to you.” It is a good thing.

However, being open-minded only goes so far. It says what you believe is fine, even if it’s different from what I believe. Maybe the way I believe isn’t the only way. It stops at an intellectual level. It isn’t an invitation into your life. There’s no level of change. There’s no transformation, because ideas don’t transform.

Being open-minded is a beginning but it is not who I ultimately want to be.

As a follower of Jesus, I long to be a person with an open heart

Open-mindedness seems accepting, all are welcome.  An open heart still says come as you are but it doesn’t leave you there.  We love no matter what. But we understand that it’s not our love that does the transforming.

As believers whose lives have been dramatically changed, we recognize that just accepting others is not enough. If we are just open-minded we may leave them in their darkness. Just being open-minded never brings change. It doesn’t reach out and say, “Here let me help you. Let me lead you into the Light.”

Jesus set such a good example for us in how He lived His life. He certainly could have been considered open-minded, although it would not have been as popular in the culture of His day.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees complained to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5)

Rabbis didn’t hang out with those whose lives were entrenched in the world, but Jesus did. He didn’t do it to be accepted and seen as open-minded.  He was with them so they could know Him and He could set them free.

He opened his heart to them AND He made it clear that He was the only way to God. (John 14:6) He opened his heart and brought Truth into every conversation. He changed lives for eternity.

Open-heartedness isn’t just a dialogue. It doesn’t walk away. When we open our hearts we will invite people into our lives. It will get messy. It will not be easy. We will find ourselves in the Word longing to know Jesus better, not to prove a point but to be His hands and feet.

Being open-hearted means we love the lost and hurting. We love them when they are deceived. When they believe things that are contrary to the heart of God. When they are in bondage to lies. As Pastor Aaron Brockett says, “We build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth.” 

Only with open hearts can we can show those who desperately need Him that only His love has the power to transform.

 “You are the people of God; He loved you and chose you for His own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.”

— Colossians 3:12-14

(Special thanks to my daughter, Marybeth, who helped me with this blog. Marybeth is a counselor at Wheeler Mission in the inner city of Indianapolis. Every day she opens her heart with grace to those who need Him.)

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.