Dirty Dishes

Dirty Dishes

By Tammye Hamilton

There were dirty dishes in the sink along with sticky spots on the kitchen counter and floor. The glass coffee table needed a good cleaning. Clutter was scattered around the living room. 

Everything was perfect.

“Welcome! Come on it! I’m so glad you’re here!”

I greeted each friend warmly as they arrived at my home for our discipleship group, making sure to give each one a meaningful hug.

That day’s discussion was about the things that keep us from reaching out to others. As we talked I asked a question, “What did you notice when you arrived at my house today?”

One by one they answered, “How warmly you greeted me at the door.” “The wonderful hug you gave me. I so needed that this morning.”  Another said, “You really made me feel like you are happy I’m here.”

If they noticed my messy house, it obviously didn’t matter. What mattered was the way I made them feel.

As my friends learned that day, many of the fears we have when we talk about welcoming people into our lives have to do with things that don’t really matter.

There are so many hurting people in our city, people who are just looking for someone to care.

A hurting person probably won’t notice that your sofa is worn or that you aren’t dressed in the latest style. You will make a lasting impression if you are interested in her and what is going on in her life.

What if we focus on showing compassion and being real rather than being so concerned about appearances?

What if we choose the adventure of reaching those outside the security of the church walls?

What if we let them see our imperfections and the amazing grace we walk in?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

 

 

 

 

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

By AudreyBotts

Last week, I was asked to go on stage to welcome our church members and first time guest.  As I was on stage, I reflected back upon a time when I was first welcomed by my church family many years ago.

It was about 17 years ago and I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, my first divorce.  

I was not a committed believer at the time, so I was not attending church on a regular basis.  

I had just been separated a few months from my first husband when this incident happened. 

Both of my children were still young at the time and they were attending Indian River Christian School.  My youngest child was graduating from kindergarten and her school was having a graduation for them. 

All families of the children were invited to come celebrate this special time with them.  So I went.

When I entered the sanctuary I saw my soon to be ex-husband, sitting with my children, his father, and his new girlfriend.   I was confused and did not know where to sit.   

I was shocked and I had a realization that I no longer belonged to that family anymore.  I still had my children when they were home with me, but not when they were with their father.  This was so confusing to me.   

I felt so humiliated and lost.  I sat a few rows in back of them.   I did everything I could to hold back my tears. 

Then out of nowhere I remember a gentle touch on my shoulder.  It was the pastor’s wife.  She told me to come and sit with her and her husband during the ceremony.  She could see what was going on and took compassion on me.  She took my hand and led me to her family, God’s family.   

I didn’t realize at the time what took place physically was also happening spiritually.   The Lord was using his servant to welcome me into his family and kingdom.   

I can look back and see that Jesus was not happy with this and used His servant to help me.    

When your world around you crumbles the Lord is there waiting for you to take His hand to welcome you into His kingdom.

God used my pastor’s wife to welcome me into God’s family that day.  She might not remember this, but I do and I am forever grateful for her.    Thank you!

 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”  Matthew 25:35-36

There are so many hurting people in this world that need to see the love of Jesus.  I challenge you today to be Jesus’ hands and feet.  Welcome them into His kingdom as He did for me.   God bless

 

 

"God, This is Mommy, Do You Hear Me?"

"God, This is Mommy, Do You Hear Me?"

Vicki Molinari

Over coffee, one rainy day, I recall a conversation with a young mother.  She was asking, "God, what is your purpose for my life?"

 You see, as a single young lady she felt His will for her life was clear. She was involved in outreach ministries, choir and much more. The season was full of opportunities in which she could serve Him!!   

Actually, it was while serving the Lord that she met her husband. As two single people, they were busy about their Father's business.  They fell in love, got married and soon after had a child. Needless to say, her life changed dramatically.

In this new season, she often felt alone and ineffective for Jesus. What was her purpose? How could she possibly serve the Lord trapped inside the four walls of her home, day in and day out?

How could folding umpteen loads of laundry or changing dozens of dirty diapers be significant for Jesus? Her once hour- long daily devotion was traded for brief prayers while nursing the baby. Journaling was rare.

I reminded her that God was at the center of this new season and was watching her "serve" her husband and her child.  He sees it all and it brings Him such joy. 

I encouraged her that as she would continue in her devotion to the Lord, no matter what that looked like, she would begin to understand that her family was her priority. He would faithfully guide her, giving her wisdom for each day.    

Without a fancy stage, a mission to ten thousand or success in a ministry, God is waiting for a humble, thankful, and obedient daughter to be the loving wife and mommy that only she can be.

The bible says,” For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Being a mommy is His plan, a very high calling.  "So why is it so hard? Why am I challenged at every turn? Why, God? Do you hear me?" was her prayer.

I reminded her, as a mommy your day is centered on bike rides, building blocks and bubble baths. Saying yes to playing outside seems difficult sometimes after all, how many lizards can we catch in one week?

Yet, you are the perfect person to serve milk and cookies, clean their boo-boos and read a bedtime story.  You are the queen homework helper and taxi driver.  For the dance recitals, soccer games or choir performances, your voice is the one they hear first, cheering them on!

You are MOMMY.   You may not get any applause or standing ovations from a grand audience, however you are the mommy to a precious family, doing what is right in God's eyes, one day at a time, some days one minute at a time.

You DO have purpose. He hears your laughter and catches each tear.  Even when you don't see it, God moves in the everyday, mundane moments.  Mommies are extra special.

Don't compare your life to others who seem to have rewarding careers or thriving ministries. Instead, believe that in the midst of the daily duties, God is faithful.   We honor Him in how we serve and love our families.  

For the mommy, who has long days full of snotty noses, messy diapers and floors scattered with toys, God is faithful. For the mommy who seems to always be late getting your kids to school, God is faithful.

You are stretched far beyond reality, but your greatest life accomplishments happen as you train and shape your child's heart and mind. One day, you will look back and be grateful for the time you devoted. I know, I am.

Happy Mother’s Day

 

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Neighbors

Neighbors

By Jacqi Ballough

A knock came from the front door. Our dog began barking hysterically, and my son jumped up from his work to run and be the first to answer.

It was almost lunchtime, and there he was smiling. Our elderly neighbor, “Papa” as my son affectionately calls him, was standing with a dog treat held behind his back and in his extended hand, a jar of jelly. “Can you use this? It’s currant jelly, and the seeds don’t agree with our stomach.” 

Papa lives across the street with his wife of 61 years and adores our son, our dog, and is always ready to share a funny story of his youth or lend a hand when something breaks around the house.

He often drops by to bring cookies or cakes his wife bakes, but every now and then, something they can't use finds its way to our door.

 

Early that morning, I had run out of jelly while fixing my husband’s lunch. Jelly was a major food source at this time in our life as I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and my husband was a full-time student.

All of our lunches consisted of wheat bread, peanut butter, jelly, and an apple. In fact, I sent my husband to pharmacy school every morning for four years with four PB&J sandwiches and a container of homemade pasta salad. This day, he had taken the last of our jelly.

My neighbor’s gift was so incredibly simple, but meant so incredibly much. My gratitude probably seemed excessive, but I was delighted. It was a gift from God. A reminder: I’ll take care of you.

When my husband knew he was supposed to return to school full time and I knew I was to teach our son full-time, we didn’t know how it would work. The numbers didn’t add up. It was irrational, but we knew it was what God wanted for our family.

We had to trust Him. In that moment, I felt extremely loved. It was divine provision and throughout the four years of my husband’s schooling God used numerous people and countless random acts of kindness to provide

I’m so glad we decided to trust.  God not only provided materially and financially, but more importantly he provided spiritual protection for our family and brought the relationships needed for encouragement and wisdom. For that, I am extremely grateful.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19                 

Lord, thank you for being our provider. Thank you for keeping us on your path and helping us to remain there. Father, I pray that we will be used by You as You used so many to encourage and help us. 

Overthinking

Overthinking

By Kellie Tipton

While shopping with a friend we came across a t-shirt that said "Overthinking will ruin you" and we had a good laugh and agreed it was perfect for one of my daughters.  

You see my daughter is a detail person and can sometimes overthink on things so it was a perfect way to make light of something I was seeing as a possible stress point in her life.


As a mom I feel it is important to help my children see the positive and negative aspects in their personality.  This is how we can help them laugh at themselves and make any possible adjustments.  In most cases we have been there and done that and bought the t-shirt!

There are times that I find myself laying out scenarios of what can happen and how I will handle it or I get overwhelmed and shut down. It can literally take me captive for a time. Sometimes I can brush it off but on other occasions it can take much longer.

What always gets me is that I know there is a spiritual battle going on all the time and yet I can fall into it without notice.  Once I recognize what is going on and pray I can feel all the confusion and doubt melt away.

It is in those moments that I am so aware of the difference between my voice, the enemies and God's. His is always gentle but firm with no strings attached. The enemy is filled with confusion and conflict. Immediately I have hope and a knowing that it will all work out

In looking at Ephesians 6:10-17, as it begins with the process of putting on our armor, it starts with the belt of truth. 

Truth defeats any confusion, doubt or fear.  This is always the starting point in taking captive our thoughts!  Then we are equipped with righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God. 

Remembering to put on our spiritual armor is so important in how effective we will be in our time here on earth.

Are there times when you are an over-thinker? 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17



See What I Did!

See What I Did?

By Cheryl McCloud

Easter and the arrival of spring bring to my mind new beginnings. There's a freshness that comes when I reflect on what Christ did for me with His death on the cross.

I'm new in Him; I cast off those shrouds of what I used to be and stand proud as a daughter of the King ... until I remember that yesterday's dirty dishes are still in the sink, I forgot to pray this morning, I meant to call a friend going through a hard time, and I can't recall today's devotion because I read it as I was going over in my mind everything I had to get done today.

And what about getting a little appreciation for all those things?

I know I’m not alone in this. Women especially spend hours every day -- at work and at home -- doing for others.

Whether it's a special project at work we spent hours on, or even the "regular" daily duties that we pour ourselves into … we often strive to give more than what's expected, caring to give the customer, our boss or the company we work for our very best.

At home, we work hard to provide nutritious meals, clean clothes, and a tidy home for our families. We balance schedules. Make appointments. Handle sickness. And when the unexpected happens – which can arrive daily or weekly! –  we’re masters on coming up with a new game plan within minutes (or even seconds)!

Then we wait.

I don't expect effusive praise for what I do, but a heartfelt thank you, an email saying the effort I made was appreciated goes a long way.

Even a hug would feel good, an acknowledgement that what I did was noticed. Sometimes you just want people to see what you’ve done and recognize it.

But ... (you knew there was a but coming, didn't you?!) God knew our hearts and minds are likely to go in that direction.

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”  -- Galatians 1:10

“Their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.”  --

1 Corinthians 3:13-14

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” --  Matthew 6:1

When we look toward people for approval, that's a dangerous path we're heading down.

God wants us to look toward him for approval. Problem is, the more I look for people to notice and say something, the more my focus gets pulled away from Him.

Sometimes I need that reminder – which comes only when I spend daily time with Him – that He always notices and His approval is all I need. 

Safe In Her Daddy's Arms

Safe In Her Daddy’s Arms

By Mavis Tipton

As we prepared for our Easter Production, there were several scenes of Jesus healing different people.  One is of a little girl who has died.  As the father carries her to Jesus, the little girl’s limp body lies in her daddy’s arms, trusting that he will hold her safely and not drop her.

Even as the daddy places her in the arms of Jesus she remains limp and not afraid.  Totally trusting her daddy to place her in Jesus’ arms.

The Lord spoke to me through this scene of how we need to have the faith of a child and trust Jesus to hold us safely in His arms through the storms of life, as well as through the good times.

But so often we try to do things in our own strength, which only leads to disappointment, failure, spiritual poverty and ultimate loss.

Those who trust completely in the Lord will be blessed and rewarded in the end with eternal benefits. 

The faithful do not have to worry or be afraid in any situation because the “roots” of their life go deep into God.

Trusting in the good times is easy, but when the circumstances of life come our way we have to be intentional and choose to trust Him in all circumstances.

We need to have child like faith as we come to the Father and repent and receive His Son as our Savior.

Letting go of all the baggage, hurts and disappointments that life has brought our way.

Believing that God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ can ‘fix it and make it all better,’ just as a child believes their daddy can ‘make it all better.’    

As we celebrate Easter, we are made more aware of the price Jesus Christ paid, to redeem us from our sins.  Let us not loose sight of the love of a Father who gave His only Son for our redemption, and share our story.

Through child-like faith we can share what Jesus has done for us, and what He will do for all who will call upon His name.

Trust in your heavenly Father to hold you and guide you as you share your faith in Him.

Jer. 17:7

“Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord,

whose trust is the LORD.”

May Easter live in your hearts all year.

 

 

The Ugliest

The Ugliest

By Jacqi Ballough

Ugly. Uglier. Ugliest.

Studying degrees of adjectives with my son, we found superlatives defined as “of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme.”

The best dinner. The most beautiful flower. The ugliest response.   

That was me. My response was the ugliest. Surpassing all else. Extreme.

I was fixing breakfast and packing my husband’s lunch for work when I asked a simple question only to receive a sharp, unexpected response. My man was a little cranky with an ugly cold and a very long day ahead. Instead of being quick to forgive and understand, I was hurt, offended, angry, and bitter all at once. His cold response deserved my cold shoulder, so I angrily left the room and threw a pity party!

All the while my son is watching and waiting for us to begin family prayer and our morning devotion. How fitting.

My husband prayed and left for work. I sat down for breakfast with our son, the Bible in front of me, and cried. I knew it. It was me.

I had to make a choice. I could humble myself and take the log out of my own eye or remain bitter, angry, and full of self-righteous pride all day.

One choice would heal while the other would destroy my family and negate Jesus’s death on the cross. Was I really going to act this way and then have a devotion with my son?

The Holy Spirit groaned inside of me. Thankfully, I listened. I picked up the phone, knowing I had 15 minutes to make it right before my husband would be unavailable for the next 12 hours.

“I’m sorry,” my voice quivering. “Please forgive me. I don’t want to begin the day this way. I love you.”

“I love you too and am sorry too. Have a good day, and I will see you tonight.”

After hanging up, my son says, “Don’t cry mom. It’s okay.”

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Lord, please forgive my ugly responses. Help me to be quicker to forgive offenses and ask for forgiveness. Help me to seek you in prayer before responding. Thank you for making me humble myself. Keep me humble, and thank you Lord for giving me a family who is quick to forgive like you. 

Only Jesus Can

Only Jesus Can

By Audrey Botts

Sometimes when the Lord has something to say He will use different ways to get our attention.  Dreams are one of the ways the Lord will speak to you. 

Early in my marriage I was struggling with issues that my husband and I could not fix.  We both prayed for our marriage and we asked the Lord for his intervention. 

Well the Lord spoke to me through a dream that I will never forget.  Jesus opened my eyes to the right way of seeing things. 

All my life I had a wrong perception of what a husband was supposed to be.  I had this fairy tale impression that a husband was supposed to be a knight in shining armor.  The one to rescue me from this lonely cruel world.   He would be the one to make me happy and solve all my problems.  I expected him to meet all my expectations that he obviously could not meet.  Nobody could.  

With my unmet expectations of my husband I soon developed feelings of bitterness, jealousy, and fear of being unloved.  These feelings were consuming me and I was struggling.   I did not know what to do.  The enemy was causing division in our marriage and I was letting the devil win.

Through the dream the Lord revealed to me that my marriage was at risk of being destroyed by my wrong thinking.  The devil was using my bitterness, jealousy and fear as fuel for the fire.  He loves to destroy marriages and families in this way.  

I was expecting my husband to fulfill a role that was only meant for Jesus to fill.  My husband was only human and I had him on a pedestal that he was never meant to sit on.  I needed to give him grace in areas where I felt he fell short.  I needed to pray for my husband and keep him lifted up in prayer.  

I know that I am not perfect, so how can I expect that from anyone else.  I do know one that is perfect and that is Jesus. 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”  Psalm 118:8

Marriages and families are not perfect.  We all have problems.  I am so grateful that my Father in heaven was so concerned for my life that He spoke to me and help save my marriage from disaster. 

I know He cares for all His children and will do the same for you.  I have placed my hope and trust in Jesus and I encourage you to do the same.  So wives and husbands pray for your spouses and your families.   Keep them lifted up to the Lord.  We cannot fight this battle alone.  Only Jesus can.

Will You Do Me A Favor?

Will You Do Me A Favor?

By Mavis Tipton

What runs through your mind when someone asks the question “Will you do me a favor?”

Many thoughts can run through your mind when you hear those “six” words.

We may have had times when someone needed a favor, and we were only too happy to help.  There are other times when it wasn’t convenient and we had to say no. If we are honest we have had times when we just didn’t want to!

The relationship you have with the one who is asking and their attitude, generally determines how you will respond.

Webster’s definition:  1. A spirit of approval, good will. 2. An act of kindness, not self-seeking.

The biblical definition is “demonstrated delight.”  The favor of God can be described as “tangible evidence that a person has the approval of the Lord.” Meaning one is in relationship with God.

Throughout the Bible we read about the favor of God upon His people.  Noah found favor in the Lord, Gen. 6:8;

Moses found favor in the Lord, Ex. 32:11; 33:13;

Daniel found favor in the Lord, Dan. 10:19;

and Mary found favor in the Lord, Luke 1:28, but they all had their struggles with difficulties like anyone else.

God knows all our deepest thoughts, motives, desires and fears.  He knows all we do in a day’s time, and He surrounds us with His care and blesses us with His favor, because we are in relationship with Him.  Psalm 139:5.

In January when Buddy had Carotid Artery surgery performed and the doctor came to tell Paul and I the results, immediately I said “God’s Favor.”

Whenever I share the miracle God performed, I always say God’s favor.  I have always believed in God’s favor, but it isn’t a phrase I use a lot. 

Grace and mercy are words we often use to describe God’s goodness, and without God’s grace we wouldn’t know and experience the favor of God.

When we have the favor of God we rest in quiet confidence knowing we are forgiven and we are walking in His plan.

As I reflect upon my walk with the Lord He has shown favor many times to my family and I.  I will be forever thankful to my Lord for His grace, mercy and favor.

Will you take a moment and reflect on your life, look for the little blessings that God has provided, you will be surprised how much the Lord has poured out His “favor” upon you?

God’s favor comes by seeking Him, coming humbly before Him. Loving Him with all our heart, mind body and soul. Seeking Him as your loving Father, and desiring to please Him more than your self.

Psalm 5:12

“Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

God desires to “demonstrate delight.” You don’t have to worry, He is never too busy, too tired or just doesn’t want to.  He delights in blessing His children with His favor.

 

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.