"I never knew you were a single mom," a woman told me as we walked across the church parking lot. I considered her statement a compliment. Her words implied to me that our family appeared normal. I believed in my mind and in my heart that everyone knew our struggles just by looking at us.
As a divorced single parent, I felt inadequate. I worried that my shortcomings would glare like a flashing neon sign, "This mom is a screw-up." I was afraid that my mistakes would forever damage my children.
While struggling to parent my two young daughters I pleaded with God to help me. Over and over I relied on his promise to be father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). The fact that this woman had known me for a couple of years and did not know I was a single parent suggested to me that God was keeping his promise.
A few years later I had a similar experience. A new colleague was surprised to hear that I had suffered the death of a child, escaped an abusive marriage, and had two daughters who had been diagnosed with chronic neurological conditions as teenagers. He said to me, “No one would ever know what you’ve been through. You walk around here with a smile on your face, even on the bad days.” His words brought back a memory from scripture I read during one of my daughter’s lengthy hospital stays. The story is in Daniel, chapter three.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been thrown into the furnace for refusing to worship an idol. The fire was so hot that it killed the men who threw them in. These young men believed God could save them from the fire; yet they were obedient without knowing the outcome.
The story continues with the image of a fourth man seen in the fire. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego escaped unharmed. The king knew that it was God who rescued them. The part of this story that sticks out to me is the verse that says "...there was no smell of fire on them." (Daniel 3:27, NIV)
There are some terribly painful, unfair, fiery trials that we go through. Some involve family relationships; others are health related. God doesn't promise an easy, trouble-free life, but He does promise to never leave us or forsake us. When we are in the furnace, He is there. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we have a fourth One in the fire with us. We can come out with our faith stronger and our joy deeper. We can walk out of that furnace with no smell of fire.
BIO: Michelle Ruddell
Michelle Ruddell is a high-school math teacher in Robinson, Texas. Now an empty-nester, she is working on sharing the stories of God’s faithfulness through the death of her son, her escape from an abusive marriage, and single-parenting her two daughters. Michelle teaches a single-adult Bible-study class and volunteers with Light in the Gap, a ministry to women just released from prison. Read more at http://michelleruddell.com/
Contact Michelle on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 @ 1:35 PM CDT
“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? “
Hmmm.... Do I? Do you?
In a court of law, witnesses are required to give an oath swearing they will tell the whole truth. They provide a testimony of what they have seen and heard. Some witnesses may choose to take “the fifth” (stay silent) rather than give an account of what happened.
God calls us to testify what we have seen him do in our lives. Everyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus can share times where God has comforted, guided, or blessed them.
We Christians miss opportunities to testify. For example, while in the grocery store, I notice that one of the clerks has a pained expression on her face. I choose to take “the fifth” instead of engaging. I should ask how her day is going and if there is anything I can pray for her about. But I’ve got things to do and places to be. Besides, what if she gets upset and rejects me? So I move through the checkout line then head out the door to my car. I’ve remained silent instead of proclaiming the truth.
Later I think, Lord, no one’s future is guaranteed. What if that was the last opportunity she’d have to hear about you?
God will provide opportunities to testify. Recently I shared my testimony with a friend about a time in my life when I was angry with God. I went through a crisis of faith after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I gave up going to church, but one night my husband insisted that I attend with him. At the conclusion of the service, I went forward for prayer. God’s presence overwhelmed me and I was reminded of Jeremiah 31:3 where God says, “I love you with an everlasting love.”
That was a turning point in my life because I knew that whatever happened, God loved me and would be with me. As a result of the strength God provided, I was able to teach and research as a university professor for fifteen years after my diagnosis. He gave me the will and the ability to continue.
I told my friend, “God loves me and daily gives me strength, but God also loves you.”
That is my testimony of what I've seen God do in my life. I share my struggle, how I turned to God, and the results afterwards.
We need to be bold like the apostles Peter and John and take advantage of opportunities to share Jesus. Even when the apostles were threatened with jail they said:
“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20 NIV)
God, help us to tell the whole truth and roar our faith instead of being silent witnesses.
BIO: Dr. Sherry Ryan is a blogger, writer and speaker. She retired in 2013 from the University of North Texas as an Associate Professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked for IBM, teaching courses and speaking at national conferences.
Check out Sherry's blog SeatedExpectations.com It provides "Inspiration and Information for Overcoming Life's Challenges."
Published on Friday, June 28, 2019 @ 12:41 AM CDT
When you dine out, how do you interact with your servers?
A month ago, I was having dinner with two Christian sisters, Rosemary and Bella, when a sweet waitress took our order. I recognized her from another time that I was at the restaurant so I started a conversation by telling her I remembered her and asked, “Where are you from?” “Costa Rica,” she replied. I complimented the energetic, petite woman on her upbeat personality, then she left to take care of another table.
The three of us wondered, “Is this a divine appointment?” When she came back with our glasses of water, Rosemary didn’t waste any time and asked, “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ She answered, “I pray a lot” then hurried off. We were worried that we scared her with our boldness. It was at that moment we prayed, Lord, if we are supposed to pray with this woman to receive Jesus, will you provide an opening for us?
Our waitress returned and showed us a card that a man gave her. She said, “It’s written in Hebrew and says that I am going to see Jesus soon.” The door was wide open. The three of us looked at each other and knew what we had to do. Bella asked her if she wanted to know Jesus personally before she saw Him, and she said yes, so Bella grabbed her hand and the three of us led her to Christ with a prayer. The waitress was joyous and giddy with excitement after receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. We all took a photo with her and gave her copies of our books to start her on her journey.
Meanwhile, last night I was praying with people at the altar after our Shabbat Service at church. A woman approached me who I knew I’d met before. As it turned out, it was a waitress from a nearby restaurant, someone who had waited on me numerous times and who I knew was a Christian. Because of that, she came to me for prayer during a difficult season of her life. What an honor! All because I was willing to allow a divine interruption at a restaurant, and break away from my conversation with another person to show kindness to a sister.
I always pray to recognize divine interruptions, or God appointments, each day. Whether it’s just a word of encouragement I’m supposed to give, or an invitation to receive Christ, I want to be aware of holy promptings.
I’m doing some evangelism training at church under Dr. Rice Broocks, the author of God’s Not Dead, and he has a simple formula for leading someone to Christ. S.A.L.T. S: Start a conversation. A: Ask questions. L: Listen and T: Tell your story.
The world needs to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. Are you willing to make a connection with another believer or to be divinely interrupted to share the gospel of hope? A restaurant is a good place to start.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…(1 Peter 3:15).
BIO: Lisa Burkhardt Worley is an award winning author and speaker, and is the Director of Special Projects for Roaring Lambs Ministries. She is also the founder of Pearls of Promise Ministries, a ministry with a goal of helping women overcome dysfunction in their lives. Lisa has co-authored many books in. cluding: the Pearls of Promise devotional, If I Only Had…Wrapping Yourself in God’s Truth During Storms of Insecurity, and The Most Powerful P: A Child’s Introduction to the Power of Prayer.
Published on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 @ 9:32 PM CDT
In the bestseller, “The Courage to be Disliked,” authors Kishimi and Koga encourage readers to think freely, change their lives, and find happiness in being themselves, even if that means being disliked.
Having been disliked by people throughout my life, I have experienced feelings that accompany such distinction, including loneliness, shame, and depression. What has comforted me is the belief that my Father in heaven loves me, so it matters far less to me what others think or feel about me. I grasped Romans 8:31 as a personal shield of sorts whenever I felt attacked: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (NKJV)
This trust helped me every time I was tempted to please others at the jeopardy of abandoning my principles. For example, while teaching high school students, I could have chosen to seek friendship with my students rather than upholding my belief that teachers should be respected as legitimate authority figures.
Thus I struggled with maintaining cordial relationships with disrespectful students. One day a particularly hateful student laughed derisively at my uncompromising declaration about the upcoming due date of an assignment. She mocked me to hilarious appreciative laughter and then said with venom, “And you wonder why students hate you.” Several students gasped at her audacity and looked at me worriedly, wondering how I would respond.
My answer surprised them all that day as much as it did all of my previous classes.
My response every time was: “I know why students hate me. Research shows that people learn better when they are uncomfortable. I do not need to be liked by you. If I were your friend, I wouldn’t be doing my job.”
When they grumbled too loudly, I elaborated with an example: “One day, years from now, I want you to hear my voice when you’re filling out a job application. It will grate in your ears: ‘Where’s your period? It isn’t a sentence if it doesn’t have punctuation’ and ‘The subject of a sentence will never, ever, ever, ever, never, ever, ever, NEVER EVER be in an introductory clause.'” Yes, I really did say it just like that. Almost daily.
I told them my goal was to teach them skills so that one day they could get a job and keep a job.
Even if they hated me for it. Because one day, it might save their life. That’s how much I loved them. Even the ones who hated me.
What kinds of things do you do for the greater benefit of others that causes them to dislike you?
BIO: Shelley Allen is a writer, editor, poet, mother of four and grandmother of five. She is the author of Master Fibonacci: The Man Who Changed Math. Allen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Southern Methodist University. A former teacher and Christian bookstore owner, Allen is a bibliophile with broad literary interests. She works professionally as a freelance writer from her home in Dallas, Texas. Her website is RuthlessRedPen.com.
Published on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 @ 8:22 PM CDT
Sometimes you think that you have a very clear memory of something that happened to you as a baby, but some things you remember were really placed in your memory by the accounts of people telling you the story as you grow older. I am not alone. We all have our share of this kind of memory. I was probably a ten-month-old baby when this happened, but I grew up seeing the mark of the bullet on the doorframe. It was too real for me. It wasn’t only by the account of people that I remember this incident of G-d’s protection.
Somebody had come to get me from my crib, after I woke up crying. At the same time, across the street, a neighbor, a police chief no less, was having a party at his house and was drinking beyond a reasonable amount. He stepped outside and, pointing his gun to the sky, fired a shot. On his second shot he lost his balance, and the bullet came straight through the window of the bedroom where I had been sleeping. The person taking care of me picked me up and, without knowing, had a split second to turn me around and keep the bullet from hitting my head. Her ear was grazed by that bullet that went through the hallway and exited through a closed door in the front of the house.
As I was growing up, whenever I looked at the marks on the frame of the window and on the doorpost, I knew a miracle had happened and that the Angels of the Lord had sprung into action to protect me from what clearly was an attack from the enemy of our souls. As a child, maybe my mind could not grasp the greatness of what had taken place, or how bad things could have been. In a split second, I could have perished. A baby killed by a stray bullet. How tragic. But G-d had a different plan. As a grown woman, I know the Lord, in his faithfulness, turned the plans of the enemy upside down and spared my life, so He could be glorified and honored and exalted! I don’t take my life for granted. I thank G-d for every day I wake up to see the sunrise once again. G-d sustains me and gives me one beautiful day at a time. There are days that don’t look so beautiful; there are times when it looks like the enemy will prevail, but God has a promise for us in His word: No weapon made will prevail against you. (Isaiah 54:17). I have decided that I will not live one single day if it is not in His presence. His way of protection is much better than humankind could ever come up with.
How has God protected you, my friend? Can you recall a moment when you can clearly see that G-d went out of His way to protect you? Or maybe you didn’t even notice. But one day, when we stand before Him, we will see the many times when his glorious angels were summoned by Him, to take us under their wings. I want to thank you, Lord! Thank you for your protection! I praise you today, Adonai! For the many ways that you show your love and care for me. I worship you, my King and Redeemer!!
BIO: Debbie Buffone's complete story is included in Stories of Roaring Faith, Volume 3. She is an amazing woman, who loves God and people. She is a great Volunteer for Roaring Lambs, a facilitator for the Testimony Workshops, handles social media, and helps with data entry. Most of all, she is a servant of our Lord.
Published on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 @ 5:32 PM CDT
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