Friday, October 30, 2020 3:00 PM

He Said Dance

Friday, October 30, 2020 3:00 PM
Friday, October 30, 2020 3:00 PM

The noise from the television woke me. I had fallen asleep on the couch again. Stretching, I moaned. Every part of my body ached. A half-eaten sandwich and chips fell from my chest. I shook my head in disgust, cupped my hands to my face, and cried until I was gasping for breath.

“Father! Help Me!”

I had buried my Dad, my Aunt, and Connie, a life-long friend who I had hoped, would be my husband. I could barely muster the energy to dress and go to work. I routinely ate myself into oblivion only to wake more distraught than before.

“Dance,” I heard someone say.

It startled me, and though I was alone, I replied, “What?”

“Go, Dance!” This time it was a strong and clear directive.

A warm sensation penetrated my body. I leaped from the couch, hurried to the bathroom, and drew a hot bath. After a long soak, I felt renewed. It was 3:00 am. I was wide awake. With music blasting, I praised my way through washing dishes, mopping floors, and polishing furniture. I had not cleaned since daddy’s funeral. Exhausted, I laid down to rest. Oooh, I am going dancing tonight, thank you, Father! I fell asleep feeling as lighthearted as a teenager. God had delivered me from a deep state of depression with a simple directive to dance. Before my loved ones transitioned, I danced two or three times a week and sometimes more. I was losing weight and feeling great. After Connie’s passing, I could do nothing but merely exist.

God cares about every little thing that concerns us. With a simple cry to the Father, He spoke three words that changed my life: dance-go-dance. As I praised and thanked God, my energy returned, and my perspective changed. I wonder how things would have been different if I were praising and thanking Him before the depression set in? Grant it; life happens without warning some-no-most times. Therefore, we should live a life of praise & thanksgiving. It is the antidote to many of the woes and ill-happenings in our lives. Thanksgiving puts us in a space that allows us to hear and receive from God. It protects us against depression, addiction, and rejection. It can guard against loneliness, fear, and anxiety. It is your safe house when the storms of life begin to rage.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good: his mercy is everlasting: and his truth endureth to all generations. Ps. 100:4-5 (KJV)

My friend has a thanksgiving reminder set on her phone. Every hour, chimes ring, and a quote pops up (i.e., 5:00 PM is always peaceful, full of joy, and she has no unmet needs.) Establish an attitude of gratitude. Watch God perfect all that concerns you.

BIO: Joy A. Lewisa native of southern Louisiana, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dillard University in New Orleans. Joy’s passion is for the written word. She is the Founder & Executive Director of The Christian Literary Awards, host of The Review with Joy & Company Radio Show, and Lead-Writer for SURA (Savvy Uniquely Relevant Authors) Literary Life Magazine. In addition, Joy is a professional speaker, a leader at Turning the World Upside-Down Ministries in New Orleans, and a member of the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, Texas. Joy currently resides in Grand Prairie, Texas.

www.joyandcompany.org

christianliteraryawards@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 15, 2020 7:31 PM

The Next Cloud

Thursday, October 15, 2020 7:31 PM
Thursday, October 15, 2020 7:31 PM

One night, not so long ago, David, my husband of over fifty years, had a vivid dream. While he slept, he saw Jesus in His full splendor with arms wide open, emerge from a bright light within a cloud. There were two other clouds to the left of the first cloud, each filled with a bright light, but figures associated with the other two bright lights did not emerge. David felt Jesus was coming for him with outstretched arms to take him to Heaven. Then, suddenly Jesus turned and disappeared back into the cloud. This was not an “out of body” experience; however, it was without a doubt, a dream sent from above.  David was reminded of the scripture:

After He said this, He was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

The question remains: “Why did Jesus reveal Himself and then disappear back into the clouds in such a real and dramatic way?” 

This dream occurred just after my husband’s diagnosis with a serious lung disease. Tests showed that David’s oxygen level had been falling below normal for long periods during his sleep. David could have slipped peaceably into the outstretched arms of Jesus the night of his miraculous dream. He believes Jesus was telling him through this dream that he was ready to meet his Maker in the cloud. For some reason, though, Jesus turned back and left David here for a while longer. Maybe this was God’s way of letting my husband realize that although he was ready to meet Him, he was being released to stay on Earth for a longer period of time.

Do you think that Jesus wanted David to know that his mission on Earth wasn’t over yet? Do you think Jesus knew and wanted His child to realize that he had a divine purpose to fulfill while still living on Earth? Or perhaps, Jesus knew that David’s family still needed him in a tremendous way and wanted him to be grateful for each moment he was given to continue to watch over them? All of these questions end up with the same answer…yes. 

Now both David and I celebrate each new day with an increasing awareness of the close presence of the Almighty God and His Son, Jesus. Our Creator loves us, understands us, and most of all expects us to spread His joy and everlasting love to all He sends into our path of life.

We heard a song on the radio entitled, He May Be On the Next Cloud. The message is clear that we need to be ready for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No one knows the time or moment when He might come to beckon us home to be with Him. However, we also must be ready at any moment to meet Him on THE NEXT CLOUD.

BIO: Jan  Stroman, a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been a teacher, leader, and administrator in various fields of learning. Her Master's and Doctoral degree are related to research on how to teach the reading and writing process most effectively.  She loves so many things in life but most of all she loves and is dedicated to helping others discover the reality of a faith-based life.  In January 2013, Jan started Ladies In Touch, an organization whose main purpose is to connect ladies with each other and with God. She is married to David, her husband of more than fifty years and they have a son, daughter-in-law, and two handsome grandsons who all are the joy of her life. www.ladiesintouch.com

Monday, August 31, 2020 9:52 PM

Social Distancing From Sin

Monday, August 31, 2020 9:52 PM
Monday, August 31, 2020 9:52 PM

We are told to social distance six-feet apart and wear a mask to protect us from a disease that has less than a one percent death rate. However, the death rate for sin against a Holy God is 100 percent for those who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Have you heard this in 2020 on the news? Probably not—only from Bible-believing churches and believers.

SIN is defined as an immoral act considered to be a transgression against the divine or simply disobedience to God. God takes sin so seriously it is mentioned nearly 400 times in the Bible. It is breaking God’s laws. In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me you will obey my commands.”

There is no small sin. God hates them all. Many people use a “moral compass” to justify their actions by saying, “I don’t commit bad sins like stealing and murder.” That’s not the yardstick by which God measures. In fact, even our righteous acts are like filthy rags, so grasp how much worse our sins are in the Creator’s eyes. Don’t believe the lies that you are a good person or because God is a loving God, He won’t punish. 

Romans 3:9 states, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Verse 23 says ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.

If you are a believer and do what you know is not in God’s commandments, you feel shame—that is the Holy Spirit prompting you. As believers, while our eternal salvation is secure, don’t abuse God’s grace. Grace does not make sin safe. God doesn’t want us to be ninety percent sinless and ten percent sinful. He commands us to strive not to sin. This is a tough task for us fallen humans, but He sent the Holy Spirit to help us. I have tried to manage sin on my own and found sin ends up managing me.

What sins are holding onto and have not turned over to Jesus? Greed, lust, hatred, anger, or lies? 

God's purpose is not to be a killjoy so we don’t have “fun,” but requires we turn from sin so we don’t hurt other people or damage our own souls. The unbelieving world finds Christians hypocritical when they praise God with their words but deny Him with their actions. We are to be examples and the salt of the earth, not stumbling blocks.

One reason we love sin that it is pleasurable for a season. Leave things alone that exile you from your soul.

Acknowledge your sin and bring it to the light. God already knows, but daily confession frees you from shame and guilt. Satan loves to fight in the dark, so bring it into the light.

Steps to forgiveness of sin, shame, and guilt:  1) recognize you are a sinner and use the ten commandments to see where you struggle with certain sins, 2) confess your sins to God, not just to yourself—He already knows, 3) acknowledge Jesus died not just for others sins, but specifically yours, and 4) repent and change. Being eternally pardoned does not give you permission to continue breaking God’s laws even though He no longer holds those earlier sins against you.

Social distancing six feet apart to protect yourself from COVID-19 is one thing. However, the most important thing is not to be socially distanced from God. The closer you draw to Him, the more joy and peace you’ll have in your soul and the better witness you’ll be to others.

BIO: Mark Cragle is a blogger and retired Field Sale Engineer. He earned his Mechanical Engineering degree at RIT and worked in that capacity for many years living in upstate New York. Mark is married to his wife Teri and they feel blessed to travel together. They have 2 sons, and daughters-in-law, and 2 adorable grandsons. Mark likes volunteering with special needs kids at his church and advocates for people suffering from brain diseases and injuries. 

 

Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM

Grief Brings a Suitcase

Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM
Saturday, August 1, 2020 1:56 AM

I miss my Dad.  One of my favorite pictures of him sits on a bookshelf in an upstairs bedroom—the one displayed at his memorial last year.  He’s wearing a red shirt and blue jeans and is sitting outside the group cabin where we hold our annual family reunions.  Underneath his white straw cowboy hat, his blue eyes seem to look right at me and say, “I miss you too honey, but I’m in a really good place now.”  Blue eyes is one of our shared traits.  I never thought I was the kind of person to talk to a photograph, but when I walk into that room it’s the most natural thing in the world to say, “Hi, Dad.”  Something about looking into those eyes is comforting.  But then, everyone grieves in their own way. 

Grief makes its appearance uninvited, unwelcome, not respecting holidays or the ordinary rhythm of life.  There is no way to predict how it will make you will feel or when it will end.  When Dad died, grief barged in—its weight threatening to bury my ‘normal.’  It took over, parked a suitcase, propped its feet up on the coffee table, and threatened to set up camp, demanding my full attention.

The tears came first.  A flood of full-blown sobbing, overflowing my eyelid banks.  Then they slowed to a river, flowing down my cheeks at will.  Sometimes they fell like a light rain.  Other times they were like a mist on a dreary day, dampening my spirits and making everything blah.   Later they slowed to an internal trickle, an invisible reminder of grief’s stubborn presence.

Desire to connect with those I loved most, especially my siblings, was right on the heels of the tears.  We gathered to reminisce, to cry, to poke around in every memory, and get every drop of comfort and strength from being together.   The umbrella of grief shifted just enough for the light of happy memories to filter through.  I began to gather pictures, searching not just for the best ones of Dad but for candid photos that showed our love for each other and how much we enjoyed family gatherings where the presence of unconditional love allowed for the acceptance of flaws, failures, and foolish mistakes. 

Recently my loved ones and I gathered at Dad’s parents’ gravesite to place his ashes and say our final goodbyes.  I didn’t know whether to expect a suitcase or a pocketful of grief.  It was the suitcase again, but smaller.  It parked by the door of my heart but I didn’t let it stay.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 4, there is a time for everything:  birth and death, weeping and laughing.  In His timing, God reaches down, tenderly gathers the pieces to put the heart back together, and sends grief packing.  In its place, He leaves a small overnight bag, replenished constantly with comfort and peace each time we open it to share our heart with Him.

BIO: Kim Robinson 

is a native Texan.  She and her husband have six children and fourteen grandchildren and enjoy spending time with family.  Passionate about parenting, she writes and speaks about a variety of issues facing parents with teenagers in crisis.   She has been a speaker at women’s retreats, local worship events, and various women’s organizations. 

Kim is active in various ministries at her church, a supporter of the Kairos prison ministry, and a past parent representative on the National Council of Juvenile Justice and Family Court Judges.  She enjoys blogging, reading, gospel and blues music, singing, and keeping her grandchildren.  Check out her blog at www.kimrobinson.co

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM

Our Freedom Struggles

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 8:51 PM

Independence Day is so much more than fireworks even though they have been part of the celebration since 1777. This day in the United States is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 244 years ago on July 4, 1776 by the Continental Congress. The second paragraph of the Declaration speaks of our freedom. It says, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What is the freedom they speak of? It is the condition of a citizen to live in a free society, but not a lawless society.

In years past, July 4th has been thought of as a time for vacation and fireworks. But things are different this year. Perhaps the state of our nation as we approach Independence Day has caused us all to think deeply about what is at stake. Now more than ever is the time to bow the knee in prayer for the revival of this country that we love. As a people, we Americans have enjoyed our freedom at the expense of those who have gone before us. May we never forget the wars fought, and the lives lost to grant us this freedom. May we have the courage to stand strong in faith and justice.

The Bible talks about freedom. but it does not excuse lawless, ungodly behavior. God gave instructions for how nations were to be governed. But the greatest freedom is that which Paul talks about. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) What he is speaking of is the freedom from the burden of the rigorous demands of the Old Testament Law as the means for gaining God’s favor. This did not represent the freedom given through Christ. In fact, this demand impeded the development of the Christian life.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free exempting us from the penalty of our sinful state. This is explained further in Romans 7:4-6. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” This is not talking about being released from the laws of the nation. It is talking about the laws of the Old Covenant.

Freedom addresses the state of citizenship. We are born as citizens of the country of our birth, but with freedom in Christ, our citizenship is in heaven according to Philippians 3:20. Once we become citizens of heaven through Christ, we are in this world, but not of it because our eternal home will be with Jesus one day. And if we are citizens of Heaven, we should act like it by patterning our lives after Jesus.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:16-17)

Therefore, pray for our nation as never before. Pray for another great awakening to the saving grace of God. We need revival that none should perish but all have peace and eternal life.

BIO: Virginia Grounds has a passion for God’s Word and serving in ministry. That passion is Virginia’s motivation for speaking and teaching women of all ages the wonder their faith journey. Her love for women’s ministry and passion for God’s word have given her success in speaking, teaching and writing for more than thirty years. Learning to live through difficulties and challenges in a way that honors God have given her messages of hope and encouragement for those facing challenges today. You can find out more on her website: www.majesticinspirations.com.

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