Recognizing Cycles of God's Favor

Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly impossible situation, holding fast to faith in almighty God, but at the same time wondering "How can God possibly get me through this?"  If you have, you are not alone!  Testimonies abound of people who have overcome impossible odds to break through to the favor that God has planned for them.  Before the breakthrough, that question looms larger than life.

We can look all throughout scripture for examples of God's amazing last-minute saving grace.  Moses and the Israelites fled Egypt but found themselves stuck at the border of the Red Sea with Pharaoh's armies in hot pursuit.  David fled from the relentless murderous spirit of King Saul, but could never lift his hand against Saul, God's anointed.  Elijah boldly triumphed over the prophets of Baal under King Ahab and Queen Jezebel's wicked reign, but fled into the wilderness fearing for his life, exhausted and overwhelmed.  Esther found favor to become the queen of Persia, but her kindred Jewish people were set to be annihilated unless she risked her own life to appeal to the king.  All of these eventually triumphed with God's favor!

In our own lives, the worldwide pandemic this past year has brought fear, confusion, division, uncertainty, and loss.  Many people are finding themselves in situations that appear to be hopeless.  Work that once provided a steady income has disappeared.  Many have lost loved ones or suffering with health complications.  Others are weighed down by a mounting pile of bills and debt.  The bonds with friends and family have been tested by the stresses of social and political turbulence.

It is important during times such as these to know that God's grace has not left us.  We have reason to rejoice even in the middle of trials and tribulations.  God's love for each one of us is deeper than we can fathom!  When we cry out to our Heavenly Father, he hears us.  "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.  He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;  He also will hear their cry and save them." (Psalm 145:18-19)  With reverence toward God, paying attention to His whisperings in our circumstances, and diligently following His leadings, we can celebrate with joy over the care of His hand on us.

Not every season appears to be a season of God's favor.  God's favor comes in cycles as He prunes, purifies and prepares our hearts for the next season ahead.  Recently, God reminded me how He pulled me out of small beginnings and multiplied my blessings five-fold in just the span of months.  After enduring the humility of the current season, imagine my rejoicing as He imparted to me that a time of increase is coming again soon.  God's favor is surely upon us, even as circumstances appear to say otherwise.  In due time, God reveals the open door of favor He has destined for us all along.

Zoltán SzentkirályiZoltán Szentkirályi is a researcher of spiritual and physical health.  A statistician by training, he earned his statistics degree from the Ohio State University and is currently a professor teaching statistical software at Southern Methodist University.  Relatively new to the Christian faith, he has a passion to share testimonies of miracles and empirical evidence of the power of the God in action.  His ministry focus is on overcoming trauma and affirming the depth of God's love for every individual.

Battling Anxiety

 

Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.

—1 Peter 5:7

         Have you ever received a text from your teenager/young adult saying, “Anxiety really bad this morning. Going to class late”? How do we process these words when our child is away from home? The feelings associated with not being able to help are far from fun. I have wanted to pack my bag, jump in the car or plane, and go make everything better. How about you? It’s hard, isn’t it? I’ve learned to slow down in the moment, get quiet, remember the promises God has given me about my child, and ask for prayer support.

         When my child sent that uneasy feeling kind of text, I encouraged them to do their best to get quiet, turn on some worship music, pray, and allow God to meet them where they were at today.

         By grace, I’ve been able to choose trust in God’s ability to meet my child’s need in every way. I intentionally thank him throughout the day for making himself known to my children. 

          I must give my children the freedom to choose Jesus and press into him. I can provide encouragement and tools, but I cannot save them or become their savior

          I read an article recently on how anxiety, fear, and stress impact the brain. The amygdala is an almond-shaped section of the brain that is responsible for a chemical response when negative feelings occur. A simple way to combat these uncomfortable feelings is to breathe deep, practice meditation, and gratitude. Meditation will help calm and shrink the amygdala. Deep breathing will help get more oxygen to the brain and gratitude will shift thoughts away from the amygdala and move us toward the prefrontal cortex. The PFC is where we can think clearly, be creative and make good judgments about our circumstances.  The amygdala lives in the back of the brain and is activated during fight, flight, freeze, or appease moments. Slowing down and taking time to develop a consistent habit of deep breathing and meditation will improve mental health. The benefits of adopting these practices will heighten your emotional intelligence and lessen your emotional response. In other words, it instills a steadiness or calm into your reply or being. Secondly, you gain more mental clarity. Third, you become more self-aware and your empathy increases. Lastly, your attention span grows giving you the ability to stay attuned and present.

          There are many examples of meditation in the Bible. Genesis 24:63 says, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.” The main reason God directs us toward meditating is to achieve perfect peace. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

          How do we become steadfast in our minds? We focus. We get quiet. We meditate. God knows these thoughts will keep our minds in a good and life-giving place. We are to think on what is pure, lovely, and of good report.

          Scripture points us toward obtaining peace in this world. Peace from anxiety and stress. God came to give us his peace. It is his gift to us. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts; instead, be courageous!”

  

Patti Reed is wife to Frank and mom to Ryan and Hope. She homeschooled her children for 7 years with a commitment to impact the spiritual, emotional and intellectual health and growth of her children. She is an Entrepreneur and owned a Christian advertising business for 18 years here in DFW. Her most recent venture as a new author and certified coach in conversational intelligence®? began over three years ago when she answered God’s call to write a devotional for parents of teens/young adults coming this Spring.

 

Wash Day Grief

Have you ever noticed the settings on your washing machine as they relate to grief?  Consider these common washing machine settings:

NORMAL:  Normal responses following a loss may include mood changes, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, feelings of anger, abandonment, despair, loss of concentration, loss of energy, and the loss of motivation.  These responses can vary based upon previous loss experiences, our relationships, and even our personality.

SMALL LOAD:  Each person’s grief is a major life event.  However, there may be some days the grief pain is not as intense.  These days offer the time to catch your breath.   Regardless of the relationship…regardless of the circumstances surrounding the loss…it is a major loss.

LARGE LOAD:  Grief can bring on very intense feelings.  These feelings can be overwhelming, even to someone with a history of always being under control.  We can be paralyzed emotionally because of the shock a loss brings.

SPIN CYCLE: Several events can throw a griever into a “spin cycle”.  Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, photos, music, food, and even fragrances can begin the “spin cycle” of emotions.  These are normal twists and turns along the journey of grief.

RINSE CYCLE:  The rinse cycle is a time of refreshing.  Tears provide a natural rinsing, a cleansing of the soul.  Grief encompasses all of the confusing and painful emotions felt after a loss.  Mourning is the outward expression of these feelings...whether through tears, words, or actions. 

COOL DOWN:  No one can take grief away.  Expressing grief to a safe person, or becoming part of a grief support group, can provide a “cool down” time. These steps can help soften the pain of grief, but the awareness of the loss will remain.  

Give yourself permission to be a “NORMAL” griever.  Some days will bring a “SMALL LOAD” of grief…other days will consist of a “LARGE LOAD”.  The “SPIN CYCLE” may be intense at times…while the “RINSE CYCLE” of tears can cleanse the soul as we mourn the loss.  Peace and acceptance can offer a “COOL DOWN” phase…a time of rest.

Jesus did NOT say “Blessed are those who GRIEVE”!  But, He DID say “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.  Grief is the confusing tangle of emotions and feelings that are within following a loss. These may feel like loneliness, sadness, emptiness, anger, guilt and regrets.  No one can see our grief, it is personal and private. 

But, when we talk about these feelings the grief becomes mourning.  A good definition of mourning is “grief gone public”. Mourning may be talking about the feelings, or even actions to honor the life of a loved one who died. Every one grieves, but not everyone mourns in a healthy manner.

Find a safe person who will let you talk about your feelings. As you talk about your grief you are mourning the loss…according to Jesus, that is when you find comfort.

Psalms 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted, He binds up their heart”.

Bob Willis has served as a Southern Baptist minister and hospice Bereavement Coordinator. He is a frequent speaker on grief, loss, and caregiver issues.  His book “A Guide For Grievers” was released in June 2017, providing information on grief and supporting those who have experienced a loss. Bob has been a sculptor for over 25 years.  In May of 2018, he became the Sculptor at The Great Passion Play, Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

 

Tonight

Tonight

Set your house in order because Christ could come today . . .

And some tasks may be unfinished if you are called away.

An angel may have told you at the early morning light . . .

“Your Lord will come this evening and you’ll be home with Him tonight.”

Our hearts may become clouded as we think of work undone . . .

Those seeds that weren’t scattered and the crowns that we might have won.

There were souls we meant to speak to and Bible verses we meant to share . . .

And there were a lot of wasted moments we could have spent in prayer.

Now there are a few short moments to set undone things right . . .

And feverishly we’d labor until we see the warning light.

We all have a slothful soul and a careless heart and some spiritual eyes that seem to have no sight . . .

We need to work, and not reap in vain regrets, because my Lord Jesus may come tonight.

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44)

Tom Kesting was born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia, and attended West Virginia University on a football scholarship. He worked in the marketplace doing sales and marketing for 30 years and worked at In Touch Ministries for 26 years. Tom became a Christian when he was 41 years old. Three days a week he broadcasts a 15-minute inspiration program on Facebook and sends out daily encouraging emails to friends and to those interested in positive encouragement and inspiration. Tom lives in Lilburn, Georgia, and has been married for 20 years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 11:27 PM

Mind the Gap for the Coming Year

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 11:27 PM
Tuesday, December 29, 2020 11:27 PM

“Mind the gap” is a phrase used in the United Kingdom (UK) to warn subway passengers that there is a gap between the train floor and the station platform. People could stumble, fall, or get hurt if they don't recognize this discrepancy and take appropriate action.

This message can be applied in many ways besides the UK subway. For example, I know a wonderful woman who takes care of her husband who had a severe stroke. Elaine, who is not tall by any standard, daily cares for her husband Allan, who is tall. There is gap not only in their height, but also in the way they must live pre- and post- stroke. She minds the gap by honoring her husband and displaying great love for him. One of many ways I see this is when she helps him out of their car. When I am around, I take his wheelchair out of the back of the car for her. I am younger and stronger, but it is a chore for me. Yet Elaine must do this most times on her own. Jesus came to serve and if the son of God does so we are expected to do so as well. Elaine is practicing Galatians 5:13, to serve one another in love.

Another example is the gap we have seen in 2020 and the many changes in the lives of most people all over the world. January 1st is a new year and many people put their trust in New Year’s Eve striking midnight to improve their situations. New Years’ resolutions have been proven to not last long. In fact, the Bible says this in Ecclesiastes 5:5 “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.”

Having a great 2021 would be a blessing. However, as Christians, we need to mind the gap between our present circumstances and eternity. Let’s be Kingdom-minded and focus on loving and helping others rather than concentrating on our own problems. The eternal glory that is in store for us (if you are in Christ Jesus) far surpasses our present troubles. That includes the year 2020.

I believe Martin Luther had New Year’s right“Glory to God in highest heaven, who unto man His Son hath given; while angels sing with tender mirth, a glad new year to all the earth.”

May you grow closer to God in 2021.

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. 
Monday, November 30, 2020 1:11 PM

Be the Light

Monday, November 30, 2020 1:11 PM
Monday, November 30, 2020 1:11 PM

It was a dark time. Disease was rampant. There was social unrest. People were lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. It was at this very time that God chose to act.

Some had lost hope that the Messiah would ever come. After all, the prophets had been silent for around 400 years. But in a stable meant for animals, not humans, Christ was born.

Angels lit up the dark sky as the shepherds watched in awe. The angels praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).  

The true light that gives light to everyone came into the world. (John 1:9). Jesus gave people hope, but more than that. He died on the cross so that we could have a personal relationship with God. Think about it. The God of the universe loves each one of us so much that He sent His Son to deliver us and give us abundant life.

In 2020, disease is rampant and there is social unrest. People are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 

So is it as bad as it was 2000 years ago? NO! We are on the other side of the cross. Jesus has already won the victory. Satan and his minions are on the rampage, but God, who lives in us, is greater than he who is in the world.

Jesus came into the world 2000 years ago and was the light of the world. However, He did not leave it at that. He commissioned us to be the light of the world. During this critical time in the United States and around the globe, we must take our responsibility seriously to pray AND witness like never before.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is attending a candlelight service. The entire room is dark, and the pastor lights a single candle. He then starts lighting others’ candles, who in turn light others. The light spreads. What started out to be a pitch-black room, turns into a fully lit sanctuary. This process breaks down though if people don’t share their light. Too many times, we don’t share our light with others. 

To effectively spread the light, we need to share our story of what Christ has done in our lives. I wasn’t very good at doing this until I attended a Roaring Lambs Testimony Workshop a few years ago. It transformed the way that I present my testimony. I now share with others some of the traumatic “earthquakes” I experienced in my life, one of which was being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

During the pandemic, I haven’t gotten out much, Yet, God has sent me different caregivers that I’ve shared with. Several of them told me, “I really needed to hear that today.” We are not responsible for the results, but we are responsible to share.

This Christmas, you may not be able to attend a candlelight service. The holidays may look a little different. But I challenge you to share your light with at least one other person this holiday season. You might share on a zoom call, on the phone, or by sending an old fashion card. Whatever method you use, be the light at a time in history in which the world may seem dark.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mathew 5:16).

BIO:  Dr. Sherry Ryan  is a retired Associate Professor of Information Technology and Decision Sciences at the University of North Texas. She received her Ph.D. in Information Systems from the University of Texas at Arlington and an MBA from the University of Southern California. Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked for IBM, teaching courses and speaking at national conferences. She has published numerous academic journal articles, conference proceedings, and is currently working on a book. Sherry is passionate about missions and is on the Board of Directors for His Appointed Time Ministries.

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. 

 

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