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Give me a word, Lord: THE VOTER GUIDE

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

The United States of America will hold probably the most serious presidential election ever on November 3, 2020. I say that because I feel that there is so much at stake. I have heard the worried comments and concerns. I’ve seen friends part ways because of their differences of opinion over who should be president and why. How does one choose who to vote for? You must use godly wisdom and discernment.

I’m an avid listener to American Family Radio, and before each election, they share the iVoterGuide. You can look it up at ivoterguide.com. They ask the tough questions, and look for the candidates’ biblical stance and beliefs. I also follow the American Family Association Action Alerts. At AFA.net, they have posted a party platform comparison which is very helpful. I look for helpful resources like these to help me choose. I don’t know about you, but I want to vote for a candidate whose beliefs line up most closely with mine. But even more important than that, I want to vote for a candidate whose beliefs line up most closely to God and His Word. How will we know if the candidate’s platform is in line with God’s platform? Well, we have to have a good understanding of God’s platform, and to gain this understanding, we must read the Bible.

In 1776, the United States of America was formed as one nation under God. Our pledge of allegiance to the American flag says that we are indivisible. These words were written in 1892. I bet our forefathers would be sorely disappointed if they could see us now. One nation under God? Indivisible? Sadly, I think not. As a country, we have strayed so far from the teachings of our Savior. The words of scripture are twisted to benefit the situations. Bits and pieces of the Bible are held in high esteem, while other parts and pieces are simply ignored because the words don’t follow what popular culture recognizes as okay. We are calling evil good and good evil. This country has strayed so far from Christ, and with the impending election, depending on the selected candidate, I fear that our nation will no longer be “one nation under God,” but rather we will be “one divided nation without God.”

My scripture reading this morning comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14, and it reads, “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” We read this verse all of the time as a stand alone verse, and we take it out of context. When reading the Bible it is always important to understand the context. After Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord appeared to him and gave him some warnings and reassurances. “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.’ When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God was talking to Solomon, but we to can gain knowledge and insight from these words. We know that we serve a loving and gracious God, and we know that He hears our prayers. We also know that He rewards and punishes, yet no matter what, He will forgive if we turn from our wicked ways, humble ourselves, and seek Him!

As November 3, 2020 approaches, please study the very best voter guide ever written: The Holy Bible, God’s Word. Look at the candidates, review their platform, and by all means pray! Pray earnestly for God’s guidance in your candidate selection. Review the platforms. Make a checklist. Which candidate’s platform is closest to biblical principles that we as Christians hold dear? After you have prayed, studied the candidates, and studied God’s word for wisdom and insight, go out and vote! Vote like lives depend on it. Vote like our freedom depends on it. Vote! Because quite frankly, there is so much on the line this year, every single Christian vote needs to be cast and counted.

“and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” He will hear us. He will forgive us. He will heal our land!

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Give me a word, Lord: GOD-FI-DENCE

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jeremiah 17:7 But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

The Miriam Webster definition of confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances, and faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way.” We try to survive day by day with confidence that we place in our own selves and abilities, but we find ourselves coming up short. We can’t do it on our own. We must have confidence in God to get through each and every day. That type of confidence is defined a “God-fi-dence.” I saw this terminology on the internet. The definition for the word “God-fi-dence” is “knowing I can’t, but knowing He will.” I loved it, and I loved it so much that I decided to make a T-shirt with that exact saying on it.

We lose confidence in ourselves on a daily basis. It’s hard to stay confident in our own abilities, especially when there are so many outside forces trying to steal our confidence away. This has been a tough year. It seems that each passing day gets harder, and the roads we are traveling get rougher and tougher. There are bumps and potholes that keep us bouncing to and froe. We struggle. We become weaker. We may even sometimes think that it’s time to give up. Our confidence in ourselves has disappeared along the wayside.

We CAN’T give up! God designed us to be strong in Him. We must realize that we truly can’t do anything without Him, but with Him we can accomplish anything and everything that God wills for us to do. We can have God-fi-dence every single day of our lives. We must train ourselves to be different from the world. The world says, “me, me, me.” But the Word says, “God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” We are merely weak shells of a being, empty, and hollow until we receive the richness of grace and mercy offered by our loving Father. When we accept Christ as our Savior, and we receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we are never alone again. We are not fighting life’s battles on our own. We don’t have to tackle the crazy chaos of the day by ourselves. We don’t have to be confident in our own abilities. We can be confident in God with God-fi-dence. That is the God’s design for us: confidence in Him, not ourselves.

Don’t give up, my friends. When the going gets tough, the tough go to God. He is still right there with you, and even though you feel you can’t do it anymore, just remember that God can. When you finally know that you can’t, but realize that God WILL, you will find your God-fi-dence. We truly can do all things through Christ. He will accomplish much through you. You only need God-fi-dence!

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Give me a word, Lord: JESUS IS COMING SOON

2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.

Yesterday, we had a phenomenal morning worship service at church. Oh, we always have great worship, but we did things a little differently yesterday. We had a praise and prayer service. Our praise team lead us with praise and worship songs, and several of our members lead us in guided prayer using the acronym PRAYER for Praise, Repentance, Ask, Yield, Encourage, and Remember. First, we praised God in song. Then we were reminded of our need for repentance with scripture from Psalm 66:17-19 and I John 1. Then it got even better. Under the ask portion, different leaders lead us through guided prayer for God to move in our families, in our churches, in our community and state, and in our nation. We prayed corporately for the things that have been troubling so many of our hearts. As we reached the yield portion, tears were shed as one of my beloved sisters in Christ shared how she was yielding to God’s will during her husband’s terminal illness. We were encouraged with more scripture from Joshua 1:9 and James 5:16, and a congregational prayer was help. The service was completed with remembrance and thanksgiving. the scripture reading was from John 14:1-3, and we closed with the song “Jesus is Coming Soon.” What a powerful service! (You can watch the service on Facebook at Oak Hill Baptist Chruch, Poplarville.)

We left the service singing “Jesus is Coming Soon,” and I told m husband that this song has to be the song for 2020. He said, “I feel a devotional coming.” LOL. I said, “maybe so.” Well, my friends, that song has been stuck in my head since. It’s an old southern gospel song that was written in 1942 by R.E. Winsett, but it was made famous by the Oak Ridge Boys around 1969. In case you’ve never heard the song, let me share the lyrics here:

“Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear. Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake. Humbling your hearts to God saves from the chastening rod. Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake. Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon. Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound. All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies going where no one dies, heavenward bound. Troubles will soon be o’er, happy forevermore
when we meet on that shore, free from all care. Rising up in the sky, telling this world goodbye, homeward we then shall fly, glory to share. Oh, Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon. Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound. All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies going where no one dies, heavenward bound.”

Reflect on those words for just a moment. The first line is what catches my attention: “troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear. Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake.” The song was written in 1942, and if you remember history correctly, World War II was ongoing. Oh yea, that would be a troublesome time. Here we sit, many years later, and the words still apply. We are not at war, but boy oh boy, are troublesome times here. I speak to a lot of people on a daily basis, and I can tell you, people’s hearts are full of fear. We don’t know what lies on the other side of all of this trouble, but that is okay. God does. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we definitely know who holds tomorrow. We need not fear the unknown because although we don’t know what is coming, God does!

In the USA, we have a very important election upcoming in just a little over a week. It is scary. The two candidates are sitting on extreme polar opposite sides in their platforms, beliefs, and plans for this nation. It’s easy to become fearful of the unknown. It’s easy to be fearful if the man we are supporting who shares our belief system doesn’t get elected. But we shouldn’t fear. We should get out and vote based on our beliefs and the candidate that most closely stands for the things that we stand for, and we should pray. We need to pray for this election like never before.

2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” If we will humble ourselves, and pray, and seek the face of the Lord, and turn away from the wickedness, God will hear us. He will forgive us. He will restore us. We need to pray, yes, pray earnestely and fervently.

But no matter the outcome, God is still in control. Our pastor reminded us of scripture from Proverbs chapter 21, verse 1, “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” We aren’t electing a king, but we are electing a president, and God’s word tells us that his heart is like a stream of water directed by God. GOD can guide that stream wherever HE pleases! Just study God’s Word, y’all. There are so many examples of God changing the hearts of kings and leaders. If we continue to be fervent in prayer, God will hear us. He will heal our land. But regardless of all of that, we can rest assured that Jesus is coming soon! There is no reason for the saved in Christ to fear. I’m ready, are you? If you aren’t sure, how about making today the day that you choose to follow Christ? Today is the perfect day for salvation!

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Give me a word, Lord: USE WHAT YOU HAVE, DO WHAT YOU CAN!

Mark 14:3-9 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.  Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

This morning, I read the following quote by Arthur Ashe, Jr, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” He was a famous tennis player who retired in 1980. I’m sure he wasn’t referring to the scripture that I have quoted above when he made that statement, but it is quite fitting. Jesus was in Bethany in the home a leper. The timing was just prior to Judas making a contract for the life of Christ and just two days prior to Christ’s crucifixion. While Jesus was eating in this home, a woman walked over and poured a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume onto the head of Christ. She was immediately scolded. It was pointed out by some at the table that the perfume could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor. The people had no idea of the coming events, but Jesus did, and perhaps this woman had the sense of urgency to do something right then and there.

The people at the table saw the value in the perfume, but they did not recognize the value of the act that was performed. Christ did, and in fact, He noted five significant things about this act. First of all, Christ saw it as an extremely beautiful extravagant act. The beauty was in the extravagance of the act, and not in the extravagance of the perfume. The people at the table saw the act as one of waste. In their eyes, she had wasted an enormous amount of money. It was an extremely lavish act. So they scolded her harshly. “But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?”

Secondly, we see that the act was very timely. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.” He knew that His time to depart was coming soon. He told the people that there will always be poor among them, and that they can help the poor anytime they wanted, but they would not always have Christ with them in the flesh. The timing of the act was significant because although they could always do what they could to help the poor, Christ would not be around in the physical body for much longer.

Next, we see that she did what she could with what she had. She didn’t have time to prepare an elaborate meal. She couldn’t sew Him a new garment. There was no time for that. She did what she could with what she had, and Jesus recognized the significance of this. As Christians, there are many times that we can do things with what we have on hand to serve the Lord. It is practical application. This woman was practical even though her act was extravagant. And Christ said, “She has done what she could.”

The fourth thing we see was the insight in the act. Jesus recognized the fact that this woman was actually anointing His body before the burial. Jesus had told His disciples, His trusted friends and followers, about His impending death, but they didn’t believe Him. Yet, this woman felt the urgency to anoint Christ at that very moment. Jesus said, “She has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” What a precious act of love.

Last, we see that her act was one that would be remembered. Here I sit, over 2000 years later, writing about this very woman and the act of love that she showed for our Savior. Christ said, ” I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” And…so He was right! We still remember her gracious, extravagant act.

What can we take away from this extravagant act? Let’s return to the quote that I opened with. Start where you are. You may feel that you don’t have anything to offer, but I assure you, God has gifted you with a talent or ability for His service. You merely need to pray and search yourself to discover that talent. Then, you simply have to use what you have. Put your talents and abilities to work in the service for our Savior. Finally, just do what you can! I promise you that God will bless your endeavors, and although on our own, we can’t accomplish much, we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us!

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Give me a word, Lord: I’M SO GLAD I’M GOD’S PUMPKIN

I could not locate the original author of “Being a Christian is like Being an Pumpkin,” but I love to share this analogy every year in October. It is a quite simple way to share the truth of Christ, and I love simple. Someone once asked the question, what is it like to be a Christian, and the answer given was, “Being a Christian is like being a pumpkin. God picks you up from the patch and brings you in. Then He washes all the dirt off of you. He opens you up and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, fear, hate, and greed. He carves you a new smiling face. And then He puts His light inside of you for all the world to see.” It can’t get much simpler than that! Let’s break it down just a bit more.

First of all, we recognize that God chooses us. Can we even comprehend the significance of this? He picked me. He loves me. We wants me. God knows all the ugly details of my heart and my life, but still He selected me to be His very own. The thought of this always amazes me. I know I’m a mess and a handful, yet our heavenly Father looked down and said, “I want that kinky headed girl. She’ll be a challenge, but I don’t shy away from challenges.” He picked me, and oh how happy I am that He did! “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” John 15:16

Next, He washes all the dirt away. Yep, God cleans us right up. God knows that we could never earn righteousness, so He devised a great plan to unite us with Him. He sent his Son as a propitiation for our sins so that we may be made right. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we get a heart change. We are changed from the inside out. The changes may be gradual at first as we learn to walk with Christ, but once our hearts belong to Him, we become clean. He shed His blood so that we might be as white as snow. Clean! We become a new person in Christ. We are no longer that old person, and we begin to walk in the newness of life with Christ. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

When God cleans us up, he gets rid of all that yucky stuff that keeps us down. He will remove all the seeds of doubt, fear, hate, and greed if we allow Him to. We may try to hang on to these seeds, or we may find it difficult to let those seeds go, but with Christ, we can rest assured that He’s got it. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ. We don’t have to be slaves to sin any longer. We can pray to our Father, and let that stuff go! Doubt, fear, hate, and greed are from the devil. We don’t need those things in our life. As we grow closer in our daily walk with Christ, we can slowly but surely turn away from our old sinful selves, and no longer be slaves to sin! “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.” Romans 6:6

Then He carves a smiling face on us. This is one of my favorite parts. I love that movie “Elf”, and my favorite quote from the movie is “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” The reason I love that is because smiling is my favorite too! I love to smile. We have been masked up for six months now, and it’s hard to see a smile, but guess what? Mask or no mask, if someone is truly smiling, you can see it in their eyes. It’s called a Duchenne smile. When someone is truly smiling, their mouth turns upward and their eyes light up. Their whole face smiles. That is the kind of smile that Christ puts on the face of a believer. When I think about all that Christ has done for me, I can’t help but have a great big old goofy smile on my face. The gift of salvation is truly something to smile about! “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” Psalm 71:23

Finally, we let our light shine. We just can’t keep all of this good news to ourselves. When we are full of Christ, we can’t help but let the goodness of Christ overflow to those we come in contact with. Everyone that sees us should see a light. They should see the reflection of the Son within us. Non-believers should look at a believer, and say, “there is definitely something different about that person. I want some of what they have!” When our light for Christ shines brightly, the world will see. They will know that we are His children, and our light will plant seeds! Let your light shine! “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16

Today, I ask you, “Are you God’s pumpkin?” If you aren’t today is the best pumpkin picking day I can think of. Go to the Lord, and let Him know you are ready to be picked. It’s time to be cleaned up and get rid of that yucky stuff. Let Christ put a smile on your face that lights up any room! I am so glad that I am God’s pumpkin!

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Give me a word, Lord: JUST AS YOU ARE

Judges 6:11-16 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

Judges 6 begins with “the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight.” The Lord had handed them over to the Midianites for seven years, and the Midianites were very cruel to the Israelites so much so that they caused the Israelites to hide in the mountains, caves, and strongholds. The people were literally stripped of their crops, their livestock, and their homes. When they finally recognized their mistakes, God chose Gideon to rescue them. Where do you suppose He found Gideon? He was literally hiding in a hole. The hole was originally a wine press, but Gideon was in the hole threshing wheat to hide the grain from the Midianites.

I love the story of Gideon because it reminds me so much of our human nature. The angel of the Lord came and told Gideon that the Lord had chosen him to rescue Israel from the Midianites. How does Gideon respond? “But how? My clan is the weakest, and I am the smallest. ” Gideon first looked around and within, but he wasn’t yet looking up. He even gave God a few tests, you know, just to make sure God had chosen the right person. He ran home, cooked a goat and baked some bread, and brought it back to the angel. The angel touched the food with the tip of his staff, and fire flamed up from the rock and consumed the food. I don’t know about you, but that would’ve been enough proof for me, but apparently not Gideon.

Then as God prepares to send Gideon to fight the armies, Gideon starts thinking, “what if this is a mistake. Maybe I’m not the one.” So he asks for God to give him a sign. He told God that he was going to put his cozy fleece blanket outside that night. He told God that if he was the one to go, to let the blanket be wet but the ground around it dry. The next morning, the blanket was soaking wet, but the ground was dry. Old Gideon was still not believing so he asked God the next night to keep the blanket dry, but the ground around it wet. The next day, the blanket was perfectly dry, and the ground was wet.

Finally, Gideon is convinced, and he gathers up a huge army. They head out to battle, and God says, “Whoa. You’re army is too big.” Gideon had to be thinking, “I need a big army!” But God told him, I want the people to know that they were rescued by God and not in and of themselves. Gideon started out with an army of 32,000 warriors, but God reduced the size to 300 men, and He gave the Israelites victory over the Midianites.

Gideon was from the smallest tribe of Israel, and he was a small man. He was hiding in a hole threshing wheat, but God chose him to do a great and mighty work. He picked Gideon out, just as he was, right where he was, hiding in a hole under great oppression. God definitely works in mysterious ways, but rest assured, my friend, when He decides to call you, He will take you just as you are, lift you out of your hiding place, and use you for His glory. God blesses each and everyone with a unique set of gifts and talents, and He desires for us to use these talents to glorify Him. I am willing to guarantee you one thing. If you aren’t using your talent, or if you haven’t yet discovered it, talk to God and He will reveal it to you. When we humbly submit to the calling of Christ, He picks us up, right where we are, just as we are, and He does miraculous things. We only have to be willing.

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Give me a word, Lord: REMEMBERING SALVATION

I Peter 1:3-9 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

I am not a writer by profession, but writing this devotional blog has become one of the passions of my life. I go to bed at night praying and asking God for words, and I wake up each morning asking for words. I feel such an urgency to write. I feel a need to share the gospel. I don’t know how many people are reading my ramblings, but my prayer is that these words could just reach the heart of even one lost soul and plant a seed. I know that my God will send someone else along to water that seed, and the Holy Spirit will make it grow.

I woke up this morning reflecting on my own day of salvation. I was thirteen years old. I had been going to church my whole life, literally. Daddy had us in church the first Sunday after we were born. It was an important part of our lives. At the age of thirteen, I sat in a church pew and heard a sermon and felt the tug of the Holy Spirit. I was lost, and for the first time in my life, I felt the depth of my lostness. I realized at that moment that I was not truly saved, and I recognized my need for salvation. I realized that if I did not ask Christ into my heart at that very moment, the opportunity may never come again. I realized what it meant to be separated from Christ for eternity, and I did not want to be separated for even one second longer. I asked Christ to be the Lord of my life that day. To say I was extremely shy at that time would be a great understatement. I didn’t walk the aisle and make a public profession of faith that day. I knew Christ was in my heart, but I was afraid to walk that aisle. Over the next week, the Holy Spirit gave me the strength and courage. As a matter of fact, I was so excited the very next Sunday morning that I could not wait to run down that aisle to our pastor and let the whole church know that I had been saved by the grace of our Savior. I remember it like it was yesterday. I picked out my prettiest dress. It was white with royal blue flowers and ruffles. I was still scared, but I knew that I had to share my new found faith with my church family.

Now, I could sit here and tell you a bunch of lies and cover everything with sugar and honey, and tell you that life has been super easy since that moment, but I won’t. Life gets hard, and lately it’s been a bit harder than usual. In I Peter, chapter 1, Peter is writing a letter to the people of Asia Minor who are being persecuted. This is the area now known as Turkey. The people were being persecuted for their faith in Christ. There were some women who were married to men who were not believers in Christ, and these people needed encouragement in a big way. He begins this letter encouraging them with praise to God for their salvation. He takes time to remind them of the greatness of salvation and an inheritance that will never fade. He reminds them of the greatness of salvation to encourage them as they are going through the difficult times of persecution. We may not be going through physical persecution, but each day brings troubles of its own, and we have to fight those daily battles remembering our great salvation too.

Jesus Christ took on the sins of you and me that great and dreadful day on the cross. Why would He do such a thing? We weren’t even born, yet He still died for us. It is because He loves us so greatly, and because of that love, He wants us to have the assurance of eternity with Him. Salvation is truly the greatest gift in the world. It doesn’t cost us a dime, but it cost Jesus an agonizing death on the cross in order to fulfill the prophesy and be resurrected to the Father. Many times, we forget what a big deal this gift of salvation is. It’s not merely a “get out of hell free card” that we carry around in our wallet. Our salvation was bought and paid for by Christ, and given to us as the best gift that we could ever receive. Christ died for me. He died for you. He gave us a gift of truly unmerited favor, true grace, true mercy, and it was given from the purest heart of true love.

When things are going good, it’s easy to be joyful, but when the going gets tough, we have a bad day, life throws us great big obstacles, or perhaps we are even feeling the pain of persecution, we can still find joy. We simply have to go back and remember the joy of our salvation. We must remember that no matter what battle life gives us, Christ has already won. He defeated death. He overcame. He is my rock and my salvation, and I am so thankful that He cared enough to save me. Take some time today to reflect on your salvation. Do you know Christ as your Savior? If so, reflect on the wonderful glory of knowing Him today. If you haven’t made Him the Lord of your life, don’t wait any longer. Make today the day of your salvation!

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Give me a word, Lord: BE A SHEEPDOG

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV)

“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; All the day and all the night they shall never be silent You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.”  Isaiah 62:6-7 (ESV)

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm.” I’ve been thinking about my sweet Daisy May, and the lessons she taught me. She was a true friend to the very end, and I loved her.

The best farm dog we ever had was Daisy May. I loved that girl in a big way. She was a Great Pyrenees. After we began raising chickens, we tried several dog breeds before we found Daisy May. I did my research, and many people told me that the Great Pyrenees breed was the way to go as far as farm protection. However, my research results made me think that this was not the breed for us. I read on-line that these dogs roamed, and by roam, I mean they wandered far away from home even into another county, and owners reported that they frequently had to go and pick their dogs up miles from their home. Well, I didn’t want any part of that. I also was told by other owners that these dogs were not social animals, and that they were strictly herd animals. They were to reside with the animals and tend the animals, and they were not “people” animals. That was another strike against this breed.

However, one day, my husband traded an Eastern Wild turkey for a great big ball of white fluff with a cute little pink nose. She was adorable, and she was a people dog. I knew that we were supposed to pen her up with the animals and house her with them, at least that is what the research said I should do. We named her Daisy May. This was a name that she quickly outgrew as she grew into a massive, beautiful 100 pound ball of white fluff. She didn’t look like a meek little friendly Daisy May, but rather she looked like a beautiful lion with a long flowing white mane. She was a true beauty.

She was our pet, but she was a working pet. She had a job. Her job was to protect our animals.  We did not train her for this job. She never even spent one day in canine school, and neither my husband nor I ever spent even one day training her. She truly had a natural born instinct to be a protector for our animals. Prior to her arrival on our 80 acre farm, multiple predatory animals visited, and we lost animals on several occasions. One day I came home from work and found 29 dead chickens that were killed by a pack of local dogs. After Daisy May came to live at Hodge Lodge, we never lost another chicken or any other animal to a predatory animal.

We pinned her up with the chickens the first couple of days, but then we felt sorry for her, and let her out. I worried that she would roam off our property, but she never did. She roamed all over our eighty acres, but she never stepped a foot in the road, and she never left our home. She knew from day one that she had a job, and her job was to protect Hodge Critter Lodge. Under her fine supervision, we acquired a great menagerie of animals. She never tried to harm a feather or hair on one single critter head. I talk to all my animals, and Daisy May was no exception. She seemed to really understand me, and whenever we brought a new feathered or furry family member home, I showed the new critter to Daisy May, and would say, “Daisy, this is one of ours.” She seemed to understand me, and she would guard that animal as if it had lived here forever.  One Spring, we had new baby chicks, and we were letting them bounce around the yard. Our Yorkie, Diego, was a puppy at the time. He was bouncing around and playing a little too roughly with the young chicks. Daisy May loved Diego, but she also knew her job was to protect the chicks. She gently plopped her giant front paw on Diego’s head as if to say, “that’s enough little buddy. Leave the chicks alone.”

She slept a lot during the day and roamed our property at night. She reminded me of a night watchman keeping guard. She barked occasionally and made sure that all the locals knew she was on duty and Hodge Lodge was secure. She didn’t just protect the animals; she also kept a watchful eye over her humans. I could walk anywhere I wanted at night without a worry in the world because I had my great big old sheepdog with me. While Jeff worked overseas, I felt perfectly safe under Daisy May’s watchful eye. I’m a natural born country girl and walking outdoors during the dark of night has never bothered me. I can remember hearing a noise and walking out onto the porch to explore only to have my body physically pushed back into the house by my great big old sheepdog. It was if she was telling me, “I got this, Mama. Go back inside and let me do my job.”

We lost our sweet Daisy May a couple of years ago. She died protecting one of our cows that was calving. Wild dogs were trying to attack the calf, and Daisy May gave her life doing what she did best: protecting our farm. I have put a lot of thought into Daisy May and being a sheepdog, and I have arrived at the conclusion that I want to be a sheepdog just like Daisy May. Sheepdogs are bred to protect sheep. Sheep are not very smart critters, and they really don’t realize when they are in danger. Sheepdogs, however, recognize danger, and they instinctively know what to do to protect the sheep from the danger. Therefore, farmers put sheepdogs in with their sheep to protect the sheep from predators. When a sheep dog is on duty, the sheep are safe. In the world of Daisy May there are sheep, and in her case the sheep consisted of actual sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, deer, pigs, and so many other animals, and then there are the wolves, and in her case the wolves consisted of any predatory animal that decided to visit Hodge Lodge. Our animals may not recognize danger, but Daisy May always kept a watchful eye over them to keep them safe from harm.

As Christians, we can fall into one of these three categories. There are people who are sheep who are part of the flock of the great Shepherd, Christ, or who are new in their faith, or even those who haven’t yet come to know Christ as their savior. And then there are the wolves. The wolves are those people that try to draw the sheep away from the great Shepherd. This would include anyone who is working against Christ and trying to make a person doubt their faith or doing things to try to persuade a person to do things that are not Christ-like. The wolves work very hard to keep Christians from being all that they can be for Christ, and sometimes, the Christians, also known as the sheep, don’t recognize the danger of the wolves or perhaps the sheep are not prepared to handle the threat of danger. Finally, there are the sheepdogs. Sheepdogs are those people who stand in the gap. The sheepdog stands between the sheep and the wolves. It is our duty as Christians to stand in that gap. The wolves try diligently to draw the sheep away from the Shepherd, and we must stand in as sheepdogs to prevent this from happening. Many times, we will feel ill equipped, and we won’t feel like we are strong enough to be a sheepdog, and we just want to be a sheep. But as a sheepdog, we help lift other Christians who will become stronger in their faith and relationship with Christ, and in turn, that person will encourage us and help us to become stronger. I pray that I can be a great sheepdog like Daisy May one day. I want to stand in the gap and protect people from the evil in this world. I want to help strengthen fellow Christians, but I also want to spread the gospel to others. Yes, I want to be a sheepdog when I grow up!

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Give me a word, Lord: RESTORATION

Jeremiah 32:36-41 “Now I want to say something more about this city. You have been saying, ‘It will fall to the king of Babylon through war, famine, and disease.’ But this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.

The scripture for today’s passage was a portion of our nightly Bible reading last night. Jeremiah the prophet had been warning the people with the word of the Lord that they would be overtaken by Babylon. The people had angered God. They were living evil lifestyles and worshipping false gods, gods that they had made with human hands. God was tired of the people living evil and corrupt lives, and He had promised to intervene and allow the king of Babylon to overcome the people for a period of time. He said that He would scatter the people. What we see in portion of this scripture, however, is God’s promise of restoration.

When we are in the midst of failures, sins, mistakes, and we are feeling broken and alone, we must remember that Jesus Christ restores. The term restore means to bring back or reinstate. When Jesus restores, He brings us back to Him, and we aren’t taken back to the way we were before we experienced the brokenness. No, Christ does much more than that. When He restores us, He leaves us much better than we were before. Christ will take away the pain and brokenness, and put our lives back together. He gets rid of what is wrong in our lives, and brings us back to a fullness with Him. Restoration is an amazing place to be. When restored through Christ, what is broken becomes whole.

I have heard a great number of times, “I can’t wait for this pandemic to end. I want things to get back to the way they were,” I’m not sure that we want things to get back to the way they were. Things weren’t going so great in this big old world prior to COVID-19 and have only gotten worse since the pandemic began. I don’t want to go back and settle for how things were. No, I want to see the restoration that comes from Christ. I want us to come out on the other end of this pandemic restored in Christ. When we go through difficult situations in life, we can either fall under the pressure, or we can grow from the experience. I pray that we are all growing. I pray that we are learning that God is in control of every situation, and I pray that we see His hand in the solutions.

God will restore us, if only we will turn our hearts back to Him. “I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me. I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly replant them in this land.”

We can begin the restoration process now. If we could simply turn our hearts back to God. We must stop living for the world and start living for things eternal. We must have one heart and one purpose which is to worship Christ forever. I pray, “please, Lord, put a desire in our hearts to worship You. Please, Lord, bring us back to you. Restore us.” We know that restoration comes through the blood of Christ. Our Savior has already paid the price. We can not continue to take advantage of the love and grace of our Lord and Savior. No, we have to turn our hearts back to Him.

Today, I ask that we pray for restoration. Let us be restored in Christ, individually and corporately. We need Christ now more than the breath in our lungs. We don’t want to simply get back to the way things were, we want to be restored. I know that my God can do that. He is bigger than anything in this world. He’s got our attention now. So what are we going to do? Shall we continue to live as we are, or are we going to pray for restoration? Are you satisfied with the way things were? Are you okay with the way things are now? I pray that you are not willing to settle for any less than God has planned for your life. Yes, let’s pray for restoration today!

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Give me a word, Lord: REFRESHED

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Go, go, go, go, go….STOP! That seems to be the way we go about each day. We are constantly on the go. I usually wake up around 5:00 am to do my morning Bible study and write my devotional blog. Then it’s go, go, go. On my clinic days, I run for twelve hours taking care of my patients. It’s a great job, and it’s my passion, but it is definitely a busy one most of the time. Then on my days off, there are always a million little projects to complete…clean the house, crafting, family engagements, church activities, tending the critters and the farm. Yes, it is safe to say that we are some busy folks. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I am not one to just sit around and be lazy, at least not for a very long period of time. I love to be busy, but sometimes, we have to slow down. We need to hit the refresh button in life.

This week, my husband and I did just that. We hit the refresh button. We left Wednesday morning for an archery hunt a couple hours away from home. We treated ourselves to a nice hotel room, a few good meals, and FOUR days in the woods together…just God, Jeff, and me. Oh, my it was so very nice. We did not kill a deer. We didn’t even see a deer that was legal. Only a couple of young bucks stepped out on us, but that is okay. We aren’t starving for meat, but we were starving for refreshment. These past four days have been truly wonderful. I spent time in beautiful hardwoods, lovely white oaks, and a whole bunch of other trees with leaves gradually changing from green to gold. I saw a multitude of birds, and they sang their carols loudly and proudly as I sat there under a big old oak tree. The squirrels were having a convention there this weekend. I giggled inside as I watched them frolic and play. They chased each other around the trees and through the woods. The weather cooled off the last two days, and it was absolutely perfect. I felt all of the tension of the previous weeks leave my body as I sat there with God, nature, and my favorite human in those beautiful woods.

Life gets too busy sometimes. We get carried away doing what needs to be done, and we tend to forget about taking care of ourselves and our relationships. Jeff and I spend a great deal of time together on a regular basis, but it is always good to get away for a bit for a husband/wife retreat. Four days in the great outdoors, away from all of the everyday chaos, was just what the doctor ordered! I can not express how refreshed I feel this morning and how excited I am about spending the day in the Lord’s house.

Sometimes, we don’t simply need to hit the physical refresh button. Sometimes, we need to also need to hit the spiritual refresh button. I think Psalm 23 is a great place to go to get some spiritual refreshment. The scripture I quoted above is from the New Living Translation. It is very easy to understand, and I think we can easily see that refreshment is oozing from these words. Verse one reminds us that God gives us all that we need. In verse two, we see that God lets us rest, and He lead us. In verse three, God renews us, and He guides us. In verse four, we see that He keeps us company, and we see that He protects us. In verse five, God raises us up, and He honors us. Finally in verse six, we see that God pursues us, and that we will spend eternity with Him. Wow! Isn’t that refreshing? Knowing that God is there beside us at all times should renew us daily, but knowing that He is actually pursuing us and that we get to spend eternity with Him, well my friends that refreshes our souls! The thought of it is so soothing. These words were written many years ago, but they still come to life each time that we read them. God’s Word truly is alive and active. God longs to have a close relationship with each of us. He wants to change us for our own good and His glory. We must make time for Him.

Take some time today to sneak away with God’s Word. Go to your favorite quiet place. It may be an old worn out chair, or it could be outdoors under a great big old tree. No matter the place, turn everything else off and tune in to God. I can guarantee that you will walk away feeling refreshed and renewed! God is so very good. Spend some time with Him today!

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Give me a word, Lord: FEELING LUKEWARM?

Revelations 3:17 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 

We stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast early this morning, and as I was asking the Lord to give me words to study and write about today, the church of Laodicea came to mind. It has to be a God thing. Who else can come up with this stuff?

We arrived at Waffle House and the restaurant was empty. It was early and still dark outside. The temperatures dropped last night, and it’s currently in the mid forties. All three employees were outside having a smoke break, but quickly finished up and returned to their stations before we got to the door. The cook was a middle aged man. He had two braids in his hair that fell just below his shoulders. He greeted us with smile, and exchanged pleasantries. The waitress was a good bit older. She was a frail looking, small little thing. The years had worn on her, and her face was laced with wrinkles of a hard life. The other waitress was a young, fluffy lady. She had a rather large white, bouffant hairdo. I’m not sure if it was a wig or not, but it didn’t look like it belonged to her. So here we have our three workers. They are near the end of their night shift. I’m sure they are tired, and they are probably ready to go home.

I bet you are thinking, “Okay, KK. What in the world does this have to do with the church of Laodicea?” I’m getting to that. It was their attitudes that brought it to my mind. The cook greeted us warmly. He wore a smile on his lips. He even danced as he cooked our meal, and he graciously placed our food on our table. Our waitress took our order. She was missing a smile. She was doing what she had to do, but she sure didn’t seem to be enjoying. Her affect was flat, unwelcoming. She was serving us, but she appeared to be just carrying out the motions. She definitely wasn’t enjoying herself. Finally, I noticed the other waitress with the white bouffant hair. She repeated that she was cold a couple of times. She took a seat at the far end table, and played on her phone. She made no effort to interact with anyone. She was just there.

So this morning at Waffle House, I saw the representation of three different images of spiritual behaviors. That last waitress represents a Christian that’s gone cold. She even repeated that she was cold a couple of times. Her attitude was cold, distant. She didn’t interact with anyone except her phone. There was no joy in her heart or her eyes. She was just cold. Cold is a very sad place to be when we are considering our relationship with Christ.

The lady that waited our table represents the lukewarm believer. She was there. She did what she had to do. There was no joy in her actions. There was no smile on her face. She was following the rules of her job, but she wasn’t giving it any extra umph. She didn’t really seem to care. She just seemed ready to go home and call it quits. She wasn’t cold, but she wasn’t hot. She was just lukewarm. It appeared that her fire had gone out many years ago.

The cook represented a believer in Christ. He was excited, happy, and on fire. He seemed so full of joy, and it was contagious. This is the person God desires for each of us to be. When strangers meet us. They should see the joy of Jesus within us. We should be reflecting Christ in our behavior and actions. One should be able to easily see that we are a child of God.

The church of Laodicea was lukewarm. They weren’t hot or cold. They were merely lukewarm. God said because they were lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, that He would spit them out of His mouth. Unfortunately, I believe we all go through different phases of warmth, but prayerfully, each day of our walk with Christ, we become warmer and warmer until our hearts are on fire for Christ.

Remember the two men who were walking and talking on their way to Emmaus in Luke 24 just after the crucifixion. They were talking about all that occurred when Jesus began walking with them. It wasn’t until later that their eyes were opened to who Jesus was and, “They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Can we not be like those men? Can our hearts not burn within us for Christ? Jesus is not physically walking beside us, but He is ever present. His Word should set us on fire each and every day. How can we live on fire for Christ? We can study His Word, talk to Him regularly, serve others gladly, and worship together in a Bible based church. Reflect the Son in all you do. Share the Gospel. Love God and love others. When you heart is full of Jesus, you can’t help but be on fire for Him! Now, go check your temperature. Don’t be cold. Don’t be lukewarm. Be on fire for Christ today and every day!

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Give me a word, Lord: LOOKING UP

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 113:3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Psalm 8:1 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.

It’s bow season here in South Mississippi, but the weather hasn’t been conducive the last couple of days, and the deer have been hiding out. Yesterday, it was hot and the temperature rose to 85 degrees. The wind changed direction every hour. This was not agreeable weather for deer hunting for sure. The mosquitoes were plentiful, and the day was long. We excitedly looked forward to this morning. The forecast showed a high of 66. Ahhh, cool weather. My husband & I both thought, “the deer will be moving for sure.” But guess what? We geared up, walked outside to a misty wet dark morning with winds of 12 mph. We know one thing for sure. Deer do not like windy weather. They can’t hear their surroundings when it’s windy, and it spooks them. Today will probably not make for a good hunt yet again.

Even though we know we probably won’t see a deer, we’re still going to be out here all day. Why? First, we are getting to enjoy God’s beautiful creation all around us. We get to see God’s handiwork, up close and personal, undamaged by human hands. The other best thing about being out here is that we get to enjoy spending time together as husband and wife doing something we love. It is always fun to spend a full day in the woods with your sweetheart, even if the deer are hiding out.

I took this picture yesterday as I was looking up and thinking about all of blessings God has bestowed upon our family. He’s such a good, good God. I think we tend to forget His greatness in the midst of our chaos. When trouble comes our way, we tend to look within ourselves for solutions. When the answers don’t come quickly enough, we begin looking around for a solution. Finally, after exhausting all other avenues, we look up to the heavens for the answers.

Why does it take us so long to look up? Our heavenly Father is here for us 24/7. He is never hiding out. He’s better than the postal service. Rain, sleet, or snow will not deter Him. John 10:28 tells us that no one can snatch us out of His hand. He desires our praises, but He also desires for us to lean on Him not just when we can’t figure things out on our own, but always and in all things.

We don’t have our usual hurried agenda today. We are both off work, and we get to play in the woods like a couple of kids. Our only concern is the wind, but rather than get disheartened or discouraged, I’m just going to keep looking up. I’m going to look up and praise God for this beautiful life He has so graciously given me. I’m going to praise God for a few days of no work. I’m going to praise God for His goodness, grace, and mercy that I surely do not deserve. Yes, today, I’m going to make sure that I keep looking up.

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Give me a word, Lord: PEACE, BE STILL

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yesterday afternoon, I went for a two mile hike into the woods. The last few weeks have been a continual rollercoaster of activities. Between working, farming, and family responsibilities, we have not stopped. But I decided to take a vacation day. I was long past due for a day to just be still and spend some time with my sweet husband, nature, and the good Lord.

As we began our hike, we were immediately greeted by a juvenile raccoon. He scampered through the woods without even giving us a second glance. I think we probably saw about a hundred squirrels. They were running about merrily, up and down trees, and barking over our heads. There must have been about 200 birds flying around, and at one point the birds were singing so loudly it sounded like we were in the jungles of the rain forest.

After about two miles of walking, I found the perfect spot. I made a make shift seat under a big pine tree, and I just sat there for a couple of hours taking in the fresh air and the beauty of God’s creations. The leaves are just starting to turn here, and as I sat quietly, I caught a glimpse of a golden yellow leaf turning loose and flittering gently to the ground. I even watched one squirrel race about 20 yards in front of me. He dove into a pile of pine straw and a little golden leaf flew over his head as he landed on the pine straw. I’m sure he was in squirrel heaven as there were white oak acorns covering the ground.

As the sun began to set, a different type of orchestra began. The locusts began their soothing buzzing sound as the tree frogs quietly croaked. Every once in a while, the sounds would get louder, almost deafening, yet extremely peaceful. Yes, this was definitely the most peaceful day I have had it what seems like an eternity.

Twelve hours a day, three days a week doesn’t sound like a tough work schedule. However, when you couple that with four days of working even harder at home, you can bet that a body can get warn down. It’s not the work that wears me down. I enjoy hard work. It’s the busyness that makes it tough. It’s the noise, the chatter, the constant running here and there. It’s the absolute, total lack of “peace, be still.” The distractions of everyday life can be overwhelming, especially when those distractions are distracting us from Christ.

I don’t think that God designed us to be this busy, and my hike confirmed this. I love nature because I can see God in all of it. We have to take the time to slow down and look around and see God’s handiwork. He designed all of the animals, birds, and even the 9000 mosquitoes that I saw. I’m still not sure why God thought we needed those suckers, but I’m sure He had a reason. Nonetheless, when we take time to truly be still, we find peace, and that peace really does transcend all understanding.

If you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, or maybe just tired of all the racket and noise of the day, how about taking some time today for peace? Be still, and know God. We can feel His presence and see Him a whole lot more clearly when we turn off all of the distractions and just be still with God for a bit!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOW DO YOU SMELL?

Proverbs 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise;  associate with fools and get in trouble.

Proverbs 12:26 The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”

This morning, I was in the bathroom when Diego, my spoiled rotten Yorkie, walked in. He immediately laid down at my feet. Within a mere second or two, the disgusting scent of death pierced my senses. Diego had just come in from his morning outdoor adventures. We live in the middle of 80 acres, and somewhere out there, Diego found some varmint that was decaying, and he decided to roll all around in it so that he too could wear the delightful smell of decay. Ugggh! The smell was truly offensive, and my beloved dog received his weekly bath a bit early. He now smells fresh as Irish Spring after several scrubbings and rinsings.

I do not for the life of me know why our dogs do this. They love to wallow in the wrong stuff, and then they smell so badly. I’ll never understand the nature of a dog, nor will I ever pretend to understand the nature of a human. I’ve always told my kids to choose their friends wisely because their smell is going to rub off on them. Just like the dogs wallow in stench, and then run around smelling disgusting, we too take on the likeness of those that we hang around. Their nature tends to rub off on us. We may not intentionally choose to take on the behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs of those we surround ourselves with, but unless we are intentionally choosing NOT to, they are going to rub off on us. Before we know it, we are running around smelling bad too!

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear. I am not saying avoid the unlovable. It is our calling as children of God to love everyone, even the unlovable. We are to hit the highways and byways sharing the gospel, but we aren’t supposed to live in their sin situations. We are to love the sinner, hate the sin. So don’t let my words make you think otherwise.

What I am referring to today is our close friendships and relationships. We must choose our friends carefully, and we must surround ourselves with a network of fellow believers. A wise Christian friend will encourage you, build you up, and impart godly wisdom. A great Christian friend will lovingly keep you on track and keep you accountable. Yet, a bad friend will lead you away from Christ and lead you to sin. When we are hanging around non-Christian friends more than Christian friends, we slowly began to acclimate to their lifestyles. We start to get used to hearing the ugly language, seeing the drug or alcohol consumption, or even sexual immorality. After a while, these things start to look okay to us. We start to accept the behavior as a socially acceptable standard, and before we know it, we are smelling just like our friends.

I saw the meme attached to this post that says, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” It’s true, Peeps! We become like those we surround ourselves with. God knows this truth, and He will intervene when necessary. Just as a good parent tries to remove bad influences from the lives of their chikdren, God will remove bad influences from our lives and replace those bad influences with good, godly friends. I’ve seen Him do it!

When choosing friends, we need to ask God for wisdom. Bad company will corrupt good character. What do you smell like today? Are you emitting a sweet smelling aroma, or are you stinking everybody out of the room with the stench of decay? Don’t be a Diego! Chase after God and godly friends!

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Give me a word, Lord: KEEP ON WORKING

Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

I Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Psalm 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Yesterday was a manic Monday. I work as a nurse practitioner in a small, but very busy medical clinic. Mondays are always the busiest day of the week it seems, and truthfully, yesterday wasn’t really any busier than any other Monday. However, it seemed to be overwhelmingly tiring to this girl. COVID 19 has changed the way we do things. Because our clinic is small, we are seeing all potentially COVID 19 patients curbside. This means that we don all of our personal protective equipment and evaluate the patients at their vehicle. So we are running outside to see the sick patients and running around inside seeing the well patients, and I’m going to admit it can make a body weary. There is hardly time to stop for a potty break, and we do not close for lunch so we enjoy bites of food from our desk in between visits. When I got off last night, I had a little talk with the Lord, and I asked Him if this is what I was truly supposed to be doing because quite frankly, this girl was worn slap out.

I know that my conversation with God didn’t surprise Him. You see, we talk all day long. Well, I talk, He listens. There is a whole lot of distractions and racket going on, so sometimes, I can’t hear Him answering. That’s my fault, not His. I arrived at home after the crazy chaos of the day, and my sweet husband (who also had worked hard all day) had the shower running for me and supper on the table. I slowly unwound with my sweet family, we read our Bible together, and I hit the sack. I talked to God some more, and I think I dozed off praying. I do that quite often. I feel bad when I fall asleep talking to the Lord, but then I think, “what better place to fall asleep than in the arms of my Savior.” Sometime during the night, He woke me up. I never hear the audible voice of God, but I do know when I hear from Him. He reminded me that my job is not just a job. It is my passion. It is my calling. I don’t work hard every day for men, but rather for Him. And no matter how busy or tough the day seems to be, He is always there with me seeing me through.

Peeps, when God gives you a passion and it’s a calling from Him, you can rest assured that He will see you through each and every day. I woke up this morning with a renewed attitude. Instead of thinking, “oh man, I have to go to work again, and it’s going to be a hard day,” I’m thinking, “I get to go to work today, and it’s going to be a great day! I know this because the good Lord told me so!” My job isn’t the toughest one out there by any means. I admit that I get physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted at times, but even on the hardest days, God puts His arms around me and nudges me along the way. I can see His presence. I can feel His strength. I only have to remember that He is there. He reminds me why I do what I do. He reminds me that I love being a nurse practitioner. I love my patients. I love my co-workers. I love that God put me in a job that also doubles as a mission field. I’m still blown away by the fact that in this big old world, God has time to speak to me, reassure me, and strengthen me. God is so very good!

Today, when the day starts to get crazy and chaotic, stop for just one moment and pray. Ask God to guide your steps and control the day. He’s always there, and I promise, if you are working for Him, everything will always work out for your good and His glory! Keep on working for the Lord!

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Give me a word, Lord: BELIEVING WITHOUT SEEING

Luke 18:35-43 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him,  “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.

John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Yesterday our sermons were on being a welcoming church. We looked at the story of Zacchaeus in the morning service, and the story of the blind man receiving his sight in the evening service. Of course, both stories are very familiar ones, and we have heard them dozens of times over our lifetime, but yesterday, we looked at them from a little bit of a different angle. Rather than looking at the healing, we looked at the welcoming of Jesus to the blind man and to Zacchaeus.

In Luke 18, we are told about a blind beggar who was sitting beside the road. This man heard the noise of the crowd passing, and he asked what was going on. The crowd told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. Immediately, the blind beggar began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” The people in the crowd told him to be quiet, but this didn’t deter him. He continued to shout, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus heard him, and told the men to bring this blind beggar to him. He asked the man what he wanted, and the man replied, “I want to see!” Jesus said, “all right, receive your sight. Your faith has healed you.” The man was immediately able to see, and began praising God, and everyone who saw this also began praising God.

I think that sometimes when we have been in church all of our lives, we tend to kind of glaze over when we read a story that we’ve heard so many times before, but Peeps, we can’t do this. Even if the story is one we have memorized, we must remember that it is from the infallible Word of God, and every part of the Word is important. As such, when we dig a little deeper into this old familiar passage, we can still gain some great new nuggets of truth. First, let’s look at the blind beggar. Here we have a man who has been blind likely all of his life. He couldn’t work, and he lived off of handouts from other people. He had a need, and his need was to see. In those days, afflictions such as blindness were thought to be the result of some sin in the person’s life or in the life of their parents.

Then, we see the crowd. The crowd consisted of the twelve disciples and many followers who had seen the recent miracles performed by Jesus. They were hanging close, waiting to see what He would do next. Jesus had been performing miracles. They were surrounding Jesus waiting and watching, but at the same time they were keeping the very ones who needed Christ most away from Him. This poor blind beggar was calling out to Jesus, and the crowd was ssshhhing him.

Finally, we see Jesus. Little did this crowd or blind beggar know, but Jesus was on His way to the cross. Jesus knew. He even told his trusted disciples, but they did not understand. Though He knew what pain and agony and suffering was soon coming His way, He still chose to show love to as many as possible along the way. The blind man asked what the commotion was about, and he was told that Jesus of Nazarene was coming. The crowd identified Jesus as a man for Nazareth. They didn’t acknowledge who He really was, but the blind man called him “Son of David.” He identified Jesus as the Messiah, and he begged that Jesus would show mercy on him.

Jesus knew that He was on his way to the cross. I’m quite sure that He had a whole lot on His mind. I’m sure He had a few more things that He wanted to accomplish before His earthly body departed. Yet, He heard this poor, blind beggar calling out to Him, and He listened. He didn’t ignore this man’s need. He asked what he wanted, and the man said that he wanted to see. Notice what Jesus said next. “All right. Receive your sight. Your faith has healed you.” Bro. Louie pointed out last night that the crowd could see Jesus, but they were blind to what was going on. Jesus had even told the twelve about the crucifixion and resurrection that was about to occur, but they didn’t comprehend what He was telling them. Even those closest to Him couldn’t see. But this blind beggar, who could not see, believed. He believed in Christ, and He believed that He could be saved. He believed without seeing.

In our culture, we put too much into the “seeing is believing” mindset. We don’t have the good fortune of walking in the crowds with Jesus. Oh, His presence is here, but we can’t physically see Him. We can, however, see the effects of His presence. The joy within each one of us should overflow and ooze from us in such a way that everyone we come in contact with sees Jesus in us. Just as the moon reflects the sun, we should reflect the Son. We need to get in God’s Word, and re-read all of these familiar stories, and re-learn how to live like Jesus. He gives so many examples, y’all. We just need to follow the lead of our Savior. He sets the example for how we as Christians should live. So many people in this world are blind. No, I’m not talking about those who are physically blind. I’m talking about the ones who are figuratively blind. They have never seen Jesus. They have never felt His love, grace, mercy, or the peace that can only be received from Christ. How are those people going to believe without seeing? They have to hear the Word. They have to see the reflection of the Son in us. Who is going to be that reflection? Who is going to share the gospel? How are they going to hear? “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

We all are super busy. That’s a fact. But we can’t be too busy to show the love of Christ as we walk through each and every day. I’ve never seen Jesus physically, but I’ve seen Him. I see Him in my daily walk. I feel His presence. I feel a simple nudge to go in a certain direction. I hear a still small voice making me aware of those around me that are in need. Oh, I believe without seeing. Do you? If not, there is absolutely no better time than the present to believe and fully trust in our Lord and Savior. If you do believe, share the love and joy of Christ as you walk through this crazy day. Let others believe by seeing Christ in you! Don’t be too busy to be about loving others to Christ!

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Give me a word, Lord: LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST

Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Colossians 3:23-24 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

About six years ago we traveled to Tupelo, MS, to pick up a couple of Scottish Highland cattle. I fell in love with the breed, and researched them diligently before making the purchase. I searched high and low trying to find them, and finally came across a judge in Tupelo who had a small herd. I called him up, and he said that he wasn’t selling any of his cattle, but after I gave him my spiel, and explaining how badly I wanted them, he conceded. He sold us a ten month old heifer and a thirteen month old bull. Scottish Highlands stand out in the crowd with their long hair and distinctively long horns. They are a beautiful breed. We halter broke Merida, the heifer, within the first two weeks, and she became my baby girl. She would follow me all over the place, especially if I had a bucket of feed. We kept her behind the barn area for the first couple of years. She even learned how to turn the water faucet on to take a cool shower on hot Mississippi days. She has always been the sweetest cow.

We no longer have the bull. They outgrew our little holding area behind the barn, and we moved Merida into the large fields with the other cows. We couldn’t put the bull with the other girls as we already had a bull, and we couldn’t have the Highland bull breeding all the commercial cows. But, my husband knew my love for Merida, and we agreed to keep her. To this day, we can still go out to the cow field, and that girl lets us rub and pet all over her, and she will take us down for a bucket of pellets. This week, Merida had a pretty little calf. She is adorable, y’all. The calf is red with a motley face, long fluffy hair, and so cute! We went to check on the cows yesterday, and I told Jeff that I had to hold Merida’s calf. She is just so cute! He said that the calf would not let me catch it. I proved him wrong. It took a couple of minutes, but I finally got my hands on her. She didn’t really want to be held, but I was so happy to have her in my arms. I fell back onto the ground on my behind, and I laughed so hard as Jeff took pictures with his phone. Merida just looked on patiently. She knows me well, and she knew I wouldn’t harm her baby. We’ve been through a lot together. She is such a sweet cow.

I posted pictures on social media last night, and a friend commented that I always look happy. Now, truth be told, I may not feel happy 24/7, but I do feel happy most of the time. We live a pretty good life her at Hodge Critter Lodge. God has blessed us generously with great jobs, lots of critters, and a love for life. We continually live life to the fullest. We work hard at our jobs, work hard to take care of our home and our critters, and we enjoy doing it all. That sounds crazy to some people. How can working hard be fun? When you work willingly at everything you do as though you are working for the Lord, you can’t help but enjoy the work you are doing! Plus, we have baby critters to play with, and there is always so much joy to be found when playing with new babies.

I truly love my life. I love the ups and the downs because even during the downs, I know that my Lord and Savior will see me through. He always does. He has never failed me though I’m sure I fail Him daily. Do you want to know my secret to enjoying life? I look for Christ in everything. I’m not kidding. If you look around and look for evidence of God, you will see Him, and when you see Him, you can’t help but enjoy life as you recognize all of the blessings that have been poured down on you. It’s true. You just have to look around and recognize the blessings and not the stressing. Having a bad day at work? Can’t find any joy in it? Pray and ask God to help you through your day, and just watch! He will show up and show out. He does it every time. It doesn’t matter what the situation is that is getting you down, if you turn it over to God, He will see you through. When you see God work everything out for your good and His glory, you will likely be amazed, and I bet you will be over joyed.

You have to take time to have fun, Peeps. Working hard is important. We are not to be lazy sluggards. We have to work, and we must work hard, but we can still have fun. Find little ways to enjoy your work day. Have cake and coffee with your coworkers. Whistle while you work. Sing praise songs as you tackle the tough things. And maybe chase down a baby calf that doesn’t want to be caught just so you can hug a cute baby calf. (But don’t do this if you aren’t on really, really good terms with the mama cow! LOL) Most importantly, look for Christ as you walk through each one of these crazy days. Live life to the fullest as you fully live life for Christ!

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Give me a word, Lord: PROVING OURSELVES

Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

This morning as I was sitting down to write my devotional, Jeff called my cell phone and asked me to come help him at the barn. Yesterday, we bought a new fainter buck named Big Boy. He’s a cutie with nice long horns, and he can faint at the drop of a dime. He is also very gentle and was hand raised by our goat guy, Raymond. He will make an excellent breeder buck for our little herd of fainters. He is our only buck currently, however, we do have a small flock of blackbelly sheep out there too. The master of that flock is Mr. Man. He too is a very gentle, hand raised male, and he has an astonishing set of curling horns. Even though they are of two different species, they are the only intact males in the barn, and naturally, each one feels the need to prove himself. They needed to prove themselves so much that they broke out of the barn this morning. Mr. Man was right on Big Boy’s tail at the far end of the field when I arrived on the scene. They were both completely fine, and neither was injured in the least. I shooed them back to the barn where Jeff was waiting with a bucket of feed, and Mr. Man was placed in a stall with two of his concubines for a little time out. These two will get used to each other eventually when they realize they aren’t competing for the love of their girls. They each have their own little herd to attend.

That brings me to thinking about humans, and what we feel we need to do to prove ourselves. People will strive to be the best at their job, the best spouse, the best friend, and even try to be the best Christian. This proving of oneself looks different depending on the person that you are asking, but really we needn’t try to prove ourselves. Jesus never asked us to prove ourselves. In fact, we can never do anything to earn salvation or any higher honor in the kingdom of God. So how do we prove ourselves as Christians? There is a great hymn that answers this question, “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love’, and God too will know we are Christians by our love. Our pastor frequently shares this point with us: “You can gauge your love for God by how well you love others.” You can either say amen or ouch, but folks, that’s it. We prove our love for Christ by how well we love.

In fact, Jesus tells us that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and He says that the second is equally important which is to love your neighbor as yourself. We are commanded to love God and love others, and others will see Christ in us through this love for God and others. Thankfully, we don’t have to go out in a field and try to prove ourselves as king of the mountain. We merely have to love. And how do we do that? Well, we just have to fall in love with Christ, and once we truly love Christ, we can’t help but love others.

We love others through our actions. Love is an action word. Take a look at Matthew 25 for a great example of how to show love. We need to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger into our homes, and clothe the naked. That sounds easy enough, right? But what about those people we don’t like? Do we have to love them too? Well, of course we do! We may even need to love them a little harder because those are generally the ones who do not know Christ, and they really need to see the love of Christ in you. You may be the only reflection of Christ that person ever sees.

We can try all day every day to prove ourselves to Christ, but there is no need. Christ knows our hearts. He already knows His children, and He knows each and every one of us individually. There is nothing that we can do to make Him love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. However, we can show Christ how much we love Him but showing His love to others. If we are being inspected under the magnifying glass, is our love for God and others shining through? You don’t have anything to prove, Peeps. You just have to love! They will know we are Christians by our love…by our love!

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Give me a word, Lord: PEACEMAKER

Romans 14:19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Matthew 5:9 God blesses those who work for peace for they will be called the children of God.

James 3:18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

The first thing I saw on social media at 4:00 am this morning was feedback on the vice presidential debate. I won’t try to stir anyone up with my opinion here because I do like to keep the peace. A peacekeeper can be a good thing. A peacekeeper is one that avoids conflict by avoiding touchy subjects and arguments. It is a natural tendency for most people to try to avoid conflict, avoid arguments, and sweep the conflict under a big rug. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak. Yea, it’s safe to say I like to keep the peace, but do you want to know what is much better than a peacekeeper? It is a peacemaker. A peacemaker is one that actively gets involved to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships.

Most of my life, I’ve been a peacekeeper, but the older I get, the more I have developed into a peacemaker. I no longer want to just avoid conflict. I want to settle the disputes, work out the differences, and solve the problems. I no longer want to sit on the sidelines when two people I love are hurting. Nope, not this girl. Are you mad at so and so? Does so in so even know you’re mad? Well, come on girl. We are going to work this out. That’s right, we are going to pull up chairs, grab some coffee, and have a pow wow.

The truth is that most conflicts can be worked out if both people involved in the conflict would simply talk to one another, share their hearts, and maybe apologize for goodness sake. How many relationships have gone by the wayside merely because someone failed to talk about the problem? I’m betting the number is vast.

James tells us that those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. What exactly does this mean? Well, we all know the old saying, “you reap what you sow.” When you plant a seed, fertilize it, and water it, you will always get much more than you planted. One tiny cucumber seed will produce a multitude of cucumbers. Our spring garden generally produces enough to feed our whole community. Yet when we plant cucumber seeds, we know we are going to produce cucumbers. We don’t expect to grow a tomato plant from a cucumber seed. That wouldn’t happen. You reap what you sow, and if you plant cucumber seeds, you are going to get a cucumber or two or maybe even a hundred. Therefore. If you are planting seeds of conflict, guess what you are going to harvest? Yep. You got it. You will reap lots of conflict. You will likely end up getting a whole lot more than you planted, perhaps enough conflict to affect the whole family and maybe even the whole community.

However, if you plant seeds of peace, your harvest will be ripe with goodness, kindness, and peace. Oh, but how in the world do we plant seeds of peace? Bear with me. It’s going to take a little effort, but it is very doable. First, you must identify the conflict. Just look around and you can spot a conflict. That’s easy enough. Then, and this is the most important step: pray. Talk to God before you even get involved in this gardening adventure. Tell God that you see this conflict, and ask Him for the wisdom and words needed to plant the seeds of peace in this situation. If you caused the conflict or are personally involved, now might be a good time to go to the other person and apologize, share your heart, and lovingly try to work it out. If you aren’t part of the situation, now is the time to bring the ones in conflict together and lovingly tell them that you care about them and their relationship, and ask them to talk it out. A lot of conflict could be resolved if we would just learn to talk it out. You may not be able to resolve the conflict every time, but if you try to plant these seeds of peace by showing the love of Christ, peace will eventually be harvested.

God will bless your efforts. He loves peacemakers so much so that Jesus calls the peacemakers the children of God. Wait, what? The peacemakers are called the children of God? But aren’t all believers called children of God? Yes, we are so I suppose that means as chikdren of God we are all charged with the duty of being peacemakers. As Christians, we are all called to make peace. Get out there today and make some peace. Don’t be satisfied with merely keeping the peace. Be a peacemaker!

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Give me a word, Lord: ONE MORE TRIP AROUND THE SUN

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Well, Peeps, God has blessed me with one more trip around the sun. Yep, I’m officially one year older today. As I look back on this past trip around the sun, I could easily get discouraged. If I allowed myself to only reflect on the bad things of the year, it wouldn’t seem like I had a very good year, but I have to admit, 53 was a pretty good year for me. I’m willing to bet that 54 will be even better. Oh, but my body is trying to get old before my mind, and I have to keep it in check. My fingers are knotted up with arthritis to the extent that my right index finger points only to the right, even if I’m pointing it to the left. LOL. My right knee has started making this cute little creaking noise when I walk up and down the stairs. Just for fun, my neck decided it would join the party. For the past three weeks, my right arm has been going numb from my neck to my fingertips. A c-spine x-ray told me that I need an MRI, and oh yea, just for giggles, let’s go ahead and get a bone density because the x-ray also showed osteopenia. My bones aren’t the only things that are getting thin. My hair is falling out by the handful, and it seems to be turning more gray every single day. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that my body is trying to turn against me, but I won’t let it win. People ask me how I get so much accomplished in a day, and I have to say part of the reason is because I know that if I stay down too long, I might not be able to get back up with these decrepit joints of mine. But the real answer is: Jesus! I can’t accomplish anything without Him, but with Him, I can accomplish much.

Now, I could sit here and whine and complain about my ailments, but I’m not going to do that. I like to laugh at my crooked fingers and creaking knee, and I learned a long time ago that complaining doesn’t make anything better. I find it just makes me feel worse. Besides, even though my exterior may be falling apart, my interior is becoming more put together every single year that passes. I really love the person that I am becoming. Over the past few years, I have truly drawn closer to my Lord and Savior, and in doing so, I have learned to love me a little bit better. After all, I am God’s masterpiece! It says so right there in the Bible, so I know it’s true. I don’t know exactly why this masterpiece has all these arthritic problems, but I’m pretty sure God thought I needed this to bring glory to Him. So I’m just going to glorify Him.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Read that again. We are His masterpiece, and He created us anew in Christ so that we can do the good things that He planned for us. He created us anew in Christ. He did this so that we can do the good things that He has planned for us. Isn’t that amazing? It is so reassuring to know that no matter how bad or challenging the day looks, God has good things planned for us, and He has created us anew through Christ so that we can accomplish those good things. I have absolutely enjoyed watching God’s plans unfold in my life. He has really shown out over the past couple of years, and I am so thankful for the goodness He has given me.

I may be 54 years old today, but I still don’t feel like I’m a fully grown up Christian. I still have so much to learn. I have so many things that I need to do. I feel that I fall short every single day, and I think that is one reason God keeps giving me another day….every day that we open our eyes, we are given one more day to glorify our Father. We are given one more day to accomplish the plans that He has for us. I’m so thankful for second chances…third chances…fourth chances…and a million other chances. Each day, we are given one more day to rejoice in Him, serve our Father, and glorify Him. Yes, my friends, this is the day that the Lord has made, and I will most certainly rejoice and be glad in it! How about you?

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Give me a word, Lord: MY HEART SINGS

Zephaniah 3:17 For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.

What makes your heart sing? Many days we wake up without a song in our hearts, and we don’t feel much like singing, but there is always something to be thankful for, and there is always something to sing about. With the thanks in our hearts, we can sing songs of praise and rejoice in the goodness of our Lord and Savior. I’ve been told by my family that I can’t sing, but that doesn’t stop me from singing. I have an awful singing voice, and though I know that I don’t make a joyful noise, I know that my Savior is still glad to hear my happy racket, and I make that happy racket just as often as I can.

I love to sit outside to do my morning devotionals. Our farm is one of the most joyful places I know. This time of year, the songs of the morning are nothing short of pure delight. Hummingbirds take turns buzzing up to our feeders. The birds are joyfully chirping away singing praises to the new day. The sheep are baaing. The emus are whistling quietly. Occasionally the turkey will let out a gobble. She doesn’t know that she is a hen, and she likes to gobble and strut like a dude. The coatimundis are chirping and the raccoons are chattering away. In the distance, an occasional lowing of the cattle can be heard. Wow! All I have to do is walk out of the door of my home to hear God’s creatures singing praises to Him. If all of these creatures who don’t even have a soul realize the need to sing praises, shouldn’t we mortals who have a soul find reason to sing?

Oh, but you may say, what is there to sing about? We have an election coming up next month that has everyone fired up and split in two polar directions. Our president and first lady have contracted COVID 19. The economy isn’t looking so hot right now. And don’t forget, there is another storm that once again appears to be headed our way making landfall this Friday night. Not much to sing about there, huh? Maybe not, but still we have so many reasons to sing this morning. Do you want to know what makes my heart sing? My critters, my farm, my family, my friends, my career, good music, serving others, living life, and loving Jesus, and oh so much more. Y’all, God did not create a bunch of humdrum robots. He created each of us uniquely with our own set of talents and skills to serve Him and to serve others, and He gave each of us a spirit of joy, love, hope, and faith!

We can sing for freedom. Even though politics seem to be really messy right now, we can still rejoice and sing for our freedom. We can sing for gratitude. We have so much to be thankful for. We can sing for joy. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find the joy, but I promise if Jesus is in your heart, joy is residing there also. We can sing of the love of God. Oh my, that’s a good reason to sing. When I think of how awesome and magnificent the love of God is, I can’t help but sing praises to Him. We can even sing in times of trouble or sadness. God wants to hear from us at all times…not just during the good times.

Are you singing this morning? If not, take a few moments to reflect and ask yourself, “what makes my heart sing?” If you don’t know, if your heart isn’t singing, you may be missing the song of the One who can give you everlasting joy! Ask Jesus into your heart, and I can guarantee you that there will always be a song in your heart! “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Let your heart sing!

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Give me a word, Lord: SPIRITUALLY DEAD?

Revelations 3:14-20 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:  “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.  “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

I read this story a little while back, and definitely think it is one that is worth a share today. “A new Pastor in a small Oklahoma town spent the first four days making personal visits to each of the members, inviting them to come to his first services. The following Sunday the church was all but empty. Accordingly, the Pastor placed a notice in the local newspapers, stating that, because the church was dead, it was everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial. The funeral would be held the following Sunday afternoon, the notice said. Morbidly curious, a large crowd turned out for the “funeral.” In front of the pulpit, they saw a closed coffin, smothered in flowers. After the Pastor delivered the eulogy, he opened the coffin and invited his congregation to come forward and pay their final respects to their dead church. Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a “dead church,” all the people eagerly lined up to look in the coffin. Each “mourner” peeped into the coffin then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look. In the coffin, tilted at the correct angle, was a large mirror. When it comes to your spiritual life, are you still alive?”

Wow! How many of us today are guilty of being spiritually dead. Is the church of America becoming like the church of Laodicea? Are we lukewarm, neither hot or cold? Oh, I pray that we are not, but I do worry that we are headed in that direction. We remember the church of Laodicea from Revelation chapter 3. The angel of the church wrote, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!” Are we becoming lukewarm? Is church not as important to us any more? I mean really, people, look around. This COVID pandemic has changed our country in more than one way. Churches were closed for a while, and that closure has prompted some to continue to stay home. It’s very convenient to watch the sermon on the internet, and I’m thankful that we have that availability. There are many who shouldn’t be getting out and joining in large gatherings at this time, and I completely understand that, but what about those of us who have decided that it’s just more convenient to worship at home in our pajamas? Is that convenience making us a bit lukewarm? Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely thankful for the availability of online worship. We were traveling yesterday, and we were able to enjoy our church services live online, but it’s just not the same. I, for one, need that personal interaction.

I don’t think that it is merely online worship that is causing this nation to become lukewarm, though. There are so many different components. Society in general has become one of acceptance. We are expected to accept what the rest of the world is doing. We are expected to turn our heads and ignore the evil that is being committed around us. We are expected to either accept evil as good or look the other way. I’m a sinner saved by grace. I’m not perfect. In fact, I’ve been pretty lukewarm myself in the past, but God, oh but our God, He deserves so much more than a lukewarm attitude. When we consider the love that our heavenly Father has for each of us, the mercy and grace He has shown us, and the magnitude of His power, there is no way that we can remain lukewarm. We can’t continue being spiritually dead. We have to wake up, people!

Christ is standing at the door, knocking…knocking…knocking. Can we hear His voice? Do we even realize that He is there…waiting for us to open the doors of our hearts and allow Him to come in and fill us with His Spirit? Are we neither hot or cold, but merely lukewarm? Lukewarm is not what our Father desires, and it is definitely not what He deserves from us. The gospel of our Lord and Savior should ignite a fire within each of us that can not be quenched. Rather than getting smaller each day, that fire should rage bigger and hotter day by day. We are surrounded by the lost. There are so many people that we encounter on a daily basis who need to know the Good News. We can’t keep this all to ourselves.

When we first learned of COVID 19, the spread of the disease was projected utilizing the pathogen’s basic reproductive number (RO). For example, for every one person that was contagious, that person would spread the virus to three people. Those three people would spread the virus to nine people. Those nine people would spread the virus to 27 people, and so on. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the gospel could spread like that? If we each told three people about Christ, and then those three people told three people each (nine), and then those nine people told three people each, and so on, can you just imagine how the gospel could spread throughout all nations? It would be akin to an uncontrollable forest fire.

Yes, Peeps, it’s time to wake up and get on fire for the Lord. If you are feeling a bit lukewarm, light a fire within today by getting in the Word, turn on some praise and worship music, and most importantly, pray. Pray, pray, pray! Call out to the Father. He’s at the door knocking. All you have to do is invite Him in!

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Give me a word, Lord: GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF IT

Exodus 4:10-17 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”

Yesterday, I shared a portion of this scripture as we considered the fact of being on a mission for God. God called Moses to rescue His people, but Moses did as many of us do, and found an excuse. He explained that he was tongue tied and that his words became tangled when he spoke. God patiently reminded Moses of who makes a person’s mouth, determines whether one will speak or not, hear or not, or see or not. But still Moses begged for the Lord to choose anyone but him for this task. I can just imagine how exasperated God must have been. Here we have the Creator of the universe speaking audibly to Moses explaining that He would give him the words he needed and all that it would take to accomplish the task at hand, yet Moses still begged, “don’t pick me.” Finally, God in his exasperation, gives Moses a partial out. He told him that He would allow Moses to use his brother Aaron as his spokesman for the people. Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses would still stand in the place of God for him telling Aaron what to say. God’s pretty awesome. He could have just corrected Moses’ speech impediment, whatever that may have been, but instead, He brought a teammate in for Moses. Rather than using Moses alone, He allowed Moses to have his brother at his side for the upcoming events.

Moses lived a pretty remarkable life. Let’s do a quick recap. At the mere age of three months old, he was rescued by a princess (Exodus 2:1-10). He then fled to Midian (Exodus 2:11-22). God spoke to Moses from a burning bush in Exodus 3. Next we learn about the ten plagues. Moses had to repeatedly ask Pharoah to let the people go. Each time he refused, and God sent plagues upon Egypt (Exodus 7 – 12:30). Finally, Pharoah complied and allowed the people to leave, and the Exodus began. Of course, Pharoah changed his mind and went after them, and God miraculously parted the Red Sea so that the people of Israel crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 12:31-15:21). We later read about God giving Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and don’t forget the golden calf incident (Exodus 32). Moses left Sinai and renewed the covenant (Exodus 33-34). He eventually named Joshua as his successor, and later died at the age of one hundred and twenty. When we consider all of this, we must also remember that the people Moses was rescuing at God’s command fought him pretty much the whole way. They whined and complained to the bitter end. They turned their backs on God numerous times only to repent and move forward again. Sometimes it was like he was herding thousands of preschoolers through the wilderness. But all the while, Moses stayed strong following the command of God. Moses wasn’t perfect. He didn’t even want to do the task that God commanded him to do. He tried to talk God out of it, but God knew that Moses was the man for the job even when Moses couldn’t recognize this himself.

Life is going to throw some challenges at you. If you are serving Christ, this is a definite given. Life isn’t going to be easy, but just as God provided for Moses as he traveled through the wilderness, He will provide for you and I today. When we follow the will of God, we can have confidence in knowing that God is working everything out behind the scenes. He will give us the words that we need to say. He will give us the boldness and courage to speak and proclaim His Word. Y’all, He parted the Red Sea, sent manna and quail from heaven, and turned a rock into water. There is nothing that God can not accomplish, and just imagine how much we could accomplish for the glory of God if we would stop making excuses and avoiding His calling on our lives. If God puts a calling on your heart, He will take care of you and see it through, you only have to be a willing participate!

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Give me a word, Lord: ON A MISSION

Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire.  It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!

1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

We are all on some sort of mission in this life whether we recognize it or not. Some are on a mission to get rich quick, some are on a mission to climb the corporate ladder to the top, and some are on a mission to merely find a job. Well, Peeps, I’m here to tell you of the greatest mission opportunity in the whole world. It’s not a very well kept secret. Many have accepted the challenge over the years, but way too many haven’t yet started because they let things get in the way. Those things can be fear, feeling of inadequacy, or possibly the biggest reason the mission is rejected: lack of time due to the busyness of life.

What is this mission? The greatest mission you can ever accept is to be a warrior for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that may sound silly to some, but not to God. God placed us here to be fruitful, and declaring the gospel to the lost and dying world is the natural fruit of a Christian. The lost do not know they are lost, and they need to hear the Word of God. “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14)

Someone has to to tell them! We can’t just warm the church pew and wait for the pastor to tell them. What if they don’t ever walk through the door of a church? How are they going to hear? Sadly, if we lay Christians lay around and wait for someone else to share the gospel, a whole lot of opportunities are missed.

But how? How do we share our faith? Oh, my friends, there are probably no less than a million ways. We each are gifted with special talents from God, and He gifted us with these talents so that we can glorify Him. I’m just an old redneck gal from Mississippi, but God put missions in my heart. Do I feel competent? Nope! But guess what? God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called! And guess what else? We are ALL called into missions to share the gospel with all of the nations. But you don’t have to travel to some far away country to do it. You merely have to go down your driveway, stop at the grocery store, or go to your job. There are people living right in your own community that need to here the Good News. You only need to be willing to go.

Oh, but you may be thinking, “I won’t have the words. I don’t know what to say.” That excuse won’t play. Consider when God called Moses. “But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” (Exodus 4:10-13) The Holy Spirit will provide the words, you only need to be a willing participate.

I’ve never been a fan of public speaking. As a matter of fact, when I graduated high school, I didn’t go to college immediately because I was horrified of having to take Oral Communications class, aka speech class. I had a desire to go to nursing school, but I had a real terror of having to speak publicly. I eventually talked my best friend into taking it with me as a night class, and I survived! As I continued into my Master’s degree, speeches became a part of life. I had to write thirty page papers and present it to my class on a weekly basis. I still didnt enjoy it and felt like I was going to pee my pants most times, but I survived. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was preparing for missions. He trained me slowly but surely to speak publicly so that I could learn to proclaim Him!

After publishing my first book, I was asked to do speaking engagements at churches. Yep, little old scaredy cat me was standing in front of a bunch of church people telling how God was working in my life. I was afraid, but each time I silently prayed for boldness. And I kid you not, each time before I spoke, the pastors prayed, and each time, they prayed for God to give me boldness. They didn’t even know I was scared, but God did, and He worked it out. He gave me boldness every time.

But, Peeps, you don’t even have to overcome the fear of public speaking. Mission work is a very personal experience, and it is most frequently accomplished one on one, you plus one lost soul. That’s all it takes! Not feeling bold enough? Don’t have the words? Scared to open your mouth? All you have to do is pray! God will give you the words and the ability just like He gave the words to Moses. Trust me, if God can give this girl that boldness, He can surely give it to you too.

Life is a mission. Let’s get on the mission of sharing the gospel starting right now!

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Give me a word, Lord: FELLOWSHIP

Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Last night, we kicked off our ladies’ ministry meetings again after a long hiatus caused by our not so favorite friend, COVID-19. I belong to a small church, but that church is so full of love and life and laughter. The ladies try to meet on the first Thursday night of each month to gather together for fellowship, food, and renewing of our faith through devotionals and or Bible studies. We always have such a great time when we gather together, and I didn’t even realize how much I had missed these gatherings until last night.

We wanted this meeting to be a more relaxed one to get together and reignite our ministry, and I would have to say that we were successful in our efforts. God has truly blessed me with church that has a remarkable group of ladies who truly love the Lord. These girls are not merely friends. They are my sisters in Christ. They are family. We laugh together, learn together, and definitely love each other. I have known these ladies for a long while, but last night, I learned things about them that I didn’t know. We played a silly game in which each person had to take turns telling of unique experiences or unusual talents that we possessed as a means of learning more about each other. It was so much fun. I used to hate participating in games like this, but now I truly enjoy it. I loved learning things about my friends that didn’t know. It was a great icebreaker, and prepared us for our devotional which followed.

I have put a lot of thought into fellowship of my Christian faith family, and I have to admit that fellowshipping with my faith family is one of the greatest blessings in my life. I don’t know how people make it without a great group of believing friends. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we are reminded to gather together, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” This pandemic has caused us to miss out on gathering opportunities, but praise God, we can start gathering once again!

Why is gathering with fellow believer so important? When we gather together, we motivate one another. We encourage one another. We pray for one another. Do we all like each other all of the time? Maybe not all of the time, but by the grace of God, we do love each other, and it is that love for Christ that spurns us onward in our relationships. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we grow in our interpersonal relationships as well.

So many people sadly look at church as a means of entertainment. They go for the show, the music, the lights, the action. It’s almost as if they entertain the idea of going to church in the same light as going to a movie. It’s a hour or two escape once or twice a week, and then that is it. Well, I’m here to tell you that is NOT it! To me, church is family. We are in fact brothers and sisters in Christ, right? Sometimes we are part of a church that we have attended our whole lives, and other times, we are new to a church, but whether you are an old member or a new member, all those other members are part of the family of God. If you are a child of God, those people are your kin folks! We are called to lovingly treat each and every member like family. If someone in the family is sick, we pray for that person and minister to them. If someone is struggling, we pray and offer assistance. If someone needs food, well, we are on that like white on rice. If someone needs encouragement, we are the encouragers. If there is a loss in the family, we are there. Can’t you see? Church is not a show. It is a group of fellow believers who love one another, care about one another, and fellowship with one another as family.

Oh, Peeps, I pray that you have a great church family. If you don’t, please get busy looking for one. And if you are part of a body of believers, but you don’t feel like family, you have to ask yourself why. After I married Jeff, I transferred my letter to his church, I didn’t feel like part of the family for a long while. I sat on the back pew. I kept to myself. I showed up at the appointed times. I attended Sunday School. I listened to the sermons. I was there, but I wasn’t involved. Those people weren’t my family. I left my family behind at another church. I felt distant and unaccepted. It took me about three years to realize that it wasn’t that the people of the church were not accepting me, but rather it was me who was not becoming part of them. I began getting involved. I started teaching Sunday School, participating in outreaches, accepted the position of church treasurer, and I started to really get to know the people of the church. Slowly but surely, they became my family too. I learned that being part of a family isn’t just showing up and filling a pew. It is so much more than that. You have to make a concerted effort to get to know each and every member of the family, and to do this, you have to put forth a little bit of effort. You may even play silly little getting to know you games like we did last night, and that is completely okay and acceptable. You have to do what it takes to get to know your family, silly or not. I’m so very thankful that God moved me to my current church, but I’m even more thankful that he moved me to get involved there.

Today I encourage you to check in on your sisters and brothers in Christ. Pray for them. Laugh with them. Love on them. It’s been a really tough year, and we need each other now more than ever. Fellowship with family today!

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Give me a word, Lord: LOVE IS FRIENDSHIP THAT HAS CAUGHT FIRE

John 15:12-15 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

I read this quote from Ann Landers this morning, “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” Y’all remember Ann, don’t you? Her birth name was Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer, but she was best know by her pen name Ann Landers. She was an American advice columnist whose column ran for more than 47 years and had a reported readership of 90 million people. She gave some pretty good advice over the years, and still everywhere we look, we can find some kind of advice and someone willing to share their advice with us. It may not be good advice, but it’s out there…free for the taking. But this little quote about love has been repeated over and again. It has been read as part of marriage vows. It has been etched in the minds of many, and we have to admit, that it’s a pretty catchy phrase, “love is friendship that has caught fire.”

Love is a word of action. It’s one of the most difficult terms in the world to truly define, and it’s much easier to show love than to define the terminology. If I were asked to define the word love, I would simply have to say, “Jesus”. He is the epidemy of the word love. I don’t know if Ann meant to describe a relationship with Jesus when she wrote this statement, but I think she did a pretty good job here. Consider the words for a moment. “It is a quiet understanding.” We will never understand Jesus fully, but it is in our quiet times with Him that we gain truth and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior. We must dedicate a quiet time each day to devote to Christ, and during that time, He will teach us, grow us, and show us things that we need to know, ways we need to change, and the will that He has for each of us. When we retreat to our quiet place and invite the Lord into that place, we connect with Him on that personal level, and this is where miracles begin to happen.

Love for Jesus gives a mutual confidence. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become His, and no one can snatch us out of the hands of God. (John 10:28) Jesus has confidence in the fact that we are His, and we have confidence knowing that He is our Savior! We are promised eternity with Him, and the thought of that should give us confidence to walk through this life with our heads held high. We are loved by a God who sent His Son to die for our sins so that we can have everlasting life with Him. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is! And we can have confidence that we have an eternal home in heaven. And because of this confidence, we can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Love is about sharing and forgiving. Peeps, I am very thankful that we can share everything with our Lord. Prayer is a wonderful gift from God. He gave us a means to have open communication with Him way before the idea of a smart phone was every created. We can enter His presence any time, day or night, 24/7, and we can share everything in our lives with Him. He desires this kind of relationship. He wants us to share our hearts and to be the Lord of our hearts. And that forgiveness part, y’all, isn’t that the best? There are so many times that we goof up, mess up, fall down, and get off of track, but our loving Father is always there to pick us back up. He forgives the little sins and the great big sins, and then He wipes the slate clean. And He even gave us with the Holy Spirit to convict us and guide us, and show us when we are getting off track. He’s such a good, good God!

Love is about loyalty through good times and bad times. I venture to say that loyalty is a quality that is sorely lacking in this world, but not when it comes to Christ. He is there with us through all of the joys in life…the new births, the weddings, the new job, the newly constructed house. He celebrates with us, and all of the angels rejoice when we accept Christ as our Savior. Oh yes, He is loyal through the good times. But what about those bad times? Where is He then? Oh, my friend, He’s still there. He is there with us through the losses, the deaths, the break ups, and all of life’s battles. Those are the times He is standing there with His arms open just waiting to give us a hug, asking us to cling to Him, and lean on Him with all that we are. It is in those times that we feel His strength and presence when peace envelopes our souls that we can not even venture to explain.

“Love settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weakness.” Praise Jesus that He settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weakness. Jesus is the only perfect man that walked this earth. We strive for perfection, we try to walk like Him, but we are mere humans. We are not perfect, but guess what? He loves us totally and completely flaws and all. He knows we aren’t perfect, and he allows for our weaknesses. God even designed the greatest means of redemption. We are made right through Christ! “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:22-24) And 2 Corinthians 12:9 assures us, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” His power is made perfect in our weakness! Praise God!

Can’t you see how much Jesus loves us? The thought of it overwhelms me. His love for us is definitely like a friendship that has caught fire, but the question we need to ask ourselves this morning is, “is our love for Jesus like a friendship that has caught fire?” Has our love for Him been ignited? Are we clinging to Him, sharing with Him, humbly asking forgiveness, and striving for perfection in Christ? My friends, this relationship, the relationship between Christ and us, is the absolute most important relationship in our lives. Why do we put it on the back burner and let it simmer? We need to ignite a fire within each one of us and really get to know our Lord! Ignite the fire within you today!

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Give me a word, Lord: JUST DO IT!

Romans 10:14-15 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Mathew 24:14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world,

No, I’m trying to steal the Nike logo this morning, but the words, “just do it” are the words on my mind as I write. Romans 10:14-15 and Isaiah 6:8 are verses that have taken on a very deep meaning in my life over the past few years. One of my sisters’ reads my blog, and she comments, “preach it, sister.” I keep assuring her that I am not a preacher. I do enjoy teaching the Word, but I don’t consider myself a preacher of the Word. We have men trained for that. I do not have a degree in theology, but what I do have is a calling on my heart to share the gospel. I’m just going to say I’m a sharer of the Word. I love sharing the Word. Do I always feel equipped? Nope! Do I stumble over my words at times? Yep. So why do I keep on doing it? Because there are too many people out there who have not heard the gospel, and if I sit on my behind and keep all of this great news to myself, I am not following the will of my Lord and Savior.

A few years ago, we were on a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic. This was not the typical medical mission trip where I worked like a robot seeing as many patients as I could possibly see in a day without even getting to share the Word, pray, or even get to know the person that I was providing health care. No, this one was different. We were indeed there to provide much needed medical attention to these people who had been without such care for a long while, but the major goal of this mission trip was to share Christ. The pastor over the mission explained that he would only allow us see a certain number of patients per day, and that he wanted us to actually get to know the people, their culture, their families, and their values. He wanted us to spend time sharing Christ, and this is exactly what we did. My husband, who is not in the medical field, worked with others at a registration point. Here, the patients were registered, and the questionnaire began. The simple process of asking about their beliefs, church, family, etc. was started at this point. The patient would then go from registration to triage. The nurses there dove a little deeper in the questioning and interacting aspect. Notes were jotted down on the intake sheet, and the patient was then taken to see the providers. When they reached our station, we attended to their medical needs, but continued the conversations that were started at the very first point. By the end of our examination, we knew a good bit about the patient, whether or not they were a believer, and we were able to share some of the gospel. The best thing about this was that at the end of each visit, we asked the patients if we could pray for them, and every single one of them allowed me to pray. They continued from our station to the pharmacy, and the seeds continued to be planted and watered along the way.

One morning, we got up, loaded up in pick up trucks, and headed up the mountain. Some of us rode squished inside the little compact truck, while others rode in the back of the trucks. It was a rough and rugged 45 minute ride up that mountain. We were so excited when we arrived and saw that the patients were lined up waiting to see us. The people on the mountain were primarily Haitian refugees, very poor, living in substandard housing, and many were without electricity. There was no running water. At the end of our first day, our team felt disheartened. The people here were different. They were cold, distant, and seemed almost unreachable. It felt like there was an evil spirit there. Seriously, we could feel that something was so off with these people. They were very distant. They wanted the medical attention, but they did not want anything more. My heart was broken for them. After a long day, we went back to our lodging, and we debriefed and prayed. We knew that we had to go back up that mountain the next day, and it seemed like we were wasting out time. I was thankful that we were able to meet their medical needs, but I wanted to give them some Jesus too!

If you ever doubt the power of prayer, I say test it. Our team of 14 prayed fiercely for the mountain people that night. The next morning, we loaded up for the bouncy ride back up the mountain, and everything was different. The moods were lighter. There was a freshness in the attitudes of the people. They were open to our questioning and some even responded to the calling of God. I remember one lady very clearly. I asked her if she knew the Lord as her Savior, and she told me that she did not but that she wanted to know Him. She wanted to know how to be saved. I was so excited when I heard this, especially after the trying day we had previously, that I was almost at a loss for words. I jumped up to find the pastor, and when I finally tracked him down, I told him that I had a lady who wanted to be lead to Christ. He looked at me and said, “Go do it.” I thought, “umm, me? I’m not equipped for that.” He read my expression and assured me that I could do it. I walked back to my makeshift clinic thinking, “I’m not their pastor. I can’t do this. I don’t even speak her language. How am I going to share my whole heart with this lady who doesn’t speak the language of my heart or mouth?” And I had to do this through a translator who admitted that he was a believer, but he did not believe in eternal salvation. I only knew a handful of Spanish words, and these Haitians didn’t even speak regular Spanish. That spoke a Creole Haitian version of Spanish. What and how was I going to pull this off. I didn’t want to fail this most important test. Oh but God! I doubt my abilities all day long every day, but I don’t ever doubt God’s. The Holy Spirit showed up, and showed out on that very day. I grabbed my Bible, sat down with this lady, and I shared the gospel via a translator, and on that glorious day, I watered the seeds that had been planted in this lady’s life, and God took over and made those seeds grow. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, and I know all of heaven was rejoicing. This redneck girl from Mississippi was dancing with joy on the inside.

But, wait, that’s not all. While sharing the word with this precious little lady, my translator’s eyes were opened too. He was a young man of about 27 years of age. He believed in Christ, but as was common to the culture there, he believed that he could lose his salvation through sin. He didn’t understand the redemptive power of our Savior, and he didn’t understand that once saved we are always saved. He began asking questions in between patient visits, and I was able to explain the fullness of grace that our Lord offers us. I explained repentance and forgiveness, and told him that my belief from reading God’s Word is that once I become His child, I am His forever. I was able to explain to him that I was a big old goof ball who made mistakes many times, but just because I fall down doesn’t mean I won’t get back up. I explained that God loves us no matter what, and when we become His children, the Holy Spirit of the living God resides within us and convicts us when we are doing wrong and urges us to repentance. I shared that there was nothing or no one that could snatch us out of the Father’s hands once we were truly His. I planted seeds. I think I watered seeds. And I prayed that God would grow those seeds in the heart of that young man.

Do you see how awesome our God is? He can take a redneck girl from Mississippi to a mountain in the Dominican Republic to speak to Haitian Creoles about Him, and He can open their hearts to receive His Word even when the words are being translated through a non-believer. And He can cause that non-believer to start questioning his faith opening doors for more seeds to be planted and watered. You do not have to be a preacher. You do not have to be a theologian. You just have to be you, willing to share the gospel, heeding the will of God, and just be a willing vessel. All you have to do is be willing to plant and water. The Holy Spirit will take over the growing part. You just have to do it! Just do it!

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Give me a word, Lord: A WHOLE LOT OF FAITH

Hebrews 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

We are studying Hebrews, chapter 11, in Sunday School and taking a detailed look at a few people of great faith. This week we explored the faith of Noah, and it has definitely made me search my heart. I can say I have faith all day long, but do I have the faith of Noah? I’m not sure. If you go back to the beginning of the Bible and read Genesis, you will be reminded that the people of the earth had grown very wicked in their ways. God created man in His image, but he also gave man the gift of free will. Men and women were making choices that were so ungodly. God looked at the people, and all he that saw was corruption. Their thoughts were corrupted with evil thoughts, and good thoughts could not even be entertained. Everything that the people thought and imagined was totally evil. God grew weary of these people. Genesis 6:6 says, “So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.” Can you imagine it? God created man, surrounded him with beauty, met all of his needs, and then sin entered the world and man fell so far from God that it broke the heart of the Creator. His heart was broken so badly that He decided that He would wipe the face of the earth of every living thing…animals and people. Maybe He wanted to start over, make a clean slate. But God, oh there’s that but God saying again, but God saw Noah, and Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God told Noah that He was going to send a great flood to cleanse the earth, and He told him to get busy constructing an ark. He gave Him the floorplan and dimensions, and He laid it all out for Noah. But y’all, prior to this there had never even been any rain on the earth. From the best I can understand, everything was watered with a vapor or mist that came up from the earth sort of like that of the rain forest. It had never rained. It had never flooded. Yet, God told Noah to build a gigantic boat for he and his family and two of every living creature so that they might be saved when this flood came. Also note that Noah didn’t live near a large body of water, so he had probably not even seen a big boat, much less one the size of the ark that he was to build. But Noah commenced to building a boat. He believed God, he had faith that what God told him was the truth, and he reached out on faith and did as he was commanded.

Now, we have to realize that this was not an easy task for Noah. Have you ever been to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky? The life size replica of the ark is massive. As we walked through my thoughts kept going back to how in the world did Noah and his sons accomplish this enormous undertaking? They had no power tools, no table saws, no nail guns. There wasn’t a Lowe’s or Home Depot on the corner to run over to and purchase the wood. He also didn’t have a huge construction team of men working on this project. As a matter of fact, he was scorned, laughed at, and ridiculed by the people around him. He had to complete this project on his own with the help of his family only. It is remarkable to me that this man and his sons could have completed this on their own, but it’s not surprising at all when you factor in the fact that it was God’s will. When God’s will is behind any task, nothing can stand in the way of completion.

It took years to construct the ark. The Bible doesn’t really pin point the exact amount of years, but it was quite a few. During that time, Noah was likely taunted day in and day out. People laughed at him, but what did Noah do? He kept on preaching and warning the people, and he kept on building that ark. He had never seen rain. He had never heard of a flood. He had never built a boat. But he knew that he could trust in God. He had so much faith, and it had to be a fantastically strong faith in order for him to accomplish what he accomplished in such an overwhelmingly negative situation. Though mocked and ridiculed, he persisted. He didn’t give up. He followed God.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve heard the story of Noah and the ark since my early childhood days, and even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times, I had never really invested a lot of time thinking about just how much faith was involved in this endeavor. Noah was truly a man of faith. He sets a standard that we should all strive to live by. God spoke. Noah believed. Noah acted. Are we that faithful? Are we listening for the voice of God? Are we heeding His will? Are we living for Him despite the negative feedback that we get from those around us? We have to get back to God. We need to renew our relationship with our Lord and Savior, and we need to start building our arks! No, there will never be another flood of the whole earth. God promised that, and He does not break His promises. But just look around, Peeps? He has to be growing weary of the people of the earth again. Wickedness and evil are no longer hiding, but rather these things are right out in the open for all to see. The people are straying so far from God. We need to pray, get in His Word, and really live for Christ sharing the gospel with everyone we meet. Yes, we will probably get mocked and ridiculed too, but that just means we are doing it right! We need to learn to have a whole lot of faith just like Noah!

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Give me a word, Lord: WHAT DO WE NEED?

Psalm 146:4-6 I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old.  I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

Philippians 4:10-14 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

What do we need? I’m not talking about what do we want, but rather what is it that we really need in this life to survive? Physically, we really only need three things. We need food, water, and shelter. Yep, that’s it. The list is short. If we would only eat and drink what was required to sustain us and be healthy, we’d be alright, but no, we can’t do that! At least not here in Mississippi. We love our coffee, sweet tea, and sodas. Instead of consuming a lot of water, we drink way too many sugary sweet drinks. Then we add loads of carbs and fats to our diet. We indulge a bit too much at the buffets. Mississippi is number one in the United States for obesity, and number two for diabetes and hypertension. Out of fifty states, we are on the top of those three lists. These are lists that we shouldn’t be on if we are trying to remain healthy. But there we sit, right on top. I don’t like that we are on the top of these three lists, but I have to admit I understand it in part. Nobody else cooks like Mississippi. We have traveled a good bit, and naturally, trying out the local cuisine is a favorite part of travel. We have not tasted food with as much delectable flavor anywhere in our travels that even comes close to good old Mississippi home cooking. So where does this leave us? We’re fat, probably dehydrated, and for the most part, we have adequate shelter, but is this really what we need? I have to say no.

We do need food, water, and shelter physically, but we also crave these things spiritually. Why? Because there is a void within us that longs for a relationship with Jesus Christ. We need spiritual food and water. Matthew 5:6 reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” We hunger and thirst for a relationship with Christ and that relationship makes us right with God. We will never be satisfied until we fill that void. Matthew 4:4 reminds us that we can not live by bread alone, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We need the bread of the Father to fill us up spiritually. And what about water? “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Christ is the living water that we crave, and the only living water that will sustain us an offer us eternal life. And Psalm 91 has been one of my favorite psalms the past few months, and it tells us where we can find shelter. We find it in the arms of the Most High.

We all agree that we need food, water, and shelter to survive, and we sure do a fine job at making sure those physical needs are met. But what about the spiritual need for food, water, and shelter. Are we on the top of the lists for those things. Are we number one in the state for hungering and thirsting after Christ. Are we thirsting for Christ like we thirst for our morning coffee? Are we craving a relationship with him like we crave a big old ribeye steak and baked potato? Are we resting in the shelter of the Most High? We should be thirsty for God. We should be longing to be in His presence and know more about Him, grow in our faith and our relationship with Him, and then go share this with others. We should long as the psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2 longs, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”

Y’all, we have to stop being number one in things that are bad for us, and start striving to be number one at seeking spiritual wellness. Of course, as a nurse practitioner, I want you to seek physical wellness too, but spiritual health is even more important to me than physical health. How do we get healthy? I spend all day teaching people that they need to eat low carbohydrate, low salt, low fat diets, and I encourage water and regular exercise. We know what we need to do, it’s just a matter of doing those things. It’s the same way for spiritual health. We need to take in the necessary nutrition. We have the holy Word of God to feed on. It is sweeter than honey. You just have to dive in and taste it. It’s all right there. Nutrition for the soul can be found in the Bible. You say you’re not really hungry or thirsty for the Word? Well, my friend, I’m going to tell you to pray that God makes you hungry and thirsty for His Word and for a relationship with Him. Be careful though. If you ask for it, you will get it! God wants you in His word. He wants a relationship with Him, and if you ask, He will definitely provide. He will provide all of the spiritual nourishment we need, and we can rest knowing that we are always in the shelter of the Most High.

So what do we really need? The answer can’t get much simpler. We need Jesus! If we learn to turn our focus on Him alone, His Word, and living for Him, we will have all that we need because He will work all the rest of it out for our good and His glory every single time!

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Give me a word, Lord: FOLLOWING

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, I and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

I Corinthians 1:26-29 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

What does following Jesus look like? It looks very different depending on who is answering the question. Some follow Jesus by trailing behind. They stay just close enough to see Him, but not really close enough to get involved. Some follow by getting a little bit closer, but they still keep Him at a distance. They recognize the presence and sovereignty of the Lord, but they still aren’t all in. Then there are those that follow so closely they can feel the presence of the Savior. These are the ones that are totally in it. They are invested. They are serving, following, reading the Word, studying, and sharing Christ with others. I think we all go through these different stages at certain points in our life. I know that I have been in each stage myself. Currently, I find myself in the “all in it” stage of following, and this is where I want to stay.

Everybody has a different story, a different testimony. I always thought that I didn’t really have a great story to tell, but my God, oh but God, He decided that this wordy , kinky haired girl from south Mississippi had a lot to say, so He decided to put this girl to work telling others about Him. It happened very gradually, and by happen chance. My husband and I went on two different foreign mission trips, and God grabbed a hold of my heart. Oh, He already had me before that point, but I was more in the trailing behind or the getting a little bit closer but not reaching out and touching stage of my walk. Then, one Sunday night at church, we had a fifth Sunday singing. At that singing some of the ladies and gentlemen read poetry. It was beautiful. Y’all, I can’t sing. I’ve shared that numerous times. I sound akin to a cat who has its tail caught under a rocking chair with someone steadily rocking. It’s not pretty. But, I love to write. I used to write poetry in high school. I never published any of it, but I enjoyed writing. Well, after that fifth Sunday singing, I told my husband that I was going to write a poem for church. Then I promptly told him that I was going to write a poem about the five skunks we had just rescued, and it was going to be a church poem. Well, he laughed, and with his ever supporting, loving heart, he said, “I don’t now how you’re going to pull it together, but go for it.” So I did. One day I wrote the words to “Stinking Thinking”. I had planned to read it at our next fifth Sunday singing, but God had other plans. I read it to my sister, Chandra, and she said, “You’ve just written a children’s book. You’ve got to get that published.” I argued and told her that it wasn’t a book. It was just a poem for church. She insisted, and I shared it with my husband. He agreed, and I began to pray about it. I sent the book to Christian Faith Publishing, and within a week, they called me and asked to publish my book.

After “Stinking Thinking” was published, I submitted “A Raccooon Tale”, and before I knew it, I had two children’s books in circulation. One book tells the salvation story through the rescue of baby skunks, and the second one tells us how to model our lives after Christ by using raccoon behaviors. Both books are simple, but they share Christ, and that was my desire. Suddenly, words began to form on paper. I carried a notebook with me everywhere, and I began recording funny farm stories. I’ve written chapters while having my oil changed, waiting in the dentist’s office, and while traveling on vacation. We live on a true funny farm with a menagerie of farm and exotic animals, and I tell you nothing but the truth when I say that we have some real funny stories occurring here on a daily basis. I wrote the stories and related them to biblical truths and scripture, and my most recent publication, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm,” was the fruit of my labors. Now, I am writing this blog. I get up every morning, and I pray, “Give me a word, Lord.” I pray for God to give me an idea, something to work with, something to share, something to encourage, or something to lead others to Him. I started writing these morning devotionals almost seven months ago, and the words keep coming. God is so good y’all.

I am nothing special. I am not a professional writer or blogger. I am just a girl who loves the Lord. I’m a nurse practitioner by trade, a wife, mother, grandmother, and farmer by the grace of God, and I’m a writer by the gift of God. I saw this meme on the internet that reads “When God put a calling on your life, He already factored in your stupidity. Most comforting thing I’ve ever heard.” Isn’t that the truest statement ever? God called me to write, and I’m writing. He knows all of my faults, my weaknesses, and my shortcomings, but still, He chooses to use me. I’m going to follow Him with all I have in me because I know that is what I am supposed to be doing.

God doesn’t want us to be half way in . He wants us to be fully following and trusting Him. He created us for His glory, and if we aren’t serving and glorifying Him, what are we doing? We are called to follow. How are you following today?

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Give me a word, Lord: PICTURE THIS

Isaiah 41:13 For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

Isaiah 46:4 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

We’ve been reading in the book of Isaiah the last few nights as we continue our reading through the Bible in a year plan. There are some very good words of wisdom in this book and many great reassurances. I praise God for His Word. I am so thankful that He provided His Holy Word to give us guidance, strength, and peace. We have God that is bigger than all our troubles and problems, and His Word reveals that to us over and over again.

We all have problems. We may not admit them, but if we are living and breathing, we probably have some sort of problem or concern. The problem with our problems is that we try work them out on our own. I’m a very visual person. I love to take pictures. I take pictures of anything and everything, and when I’m working things out in my mind, I do so with pictures or images. Sometimes we have to picture things in order to get a clear image of the situation at hand.

When we picture all our problems in our mind, we see all the different problems in the picture. We may see financial problems, relationship issues, concerns about our children, health troubles, job stressors, and the list goes on. We see all of these troubles in the picture, and then we see ourselves sitting in the middle of the picture surrounded by all of these problems. The problem with this is that we are seeing it all wrong! When we look at a picture of all those problems, we shouldn’t see ourselves sitting in the midst of the trouble, but rather we should see GOD in the picture with our problems. We have to take ourselves out everything, and we need to give everything to God.

Some might say, if God is handling all of my problems, why do I have so many? Well, my friend, sometimes we bring those problems on ourselves. We aren’t perfect. We goof up every now and then even when we are trying to live a good and righteous life. God can and will handle any and all problems that we are enduring, but we have to trust Him through the process. Psalm 119:71-72 tells us, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” What? Did he say that suffering is good for me? Yea, buddy! When we go through the struggles in life, we learn from the difficulties and we learn to lean on our Lord and Savior. We are going to have problems in this life. Life is a problem solving adventure. WE may not choose the problem, but we get to choose how the problem affects us. The problem will either develop us or defeat us. We get to make the choice.

No matter what type of difficulty you are going through, you can rest assured that God will use the problem for your benefit. Sometimes He uses the situation to direct you. Maybe He needs to get you to start moving in a certain direction, and He uses a problem to ignite you and get you going. Maybe, just maybe, God has placed something on your heart that He wants you to do, but you won’t budge. Maybe He uses a problem to get you moving in the direction in which He desires for you to go.

Sometimes He uses a problem to correct you. Maybe you are going down a path of destruction, and God uses a problem to teach you a lesson. Ouch! We don’t like the sounds of that one, but there is truth there. Just as a parent disciplines a child who is doing wrong, God is going to discipline His kids. He’s going to get our attention, and a lesson will be learned. Just as we love our children too much to allow them to do things that will harm them, God loves us too much to ignore us when we are doing wrong.

Maybe God is using the problem to inspect you. Did you ever think of that? I’ve read this little saying on social media. “You are holding a cup of hot coffee, and someone bumps you and causes the hot coffee to spill everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? Because there was coffee in the cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. The point is whatever is in the cup will be spilled out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you, whatever is inside of you will spill out.” So…what spills out when you are struggling through a difficult situation? Do people around you see fear, anger, bitterness, or do they see love and grace as the marks of a true child of God? What does God see when He inspects you?

Maybe God is using your problem to protect you. Perhaps He has closed the door on a job, a new place to live, or a dream that you had, and it seems like the end of the world. We have to remember that God knows what is coming down the road, and sometimes He closes doors so that other doors can be opened. We can’t see as God sees. He is all knowing, and He knows just what we need when we need it. He may remove a person, a thing, or even a job from our lives in order to provide needed protection.

Our problems weigh us down. We try to carry the burden all alone. Oh, if we could only see the big picture. All those problems that we picture are not too big for God. We may or may not have invited the problem in, but regardless, God is going to use the situation for our good and His glory every time. Stop picturing yourself surrounded by all of the problems of the day. Begin picturing our perfect Lord and Savior…sitting right there in the middle of it all…working it all out. He’s working on each one of us. He’s directing us, correcting us, inspecting us, and protecting us, and ultimately, y’all, He is perfecting us. Just picture it!

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Give me a word, Lord: FOUND!

Matthew 18:12-14 If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Yesterday morning, the writing of my daily devotional was delayed a bit. My husband had noticed that one of the cows was in labor the evening before. He had checked on her a couple of times, but she hadn’t yet calved. So we got up yesterday and headed straight out to check on her. Naturally, she wasn’t where he had last seen her. We walked all through the wooded area where she was laboring the previous evening, but she was nowhere to be found. We drove around that particular 25 acre field, but we didn’t see her. We walked through muddy branches and through thick wooded areas. She was not in any of the usually “delivery rooms”. We had walked that field for over an hour searching for that mama cow, worried that she may be in trouble. Finally, after much rigorous searching, we spotted her. She had delivered twins! She must’ve had a little difficulty and walked all night because we found her clear across the field from where we left her. We were so excited to see her, upright, looking perfectly content with her pretty new babies. I squealed with joy when I saw those beautiful babies.

My friend, Gretta, said that this story sounded like a good devotional on the parable of the lost cow (sheep), and I agree. We were getting very anxious when we couldn’t find that cow. We saw all of the other cows in the field. All the other new calves appeared healthy and everyone else was accounted for, yet there was one missing. The one missing was is labor, and she was lost. We couldn’t find her anywhere. We spent a good bit of our morning searching for the one that was lost. We weren’t worried about the cows that we could see safely grazing in the field. They weren’t lost. They weren’t in trouble. They were safely in the field within the eyesight of the farmer, happy and safe.

This is how our heavenly Father sees His children. He watches over each and every one of us. We are safe under His watchful eye. But every now and then, we may wonder off track. We may start living outside of the will of God. We get into trouble. We may not realize that we are having trouble, but the Great Shepherd knows. The Holy Spirit will work within us. We will feel the tug as the Spirit urges us to come home, turn away from the wicked living, and turn back to Him. He will trouble our hearts and sometimes our situations to bring us back to Him. Why does He care so much? Why does He bother? Simply because He loves us so very much. We are His kids, and if we are in trouble, He wants to rescue us and bring us back into the loving shelter of the Most High. And when we return to Him. No matter how far we’ve strayed and no matter how long we’ve been gone, when we finally return, the Lord rejoices! He loves us so much, and when we return to Him, He celebrates with great joy.

What about those of us who aren’t Christians? What about the ones who haven’t accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior? Oh, I assure you, the good Shepherd is really seeking those that are lost. You may not know Him. You may not even know that you are lost or that you are in need of rescue, but let me assure you…the Father knows. He wants to rescue you today. He loves you. He loves the saved and the sinners, and He desires a relationship with all people!

If you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, off track, or just plain old weary, why don’t you come to the Father. He would leave the 99 to find the one that is lost to bring him home. He is calling you home today. Won’t you heed the call? Come on home to the loving arms of the Father. He wants to celebrate your return with great joy! You’ve not wandered too far away to come back home. I promise! He’s still waiting and looking for you right now!

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Give me a word, Lord: BACK TO THE BASICS

2 Kings 22:11-13 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser:  “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been d/oing everything it says we must do.”

2 Kings 22;18-20 “But go to the king of Judah who sent you to seek the Lord and tell him: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the message you have just heard: You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people—that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the Lord. So I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died and been buried in peace. You will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this city.’”

In the eighteenth year of the reign of King Josiah, he commissioned a group of people to make renovations and repair the temple of the Lord. While working on the temple, the workers discovered some of the scrolls of God’s Word. Josiah was only 26 years old at the time, but when these words were revealed to him, he tore his clothes in great despair. He was a good king, and he followed the ways of the Lord. However, when these words were revealed to him, he recognized how far the people had gone away from the ways of the Lord, and he was anguished. The really neat thing that we see here is that after Josiah heard the Word of God, he made some major reformations. He removed the mediums, idols, and all of the false gods. He was a man after God’s heart. 2 Kings 23:25 tells us “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” He turned to the Lord with all of his heart, his soul and his strength! Wow! Josiah must have been a wonderful king. Isn’t it amazing how reading and living the Word of God can change a person? In this case, the reading of God’s Word changed an entire kingdom.

This is what we need in our world today. We need to get back to the Word. We need to get back to the basics…the basics of reading the Word of God and actually following the instructions given to us in His Word. Our country has forgotten the true living Word. Everyone is doing their own thing. As long as it feels good, it must be okay, right? Wrong! If it’s not Biblical, it’s not something that we should morally accept as okay, y’all. We can’t keep loving and accepting sin as though it doesn’t exist. Don’t misinterpret my words here. I am NOT saying we should hate the sinner. We have all sinned, but thankfully we have a loving and forgiving Father. But, Peeps, we can’t keep loving the sin. We must love the sinner, but hate the sin. We have to stop changing the Word of God to fit our lifestyles, and we have to quit picking and choosing the parts of His Word that we want to follow while ignoring the rest. We have to get back to the basics of studying and following the Word. It’s the only way that this nation, this wonderful nation that was created as “one nation under God”, will ever survive.

In 1996, Pastor Joe Wright was asked to pray before the Kansas House of Representatives. Oh, they likely thought that they would get one of those cookie cutter prayers of blessings and praise. Well, Pastor Joe gave them their full monies worth! I venture to say that he probably wasn’t invited back. Here is a transcript of his prayer. “Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess: We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism. We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the Name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

The response to his prayer was immediate. A few of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. It was NOT the prayer that they had expected, but it sure was the prayer that they needed. It is the prayer that we all need. This was spoken some 24 years ago, and yet we are seeing the same evil and sin today, but it has been multiplied and worsened. The Word of God is our sword. It is our instruction manual. It gives us all of the basic instructions we need. It gives us the law which is followed by the beautiful story of redemption. It promises rewards, but it also promises penalties for these sins. I’m pretty sure we should be anguished right now, tearing our clothes, putting on the sackcloth and ashes y’all. People if we don’t get back to the basics of loving our heavenly Father and following in His ways, we are headed down a very rocky road of destruction. God can’t keep turning His head. He’s not going to keep looking the other way. Let’s get in His Word today, and get back to the basics!

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Give me a word, Lord: BIRTH & REBIRTH

John 3:3 “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

I Peter 1:3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

It’s that time of the year again. One of my favorite seasons has arrived. You may think I’m speaking of fall, but I’m not. It’s true I love fall, but I really love one of the farming seasons that begins during this time of year. We call it calving season. The cows are springing, bagging up, and dropping calves almost daily. We drive around the fields to locate the brand new babies and check on the soon to be mamas. We equate our calf seeking adventures to an Easter egg hunt at times. Our mama cows are pretty good at hiding their babies, and checking on the newly born calves can be a challenge. We purchased a new Hereford bull this year, and I have to tell you something, that boy is producing some beautiful calves. One of my favorite cows, Rosie, had the pretties little red heifer calf with white face and markings. She was born the day before hurricane Sally made landfall, so she has been named appropriately named Sally.

The actual process of calving, for the most part, is not a lot of work for the farmer. The mama does the work, and we get to enjoy the benefits. It is a beautiful experience to see new birth. The mama delivers the calf, and she immediately, gently cleans the baby up. She recognizes it as her own, and she will do whatever is necessary to protect the newborn calf. Although most deliveries are easy, from time to time, a mama cow will have difficulty. The calf may be a bit to big for her to deliver, and occasionally, the calf will have to physically be pulled out. I’ve not had to be a part of pulling a calf before. My husband, sons, and father-in-law always assume this role. I have had to pull a baby goat before, and that was super tough. I can only imagine how difficult it is to physically pull a calf out. What a way to arrive in this world…being tugged and pulled, resisting the change, not wanting to make the effort for the birthing process, resisting rather than arriving in a peaceful and gentle way.

Why would the baby want to leave the warm comfort of his or her mother’s womb and enter a strange, new, big unknown place? Who could blame the calf for wanting to stay put? I was considering that idea this morning, and began to think about humans and our need for rebirth. We create this warm, comfortable womb for ourselves. We have developed habits and attitudes, and we become fairly comfortable with the way things are. The world around us says live however you want. If you are happy then it is okay. We have adapted way too much to the worldly culture. A part within us may want to follow Christ, but we resist the need to change. We are too comfortable living our lives, and our hearts have to be tugged and pulled by the Holy Spirit because we refuse to make the effort on our own. But y’all, in order for us to receive the gift of salvation, we must be reborn.

Fortunately for us, being reborn is so much easier than the pulling a resistant calf. No one is going to tie our legs together and pull us out of the womb. So why are we kicking and screaming and fighting the rebirthing process? The kingdom of God requires that we leave our comfort zone. We have to completely die to ourselves and begin living for Christ. That sounds strange. How do we die to ourselves? We have to come to the end of ourselves. We have to recognize that we can’t do anything without our heavenly Father. We must become new creations and children of the King. We must give our hearts completely to the Lord.

In the mission field, I have had people tell me many times that they were waiting for a certain age to arrive, and then at that point, they would come to Christ and be saved. This was one of the answers I received frequently while ministering in the Dominican Republic. The people seemed to have a mind set that you had to reach a certain age, eliminate all of the sin in life, and become a better person, or perhaps they thought that they had to give up their comfortable way of living for self. When I questioned why they needed to wait for a certain age (usually around 40) the answer was frequently something to the effect of “I’m not good enough yet. I’ll be a better person by such and such age.” People, it doesn’t work that way. We can never be good enough. We have to recognize the fact that we are all born sinners, but because of Christ, we can all be sinners saved by grace. All we have to do is admit that we are sinners, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected, and confess that Jesus is the Lord of our lives and commit our lives to Him. When we do that, the Father immediately, gently reaches down and cleans us up, and He recognizes us as one of His own. He will provide all the protection that we need. A wonderful thing happens at this point. The Holy Spirit of our living God takes up residence within us. That heart of stone we were carrying around that felt like an empty void is now beating for the Lord and full of life. That void we failed to fill despite our many efforts is now completely full. We didn’t do anything to earn this rebirth. We couldn’t possibly ever be good enough to deserve salvation. But God! Oh but God! He loves us so much that He desires a close and personal relationship with us, and He made a way.

To be reborn, we don’t have to clean our act up first. If we accept Christ as our Savior, He will do the cleaning up. The Holy Spirit will gently guide you in the right direction. He’ll nudge you here and there and let you know when sin appears, and He will strengthen you so that you can overcome the sin struggles. A new baby calf is one of the cutest things on the farm. When he first stands, his long little legs wobble as he tries to walk over to mama to nurse. Baby steps. Unsteady. Off balance. He struggles a bit, but soon he is latching on to mama and filling his belly with the milk of life. As young Christians, we are going to struggle. We also must take baby steps. We will feel unsteady, off balance, and unsure, and I’m not going to tell you that it won’t be a struggle. That enemy that controlled the old sin life will try to battle with us. He won’t give up easily, but there is no reason to fret. Our Savior has already defeated the enemy, and now we belong to God. We begin praying and speaking to the Lord. We latch on to His word, and soon, we too are filled with the milk of life, and we receive that much needed spiritual nourishment that only our Savior can provide.

Just as that baby calf grows into a healthy strong bull, a reborn person too will grow healthy and strong in spirit. It won’t happen over night. We can’t be reborn one day and know all we need to know about Christ the next. In fact, we will never know all that we need to know, but we can rest assured that we are no longer walking in the dark. We are no longer that old shell of a person. We are now new in Christ, and we are walking with Him. We grow by reading His Word, going to church, joining Bible studies, surrounding ourselves with Christian friends that help us stay on the path as we begin our walk, and we praise God and pray and pray and pray. God never said it would be easy. If you’ve read the Bible you already know that it won’t be easy. Actually, it’s going to be pretty hard. There will be struggles. I guarantee that there will be struggles. But one thing that I know for certain is that it will most definitely be worth it! Consider the hardest day of work that you ever put in during your lifetime. You thought that you couldn’t make it until quitting time, but you did. You got off work and went to the place you feel most at ease…home. Right now, Peeps, we are going through some of the hardest days of our lives. We may feel like we aren’t going to make it, but we will. And when our time here is finished, we get to go the best place ever…our heavenly home! It’s not going to be easy, but just remember that it will be worth it!

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Give me a word, Lord: ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

I Thessalonians 5: 18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Psalm 107:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 95:2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.

This past Sunday night, our church family spent a wonderful evening sharing testimonies of how God has been faithful through this pandemic. We recognized that the pandemic was not over, but several members shared experiences of how truly faithful our Father has been through this storm and the many storms of life that come our way. Then last night, on my drive home from work, I listened to a sermon about gratitude, and I began thinking about how grateful I am that I have Jesus, and how truly grateful I am that I have experienced His grace, His mercy, His love, and His faithfulness.

When this pandemic began, I was worried. I panicked. I anxiously gathered research on a virus that hadn’t yet been researched. I soon learned that this crazy virus didn’t read any of the textbooks, and it didn’t seem to follow the pattern of our typical viruses. It scared me. I, personally, was not afraid of catching the virus. I was afraid of bringing it home to my family. I worked diligently to protect myself with all of the medical armor that we call PPE, washed my hands fervently, and practiced safely. I continue these practices more than six months later. Over these past few months, I have learned a few things about gratitude, and I have definitely grown closer in my walk with the Lord. I learned to pray Psalm 91, and I learned to dwell in the shelter of the Most High. (Take some time to read and pray this Psalm. You can thank me later. LOL)

First of all, during this pandemic I have learned to look up. That may sound silly, but it’s the truth. When my body and soul seemed to be washing away in a sea of anxiety, I learned to look to Christ. I prayed more (if that is possible), I studied the Word more, and I began writing a daily devotional to encourage myself, and hoped that my ramblings would encourage others as well. I drew strength from this practice. The fear, anxieties, and worry regarding the unknown slowly turned into calm, peace, and less worrying about the unknown as I was gradually reassured by my heavenly Father that I didn’t need to know everything because He already had everything under control. I’ve always been one who thought I needed to be in total control of every situation. I have never sought the use of drugs or alcohol because I have always wanted to be in full control of myself, and I have a bad habit of wanting to control all the situations that arise in my life. When I look up, I recognize that I don’t have to be in control, and actually, I’m not ever truly in control. God alone is in control. Not me. Try as I may, I can’t control things. I’ve learned to look up, let go, and let God do His thing. He does a much better job than I do at any rate.

Another thing this pandemic has taught me is to look around. How has this pandemic changed things around me? Well, I’ll start with a few changes that I don’t really care for. The economy is struggling. People have lost jobs. Businesses are closing. Our elderly in the nursing homes are isolated and alone. People are depressed. Those things are bad. There is no doubt about it. But I ask myself, have I seen anything good come from this pandemic? As I look around me, I do in fact see positive changes. I see the goodness of God. Families have started being families again. Families are learning to spend time together, gather around the table, play games, watch movies, cook meals together, and enjoy outdoor activities together. Pre-pandemic, everyone was busy going in their own direction, and everyone was running ninety to nothing to accomplish everything on their plate for the day. During the pandemic, because of closures and distancing, families are learning to be the family unit that God intended. I look around and see that God has blessed me so much through this storm. My family and I have remained healthy. I have retained my job. We have not done without. We may be more isolated than before, but we’ve reignited the family unit, and we’ve learned to let God lead. I’ve felt God ever present all around me throughout this difficult time.

Lastly, the pandemic has taught me to look within. How have I changed on the inside? Oh my, I’ve grown so much spiritually over the past six months. As I mentioned earlier, I began writing these daily devotionals to encourage myself and others through this storm. In doing so, I have challenged myself to really dig into the amazing Word of God on a daily basis. I start off each day praising and praying to God, and I finish my morning prayers by asking God to give me a word, a word to share. Guess what, Peeps? I figured that I would run out of things to write about after a month or two, but here I sit…still sharing words that I feel God is leading me to share. Oh, I don’t profess to be a prophet of any kind, but rather I have changed my habit of just talking to God to one of asking to hear from Him. I don’t hear the audible voice of God. A word will pop in my head, and from that word an idea flows, and from that idea, scripture research begins, and slowly but surely words appear on a computer screen. I read over the words, and I think, “Wow, God! That’s something I really needed to teach myself today!” He has been molding me, growing me, teaching me, and training me through this pandemic. I can’t start the day any longer without His Word. It truly is my sword that I use throughout each and every day as I battle the challenges that come my way.

We don’t know why we are going through this storm, but we know the One who can speak and calm the winds and the waters with merely the sound of His voice. When we look up, look around, and look within, we can’t help but see the glory of God everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, He is allowing this storm to occur to bring us back to Him. Maybe we needed this storm to learn to be totally dependent on the Father. Maybe we needed this storm to remember how to be a family. Maybe we needed this storm to remind us to get into God’s Word. All bad things that happen to us aren’t necessarily bad things. There is usually something good to be found in each circumstance, and there is always, always something to be grateful for. Today, I challenge you to develop an attitude of gratitude. When things seem to be falling apart, just remember the One who is holding everything together. God’s got this. God’s got you! Be grateful today!

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Give me a word, Lord: REJOICE

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Philippians 31:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.

Sometimes I feel tired, y’all. I’m tired of the pandemic, the riots and violence, the hurricanes and tropical storms, and the political battles. I woke up this morning with this thought, “Today, I’m going to rejoice in the Lord.” Why? I’m going to rejoice because I’m tired of not rejoicing. I woke up this morning to dreary skies, a light sprinkling rain, and gloominess all around, but the temperatures are much cooler with 64 degrees with a gentle breeze blowing. It feels so nice outside. We’ve had a very long, hot summer, and I am super excited about fall. There is a reason to rejoice. I’m healthy and my family is healthy. There is another reason to rejoice. I’ve got a nice roof over my head, clothes on my body, a functional vehicle, and a great job. Wow, there are a few more good reasons to rejoice. Yet, there is still one greater reason. The Lord made this day. He created this day for you and for me. He created another day for each of us to get up, get dressed, and get out there and glorify Him. That’s a great reason to rejoice!

Paul wrote repeatedly in his letter to the Philippian church to rejoice in the Lord. He recognized that this attitude was one that brought peace to a believer, and also it is an attitude that is a true mark of the spirit filled life. In Philippians 2:14-16 he writes, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” As Christians, we can’t go around grumbling, complaining, arguing, and disputing with others. If we are spending all of our time bitter and angry, are we really the children of God? Do we look like children of God? As God’s kids, we can’t help but rejoice in Him and all that He has blessed us with. We have to shine as lights in the gray dreary world and reflect the Son of God.

I know that we have had a lot of things to frown about over the past year, but we still have the ever present Holy Spirit of the living God within us, and the thought of this should turn any frown upside down. The mark of a Christian shouldn’t be a solemn face with a look of distress and anguish. The mark of a Christian should be a great big smile on the face of a person who is so full of Christ that the light of Christ shines through in the facial expressions, the mood, and the behavior. If we look around, we may not see very many things that make us want to smile. If we look at the world, we may want to frown or even cry, but if we look within, the Holy Spirit within us will always turn that frown upside down.

When Paul wrote these words to the Philippians encouraging them to rejoice in the Lord, he wasn’t sitting in his comfortable home on a cushy sofa with his feet propped up. Rather he was locked up in a prison in the Roman Empire. We think we have had it bad this year? Paul knew what bad was, yet he chose to rejoice. He didn’t say rejoice over the bad stuff you are going through. He said to rejoice in the Lord. He didn’t tell us that tragedy would not occur. He didn’t tell us to rejoice over the tragedies. He told us to rejoice in the Lord. No matter what circumstances we are enduring, we must continue to rejoice in the Lord!

Do you feel like it’s hard to rejoice in the midst of the chaos? We are all human, and understandably it’s hard to wake up full of joy every day. How do we do it? How can we find joy in the seemingly endless unjoyful days. The psalmist tells us in Psalm 42:5-6. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you.” We have to remember where our hope lies. Hope does not lie in the things of this world. Our hope is in God. He has given us the gift of salvation, and although things appear grim and joy seems to be trying to escape us, all that we have to do is remember Him. Hang on to the joy that we can only find in Jesus. Hold onto hope in God. We have been given the greatest gift in the world: SALVATION. This crazy messed up world is not our permanent home. We are just passing through. We are promised a heavenly home with our God. We can handle all of the stressors of the day, the bad news, the fake news, the little aggravations and the big annoyances of each day because we have been saved by grace. Yes, we can rejoice in the Lord!

I’ll leave you with a song by Shelly and Ron Hamilton called Rejoice in the Lord, “God never moves without purpose or plan when trying His servant and molding a man. Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long, in darkness He giveth a song. O Rejoice in the Lord
He makes no mistake. He knoweth the end of each path that I take. For when I am tried
and purified, I shall come forth as gold. I could not see through the shadows ahead so I looked at the cross of my Savior instead. I bowed to the will of the Master that day, then peace came and tears fled away. Now I can see testing comes from above. God strengthens His children and purges in love. My Father knows…” You see, it may seem that we are going through the test of a life time, and that the testing is lasting forever. Nothing is happening by happen chance. The Lord is always in control, and though we may feel like we are in the fire right now, we can rest assured that we will come out purified. We can’t see what is ahead, but our Father already knows what the future holds, and we know Who holds the future.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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Give me a word, Lord: THREE LITTLE THINGS

John 3:16-17 (NLT) For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus loves me; this I know! For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong. Jesus loves me, loves me still! Tho’ I’m very weak and ill. That I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree. Jesus loves me; He who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin; let His little child come in. Jesus loves me; He will stay! Close beside me all way. Thou hast bled and died for me; I will henceforth live for Thee. Chorus: Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so. I bet that almost everyone reading this knows this song by heart. We sang it from our very earliest days of childhood. It was written by the author named Anna Bartlett Warner (August 31, 1827 – January 22, 1915.) What I didn’t know was that it wasn’t originally written as a song. It was written as a poem in a novel. The main character in this book recites it to comfort a dying child about how much Jesus loves him. WE can have that same comfort! Jesus loves me, and He loves you too.

Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know that no matter what we are enduring, Jesus loves us and He is still with us? Today, I want to talk about love, and I’m going to need you to get a piece of paper in hand as we begin to play a little game that I just made up on this rainy Sunday morning. I’m calling my game “Three Little Things.” The first step in the game is to ask the one you love to tell you three things that he or she loves about you. It can be your spouse, best friend, mother, father, or anyone that you love. Ask them to be honest. Next, write down three things that you love about that person. After you complete that list, I want you to write down three things that you love about yourself. Then write three things that you love about Christ. Finally write down three things that show you that Christ loves you.

As soon as my husband woke up this morning, I handed him a piece of paper that read, “Three Things Jeff Loves About KK.” He’s a good sport, y’all. He had barely opened his eyes, when I asked him to do this. I love this man, and I know that he loves me, but when you put someone on the spot to actually put pen to paper, you can’t be sure what you are going to get. His answers amazed me. His three answers were “1. Devoted to her family and friends. 2. Gives of her time regardless of cost. 3. God fearing and relentless to bring souls to Christ.” I don’t know about all that. When I look at myself, I don’t see myself the same way. Oh, I’m devoted to my family and friends. There is no doubt about that, but do I give of my time regardless of cost? Maybe, but sometimes, to be honest, I don’t do it out of the goodness of my heart. Sometimes, I do what I have to do because I have to do it. LOL. And I am God fearing, but am I relentless to bring souls to Christ? Oh goodness, I feel like I come up short all of the time.

I think the second part of this little game is the easiest part for me. I can make a list a mile long telling you all the things I love about my husband. As a matter of fact, I had a little book printed for him for Valentine’s Day a few years ago that listed 100 things I love about Jeff. It was a little cartoon stick figure book. I spent a day writing down all of the things that I love about him. It’s hard to pick just three. I love the way that he loves me, our family, and God. He has so much energy. He is funny, creative, and caring. He has a true servant’s heart. This list could go on for days, y’all, so I’m going to get back to the game. The third part of the game is actually the hardest for me. What are three things I love about myself? Ugh! I look in the mirror and I see this almost 54 year old lady staring back at me. The hair is graying, and needs to be colored. The wrinkles are appearing faster every year. The twenty year old body is gone with the years, and nothing can bring it back. It’s a good thing that I never really loved my looks. I’ve never been a girl who was proud of her looks. What do I love about me? That’s tough. I love that although I am a sinner, I have been saved by grace. I love that I am a nurse practitioner, and that I get to do a job that I love. I love that I am a wife, mother, grandmother, farmer, author, and Christian. I love who I am on the inside…most of the time. The outside, well that shell of a being needs some work with that crazy hair that doesn’t seem to care how I think it should behave.

The next part of the game gets easy again. What are three things I love about Christ? Oh my! How can I keep that list to three things? He died for me! I’ve got some truly awesome loving people in my life, but none of them have had to die for my sins! Christ knew that I was a sinner and He died for me. He knew all of the good, bad, and ugly within me, yet He still chose to die for me. I love that He is a forgiving Savior. He knew when He created this girl that I was going to be a handful. He knew I was going to mess up multiple times, and no matter how many times I mess up, He still forgives my sins. He is always there to pick me up. He is my friend, Savior, Creator, Holy Father, Lord of lords, King of kings, Waymaker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, my God! What is there not to love about Christ!?! The list is infinite!

Now, I bring you to the final part of our game this morning. What are three things that show me that Christ loves me. Let’s first turn to John 3:16-17 which reads, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” God sent His Son, Christ, to die on the cross for each of us so that we may have eternal life. He didn’t send Him to judge us, but to SAVE us! Christ died an agonizing death on the cross, taking on your sins and my sins and all of the sins of the world so that we might have everlasting life! If that doesn’t get your heart beating, nothing will. He loves us so much that He gave us His Word. The Bible, the oldest book in the world, was penned by man, but breathed by God. He gave us a written instruction manual for life, and a book that shares the redemption story so that all sinners, all people, can come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Thirdly, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. NOTHING! Romans 8:38-39 assures us of this. “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We’ve completed this little exercise to look at love from different perspectives. How do others see us, how do we see others, how do we see ourselves, how do we see Christ, and how much Christ loves u?. Dwell on love as you go through this day, but most importantly, dwell on Christ. If you have accepted Him as your Savior, the Holy Spirit of the living God is residing within you. He loves you, and that my friends is where it’s at! Jesus loves me this I know, and that’s all I really need to know. I am His. He is mine. I am loved and you are too!

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Give me a word, Lord: THANKFUL I’M A BUMMER

John 10:14 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,”

Isaiah 40:11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Luke 12:32 (NLT) So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

On our farm, we have bottle fed a vast number of critters including deer, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, coatimundi, a wild hog piglet, goats, and cows, just to name a few. The first lamb that I bottle fed was a sweet little American Blackbelly that I named Juliette. I don’t know if you are familiar with this breed or not, but I think they may have a genetic makeup similar to that of a wild deer. They are able to run fast and jump extremely high. They dance around with great joy, and that little girl, Juliette, danced all over me while I tried to teach her to take a bottle. I had little hoof prints in various shades of color from deep purple to pale green covering both of my legs. She danced and danced as I struggled with trying to get her to take the bottle. I think it took almost two weeks before she was really good at it…taking the bottle that is, not dancing on my legs for she was inherently great at dancing! After a while, all I had to do was walk into her line of vision, and she ran to me to get to the bottle. We developed a very special bond, and she knew that I loved her. I was her human, and she was my lamb.

Sheep are an interesting breed, and they are quite peculiar at times. Most ewes are great mothers, but every once in a great while, a ewe will decide to not take its lamb for whatever reason. They call this little rejected lamb a bummer lamb. The lamb will even look rejected, his head will hang low, and he appears distraught and alone. The mama ewe may kick the lamb away, and she will refuse to let him nurse. If that baby lamb doesn’t get some much needed nourishment, she will soon perish. That is when the shepherd comes to the rescue. The shepherd watches his flocks closely, and when he recognizes a bummer lamb in the flock, he will gently pick the lamb up and take it to safety. He will adopt the lamb. He may even bring that little lamb into his house. (I’m guilty of keeping the bottle babies in my home many times in the past.) The shepherd will gently warm the baby, hold the lamb next to his heart so that he can hear the heartbeat of the one who is trying to rescue him, and then the shepherd will provide much needed nourishment for the lamb as he bottle feeds him and cares for his every need. Once the little lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will re-introduce him into the flock.

When the lamb is now in the midst of the flock, he never forgets what the shepherd did for him. When the shepherd checks on the flock, that little rescued lamb will run full speed ahead to get ahead of the rest of the flock so that he can greet the shepherd. Why does he run happily to the shepherd? Because he knows that once he was a rejected lamb, but now he has become a chosen sheep. The shepherd chose to adopt him, care for him, and love him. He recognizes the voice of the shepherd, and he runs to him. He knows the shepherd’s voice. He grew up knowing that this person cared enough about him to rescue him. The shepherd loves all of his sheep, and he would do the same for any little rejected lamb. He didn’t love this lamb more, but this little lamb sure loves the shepherd. Why? Because he knows the shepherd intimately. He spend time in his arms. He heard the heartbeat of the shepherd. He felt unconditional love of his adopted human parent.

We could learn a lot from a little bummer lamb. We may sometimes feel like we have been rejected by the world. It may feel like we’ve been given a pretty crummy deal. We may feel alone, lost, and in great need of rescue, but there is no reason to fret because this is where the good Shepherd comes in. He is watching and waiting for us. He knows that we have been rejected, and He devised a great plan to provide rescue. He is ready to gently pick us up and carry us, holding us close to His heart. He wants to adopt us into His family. He wants to make us heirs to His throne. He loves each and everyone of us so much so that He sent His Son as the perfect, unblemished lamb of God, to be the ultimate sacrifice on the cross so that each of us could be rescued.

When the Shepherd speaks, do you recognize His voice? When He calls your name, do you run to Him? Do you know Him intimately? Do you remember the warmth of His touch, the feeling of complete safety as He held you gently in His arms? Do you know the Great Shepherd? Oh, Peeps, if you don’t, you have to get to know Him today! He will not reject you. No matter how far you’ve strayed from the flock, no matter how rejected, alone, lonely or defeated you feel, He is waiting and watching. He is ready to rescue you! Won’t you be a little bummer lamb today and let the Great Shepherd scoop you, hold you close to His heart, and provide the ultimate rescue for your life? It feels mighty good to be a bummer lamb rescued by the Great Shepherd!

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T BLAME THE DONKEY

Numbers 22:28-35 Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam. “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!” “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him. “Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “Look, I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me. Three times the donkey saw me and shied away; otherwise, I would certainly have killed you by now and spared the donkey.” Then Balaam confessed to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I didn’t realize you were standing in the road to block my way. I will return home if you are against my going.” But the angel of the Lord told Balaam, “Go with these men, but say only what I tell you to say.” So Balaam went on with Balak’s officials. 

I love the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. Everyone that knows me, knows that I love animals in a huge way. I talk to my animals all the time, and I think that some of them understand me. I know that my Bouvier des Flandres, Sophie, understands me. She is such a smart girl. My animals converse with me, but not with spoken words in English. They speak their animal barks, moos, and cock-a-doodle-dos. Sometimes, I know what they are trying to tell me, and I can almost hear what they are saying, but I’m no Dr. Dolittle. Life would be so much simpler down at the barn if the animals spoke English, and I know it would be a whole lot more interesting. Balaam had quite an interesting and eye opening experience with the only real life talking donkey.

The Moabites and Midianites were afraid. They knew about Israel’s victories, and they feared that they were going to be the next people over run by them. They wanted some supernatural help so they sought the assistance of Balaam. They knew who Balaam was, and they wanted him to come and curse the people of Israel. However, God told Balaam not to curse His people. Balak received word that Balaam said he could not come and curse the people, and he decided to sweeten the deal. He promised Balaam a lot of money. Balaam left on his donkey en route to deliver the cursing, but his donkey tried three times to stop him. First, the donkey went off of the road and into a field. Next, the donkey got too close to a wall and crushed the foot of Balaam against the wall. Finally, the donkey laid down on Balaam. At this point, Balaam became very angry and struck the donkey a third time. The funniest thing happened next. The donkey looked at Balaam and spoke. I could just hear the donkey saying, “Dude, what is wrong with you!”

I love this story because it is so unlike God, and it reminds us that God is in total control and that he has a sense of humor. He wants to communicate with us, and if we aren’t listening to His voice, He may just open the mouth of a donkey. God is so creative. God uses a variety of means to speak to us, and we must be willing to hear from Him. When God asks us to do something, He wants us to obey. Balaam started off on the right track. God told him not to go to curse the people of Israel, and he stayed put, but then the deal was sweetened. The enemy works this way. If he can’t win you over one way, he will come back to you again and again with a sweeter deal each time and try to break your resolve. Don’t fall for it. Continue to obey God, and don’t listen to the enemy.

Another thing to consider about this story, is that when we are walking (or riding a donkey) outside of the will of God, many times He will put up some roadblocks. He may have to put up more than one, but God is going to get our attention one way or another. If we are going the wrong way, God will stand in the road to oppose us. He loves us. He doesn’t want us going down a road of destruction or a road that leads away from Him. He will do whatever is necessary to make us turn around. I can recount many memories of times when things didn’t go as planned. I’ve often shared the story of when I wasn’t accepted into the acute care nurse practitioner program after completing my bachelor’s in nursing. I was so upset. I had a 4.0 GPA, several years of experience in critical care, and a sparkling resume. There was no reason that I should not have been accepted. I was angry, I was hurt. I even cried like a baby. I eventually dried my tears, and I applied for the family nurse practitioner track, and I was accepted immediately. It wasn’t until a long while later that I realized that God changed my path. That was more than 20 years ago, and had I completed the acute care program, I would have had to move away from my family and friends. There were no acute care nurse practitioner jobs available in my area back then. And the “all knowing” me didn’t want to do family practice because critical care was all that I really knew up until that point. Little did I know that my God already knew just what and where I needed to be. I absolutely love being a family nurse practitioner. I feel like it is a calling from God. I interact with entire families on a daily basis, and I get to share Christ…on the job! I’m so thankful He put that roadblock in my path. His plans are always so much better than mine!

Lastly, let us consider Balaam’s actions. The donkey was trying to protect Balaam. He saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road blocking the way, but Balaam could not see the angel. The donkey tried three times to avoid running into the angel, and three times Balaam beat his good old donkey. God placed a roadblock right in front of him, and he couldn’t see it, and instead of trying to figure out why his donkey was acting out of sorts, he did as we do many times and became angry and struck the source of his irritation. God tries to get our attention, and when we don’t listen, He tries again and again, and before we know it, we are beating the donkey, the wrong donkey, who is an innocent victim. We begin to lash out at others, and we blame other people in our lives for our bad circumstances rather than looking inward to try to determine why things are as they are.

If God is calling you in a certain direction, run to Him. Don’t compromise on that calling. If you’ve got a burr in your saddle, maybe you should try to remove the burr by finding out the source of the irritation. Is God putting it there to protect you and put you back on the right track? Don’t strike others and blame them when things are going wrong because something in your own life needs to be corrected. Instead, sit down and have a talk with God. Open His Word. I bet He is just waiting to hear from you right now! God desires a relationship with each of us, and if we are straying from Him, He may not open the mouth of a donkey to get our attention, but I guarantee you that He will get our attention because He loves us that much!

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Give me a word, Lord: CHANGING WITH THE SEASONS

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT) But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I’m sitting here in a rocking chair on my front porch witnessing the early signs of fall. The birds are singing, and there is a very light hint of coolness in the air. Brown leaves are already beginning to gather around the yard. The fruit tree leaves are rapidly changing from brilliant deep greens to golden yellow as they prepare to let go. We live in the middle of eighty park like acres, so as you can imagine, we have a lot of trees. Of all those trees, I have my one favorite little tree. It is a Japanese Maple that I bought as a little seedling many moons ago. When my husband and I married, we dug up that little tree and planted it in our front yard. It was supposed to be one of those maples with the beautiful, dark maroon leaves, but surprise…it did not grow into the tree that I planned it to be. It grew into one that is so much better. In the very earliest days of spring, little green leaves begin to develop and grow. Before long, the little maple is covered with beautiful green leaves and those leaves provide a much needed shade for the front yard and bring comfort for our morning porch sitting sessions. It really is a beautiful tree with all of those lovely green leaves, the branches stand high, reaching for the sky, boldly and beautifully. Yes, that little tree looks like it’s got it all together, but it doesn’t really begin to shine until it prepares to let go of its leaves. That sounds crazy, I know, but it is the truth. Every year, right before Thanksgiving, those pretty green leaves begin to turn, and for a few short weeks, that maple tree becomes the most beautiful fixture in our yard. The leaves gradually change into splendid shades of gold and orange. I marvel at the beauty of it every single year. I delight at looking at that tree when I drive up after a long day or even if I’m just sitting on the porch rocking. The marvelous beauty of the fall colors only last a few weeks though, and eventually that little maple tree stands there with its branches held high as though it was raising its arms to the sky, bare, empty, and colorless.

If I saw that tree during the winter season, I would have never wanted to bring it home. I would have thought that it was a sad, boring little tree. I would not have realized that a total transformation had recently occurred, and could not imagine the transformation that was soon to come when the spring season returned. We could learn a lot from this little tree. It doesn’t stubbornly hold on to its dead leaves. It drops them to the ground letting go of the old season of life while it anxiously awaits for the new season. Consider that for a moment. We also go through seasons of change, and the seasons change us. We can not cling to the past. We have to get rid of all the bitterness, anger, and every form of malice, and learn to be kind and compassionate to one and be forgiving just as Paul told the Ephesians. As humans we often want to hold on to the things of the past. We sometimes want to live in the past because we feel like those were the best times of our lives. Others want to forget the past because it felt like the worse time of their lives. It is okay to remember the past, rejoice in those fond memories and learn from the mistakes, but we can’t set up house there. That season has passed, we grew during that season, but we have to let those leaves fall. We can’t cling to the old leaves. They have to fall to the ground so that we can make room for the new season that is just around the corner.

That Japanese Maple is like a picture of what Jesus does in our lives. We go through all kinds of seasons. We start off tiny, weak and small, and we have no clue how we will look as we grow and mature. As kids, we develop dreams of who and what we will become, and before we know it, we are all grown up, and things don’t look anything like we thought we would. We aren’t doing what we had planned to do while we were still in our youth, but as we look within ourselves, we realize that we are so much better than what we dreamed of. We have survived many seasons. Some of those seasons were hard. We endured loss of loved ones, break ups, loneliness, financial strain, sickness, and grief. We may have fallen down, but we did not give up. We grew stronger in those seasons. The seasons changed us. We have also been through some really great seasons that were beautiful, bright, and marvelous that brought so much richness to our lives and the lives around us. Those seasons passed, and we recognized the beautiful changes that occurred as we grew in love, happiness, and grace. Sometimes, the Lord sends a season so that we have to make a change. We can’t remain the same. We may get complacent and lazy, and Jesus may send a new season to make us let go and let Him take the lead in our lives. He knows that there is strength in our branches. He wants us to look up to Him, let go of things that are not of Him, and see things in a new light and perspective.

When we get bogged down in the hard, winter seasons of life, and it feels like we have lost all of our brilliant color, and there is nothing left but the dull, gray branches reaching upward. It is then that we might just find ourselves right where the Lord wants us to be as He prepares us for the best season yet. We can always rest in the Word of God. Just look at these words from the book of Isaiah, “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Christ is preparing you. He is getting you ready for a great work. He may be pruning you now, and pruning hurts, but the pruning will bring forth new vines and much fruit. Let it go, and let God take the lead. This year feels like it has been one very long season of fall….one great fall after the other…but the Master Gardener is working everything out for our good and His glory. Hang on. Enjoy the fall. Marvel at the changes that are occurring within you as our Lord prepares you for the next great season!

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Give me a word, Lord: LEGALISM vs GRACE

Galations 2:16-21 (NLT) Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.  But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!  Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down.  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.  My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

My daddy is a wonderful christian man. We know that there was only one perfect Man who walked this earth, and His name was Jesus. Daddy isn’t perfect, but I know that my daddy has been made right through the blood of Jesus Christ. He loves to tell others about Christ. He helped to build the foundation for me to become the believer that I am today, and I want to be a witness like he is to others. He told me once that his goal is to share the plan of salvation with someone at least once every single day. When he told me that, I thought, “Wow, I want to be just like him!” Last week, a pastor caused my daddy to have a bit of a spiritual battle, and it had to do with legalism. I’m not a pastor. I don’t have a theological degree. I’m just a nurse practitioner and a farmer who has a heart for Christ and for sharing His word with others, but it is my opinion from studying God’s Word that grace defeats legalism every time.

My daddy was raised in a Landmark Missionary Baptist Church. Actually, the church formed in my grandparents’, his parents’, home. They were charter members. It is still a wonderful church, and we have visited from time to time. They preach the word, no doubt. As young children, we attended a Southern Baptist Church, and in our teen years, we attended another Missionary Baptist Church. We were fed the gospel at both churches. I loved both churches. I grew in my faith at both churches. The church ordinances may have differed, but the fact remains that the gospel was being preached at both churches. Did difference in ordinances make one church wrong and one church right? I’m not here to determine that. My belief is that if a pastor/preacher is preaching and teaching the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, then that church is doing the right thing. How do we determine that the truth is being preached? Well, we have to study the Word of God ourselves. Back to my story, this man told Daddy that the women at the church Daddy attends wear lipstick, cut their hair, wear pants, and sometimes even wear shorts, and therefore, it is wrong for him to attend that church. Y’all don’t pull out your stones or torches just yet, but I’m going to tell you about me. This girl right here wears lipstick, cuts her hair, wears pants, and yes, on a hot summer day in south Mississippi, this girl even wears shorts! BUT, BIG BUT, not little but, this girl also loves Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior more than anything else in this world. Am I going to die and go to hell because “the rules” of my church are different than “the rules” of another church? I must answer emphatically–NO! I know that my eternal home is in heaven. There is not even a shadow of a doubt in my mind!

I prayed a lot before I wrote this today. I don’t want anyone to think that I am making light of the choice of church in which one chooses to be a member. I merely want to point out that Baptists won’t be the only ones in heaven, y’all. And it won’t just be Missionary Baptists walking through those pearly gates. There will be Southern Baptists, Methodists, Non-denominationals, and Pentecostals there too! God isn’t going to just call one church home. He is going to call THE CHURCH. You don’t get to heaven by attending a certain church on Sunday and following the ordinances of that church. You get to heaven by placing faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. It’s a free gift of grace that was given to each of us when His blood poured out on the cross.

Legalism leads with the law rather than the gospel. The gospel stands on it’s own. It doesn’t need any help from us to give it strength. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t work our way into heaven, but we work for the gospel and Christ because of the gracious gift of salvation. But if works are taking the lead over the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is legalism. It’s human nature to distort the glorious truths of God, and I think we have all been guilty of trying to misuse that free gift of grace. God has given us all that we need for godliness. We desire to live for Christ, and we have deep convictions that the sins in our life dishonor God. But sometimes, in the midst of our pursuit for godliness, we forget that it is only by the grace of God that we can live for Him. Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to forget that any and all godliness comes from the Father. We become all puffed up and start projecting our standards on others. We soon begin to judge people and pressure them to conform to our “God lifestyle.” We forget about the principles that the Word of God reveal to us, and we teach our own preferences and practices of the law.

In Galatians 2, Paul brought up an example of when Peter went to Antioch. When Peter first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians who were not circumcised. But later on, when some of the friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles any longer. He was afraid of the criticism that he would receive because the other people insisted on the necessity of circumcision. Paul later says, “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Those uncircumcised believers were believers too, and they have receive the gracious gift of salvation and eternal life just like their fellow circumcised believers.

We have to learn to balance the reality that our faith is through grace alone and by faith alone. We are called to glorify God, and we are called to follow His Word. Grace teaches us to separate ourselves from cultural sin, but it never teaches us to use ourselves as the standard for grace. We must look to Christ as the standard, not ourselves! The important questions to ask yourself are, “Have I received the gift of salvation? Am I a child of God?” If you know that the answer is yes, then you know. We aren’t perfect. We are perfectly imperfect children of a perfect God, and it is through Him that we are made right. We can’t do this thing called life on our own accord, but with God we can. We were created to glorify God. If what you are doing is sharing the gospel and bringing honor and glory to our Father, then keep on doing that! That is His desire for each of us. I leave you with this a word from 2 Corinthians 12:9 that assures us, ““Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” Alone, we are weak, but the power of the Father works best in our weakness. His grace is all we need!

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Give me a word, Lord: DROPPED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

2 Samuel 4:4 Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.

2 Samuel 9:1-13 Then David asked, “Is there anyone left from the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for the sake of Jonathan?” And there was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king inquired, “Are you Ziba?” “I am your servant,” he replied. So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family to whom I can show the kindness of God?” Ziba answered, “There is still Jonathan’s son, who is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” replied the king. And Ziba said, “Indeed, he is in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. And when Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he fell facedown in reverence. Then David said, “Mephibosheth!” “I am your servant,” he replied. “Do not be afraid,” said David, “for surely I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Saul’s servant Ziba and said to him, “I have given to your master’s grandson all that belonged to Saul and to all his house. You and your sons and servants are to work the ground for him and bring in the harvest, so that your master’s grandson may have food to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. And Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do all that my lord the king has commanded.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s own sons. And Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was lame in both feet.

The story of King David and King Saul is all too familiar, but there is a behind the scenes story of redemption that I would like to discuss today. It is the story of the man named Mephibosheth. Remember the anger that old King Saul had toward David. He despised him, and he truly wanted him dead. David was best friends with the king’s son, Jonathan. David felt sure that the king wanted to kill him, and he shared this concern with Jonathan. Of course, Jonathan didn’t want to believe him. Saul was his father, and David was his best friend. How could this be true? In I Samuel, chapter 20, we read of a plan between David and Jonathan to discern whether or not Saul was really out to for David’s blood, and we also read of a promise that David made to Jonathan. The plan worked, and Jonathan realized that his father actually did want to kill David, and Jonathan warned David so that he was able to get away safely. A promise was made between the two best friends. David promised that he would never stop being kind to Jonathan for as long as he lived, and that he would never stop being kind to Jonathan’s family.

Fast forward about 15 years or so. King Saul and Jonathan were both dead, but David did not forget his promise. He began to inquire if any descendants of Jonathan were still living. He found out that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth. The boy was only 5 years old when his father and grandfather were killed in battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa by the Jezreel Valley. When his nurse maid heard of the death of Saul and Jonathan, she picked up the boy, Mephibosheth, and ran to flee to safety, but she dropped him causing him to be lame. The fall injured both feet, and he was lame from that day forth. He was once the grandson of the king, but now he was a lame man without power or wealth whose family was hated. David tracked down Mephibosheth and made good on his promise to Jonathan. He showed kindness and grace to the son of Jonathan, grandson of Saul, and elevated him to a position equal to member of his very own family. From that day on, Mephibosheth dined at the table of the king. It’s a great story of redemption that we don’t give a lot of weight too, but we should.

Mephibosheth lived for many years unaware that grace was waiting for him. He was the only living direct descendant of King Saul, and therefore, he was despised. He had to look for death around every corner. He didn’t know that King David had entered into a covenant with his father, and because of that covenant, grace was extended to this man who has been lame since the age of five. Mephibosheth became part of the family of King David, and he was treated as though he was the son of the king and an heir to the throne so to speak. Think about that, and think about yourself for a moment. How many years did you live before you knew about the grace of God? Was it 10, 15, 20, or maybe you still haven’t fully accepted this grace. Until we accept the grace of God, spiritual death is lurking around every corner. Thankfully, a long time ago, our King made a covenant with His people, and because of this unconditional covenant, grace was extended to you and to me. Through Christ, we have become sons and daughters to the King. We have been adopted into the family of our Lord and Savior, and we are heirs to the throne. We can dine at the table of our King.

You may be feeling like you’ve been dropped, bruised, injured, and forgotten, but let me remind you that our God is still on the throne, and He is a promise keeper. He made a covenant, and He doesn’t break His promises. He sent His son as a propitiation for our sins so they we may be made right with Him, so that we may have an everlasting relationship with our Father, and so that we may be heirs to the throne of the King of kings, Lord of lords. You may feel like you were dropped somewhere in the past, but I assure you that you have not been forgotten. Trust in the Lord. Taste and see that He is good. He is my redeemer, and He will redeem you too! You don’t even have to have a great name like Mephibosheth. He knows your name. He knows you. He wants to adopt you into His family. You don’t have to be dropped and forgotten. With Christ, you can be delivered and forgiven!

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Give me a word, Lord: FAITH AND HOPE

Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.

Romans 8:24-25 Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 

Yesterday, we were able to join an adult Sunday School class as students for the first time in many years. We taught the youth class for a few years, then third through sixth grade, and most recently we taught the college and career age group. Our church is small, and our college and career students have all moved on to different destinations as they follow God’s paths for them. We miss our class, but let me tell you something, Peeps, it sure was nice being the student yesterday. I’m excited about being able to sit in a Sunday School class weekly and be fed the Word in a small group setting with classmates in my age group.

Our lesson yesterday came from Hebrews 11:1-3. My Bible that I bring to church is the HCSB translation. I have several translations at home, but I like this one for church services because there is a lot of room in the margins for note taking, and I am an avid not taker. This version defines faith as “the reality of what is hoped for and the proof of what is not seen.” We compared a few translations in our class, and found that the word reality was replaced by the word assurance, confidence, and substance depending on the translation that was being read. I like the HCSB version with the word reality because that is really what it is. Faith is the reality of what is hoped for. We left Sunday School, and went into morning worship, and wouldn’t you know it, the lesson spilled over into our pastor’s sermon. He didn’t know what we studied in Sunday School, yet he preached out of Romans 8, verses 18-30, He always tells us that “everything is rigged for our good and God’s glory,” and once again this proved to be true. It’s rigged, y’all. God gave us a message that we needed to hear yesterday, and maybe He thought, “these knuckleheads may not get it the first time so just to be sure I’ll give them the message a second time.”

We have hope! If you look around right now, things don’t look very hopeful. I’m sitting here at five o’clock at my kitchen table typing away as my husband is watching the morning weather report. Hurricane Sally is coming ashore later tonight, and it looks like she will be coming in just south of us. We live about 45 miles from the coast, and we will surely feel the affects. I’ll be leaving for work in a bit, and won’t get home until around 7:30 tonight. There is continued chaos all around with the COVID pandemic, wildfires in Oregon and California, rioting, and ugliness. Yet here I sit in the comfort of my kitchen typing and at ease. How and why? Because I have faith in Christ, and that faith lies in the reality that my hope is in things eternal and not merely the temporary things of the present. I have faith in Christ.

Does that faith mean that I simply ignore the troubles of the world? Definitely not, but I have learned to endure them knowing that Christ will work it all out for my good and His glory. He has proven this to me time and time again. We may suffer a little, or maybe even a lot, on this side of heaven, but the bit of suffering we are enduring now can not even compare to the eternal future that Christ has prepared for us in heaven. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are promised eternity with Him in heaven. I’ve never seen heaven, but I have read about it. I have dreamed about it. I have imagined it in my mind, but I’ve never seen it. The fact that I have never seen it makes it no less real to me. I know that it is a reality. I have faith in this reality that I hope for because it is promised to me in the Word of God, and God doesn’t break His promises.

We can rejoice during our trials because we know that no matter what happens, it is not the end. We have hope that promises a future in heaven, and faith in that hope supersedes any doubt or fear that we have regarding the current worries and trials. I have a plaque in my office at work that reads, “Pray more, worry less,” and I am here to tell you that this mantra has become my life song! I pray with faith that is the REALITY of what is hoped for even though I can’t see it. I stand fully on the promises of Christ. Do you have faith and hope today?

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Give me a word, Lord: ARMED

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Today is the first Sunday since the COVID pandemic that our church is resuming normal hours. We will have Sunday School classes at 10:00 am followed by morning worship at 11:00. We have a meeting at 4:00 pm, the praise team will practice at 5:00 pm. (Don’t worry, I haven’t joined yet. I’m still keeping my happy racket on the back pew!) At 6:00 pm, we are having evening worship. Wednesday night activities will return this week too. I am beyond excited. I have missed this part of my worship so much. We have continued to have worship services through the pandemic, but on-line worship, parking lot worship, and staggered morning services are just not the same. It’s almost like we are going to a big family reunion because our church family is just that. They are family. I have missed everyone tremendously.

Gathering with fellow believers is such an important part of the Christian faith. When we gather together we strengthen bonds with fellow believers, we sing praises together, and most importantly we hear and receive the Word of God. This helps us to continue to put on the full armor of God each and every day. Think about an orange or a satsuma. It’s peeling acts as a protector for the fruit. It is the armor for the fruit. If you place that orange in a glass of water, it floats. It is protected. But if you remove the peeling and the protective coating, and then place that same orange in a glass of water, it will sink. It is not protected. It has lost the natural protection and armor of the peeling.

As Christians, we have to put on our armor daily. There will be troubles of the day that will try to peel the armor away, but if we are rooted in the Holy Word of God, our armor will remain and our protection will be guaranteed. When we continue to gather with a body of believers, our armor is strengthened as we walk through the Word of God with our pastor, deacons, and elders and those who are seasoned with the salt of the Word of God and shine a light in this dark world in which we live. We can put on the belt of truth and tighten our waistbands, keep the breastplate of righteousness in place, and as we learn and hear the truth preached and taught, our feet will be fitted with readiness to share the beloved gospel with the world. We can take up the shield of faith, and extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one, and wear the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which we all know is the Word of God. And we pray in the Spirit, oh the sweet prayers of a praying church! The armor of God protects us!

I woke up praying this morning. That’s nothing new, but my prayer this morning was that the churches across this country would have an awakening, a revival. I prayed that the true Word of God would be preached throughout our land today, and that ears would be opened to hear it. I prayed that lost souls would be saved, and I prayed that those who have gotten out of the habit of gathering together with fellow believers would return today. In this evil world that we are living in, we need the full armor of God. We need the prayers of fellow believers. We need the sword of the Spirit. We need this now more than ever. Are you ready to get armed today?

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Give me a word, Lord: CHURCH AND COMMUNITY

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I Coronthians 12:18-20 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

I read a story last year about a young Amish man named Steven Yoder who was killed in a mill accident in New Wilmington, Pa . Steven left behind a wife named Mary, and five children under the age of 13, and one on the way. He asked an Amish friend what would happen to the family. “How will they financially make it, since the Amish do not carry insurance?” The friend answered, “The church will take care of them.” The church, in an Old World Order Amish group, is the entire community. She said, “We are the church! We will all pitch in and help her until her sons are grown and can financially support her. If every body gives a little, she will have a lot. “

Later, the man stopped by to see the Amish friend, and she asked him what the weather was supposed to be like on Saturday. He told her it was going to be cool, but dry. The friend said, “Good, because at least ten teams of men are going to Mary’s house to plow her fields, winterize her home and barn, get her a winters supply of coal (to heat her home) and wood (for her to cook with) . The women are all going to cook and bake to help feed the men, who are taking care of Mary’s farm, and bring food for Mary to have enough all winter.”

This is community, Peeps! This is church, Peeps! The church is a not merely a building. It is so much more. The church is a body of believers who function as a whole to reflect the love of our Lord and Savior. When there is a need, it is taken care of, not by a few, but by all. Many will say, “I’m too busy. The pastor or deacons will take care of them. The retired ladies will cook for them. My plate is too full.” If we are truly the church, we can’t think this way.

There are many parts that make up the human body. We have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hands that can work hard, bake, cook, build, and sometimes squeeze the hand of another who needs to know that we are there. We have feet made for us to go to wherever we need to go to share the love of Christ. We have a brain that functions to help us grow in knowledge of Christ. We have mouths that are to be use to pray, praise God, share the gospel, and lift others up. And we have a heart, and that heart desires to serve the Lord and to love like Jesus loves. Each member of the body can not function independently of the other members of the body. The church should be viewed in this way. We each have specific areas of expertise and skills, and we bring a lot to the table, but when we combine those skills together we become a fully functioning body that can accomplish much for Christ.

Can you be a Christian, and not be a member of church body? Yes, you can, but you miss out on so much. The church is not just a place to go and worship. The church is the body of believers. It’s the people. The people who love Christ, serve Christ, and in doing so love others and serve others. When someone sees a Christian on the street, they shouldn’t say, “There goes that Christian.” They should say, “There goes the church.” Are you being the church to the community today?

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Give me a word, Lord: RESTING

Psalm 91:1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Where do we get our energy? Oh, I could quickly answer that with my favorite drink: coffee. I do love coffee. I didn’t drink coffee until I was in my early forties. I jokingly say that it took me that long to grown up. Before that, I was hooked on Diet Coke, and prior to that it was Coca Cola. I was truly addicted to those sodas, but now I don’t really like soft drinks at all. But I do love my coffee. I have a couple of T-shirts that announce my dependency on Jesus and coffee. I have one that says, “With Jesus in her heart and coffee in her hand, she’s unstoppable.” Another one says, “This girl runs on Jesus and coffee, Hebrews 4:16.” It’s true. Caffeine is a crutch that gives me a little short term energy to do the things I need to do. Oh, but Jesus, He gives me the energy to get through every single day all day long. So where do we truly get our energy? We get our energy from rest, and true rest only comes from the Lord.

My grandson is only five, and he still requires a rest period during the day. He doesn’t think that he needs a nap, but everyone around him knows the precise moment that a nap is needed. He is the happiest child, very talkative, intelligent, and creative, but after he goes fast and hard for a while, his energy depletes. He becomes a little bit whiny and irritable. A thirty minute respite changes his whole attitude and outlook. He suddenly becomes that smiling sweet boy that we all love and adore. We are a lot like a five year old at times. We wear down, become weary and tired, and oh do we get irritable at times. We may unintentionally become snappy and short with those that we love. We may whine a little bit about our day and complain more frequently than we mean to. As adults, we need someone to tell us to go take a nap so that we can get refreshed and renewed and wake up in a better frame of mind.

We may not be allowed to take long, luxurious naps during the day, but we still have the very best resting place. We can find respite in Christ all day long every day long. To truly rest in Christ, we must truly believe that He can help us, save us, and deliver us in our most urgent needs. We must have a real belief that Christ can help us. It has to be so real that we can almost touch it and taste the sweetness of it. To truly rest, we must truly believe. If we truly believe, then we can trust fully, and my friends, when we truly believe and trust, we will find a rest like no other rest.

We must believe that the Lord is sovereign, and that He is the authority over our lives. We have to recognize that the Lord is in absolute control, and then we must believe that He can accomplish much in our lives. He is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present. He is a there for us. He sees the trials that we are enduring. He knows when we are weary, and He knows how to give us rest. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” We find rest in the Lord by believing that He can help, save, and deliver us. When we believe, we trust that He can help, save and deliver us, but Isaiah 30:15 points out one more ingredient needed to find rest: repentance. If we have a sin problem, no matter how big or how little, that sin is separating us from the fullness of rest in Christ. We must lay that sin out before our Lord and Savior, confess, ask forgiveness, and turn away from it. If a sin problem is constantly worrying our minds and separating us from Christ, we will never know true rest. Our minds fill with worry and regret, and there is no rest to be found there, but when we have repented and been forgiven, oh the sweet rest that we find is sweeter than the sweetest honey.

We all need a whole lot of energy to get through our daily walk, some days more than others. We can drink all of the coffee in the world, but we all know that kind of energy will soon fade, and we’ll crash. When the caffeine leaves us, we are spent and weary. To get true, lasting energy, we must plug into the power source. We must plug into the Savior. Talk to the Lord, Have a little chat throughout the day, and lay your cares and concerns at the feet of Jesus. He can handle those things much better than we can. Read His Word. Rejuvenate your mind with the sweetness of the Word of God. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. Seek Him. Rest in Him!

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Give me a word, Lord: KEEP ON KEEPING ON

Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Tuesday was one of the Mondayest Tuesdays ever! We can always count on the fact that we will be busy in the clinic on a day following a holiday, and this Tuesday following the Labor Day weekend was no exception. We treated multiple fractures, drained abscesses, ordered labs, completed paps, treated our chronic care patients, and treated a whole lot of acute care patients. Oh, did I mention that we are still gowning up in our lovely plastic full length gowns, N-95 masks, face shields, and double gloves and going out into the parking lot in the 90+ degrees heat to evaluate and treat any and all patients who have COVID 19 symptoms or have had a positive exposure? At the end of the day, our sweet receptionist had signed in a total of 90 patients for visits, labs or x-rays. Y’all, we have a pretty small clinic. That is a crazy number. How did we do it? The answer to that is great team work and the good Lord’s blessings!

I have the pleasure of working with a nurse practitioner, Ally, who is young enough to be my daughter, but she is very wise, and she is passionate about the Lord. Together we make an awesome team, but it’s not just about us. We couldn’t do what we do on a daily basis without the whole team working together. The receptionist has to see every single person that walks through the door while answering phones, taking messages, and soothing anxieties. The nurses have to room the patients, give injections, and relay messages all day all while doing a multitude of other daily duties. The lab/x-ray tech has been getting slammed as never before with labs and x-rays, and yet still they help room patients and clean rooms and jump in wherever they are needed. And our clinic manager, well that girl, she can just about do it all. She helps everyone in the clinic do what needs to be done. We work like a well oiled machine. Sometimes things go perfectly smoothly, and other times not so much, but no matter what, God sees us through every single day no matter how crazy or busy we get. I know He is there because I cry out to Him all day long every day, and I can feel His presence.

Even though everything ended well at the end of our Mondayest Tuesday, I went home feeling the weight of it all on my shoulders. I was exhausted. My brain was tired. I felt spent. It was one of those kind of tired feelings when you feel like you can’t go another day. I was dog tired, and my feet were barking. But y’all, our God is so good. He loves His kids so much, and He shows up and shows out all of the time. I left the clinic and met my sweet husband for dinner. He had a Mondayest Tuesday too, so we met at a local restaurant and let them do the cooking. He had already ordered my meal, and it was waiting for me upon my arrival. I was able to sit and catch my breath and relax with my love. We arrived home later, and we sat down at our table and read God’s Word. We are reading through the Bible again using a one year plan, and after soaking in the sweetness of the Word of God, I slowly began to feel rejuvenated. I took a long, hot shower, and I slept the night away. I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle the day.

Wednesday wasn’t a bad day. It was busy and chaotic, but that is nothing new, yet in the middle of the chaos, God showed up. A package arrived on my desk mid morning, and there was the most beautiful card inside. It wasn’t the color or the pictures on the card that gave it the beauty, it was the words that were written on the inside by a dear sweet patient. She wrote, ” I hope you know that you are so loved by us and all who know you. We are so blessed by our heavenly Father to have you, a ministering saint of God, as our friend and doctor.” Oh my word, that brought tears to my eyes. There are so many days that I feel that I am just going through the motions, merely doing my job, hurrying through the day. I want so much to be the salt and the light, but there are so many days that I feel that I come up short. On those crazy days when I’m are chasing my tail all day long and I feel like we will never catch up, I feel like I’m spent and that I have failed the Father. But God, oh but God! He knows just when to send a gentle reminder from a precious human angel to encourage and remind me that I am not working for myself, but rather that I am working for my Lord and Savior.

Your work place may be even crazier or more chaotic than mine. Your job may be boring and humdrum. You may feel that you aren’t getting anywhere, or that you aren’t getting paid what you are worth. You may not have an awesome team of co-workers easing the burden of your load. You may not even see the impact that you are making on the lives of others, but you can know this for sure. God sees you. He feels your stress, anger, pain, and weariness. He is there, and He will continue to lift you up and help you as you muddle through each and every day. But Peeps, we can’t just show up and do just enough to get by and go home. No, my friends, that’s not how it is supposed to work. Paul was speaking to slaves in Colossians 3:23-24, but I’m pretty sure he is talking to you and I as well. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Each and every day, we must wake up, get prayed up, dress up, and get out there and work with all of our hearts as though we are working for the Lord because quite frankly, we are!

Whether you are a CEO of a fortune 500 company or the janitor of the school system, a stay at home mom or a mom working two jobs to make ends meet, you have to ask yourself, “Who am I working for today?” When the burden gets too heavy, and your body and mind are weary, just take a deep cleansing breath and remember you aren’t working for men. You are working for the greatest boss in the whole word, Jesus!

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

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Give me a word, Lord: COME HOME

Isaiah 1:3 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.

Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.

Sally Sue is a whitetail doe that we rescued a couple of years ago. We bottle fed her, and she took up residence down at our barn with the sheep and goats and our neutered Axis buck, Bucky. She is a typical skittish little doe, but she loves apples, and she will take us down for a bit of fruit. She allows Jeff and I to pet her, but she is stand-offish around others. Last year, she left during breeding season. We saw her a few times, and we knew that she was pregnant. She came back home to the barn after a bit, but she came home without a fawn. We searched the woods, but never found the fawn. I’m not sure what happened, but Sally Sue knew how to find her way home. She knew where the buckets of feed were plentiful and the fruit snacks were abundant.

This year, Sally Sue left for a short period during mating season, but as always, she returned home. Her belly slowly grew larger, and we knew the time for the arrival of a new fawn was drawing near. Part of me kept wondering if she would leave to give birth and seek the secret hiding places of the wooded areas. Three days ago, she delivered a beautiful long legged little doe fawn. We named her Rosie. Sally Sue accepted her baby and cleaned her up just as she should, but she wouldn’t let the baby nurse. Rosie would try to latch on, and Sally would walk away. This went on constantly for the first day. The next morning, my husband promptly traded a bucket of scuppernongs, a couple of persimmons, jelly, and squash relish for some goat colostrum. Rosie sucked that stuff up like it was honey. Today, she is finally nursing, and it looks like she is doing very well.

Sally Sue is a wild, whitetail doe, but she was bottle raised by my husband and myself. She knows that we are her safe place and that our barn is her home. She will always have food, water, and shelter there. She is free to leave as she pleases, but she always knows when to come home. I’m very pleased that she chose to come home to have her little fawn this time and that we were there to give it a little extra boost of nourishment to get it going.

God has given animals a remarkable homing instinct. Before Sally Sue, we had Ellie May. She would wander miles from home visiting our neighbors, but all I had to do was rattle the chain on the gate to the barn, and she suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Why then do we humans seem to want to rebel and not even show the good sense of an animal? Our loving Father created us and has given us every reason to want to come home, yet we drift and backslide. We try to do things on our own and under our own power and authority. We tend to forget that in Christ, we have all of the nourishment we need. In Christ, we have hope, love, joy, protection, grace, and mercy. Away from Christ, we may find temporary pleasure, but it will always be short lived. Without Christ, we are lost and alone.

In Jeremiah 8:7, we are reminded that even the birds live according to the instincts that the Lord has given them. They know when to migrate and when to return for seasons just as my little doe does. Why then do we humans have such difficulty with this? Man seems to constantly run the race of self destruction, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our natural instinct or intuition tells us that we don’t want to be alone. We don’t want to feel lost, abandoned, or full of despair. We want to have fullness of joy, hope, and love everlasting. We yearn for grace and mercy. Fortunately for each of us, we have a heavenly Father who wants to give us all of this. We needn’t run from Him, but rather we should be running to Him.

No matter where you are at this moment in time, no matter how far you feel that you have strayed, no matter how big or little your sins are, Christ is inviting you to return home. He’s been rattling the chain on the gate for a while now. His buckets are overflowing with love, joy, hope, grace, and mercy. He is ready to wrap His arms around you and give you the comfort and protection in that safe place that you are seeking. Don’t keep running away. Run home to the Father! There is no better place to be in this whole world!

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Give me a word, Lord: ENJOYING OR ENDURING

Psalm 16:5-11 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Do you remember the song in that old movie, “Mary Poppins,” “A Spoonful of Sugar”? Sing with me, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.” Taking medicine, especially during childhood is not something that we love to do, but something that we know we must endure so that we can get well when we are ill. My mom must not have ever paid attention to this song. When we were sick, she believed in an old remedy called Castor Oil. Back in the day, that was an old time cure all for all that ails you. It was a horrible concoction that was horribly disgusting, and I’m pretty sure even a cup full of sugar would not have helped that old stuff go down. I can remember not telling my mama I was sick when I was a kid so that I wouldn’t have to endure the torment of Castor Oil.

Some people look upon Christianity this way. They feel that being a Christian is something that must be endured like taking yucky medicine in order to be healed rather than something to be enjoyed like the gift that salvation truly is. They feel that they have to accept Christ in order to be healed and receive salvation, but they aren’t living in the fullness of salvation. This thought breaks my heart. How can one feel that they must just endure Christianity as though it is a chore? Anyone guilty of this is not enjoying salvation for what it really is, but rather they are enduring religion. There is a great big difference between the two. For you see, religion is basically man doing something to save himself, but Salvation, sweet salvation, is God doing something to save man. Religion is man trying to reach up to go to God, but salvation, sweet salvation, is God coming down to man. Religion won’t take man to heaven, but it will lead to hell. Salvation assures man that he will be taken to heaven.

You see, religion is of man, but salvation is of God. To be truly saved, we must believe that God sent His Son, Jesus, to earth as fully man and fully God. He walked among His people, and He suffered pain and death on the cross only to be resurrected. On that cross He endured pain and agony and took upon Himself all of the sins of man. He became a means for intercession between God and man. His act of great endurance occurred so that we may enjoy the great gift of salvation which has been offered to every human being. It is not a chore. It is not some horrible thing that we must endure. It is a sweet, sweet gift that we should enjoy more than anything in the whole world.

The Psalmist understands the joy of God. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” With religion, the heart continues to yearn for something more because there is a void, an emptiness that hasn’t been filled. With salvation, the heart is glad and the mouth rejoices. That void is filled with the Holy Spirit. The emptiness is gone. With religion, we are constantly trying to figure out which way to go. With salvation, we know where we are going. We have a reservation in our eternal home in heaven. With religion, we seek a happiness that we may never find. With salvation, we have an eternal joy within us that never fades. Though times get hard, and trials come, the joy of Jesus within our hearts never fades away.

Are you walking in joy of salvation today or are you enduring religion? Peeps, Christian living is not a penalty. It’s a prize. It’s a gift that we should be celebrating each and every day. Won’t you let the joy of Jesus fill your heart today? Don’t endure! Enjoy!

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Give me a word, Lord: IF ONLY WE COULD SEE

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

I Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—

2 Kings 6:9-17 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.”  Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

I grew up with terrible eyesight. My distance vision was extremely poor. I was one of those people who couldn’t see the giant letter “E” on the eye chart. I wore glasses or contacts from my early teenage years well into my thirties. My prescription grew much worse with each passing year. I researched LASIK eye surgery, and decided that was the route for me. When I arrived at the surgery center, the nurse handed me a Valium and told me to take it. I’ve never taken a benzodiazepine in my life, and I politely told her, “no thank you” to which she replied, “you have to take it.” So I went into the bathroom, split the pill in half and took half of the tablet and flushed the other half. An act that I would later come to regret! Later, I was taken to the procedure room. After a very short few minutes, they told me that I would lose my vision briefly, but that I should not worry because it would return. All of a sudden, everything was completely black. I had never been in such a dark place in my entire life. I couldn’t see. I was totally, absolutely, one hundred percent blind. The darkness engulfed me completely. My heart began to race, I felt the panic arising. I then realized why they had instructed me to take the Valium to help with this anxiety that I was now feeling. I started praying, “Lord please let me see again.” It seemed like I was in that dark place forever and a day, but it actually only lasted seconds. When my vision returned, the LASIK procedure had been completed, and I could read the numbers of the clock on the wall across the room! I was praising God!

For the first time in my life, I had experienced true blindness. I had jokingly said that I was blind before, but I wasn’t blind in reality. I merely had very poor vision. Today, I’ve been thinking about those that are blind, but not the ones who are physically blind. I’m thinking about the people who are spiritually blind. How many people do we see every day who have never received the gift of salvation? Perhaps you are reading this, and you have never received Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you feel that you are in a very dark place. When we are spiritually blind, we may only see the disappointments in life. We may only feel the discouragements. We may feel like we are surrounded by enemies at all times, and we may feel that we are losing the fight. We may feel that the devil has already won the victory. When we are spiritually blind, we can’t see the goodness and the glory of God that is shining all around us and shielding us as we walk through this crazy life.

In 2 Kings chapter 6, we see an exciting example of God opening the eyes of a man who was spiritually dead. Aram was at war with Israel. Elisha the prophet was a true man of God. He would warn the king of Israel of the Arameans plans, and in doing so the army of Israel was alerted of the plans of the king of Aram. The king became very upset about this, and he even thought that he had a spy within his camp. His soldiers informed him that there was not a traitor, but rather a prophet was telling the king of Israel everything that the king of Aram planned. Naturally, the king of Aram sent troops to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant awoke one morning and went outside, and he saw troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. He was frightened to say the least. He asked Elisha, “What are we going to do now?” He was panicking. He was afraid, and he couldn’t see the big picture much like I felt during that brief period in which my eyesight had been taken from me. Elisha urged him to not be afraid. He told the servant, “we have a lot more on our side than these guys have on their side.” Elisha prayed for the Lord to open the eyes of the servant and let him see. The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. God’s army was there, and it was HUGE! When the servant saw this, his fear faded away.

I had to have a second LASIK procedure about eight years ago. I told y’all I had bad eyes. My distance vision is phenomenal now, but my near vision is poor. I have about a hundred pair of reading glasses scattered around every nook and cranny of the house and in my purse. I can see pretty well, and I praise God for that. I don’t see God’s army of horses, chariots, and angels around me, but I know that they are there. Spiritual warfare is ongoing all around us on a daily basis. God’s army is busy protecting us from things that we don’t even know we need protection from. There are many unseen angels working overtime to keep us safe. I can’t see them physically, but I feel the presence of my Lord and Savior. I can name hundreds of instances when I have been spared from accidents or injuries. I’ve driven upon a head on collision that happened seconds before my arrival. If I hadn’t gotten behind that slow vehicle going 40 mph that I grumbled about, I would have been in that accident. That’s just one example, but I have seen God’s hand of protection on my life more times than I can count.

Do we have spiritual eyes? Are we seeing what God wants us to see? Are our eyes open? If we are having difficulty seeing what the Lord wants us to see, we can ask Him to open our spiritual eyes. We must seek God’s face persistently to get a clear vision from Him. It may take some effort on our part. We must spend some extra time in prayer. We have to seek guidance from Him. Put the time in. It is worth it! If we invest the time, He will be faithful to show us what He wants us to see. And even if we can’t see the armies that are fighting for us, we need not fear. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Give me a word, Lord: GOD IN THE VALLEY

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Isaiah 61:3 To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

I Peter 5:10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

What if we lost every material thing that we owned today? Don’t laugh. It’s very possible with hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and earthquakes. We can save up for a rainy day, hoard all of our possessions, and imagine that these material things are giving us comfort. We are trained to think that more is better, and we are constantly striving for more…more money, more wealth, more possessions. We feel like we need more. We are always searching for the next big thing to bring back to the dust covered trophies of our homes. But, what if we lost it all tomorrow? Where would you find your comfort then?

God didn’t promise us a beautiful life, but He did promise a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of morning, and festive praise instead of despair. Life is unbelievably hard. People are sick. People are losing their jobs. Hurricanes have wreaked disaster on our neighbors to the east and west this year, and forest fires are still raging to our north. The devil would want us to believe that this is the end for us. He wants us to feel the pain of the suffering, and he wants us to lose all hope. The devil is a liar, though. We know this fact all too well, but still, he tries to creep in and consume our thoughts with worry, grief, and pain, and oh, his big gun….fear of the unknown.

We don’t know what the future holds, but friends, we do know who holds our future. We can find great comfort in that. God has a plan. We don’t know what this plan looks like or how it will unfold, but we really don’t need to. We only need to trust in God and be patient in the process. A friend’s husband recently lost his job of 21 years. He labored hard for this company, and he was a good employee, but the plant closed. No job, the years of his youth has passed by working for a company that was no longer, and now, in his 50s, he found himself without work. They prayed, believed, and patiently waited, and God provided. He was blessed with a new job, making even more money, and less physical labor. God is always so faithful, we only have to have faith and remember that He is in control. And it’s always amazing to me to see that God doesn’t just provide, He provides abundantly!

I don’t know what you are going through today, and I would not even try to make light of your situation. However, I do ask that you remember that no matter how big your problem is, GOD IS BIGGER! Don’t let that old devil steal your joy. Don’t give him one second of your precious time. The God of the mountain is still God of the valley. “Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain and you’ve got peace of mind, like you’ve never known. But things change, when you’re down in the valley. Don’t lose faith, for you’re never alone. (from “God on the Mountain” by Bill and Gloria Gaither) It is true. We are never alone.

If you are feeling lost today, alone, broken, or as though you have lost it all, don’t forget that you are not alone. Jesus Christ loves you so much. He is very near to the broken hearted. He never leaves, and He will lift you back up from the ashes. “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” Don’t let the devil have even the slightest foothold today. Cry out to the Father, and remember “after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” He will restore you! He will support you! He will strengthen you! He will place you on a firm foundation! Just believe that He can and He will!