What are you holding on to?
By Alita Reynolds
A woman was walking down the sidewalk.
She was walking along, talking about her next appointment, carrying all her bags, with her phone in one hand, and her coffee in the other. Somehow, this crack in the sidewalk caused her to stumble and bumble, and finally, she fell to the ground!
But guess what? She did NOT spill that coffee!!!
Like this woman, the question I pose to you is this, “What are you holding onto so very carefully that you never mess this up?”
It doesn’t matter what comes your way, THIS, whatever it is that you hold in your hand, THIS will never spill or break.
Is it your looks? Never walking out of the house without your makeup done perfectly and the right clothes on,
Is it your workout schedule never missing one? Ever? To keep the scale at the right number?
Is it cooking everyone’s favorite meals every evening?
Is it planning and executing the perfect parties?
Is it keeping your home perfectly clean 100% of the time?
Is it keeping the kids in the right activities with the right gear? Always?
Or maybe it is rising up in your career at all costs, always being perfectly prepared for every meeting.
What are you holding onto like this woman who could take a huge fall, yet come up afterward and say, “Well at least I didn’t spill my coffee!”
My question is, “Are we holding onto the right thing?
What is it for you that you have to hold onto and never let it spill or fall or crash?
How do we let go of that tendency toward perfection, no matter what, and hold onto what actually matters?
Allow me to remind you, God has grace for you. Do you have grace for yourself?
I hear women claiming, “I’m a perfectionist” like it is a badge of honor or as a positive attribute. It so hurts my heart to know women carry this around, pride themselves on attempting to do all things perfectly. The thought of attempting to live this way feels so heavy.
Like a ton of bricks laying across the shoulders of a woman who is attempting to get it all right. And God wants to take that weight off of anyone who attempts perfection because it is IMPOSSIBLE to accomplish!
It is impossible to keep everything in balance at all times, likewise, it is impossible to do all things perfectly at all times.
We have to find the rhythm of life. We have to live in rhythm.
So that WHEN, not if, something falls, we are still on solid ground.
Our day or week or month is not ruined when something in our lives is not executed just exactly right.
While I have been accused of perfectionism and had the tendency to lean that way, I have learned what works best for me is the approach of doing things with excellence.
My motto is this.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well, especially for the Lord.
It is the intent and motive behind it.
Doing it with excellence instead of perfection.
Alita Reynolds is the President of Women of Faith, ICCI Master Life Coach Trainer, Writer, and sought-after Speaker. She and her husband, GJ, are the Visionaries of Women of Faith, a global ministry equipping women to live victoriously with Jesus. Alita’s life purpose is as simple as her upbringing was on a Nebraska farm. She passionately inspires others to find Jesus by bringing out the beautiful story God has written for their lives. Alita creates opportunities to encourage everyone to find their God-given purpose, live a life of excellence, elevate all areas of their lives to bring others to Jesus, and lock arms together to Be the Light! She is real and authentic, with a deep desire to strengthen movements radically changing the world. This all starts at home in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and three children, Logan, Rees and Lexi. For more, see womenoffaith.com
The Profile Of A Spiritual Athlete
Growing up, we had a dog named Pebbles. She was a miniature Yorkie and five pounds of spastic yippiness. Even into her old age, the second you let her out of her crate, she would sprint circles around the living room, rolling on her back and snorting in between laps.
There are days when Pebbles perfectly portrays my internal state – frantic and anxious. I’m busy yet aimless. Desperate to be purposeful and in control, I find myself chasing the wind of my shifting desires. Mentally I’m circling. I jump compulsively to reach elusive standards I’ve set for myself based on comparison and Instagram.
For months, I’ve been praying that God would sharpen my focus, strengthen my spiritual muscles. I prayed: Lord, let me be obedient. Let me run quickly when I hear Your voice. Like an elite hunting dog, train me to be a spiritual athlete—fast and strong.
The image of an attentive, powerful animal seemed noble to me. At my core I desire to make a difference for God. I long for my days to be purposeful, marked by meaningful, kind words and steady steps of obedience. I want to cultivate courage, to be known for my grit. I aspire to have unwavering endurance that yields fruit and faithfulness.
Yet, mixed up with those virtuous ambitions is a primal desire to be self-sufficient and in control. I aim to be strong and capable simply because it is uncomfortable to feel weak.
But over the past few months, the reality of my lack of control and utter vulnerability as a human, has never been in clearer focus. I’ve realized that God never asked me to be capable or strong. He asked me to come to Him and abide.
The Gospels echo with Jesus’ heartfelt yet simple message, “come to me.” To tax collectors perched in trees, to women hiding out at wells, and to little children giggling loudly while He taught, he said, “come near.” To the weary, to the burdened, to the broken, He holds His arms open wide, asking little in return. (Matthew 11:28; 19:14.)
The most consistent metaphor for Christ-followers in Scripture is not a grand German Shepherd or even a powerful stallion, but a sheep. Not a muscular, tactical animal but one that is fluffy, clumsy, and needy. God doesn’t need us, like a hunter needs a Retriever. He loves us.
Though He undoubtedly has plans and a purpose for our lives and destinations for our giftings (Jeremiah 39:11, Eph. 2:10), I’m coming to terms with the fact that there may never be a day when God unfolds the map and shows me where to run. For that would mean He is sending me out ahead of Him, alone.
God is not a faceless GPS, He is the Good Shepherd. He takes the thirsty, the fearful, the aimless and gently, patiently leads us along paths of righteousness through dark valleys to rest in green pastures and by quiet waters. He doesn’t bark orders or point to far away destinations, expecting us to travel there alone. Instead, He “gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them” (Isaiah 40:11). Though our pride desires capability and control, our souls were created for dependence.
Notably the action verbs in Psalm 23 are all attributed to the Shepherd, rather than the sheep. She is simply the grateful recipient, the trusting follower. Because in the end, while the destination is glorious, all the glory goes to Him—not her intelligence in discerning the map or strength to traverse the valleys. She arrives at the destination because of His daily, loving guidance. No turn or step is wasted. Not even this season of uncertainty.
The profile of a spiritual athlete still involves focus, strength, and grit (1 Timothy 1:7). But that power is fueled by an understanding of our own great need, rather than a clinging to the façade of our capability. Following the Good Shepherd through the valleys develops true perseverance, courage, and endurance. Waiting patiently with Him by quiet waters—even when the rest of the world seems to be passing us by—develops character. Stepping and re-stepping after a stumble, increases agility. Listening for His voice in the fog, cultivates faithfulness (John 10:27).
Lately, my new prayer is simply this: Lord, I trust you with today. Let me follow you faithfully.
And I can feel my spiritual muscles strengthening.
BIO: Morgan Eseke, is a strategic marketer, writer, and speaker, is passionate about discipling the next generation and helping all ages of women experience a deep, meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. Morgan is currently pursuing her Masters in Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary, and lives in Dallas with her husband David and their two young daughters. When she is not studying, strategizing, or speaking, Morgan spends her days playing pretend and playdoh or riding the Peloton bike (during nap time, of course.)
Watch Out for the Big D
By Julie B. Cosgrove
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…“ Ephesians 4:26 Some believe a Christian should never get angry. But in Ephesians, Paul makes a distinction. He says to not let your anger lead you into sin.
Anger is an emotion. Even Jesus experienced anger (see John 2:14-15). He cursed a barren fig tree and it withered. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. But He didn’t chew on his anger, digest it, and let it get inside of Him.
We are all human, and we get angry. It is what we allow to happen next that makes all the difference.
It is difficult to control emotions when they bubble up but we can choose how to respond once they surface. Righteous anger can lead to positive results if guided by the Holy Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If your anger leads to malice, envy, pre-judgment, gossip, or not treating the other person in love (even if it is tough love) then watch out! You may be giving the devil an entrance.
D stands for “Devil”, and when we put a “d” in front of anger it spells DANGER!
Anger that has been stirred by the devil rarely makes a good recipe to swallow. It is flavored with self and seasoned with negativity. Add a dash of hurt and you are in a stew! Anger can then become more than a gut reaction. If we brood, it can lead to digestive issues, cardiac problems, and an embittered attitude.
Anger by itself is an emotion like any other. But if we act on it without praying about it first, then beware. We have entered into danger. The old adage of counting slowly to ten before reacting has merit.
When anger bubbles up, we need to be careful of what we think or say. Stop. Watch out for the “D’. Give it to the Lord. Then we won’t have to eat our words!
Freelance writer, award-winning traditionally published author and speaker Julie B Cosgrove leads retreats, workshops, and Bible studies. She writes regularly for several Christian websites and publications. Julie has won "One of the 50 Writers You should be Reading" in 2015 & 2016 by the nationally syndicated radio The Author Show and is a Grace Award finalist, INSPY semifinalist, and winner of the Best Religious Fiction 2016 winner and Best Cozy Mystery 2017 by the Texas Association of Authors. But her passion is story-telling and she loves to read mysteries and suspense as well as write them. She currently has three mystery series: The Bunco Biddies Mysteries, The Relatively Seeking Mysteries, and the Wordplay Mysteries. Visit her website at www.juliebcosgrove.com
Do you see the Butterflies?
She was born on Christmas day and named Faith by her mom and dad. The saying, “Wait until they reach the terrible twos,” meant something totally different for Susan and Connell, Faith’s parents, who also had toddlers, Victoria and David. Terrible because it would start a journey that no parent ever wants to take.
Faith had an episode of vomiting and a seizure. A neurologist’s visit suggested epilepsy, but her MRI scan looked clear. However, another seizure, ER visit, and scan three months later showed a fast-growing cancerous brain tumor bigger than a baseball.
Connell and Susan are Christians, and this would be a great test of their marriage and faith, and proof that God was there for them. “Please God, save her” was one of many prayers. Days later came her first surgery, followed by weekly blood draws, monthly chemotherapy, radiation, unexpected hospital stays during birthdays and holidays, and a new gamma ray procedure. The TV show, Dateline, heard about this trial and decided to follow her progress. However, when the good results everyone wanted didn’t happen, neither did the show.
They switched to a Christian oncologist surgeon. The doctor performed a second procedure that would only make her more comfortable, and hopefully, extend her life.
“Lord, I see you heal other kids. Why not my little girl?” Connell prayed. Miracles do happen, but many times not the ones we specifically want. Faith’s life touched many people.
Thanksgiving morning, Faith, now 3 years old, woke up and said, “Jesus came to me and said I need a piece of paper and pen to write my testament for Mommy.” At this point, the doctors said to just take her home and love on her. No more chemo and few medicines.
She had multiple birthday parties because they did not think she would live to reach the next one. When Faith played, she would say, “Daddy, the butterflies are here! They are telling me they will be taking me to see Jesus! I don’t want to go.” Susan asked her, “What do the butterflies look like?” Faith said, “They are all the colors, and you and daddy each have a big one. David and Victoria have small ones.”
Saul became Paul, and Faith became Marcy. Faith told her parents Jesus changed her name to Marcy. At other times, Connell would take her to the backyard, and she would ask, “Do you see the butterflies?”
Faith lost her sight the day after her birthday (Christmas) and began to crawl. She told her dad, “I can still see the angels.” Then it was time for hospice. Susan said to me, “It’s not that I had faith in her living. I did not know if she would. I had faith in Who is over her.” Connell felt like God never left them. At four years old, on February 5th, 2003, Connell told me, “Faith went home to be raised by Jesus.”
As humans, we do not understand that God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts. Connell and Susan cling to the verse in Isaiah 57:1 (NIV). “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”
My wife and I consider Connell and Susan dear friends. I met them a month after losing little Faith. Twenty years later, they mention Faith frequently. Sometimes I still see the hurt, but mostly, I see the peace that one day they will be with her again.
Oh, and one last comment. Susan was looking at cards about the meaning of Christian names. She came across one for Marcy, the name given to Faith by Jesus. It means “Heroine of Faith.”
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)
By Mark Cragle
Mark 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.
I’ve never been one to be all that adventurous when it comes to expanding my palette. I know what I like and I stick to it. However, I’ve always admired others who will try anything, especially when traveling. Realizing that the culinary experience is as much a part of taking in the culture as any other , they are eager to try anything the locals might have on their own plates. As for me, if it has tentacles, an uncooked gelatinous consistency, or looks back at me from the plate, I’m likely to say, “You first!” when the platter is passed around the table.
There are some among us who are more likely to say, “Me first!” when it comes to adventuring. It is a “Me, first” that characterizes a burning desire to learn how to solve a specific problem, find out what is just over the horizon, or learn about living creatures that survive in extreme environments.
While these people tend to be leaders in their fields, I believe that a more apt term for them would be “pioneers.” They are driven to discovery by their own curiosity, and passionate perseverance to complete their quests. They are likely to want to be personally involved with the venture, and have a higher tolerance for risk than the rest of us. Finally, they are principled, believing if given enough time and resources they will reach their objectives.
An example of a pioneer in his field is Dr. Horace Wells, a dentist in the mid-nineteenth century. Dr. Wells was a compassionate man who took his Christian faith seriously. He also took dentistry seriously, and was well-known even at a young age. He invented a slogan to help people remember to clean their teeth, “The clean tooth does not decay!” He knew that the healthier people were, the less likely they were to need his services for tooth extraction. Extractions traumatized both Dr. Wells and his patients as anesthesia had yet to be discovered. The pain Dr. Wells had to inflict on his patients caused him to quit the work he loved several times before taking it up again.
One evening a traveling medical show arrived in Dr. Wells’ hometown of Hartford, CT. Part medical lecturer/part showman, Gardner Quincy Colton appeared on stage carrying an odd bag with a hose. Colton explained that the bag contained a gas that could cause people to hallucinate. A young man volunteered, and after inhaling from the hose, began to act under the influence to the delight of the audience. He gashed his leg during the exhibition, and didn’t seem to notice until the effects of the wore off and he returned to his seat. Dr. Wells took note of the whole chain of events, and began to wonder, could the consequence of pain be separated from dental surgery?
The very next day, Dr. Wells engaged Colton and an associate, Dr. John Riggs to extract one of his own nagging wisdom teeth. Unsure of how much gas was needed to effectively spare Wells from the pain, Colton and Riggs objected. However, Wells insisted. In essence, he was saying, “Me first.” He was willing to take the risk to solve his own dental dilemma, satiate his own curiosity and pave the way for others who needed relief from the screaming pain that tooth extraction inflicted on patients.
When we turn to the book of Hebrews in the New Testament of the Bible, we are told by the writer to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The word for “pioneer” in the original Greek language means “source,” “princely one,” or “founder.” As we think about Jesus and his pioneering way, we see that He indeed is the source of our faith, as it is only by his death, burial, and resurrection that makes the way for us to have eternal life. In the book of Colossians 1:18, Christ is called, “the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Since we are created in God’s image, it makes sense that when we pursue the quest that the Lord has put upon our hearts that we are, in essence, reflecting the pioneering spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
So, what are we waiting for? Now is the time to activate the gifts the Lord has given us by applying them to problems we see in our churches, communities and our country. Make the burning call of your heart “Me first!”
Jennifer Epperson serves as Executive Director of Kinship Radio. As her own life has been deeply impacted by the life-changing impact of Christian radio, Jennifer has been grateful to have spent over three decades in the industry.
Previously, she was Moody Radio’s Director of Research and Learning and has been station manager of WRMB-89.3 FM (Moody Radio) and WFIF-1500 AM (Blount Communications). Jennifer has worked and taught in international contexts and spent five years as the Executive Producer of TWR’s Women of Hope radio program. Jennifer holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and has taught leadership and radio on the university level. She is the chairwoman of the National Religious Broadcasters Radio Committee and is a member of the NRB’s board of directors. In October, she released her first book, The Pioneer’s Way: Leading a Trailblazing Life that Builds Meaning for Your Family, Your Community, and You in October 2020.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Published on Saturday, August 1, 2020 @ 1:56 AM CDT
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.
Published on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 @ 8:51 PM CDT
I’ve never liked the board game Monopoly. There’s so much not to like. First and foremost, I was never any good at it. Even if I happened to be first to land on valuable property—which I seldom was, I was too cheap to buy it.
I personally find the game extremely boring. It takes forever to play. I could watch ten full seasons of “SpongeBob Squarepants”—with commercials—in the time it takes to play a single game. Around and around the board, and for what? Financial gain. Store up wealth with property, houses and hotels and collect from other saps playing along. Woo-hoo.
There have been times in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve drawn a “Go Directly to Hell” card. Times like this morning when Lenise, my twenty-two-year-old daughter who has Downs Syndrome, had diarrhea. She was determined not to sit on the toilet or even get in the bathtub with a handheld showerhead because she wanted to do her business in the jet tub—with the jets on.
Instead of sitting on the toilet, she ran. The results, diarrhea all over the house. Literally. In her bedroom. On the back porch. In the enclosed patio. And all over the living room floor where I pinned her down until she stopped purging. By this time her system was cleaned out so I relented to let her in the big tub. Score one for Lenise.
What appears to be a simple procedure actually involved a lot of yelling and screaming prayers for help—both on my part. I prayed for help in getting Lenise to the guest bathroom and for help resisting the temptation to do serious bodily harm to her. My latter prayer was answered, but not without yelling and leg slapping. Again, both on my part. We were both doused with feces. The difference being, Lenise was covered externally. I was minimally contaminated externally, but was internally saturated.
And so, as with similar times through the course of Lenise’s life, I’ve again felt I’d received the “Go to Hell” card for ungodly display of anger. Not to mention seriously ugly thoughts I have no wish to disclose. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence, but still…
Yet, this time was vastly different. In the past, I’d easily fall prey to the feeling like I may go to hell because of these rare episodes. This time, however, while I received no assistance and no clue as to how to prevent further defilement throughout the house, God handed me a “GET OUT OF HELL, FREE” card. How?
“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” —2 Corinthians 12:9
And as King David said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!” —Psalm 32:1
Though I didn’t like Monopoly, there was one time when I enjoyed playing. It’s the only time I recall our family playing any game together. I was nine years old. My father was the bank keeper. My brother Alan and I were losing so every now and then Dad slipped money under the table to us. He was cheating and I loved him for it.
My heavenly Father is cheated on my behalf, too. I was lost in sin. The penalty for sin is death, but God sent His Son, Jesus, to take my place. His resurrection cheated Satan and the grave. He continues to cheat death not for me alone, but for everyone who puts their trust in Him. Even when we fall short, we can come to Him in repentance and receive His loving grace.
“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” —Col 1:14
That means we WIN! We win a victor’s crown of life which makes all the wealth of this world look like phony money.
My Father cheated death. And I love Him for it.
BIO: Vivien Chambers spent many of her early years in Tacoma, Washington. She moved with her husband to Texas in 1981 and now resides in the Fort Worth area. Vivien has served as a Stephen Minister and presently enjoys volunteering as an assistant in a Multiple Sclerosis swim class. Vivien is currently working on her first book. She has five grown children and six grandchildren.
Published on Monday, June 1, 2020 @ 2:30 PM CDT
The Coronavirus pandemic has led to toilet paper shortages and hoarding. Why? Is toilet paper made of silver and gold? Toilet paper is important, but it’s only temporal. It eventually gets flushed down the toilet. This phenomenon reminded me of a sermon I heard several years ago.
Visualize a roll of toilet paper that is unrolled. However, instead of ending, it goes on forever. This is like the timeline of your existence that lasts for eternity.
Notice that toilet paper is divided into squares. Think of that first square as your time on earth. Assorted brands of toilet paper have different lengths of squares, just like people’s lives on earth have different lengths. The average human life expectancy is 78.6 years. Yet we do not know how long our life will be because it can end at any second. Our bodies will fail. They are temporal like the first square. The world and all its temptations is not anyone’s home forever.
Eternity is much longer than the first square. However, the first square is the most important. Why? Because you get only one chance with the first square. There are no do-overs. Some people don’t realize that what you do in the first square determines what happens to you in eternity. Many people live life partying and sinning and think: I will clean my act up when I get old. This strategy will not work because we are not promised tomorrow. I told my son many times that once you graduate from high school your life speeds up. It’s like stepping on the accelerator of a car. According to Psalm 39:5, You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. Time flies by and is a blip in eternity. The temptations and pleasures of this world are not worth gambling your eternal security.
Ask yourself, Am I storing up treasure in this world or in heaven? After the Apostle Paul met Jesus, he lived for eternal rewards that last and not for those that will be consumed by fire. He said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” - 2 Corinthians 4:18. Set your sites on salvation and being a citizen of heaven.
Hebrews 9:27-28 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Published on Friday, May 1, 2020 @ 2:12 PM CDT
No matter where you are today, chances are hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and Lysol spray are nearby. Just days ago, we were minding our own business, making summer plans and looking forward to springtime carelessly. And suddenly, those plans took a disturbing turn where you find yourself held hostage by the cable network news. These networks constantly feed us updates on our dire situation and warn us that we may never leave our homes again. Let’s all scream, STOP!!! Stop feeding our fears and just report the facts, please.
Our homes created to be our safe haven are starting to take on their own personality. The walls are alive and moving closer. The dust is hissing and staring from the ceiling fan. It used to be so well behaved. Sharing space with family members (whom we love dearly) is becoming crowded – gentle reminders of the social distancing policy. If you choose to embrace this thinking, you are in for a very long haul. Is there really any other way to approach this madness?
Let’s face it, we are shut-in and shut-down from our typical hectic and sometimes stressful lives. How do we maneuver our present-day new reality? In times of uncertainty, as believers, our first frame of reference is the Bible. What were the outcomes from Bible figures who found themselves shut-in? If we look to the Bible, we will gain insight into how best to handle our situation.
Daniel was faithful in serving the living God, refusing to alter his worship in any manner in order to honor King Darius. As a result, Daniel found himself shut-in the lions’ den for destruction. Surely, Daniel was not expected to survive his shut-in period. Daniel, the king, and other men witnessed a truly miraculous experience. God didn’t leave Daniel shut-in with the lions alone. God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and dismissed any harm to Daniel. Did Daniel, the king, or the others anticipate God to reveal His power in such an unprecedented way? Absolutely not. Daniel did not resort to grumbling or complaining about his untimely circumstances. Instead, he humbly trusted God which yielded supernatural protection.
Rahab, a harlot, chose wisely in aligning herself with the spies from Israel. The word spread on how the Lord dried up the Red Sea and permitted the Israelites to cross. Rahab received these words as a powerful truth. Her alignment indicated that she wanted to experience that supernatural power personally. She believed that the Lord’s limitless power was available to her and her family. The spies gave her specific instructions to gather her loved ones, display the scarlet cord and shut-in. Careful adherence to these instructions was the difference between life and death. Rahab followed the instructions precisely. As a result of her obedience during shut-in, lives were spared and faith in the living God was proclaimed.
Daniel and Rahab are speaking to us today. Let our shut-in be an opportunity to experience God’s protection and strengthen our faith. Grumbling, complaining and entertaining discontentment enhance the enemy’s territory. Follow Daniel’s strategy: “The people who know their God will display strength and take action (Dan 11:32). Commit to using your shut-in to becoming a stronger and bolder witness upon your release. Blessings!
BIO: Gwen Burno is the founder of Wisdom & Wellness LLC, an organization that provides sound principles and strategies which equip others to pursue a well-ordered life. In this capacity, she serves as a Life Coach, Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach and Christian Speaker helping others to reach their God-given potential. She is a contributing writer in Stories of Roaring Faith, Volume 3. Her passion is encouraging and supporting others to live intentionally and purposefully according to tried and true principles. Contact Gwen at www.displaystrength.com or email@example.com
Published on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 @ 2:46 PM CDT
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