Puppy Love

Puppy Tales

By Jacqi Ballough

Shep, short for shepherd or protector, is a sweet fluffy puppy who was adopted into our family a few weeks ago. 

Our son immediately hugged and cuddled the little guy like a proud father all the while an excited tail wagged and licks were given. It was a precious moment for us as parents to watch, while for our son, it was “a dream come true” to have and raise a pup of his own. 

My husband and I knew from past experience that the puppy would take a considerable amount of time and energy. My son on the other hand was experiencing the mountaintop experiences along with the inconveniences for the first time. 

Selflessness has to be on the forefront of your mind when a living creature is relying on you for love, food, water, and bathroom breaks. 

A few days after the puppy’s arrival, we ran out for some errands but arrived home to a fetid smell. A poopy puppy awaited us, and as the “dad” of the dog, my son had the duty of washing the dirty pup and also cleaning an extremely rancid crate. 

The challenges of a puppy can be frustrating and even messy at times, but during those moments, I am reminded that the value is in the lessons learned and the relationship that is formed from the unpleasant events. 

I was encouraged when our son said, “Sometimes I don’t like doing this, but I know in the end it will be worth it when I have good dog.”

In real life, relationships with people (even fellow Christians) can be the same: inconvenient, frustrating and rancid at times, but if we pinch our nose and press through during the unpleasant circumstances, the relationships can grow stronger and the unconditional love of Christ can sweeten the smell. 

Loving through life’s relational conflicts or differing convictions takes pure will-power. It is a choice: continuing to love, or not; to pray or not; to listen to the Holy Spirit or not; to humble yourself, or not. In the end, the right choices will make the body of Christ “good” and worth it.

Paul reminds us of what is good in his letters to the early church: Accepting God’s sacrificial love, our relationship with Him, and through Him being connected with other brothers and sisters in one accord. 

By remembering how the Lord cared for us in our stinky messes to the point of cleaning us up using His son’s own blood, we can by faith be “good”, holy, and blameless in his sight. Because of His amazing grace and goodness, we, in turn, are able to share the same grace with others.

“Fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliest of mind let each esteem others as better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interest of others.” Philippians 2:2-4

 

 

 

Experiencing Peace

Experiencing Real Peace 

By Tammye Hamilton

“Mam! Mam!” The TSA agent shouted at me from the other side of the crazy crowded security area at the Orlando airport. “Mam!”, called the deep voice of another agent behind me, each one wanting me to follow them in opposite directions.

As I quickly grabbed my purse from its second trip through the scanner, I exclaimed under my breath to the sympathetic flight attendant waiting behind me. She quietly replied, “I know. Try to stay calm.”  

After having everything searched repeatedly, I gathered up our things, along with my bewildered mother, and headed for the gate. We were both pretty shaken by such a stressful experience.

Life can be so chaotic and overwhelming. Grasping at peace and calm is often frustrating. This year I have been learning how to actively pursue peace. 

I have learned that I can’t wait for calm to experience peace. That’s just not realistic in our world. We have to live here, in the messiness that is life. The unpredictability of relationships and responsibilities keep us all on our toes. We never know what is just around the corner.

In the reality of our uncertain lives, we actually can have peace.

I love the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat while the disciples were fearing for their lives in the face of a deadly storm. They woke Him asking why He didn’t care that they were about to die. Here’s the thing, Jesus was with them in the boat. His presence is what mattered, not their circumstances. 

Elisabeth Elliot, who experienced more than her share of life’s storms, wrote, “Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands.”

Isaiah 26:3 says,“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” 

Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

As we remind ourselves that He is with us, we can walk in supernatural peace, no matter how chaotic life feels. He promised us peace. 

 

Love and Pray for your Enemies

Love and Pray for your Enemies

By Audrey Botts

Matthew 5:43-45 reads “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.”

I was new to the church, when I was going through a bad divorce. I was a broken person experiencing emotions beyond my control.  

I was struggling with anger, bitterness, and jealousy toward my soon to be ex-spouse and the new love of his life.  

I didn’t have a clue how to handle all these toxic emotions.  As I started my new walk with Christ, I learned that I had to love and pray for the same people who hurt me.  I really struggled with this teaching so I started with a prayer like this: “Dear God, I don’t know why I have to pray for these people, I don’t’ like them, but I will do what you ask.  So please show me how.  Amen.”   

Yes, it was just like that! I didn’t want to pray for them and I surely didn’t love them.  I wanted them to feel the pain and suffering I was experiencing, but the Lord commanded us to love and pray for our enemies, so I did.  

Prayer after prayer, I felt the Lord changing my heart and how I prayed for them.  I started to really care and have compassion for my so-called enemies.  

In time, my own heart was healed through this process and I was released from all anger, bitterness, and jealousy.  Jesus taught me to forgive them and He gave me peace and love in exchange for my obedience.  Thank you, Lord!

 Praying for your enemies is hard and we don’t always get to see the result of all our prayers, but for some reason Jesus has allowed me to see His goodness.   

I recently received an unexpected message from the person who I reluctantly prayed for long ago. She said that Jesus had changed her life through my life and she wanted me to know that.  She asked for my forgiveness for what happened so long ago.  I was taken back by this and very blessed that God let me see His faithfulness and goodness toward me and also toward her.   

We both are now healed and fully restored to the women He intended us to be. We both now serve a mighty God and have found new life through Him.  Hallelujah!

May God give you the strength to love and pray for your enemies.  God bless you.

 

Faith and Forgiveness of a Child

Faith and Forgiveness of a Child

By Jacqi Ballough

“Lord, please take him. End his suffering.” I prayed and cried at the same time. We had watched our exuberant son bring this amazing little chameleon home only a year ago. 

During that time, he gently cared for the needs of the little creature daily even saving his money to pay for its weekly cricket consumption.   

Our family marveled at his growth from beginning as the size of our pinky finger to becoming the length of our hand and quite colorful. We could see God’s astonishing creativity in him.

I stood staring at the cage feeling helpless as this little animal shuttered in pain. “A wise man cares for his animals” (Proverbs 12:10), yet I didn’t know what to do.  

My son then entered the room and witnessed the horrid condition. He began crying and praying, 

“Lord, you can bring dead things to life. Bring him to life.”  

Here I was moments before yielding to common sense and thinking there is no hope, and my faith-filled child walked in and declared for dead things to come to life. I felt as if I was a disciple being rebuked by Jesus and in awe of the heart of our child. 

Unfortunately, our chameleon passed on and then my son hit me with the questions, “Was it my fault? Did he die from my neglect?”  

“No. Not at all. You loved and cared for him diligently while he was here. God decided his time.” 

Searching for reasons of the sudden death myself, I remembered my son had mentioned a few weeks before that he had read pine was poisonous to reptiles and could hurt his beloved pet. 

My husband had just placed pine chips in the cricket tank thinking it would help with the smell and sanitation. He told our son it would be fine, and he would look it up later. He never did. 

Trying to find an answer to the calamity, I Googled it, and sure enough, our son was right. I theorized that the crickets had consumed some of the pine and then been eaten by the chameleon.

Whether or not that was the cause, we will never know, but the point was we dismissed our son to the detriment of life created by God and the trust between son and father. 

After notifying my husband of the death, he quickly asked our son for forgiveness and sought reconciliation. Even in the moments of grief our son was quick to forgive, again witnessing to us (the parents) the admirable faith of a child.

Here was our son now physically burying his pet, shovel in hand and grieving, but still maintaining his faith stating, “What if he comes back to life now under the rock?”

Thankfully, my child-like faith was finally kicking in, so I replied, “Then God has the ability to move the rock or give him the strength to climb out.” 

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. So, anyone who becomes as humble as this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4

Child-like faith isn’t something to be pushed aside because now we are ‘adults’, whether physically or spiritually, rather it is the ‘mainstay’ of our walk and growth in the Lord.  It is the key ingredient, so as the scripture says ‘stay as humble as this child’.

 

White Noise

White Noise

By Robin Houde

When I lived in upstate New York, in the warmer months, I liked to sleep with my windows open so the cool night breeze could flow throughout. However, the sounds of passing cars and crickets was not something I could get used to. 

I would have a hard time getting to sleep and sleeping all night peacefully. The nighttime sounds were very distracting for me. Someone suggested the use of a fan, for 'white noise', to help drown out the sounds of the night. And it worked! (fast forward several years - I still need white noise to sleep).

God's word is like ‘white noise’ to me. When I'm in His Word, there can be chaos and distractions all around me but it doesn't have much of an effect on me. I can stay calm during the storms and sleep and live peacefully. I have His assurance that everything will be okay. These times will pass. He has promised us that no matter how hard life is, and no matter how badly we mess it up, He's there. Nothing can separate us from His love!

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

God's Word drowns out Satan’s deceit. It's like when Jesus was in the desert and was enduring temptations. Every time Satan tempted Him with a worldly pleasure, Jesus used God's truths to debunk the devil and his lies. 

If we are to become more like Jesus each day, what better way than to do what Jesus did in the desert and put the devil in his place. The more time we spend in God's Word, the easier it becomes to recognize the truth and use it against the lies.

Chaos can be a distraction but how we respond to chaos is the key to successfully overcoming it. We have a choice - allow chaos to cause us stress and anxiety, or chose to acknowledge the situation for what it is. Then deal with it, or let it go. Our response can be not to respond. 

Some things are better if we just leave them alone. Meditating on the Word of God, letting it become engrained in our hearts and practicing patience goes a long way. A quick response can sometimes end with unfavorable results. If we give ourselves time to assess chaos and pray about how to handle it, God will give us the words and the actions you need to take.

Romans 12:2 (NIV) "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." 

God's ‘white noise’ is pure and holy and comes from His Word. It keeps our focus on Him and less on the world and its distractions.

Letting Go

Letting Go

By Denise Schmeer

Why is it so hard to just “let go?”  I have two adult children carefully making their way in the world. But, I find that whenever they make a life change – new job, new place to live, deciding to get married – that I’m the one holding onto their previous circumstances.  

For example, . . . my son found a great job in Providence, Rhode Island . . . a really wonderful opportunity for him.  And was I happy?  Yes!! Thrilled, but I found myself feeling melancholy for Oxford, Ohio and all the places we had visited together when he lived there.  

The things we had done – the football game, the hockey game, and the concert – now seemed like fading memories.  Was it really possible I would never eat at the famous Oxford Donut Shoppe again?  And when I told my son about my missing Oxford, he said, “Oh mom, I was so ready to leave!”  Well, great, I thought but I’m feeling a little sad here. 

And same thing with my daughter . . . almost an “instant replay” just four (4) short months later.  She landed a great job in St. Petersburg, Florida . . . a really wonderful opportunity for her.  And was I happy?  Yes!! Thrilled, but I found myself feeling melancholy for Sarasota, Florida and all the places we had visited together when she lived there.  

The things we had done – the ballet, the theatre, the beach – now seemed like fading memories.  Was it really possible I would never stroll the shores of Lido Beach with her again? 

And then it occurred to me – yikes!  They are all grown up!  They are never coming home again and I miss them so much.  I miss fixing their breakfast in the morning and cutting up their slices of melon to look like little boats.  I miss tucking them in at night and giving them just one more hug. How much I love them!!

So, this all gave me pause to wonder how our Heavenly Father must feel as He watches us mature into the callings He has placed on our lives. 

He doesn’t struggle as I do, each time one of my children enters a new phase of their lives.  No, I am certain; Abba Father is joyful at every new season in our lives.  For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

He is so proud of each of us as we are obedient to follow in His footsteps, as we read and study His Word, as we step up and step out in Faith to each new opportunity He presents to us to shine the Light of His kingdom . . . the Good News of the Salvation through Jesus Christ.  

Dear Father God, help me today to “let go” and just keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! 
(Isaiah 43:18-19)


Bless The Children

Bless the Children

By Mavis Tipton 

A few weeks ago, our church did a week of VBS. Our theme was “The Incredible Race”. We had a great turn out of children from 4-11 years old.

Every day they came revved up for all the exciting things that were planned for them.  Bible stories, games, crafts, snacks, worship.  Their morning was packed full. 

Co-teacher Fawn and myself had the privilege of helping teach the Bible story to 4 & 5 year old’s each day, along with the help of their favorite character “Speedy”.   

We prayed for the children entrusted to our care, that their hearts would be saturated with God’s Word, His truth, His love. That they would know that they are “God’s prized possession.”James 1:8b. That they are loved and are to love one another, and be kind to one another. 

Each day we trusted the Lord to do what only He can do…touch their hearts and souls.  At the close of some days we would wonder did they hear anything we tried to teach them?  You know 4 and 5 years old’s can be pretty busy, going from one thing to another. Wanting this or that, learning to share and be kind.  Learning to take turns, etc. 

The week went by fast, and here it was the last day.  It was “Speedy Time” their favorite time.  We did the Bible story, and then Speedy and I began asking them questions as we reviewed the week.   

We were amazed at how much they remembered, not just one or two children but all of them.  Our hearts were full and running over with joy that they were leaving with ‘treasure in their hearts’. 

Matt: 19:14-15 “But Jesus said,‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.  And He placed His hands on their heads and blessed them before He left.” 

The children of today whether young or older live in a very difficult time…even though we have so much at our fingertips to make life easier, it is anything but easier. Life is too busy and complicated. Don’t cast aside a child who is misbehaving, as you have no idea of what that they are going through, or what they live in. Take the opportunity and teach them what is right and above all the love of God.

It is heartbreaking to see how many children are cast aside and go from pillar to post, due to the circumstances they were born into.  But what a joy it is to see them respond to love and acceptance…isn’t that what we all want? 

I applaud grandparents, aunts and uncles foster parents, and adoptive parents who take these children into their homes and raise them as their own.  Your crown will be magnificent.  

I pray that the parents, grandparents, aunt/uncles, foster parents, and adoptive parents will keep their children in church and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. That they will know and see that they are loved by the ‘family of God.’

That the seeds that are planted will be watered, and nurtured as the children grow physically and spiritually.  That the love of God and His people will heal their tender hearts and set them on the path of victory. We are responsible for the educational and spiritual growth of our children. 

Bless the Children 

Matt. 6:33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.”

 

 

Child's Play

Child's Play 

by Robin Houde

When my children were younger, they played nicely together most of the time. But there were moments when they just did not get along. They would begin arguing and not remembering to share and then I'd hear their voices getting higher and mean words being tossed back and forth. 

Sometimes I'd wait a couple of minutes to see if they could resolve it themselves. If it didn't appear to be going in that direction, I'd step into the room and have to intervene and diffuse the situation. 

There were always two sides to the story and it was hard sometimes to discern which one was the aggressor and which one was the defender. However, this knowledge wasn't really necessary in most situations, as long as no physical harm was done.   

I didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out who did what to whom, and instead focused more on coming to a resolution and having them apologize to one another quickly.

There are times when we do need to get to the root of a problem so we can grab hold of it and rip it out. But most often our every day relational issues are not so complex that we really need to dig deep to find a 'why'. 

I think we can over-analyze situations, when all we should be doing is searching for a resolution and forgiving one another. If we are quick to forgive and slow to anger then those bitter roots won't have time to develop so there will be nothing to 'dig' out later.

James 1:19 "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

When we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we are giving bitterness good ground for roots to begin to develop. Once the roots are established, it's harder to get rid of them. 

Hebrews 12:15 "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile man."

 Looking back again when my daughters were little, after their apologies and hugs, they simply went back to playing and being friends again. They wouldn't bring it up that evening at the dinner table or drudge it up the next day or the next week during playtime. It was as if it never happened. How often do we forget to be like children? If only it came as natural and as easy in adulthood. I've found that it's really difficult sometimes to put the hurt feelings aside and truly forgive others. Nevertheless, this is what we're instructed to do. We need to search our hearts daily, for me sometimes hourly, and remember to just let it go. 

Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

Energizer Bunny

Energizer Bunny

By Jacqi Ballough 

I knowingly laughed to myself as my son’s piano teacher proclaimed, “He has more energy than the energizer bunny.” Depending on the context of this statement, the meaning could be positive or negative. Thankfully, in this situation, the comment was intended to be a complement as the teacher highlighted fun facts and praise of each student during their recital.

As an aerobic instructor, I too have heard this comment directed toward me and have learned sometimes it means I need to tone it down a bit as my energy was not helping the class but hurting it. 

During these times, I have selfishly lost my focus on the needs of those who entrusted me to safely exercise their bodies for God’s glory. At other times, I have received the “energizer bunny” statement as a complement meaning the energy has propelled them on when they were ready to quit.  

The difference? In the first scenario, I fell into selfish ambition, whereas in the second instance, I was focused on the people God gave me to help.

In my late twenties, I began praying before I would teach, “Lord give me the eyes to see the needs of these men and women. Show me what exercises they need to fulfill your purposes. Let the focus be on you, and the bodies you gave us for your glory. Take any attempts to compare or allow them to see your light in me. 

How we use our energy and gifts that God gave us can be paralleled to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

The story begins with a man preparing for a trip and gathering three servants to care for his finances while he traveled. (This symbolizes God giving us spiritual gifts to care for His Kingdom.)

Interestingly, the master divided the funds before he left, knowing the amounts each servant could handle well, and trusted them to work with the finances given according to their maximum ability. 

Upon his return, he called each to give an account for how the gifts (talents) were used. The servants who multiplied the gifts given and had a heart to please their master were rewarded. 

The first two servants were not working for selfish ambition. They immediately wanted to please their master and not only showed gratitude in their attitude conveying thanks for the responsibility given, but multiplied the talents. They received a promotion and party for their faithfulness in working according to their ability for the master’s betterment.

When the third servant went to give an account, he spewed ungrateful criticism onto the master and began justifying his actions with excuses. Let’s just say that it didn’t go well for him.

The moral: Keep your focus on the gifts given, immediately use that gift according to your ability in order to multiply His kingdom, and maintain a heart full of gratitude toward the Master. 

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. And they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away (vs 29).”

 

 

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day 

By Mavis Tipton 

Psalm 103:13 “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear Him.”

I am and will be forever grateful to my heavenly Father, who saved me from a life of sin, and all the good things He does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

Today, I honor the ‘father figures’ in my life.

I praise you Lord every day for being my heavenly Father. Without You I would not be here today, for You are the one who gave me new life and placed me in a great family, who loved me and nurtured me.

I honor both of my grandfathers.  My maternal grandfather was a Canadian.  Doing WW 1 he enlisted in the US Navy, as he wanted to help defend America, which he did.

My paternal grandfather tried two times to enlist during WW 1, but was not allowed to because he was married and had 4 or 5 children.

Both of these men believed in protecting their family and their country.  They were great examples to their children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and all future generations.

I honor my father, who loved me and taught me to reverence the Lord. He instilled so many great qualities in my life.

He was a man of his word, and could not tolerate lying. He taught me by his example.  He was a hard worker and provided for his family.

I honor my beloved father-in-law, who received me into his family as a daughter.  He often put the needs of others before his own needs.  

I honor my husband today, for being a loving, caring, nurturing father to his daughter, and our son, and Papa to our three grandchildren.   He is one of the most giving people I know, and what an example that has been to all of us. 

I honor my son today for the father and man of God that he has become. Even though he didn’t have the privilege of growing up with grandfathers and great-grandfathers, he has inherited their legacy and no one can take that away from him or his children.

May we be reminded more than this one day of the year, to honor the memory of all the fathers who have gone before us, with kind thoughts and memories. Remember if it were not for them, where would we be?

Thank you, Lord for all our fathers, bless them and their families.

Psalm 103:13 The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.”

 

 

 

 

Set Up Your Boundaries

Set up your Boundaries

By Audrey Botts

In my walk with the Lord, I have encountered people I was led to reach out to help.  Some experiences were successful and others were not.  

Over the years, the Lord taught me to set boundaries so that I would be able to help or love to a certain point and step back when the intervention required only His actions alone.  

It’s harder when it comes to family and even then, God calls us to step back and pray for His will to be done. Having family members with drug or alcohol addictions is not an easy road to walk. 

You love and try to help them, but they continue with their self –destructive sin.   They start to lose their friends, their jobs, and even family lose hope and give up on them. Addicts want to get better, but they are overcome by their weaknesses and give in to addiction.   

Right now, I struggle with a family member who has a dependence on alcohol and drugs.  The only way to help them is to step back and not enable their sin. 

One way to enable sin is to rescue them from the consequences of their bad choices like repeatedly getting them out of jail or giving them money that ends up going toward their addictions.   

Consequences to sin are God’s way of teaching us right from wrong.  That’s how we learn.  It’s difficult to step back and watch someone fall.  You wonder if you are doing the right thing, but if you do not set up boundaries that honor God, you will grow weary and be defeated.  

Wikipedia defines personal boundaries: are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.

1Timothy 5:22

“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.”

You have to remember that as a believer in Christ, you are dealing with demonic influence over your loved one. They have chosen to allow this in their life and now they have to figure out a way to get rid of it.  If they allow themselves to be healed, there is nothing Christ cannot overcome.  

So, stay in prayer for their healing.  The Lord will find a way to destroy this addiction, if that person allows Him to. Sometimes, you just have to get out of God’s way!!!

 

God, I pray for those reading this and can relate to my heart’s cry to you.  Help them release this burden and heal those afflicted with addictions to drugs or alcohol.  In your mighty name we pray.  Amen.

 

Miracle in Israel

Miracle in Israel

By Denise Schmeer

Have you ever met someone and seem to have an instant “heart” connection?  There is something familiar about them, but you’re not sure what it is . . . you can’t really describe it or “put your finger” on it.  Well, that is what happened to me with Rebecca.  

My husband and I, along with a number of other fellow “pilgrims,” flew to Israel to drink in, soak up and experience this amazing country . . . the land where Jesus taught, the land where Jesus prayed, the land where Jesus healed, the place where Jesus saved.  

So, after three flights, 6520 miles and 19+ hours we landed in Tel Aviv.  Patiently awaiting our arrival was Dr. Joe Davis (professor of apologetics/Southeastern University, Lakeland, Florida) and Rebecca, our tour guide.

There she was with her walking sticks, salt & pepper hair pulled back in a bun, sensible walking shoes, white pants and jacket.  Almost immediately you could sense her love of the country as her welcome greeting was just that . . . “Welcome to my country, my Israel.  I look forward to sharing her with you.”  And so, she did!

She shared about the Bedouin shepherds who discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, how and why the Dead Sea appears to be shrinking, pointed out the adorable young Ibex (mountain goat) roaming the mountainsides in Ein Gedi, and the trees with the most flavorful dates . . . deglet nour. Rebecca’s stories were fascinating and mesmerizing – told with such passion and love for her country, Israel.

Unfortunately, Rebecca had to leave us three days into the trip. She had other obligations, her family, etc.  Actually, she was a last-minute substitute, so we were just unexpectedly blessed to have her for the time we did.  

As we entered Galilee, we said a sad good-bye.  My last memory of Rebecca was her sitting near her luggage trying to arrange transportation back to her home – over 3 hours away.  I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I’ll never see her again.”

Our Israel Adventure continued to be amazing, spectacular, awe-inspiring, too overwhelming for words.  Our last day found us at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, almost 80 miles from Galilee.  In fact, in just eight days we had travelled over more than half the country.  Well, the Holocaust Museum was incredibly crowded – only two at a time were allowed to enter.  As my husband and I snaked our way through the displays, exhibits and photos, we were overcome with emotion.  Then it happened.  

As we rounded the final corner, there was Rebecca!  She was guiding a tour, speaking in either Spanish or Portuguese.  I was too stunned to figure out which.  As she continued to speak, I could see she recognized us as well.  

Excusing herself from her group, she came over to give us a hug. I was overwhelmed with tears and she asked if I was OK.  I said I was just so happy as I thought I’d never see her again and she said, “We never know the plans God has for us.”  Yes, so true, we never know the plans God has for us.  

So, I encourage you to be ready!  God has miracles and blessings for you around every corner.  God knows the desires of your heart and when you least expect it . . . there He is!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you . . . plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

By Mavis Tipton

Obey – to comply with the command of.

Trust – have confidence; be trustful, rely on; believe.

People are funny when it comes to these two words, trust and obey.  Some people will jump right in to whatever is being asked of them.  Most people need some information before trusting and obeying. Others need a lot of information and then they need time to think about it before making their decision. Which category do you find yourself in?   

So how does this decision making apply to your walk with the Lord?

When I was a new Christian I depended upon those leading me to help make decisions, as I had not learned to hear the voice of the Lord.

As I grew and learned more about walking in faith I began to recognize the Lord’s voice. Today I have developed a relation with the Lord and when He speaks I share it with my husband, and if he feels it’s a go, then I move forward. (That’s another lesson for another day.)

Wisdom is a very good thing, but sometimes we just have to step out in faith and trust the Lord to guide us.  I have found He won’t always show you the whole plan at once. You can’t develop faith if the whole thing is there right before you.  Faith comes from hearing and obeying.

Not long ago I was at the church in the auditorium working on some things, and a gentleman came in, he had been working with a group of men on the playground.  He asked me where the coffee shop was, and I told him straight ahead go through the doors where the exit sign is.  He thanked me and proceeded to the coffee shop without a problem.

I finished what I was doing and had turned the lights off, when someone said hello.  I turned around and could see a man coming in from the lobby area, but could not see who he was.  There was some light coming from the lobby, however the auditorium was dark.  He stopped and said he couldn’t see.  I told him he was doing fine and to just keep coming toward my voice.  He followed my voice and successfully made it over to the doors to the coffee shop.

He said it was scary as he couldn’t see anything, and his eyes had not adjusted to the dark coming in from the bright sun outside. He thanked me for helping him.

Later I got to thinking about it and the Lord spoke to me about trust and obey.  He said the first man that came through was like those in the kingdom who will obey as long as they can see where they are going and have enough information to make their decision. They determine the things they do by what they see and know. There isn’t any trust involved.

The second man was like those in the kingdom who will trust and obey the Lord without being able to see. They allow the Holy Spirit to guide them each step of the way. They trust that the Father knows what is best for them. That the Father will guide and direct them, and give them the information they need as they go.  He will stay by their side all the way through to the finish line.  They trust Him completely.

Heb. 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

“Trust and obey for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey.” 

This is from an old hymn we sang along time ago. We may not sing this exact song today, but the message is still the same, walking with Jesus is a journey of faith and obedience.

 

 

 

God Has Secrets

God Has Secrets

By Tammye Hamilton

A few years ago, Anna and I accidentally watched a National Geographic special about the wildlife on the island of Madagascar. We thought it was going to be the animated movie. It wasn’t but we decided to watch it anyway. It might sound boring but it was really fascinating.  

It turned out to be a great opportunity to discuss the godless theory of evolution. As the narrator spoke of creatures ‘adapting over millennia’, we discussed the incredible, miraculous nature of our Creator. We do this whenever we happen to encounter these ‘lies as facts’. 

Then, right there in the middle of the program on the wonders of our physical world, we had what can only be described as spiritual revelation. The narrator began to tell the story of a particular spider that is native to the island.

 It seems that when this itsy-bitsy spider needs a home, it searches for something to use as a refuge. In this case, the photographer filmed a spider that found an empty snail shell lying on the ground, which would serve its purposes. So, the tiny little spider spun its web from his branch down to the shell and back up to the branch and lifted that shell with his silk up to the branch, secured it from several angles “for maximum stability’ and crawled into it to live. We were amazed. 

The brain of that little spider cannot be bigger than a grain of salt yet he has the ability to think creatively. As we marveled at the nature of a God who created such a thing, I heard the narrator say, "This behavior has never been photographed before." 

Ah, God let us in on one of His secrets! And suddenly I realized that once again God is showing us that the spiritual realm intersects the natural world because our Creator is the Author of them both. 

He created a physical man and breathed spiritual life into Him. When He was rejected by His spiritual, physical creation, what was His response? He chose to become a physical being, a man just like His creation, but without sin. He left His perfect home to live in our natural world so that He could experience what we experience. 

He felt hunger, knew rejection and faced unbearable pain and suffering. He chose to bear all of our sin, sickness and death so that we could be free from all of those things. I am so grateful He chose to do that for us. 

In Jeremiah it says that if we ask Him, He will show us His secrets! I want to slow down enough to listen for all the things He wants to show me about His love for us!

“Call to Me and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

 

Burdens

Burdens

By Jacqi Ballough 

“That’s really sad.” The magnitude of loss and an intense depth of compassion had just hit our son. His voice was quivering. 

All three of us, mom, dad, and son, were sitting on his bed preparing for nighttime prayers and talking about the day. A moment before this tearful comment, he was joyfully chattering about his upcoming birthday, and then he realized a friend, who shared his exact birthday and was born within only a few hours of himself, had just lost his mother and would be without her this year. Instead of planning a party, his friend would be preparing for his mother’s celebration of life ceremony. 

For over a year, we had been praying consistently for her cancer to be miraculously healed, for the drugs to eradicate it, for wisdom in the doctors, for peace in family, for strength. We were not close friends, but we were fellow believers whose paths crossed at homeschool events or birthday parties. She was a faithful servant to the Lord and to her family. I am certain she is in the arms of Jesus and her testimony of hope in Christ has drawn others to know Him and set their eyes on eternity. With heavy hearts, our prayers have now shifted to her husband and children left behind, for the pain of their grief.

The body of Christ has it burdens, many unexplained and seemingly unfair, but that is where we, as a body (the church) have to pray, trust, and pray some more. 

John MacArther accurately stated, “that is precisely why the church is so important. It is our duty as believers to help bear one another’s burdens. When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian. Paul reminded the Galatians, ‘The whole law is fulfilled in one word: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Galatians 5:14)

How is that love best manifest? ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2)”*

Have you ever felt the want of healing for others (spiritually or physically) to the point it pains your heart? Have you ever been so consumed by compassion that the spirit within you groans? 

Tears flowed from my eyes last night when the church collectively prayed for those needing miracles. Watching men, women, and children come forward for prayer was an outstanding act of worship for the entire body of Christ. With their brothers and sisters in Christ bearing their burdens, many faithfully asked their Mighty Savior to heal their wounds and wipe away their transgressions.

After the service my son asked, “Why were you crying?” 

My only explanation: “I was bearing their burdens.” 

*https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/bearing-one-anothers-burdens/

Into The Light

Into the Light

By Denise Schmeer 

Have you ever had one of those “life moments” when everywhere you turn, around every corner, you keep running into the very thing you are trying to avoid? Well, welcome to my world!  That is how it has been lately for me and secrets. And not just my secrets . . . other people’s secrets too.  So, I asked God, “What is so bad about a secret or two?”

And why do we even have secrets . . . or keep secrets?  I’m not talking about the “it’s a surprise birthday party” type secret. I’m talking about the secrets we are afraid of sharing with others – our friends, our family, our co-workers.

Perhaps it some bad or sad news and we are silent in an effort to protect.  Or how about something foolish or even dangerous we did as a teenager or young adult?  Maybe our marriage is struggling and we don’t want to hear the “I told you so” from our parents.  How about a caregiver who is more interested in her iPhone than in the patient down the hall and we see it, but say nothing?  Or the promise we made to our spouse to quit smoking (or_________ fill in the blank), but continue to sneak that cigarette?  Maybe our finances are in ruin and we are ashamed to ask for help . . . another secret?

Are we hiding these things from God?  Not likely . . . He knows everything.  So, from who are we hiding and why?  What is our fear?  Whom are we protecting?  And why? Is there anything God cannot forgive if we are truly sorry – turn away from these things and look to Him for answers?

Now, I’m not suggesting we raise the roof and shout to the world about our “secret” or broadcast in today’s format of “everything on Facebook.”  No, what I am suggesting is we need look no further than God for forgiveness, direction and wisdom.  Nothing hidden in the dark can be healed.  No secret kept can protect us from Satan.  On the contrary, the Father of Lies wants us to keep our secrets, keep us in the dark and away from the healing Light of Jesus.

We overcome the darkness, we overcome the power of secrets, by the Word of our testimony.  So, I ask you today to search your heart and see what is hidden.  What is God calling you to bring out to Him, into the Light to be healed and made whole again? 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:5)

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?  (Psalm 27:1)

Striking 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.

Extending Forgiveness Requires Hurt or Wronged

Extending Forgiveness Requires Being Hurt or Wronged

By Debbie Walker

Recently, I went on a weekly work shopping trip early in the morning with some coworkers.  It was one of those days where everything went just not quite right.  The truck keys were in the wrong place, someone stopped me to talk, the trailer had not been unhitched from the last driver…and then the traffic! I wasn’t late but I was not early like my coworker wants.  So, he was not happy and it showed.

This particular coworker is not a Christian and is very vocal with small comments when he is not happy.  So, the next 30 minutes of shopping was filled with not so lovely comments and looks.

Honestly, it hurt my feelings. I tried really hard to not take it personally and to have the attitude that maybe I was just being overly sensitive. 

By the time our shopping was done, I was just feeling lousy.  I had maintained my composure but I felt pretty beat up verbally.  You know that feeing when nothing huge has happened but lots of little things have added up. You’re just aggravated for being treated wrongly when it’s not your fault.  

Nothing that morning had been my fault. I had done nothing wrong but still I was being treated poorly and unfairly. I was also hurt because I care about this individual and didn’t want or deserve to be treated the way I had been that morning.  

AND then it happened. The most surprising thing ever!  As we unloaded the supplies, this coworker unexpectedly said, “Hey, I am really sorry for being such a jerk this morning.”  Trying hard not to show the shock of this confession, I replied, “You’re forgiven.” The look in this coworker’s eyes told a deeper story of waiting to be chastised for being a jerk but yet, that is not what he had gotten. He was simply forgiven and he was grateful.  

And then it hit me.  The reality that without being hurt, I could not have extended this forgiveness.  I had to walk through the hurt and pain and unfairness in order to forgive.  

Christ had to do that.  He had to be beaten and hurt with no blame on his part, in order to take our place for our sins and to forgive us.  The look of gratefulness that I received when I simply forgave was worth all of the hurt that I had gone through that morning. 

Comparatively, I had not walked through anything very difficult but yet, I got it.  That little moment of revelation that comes when God wants to show us something really important in the simplest way that we can understand. 

We have to be hurt, often unfairly, in order to forgive but when we extend that undeserved forgiveness, we get a little better sense of what Christ has done for us. 

Colossians 3:17 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Just Come Clean...I Was Afraid!

Just Come Clean…I Was Afraid!

By Mavis Tipton

I wonder how many of you have ever been afraid or fearful, but didn’t want to admit to it? 

Last year that is how I was most of the time. The unknown of what was going on in Buddy’s body kept me praying, and many others were praying as well, and I will be forever grateful for all the prayers.

I thought I was resting and trusting in the Lord for his health to return, and I was, but deep down I was fearful I would lose him. 

I thought that if I didn’t voice that fear it would go away, and besides I’m a child of God I’m not supposed to be afraid…right? Wrong I was, and wrong I should have told God my fear.

The problem was I didn’t realize it, until Buddy was on the road to recovery, that I had been living in fear. 

After things settled down and began to return to normal, I started seeing how the stress and strain and fear had affected me. 

As I thought about it, I was shocked that the enemy had subtly been overshadowing my life.  How could this happen…because that is his job to sneak in and hide behind things, so we don’t see him.  

When you discover his tactics he begins again, by saying, ”you can’t admit to that.  People will think you are weak, and where is your faith?”

But I have good news for you he is a liar, a deceiver, a robber, and we have the power over him. 

Psalm 56:2-4 “I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me.  But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.  I praise God for what He has promised.  I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”

Everyone feels afraid at one time or another. It is what we do with fear that matters.  Do we choose to trust in the Lord, or in our situation?  Do we set our eyes on the Lord, for He is greater than anything we fear? 

Do we learn from our situations and move forward determined and stronger in the Lord for what we have experienced, because the Lord never left or forsook us? He carried us through, as only He can do…why? Because He loves us more than we will every fully understand. 

Webster defines afraid as being; impressed with fear or apprehension. 

Phil 4:6-7 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

If I just would have admitted to God my fear, He would have taken care of it, and given me the peace I needed, but I allowed pride to get in the way.   

As a parent/grandparent, I want to fix things for my family, and sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t.  God the Father can fix things for His children anytime, anywhere. All we have to do is…humble our self and ask.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving your children with an everlasting love.  Nothing is too great or small for you to take care of.  Please bless all who read this blog and give them hope and peace.  In Christ Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Years ago, we use to sing the song “Trust and Obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

 

 

Make New Friends but Keep the Old...!

Make New Friends but Keep the Old….!

Robin Houde

“Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” 

This was a favorite childhood rhyme of mine. It was so much fun to sing this as we children played, but I’m learning as an adult, it isn’t necessarily true. 

As I grow more mature in the Lord, God is showing me that some of my relationships are not so good for me and that I need to let go of them. 

I’ve had to let go of some friendships that appeared to be good but were actually extremely mentally and emotionally exhausting. Once I recognized these friendships for what they were I realized that I had to just let go of them. 

They were not the type of people that God wanted me to have in my life. It wasn’t that they were bad or sinful relationships, but they weren’t helping me grow as a person or as a Christian. 

It wasn’t easy letting go of decades of relationships but I knew I had to let go so God could ‘grow’ me. 

What I’ve found is that if I don’t obey His direction and find a way to let go of some of the friendships I’ve had then He will take them out of my life another way. 

I recently found much clarification on this topic of letting go from a Propel series called “Growth”. The study taught me that sometimes God has to cut things out of our lives to make room so that we can grow.

John 15:1-5 says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Meyou can do nothing.”

Letting go can also pertain to serving. Sometimes we have a hard time saying no when asked to assist or get involved. Well, at least I have a hard time saying no. 

Satan loves to keep us busy, doesn’t he! It’s a good idea to assess your success in every area. Take a step back and make sure you’re not doing things that God hasn’t told you to do and also see if you’re neglecting anything He has really asked you to do. 

It’s easy to say yes especially when it comes to serving in ministry or for your family but even if it’s a good thing you’re doing, it still may not be God’s thing. 

If what you’re doing doesn’t bring you joy, or doesn’t line up with His word, and it’s not producing any fruit then you may need to ‘prune’ it out of your schedule. 

Serving God isn’t so much about doing less but more about doing your best. If we keep ourselves so busy that at the end of the day we’re so exhausted that we have nothing left to give God then chances are we need to reassess.