Being Brave In The Midst of Defeat

Being Brave in the Midst of Defeat  

By Vicki Molinari

The lessons were booked. Gear purchased.  This Florida girl had seen snow only a couple times and the thought of gliding down a snow-covered mountain was very inviting.  "Let's do it", I thought, so with great excitement and anticipation, I embraced the challenge of snow skiing.  Decked out with every item to help me attain perfect form and the ability to make it to the bottom, I was in. Nothing would stop me, or so I thought.....

What looked so easy did not come to me as quickly as I had hoped.  My long gangly legs had trouble controlling the skis so that I headed in the desired direction.  Determined, however, I continued to pour into the art of skiing and attempt to put to practice all that the instructor was saying. 

My mind was whirling with the phrases I was given, yet somehow I could not bring the info from my head down into proper action to my awkward body.  Don't get me wrong, I was not the worst in my group of newbies, however, I was far from wearing a belt of skills that would carry me successfully to the bottom.  With every fall, came more doubt that I had what it took to succeed.  

The final blow came when I attempted to leave the lift chair. My ski tip hit an ice patch.  My dreams of the sound of the snow whooshing under my skis were dashed. Instead, I was transported down on a stretcher by a medic.  Humiliated, the desired victory became defeat.  Instead of feeling brave, my fears captured my every thought, paralyzing me to the point of injury.  

For the next several months following surgery, I played the day over in my head.  I felt defeated. Doubt chased me down and said: You are a loser, you'll always fail.  Just like you failed at skiing, you will never measure up in this life, letting everyone down who loves you. 

It was a dark season in my life.  My faith in God was stifled. I became crippled to the point of wanting to quit; life, family, ministry. All of it.  

Have you ever been there?  Your tank of bravery was full until fear emptied it dry? Your strength failed to the point of injury/defeat?

Truth: You don't have to live there!

The bible says in Habakkuk 3:19, The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].” AMP

It took much prayer to lift me from that season.  I learned that He is my strength. With Him, I can have courage to confidently face any challenge of life.  He makes me brave!  

Let me encourage you with one final thought:

Our success in life must NOT be based on us. We are weak but He is strong. There are no failures to God. Receiving the truth that He is with us and for us, we are free to do what He wants through us and we will be victorious! 

 

 

Two Letter Word

Two Letter Word                                                                                                          

 By Kellie Tipton

There were so many voices and sounds as I stood in line at the food court in the mall.  It was overwhelming at times as the volume went up and then delightfully down a bit when I started making out a conversation going on behind me. 

It was a mom who was explaining to her children the reason that they will not be going to the game room.  It was almost painful because she took so much time and effort in explaining as well as having to hear the children debate with her in the process.  She was avoiding the two letter word. 

It is the word that ends all conversation of the matter, although I don’t think that would have stopped her children.  It was clear there had been so many explanations and conversations about so many things over the years that they were accustomed to the process.  It took everything I had to not lean over and say “the word you are looking for is NO.” 

What I was picking up was that they did not have that much time or money to spend in the game room.  This lunch was a treat for the kids and they just were not really that aware of that gift from what I could tell.  I could tell it was stealing the joy of the moment for the mom and I felt for her.  This observation really stayed with me as I started noticing it was a trend as I went around town on errands in the days to come.

I know as a mom I had moments that I struggled with the word “no” just because I had to say it so much to some of my children.  They were always asking for things or to do things, and I wanted them to feel free to ask but it just seemed in that season the answer for many of the questions was “no.” 

As they grew up, I did try different ways to say it just so they had more information and understanding, but I didn't do it all the time because I wanted them to trust me and not always question me.  I knew there would be moments that I just needed them to listen.  When the tension or moment was past I allowed them to ask why as long as they were not having a bad attitude. 

Another way I tried to help them was that when they asked for something I would tell them the answer could be “yes” or “no” and to be prepared for the word “no.”  Generally you don’t have to prepare for the word “yes,” it is the word “no” that can stir up a negative reaction.  This became a great learning tool for them and I watched them learn to navigate through their emotions.

I have watched adults respond almost to the level of a child when given the word “no” and I realize they just have not been given the tools to know how to process and understand.  Without it there is distrust and rejection, which can lead to so many other issues. 

The reality is that in life we will be told “no” and we need to prepare our hearts and trust that God knows and has the bigger picture.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine and we need to remember that truth.

How do you respond when you are given the answer “no?”      

You never know when God just may be allowing it in order to bring growth into your life!

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~Romans 8:28

Get Up

Get Up

By Jacqi Ballough

I'm that person: the morning person; the one who wakes up full of energy, playful, and ready to go. There’s something about waking to a fresh start with renewed mercy that brings me joy.

“His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:23

“Weeping may last through the night but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

When it’s time to wake my son, I will often begin singing the children’s song “Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory” while having any stuffed animal available walk along his sleeping back and legs.

Thankfully he’s a happy morning person too who normally wakes laughing to these antics and will even ask, “Do it again Mom!” With older age and more responsibilities now (also known as morning chores) the “fun” of the morning isn’t always received the same as when he was 6.

If a disgruntled response to my friendly wake-up call comes, I change tactics: “Get Up,” said with a smile of course, and a few nice barks from our dog.

“Get up.” The words seem simple but everyone, me included, has those days when they would rather snuggle under the covers. The mind is willing but the body can be weak and lazy, especially if the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, was one man who received the command to “Get up” with urgency. In fact, he was given the command twice by God and he responded immediately both times.

The first time the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and he was told to “Get up, and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother.” (Matthew 2:13) Joseph left for Egypt that night. He didn’t finish dreaming or sleeping. He woke his sleeping wife and baby and acted in total obedience. As a result, his family was saved and a prophecy was fulfilled.

The second command to “Get up and go” also came in a dream and yet again Joseph  “immediately” left to return to Israel. (Matthew 2:19-21) Again, Joseph was rewarded with protection and another fulfilled prophecy.

In his position, I would probably have said, “Really God? Right now? How is this going to affect my family? My family has a life here. Shouldn't I pray about it more?”

I become comfortable and don't want to move but then I look at Joseph’s example and notice how he not only trusted God with the direction of his life, but the life of his family.  He knew God as his family’s protector, was attuned to His voice, and acted in total obedience.                

Lord, thank you for giving me outstanding examples of obedience and faith in your Word. Help me to demonstrate urgency like Joseph when you prompt me to move.  Direct my daily steps and give me the energy to “Get up and go” even when I may rather stay put. I love you Lord and trust you to know what is best for me and my family.

Her Most Treasured Possession

Her Most Treasured Possession 

By Vicki Molinari 

She lay on the floor next to various colorful toys.  It is obvious she is actively embraced as well as occasionally dropped.  Her body is visibly worn sporting no clothes, just a dirty and soiled bare figure out there for all to see.  She has a bandage on her head, ink marks on her arms and her cloth body is a dingy brown, mottled with stains.  Appearing to be anything but special, meet "Jensen", Elana's doll.

If this doll could talk, she would tell us of all her many adventures. She has been to various types of stores, theme parks, beaches, playgrounds, restaurants, and also traveled to other cities and states. She has even seen snow!  Carried sometimes just by her foot, Jensen has enjoyed life as Elana knows it!  

Recently, while on one of our outings at a local retail store came this comment.  "Perhaps you should buy her a new doll," the cashier said with a smile.  Meaning well, this gal presented her point to me.   

This doll was certainly not drawing attention because of her beautiful appearance but instead, perhaps it was now time she should be thrown away, like trash.  She was well worn from all the many experiences in her world since she broke loose from her original packaging.  Tattered, dirty and not desirable to a stranger's eye she is "broken". That is what a well-intentioned clerk saw.  

However, those who know Elana and her dolly Jensen, are well aware this doll is loved real good, in ways only a 2-year old could love a doll. She is treasured and adored!  Often she is rocked, cradled, comforted and soothed when dropped unexpectedly.  Elana has the ability to look right past the imperfections of her soiled and worn body to see a precious companion with whom she shares her world. She is her treasure! 

God says the same about us, dear friend.   

In Exodus 19:5 it says, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession".

We are of greater value to the Father than the most awesome treasure imaginable.  God poured out His love on us and proved our worth to Him by offering the most paramount payment He could possibly pay. Jesus death on the cross is the proof that we are God's most treasured possession.

Can you imagine that?  

The God, who made every precious jewel, gold, and silver, has chosen us to be His adored treasure. He loves us despite our past full of mistakes, pain and the scars to prove it. We are HIS.  We are loved. Period.  

Just as Elana loves and cherishes her soiled doll, Jensen, so the Creator of the universe adores us, just the way we are.  

No matter the season of our life and all of the unexpected twists and turns, our worth is not based on what we think of ourselves, what we look like, our sorted past, or by our own good deeds. Our value is found in Him.  We are His treasure!  We are loved!

Receive that today, will you?  

Dear Lord,

Thank you that we are loved by you, our Creator.  Cause us to know your love for us and feel your warm embrace.  Help us to realize that despite our past mistakes and the scars we carry to prove our pain, our value does not come from what we have done, the things we do or do not do.  Our value is because we are YOURS!  We are your most valued treasure. Today, we place our hearts and lives in your hands.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

Beneath The Surface

Beneath The Surface

By Audrey Botts

Living here in Vero Beach, Florida we are blessed to have one of the most beautiful untouched beaches. The blue ocean seems to go on forever across the Atlantic.  There is such peace and serenity as you stare off into the distance. 

Once in a while you can see the fin of a tiger shark or maybe a dolphin.  We often see what goes on the surface of the ocean, but do you ever wonder what is happening beneath?   

I have never been below the surface of the ocean, so I can only imagine what beauty and life lays in the mysterious blue sea. Even though I can’t see what is going on below the surface there is activity and life happening whether I see it or not.  

We too have life within us that no one but our creator can see. The Lord has a purpose and a plan for every creature that He breathed life into.  We may stray from His plan once in a while, but when we give up our will to follow His, He then starts to renew us day by day molding us into an image just like His.    

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

When I became a believer in Christ, seventeen years ago, I wanted to make sure my children had Christ in their life too. Their salvation was the most important thing to me.   

I took them to church and got them involved in youth ministry. They seemed to be on the right track after they dedicated their lives to Christ. That soon changed when they became adolescents. 

They strayed from the Lord, started to rebel and do everything that was counter to the Christian way of life.  

Countless nights I have spent praying for their salvation. It’s been several years now and still no change. I have asked God these questions “When Lord?  When will my prayers be answered?”  “What is taking so long?”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Prov. 3:5-6

 Then the Lord asked me “How old were you when you were saved,” as if He didn’t know. 

I too was a lost soul and it took me 30 years before the Lord called me.  I was driving down the highway one night, when I came across this Christian television show over the radio station.   

As I listened to the preacher I was drawn to the Lord as he described Jesus’ love for me and it was then that I gave my heart to the Lord.   Just like that!  Nobody was in the car with me trying to persuade me to come to Christ.  This just happened out of the blue. 

Was God working on me before this?  I know now that beneath the surface, Jesus was the one preparing my heart to receive him.  Jesus called me to Him. 

“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” Jeremiah 24:7

The Lord simply assured me that my timing is not His timing and a day will come when my prayers will be answered.  I simply need to love them and display what the Lord has done in my life. 

You cannot force someone to come to Christ.  Christ will call them when He is ready for them. 

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  John 6:44

I can rest assure that my God has my back.  He knows the plans He has for my spouse, my children and me.  When I place my hope and life in His hands, there is nothing that can tear me away from Him.  Nothing!!

February The Month of Love

February The Month of Love

By Mavis Tipton

Love a small word with a very broad and powerful meaning. When you think of love many things can come to mind: 

The love of a spouse, children, friends, church, things and places and last but not least God. 

We tend to put things, places, food, sports, etc. that we have a great fondness for into the category of ‘love.” According to one of Webster’s definitions for love is: (a warm attachment, enthusiasm, devotion, or admiration) for those things we put in the category of ‘love.’ 

Webster defines love as:

         1a (1) :  strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) :  attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers <After all these years, they are still very much in love.> (3) :  affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>

         b :  an assurance of affection <give her my love>  

The Biblical definition for love is:

"Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker. It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not."

I love the Lord with all my heart, mind, body, and soul, however my love for Him dims in comparison to His love for me. 

I write this with a very grateful heart full of love for my Lord and Savior.  Once again He has shown His love to my family and me, by the miracle He perform in January.

My husband (Buddy) went in for surgery on his carotid artery that the doctors said was 85% blocked. All went well with the surgery, which is another blessing and act of love from our Lord.  

There was about a 1-½ inch length of plaque.  Wrapped around the plaque were blood clots, and around all of that a mesh like substance that was holding it all in place.   

The mesh is a miracle from the Lord.  Without the mesh those clots would have broken loose and gone straight to Buddy’s brain.

God’s love was so unconditionally given to us by sparing Buddy’s life. We can never thank the Lord enough for His extravagant gift of love, grace and mercy. 

May we love like He does, not just in February, but all year, everyday. 

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.”

Eph. 5:2 Msg. 

Happy Valentines Day

God Loves You.

Hate Mail

Hate Mail

By Tammye Hamilton

The long depressing email arrived on a Monday and landed heavily on my heart. It brimmed with accusation and half-truths. Someone I love like a sister announced that although she loved me, we were no longer friends. I did not feel loved.

The things she seemed convinced I'd done had never even occurred to me. Perception is a complicated thing. Once someone is deceived, the only thing that matters is how they feel. 

I wrote five responses in my head. I prayed. I forgave her. I prayed some more. I mentally composed three more brilliantly defensive answers. Truth was on my side.

Then I sat down to write my response. And all I felt was love. So I simply told my friend what I love about her. I didn't defend myself or correct the untruths. I didn't even want to after all. That was a miracle for this outspoken justice girl. 

The love I expressed flowed from a place that was not my injured, defensive heart. It was from the One who lives in me and overcomes the works of the evil one. He reminded me of all the joy my friend has brought me and all the things I admire about her. He also reminded me of her wounds. We all have them. They color our thoughts and invade our relationships. 

I spoke the absolute truth. The tears flowed as I penned the words. I was amazed to find my own heart healing as I wrote. 

I was still surprised when the next day, I felt no pain. The next week I hardly thought of it. Grace had closed the door on rejection and drama.

There was no response to my email. We speak politely and hug when our paths cross but it is clear her heart is not open to mine.

We talk of confronting lies with the truth and I believe there is a place for that. But I'm thinking now that the truth we most often must speak into deceived hearts is the truth of LOVE. No matter the risk. Love endures ALL things.

Chances are you have been misunderstood, falsely accused or rejected by someone you love and you know this heart pain. I promise you that If you forgive in faith and respond in love, your heart CAN heal. 

Jesus experienced so much injustice. He knows this pain. He was Perfect...definitely not something any of us can claim, yet He humbled himself and took all my yuck and all your yuck on Himself. His perfect, sinless self. Because He loves us.

That is something to fill your heart and mind with today. That kind of love. It sets us free, fills us up and overflows on others. I want to be a carrier of that kind of love, don't you?

Whether or not we're vindicated. Even when our accusers don't repent. Even if the reconciliation we pray for never happens. Because true grace and deep abiding love found us. 

And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself still further and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!  Philippians 2:8 (Amplified Bible)

 

Because Of God's Love For Me

Because of God's Love for Me

By Vicki Molinari 

The day came just like many other days.  After a restless night's sleep, I was awakened early.  Before my feet hit the floor, I said "Thank you God for your love and mercy and for a new day in which to serve You".  You see, every morning, that is my brief prayer, stated to the Lord.  However unlike most days, I woke up with a song on my heart. 

Your Praise Will Ever Be On My Lips by Bethel Music

The writer sings... God's love is devoted and enduring.  Beyond the horizon there is mercy for today.  God is faithful and He pledges Himself to me and it’s why I sing.....Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips!

And this scripture filled my thoughts.

Psalm 19:14 (ESV)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."

I believe, on that morning, through a song and a Bible verse, came a word to me from the Lord.  Though simple, it is significant and it has carried me into this New Year. 

The word:  Realize His amazing love for me endures forever, praise Him always and let all I do and say be pleasing to Him.  I also could not shake the phrase, "because of God's love for me".  I prayed the words back to God and asked him to help me to apply this to my life!  

Not long after, I wrote a few heart desires down in my journal.

Because of God's love for me.....For 2017: 

Heavenly Father -

*  Cause me to be YOU-focused instead of ME-focused,  praising you always,

because of your love for me, which is like no other love.  

*  Allow me to be intentional in my relationships with others sharing words and thoughts acceptable to the Lord,  

because of your love for me, which is like no other love.  

*  May I pursue life with passion always moving forward, making plans & setting healthy goals, 

because of your love for me, which is like no other love.   

These are just a few of my desires, prayers and words from the Lord.  How about you? What are your hopes, dreams and desires for 2017?  Have you considered His vision for your life and that YOU matter to God.  Ask Him to speak to you and then trust and listen, and write it down.  

I declare that by staying focused on God, being led and directed by His love and the Holy Spirit, we can build meaningful relationships, while serving others.  We can have an impact on our family, our workplace, our community and this nation. Let's believe Him for great things in this new year.   

Let's pray.... 

Lord, Keep our hearts in tune with yours, knowing we are loved by You.  Because of that special love, we don't need to strive but trust in your warm embrace to make us stronger, living effective lives for You! We will give YOU all the glory!  In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passing Notes

This week we welcome our second new writer.  Joining us is Jacqi Ballough.  Jacqi is a very dedicated young woman of God.  She is passionate about many areas of her life. Serving Jesus Christ and providing a loving home for husband Bill and son Ethan are her top priorities. You will be blessed as you read her articles.  Please welcome Jacqi Ballough.

Passing Notes

By Jacqi Ballough

Lunch time! The bell had rung and the reprieve of lunch brought joy to my elementary school day. Who would l sit with? What stories would I hear? What would fill my hungry stomach? 

Opening my lunch box, I gazed upon a cucumber sandwich, Lance cheese crackers, a banana, and a cherished Little Debbie cake. Mom had packed my favorites again, but on top of it all sat a love note. It was a small, square piece of bright-colored notepaper with a sparkling heart sticker and “love you! Mom” written in cursive. Simple and sweet.  

She didn't know at the time how much these meant, but they did. Days of being name-called by other kids, a friend’s cold shoulder, or just an over-worked brain are hard lessons of childhood life, but I had the consistency of love from home to lessen the blow and build me back up. Tucked away in my closet, an old shoebox would keep the love notes, and I would refer back to them as confirmation during times of trial.   

In the Bible I often think of 1 John, Song of Solomon, or Psalms as love letters, yet the Bible in its whole is God’s love letter to us, and He reveals His love through each book. 

“God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1John 4:9-10

Often hidden among verses ensuing strife or distress His love seems even more profound.  

“Now I will take the load from your shoulders;

I will free your hands from their heavy tasks.

You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you;”

Psalm 81:6-7 

Today Mom still sends me cards with loving words, and I still have a sentimental keep-sake box with them stored; but now I grab my Bible to receive daily love and encouragement from my eternal home.   

God is my source. He fills me up, and I desire to pass it on through love notes to my husband, son, and friends in hopes of demonstrating the same love He gave me.  

In return, I am blessed to occasionally find a note on the kitchen counter from my husband, or see my son slip one into his father’s lunch; and when an “I love you” is discovered written on a fogged bathroom mirror by little fingers, I can't help but smile. Such sweet reminders of God’s love in our busy lives.  

Have you sought out God’s love notes? If so, pass them on.  A chain reaction will ignite. 

I Hereby Resolve….

By Cheryl McCloud

Why does turning a page on a calendar make us resolve to make changes to our lives? Most of the time, we want to replace bad habits with good ones or maybe improve the quality of our lives by vowing to eat better, exercise more, etc.

Survey after survey tell us the most popular New Year's resolutions are to lose weight, exercise or to quit smoking or drinking.

It's said that 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year's resolutions, but only 8 percent achieve their resolution.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves, but why do so many of us put other worthwhile goals so low on our list of things to do?

Spend time with family, enjoy life, help others ...

Why do we race from thing to thing in our lives and forget about the relational elements God created us for? Is this why so many find it difficult to believe that God loves us as we are and desires to spend time DAILY with us?

I love what the Bible tells us about Enoch in Genesis (Chapter 4 and 5) and again in Hebrews (11:5).

"By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 'He could not be found, because God had taken him away.' For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years.  Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." (Genesis 5:22-24)

Enoch walked with God. He spent time with Him. And he did it faithfully, over 365 years! This PLEASED God.

They say that habits can be formed by doing them regularly over 28 days. If you want to make a resolution, make one that spills over into every corner of your life and spend time with the creator of the universe. Share your thoughts, your fears, your dreams. Listen to what He has to say and just bask in His love for you. There truly is no better place to be.

 

Expecting

Expecting!

By Tammye Hamilton

I love babies. Tiny humans are truly one of God's best ideas ever! I love to kiss my grandbabies from their heads to their toes. There’s just something really special about fresh, new life.  

My love for new life extends to the new year. All through the craziness of the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, I am happily anticipating the coming year like an expectant mother anticipates that new little life about to be born.    

We have expectations, plans, dreams and goals for 2017 as we do for each of our children when they arrive.  

Like me, you probably have a year or two of your life that you would like to have skipped. That year defined by serious family issues, illness, or the deep loss of someone you loved. 

In 2003 we received an obvious, miraculous gift from God when our sweet Anna Joy was born. A few months later, my wonderful daddy suddenly passed away. It was indescribable joy followed by overwhelming heartbreak.   

Some years are like that.   

2016 held many surprises and unexpected challenges for so many. As the year ended the buzz was all about what an awful year it was. As Jon and I reflected on the year, we decided that God was with us and the joys far outweighed the grief.  

2017 will certainly bring change and it’s own challenges. Whatever this year may hold for us, we can trust Him. We do not need to fear the future or carry the past into this new year. If it is tragedy we face, He will walk by our side. If great joy awaits us, He will rejoice over us.    

The best news is that God has a special plan for this year just for you. As we ask Him to show us and lead us into His plan, His blessings will surprise us. He is a loving Father who longs to give good gifts to His kids.  

So as we embrace this fresh new year, let's open our hands to release the old and receive the new. 

I am so excited to see His plans unfold for 2017!    

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

A Brand New Year

A Brand New Year

By Mavis Tipton

 

Welcome 2017…wow can you believe that we are already beginning a new year and it is 2017? 

Is it just me, or does it seem that only yesterday we were celebrating the year 2000!  It is just incredibly amazing how fast the time slips by. 

We are beginning our fourth year of Women Encouraging Women.  In November we added a new writer Audrey Botts, and this month we are adding another new writer Jacqi Ballough.  We welcome these two wonderful women of God, and know that you will be blessed beyond measure as they share their stories throughout the year. 

Thank you to Tammye Hamilton, Cheryl McCloud, Vicki Molinari and Kellie Tipton, for your faithfulness these past three years.  You never fail to bless and encourage our readers.  God Bless you.  Looking forward to what He will give you to share this year.

If you would like to receive Women Encouraging Women through your inbox, go to centralassembly.com and find Women Encouraging Women and scroll to the bottom and click on subscribe.

Another new event we will be adding to the Central Assembly’s Women’s Ministry is “Propel Women,” conversation series.  Propel Women was founded by Christine Caine a well-known speaker, and author from Sidney, Australia.   

The conversation series is an informal time of women coming together and discussing, and sharing their thoughts and encouraging one another through words of encouragement and prayer.

1 Thes. 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

The first session begins January 13th from 7-8:30 pm at Central Assembly located at 6767 20th Street, Vero Beach, Fla. 32966.  Doors will open at 6:30 PM. You may register at centralassembly.com, or just come and join us the night of, as we will be delighted for you to be a part of the Vero Beach Propel Women’s chapter.  (Sorry there is no childcare.) 

Our first session’s topic will be: Balance: The Myth of Having It All.  There will be six sessions and they will be once a month, the first Friday of each month.  For further information you may call me at 772-569-4326. 

I look forward to seeing each of you there.  Invite a friend, neighbor coworker, someone the Lord puts in your path that needs the fellowship of other women. 

Wishing you a very Happy New Year and God’s riches blessings.

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Christmas Gift

The Unexpected Christmas Gift

By Tammye Hamilton

 I was unbelievably surprised. My big-eyed six year old stood in front of me gently holding out her most prized possession. A very special birthday gift that year, she loved her doll in the way only a sensitive little girl can love a plaything. This wasn't just a doll. This was her baby.

"Mommy", she said. "I want to give Julie to that little girl for Christmas." Ya'll. It felt like my heart literally jumped up into my throat. 

I was a volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center and that Christmas I was serving a mom with three little girls and a baby on the way. They had quickly left a bad situation and had few belongings. We decided to gather up some things to make sure they could celebrate Christmas. 

I shared their story with my little one and sent her to see if there was anything in her toy box she could part with so other little girls could receive Christmas gifts. Imagine my shock when she chose something she so dearly loved. 

I looked the pure gift of giving in the face. A sweet, innocent face that could have given more but chose to give the thing that meant the most to her.  

I love the story in the Old Testament when the landowner tried to give King David everything he needed to make a sacrifice. David declined saying, ‘I will not offer God something that cost me nothing.’

Paul uses the Greek word ‘metadidomi’ to describe the gift of giving in Romans 12. The word implies giving “out of yourself”.

As Jon said recently, “The gift of giving isn’t giving out of your abundance, it’s giving out of your own substance.”

Just as I took notice of my daughter’s sacrificial gift, Mark tells us that Jesus noticed when the poor widow gave what she had even though it was only a few cents. She gave out of herself.  

So, during the bustle of this Season, let’s stay focused on the true gift of giving. Giving that captures the attention of our Heavenly parent. He always sees. 

 

 

FAMILY MEETING

FAMILY MEETING

BY KELLIE TIPTON

“Bye! Have a great week and I will see you next Sunday” is something I have said to many children over the years.  What a privilege it is to share little moments of life with them each week and with many I have the opportunity to share even more moments throughout the week as they come to other services or participate in other ministries.   

I say share little moments of life because I only get moments and I never take that lightly cause time flies and the children grow up so fast! 

Barna research has shown that by the age of thirteen, your spiritual identity is largely set in place.  There is an open window of time in a child’s life that we have the most impact on how a child views themselves and their purpose in life.   

Our culture knows it well as you observe television shows, movies, books and games.  It is so easy for families many times to put church going on the back burner.  Schedules are busy and as children grow up they find other opportunities more interesting. 

So we will miss an opportune moment to show our children the importance of meeting with other believers as we worship together and share life together.   

It is just so easy to excuse it or say it is just a season, but I have seen it time and time again as well as lived it.  Once you get out of that habit it causes more opportunity to fill it with other things and your children suffer for it and I am not just meaning spiritually, but also relationally. 

It takes time to develop relationships and if given the opportunity our children can develop relationships within the church that helps in connecting them with other believers.

In Hebrews 10:19-39 (NIV) we are given a “Call to Persevere” or in the Message version it is entitled “Don’t Throw It Away” and is where you find the scripture that is quoted many times…24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

As parents we have to be intentional in guiding our children to value so many things and that includes meeting together with other believers. 

The church (body of Christ) is meant to encourage and equip and it is vital to remember that while it may not in all honesty feel that way sometimes, we are family!  Family is not always the easiest to get along with but we do not just drop them when things get tough, or at least we shouldn’t. 

As a church we need to be sure to come alongside parents and equip them to provide their children at the earliest age possible with biblical principles that will protect them from a barrage of worldly ideas and teaching that is opposed to the biblical worldview. 

Cultivating a biblical worldview means learning to think and act like Jesus and we can do it best together!  

As a children’s pastor I have the privilege to see many children grow up and in many cases they continue to be a part of children's ministry as they serve in the classes. 

It is never easy to see them go whether it is a choice or a new season as they leave for college or move away.  Change is hard even in the best of circumstances and every time reminds me of how much they are a part of me, like family. 

As I pray and prepare for more moments, I pray for our families and look forward to our next Family Meeting!

A Love Deeper Than The Ocean

A Love Deeper Than the Ocean

By Vicki Molinari

 

Some people are brought into our lives in seemingly normal ways, but will forever impact our hearts for eternity.  Do you know someone like that?  I do.  

Joel and I met in a church and were married by Pastor Dave. He had a heart bigger than the world.  He served and loved as you would expect a pastor would do, however was known to go far and above his normal duties.   

He invested in our lives in ways that we will forever remember. His wife is no exception. She gave beyond her role. Their lives represent true giving and sacrifice for as long as we've known them.

Today, we received in the mail a card of thanks and a gift. Some 32 years later, they are still loving us.  I know this doesn't sound extraordinary, but let me tell you why it is. 

"In 2016 they celebrated 40 years of marriage, have a thriving ministry, beautiful children and grandchildren.  They were also faced with a diagnosis of an incurable motor neuron disease called ALS for our dear friend, Pastor Dave.  

It has taken hold in his body, weakening every muscle and left him without use of his arms, legs or speech. This made it necessary for them to lay aside all commitments in ministry and begin a battle for healing."     

Despite this diagnosis, they went on to say in their note "they will follow the biblical principles found in Romans 8:16-32 and Philippians 3:10, first the suffering and then the glory. Suffering in the sovereign Lord deciding a path for us that can surprise us or seem to contradict His nature. We must trust His love when we cannot perceive His ways."

My eyes are welled up with tears. A man who is battling for his life, and a wife who will dedicate her time now caring for him, have love deeper than the ocean.  They have chosen to continue to minister and reach out to others despite the storm in which they are walking. 

Their proclamations of faith in the Lord Jesus and trust in His love for them set forth an example we could all follow.  Though suffering, they continue to give, love, serve and believe for healing!

Christmas is our celebration of Jesus birth. It is also a time to reflect and to realize the sacrifice God made when He decided to give His only son for US!   Will we do the same in our lives, sacrificing no matter the circumstances?  Can we choose to love, forgive and serve in ways that will impact people for eternity? 

I know what the Bible tells me...Our lives matter.  We were created to reach others, sharing the gospel of Jesus.  I challenge you in 2017 to make that one of your resolutions.  Let's reach beyond our limits and share the love and message of Christ, impacting the lives of others.

May we strive to not settle for a love stifled by our circumstances but instead love extravagantly despite our circumstances!  As Pastor Dave and Barb have shown, may we love others with a love deeper than the ocean. 

who Am I?

It is with great joy I would like to take this opportunity to welcome and introduce you to our newest Blogger Audrey Botts. I have known Audrey for about 16 years. I have had the privilege to watch Audrey come to the Lord and grow into a strong woman of God.  I know you will be blessed as she shares and encourages you through her life’s experiences.  Please welcome Audrey Botts.  Thank you for joining us Audrey.

Love, Mavis

Who Am I?

By Audrey Botts

 

What’s your background?  A question I have heard most of my life.  Honestly, I really don’t know.  I have very little information about my birth parents.  My biological father was an immigrant from Germany and my mother was Native American or possibly First Nation from Canada. 

I was orphaned when I was around a year old and raised by a Hispanic family.  My life’s story is quite complicated and very hard to explain.   You have to really know me in order to understand.  Very few venture in that direction, ha-ha.   

Truth is… I had a hard time with my identity.  Not only in the mystery of my heritage, but in my personal identity.  Your personal identity is shaped by your early experiences in life.  It is how you see yourself.  

Some have good experiences, while others don’t have it so good.    Unfortunately, my early experiences were less favorable. 

During my formative years, I had developed a negative self-image from abuse I experienced in my childhood.  I was emotionally scarred by the very ones that were supposed to love me and shelter me.  

I hated myself and questioned why was I ever born?  I wasn’t a Christian so I sought the approval of man to define who I was.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”.  (Jeremiah 1:5)

Many people struggle with their identity. They base their personal identity on what others have said about them, how others see them, and label them as.  Your own opinion of yourself will also construe who you really are.

This is a big problem for many people who struggle just to fit in.  God says you are not defined by what other say about you or what you think of yourself.   You are defined by how He sees you.  God alone defines you. 

You are His wonderful creation and He loves you.  “He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22 NLT).   

When I became a Christian, Jesus pulled me out of my self-loathing pit of hell and embraced me with His amazing love.  I discovered who I really was in Christ.  I am ever so grateful for that. 

I experience His love and acceptance every time I attend church and I see the wonderful faces of all the lives He rescued from this evil world. 

Yes, we are all coming from different backgrounds, races and personal life experiences. When we come together to worship our Father in heaven; we become one, one family in love with the same Father.  

God sees the beauty in our ashes and restores us to who He created us to be.  So don’t forget! You were created for a purpose… a purpose you were destined to fulfill from the beginning.

I may never uncover the mystery of my heritage but I do know who I am in Christ.  I am a child of God.  I belong to His kingdom and His kingdom will never end.

 

 

 

 

Preparing A Feast

Preparing A Feast

By Cheryl McCloud

I love to cook and bake. I'm always searching for new recipes to try. I enjoy seeing my family sample each creation as I shoot for a "wow" reaction.

I'm not a creative cook, able to take a pinch of that and a dash of this and come up with something phenomenal. So I'm always on the lookout for cookbooks at yard sales, or dipping into the Internet for something new to try. I'm especially interested in trying recipes that combine that elusive combination of being both delicious and healthy!

It's reached the point that my bookshelves are bending under the weight and some family members are threatening an intervention to stop my growing cookbook collection.

I really take to heart the Proverbs 31 woman. Verse 15 says:

"She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants."

I love how the enjoyment I get in providing for my family reflects God's delight in providing for us.

Psalm 36:7-9 says, "They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights."

I can't say that I always see the provisions He provides. This has been a year where I've been more of the woman begging for crumbs from His table (Matthew 15:27) as I walk through one valley after another.

I can't tell you how much I've leaned on Him -- or hidden under His wing -- as one storm after another has pounded me. But He promises us “He'll always be with us and He Will Provide.” 

And best yet, He doesn't do so like the headmaster in a Charles Dicken's tale. He provides generously, abundantly. He's the one who throws open the door, gives me a giant hug and leads me to that table, and then urges me to try each special dish He delighted in preparing just for me.

He’s waiting for you, too. Peering out the window, anxious for your arrival. Are you on your way? 

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

By Mavis Tipton

Psalm 100

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into His presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, He is God!

It is He who made us, and we are His;

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His

Courts with praise!

For the Lord is good; His steadfast love

Endures forever, and His faithfulness

To all generations.” (ESV) 

This is a Psalm most of us are familiar with.  Whenever I hear it or read it, I am always reminded how 29 years ago I began a new career.  I became a Pre-K teacher at our Christian school. 

The Bible curriculum instructed me to teach the children Psalm 100, and they were required to memorize it.  I thought this is a lot for little 4 year olds to memorize.  But we began to memorize it, a little bit everyday, so that by Thanksgiving they had it fully memorized.

Along with Psalm 100, they memorized a weekly scripture, as well as the pledges to the American Flag, Christian Flag and Bible.  They learned to sing The Star Spangle Banner, God Bless America, and My Country Tis of Thee, not to mention learning their letters and numbers etc.   

Children will amaze you with their ability to learn and retain.  Yes much of it is rote learning at that age, but you can never underestimate how the Lord will tuck those things deep down in their hearts, to bring them to remembrance at a later time.

I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to speak into so many lives over a 15-year period.  We never know the path that the Lord will sometimes take us down, but if we will yield ourselves to His calling, He is faithful to prepare us, lead us and use us. 

As Thanksgiving approaches, and with so much turmoil in our world, I am reminded of the sacrifices first that Jesus made for mankind, and thankful for my salvation. 

I’m thankful for family members and all the men and women who served our country for our freedom, many of them giving their lives, so that we might live. 

We have so much to be thankful for even in the midst of turmoil. 

I’m thankful for my family and friends.  For good health, a home and food on the table. For being able to serve with my husband in a great church with people who are so kind, caring and loving.  For a really great community we live in.  We are blessed, thank you Lord Jesus.

Wishing each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.”

Celebrate Your Blessings

Celebrate Your Blessings

By Vicki Molinari  

Busy.  A simple word meaning "industrious, diligent, actively engaged or occupied.”  Busy chiefly stresses activity as opposed to idleness or leisure.

As long as I can remember, my life has been full; full of family, friends, school, work, church and more.  With those come commitments and much activity.  When I was single, my schedule was relatively simple.  Once married and then adding children, the responsibilities grew.  I thought that was what life was about, "the busyness".

Being a task-oriented person, I have never felt I could not manage the load, but instead do my best to carry the weight, even if it means working long days.  Often I find myself staying up at night to finish projects, balance the budget, plan family events, and simply finish the "laundry" of the day.  My days are bursting at the seams with "busy" and I find it not uncommon to get swept up in the chaos of life and lose sight of what really matters. 

My days are passing by so swiftly.  Lately, I have been challenged with this question. I can manage my busyness, however "How much time do I actually invest in God and in the people I love and care for, the ones God has placed in my life?" I am finding that busy is not always better and certainly is not God's best for my life.  God matters most, however people and relationships are given to me by Him, to nurture, love and enjoy. 

This amazing revelation is not new and certainly not "deep" by any means.  But I am determined to put down my "list" and spend some leisure time building relationships that last for eternity. How about you?

First, let’s embrace our relationship with God. May our hearts remain pure and passionate for HIM, always giving thanks.  Psalm 107:1 says, Give thanks to the Lord for His mercy endures forever.   

Next, let’s take time for those we love.  John 13:34 says “A new command I give you; Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another”. 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and reflect on our blessings. Many of us experience renewed hope and encouraged faith during the Thanksgiving holiday because we turn our eyes onto what is most important. I love Thanksgiving, for more than just the yummy dinner. 

What if we spent time each day giving thanks and loving others? How God could grow our faith and trust if we lived a life of thanks through all seasons and not just Thanksgiving time!

In the weeks ahead, let’s be intentional, shall we?  Pursue God, enjoy each other and have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Celebrate your blessings!





 

 

The Dress

The Dress

By Tammye Hamilton

It's a simple cotton dress...red with tiny white polka dots and white trim...it twirls when she walks and makes her feel oh so pretty.

Our daughter Naomi has spent her life caring for victimized women and children. Today, her ministry, Safe Refuge, gives shelter to dozens of rescued women and children in the Philippines. 

 

Every morning, young mothers and children, crawl out of warm, safe beds to eat a hot breakfast, don a clean, crisp uniform and head off to school. Before Safe Refuge, few had ever slept in a bed or had enough to eat. None were protected and most had only attended a few years of school, if any. 

I don't remember where the dress came from, it has been so long now. Anna is 13 and she was only five when she wore it. One day it was just too small so I put in a bag for Safe Refuge and it made its way to the Philippines for the precious girls of Safe.

The first time Naomi sent a picture of one of her girls wearing it, I cried. The poignancy of seeing the rescued child smiling up at me in Anna's red polka dotted dress was too much for me. Purchased as just one more pretty thing for a typical American girl, it crossed the miles to make her feel pretty, too.


It's not fair that my children were born to privilege and most of the world's children were not. It can't make sense that some are loved and protected while many are not. Yet, it is the reality of our fallen, sin-drenched world.

66 million children go hungry every day across the developing world. There are an estimated 6 million children in slavery.


As believers in Jesus, we can make a difference. This season when we have more than enough as we celebrate the blessings God has given us, we can remember the hungry, the needy, those who have less. We can make our gratitude tangible by helping others.


As we plan our budgets and buy our Christmas gifts, we can make sure we include the children who will not receive the same abundance as our children and grandchildren. We can also make others aware of ways to bless those in need. 

If you would like to make a difference for the mothers and children of Safe Refuge, you can give at saferefugeinternational.com.

If you would like to help needy families in our local community this season, you can contact the Salvation Army at 772-978-0265 or Pastor Larry Boan at Central Assembly at 772-562-4505

Over the years, more of Anna's dresses have found their way to the girls of Safe Refuge. That first precious one, who was undernourished and very sick with gonorrhea and chlamydia when she came to Safe, is a gifted, thriving eighth grader who loves Jesus.

Every now and then, in pictures, I catch a glimpse of another little sweetie twirling in the red polka dotted dress with white trim. Once again, I thank God that she is safe. And yes, I cry every single time.

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. Isaiah 58:10