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Give me a word, Lord: GOD IS GREAT. GOD IS GOOD. LET US THANK HIM!

This is a devotional I shared a year ago, but I thought it was a good reminder that needed repeating.

Psalm 77 I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there! You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we are fed. Thank you God for daily bread.” I loved hearing my children recite this well known prayer before meals when they were little, and now my heart delights in hearing my grandson, Jude, bless our meals. It is always a struggle as the little ones begin to learn to pray this little prayer. I heard “lettuce is good” instead of “let us thank Him for our food” many times as Jude first began to bless our meals a couple of years ago. Eventually, he got it right. Now, he speaks boldly as he prays, never missing a word. It’s such a simple little prayer, but many times I think as adults we forget just how great and how good God is.

The psalmist in Psalm 77 seems to think that God has withdrawn from him. He is distressed and down, and he cried out to the Lord. He knew he had to seek God, but he feared that God had forgotten him. But then, he began recognizing the greatness of God. He remembered how mighty and awesome God is, the miracles He performed, the redemption of His people, and the majesty of God. Today we are so busy worrying over this and that. We try to fix things in our own power. We put our faith in ourselves. We struggle. We fall. We see our nation falling. We wonder if God has forgotten us.

Whoa, y’all! This is when we need to really remember the greatness of God. We can do as the Psalmist did and start reflecting on all of the wondrous miracles in the Bible of long ago, but we can also begin reflecting on the day to day miracles and blessings our very good God has given us here and now. Maybe it feels like He left us because we left Him. Have you ever thought of that? We desire our human relationships to work so we work at them. We communicate with the ones we love. We talk to them as much as possible. We stay in touch. To have a relationship with Christ, we have to communicate with Him, talk to Him, and acknowledge His presence, His glory, and His goodness. You wouldn’t have a very good relationship with your spouse if you never talked to him/her or if you only focused on the bad things in life without ever seeing the good. God is always good. He is always great. He never leaves us. He is always there. He is still mighty. He is still on the throne. He is still for us. The God that created the heavens & the earth created you and I because He thought the world needed us.

If you are feeling far removed from Christ, start doing as the Psalmist did. Call out to God. Get up close and personal. Recognize how great God is and has been in your life. I realized a long time ago that I can’t even do one day of this thing called life without God. He is so very good to me!

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Give me a word, Lord: TRUST

Psalm 5:11-12 Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 

Psalm 63:7-8 Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

Trust is defined by Miriam Webster “to place confidence in someone or something and to be confident: HOPE.” As humans, trust is sometimes hard to earn, hard to keep, and it is even more difficult to get back once it is lost. Unfortunately, our human nature is bound up in sin. Although, for the most part, we try to deal honestly and treat others righteously, from time to time we falter because we are human. We aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes. When someone we loves does something so completely opposite of what we believe that person should do, we lose our trust in that person. That person becomes untrustworthy, and once a person has become untrustworthy in our eyes, it takes a lot of work for that person to regain the trust that was lost. Yet, our gracious God gives us a heart that is capable of forgiving and a brain that is capable of forgetting when we learn to place our trust fully in Him.

It is not only people that we have trust issues with. Life in general is filled with roadblocks that cause distrust. I am a very logical person. I think things through. I plan. I want to see the end result. I want to know that in my world 2 + 2 will always equal 4. It should, right? I love it when everything works out just like it is supposed to work out, however, that is not the reality of life. Life gets in the way of the equation. People get in the way of the equation. Things happen that cause us to fret. I like predictability, but I have learned that life is totally unpredictable. No matter how well I plan my future, I know that I must be prepared for a change of plans at any moment.

So how then do we deal with our issues of trust when everything is life seems unworthy of our trust? Ah, my friend, that is when we go back to the definition of trust: to place confidence in someone or something and to be confident: HOPE. But wait a minute! I just reminded us all that we can’t trust anything of this world. We can’t seem to place complete confidence in someone or something with confidence can we? Pay attention to the last word of that definition: HOPE. That is the key to our trust issues. We must remain hopeful. Yes, we can remain hopeful in humanity, and many times humanity won’t fail us, but there is One in whom we can place complete hope and trust in: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Unlike our human family and friends, Jesus has made promise after promise, and He has never ever broken even one single promise. He lived a perfect, sinless life in human form, and He did the incomprehensible when He took on all of our sins that day on the cross. He did this greatest act of unconditional love for you and for me, and because He graciously suffered and died for our sins and resurrected on the third day just as He promised, we can place complete faith and trust in Him.

For God has said, “I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.  What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 God said it. I believe it. He will never fail you. He will never abandon you. We can place full confidence in Him. He is our hope! If you are having trust issues today, go talk to the One who gives us that hope!

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Give me a word, Lord: RESCUED

2 Samuel 22:3-4 My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.

Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.

My sweet husband, Jeff, worked offshore in the oil industry for much of his life. People who haven’t lived the oilfield life do not understand, but those who live it understand completely. I’ve had people in the past tell me that it must be wonderful having a husband with such a good job, one that makes good money, and one that is gone from home half the time. He did have a really good job, and he did make good money. I can’t argue that fact, but at what cost? He was gone anywhere from 21 to 32 days at a time only to return home for 21-26 days. The days at home flew by. The days he was gone seemed to last an eternity. He missed holidays, birthdays, and many celebrations. Life of an oilfield man is not the good life most think it to be.

Jeff worked hard for his company. He worked long hours, 21 to 28 twelve hour shifts in a row, but he never complained. He has always been such a hard working man. He didn’t mind the work, but we both hated for him to be away from home. I always knew that there was danger on the rig, but it wasn’t until one dreadful morning that the reality of the danger touched my very core. About eight years ago, at 6:00 am on a Wednesday morning, I received a text message from my dear husband that read, “Well blowing. Choppers on their way. Evacuating.” My heart sunk. I tried messaging him back. There was no response. I immediately sent messages and made phone calls to my dearest friends and prayer warriors and begged for prayers. I prayed. I cried. I fretted. And I waited…and waited…and waited. I didn’t hear back from him for almost three LONG hours. He told me that the problem was temporarily under control. They had evacuated 24 non-essentials, but my husband was not considered non-essential. He is definitely very essential to me! They continued to work on the problem for almost twelve hours, and I finally received word that the the problems was fixed and that the entire crew was safe.

That was a very long, very tiring, extremely emotional day, yet through it all, I was reminded once again of our gracious Lord’s love and protection. I was reminded how important life was, also how fragile it can be. During the long hours of waiting, my thoughts were consumed with memories of previous oil rig explosions, fires, and tragedies. I was reminded of just how deeply I loved my husband. Through it all, I prayed for protection…protection for my husband and the entire crew. But I wasn’t the only one praying. I had a whole army of prayer warriors praying with me, and my God, my sweet, gracious loving God, saw fit to answer those prayers of protection that day. Not one single crewman was injured.

I think back to this day now, and I praise God for answering those prayers of protection. He is so faithful to hear the prayers of an insignificant being like me. There have been so many times in my life that God has shielded and protected me from harm when I didn’t even know that He did it. He has slowed me down on a morning drive and prevented me from being involved in an accident. He has redirected my path over and over again. He has gently whispered in my ear. The Lord doesn’t merely love us, y’all, He also protects us! Psalm 34:19 tells us, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” Therefore, if we are right with the Father, if we have accepted Christ as the ruler of our hearts, and we are truly living for Him. we can rest assured that though we will have trouble, the Lord will come to our rescue every time. His means of rescue may not quite look the way we pictured it each time, but He will rescue us for our own good and His glory! If you are struggling today and in need of rescue, call on the Giver of life. Come on, what are you waiting for? He’s waiting for your call right this very moment! Let Him rescue you too!

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T COMPARTMENTALIZE CHRIST

Romans 12:1-2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Yesterday, we had a guest pastor at our morning worship service. Bro. Lonnie O’quin brought the message from Romans 12:1-2. Bro. Lonnie is well known in our town. He is a retired pastor who shepherded the flock at a local church for almost forty years. Though retired, Bro. Lonnie is still a great man of God, and he is still on fire for the gospel. He spoke about the problem with many Christians choosing to compartmentalize Christ. It is a hard pill to swallow at first, but I have to admit that I have been guilty of this myself in the past. To compartmentalize means to divide into sections. Many are guilty of doing this in their faith walk. We put our Christianity in a nice, tidy little compartment, and we store it away and only pull it out once a week or when it is really needed. Unfortunately, the drawer pulls on that compartment are sometimes shinier than all of the other compartments of our lives. Peeps, that isn’t how God intended us to live.

This is a mindset of primarily a Sunday morning worshipper. Many times, Christians feel that they must go to church on Sunday. It could be due to a feeling of obligation, or hopefully, it is the calling of the Holy Spirit, but sometimes after that Sunday morning worship is over, it becomes business as usual. We think we need to act or live a certain way on Sunday because, well, Sunday is God’s day, right? So we give Him that day. He is safely tucked away in that compartment, and we pull Him out on Sundays. We serve Him for one day of the week. Then comes Monday. On Monday, we get back into the routine of serving ourselves. We work long hours. We take care of business. We do what needs to be done, but we forget to include the Lord. We forget to talk to Him and read his Word everyday. We forget to share the pits and the praises of the day with our heavenly Father. We live the way we want to live. We do what we want to do. We do all of this without a thought of our salvation. But then comes Sunday, and we give that day to the Lord again, because, well, Sunday is God’s day. We open that compartment up, but we only open it for the day.

I’m not pointing fingers at anyone. If I did, I would have four fingers pointing right back at me. I too have been guilty of compartmentalizing my Christianity in the past. The problem with this is that Jesus didn’t call us to be Christians part of the time. No, my friends, He called us to follow Him ALL the time. We can’t fill up our tanks with the Word of God on Sunday mornings and expect that tank to stay full all week. Our tanks will run on empty within just a day or two. Scripture tells us that followers of Christ will be recognized by our love for the Lord, our love for others, and the fruit that we are bearing. If we spend six out of seven days ignoring the Lord, I can guarantee you that we won’t be producing any fruits of the Spirit. And we sure won’t be showing love to or for the Lord in doing so.

Paul shares with us in the book of Romans that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord…the kind that He will find acceptable. I’m pretty sure playing church on Sunday and living outside of His will the rest of the week is not what He would find acceptable. We can’t live like the rest of the world lives. We can’t follow the current cultural trends. We must stay true to our Savior. We must stay true to the Word of God. The only way that we can do this is to stay in the Word of God. We must have a true around the clock, real life, heart to heart relationship with the Savior. He’s not a genie in a bottle that we can call out when we need Him. Our Lord wants to be part of our daily lives. He loves us completely. He loves the good, the bad, and the ugly. He took our sins on that day on that cross. He loves us so very much. He does not belong in a compartment!

This week I challenge you to live out loud for Christ. Don’t store Him away in a compartment until next Sunday. Keep His Word close. Meditate scripture. Pray. Talk to our Lord daily, maybe even hourly. Live out loud for Christ! You won’t regret it for a moment.

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Give me a word, Lord: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH JESUS?

Matthew 27:22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

Although this Easter has come and gone, I can not help but continue to dwell on thoughts of my Savior and that life changing event that changed everything for all of us. I can not help but remember the scripture, consider the events, and recognize the awful tragedy that turned out to be the most magnificent, life changing event of all time. Our Savior was betrayed. He was beaten. He was crucified. Life left His human body, but we can not forget that our Savior was one of a kind. He was fully human, yes, but He was also fully God. Death and burial could not keep Him. He arose on the third day just as it had been prophesied.

This morning, let us ponder the words of Pilate. Pilate was in charge of keeping peace, and He searched Jesus and reviewed the claims against Him, but Pilate could not find cause to crucify Him. However, the religious leaders of the day wanted to have Jesus crucified for their claim of blasphemy. Still, Pilate found Jesus guilty of no crime. He wanted to wash his hands of this situation, and he asked a question that we should still be asking today. Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” What should we do with Jesus who is called the Messiah? Well, the people responded to Pilate that Jesus should be crucified. They shouted it. They chanted it. They called for the release of Barabbas. They wanted Jesus to take the place of this criminal. They chose to crucify our Savior.

When asked what to do with Jesus, the crowd crucified Him. They thought that the story would end in His death. Oh how wrong they were! The centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus, the ripping of the temple curtain from top to bottom, the darkness over the whole earth, the earthquake, the splitting of rocks, and tombs opening with saints rising and walking again, recognized the glory of Jesus and who He was. He declared, “This man truly was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54 The women who came to the tomb to prepare the body with spices were shocked to learn that the Messiah had risen, but they believed. Over 500 people saw Jesus after the resurrection before He ascended to heaven, and when He ascended, He did not leave us alone. He left a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who is with us wherever we go.

Jesus took the place of Barabbas on that cross, but it wasn’t merely Barabbas that He took the place of. No, my friends, Jesus didn’t take the place of Barabbas on that cross. He assumed that place for you and for me. He suffered and died on that cross so that you and I could be redeemed. He took on our sins that day. A sinless Christ took on the sins of each of us so that we may be made right with the Father…so that we may have eternal life in our heavenly home.

So I ask you today, “What are you going to do with Jesus?” Are you going to think of Him as a religious leader who died long ago? Are you going to consider Him a main character in the oldest, most read book of all time? Or are you going to recognize that Jesus is who He said He is…realize that He is the Son of God? Will you understand that He came to earth as man to feel our emotions, feel our pain, and show us what unconditional love truly is? Do you know that He truly is the Messiah, our Salvation, Immanuel, God with us? His death on the cross was not the end of the story. It was only the beginning. Accepting Him as your Savior is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, it is the beginning of new life. So what do we do with Him now? We live our life for Him. We stay in His Word. We worship Him. We sing His praises. We commune with Him. We can go to Him anytime day or night. He is always there, ready, willing, and able to take you call. We can get dressed and go to church this morning to hear His word and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We share Him with this lost and dying world. There is so much that we can do with this Jesus. The reality is that everything we do should be done with Jesus in mind. Ponder this question today, and I assure you that it will help bring you closer to this Jesus!

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Give me a word, Lord: IF THE GOOD LORD’S WILLING AND THE CREEK DON’T RISE

James 4:13-16 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

There is an old saying around our neck of the woods: “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.” We say this when we have made plans with intention of carrying those plans out. For example, I am going out of town tomorrow with a friend if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m going to start a new job tomorrow if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise. Or perhaps, I’m going to start a new diet and exercise plan tomorrow if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise. You get the picture. I know that this isn’t correct grammar, and I am a grammar Nazi, but still it as an old familiar saying, and I have said these very words many times myself.

Last night our creek rose. We live on eighty acres, and a little creek called Whitesand Creek runs through our property. Our back deck overlooks the creek. Most of the time, it is shallow enough to actually walk across. Oh, you would get wet if you did, but you wouldn’t drown. The water flows gently by with a comforting sound that I have enjoyed so much through the years. However, if it rains a lot and the rain comes down fast, the creek swells. Our house is up high, and praise God, our home has never flooded. It would take a monsoon for the water to reach our home, but our driveway, well that is another story. Our driveway is about a half a mile long, and there are two different culverts along the drive in which natural branches of water from the creek flow through. When we get a lot of rain in a short period of time, the driveway floods. This morning, we are flooded in. The creek has risen. The driveway is flooded. My husband ventured out to check the water company that he operates only to call me back and tell me not to leave the house. He said the water nearly came over his hood of his truck as he drove down the driveway. Yes, the creek has risen, and I’m going to stay put for a while. I actually don’t mind that one bit! I am off today for the first day this week, and I’m going to enjoy the little bit of time while the creek has risen!

I didn’t really have anything away from the home planned today so I’m actually okay with my current situation. Yet I started thinking about that old familiar saying: if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, and I started thinking “if the good Lord is willing it doesn’t matter if the creek rises or not.” We are in the habit of making plans. I don’t know about you, but I am a planner. I am a researcher. I like to know all of the details of the events that I am going to attend. I begin researching and planning out a family vacation months in advance. I like to have a plan. My husband on the other hand is a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy. I plan, and he just goes with it. Planning gives me comfort. However, I’ve learned over and over again that it doesn’t matter how well I plan things out, if it isn’t God’s plan, it isn’t going to happen, and if it is God’s plan, it WILL happen. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the level of the creek or the amount of detail in the planning. If it is God’s will, you can’t stop it, and if it isn’t God’s will, you can’t make it happen.

I don’t think that making plans is a bad thing. Plans are actually good, but rather than saying if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, perhaps we should only say if the good Lord’s willing because if it is His will, it shall be. James explains this clearly. We can make all of the plans that we want, but those plans must include the Lord. We must pray for His will in our lives, and then the plans that we make will be within His will. Let His plans become our plans. Let us make plans according to the will of our Father. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. James 4:16

Don’t worry about the creek rising up to foil your plans, but rather invite the Lord into your planning process and let Him lead you.

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Give me a word, Lord: EVERYDAY IS SPRING

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Colossians 3:10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE SPRING! Spring has to be my absolute favorite time of the year. It is the newness of life that I love most about spring. After suffering through cold, gray winter days, new life begins to appear. The trees blossom out with bright new green leaves. The grass slowly changes from brown to green. The birds start singing before daybreak, and they continue to sing their songs of praise all day long. Yesterday, I worked the morning hours in the clinic, but came home and truly enjoyed an afternoon off with my sweet husband. He took me to lunch, and then he treated me to a well past due pedicure. Afterwards, we rode over to feed the calves on the side by side. The grassy fields are beautifully green, and the grass is so thick. We do indeed have some very happy cows here at Hodge Lodge. After feeding and checking in on the cattle, we came back home, made coffee, and went out the the back deck to relax. I laid in the hammock and looked around and just soaked in the beauty all around me. Everything is so pretty right now. The temperature was perfect in the high 70s. The creek below the deck was trickling gently, and the birds were singing their little hearts out. I’ve been to some beautiful places in my life, and I’ve seen some beautiful country, but nothing on this side of heaven feels as good as my own personal little vacation spot on the back deck of our home. All of the worries of the world are gently washed away with the trickling flow of our little Whitesand Creek.

Yes, my friends, spring is the best season for me. It’s not too cold, and it hasn’t gotten too hot just yet. I almost wish it could stay this temperature all year long. I do wish we could enjoy spring all year, but as I think about that wish, I realize that we actually can. With God, every single day we walk on this earth, we can enjoy spring. We can enjoy the newness of life with our Savior. The old gray worries of yesterday can be washed away by the love and grace of our Father. It’s true, y’all. Every day we can enjoy spring when we begin to celebrate our salvation on a daily basis. We should be singing His praises louder than those birds. We should wake up each morning and rejoice in the new day recognizing that our sovereign Lord has given us one more day in this old body to share the Good News. Every day we wake up and are given the opportunity to celebrate the newness of life of one more day. We must not dread the tasks of the day, but rather enjoy the new opportunities that our Lord will present us with each day.

Winter will come again, but we must not dread the cold, gray days. When we have a relationship with the Creator, we can celebrate spring every single day! Do you know the Creator and giver of life? If you don’t, let today be the day that you get to know Him personally. Join in the celebration! Spring is here, and with Christ, every day is spring!

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Give me a word, Lord: STORMS OF LIFE

Hebrews 6:18-19 God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Early this morning around 2:30 am, a storm blew in. It was not a mere rain shower. No, it was a real gully washer, thunder booming storm. I lay quietly in bed listening to the clashes of thunder and watching the lightning as it lit up the sky. It felt like the whole house was shaking with each boom of thunder. I was waiting for my big Bouvier des Flandres dogs, Sophie and Bear, to jump into bed with me because although they are big brave dogs, they are scared of thunder. They refrained from jumping in the bed, but stayed closely nestled on the floor next to the bed. My sweet husband was lying beside me sleeping quietly through the entire storm. It lasted for at least thirty minutes. God was displaying His power in vibrant strikes of lightning, sheets of heavy rain, and raging winds.

As I lay there listening to the storm around me, I thought about the storms that we have endured over the past year. I’m not talking about the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning storms. No, I am referring to the different storms of life that we have endured since the beginning of 2020. COVID-19 came in like a lion, and we thought it would quickly leave like a lamb. To our great dismay, COVID-19 decided to linger a while longer. We had a presidential election debacle and concern of election fraud. Many have been ill with this crazy virus, and friends and family members have succumbed to it. Jobs have been lost. Businesses have been closed. We are still wearing masks in public. Everything within my medical practice has changed. It has been a stormy year indeed. I venture to say that this has been the most difficult year I’ve practiced in all of my many years as a family nurse practitioner. But even though it has been a most trying year, and I occasionally get overwhelmed, I can still lie down and close my eyes at night and sleep just as peacefully as my husband did last night while that storm was raging. Why? Because I know who controls the storms. Whether it be a vicious thunderstorm or a battle with an unseen virus, my God is in control, and because I know that He is in control, I can rest easy.

God is our anchor in the storm. He is our hope. He is our shield. He is our protection. I know you are probably going through some kind of storm right now too. Storms come and go, but no matter how loud the thunder booms or how strong the wind blows, we have an anchor that will keep us grounded throughout it all. We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. Grab hold to the hope that is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. The storms may rage, but we don’t have to face them alone. Place your hope in the Anchor!

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Give me a word, Lord: GOD KNOWS

2 Corinthians 2:17-18 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Four days ago was the 17 year anniversary of my mother’s death. I don’t celebrate that with sadness. I know she is in heaven, and I rejoice in that. But I do miss her for sure! This time of year always make me reflect a little more on life and death. I’m not sure why my mama had to leave at such a young age of 59, but God does. People tell me frequently that I’m one of the toughest people they know. No matter how tough I am or how strong I get, I’ll never be tough enough! Farming is the hardest job I’ll ever have! I’m up at 5:00 am and to bed by 10:00 most days while working around here and at the clinic in between, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A few years ago in April, we were rejoicing in new life as Merida, my sweet Scottish Highland cow, gave birth to our first long awaited little Scottish Highland calf. I had been talking to that mama for months, rubbing her belly, and I was all up in the middle of her Koolaid when that baby was being born. She delivered a beautiful deep auburn colored heifer calf, one of the prettiest calves I had ever seen. It truly could not have been a prettier baby. The next morning, I awoke with great anticipation. I couldn’t wait to get out to the field to check on her and get acquainted. But to my great dismay, when I arrived at her side, I found a very sick calf. Her breathing was raspy. She had fluid in her lungs. She had apparently aspirated during the delivery, and she didn’t make it. I was heart broken to say the least. I don’t know why I had to lose that beautiful little calf that I had been anxiously awaiting for over nine months, but God does. God also knew I needed a twenty minute drive to work so that I could cry some cleansing tears all the way to work that day, and then He must’ve thought I needed to keep my mind busy too because he sent nearly sixty patients for me to see that day. Yes, my God takes care of every detail.

I hear of accidents occurring daily. I hear of many who are sick, loved ones who have passed away, suicides, tragedies, and I still can’t help but wonder why? Although I wonder, I find that the answer is always the same. I don’t know why, but God does. His plans are bigger than our plans, and His ways are greater than our ways. When things don’t seem to go our way, we need not fear and fret. It is in those times that our loving Father wants us to cling to Him even more tightly. Don’t you just love those God hugs? Whenever I lose a critter here on the farm or when I have had an especially tough day at the clinic, I can’t wait to see my husband. I fall into him, and he wraps those big strong arms around me and gives me a great big hug. All the worries of the day just melt away. God hugs are just like that. We may not physically feel those arms around us, but when we take our troubles to the foot of the cross, He wraps us up with all of His strength, grace, and mercy, and our hearts and minds feel an overwhelming sense of peace. All the worries of the day just melt away. That is a God hug, y’all!

We may never understand the why…why we lose the ones we love, why we suffer, or why life doesn’t go as planned, but God does. We do not have to be strong enough to handle all of the troubles that come our way. We must only be strong enough to place our trust in Him. It only takes a little faith. Scripture tells us that we only need faith the size of a mustard seed, and that’s a good thing, because mustard seed sized faith is sometimes all I have, but that little seed of faith grows bigger and stronger with every single day spent with my Savior. We must remember our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. Fix your eyes not on your troubles but rather on the Savior today!

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Give me a word, Lord: SUNDAY IS COMING

Matthew 28:6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 

Mark 16:6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.

Romans 6:5-6 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 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.

I know that Easter Sunday has come and gone for this year, but we should never stop celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. This past Sunday, we went to early morning sunrise service. We gathered outside of the church in a vacant field which is the planned area where our new church addition will be built. It was cold…so cold! The temperature was in the forties, but that is nothing unusual for Easter Sunday here. The older people call it the Easter snap. We usually get one last little burst of cold air just before spring really gets sprung into action. We sat out there shivering, but we were gently warmed up by singing praise songs about our resurrected Savior. The sun began peaking through the pine trees in front of us, and our pastor shared the focus scripture of Matthew 28:6. We enjoyed a hot breakfast in the fellowship with our faith family, and then rushed home to prepare lunch. After completing our preparations for lunch, we loaded back into the car to return for morning worship. By that time, the sun was up, and the warmth of the sun could be felt. It wasn’t cold anymore. It was warm. The Son had risen.

I told my husband on the way to church that the temperature change reminded me of how those women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, must have felt on that glorious resurrection day. They went down to the tomb of their dead and buried Messiah to prepare His body with spices. Their Savior had died. He was gone, but they loved Him greatly and wanted to prepare and preserve the body with the typical burial spices and perfumes of the day. It must have felt very cold to them that morning. I bet they even shivered at the thought of their great loss. Their Savior had died, and with Him, perhaps their faith. For the first time since they met and fell in love with Jesus, I imagine that the felt that all hope was lost. Yes, I bet they were cold. I think that their hearts were cold. Their faith was cold. Jesus was dead. But God! Oh, but God! The women made it to the tomb to do their duties of caring for the dead body only to discover that their Savior was no longer there. He had risen from the grave! That cold, dead feeling was no more. Their faith had been restored. Their hope was resurrected. That morning that started out so cold was now full of life because the Son had risen!

One thing that I must point out is that we too have that same opportunity to grasp the love of Christ, hold on to that hope, and keep the faith. Jesus died on that cross for each and every one of us. He could have stepped right down. He could have said no. He could have done a lot of things, but He didn’t. That one extraordinary simple act changed everything! He suffered death on the cross because He knew that His death would bring life to you and to me. Our sins died with Him that day. He was the final sacrificial lamb, and His gracious, loving act of obedience even to death gives each and every one of us unfathomable hope for the future. We are all dead in sin, but we do not have to stay there. We too can be resurrected. We only have to invite the Savior into our hearts, acknowledge that He is Lord, believe that He died for our sins, and confess that He is our salvation.

One fine day, Jesus will return to gather us all home! What a glorious day that will be. Friday wasn’t good. It was a devastating day of death, but just as our Lord promised, He would rise again on Sunday! He did! He is alive! Don’t lose faith and hope, my friends. Hang on! Sunday is coming! The Son is coming again!

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Give me a word, Lord: PATCHWORK QUILT

Psalm 139:13-16 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

1 John 3:2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.

This past Friday, my aunt asked us to come to her home, the home of my late grandparents, to go through some of my grandmother’s things. She had a variety of personal belongings that had belonged to my grandmother, and she wanted to share these things with her grandchildren. There was nothing of great monetary value, but oh what priceless items she shared! She gave each of us an old quilt that had been hand sewn by my grandmother. These quilts were not show quilts that one would hang on the wall. No, these quilts were hand sewn together with great love and hard work by my daddy’s mother many years ago. As a matter of fact, they hadn’t only been sewn by my grandmother, they had also been well used over the years. The quilt I received is a beautiful patchwork of colorful fabric woven together so that each piece fits perfectly together to form a quilt. One of the edges is worn and raveling, but I still think it is a work of art because I know that it was created by the hands of my loving grandmother. And though the edges are unraveling, parts of the quilt are completely intact and secure: the quilting stitches. They may be the smallest stitches in the whole quilt, but they are also the strongest, and those simple hand sewn quilting stitches keep the quilt from falling apart.

I hung the quilt over my balcony railing. Though tattered and worn, it represents much more to me than an old bed covering. When I look at that quilt, I see a resemblance to each of our lives. We are like that old patchwork quilt. Our loving Father has crafted us. Yes, He knit us together in our mother’s womb, and He didn’t forget one single, perfect stitch. Just as every quilt that my grandmother made was unique, our Father created us uniquely different. He provided each of us with the perfect shade of color, and He gave each of us a distinct beauty of our own. There is not another quilt exactly like the one my grandma made in this whole world, and there is not another person exactly like you or exactly like me either. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made by our Father.

But that’s not all of the story. Our Father made us wonderfully, but He isn’t finished with us yet. He designed each and every one of us with a special plan in mind. My grandmother had to take a multitude of fabric pieces and place them together, fit the side by side, lay out a design, and carefully stitch the pieces in place to form the beauty of a quilt. Our Lord and Savior created each one of us with a very personal and specific plan for our lives. He gave each of us special talents and abilities to carry out that specific plan. Our Father adds and removes people from our lives that help shape us into the person that He desires for us to be. He may completely rearrange our lives when necessary to shape us for His use and His glory. However, through all of the changes, the shaping, and possibly a nip here or a tuck there, our Father gently puts all of the pieces together to form a beautiful patchwork quilt tapestry of life that glorifies Him.

Yes, my friends, we are all like an old patchwork quilt. We may feel tattered and worn from time to time, but we have to remember that we are gently sewn together by the Master. He gently sews each quilting stitch in place. He holds us together in the palm of His hands, and though we may feel like we are going to fall apart, we only need remember that the Master formed us fearfully and wonderfully, and He will hold us together just like those hand sewn quilting stitches. If you are feeling like all of the pieces of your life are falling apart, go to the Master quilter. He will gently but surely put all the pieces back together again for your good and His glory.

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Give me a word, Lord: THE TOMB IS EMPTY

Matthew 28:1-10 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.  Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are lookig for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”

Happy Easter, Peeps! Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Good Friday was a terrible day for our Savior when He hung on that cross. He was tortured and crucified for our sins. He could have stopped the men from crucifying Him. He could have stopped them with a look or even one word, but He didn’t. He could have avoided the beatings, the crown of thorns, the piercings, and oh, the suffering. He could have stopped them dead in their tracks. But He didn’t! He didn’t stop them. It was prophesied long before that dreadful day that Jesus would be the propitiation for our sins. It was foretold that this Messiah would be the Holy Lamb of God. Yes, our Lord and Savior went through pure agony, extreme suffering, awful pain, and even death. He did this for you, and He did this for me. I tear up when I think of the anguish that my Savior endured so that all of my sins could be forgiven. I hang my head in shame when I think about all of the many times I have failed Him. This Savior died on that old rugged cross for my sins. The shear thought of such an act of immeasurable love shakes me to my core.

But we must remember that the tomb is empty. Death could not hold Him. The stone was rolled away. The linen cloth was folded. His body was not there. Just as it was prophesied, Christ arose on that third day. The angel shared this fact at the empty tomb, but we don’t have only the word of the angel. Over 500 people saw the risen Savior after that faithful day. Can you imagine the surprise of the women who went to prepare the body with perfumes and oils? Can you imagine the shock? They believed that He was the Messiah, but their faith had possibly died with their Savior. They thought that He was gone forever, and they wanted to prepare His body for eternity in that tomb. But He was not there. Just imagine how they must have felt! The resurrection of Jesus changed the course of history forever.

That empty tomb is something that we can hold onto. The empty tomb declares that our lives are not merely on a one way trip to the cemetery. No, the resurrection of our Savior and that empty tomb declare that there is hope. We don’t have to fear death. We don’t have to fear the tomb. No, my friends, if we are in Christ, death on earth is just the beginning. We too will be resurrected to live in eternity with our Father. I can only imagine how wonderful that day will be. I pray that you know without a shadow of a doubt that you too will be spending eternity with our Savior. If you do not know this, today is the absolute best day to invite Jesus into your heart! It is resurrection day. Let your dead heart be resurrected today. He will make you new!

The tomb is empty! Let us celebrate the risen Savior!

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Give me a word, Lord: RAISED UP

John 12:1-2 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.

Last week in our ladies’ Bible study, we look at John chapter 11, but rather than focusing our attention on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, we paid particular attention to the four day waiting period that occurred from the time of Lazarus’ death until the time that Jesus arrived at Bethany. We also considered the response of both Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus and the weight of the wait. The wait for Jesus must have been almost too much for the sisters. They knew Jesus. He was a personal friend to them, and they knew in their hearts that if He had been there, Lazarus would not have died. They even sent word to Jesus regarding Lazarus’ illness, but Jesus tarried. He delayed His return to Bethany on purpose so that the glory of God would be made known. There was a belief of some during that time period that up to three days after death, there was some mystical way that breath could be restored to a dead person. Jesus didn’t return on day one, two, or three. No, He showed up on day four. It was too late for Lazarus in the eyes of those in Bethany, but it wasn’t too late for Jesus. Perhaps everyone had given up hope. The sisters who had faith that Jesus was the Messiah had even lost faith. Their hope was dead. But Jesus…Jesus arrived right on time raised up Lazarus from the dead, and at the same time, He raised up both Mary and Martha from a dead place in their hearts. His actions brought their dead faith back to life. Yes, He raised them up too.

When we read chapter 12, we see that Lazarus, the man that was raised up from the dead, is sitting at a table and eating with Jesus. This is a pretty cool thing to consider. Literally, a man who was dead is now dining at the table with the Jesus. That is powerful. This is a reflection of what God still does for His people today. Lazarus was dead, but Jesus raised him from the dead and seated him right beside him at the table. Jesus does the same thing for you and I. Until we come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are dead. We are spiritually as dead as Lazarus was in that tomb, but we don’t have to stay dead. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and invite Him into our hearts, He gives us a newness of life. For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Romans 6:4 Yes, He raises us up, and that is not all. He then seats us in a seat of honor and glory with Him. That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:5-6

Before Christ, we are lifeless. With Christ, we become full of life, but that is not all. He doesn’t just give us life everlasting, He invites us to sit at the table with Him. He invites us in. He invites us into a close fellowship with Him, a loving relationship, and true communion with Christ. If that doesn’t rock your world, you better check your pulse! So many times in this life, we worry and fret because we didn’t receive and invitation to someone else’s table. We may feel we were not good enough. We may think that the other person doesn’t like us. We may feel that we have done something to offend them. None of that matters to God! He knows who we are to the very center of our beings. He knows us. He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and yet He wants to raise us up from the death of sin, and He wants to bring us right to His table. He wants to forgive us of our sins and trespasses, and He wants to wash us whiter than snow. And just like Lazarus, He wants to seat us in a place of honor and glory.

Isn’t Jesus just absolutely, totally amazing, y’all? The love and grace that He has for mankind is absolutely mind boggling. We are such broken people, but He takes the broken and makes us new. He raises us up from spiritual death and revives us. He can take any part of our life that is dead and resuscitate it. If you are feeling a bit lifeless today, call on Jesus. He will raise you up today! He is inviting you to His table. That is an invitation that you really need to accept!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOLY WEEK: CRUCIFIXION FRIDAY

John 19: 28-30 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Today we celebrate Good Friday, a day that was so gloomy and sad, but also a day that lead to redemption and salvation for us all. We continue our reflection on the events that lead up to that glorious resurrection day as we look at Friday’s events. This week, I have been sharing the words of a friend of mine for this Holy Week rather than my own words. The words were written by a friend of mine, Bro. William “Quentin” McCardle. Quentin was not only a friend, he was a pastor and a high school culinary arts teacher. He touched the lives of many during his short time on earth. Bro. Quentin was called to his heavenly home last year. However, he left behind a legacy. Each year during Holy Week, he shared a daily devotional describing the events of that particular day of the week. I have been honoring Bro. Quentin’s memory by sharing his writings in my blog this week. I pray that you have enjoyed these writings. Today I will share the last of Bro. Quentin’s Holy Week devotionals. Let us continue to savor the Word of God each day and realize the great price our Lord paid for our salvation. Please read John chapter 19 as part of your daily Bible readings today, but don’t forget your tissues. There will be tears. The following words are those of Bro Quentin.

I can’t help but wonder how many people truly know the reason we have Good Friday. It’s not about Easter Bunnies or garden planting nor is it “just another day.” Today is the commemoration of an event that changed the course of human history. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” the plan of salvation had been completed. Jesus accomplished what millions of gallons of animal blood couldn’t do! As the Lamb of God shed His blood the veil that stood between the priest and God was opened. We no longer need priests to cover our sins, Jesus is the High Priest and He makes intercession for us! Blessed be the Lamb of Glory. He paid a debt He didn’t owe because I owed a debt I couldn’t pay!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOLY WEEK: MAUNDY THURSDAY

John 13:1-5 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

We continue our reflection on the events that lead up to that glorious resurrection day as we look at Thursday’s events. This week, I have sharing the words of a friend of mine for this Holy Week rather than my own words. The words were written by a friend of mine, Bro. William “Quentin” McCardle. Quentin was not only a friend, he was a pastor and a high school culinary arts teacher. He touched the lives of many during his short time on earth, and left this earth at a young age. However, he left behind a legacy. Each year during Holy Week, he shared a daily devotional describing the events of that particular day of the week. I am continuing to honor Bro. Quentin by sharing his writings in my blog this week. Let us take this week to really savor the Word of God and realize the great price our Lord paid for our salvation. Please read John chapter 13 verses 1 through 20 as part of your daily Bible readings today. The following words were written by Bro. Quentin.

Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples. After the meal, he took a towel and began to wash the disciples feet. Can you imagine? The Lord of Glory seen fit to wash another’s feet? This was a job reserved for a mere servant not God incarnate. Yet Jesus told them He came to serve and serve He did! You see, through foot washing we are taught the importance of servant-leadership. So often we are guilty of mere lip service but when people see your humility and unselfish works, they can see Christ in you! The act of foot washing also reminds us that even though my faith is in Christ and He has cleansed me from all unrighteousness, the sins I commit daily hinder my relationship with Him until they too are repented of. Serve Christ today by serving others. John 13:1-20. By the way, Maundy is a Latin term for foot washing!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOLY WEEK: WEDNESDAY

John 12:4-8 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

We continue our reflection on the events that lead up to that glorious resurrection day as we look at Wednesday’s events. This week, I have sharing the words of a friend of mine for this Holy Week rather than my own words. The words were written by a friend of mine, Bro. William “Quentin” McCardle. Quentin was not only a friend, he was a pastor and a high school culinary arts teacher. He touched the lives of many during his short time on earth. I am honoring Bro. Quentin by sharing his writings in my blog this week. Let us take this week to really savor the Word of God and realize the great price our Lord paid for our salvation. Please read John chapter 11 and 12 as part of your daily Bible readings today. The following words were written by Bro. Quentin.

Today is Spy Wednesday and the belief is that today marks the day when Jesus was anointed in Bethany. The disciples wanted Jesus to rebuke the one who anointed Him believing the ointment could have been sold and added to the treasury. Judas desired to keep the money and after this event he decided to spy on Christ for the Sanhedrin. We are often too quick to pass judgement on Judas for betraying Christ for 30 pieces of silver, but how many times do we also betray our Lord by living for our own selfish desires? Isn’t He worth more to you than things of the world? He should be……..God help us to totally yield to Him.

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Give me a word, Lord: HOLY WEEK: TUESDAY

Matthew 24:3-8 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

Yesterday, I began sharing the words of a friend of mine for this Holy Week rather than my own words. The words were written by a friend of mine, Bro. William “Quentin” McCardle. Quentin was not only a friend, he was a pastor and a high school culinary arts teacher. He touched the lives of many during his short time on earth. I am sharing his Holy Week devotionals this week as a reminder for us to reflect on the days that lead up to the crucifixion and resurrection, but I am also sharing these words to honor the memory of a wonderful man of God. Let us continue to savor the Word of God and realize the great price our Lord paid for our salvation as we study His Word this week. Please read Matthew chapter 24 as part of your daily Bible readings today. The following words were written by Bro. Quentin.

Today is known to many as Holy Tuesday. Traditionally this is the day Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and his return. Hatred and animosity would be the trademark of society, many would claim to be the messiah, nations would war with others, famines and natural disasters would become commonplace; all this would lead up to his return. The Olivet message was taught to give the disciples of Jesus hope for tomorrow. They would soon see the hatred of the world turn toward Jesus, not long after, they would face much of the same persecutions. All of the disciples, with the exception of John, were martyred for their belief in Jesus. But the Olivet sermon still gave the disciples hope and filled their hearts with joy because Jesus would come again and establish His kingdom! No matter how rough the world is, it’s all part of a bigger picture and purpose, but we have no need to fear! Those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ will rejoice at His return. Christians are admonished to keep watching, keep waiting and keep working! Today is a good day to be thinking of His return. Are you ready to meet Him? (Read Matthew 24)

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Give me a word, Lord: HOLY WEEK: MONDAY

Mark 11:12-25 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

As we all know, this is the week that leads up to Resurrection Sunday, also known as Easter. This is the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. I think that this is a great time for reflection on the events that lead up to that glorious resurrection day, and I would like to do something a bit different this week. I am going to share the words of a friend of mine rather than my own words. The words that you will read over the next five days were written by my friend, Bro. William “Quentin” McCardle. Quentin was not only a friend, he was a pastor and a high school culinary arts teacher. He touched the lives of many during his short time on earth. He invited me to speak at his church once, and his flock welcomed me with open arms. He also spoke at one of our ladies’ ministry meetings at our church and taught us to prepare some hot and spicy jambalaya. He told us that he planned to have a cookbook printed one day, and he like the title “Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits.” That dream never came to fruition as Bro. Quentin was called to his heavenly home last year. Bro. Quentin was a man who loved God, loved his family, loved his church, loved his students, and loved to cook. However, he left us at a young age, but he behind a legacy. Each year during Holy Week, he shared a daily devotional describing the events of that particular day of the week. I would like to honor Bro. Quentin by sharing his writings in my blog this week. The following words are his, not mine. Let us take this week to really savor the Word of God and realize the great price our Lord paid for our salvation. Read Mark chapter 11 as part of your daily scripture reading today.

During Holy Week I want to share the significance of each day. Leading up to the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. Monday was the day Jesus headed to the Temple and was angered by the thievery taking place there. However, on His way he noticed a fig tree full of leaves. Being hungry, he approached the tree hoping to eat of it’s fruit, but the tree was barren. He then cursed the tree and by the next day, it had withered and died. When asked to explain, He likened the fig tree to Israel. They had the Word of the Law and Prophets but yet failed to realize Jesus is the Messiah. They had a form of godliness, but instead of trusting Jesus, they placed their faith in their religious obligations, thus making them useless in Kingdom work. Don’t be guilty of trusting in your religion. Religion teaches you how to try and work your way into the Kingdom, but only faith and trust in the Messiah will take you there. Don’t be like the barren fig tree, you may look like a healthy Christian, but if you aren’t producing fruit, you are worthless to the Lords work. Stay tuned for Tuesday’s significance as we follow Christ during the last week of His earthly ministry.

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Give me a word, Lord: WHO AM I?

John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

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!

I venture to say that we all know who Christ is. He is Lord, Master, Teacher, Son of God, Lamb of God, the Great I Am, Yahweh, king of Kings, Immanuel, the Alpha and Omega, the Light of the world, the Resurrection and the Life, and the list goes on and on. If we are His children, we know who He is. We know how wonderful and marvelous our Master and Savior truly is. But what is our identity? Who are we? That is the thought I am pondering on this beautiful bluebird morning. Who am I in Christ?

When we accept Christ into our hearts, and truly allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, we are changed. We become a new person in Christ, and that old person is no more. Scripture gives us many examples of who we are in Christ. Let us review a few of these from scripture to remind us of who we are. We are holy and without blame, and chosen to be His even before the beginning of the world. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. (Ephesians 1:4) We are friends of Christ. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. (John 15:15) We are adopted as His children. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5) We have been justified. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1) We have been given direct access to the Father. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. (Ephesians 2:18) We are citizens of heaven. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (Philippians 3:20) We are victorious. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57) And this list goes on and on.

When we look in the mirror do we see this person whom we are in Christ? Do we see a person who is holy and without blame? Do we see a friend of Christ? Do we see ourselves as heirs to the throne, adopted children of God? Do we realize that we have been justified? Do we realize that we have direct access to God because of Christ…and do we take advantage of that direct line regularly? Do we call on our Father in our time of need? Do we go to Him and sing praises and thank Him for our many blessings? Do we truly realize that we are citizens of heaven? And do we recognize that we are victorious through Christ? Do we see that we are wonderful creations made by a loving Father? We were knitted together in our mother’s womb. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. We are so wonderfully and unconditionally loved by our Father. We are His and He is ours.

I fear that when we look in the mirror we don’t see that person. We see someone who needs a little bit of reprimanding. We see a person who has messed up too many times to count. We see a person who is struggling to get through the day. We see a person who is tired and weary, and one who isn’t sure how to make it through even one more day. Well, my friend, I challenge you to go look in your mirror right now and see the person that you truly are! You are a child of God, loved by the king of Kings. You are an heir to the throne of God, and you have been adopted into His family. You have been made worthy by the blood of Christ. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And you are so LOVED by our God. Can you see it now? Your identity is in Christ. It is not in the world. See yourself as Christ sees you! You were made in His image. You are His, and He is yours!

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Give me a word, Lord: I’M NOT LUCKY

Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Ruth 2:12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.

I have been told that I am a very lucky person to have such an awesome career, home, and life. I beg to differ. I am not a lucky person. I don’t win things. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I won’t be winning any grand prizes. I know people who appear to be very lucky. There are people who seem to win every contest they enter. Some people who just seem to have the Midas touch in which everything they touch turns to gold. Not this old girl, though! No I don’t think luck has anything to do with my current situation. I am the person that I am today and have the things I have because of the innumerable blessings of my Father. Yes, it is blessings from God and hard work on my part that has made me into the woman I am today.

People tend to look on the outside. They see the outer package. They see the cover of the book, but they do not have any idea how the story goes. The pages of my life have many twists and turns. There are plot twists and surprises all along the way. There has been tragedy, but there has been great joy. I was once a scared young woman who decided to take on the challenge of nursing school. I aced it, but I didn’t do that on my own accord. The good Lord carried me through. Later, that same young girl decided to be an acute care nurse practitioner, but her good God said no. I then applied for the family nurse practitioner program, and was accepted immediately. I aced that program too, but not on my own accord. My good Savior saved me. He carried me through. I married much too young at the age of barely nineteen. That marriage failed because although God was in me, He wasn’t in the marriage. Little did I know, my good God had a plan so much better for my life. He blessed me with four children, the most kind, loving, sweet Christian husband, wonderful in-laws, and the true meaning of family.

I live in a wonderful little home in which our back deck overlooks a little creek that runs through our eighty acre forest. I am surrounded by many of God’s creations…trees, flowers, and critters of many species. I walk hand in hand with a man I truly love. I have a fantastic career, although for the past year, I haven’t really loved what I do as much thanks to good old COVID-19, but still I see the blessings in each and every day at work. I am blessed with the best husband I could ever hope for, great kids, and the best grandson. I have also been blessed with a great daddy, sibling, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends too.

Yes, to anyone who didn’t really know me, they might think that I am one lucky girl. I am here to tell you that LUCK has nothing to do with it, nothing at all to do with it! It is all God, ya’ll. Everything I have, all of the material possession, I have because God blessed me with these things. All that I am, my ability to succeed in school and then in my career, is because God blessed me with those gifts and talents and a good brain. I am nothing without my Savior, and I have realized through the years that if all of the things I have in this life were taken away, if every single thing disappeared, gone in a heartbeat, I would still be okay because I would still have my Savior. And my Savior is all I really need.

I praise His name day in and day out because this girl knows that she isn’t lucky. This girl knows that everything she has comes from above, and I know that my God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. No, I’m not lucky at all, but I am terrifically blessed by a loving, wonderful God!

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Give me a word, Lord: REMINISCING

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Joshua 1:8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Last night, my Aunt Carolyn called me and said that she has been going through my grandmother’s things, and she wanted for all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren to have an opportunity to choose some of the items if we wanted. I thanked her profusely, and I became very excited about looking through some of my grandmother’s things, reminiscing about precious memories shared with her throughout my childhood. I was blessed with two wonderful grandmothers. Both women were extremely hard workers, and neither one was ever rich by the standards of society. Oh, but they were rich in my eyes. The love that was shared by my grandparents to us grandchildren was more precious to me than all of the money in the banks. Those memories are even more precious now. I do not have any living grandparents or great grandparents. They have all been called home to the Lord, but now, God has blessed with with a grandchild. I never knew what a precious gift a grandchild was until I had one of my own. Grandchildren are definitely a true blessing from God.

That phone call from my aunt was very timely because it seems I have been spending a lot of time reminiscing over the past week. I’m not sure if it is because next week is the seventeenth anniversary of my mother’s death, or if it is just because I too am getting older and wiser, and I enjoy times of reflecting on the good old days. Poet Wendell Berry has observed that when we are young, our lives are all time and little memory. As we grow older, we discover that our lives are almost entirely memory and very little time. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Berry! As I’ve grown older it seems that there is very little time in each day and the days are getting shorter every year.

I love sitting down and talking with my daddy and my father-in-law. Those two men are two of the wisest men I know, and they have lived a very good, but perhaps hard life. They have some stories to tell, and I enjoy sitting down with a cup of coffee and just soaking it all in. I love to hear stories of the past. When I was in high school, I absolutely hated history class. It was probably my least favorite subject, but now, I love delving into history, looking back to a time that was much more simple, a time in which people stood firm on the foundational beliefs of God. Yes, my friends, when we sit down with our elders and reminisce about the good old days, we are not just pulling out old memories from storage. No, we are actually recalling years of God’s faithfulness. We hear and see testimony after testimony of God’s goodness and grace that has been poured upon us through the years.

When we read scripture, we also are reflecting on things of the past, and many might say that those things are of no significance to us. I must disagree. Through scripture, we see the faithfulness of our God in every book of the Bible. We see His power and His might, His goodness and His grace, and His abundant love. Those memories actually act to inspire within us hope for tomorrow. I don’t know about you, my friend, but the past year of my life has been a bit overwhelming. I don’t think we should cling to the past. I advocate for a future oriented mindset. We must keep our hearts and minds focused on the prize…eternity in heaven. However, when we are feeling overwhelmed or we feel like things have gotten out of control, it is then that we must cultivate a spiritual memory. We must continue our journey through faith. God brought us through every single situation we have faced in our past, and He will continue to bring us through any difficulty we face today. All we have to do is reminisce on those times He brought us through with such love and grace, and this will remind us that He will continue to carry us through.

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Give me a word, Lord: BELIEVE AND RECEIVE

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (ESV)

I heard a catchy saying on the radio, “Pray and believe, and you will receive. Pray in doubt, and you will do without.” That little phrase caught my attention because it reminded me of a recent Bible study shared in our ladies’ ministry. The reference scripture is from Luke 1:28-38, but the focus verse is verse 38. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Let’s reflect a little bit on this very well known story. The virgin Mary who was highly favored in the eyes of God was given the distinguished honor of birthing the Messiah. What a wonderful privilege this was, but it probably didn’t seem like such a wonderful thing at the time. If we put ourselves in Mary’s sandals, we would realize that a woman who became pregnant before marriage wasn’t just a no-no during these days. No, my friends, it was heresy. It was actually punishable by death. In today’s time, the occurrence is so frequent that no one even seems to bat an eye, but in Mary’s day, this was a crime. The young virgin is engaged to marry Joseph, and all of a sudden, the angel of Lord appears to her and tells her that she has been chosen to be the earthly mom of the Savior of the world! Whoa! That was a huge announcement. There was so much to consider. People would find out she was pregnant before marriage. Her betrothed could have her stoned to death. It could turn out to be a really big mess for Mary. But no…how did Mary respond? “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Let it be to me according to your word! I’ve read this scripture a hundred times, but for the first time last week, I read it in a whole new perspective. I love this verse, and I so want it to be my mantra. Let it be to me according to your word! Mary had a whole lot of faith. This was very apparent in her attitude of acceptance of the Lord’s will over her life. She fully believed in God, and she trusted His plan. She didn’t refuse the task that was expected of her. She didn’t argue. She said let it be to me according to your word. This is where our prayer life should start. We should ask God to let it be to us according to His word.

How many times in life do we respond this way to God? When God places something on our hearts, His desire for us, is our first thought, let it be Lord? Let your will be done in my life Lord. Mary is an excellent example of a humble servant of God. We could learn a lot from that young woman. Mary was willing to be the servant of the most High, and she was given the honor of birthing the Messiah, our Savior, Immanuel, God with us. What an amazing gift God gave Mary!

Mary knew scripture, and she had a strong belief in God. She had strong faith and trust well before the angel of the Lord visited her. I have to wonder how I would have responded in this situation. I know it would not have been handle with such grace. Although, I have learned from Mary’s example, and as I have matured in my faith I have learned to have a strong faith in God, and I trust Him completely with my life. Oh, I still try to manage things on my own every now and then, but it never takes me long to realize that I can not do anything in my own power. I have to keep my trust in God.

Now, back to the catchy phrase that I shared earlier. “Pray and believe, and you will receive. Pray in doubt, and you will do without.” I shared the story of Mary to help make my point. Mary trusted completely in God. She had a relationship with the heavenly Father. She was willing to do what He asked because she trusted Him. We too must have a relationship with the Father. We can’t keep God on a back burner. We can’t think of Him as our genie in a bottle. He doesn’t only want to hear from us when we are in a bind or when we have had a bad day. No, my friends, He wants a relationship. And when we develop a trusting, loving relationship with our Father, when we get to know Him, we gradually realize that we can trust Him with everything. We can trust Him with the good, the bad, and the ugly. And more importantly, we can go to Him in prayer and expect that He will answer. When is the last time that you went to the Lord in prayer and expected Him to answer?

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (I John 5:14-15) Scripture reveals that if we ask anything of God and it is according to His will, He will hear us, and if we know He hears us, we know that He will answer. We only have to believe to receive. We must ask according to the will of God, and then we only have to believe that He will answer. If we doubt God’s ability, if we doubt that He is listening, well then, we will likely do without. We must trust Him completely.

It is my heart’s desire to be more like Mary. I want to repeatedly say and mean with all that I am, “Let it be to me according to your word.” And I want my prayers and petitions to God to always be in His will, not mine. I want to mature into the woman that He desires for me to be. There is so much wisdom to be obtained from the holy Word of God. I still have so much to learn, and I am ever so grateful that I serve such a patient, loving God. I will continue to pray and believe that God will continue to grow me to be a woman that lives those words. Let it be to me according to your word, Lord. And let my prayers be in the will of God. Your will God, not mine…

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Give me a word, Lord: HE NEVER LEAVES

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

Deuteronomy 31:8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

After my manic Monday this week, I woke up on Tuesday with a new attitude. I was prayed up and prepared for Tuesday. It didn’t matter to me if it was a terrific Tuesday or a terrible Tuesday because God reminded me once again that He was there. He never leaves me. I got in my car to leave for work and caught the tail end of a praise song singing the words “God loves you.” I took this as just one more reminder that God was telling me He was right there beside me and He would never leave me. I looked up and thanked Him once again. I can rest assured that I will never be facing any challenges alone. And then, the very next song that came on the radio was Matthew West’s song, A God Who Stays. I’m telling you that it was if God was saying, “I reminded you that I am with you, but just in case you didn’t get it yet, let me knock you over the head one more time. Do you get it now?” Oh, I got it, and the words to this song really drove His point home!

If I were You I would’ve given up on me by now. I would’ve labeled me a lost cause ’cause I feel just like a lost cause. If I were You I would’ve turned around and walked away. I would’ve labeled me beyond repair ’cause I feel like I’m beyond repair. Oh, but somehow You don’t see me like I do. Somehow You’re still here. You’re the God who stays. You’re the God who stays. You’re the one who runs in my direction when the whole world walks away. You’re the God who stands with wide open arms, and You tell me nothing I have ever done can separate my heart from the God who stays.

The words struck home. I had felt overwhelmed the day before, but God gently reminded me that I am never alone. And the words but somehow You don’t see me like I do reminded me of the words I studied just a few nights ago, and the question that was asked, “How does God see you?” Our identities are grounded in how God sees us, not how man sees us. Mary, the mother of Christ, was referred to as highly favored meaning that she had a divine purpose over her life. It was also said that Mary was given favor in the eyes of God meaning that she was given the privilege to birth the Messiah. Mary was favored by God, but in case you need a reminder today too, let me share some great news with you. You too are highly favored by that same mighty God. We each have a divine purpose over our lives. He intricately wove us together in our mother’s womb. He made us wonderfully complex, and His workmanship is marvelous! Psalm 139:13-14 reminds us of these things. Yes, my friends, we too are highly favored in the eyes of our loving Father. Your identity is grounded in the way our heavenly Father sees us, and He sees us as His children, His highly favored children. We are His, and He is ours!

It is quite amazing actually when we attempt to put these things in perspective. How can God love me like He loves me? I don’t deserve His love, kindness, patience, grace, or mercy. I don’t deserve any of those things, yet He still loves me completely and promises to never leave me. I think back to the times in my life when I have felt completely alone…the loss of my mother, a major job change, a failed marriage. Those were some tough times. I remember back to the days when my sweet husband worked overseas. He was gone 32 days at a time. It was tough being home without him, but even when he was gone, I knew that he was there. He would message me all throughout the day, and we spoke on the phone every single night before bedtime. He was there for me, even when he wasn’t physically present, and I knew that no matter what happened on the farm while he was gone, Jeff was still there to help me handle it. Our God is ever present too, y’all. We may not see him physically, but He is right there beside us, watching over us, moving around all the chess pieces in life to place us right where He needs us to be and placing others right where they need to be so that His great plans for our lives are carried out for our good and His glory. He is there. He never leaves. His word is true.

If you are feeling alone, overwhelmed, or maybe feel like you have lost your way, call on our Savior. He is there. He is waiting and watching, and He is ready to guide your path. He NEVER leaves.

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T WORRY. BE HAPPY!

Matthew 6:26-27 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Yesterday was a manic Monday. It didn’t start off that way. I went outside at 5 am to hear the beautiful sounds of birds happily singing their spring welcoming songs. The turkeys were gobbling. The goats and sheep were sharing their baa-baaing while hopping and jumping around. The emus were making their gentle whistling noises. Everyone was enjoying the beginning of a new day. However, when I arrived at work, we became super busy from the very first moment. We were so busy that I felt like a dog in an never ending battle of chasing my tail all day…a tail that would never be caught. I always strive to deliver the highest quality care, and I will continue to do that even on the craziest of days. On those days, I must try a little harder, work a little harder, and never forget that our loving Father is right there beside me guiding my path. No matter how tough it gets, I know that my Savior has got me right in the palm of His hands.

I confess that I am a neurotic, type A personality, worry wort, not-enough-hours-in-the-day-to-accomplish-everything-I-want-to-accomplish woman. And days like yesterday sometimes overwhelm me, but my God always takes those opportunities to remind me that He has got me. I am His and He is mine. He sends little reminders throughout the day. My husband stopped by the house long enough to take a few pictures of my new flower blooms and send them to me in the middle of the day. I didn’t ask him to. He somehow knew that I needed a little bright color in my day. I arrived home to a nice hot cooked meal on the table and happy dogs who are always so excited to see me and welcome me with such great delight. God puts these people and critters in my path to delight my soul! I just know it!

Sometimes the big things in life overwhelm us, but we must take time to look for the little things. God places so many little reminders in our paths all day long to remind us that He has got us and He gets us. He knows when we are going through troubled waters, and we must remember that we are never in the boat alone. Our God is paddling the boat. He has got us in the palm of His hands.

I’ve spent many an hour wondering why our good Lord blessed me with so many wondrous things in life. He allows my husband and I to have many wonderful critters that entertain us for hours on end. No bad day can end as a bad day when you are able to pick up a newborn baby goat and cuddle it in your arms. A happy little puppy will take the blues away instantly. And the birds of the air and land never ever seem to have a care in the world. Our critters do not worry. There is not a worry in their little minds. Why? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Their heavenly Father feeds them! God takes care of the tiny little birds of the air. They don’t worry and fret. They don’t wonder how they will get through the day, the week, or the year. No, my friends, their Father feeds them. He takes care of them. Aren’t we far more valuable to Him than the birds or the air? After all, we are created in His image.

When we are feeling weak, He makes us strong. Our strength and our identity comes from our Savior. He has made us a new creation. 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) We are His children. See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. (1 John 3:1) We are redeemed! But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) We are capable! For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13). We are worthy! But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9) And never forget that we are wanted! So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

The next time you are having an overwhelming day or maybe even a no good, horrible, crazy, chaotic day, don’t worry. Be happy. God has got you! God has got me! We are sitting safely in the palm of those mighty hands! We are His, and He is ours, and that is really all that is important! Don’t worry! Be happy!

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Give me a word, Lord: OTHER-CENTERED

John 2:1-5 The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”  “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this story is, but I share it frequently. It is a little long, but definitely worth the read.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. “What food might this contain?” the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.” The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.” The mouse turned to the cow and said, “There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!” The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose.” So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmers mousetrap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmers wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmers wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soups main ingredient. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The farmers wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them. The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn’t concern you, remember: when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk. We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. Each of us is a vital thread in another persons tapestry.

I share this story because it is so very relatable to life as we know it. We hear about problems, but we don’t act on them. We may even tell someone that we are praying for them, but perhaps we don’t really mean it, or we get busy and forget. When we hear of someone else’s troubles, we are quick to think, “that’s not my problem.” Last night in our ladies’ Bible study, we looked at the life of Mary, mother to Jesus. The scripture above was one of the focal scriptures. Mary and Jesus were at a wedding, and Mary noticed that the people hosting the wedding celebration ran out of wine. She didn’t cause a scene. She didn’t call attention to the problem. She realized that the friends who were celebrating would be embarrassed if everyone realized that they ran out of wine during the celebration so she went to Jesus. He had never performed a miracle publicly prior to this event, but Mary went to Him. Perhaps she didn’t have a clue of what He would do to fix the problem, but she knew Him. She knew Jesus, and she trusted that if she told him about the problem, He would take care of it. So much so that without Jesus even saying, “Okay, Mom, I got this,” she went straight to the servants and told them to do whatever Jesus said to do. She had faith that He would take care of the issue.

Mary had a relationship with Jesus. She knew Him as the Son of God, but also, she was privileged with the honor of birthing Him. There was a relationship there. She was able to make her request and trust that Jesus would handle the problem because there was a relationship before the request. But this isn’t the only factor we need to consider. A very important point that we must take not of is that Mary was not self-centered. She was “other-centered.” Mary noticed that there was a problem because her attention was not on herself. She wasn’t upset about the wine running out because she wanted more wine. No, she was worried that her friends would be disgraced or embarrassed because of this issue. She wanted to protect the image of her friends. She showed a love for others, and she wasn’t focused on herself. And she noticed the problem because she was focused on others and not herself.

We live in a “me” society in which it is “all about me.” We have become a self-centered culture. We take selfies for social media. We try to promote ourselves before others. That is not who God designed us to be. The first greatest is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And the second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-40) Read that again. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone we come in contact with! That is a whole lot of people to love, and sometimes those people do not appear to be very lovable. So how do we do it? How do we become more “other-centered” instead of “self-centered?” We first fall in love with our Savior. We follow the first greatest commandment and we love the Lord with all of our heart, our soul, and our mind. And when we get this part right, well, the rest becomes rather easy. If will fill our hearts with love for the Lord, we can’t help but have love for our fellow man.

We are all in this journey together. What affects one of us can affect us all. Let us learn to be other-centered today. Love God and love others. It’s very simple actually.

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Give me a word, Lord: STOP RUNNING

Jonah 1:1-3 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

Last night, my husband and I were watching a movie in the living room. Our 14 week old mini Schnauzer, Holly, was barking incessantly at her reflection in the glass of the French doors in the dining room. All of a sudden, Holly let out a shrill, loud yelp, and began barking and running like lightening through the dining room and living room, and she ran into the wall of the living room which was on the opposite side of the house from where she started. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed before we jumped up to see who or what scared her so badly. I knew before I even got up that it was likely Jace, my daughter’s Schnoodle. He is jet black, and when it is dark outside, you can not see anything but the white of his eyes. Jace was perched with his paws on the glass of the French door peering in, and apparently when Holly caught sight of him unexpectedly, it scared her fiercely. She was afraid and she ran.

I think Holly responded as many of us do when God reveals a plan for our lives. Many times when God gives us instruction to follow a certain path or nudges us to do something that is in His will, but perhaps it isn’t in our plans, we run. Jonah is a great example of a runner. Yes, God commanded Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh and announce His judgement on the people because of their wicked ways. What did Jonah do? He jumped on a ship and got the heck out of Dodge. He boarded a ship to Tarshish which was going the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. He ran. Why did he run? We get a sense from this scripture that Jonah despised the people of Nineveh. He didn’t want anything to do with these people. He didn’t like the job that God gave Him to do so he ran. Perhaps there was more to it than that. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe he thought that the task was too big for him. Maybe he was scared. I don’t know for sure, only Jonah and God know. However, I do know one thing for sure. God put a wall in Jonah’s path. He hit a wall just like my Holly did last night.

Jonah didn’t hit a literal wall. No, he unfortunately was met with a severe storm which caused him to be thrown overboard, and then swallowed up by a giant fish. Personally, I think I would have rather hit a wall. My head is pretty hard, and as clumsy as I am, I’m pretty good at running into things. But God…God sent a whale to swallow Jonah up. He gave him a nice, quiet place to sit and think and pray for three days before that whale finally spit him out on a beach. When God commanded Jonah to get up and go to Nineveh again, Jonah went.

The example of Jonah is a very blatant example of running from God, but it isn’t always quite so obvious. Sometimes we run by not attending church services regularly. We may feel that we are right with God, and we may feel that it isn’t necessary to sit through services week after week. When we do this, we miss out on so much teaching, community, and fellowship. Our faith walk becomes weaker, and sooner or later, we are going to hit a wall. Maybe we run out of disobedience. Perhaps the task at hand seems much bigger than we are. We tend to forget just how big our God is. Some people run by disobeying. Jonah disobeyed in an obvious way, but many times we disobey in the little things. We fail to tithe. We let little sins creep in and continue because those sins are little and seemingly of no consequence. Sadly, those little sins will eventually put up a big wall between us and our Father. Sometimes, we simply stray away because we are too busy with the busyness of life and we fail to make time for God. No matter how we choose to run, no matter how fast and how far we run, I can guarantee you that just like Holly did last night, we will eventually hit a wall!

We serve a wonderful loving God, and thank goodness He is also full of grace and mercy. Will he take us back when we have run away? Yes! Every single time! But what if we have run too far? We are never too far from God. He knows where you are right this very minute. You can’t hide on a ship to Tarshish. Your Father is watching over you whether it is your desire for Him to or not. Today, let us stop running away and begin running to our Savior. He doesn’t care what you have done or haven’t done, if you come to Him with a repentant heart, He will wrap those arms around you and welcome you home. Are you struggling with a calling that scares you? If God put that calling on your heart, don’t forget that He is bigger than your fears, and He will work it all out for your good and His glory every time. Are you struggling with getting back to church after a long hiatus? Get up and get dressed and go! Your faith family has missed you so much, and so has your heavenly Father. Are you struggling with little sins that are building walls between you and the Father? Get rid of those sins. Hey, you can even ask God to help you walk away from them…and HE WILL!

Stop running from God, and start running to Him! His arms are open. He is waiting to welcome you home!

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Give me a word, Lord: FINDING OUR HOME

Psalm 84:3-4 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. 

A little over a week ago, my friend was cleaning out her shed, and she gave me two purses: a Coach and a Michael Kors purse. They had been in storage for some time and smelled a little bit musty. I decided to hang them out on the back porch for a few days in the fresh air and “air them out a bit.” Well, I totally forgot about those purses until yesterday when I decided that I would bring them in and wipe them down. I took the Coach purse down from it’s perch, and I reached up to remove the MK purse from the hook that it was hanging on when I saw something in the bottom of the bag. It startled me at first until my eyes focused clearly on the object that was there. It was a bird nest! A perfectly shaped, perfectly formed bird nest. A busy little mama bird had poured her energy into the creation of this perfect little nest in my second hand Michael Kors purse. She has made the purse her home! There were no eggs there just yet, but trust me when I say that she has prepared her home and it is ready for the arrival of her kids.

I have never purchased a Coach or Michael Kors purse in my life. The names don’t really mean anything to me, and I’d rather put my money in my bag instead of spending it buying a bag and not having any money left over to put in it, but that’s just me. It really made me laugh that this little bird has such high standards. I mean, I have beautifully painted gourds hanging in the trees for her to build her nest in. There are trees all over this eighty acres, but, no, not my little bird. She chose a Michael Kors purse for the home of her little ones. She set her standards high. She wanted her home to be perfect and a bit classy too. She apparently has a little more style than this girl.

I can not get over how fast that little bird built that nest and how meticulously formed it is. It is simply amazing to see the shear genius of the nest construction that was formed by such a tiny creature. She poured her heart into building the perfect home for her little babies that will be arriving soon. She is just a bird though…a simple creature of the air, but she built with such precision because she is expecting the arrival of her kids.

A spectacular, eternal home is being prepared for you and I right now. Can you even imagine how spectacular heaven is going to be? If a bird can find such high class lodging and construct a beautiful nest in a matter of days to prepare for the arrival of her children, can you even fathom what heaven may be like? Our heavenly Father has been preparing our home for a while now. He is getting it all ready. He wants everything to be absolutely perfect for the arrival of His kids. The gates are pearly, and the streets are gold. When He calls us home we will sit at the throne of our heavenly Father singing praises to Him all day long. The songs will be sweeter than those of the birds that I now hear singing the songs of spring on this beautiful day. The praises will be glorious. Oh what a joy it will be to reside in the house of our Lord and sing HIs praises forever. There is absolutely nothing on earth that can compare to the home He is preparing for us.

Are you ready, my friend? Are you ready to see that eternal home and sit at the feet of the throne? You don’t have to build a nest to get there. He is taking care of all of the construction, but you do have to make a decision to follow our Lord and Savior. You have to make a choice. Do you want heaven, or do you want hell? We are all bound for hell if we do not choose Christ. Why would a loving God send us to hell? It is not His desire for any of us to go to hell, and He sent His only Son to take on our sins to save us from that wretched place. He gave us all a way out. We only have to make the choice to follow Him. We can try to make it difficult. We can come up with all kinds of excuses, but really all we have to do is ask Him into our hearts and allow Him to lead us. The rest will come naturally.

That little bird didn’t spend a penny on her new home that she has found. Someone else paid the price to purchase that purse. We don’t have to spend a penny to purchase our eternal home. Someone else has already paid that price in full. However, no one built that nest for her. She did that herself. She is preparing for a glorious day in her life. We too must prepare for the most glorious day. Jesus paid the price for my sins, and because He did, I will choose to work for Him, live for Him, and prepare my home for His arrival. I can hardly wait! And just like that little bird, I’ll continue working until Jesus comes and gathers us home!

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Give me a word, Lord: LOVING WELL

Ephesians 5:22-31 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

Yesterday, I had to go in to work for a few morning hours. My husband, Jeff, was painting at the rent house that we have on the market, and he sent me a text that read, “When you get off, go to Home Depot.” I answered, “Send me a list.” He responded, “Flowers.” He knows how much I love to plant spring flowers, and I still had a few empty pots around the house. He simply wanted to make me happy. He knew that would brighten my day after a busy week at work. I arrived home with the back of the 4 Runner once again full of brilliantly colored flowers, and he met me at my vehicle. He opened the rear hatch and grinned ear to ear, and said, “This is going to make my wife very happy!” I can not describe in words how much I love this man, but suffice it to say that he is my human, and I thank God every day for him.

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion what makes our marriage work. I could respond with the long story of both of our grieving pasts, but the short and most truthful answer is “God!” Jeff and I are not perfect by a long shot. We have made major mistakes walking through this thing called life, but there is truly no one else I would rather have by my side. Today, I want to take a moment to encourage all married couples. No marriage in perfect. There will be hills and valleys, but no matter what, keep God at the center of your marriage and I guarantee you that you and your spouse will grow closer to one another every day.

Grow closer every day? I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. I fear that the problem with most marriage failures is the lack of growing closer in a daily walk with God and with each other. When we first fall in love, we have butterflies in our bellies. Our hearts pitter patter at the mere thought of the one we love. We can’t wait to see that person again. A text message makes our heart leap. We love that feeling. It is a special kind of high that is only felt at the beginning of a love story. But what happens after the first year, the first five years, or even ten years down the road? Are the feelings still there? Yes, they are but unfortunately, we bury those feelings deep beneath a stack of day to day busyness, bills, child care, work, and chores. We forget to place the same value on that person that we did in the beginning. We have to remind ourselves that this person we married is our human. This person is the one we can count on when the going gets tough, and the one who will be there with us through thick and thin. We must be their human too!

I’m not a professional marriage counselor by any means, but I want to share a few tips for making a marriage great. First and most importantly, put God at the center of your marriage. Invite Him in. Ask Him to be the Lord of your marriage and your home. I promise if you get this first step right, all of the rest will be a cake walk, and you will win the cake every time. Pray together and pray for each other. Do this often! The second step is almost as important as the first one. It took a few years for my husband and I to get comfortable praying out loud together (other than meal time), but every time I hear that man pray for me, my heart skips a beat. The pitter patter is still there!

We must make time with our spouse a priority. Do not ever stop dating your spouse. Spend time alone together. I know with kids in the house, jobs, and all of our other priorities, this can be hard, but it is imperative. Don’t wait until the kids are grown to spend time alone. By the time they are out of the house, you will be married to a stranger. Get to know your spouse on a regular basis. We usually take two vacations a year when possible: one with the family and one with the spouse only. Time together is a valuable asset in a marriage.

Laugh together. My husband makes me laugh out loud on a daily basis. He has a natural whit and can make me crack up laughing even when I’m mad. Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage.

There will probably be arguments, but remember that you do not need to “win”. Work together to find a solution. It’s all about being a team, Peeps! Never keep secrets and never lie. This will break trust. Jeff is fortunate in the fact that I can never keep a secret from him. I tell him everything, probably too much, but hey, I don’t lie! If trust is broken, however, we must forgive and forgive quickly for that is the only way to re-establish trust in a relationship.

Get connected in a local church. Make faith family connections. Surround yourselves with people who are lifting up your relationship and not tearing it down. This will make a world of difference. The people that we spend time with can truly build us up or rip us apart. Choose your friends wisely. And never forget step one. Keep God at the the center.

God has many plans for you, and He wants to use you in so many aspects of life. Have you ever considered that God also wants to use you in your marriage? He does! If you’ve lost that loving feeling, it is time to go looking for it. But wait…don’t go looking outside of your marriage. Look right beside you at the person that you fell in love with all those years ago. Ask God to give you a loving attitude toward your spouse and to pour out His love through you. It is a prayer God will answer. I know that He will! He loves you so much.

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Give me a word, Lord: PRESSURE WASHED CLEAN

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

Psalm 51:7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

About eight years ago, this Queen of Klutz wore the crown of Klutz mightily. I think I may have actually elevated myself to a higher title if there is one! I had decided to put the words Hodge Critter Lodge on the front of the barn, and I wanted to paint the letter in a deep barn red color. I was sitting at the kitchen table preparing my barn letters for painting the following day, and I sat the paint (still in the bag from Home Depot) on the edge of the dining room table. As the evening progressed, I somehow knocked that bag onto the floor, and just my klutzy luck, the lid popped off of the pint of barn red paint and it fell into a huge puddle on my sage green oriental rug beneath the table. Before I could reach it, 2/3 of a pint was just laying there looking at me! I grabbed paper towels and scooped up as much as I could. Then I used Dawn dishwashing liquid and bowl after bowl of clean water, and cloth after cloth trying to wash it out of the rug. After 45 minutes, I saw nothing but red water in the bowl and red suds on the rug. It looked like I was cleaning up a murder scene. Yes, I have watched too many episodes of CSI, but if a cop had shown up they would have been spraying luminol all over the place and pulling out their UV lights to check it out! For real y’all, barn red paint is pretty close to the color of blood, and the splatter effect…oh my!

My sister, Chandra, called and offered her support. She googled murder scene clean up, and she told me to try rubbing alcohol. Two bottles of rubbing alcohol and two rolls of paper towels later, I was still patting the paper towels and continued to see red wet hand prints with each pat. Yep, it still looked like a murder scene! My husband was offshore all the while encouraging me, and he reassured me that it is just a rug and not to worry. (He is always ever so sweet and patient with his Queen of Klutz, thank goodness!) But I would not be defeated by that evil can of red paint. After a lifetime of klutziness, I have learned some cleanup skills!! Jeff suggested, “maybe you should pull the rug outside and pressure wash it.” The kids and I had already considered that, but I hadn’t reached that point yet. (But now I had his permission!) I moved the dining room table and chairs, opened the French doors, and drug that sucker out onto the back porch. I say drug because it weighed as much as me if it weighed an ounce, and I am NOT kidding. I pulled it until I got the barn red portion to hang completely over the balcony railing. I lifted the rest of the rug up onto some patio furniture to keep it dry, and I began pressure washing. I angled the flashlight on the railing to light up the scene of the crime. About two hours after the barn red paint murder scene incident, I was able to get the rug completely cleaned up. I don’t think CSI could even detect the splatter marks now! I decided that while it was out there, I might as well pressure wash the whole thing. That pressure washer really did the trick, and that old rug probably needed a good cleaning anyways.

I like to share a few of my comedic, Klutzy acts now and then to remind us that we are all human. We all mess us from time to time, and I have a habit of doing so more than some. The great thing about my many goof ups is that I usually learn a very valuable lesson from each tragic, comedic event. This story reminds me of how our wonderful Lord and Savior is like a pressure washer. Don’t run off yet. Let me explain. That rug was as red as scarlet. One corner was completely covered. It was soiled. I should have just thrown it out, but I wanted to save it. The pressure washer washed the stain right out of it. Though it was scarlet red, after a good pressure washing, it was the beautiful sage green that it was designed to be. We are all sinful beings. We were born into a sinful world after the great fall of mankind that occurred back in Genesis. We are like scarlet with sin, and we all need a really good cleaning. Sometimes, we even need to have the pressure washer taken to us!

Jesus is ready, willing, and able to clean and purify our hearts and minds just like that pressure washer cleaned up that rug. Although He could just throw us away, He refuses to do so. He wants to save us. He wants to clean us up. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Though our sins are like scarlet, He will make them as white as snow. Isn’t that amazing? All we have to do is go to our Savior and confess our sins. He will do the cleansing. He will make us new again. 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). What a powerful thing it is for us to realize that our Savior wants to restore us to the person that He always intended for us to be, and what a relief it is to know that the guilt of our sins has been forgiven. Through the crimson blood of our Savior that ran red on that cross, we have been made right with our God. I’m so thankful that Jesus keeps the pressure washer handy. This girl needs a good cleansing from time to time!

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Give me a word, Lord: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE DONUT AND NOT ON THE HOLE

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Keep your eyes on the donut and not the hole,” but I think whoever said that must have been a pretty wise person. Life is all about perspective. When we purchase a a sweet, freshly prepared donut, we do not generally take notice of the hole. No, we don’t look at that donut and salivate over the hole in the middle of the donut. The hole is nothing. It is emptiness. There is nothing really very exciting about a donut hole with the exception of it being calorie and carbohydrate free. It is the sweet, hot, glaze covered donut and all of its goodness that causes our mouths to water. That is where it is at, especially if it is chocolate covered!

However, in life, we waste a whole lot of time focusing on the hole and not looking at the donut. We waste time and energy focusing on all of the little, tiny aggravations of the day. We focus on the worries and fears. We focus on every single detail that annoyed us throughout the day from the time we rolled out of bed and stumped our toe until the time we climbed back into bed that night with shear exhaustion from our busy day. We focus on the hole. That stuff is really nothing. It is emptiness. There is nothing exciting about aggravations, worries, fear, annoyances or fatigue. We do not need to focus on the hole. It will not do us a bit of good.

Instead, we need to focus our eyes on the donut…the good stuff. Focus our eyes on the blessings of the day. Sometimes we have to look a little harder for those blessings, but I assure you that they are there. There are a million blessings in every single day, and each and every one is better than a whole dozen of donuts. The blessings begin with a beautiful early morning sunrise, the sound of birds singing, a touch of a loved one, a smile, a friendly hello, and the list goes on. We may be blessed with wonderful jobs, a cozy home, a reliable vehicle, a great spouse, children, and let us not forget the blessing of good health. We are blessed with food in our bellies and our pantries. And may we never forget the most wonderful blessing of all: the gift of salvation. Wow, what an amazing donut we have been given each and every day!

How do we learn to stop focusing on the hole and start focusing on and actually enjoying the donuts of life? We must develop an attitude of gratitude. We have learn to move from aggravation to appreciation. We must train ourselves to seek out the good in every situation rather than dwell on the bad. First and foremost, we must put our faith totally in Christ. When we learn to lean on Him for everything, and we realize that He is our strength and our might each and every day, we begin to develop that attitude of gratitude. When we place our complete trust in the Lord, we begin to see Him in every aspect of our lives, and then we can’t help but notice the little blessings that appear. We will then begin taking delight in the Lord, and with delight we feel joy, and with joy we start to see more blessings and have less stressing. Just like anything else in life, we have to develop a habit of looking at the donut instead of the hole. Sometimes we even have to retrain our brains.

I’ve been around people before who I refer to as “Negative Nelly’s.” You know the type. They are the people who never have anything good to say about anything. You could dump a load of cash in their laps, and they are only going to see the taxes that are due. They can’t see the silver linings. They see rain and think “mud,” when instead they should see rain and think, “the grass will grow and the flowers will bloom.” Yes, friends, we have to retrain our brains. We can’t run around with a negative attitude. We need to rethink about the way we are thinking. We need to look for the blessings in everything realizing that even in our trials there is good to be found. Rather than cursing the trial, we should ask, “what is God trying to teach me through this circumstance?”

The next time you look at a donut, make sure you pay attention to the donut and do not dwell on the hole. And the next time you get a little aggravated or annoyed, don’t dwell on that aggravation. Dwell on the Lord and the blessings of the day. The Lord and His Word are sweeter than honey from the comb, and He is so good to His children. Find the joy in the blessings of the day. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

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Give me a word, Lord: DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

2 Kings 12:4-7 One day King Joash said to the priests, “Collect all the money brought as a sacred offering to the Lord’s Temple, whether it is a regular assessment, a payment of vows, or a voluntary gift. Let the priests take some of that money to pay for whatever repairs are needed at the Temple.” But by the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign, the priests still had not repaired the Temple. So King Joash called for Jehoiada and the other priests and asked them, “Why haven’t you repaired the Temple? Don’t use any more money for your own needs. From now on, it must all be spent on Temple repairs.”

2 Kings 12:13-16 The money brought to the Temple was not used for making silver bowls, lamp snuffers, basins, trumpets, or other articles of gold or silver for the Temple of the Lord. It was paid to the workmen, who used it for the Temple repairs. No accounting of this money was required from the construction supervisors, because they were honest and trustworthy men.

We have been studying about stewardship in our Sunday School class, and this morning, the scripture above was part of our reading. The biblical view of stewardship is defined as “utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” (wikipedia.org) This Old Testament scripture from 2 Kings reminds us that we have to make a commitment to future-focused stewardship. We are to be good stewards for Christ, and yes, we must be good stewards for the here and now, but we must keep our hearts and mind focused on the prize. We must remember that our stewardship should be always focused on Christ and following His plan. When we do what Christ wants us to do, we begin to become the person He wants us to be. The problem we run into is that old problem of good intentions. We intend to do something, but our good intentions are not enough. We have to actually do what needs to be done.

An example that I gave my class was that I had a good intention of cleaning my closets and organizing my bedroom Friday because we will be redoing the flooring in there soon. I did get started. I cleaned out from under the bed, and I did sort through a few things and throw out some unwanted items, but I didn’t finish. I didn’t complete the job. Then I intended to finish up this organizing chore the following day, however, instead of completing the task at hand, I went out and bought a bunch of flowers and some lettuce and spent the afternoon planting my flower beds and my lettuce beds. We then had the kids over for a fish fry and spent the evening enjoying their company. Yes, I intended to accomplish a certain task this weekend, but I did not do what needed to be done to complete that task. Now, the task is still there waiting for another day…

In the scripture we just read, King Joash commanded the priests to use the money that came into the temple for needed structural repairs of the temple, but twenty three years passed and still no maintenance had been done. There were good intentions, but nothing was getting accomplished. Finally, the King ordered the priests to hand the money directly over to the workers who were doing the repairs, and the work was completed without delay. The workers were being good stewards with the resources, and they did what needed to be done.

If we are to be good stewards for the kingdom, we can’t sit around making excuses, procrastinate, or wait for better opportunities or for circumstances to change. We have to stop saying, “I’ll do it one of these days” or “I’m fixing to do that.” We say, “If this” or “But that”, and we make excuses all day long. There is an old saying that comes to mind, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.” They aren’t candy or nuts, but rather used as a means to make excuses that prevent us from completing the task at hand. If we are going to be good stewards or servants for the kingdom of God, we have to be ready to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. We can’t say we will do something and not show up. We can’t make commitments and not follow them through. People are counting on us, and we must put action to our intentions.

A few days ago I wrote about a servant’s heart. A good steward is truly a good servant. A servant completes their tasks, fulfills their responsibilities, and keeps their promises. A good servant completes their commitments. They are trustworthy and dependable. As a child of the living God, we must commit to be good servants. It is almost countercultural to be faithful these days. Most people don’t even know what the word commitment means, but we do, and we know that because we love Christ we must be faithful in our commitments. The best way to show our commitment is to be a faithful servant. When God gives us a job to do, we need to give it all we have. And He has given each and every one of us the charge of spreading the gospel to all of the nations. We have sat around far too long waiting for someone else to do the job. We have put it off for way too many days. There will never be a better time than right now. This world is lost. People are dying, and sadly they are dying without the promise of eternity with Christ. It is time to put our good intentions to action. Let us do what needs to be done for the glory of our Father. Be a good steward and seek the will of God and act on that will. God will provide the means. You only have to be a good steward and follow His will.

Today, may we walk out the door putting action to our good intentions. Let us get out there and do what needs to be done for the glory of God!

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Give me a word, Lord: GREENER PASTURES

Romans 5:3-5 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Philippians 4:11-12 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.

Yesterday morning, we moved the cows across the road to another pasture. Our cows have been lowing a good bit lately. They have eaten the top off of the rich green rye grass in the field they have been in for the past few weeks, and they are ready to move across the road to a greener pasture. They have grass and they have nice hay, but they see that gorgeous green grass right across the road, and they want some of that. They stand at the fence and look at it longingly. They have grass, but the grass they have is not green enough for them. They see something better. They want something better. They want what they don’t have access to. What the cows do not realize is the fact that the grass doesn’t just grow that beautiful, lush green color by happen chance. No, it does not. My dear sweet husband spends hours cultivating the ground, planting seeds, fertilizing the ground, and the good Lord provides the watering. In order to get a beautiful green pasture, you have to fertilize and water it!

Too often, people want the greener pasture. They look within themselves, and they are not pleased with what they see. Perhaps it is the neighbor’s home that is bigger and better than the one they have. Maybe it is that shiny new car. It could even be a perfect relationship the person is craving. One might be observing the life of another and wishing he or she had that perfect life. We might see a person who is always happy and smiling and so full of joy, and a feeling of desire for that person’s life may be what we are seeking. Oh yes, if we look around, everyone’s pasture may look greener than ours, but let us take another look. That neighbor with the big beautiful home or a shiny new car may be strapped with a humongous mortgage or car note and let us not forget the cost of the insurance. He perhaps is working 12 hour days 6 or 7 days a week in order to make ends meet. He has the home and the car, but is he really enjoying those things? Is he enjoying life? We all know that there are no perfect relationships and no perfect lives. Each of us is a work in progress continually striving to thrive.

Why do we look for greener pastures? Eugene Cho may have answered this question best, “When the grass looks greener on the other side, it is the Holy Spirit telling you to water the grass that you are standing on.” Yep! That’s right. We need to water the grass we are standing on. We’ve got to apply a little fertilizer and pour a little water on our own grass. We do not need to be looking across the road yearning for a greener pasture. We need to take care of the one we are standing on.

How do we make our pastures greener? I know that I said we need fertilizer and water, but really, how do we make our own lives better. The fertilizer we need is the Word of God. If we continually stay in the Word and strengthen our relationship with the Lord, our personal lives will flourish. When we allow the Holy Spirit to wash us daily, renew our walk regularly, our personal lives truly begin to thrive. When we understand that God placed us on the pasture we are standing because that is where He wants us to be, and we learn to ask Him to guide our paths along that pasture, our whole perspective begins to change. We may learn that God placed us on this particular pasture because the grass was greener somewhere else. Perhaps we needed a season of brown grass to help us to grow in Christ. Maybe God put us on a brown pasture to help shape us into the person that He desires for us to be and the person that He knows that we can be. Possibly, God is merely waiting for you to fertilize and water the ground that He has given you.

Life is hard enough without spending our days looking over the fence yearning for greener pastures. We don’t need those other pastures. We simply need to fertilize and water our own grass! We need to learn to seek the Lord first, and then we realize that it isn’t all about us. No, my friends, life is about putting God first and allowing Him to guide and direct our paths. Don’t keep staring over the fence wishing and wanting for something you don’t have, but rather be content with what the good Lord has blessed you with. Keep fertilizing and watering, and soon you will find that you are standing on the lush green pasture you have been desiring all along.

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Give me a word, Lord: SPRING IS COMING

Revelations 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Lamentations 3:21-25 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.

A couple of days ago we decided to take an afternoon walk around our eighty acres to look for spring blossoms. I took my camera with me to capture the moments as I am always excited about the birth of spring each year. It seems that everything is dismal and gray for a few months, and then all of a sudden a little green leaf sprouts here and then another one there. Flowers and trees begin to put on new growth, and the world around us begins to change. It becomes new. Yes, my friends, spring is preparing to make its debut, and I can hardly wait. It is my favorite time of year. All the trees and barren landscapes gradually but surely become green and colorful. The birds begin singing their songs with purpose. The whole earth seems to burst forth with new life.

We too have been living in a long, dreadful winter. I’m not speaking of the outdoor temperatures. No, we have been dealing with a long, dreadful winter season of life, and it doesn’t look like spring is coming anytime soon for us. However, as Christians, we know that it is coming. We can hang our hats on that. We can not let this winter season in our lives consume us. I know the current winter of our hearts has been a long one. It has been cold, irritating, and seemingly barren at times, but we can not forget the beauty that lies above it all. Our sovereign Lord is still on the throne, and He has promised us that He will return to gather us home some day. Can you even imagine what a wondrous spring day that will be as we come out of this long, dreadful winter we have come to know as our lives recently?

We are seeing the promise of spring coming anew every morning. With each passing day, we see the announcement of spring. Our peach and pear trees and blueberry bushes have blooms covering them right now, and the appearance of these beautiful blossoms hanging on gray, leafless trees is nothing short of amazing. I can not help but be awestruck at the beauty of God’s creation. Everything is gray and dark, and then suddenly the rich colors of spring appear with vibrant pinks, yellow, and bright white blossoms. Currently, when we look around, we see a dark, gray world. We see tragedy and chaos. We see sadness and grief. We are seeing the Bible unfold right before our very eyes, and there are going to be a few birth pains as we await the arrival of our King. It is probably going to get a whole lot darker before the arrival of our King, but we need not fret or worry. We have the promise of a new spring, a new life, and I almost feel like if I stand on my tippy toes I can see it coming.

The wait is not easy. We are so excited about the return of our King, and the long winter that we are enduring is lasting much longer than we would like for it to. We may be getting tired, but we can not grow weary. We can trust that a new season full of new life is just over the horizon. Our faith assures us that we can hang on as long as it takes because we know that winter doesn’t last forever. Be on the lookout, Peeps! Spring is coming and so is our King!

I think I’ll go plant a few flowers while I wait…

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Give me a word, Lord: STRENGTH

Jeremiah 17:7 But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 31:6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

This past year has been a crazy year. It has been a year full of chaos and turmoil. We have endured a global pandemic, a fiery presidential election, riots in the streets, an impeachment trial, and then another impeachment trial, wildfires, hurricanes, and ice storms. We dealt with issues of high demand and low supply of many things considered to be daily necessities. We have learned to live and breathe in a masked society. Businesses closed. Jobs were lost. Many churches have closed their doors completely with no plans to reopen in the future. We have lost loved ones, and lives have been changed. Everything looks very different than it did one year ago. However, we continue to push forward and go with it. We run until we feel like we are running out of fuel, and we refuel and run some more, but how? How do we keep on keeping on? Where do we find the strength?

I have a meme saved on my phone that I have shared several times over the years, but today it has taken on a new meaning. The meme has a background picture of an old, burly looking bull, and it reads, “Trustin’ in yourself for strength works about as well as ropin’ a bull off a stick horse.” I personally have never roped a bull, but I have seen many bulls roped through the years, and I am here to testify that I wouldn’t even try to rope a bull off of a sturdy, fast moving horse much less attempt it off of a stick horse. Bulls are big, beautiful animals. They are muscular and strong, but they are also sometimes unreliable. I’ve had a bull charge toward me more than once. Even my pet bull, McLeod, charged at me once when I was trying to move him from one field to another. For a brief second or two, I thought I would be found dead in the pine trees after being tromped on by my beloved Scottish Highland bull. The problem with this particular situation is that I was relying too much on myself and my own strength. My husband was offshore working, and the kids were at school. I’m a tough old bird, and I mistakenly assumed that I could make that bull do what I wanted just because I wanted him to do it. I did eventually get him relocated the short 20 feet I needed him to move to get him across the driveway, but it was not without much sweat, tears, literally running with the bull, coaxing, fussing, and a whole lot of prayer. I’m absolutely sure that it was the prayer that worked because nothing that I was doing with my own strength and power came close to making that bull cooperate.

Yes, my friends, we are going to run into a lot of uncooperative bulls in this life we are living. We have met quite a few obstinate ones over the past year, but praise the Lord that we do not have to try to rope these bulls in on a stick horse. We do not have to go into any battle alone. We do not have the strength to handle all of the challenges that come our way, and that is completely okay. Why? We don’t have to handle the challenges alone. The scripture is chock full of promises from our loving God that reminds us day in and day out that strength comes from Him. God has a very specific detailed plan for each of our lives, and He will stand in the gap to help you achieve exactly what He has planned for you. The lies of the enemy will try to trip us up. That old enemy is an obstinate bully, and he will throw every lie in his book at us as he tries to steal our joy in Christ. We are assured that Christ’s purpose is not to steal our joy, but to give us an abundantly rich and satisfying life in Him. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) Yes, the evil one is the thief, but our Lord gives us a purpose. When we set our eyes on him, that evil one doesn’t stand a chance!

No matter what challenge you are facing today, just remember that you are not facing it alone. You may feel weak. You may feel that you have run out of steam. You may feel like you are roping a bull from a stick horse, but let me remind you that it is not your strength that will win the battle. Call out to big guns. Cry out to Jesus. He will provide everything you need to not only survive, but to thrive. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (Psalm 28:7)

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Give me a word, Lord: FORGIVENESS

Ephesians 4:32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Matthew 6:14 If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Two nights ago, a few of my faith sisters and I gathered together for dinner and a ballet at our local community college. The ballet company Ballet Magnificat performed a beautifully moving ballet of the book Hiding Place which was written by Corrie Ten Boom. I’m sure you are familiar with her writings and words. Corrie was a wonderful woman who hid Jews in her home in Holland. She and her sister Betsie were later captured and taken to a concentration camp. While at the concentration camp, they were abused terribly, and her sister died while at the camp. After the war ended and freedom came to Corrie, she went to Germany to speak a message of forgiveness to an ailing country. While there she came face to face with the very guard responsible for the death of her sister. She had literally just spoken words of forgiveness, but now this person who had destroyed the life of her sister and many of her friends was seeking her forgiveness. How could she find it within herself to forgive this terrible man? I’ll let you read her words as she can explain it much better than I.

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.

And having thus learned to forgive in this hardest of situations, I never again had difficulty in forgiving: I wish I could say it! I wish I could say that merciful and charitable thoughts just naturally flowed from me from then on. But they didn’t.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned at 80 years of age, it’s that I can’t store up good feelings and behavior–but only draw them fresh from God each day.

Maybe I’m glad it’s that way. For every time I go to Him, He teaches me something else. I recall the time, some 15 years ago, when some Christian friends whom I loved and trusted did something which hurt me.

True forgiveness comes from a heart that belongs to Christ. It is hard to find forgiveness for those who have committed unimaginable acts. It is hard to forgive those who have hurt our family members and those that we love dearly. Yes, my friends, forgiveness is hard, but we only have to take the first step. Jesus will supply the feeling. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. Don’t hold on to hard feelings. Holding on to a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We only harm ourselves. Scripture tells us to love like Jesus loves, and it also tells us to forgive like Jesus forgives. Oh, if we could only have a heart like Corrie Ten Boom and Jesus! Let us practice forgiveness today.

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Give me a word, Lord: SET MY SOUL ON FIRE

Romans 12:11 (NIRV) Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.

Hebrews 12:29 (NLT) For our God is a devouring fire.

Over the past week or so, my husband and his dad have been burning the areas around the pine trees. They do this almost every year as winter comes to an end and spring begins. The fire kills the overgrowth of vegetation, weeds, and plants that do not belong, it removes dead leaves and debris, and it also helps to keep the flea, tick, and snake population under control. Controlled burns also are completed to prevent destructive wildfires. The fire acts as a sort of cleansing for the forest, and it allows the trees that are growing there to thrive because they are no longer competing with the multitude of vegetation that was growing beneath them. Every year, we set the forest on fire, and in just a matter of weeks, we will see beauty come from those ashes.

When I think about my Christian walk, I must admit that there are times when I feel like my walk with God needs to be set on fire, or maybe I just need to fan the flames. Consider that for a little while, my friend. Fire is all consuming. It burns hot and bright. It refines and purifies. Fire provides us with heat, and it emits light. Our faith walk should resemble that of a great fire. Yes, we should ask our Savior to set our souls on fire, down in the deepest recesses of our being. We should desire to burn with a fire for Christ that is all consuming, a fire that burns deep within us, and one that completely overtakes us with the refining, purifying fire of the gospel.

We should pray a prayer asking God to set us on fire, and when we do, we better get ready because a blaze is a coming! God will set us on fire by allowing the Holy Spirit to consume us without restraint or restrictions that were previously placed by our own silly selves. We will soon find that we can let go of fear, and we can totally, unconditionally trust in Christ with every aspect of our lives. We will find ourselves desiring more time with God, craving His Word, and seeking Him continually in prayer. The fire will cleanse us. It will remove all of that dead debris that we have been hanging on to for far too long. The fire will refine us and purify us making us more like Christ each day. Keeping that fire blazing hot will also help eliminate the pesky little pests in our lives…those little sins that we hold on to will be eliminated. The Holy Spirit will bring those things to our attention, and we will see them for what they are and repent and turn away from them. The fire will remove unwanted vegetation, the things that grow wild in our heart, choke us down, and prevent us from thriving in our spiritual walk. A burning fire for Christ will prevent other little fires, like tragedies, anger, bitterness, and strife, from running wild and rampant. A soul burning for Christ can’t be overcome by the wildfires of everyday life.

We often try to fill our hearts, minds, and lives with things of this world. These things can be good to an extent, but there is a problem when we allow the things of the world to consume us. If we fill ourselves with things of God, that all consuming fire will satisfy our souls like nothing else. Nothing can compare to the feeling of a heart and soul on fire for Christ.

How then do we set our souls on fire for Christ? All we have to do is simply light a match. It only takes a tiny little spark to ignite a flame. Read the Word. Pray. Ask Christ to be the ruler of your heart and your head. Ask Him to set your soul on fire for Him, and then fan those flames with prayer every chance you get.

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Give me a word, Lord: BE A DAVID IN A WORLD FULL OF GOLIATHS

1 Samuel 17:45-17 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

Every single day, we wake up to a world that looks more chaotic than the day that came before. We wake up facing a new battle, or perhaps we are still trying to win the battle of the previous day. Yes, my friends, we are living in a Goliath world. There is a battle around every corner, and with the huge Goliath looking battles ensuing, to the rest of the world, we may appear to be a lanky, little shepherd boy, a teenage kid, who has no strength or might. Sometimes we too feel small to face the battle. We feel like that little shepherd boy who was too small to wear the king’s armor. We may feel that we are very minute in comparison to this giant that we are facing. If we look in the mirror of life through worldly eyes, we will indeed see ourselves as very small, and we will see the giant problems we face as humongous and overbearing, but if we look through the lens of Christ we see a completely different picture.

We can not look at our Goliaths as the world does. No, my friends, the world will lead us astray every time. The world will make us feel afraid, small, and we will feel as though we have lost the battle even before it has begun. We must only look to God first. He is bigger than any Goliath in our life. He is bigger than any battle that we are facing, and He will deliver us every single time. The armor of the world will not sit well on our shoulders. It will never fit like it is supposed to fit, but the armor of God fits perfectly every single time. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:13-18)

Yes, the armor of our God fits every time, and that armor provides the exact amount of protection and strength needed when battles come our way. When a battle rages on in your life, stand firm in your faith. Before anything else, put that battle in the hands of our Savior. The definition of savior is a person who saves something or someone from danger. In Christianity, the definition of Savior is the redeemer of sin and the saver of souls. God sent His Son to be our Savior, the redeemer of our sins and the saver of our souls. Christ was the atonement for each of us so that we may have a direct line to the Father. He is our Savior! What do we need when we are facing the battles of life? We need a Savior, and fortunately we already have a Savior! So let us stand firm in our faith when we face a battle because we know that it has already been won. Stand your ground, tighten the belt of truth and put on the body armor of righteousness. Put the shoes of peace on your feet that carries the Good News. Hold up that shield of faith. Let the world know that the battle is not ours, but it is the Lords. Put on the helmet of salvation. Let that saving grace rule your head and your heart. Don’t forget the sword of the Spirit. Read the Word of God and read it often. And never, ever forget to pray.

How did David defeat Goliath? He didn’t. Oh, I know the scripture says that he threw a stone from his slingshot and struck the giant in the head and he fell, and then he cut off his head. That is true. But even David knew that he wouldn’t defeat that giant alone. He knew that he alone did not have it within to him to stand up to that giant, but David, although he was a young, ruddy boy, was already in mature with the wisdom given to him by the Father. He knew that the defeat would not be from him, but rather it belonged to the Lord. David knew that the Lord would defeat Goliath. He even announced it to this giant of a man, “Today the Lord will conquer you.”

Take a few moments to consider the battles that are challenging you today. Are you trying to take on these challenges on your own? We are nothing more than a ruddy teenager coming up against a giant if we attempt to fight life’s battles alone. However, if we put on the armor of God, and we hand over the battles to our Savior, God will fight our battles for us. Keep the faith. Stand firm. Grab the sword, and stay in the Word. God will take care of the rest. We can all be a David in this crazy old world full of Goliaths. Allow God to fight for you! He never loses!

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Give me a word, Lord: WE DON’T HAVE TO ATTEND JUST BECAUSE WE WERE INVITED

2 Timothy 2: 14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.

Philippians 2:2-5 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

There is an old saying that tells us, “You don’t have to attend every argument that you are invited to.” I think that is something that we would all do well to remember. There are people who will come and go in and out of our lives who love to argue. In the south, we call these people “pot stirrers” because they are constantly stirring the pot. If there isn’t an argument brewing, a pot stirrer will stir one up for you. Some people aren’t happy in a nice peaceful environment so they will bring up something that leads to an argument. They really know how to pour salt on to a wound. They are most happy when there is an argument ongoing. God did not design His children to be pot stirrers, and He doesn’t intend for us to attend every argument that we are invited to.

Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy that we must stop fighting over words. He tells us that such arguments are useless, and they can ruin the people that are hearing them. Let’s consider this for a moment. How can our arguments ruin the people that are hearing them? Well, my friends, for the most part, arguing is just plain bad, and if we aren’t careful, a simple argument could destroy our Christian witness. Now, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t supposed to stand up for what we know is biblically sound and right, stand up for our belief in Christ, or stand up for those who can’t. However, we must always do so with the loving attitude of Christ.

If we read a little more of this chapter we are told to avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer. Read that again. We are instructed to avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. This kind of talk spreads like cancer. It spreads like cancer?! Wow! It only takes one little spark to start a fire, one cancer cell to begin the spread of cancer, and one spoken word to begin an argument. But remember, as I said earlier, just because we have been invited to the argument does not mean we have to attend.

I have four beautiful children whom I love so much, and each child (now adult) has his or her own personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Each one has their own individual quirks and tendencies. One of my sons grew up with a passion for arguing. He loved to argue. He would argue with a wall if it would entertain him. If I said black, he would say white. If I said the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day, he would point out a cloud in the distance. Yes, that boy loved to argue. I often told him that he would make a great lawyer. As a mom, I made the mistake early on of attending almost every argument this child invited me too…way more often than I should have. Why? I wanted to teach him what was right…at least what Mama thought was right. However, my “teaching” often turned into arguments, and the only lesson that was learned was that arguing with someone you love is never fun. It’s hurtful. Even if you feel like you won the argument, at what cost did you win? What price did you pay? Respect was lost. Love was not shown. And in the end, someone always leaves an argument feeling defeated.

As I have matured (still not there yet but working on it), I slowly realized that arguing with this kid was not getting either one of us anywhere. I learned to pick and choose my battles carefully. I learned to lean on the Lord for guidance. I learned to pray, and believe me, I prayed a lot. I’ll be the first to admit that it is not easy to walk away from an argument, but I will also be the first to admit that walking away from an argument will many times improve a relationship. Most of the time, if we take a few steps back and walk a few steps away, we have time to gather our thoughts and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us before we respond and spew out words that could be harmful. Take a step back, count to ten, and say a prayer before responding to an argument. You might just be surprised how much of a difference this makes.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (Philippians 2:14-16) In a world full of pot stirrers, as Christians we should strive to be peacemakers. We must continue to be the beacon of light that this dark world is missing. We are to reflect the light of Christ in our actions and deeds. Don’t let your tongue dim your light, my friend. Shine brightly for our Savior. Don’t show up for an argument merely because you were invited. We can graciously decline those invitations, and we can lovingly reflect the light of the Lord rather than dim that light. Hold firmly to the word of Life!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE MORE FEATHERS, THE BETTER

This is an excerpt from my book, Inspirations from the Funny Farm. Enjoy!

Job 12:7-10 But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge, His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Several years ago, we decided that we would get a few chickens. My dad had raised chickens when I was younger, but this chicken farming was all new to my husband and me. We figured that we would get a few chickens, and then the chickens would lay a few eggs, and it would be a good learning experience for the kids. Besides, how hard could raising a few birds be? Plus, the chickens would provide our breakfast hot and fresh every day. Win, win!

Before we go any further though, I am aching to answer that age-old question: what came first: the chicken or the egg? Well, I think the answer is completely obvious although many may disagree. The chicken came first, of course! The Bible is my instruction manual for life, and all of the answers to all of life’s questions are right there in print. Genesis 1:21 says “So God created…every winged bird according to its kind.” It’s right there in the good Book, and it’s as plain as day. God created birds first. Genesis doesn’t say anything about God creating eggs, incubating them and waiting 28 days for them to hatch. No, it says God created birds. I have never understood why this was even debated in the past.

We picked out a few chicks, and my husband built a cute little chicken coop. It was perfect for housing a few chickens. He even divided the coop into two sections so that I could get a couple of beautiful peacocks which I will tell you more about in a bit.  We spent hours playing with our chickens every week. We could pick them up easily, hold them, cuddle them, and hug them. I even have a t-shirt that says, “have you hugged your chicken today?”

I never realized how a few chickens could change one’s life. Looking back now, I can see God’s hand in all of this. Shortly after we made a first chicken purchase, my husband had to have back surgery. He had to remain off work for three months. You don’t know my husband, but if you did, you would know that three months without working could have pretty near brought him to the brink of insanity. He is an extremely hard-working man. He gets up before the sun, and he puts in a full day’s work before most people have even gotten out of bed. Thankfully, we had the chickens. Jeff was able to piddle a little with the coops without doing anything too strenuous. 

One of my favorite bible verses comes to mind here. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. I fully believe that God knew my hard-working husband would soon have three months of down time, and He knew in advance that Jeff would need something to keep his mind busy while his body healed from surgery. God’s plans are always so much better than ours.  While I worried over how my husband was going to deal with three months of not being able to work, it turns out, God had worked it out already and provided him with some well needed chicken therapy! That’s what we referred to it as: “chicken therapy”. Several minutes to hours were spent out in the coop and around the coop on an almost daily basis. My husband said many times that he was so thankful for those chickens during that time in our lives. I could have never dreamed that a few chickens would be so comforting.

 We fell in love with the chickens, and we decided we needed more birds. Geese were our next addition. We purchased six tiny little African goslings. We knew that geese had a reputation of being unruly and downright mean, but we also knew that we would show these little babies love. We would raise our goslings with tender care, and our geese would be different! We loved them and nurtured them just like the chickens, and the goslings grew into rather large geese. They stood about waist high when they were full grown. They never showed aggression towards my husband or I, but for some reason, they just didn’t like the kids. They would squawk, make all kinds of racket, bow up and hiss, and soon they began chasing the kids all around the yard whenever the kids went to feed the birds. One day, one of the geese began chasing my son, who was around twelve at the time. When that goose finally caught him, he bit him right in the front crotch area of his pants! My son screamed. My husband had to swat the crazy goose away. I was fighting back laughter and tears as the whole scene was hilarious. Thankfully, the goose didn’t make contact with skin or with anything else that was in the vicinity where he bit. For some strange reason, from that time on, the kids refused to go feed the birds. We couldn’t allow the geese to scare the children, so they had to go. We sold them: the geese, not the children. Lesson learned. Through the years, I have learned that you can nurture a creature, in this case a goose, but you can’t change the nature of a creature. The nature is ingrained in the DNA.  The only one that can truly change the nature of a being is the good Lord Himself, and I guess the good Lord decided not to change the nature of our geese.

The geese didn’t work out, so we thought we would try guineas. I like to research any animal that we acquire, and when I read that guineas were great at protecting property and animals, and that they ate pests to boot, I was sold! We bought a few guineas, and we decided to give them a trial run. If you have never owned guinea fowl or seen a guinea, might I recommend that you google guinea images. Those little boogers are some kind of ugly! Seriously, during our times of chicken therapy, I put a lot of thought into those ugly little faces. Why in the world did God make a creature that had a face only a mother could love?

After the guineas, we added a few ducks and some turkeys to our brood. Our fine feathered friendly farm was growing by leaps and bounds. We bought a Standard Bronze turkey, and we named him Goliath. He was the largest turkey we ever had. He was humongous, and his legs were so thick it looked as if he had cankles. He so heavy that he could not fly. He followed us all over the yard waddling around like a mama at the end of her pregnancy. He even played soccer with the kids’ soccer ball. He eventually dressed out at 32 pounds, and we shared him with our pastor for Christmas dinner one year. Yep, that was one fine turkey.

The other turkeys we have raised were Eastern Wild turkeys. These are my husband’s favorites as they are the local wild turkey native to this area. They can be mean too though, especially the gobblers. However, the guineas are much meaner than the turkeys. Guineas are just regular old bullies in feathered clothing. Our turkeys used to roost on top of the chicken coop at night. The guineas would then fly up on top of the coop and walk sideways, edging their way closer to the turkeys until they pushed the turkeys completely off their roost. For no reason at all, they just shoved the poor old turkeys off their roosts.

The turkeys were for the most part gentle. We had a rogue gobbler every now and then that felt a strong desire to jump on people and attack them without warning. We also had one particular gobbler that was madly, passionately in love with my husband. I had never seen anything like it. This male turkey would strut and gobble for my husband. It was hilarious. While we were sitting outside innocently engaging in chicken therapy, this crazy gobbler would walk up and rub up against my husband, strut, and gobble, and make noises that I had not heard prior to this specific bird encounter. Strutting is an instinctive behavior, and it describes the courtship display of the wild turkey. This wild turkey was courting my husband right in front of my very eyes! The nerve of him! We laughed to the point of tears at that silly thing. He didn’t seem to care for me or my curly locks. He was only into my husband. He was very much into my husband! He would even hang out on our back porch, and he would peer in through the French doors making goo goo eyes at my husband. That crazy bird made us laugh more than any other bird! We bought him his very own hen, but he wasn’t interested in her at all.  It seems he only had eyes for Jeff!

Sometime during all this feathered frenzy, we decided to get peacocks. My hairdresser’s son was raising peacocks, and he agreed to sell us a pair. I was so excited. My husband had the coop ready, and we went and picked up a pair of beautiful Indian Blue peacocks. They were the prettiest birds I had ever seen. Those poor guineas looked even uglier at this point. We arrived home with the peacocks, put them in their new coop, and latched the door. My husband then left to go to work offshore. The next morning, I went out to feed the birds, and the peacock cage was open. The latch did not hold, and they literally flew the coop. They were new to the farm, and of course, didn’t know their way around and thus didn’t know their way home. We searched high and low, but to no avail. I decided to get another pair. I was in awe of the beauty of these lovely birds.

As I said, my husband was offshore. This meant his truck was not at home. At the time, I was driving a Toyota Camry with leather interior. It was a cool little ride. The peacocks were available for pick up, and I did not have a pickup truck to pick them up in. What was a girl to do? I covered the back seat of my car with empty feed sacks, and put the cage on top of the feed sacks and off I went. I picked up the peacocks, loaded them in the car, and all was well…for about 2 minutes. The car ride apparently scared the peacocks, and this resulted in scared peacock pooing…in the back seat…of my Camry. It was a gosh awful smell, and I had a 20 minute ride to get back home. That was the longest 20 minutes ever! I had my head hanging out of the driver’s window sucking in as much fresh air as I could to try to get the horrid odor out of my nose. I arrived home with the young peacock pair safely, and then I deodorized my car.  A few days later, a fellow church member called and asked if I had lost a peacock. Turns out, our male had been roosting in a tree at her house. We were able to bring him home too, but we used my husband’s truck this time!

Over the years, birds have come and gone. We’ve tried raising quail, pheasants, and a few other feathered friends. No matter what though, we seem to keep way more chickens on hand than we need. When we started out with chickens, no one explained chicken math to us. With chickens 1 + 1 = 15, and 20 + 20 = about a million, give or take one or two! We incubated a few eggs in the past, but we have found out that if we just leave it up to the chickens and the good Lord, they are much better incubators that we are. It seems that every few weeks we have another brood of baby chicks peeping and pecking around the property. It’s always a joy to hear those new little peeps. Unfortunately, a lot of those cute little peeps grow into big old roosters. We have more roosters than we know what to do with. The roosters are beautiful with brightly colored plumage: reds, greens, and deep black. For the most part, our roosters are not mean, but we have had a few in the past that would jump on a person for no reason whatsoever. Have you ever had the misfortune of being spurred by a rooster? I have, and sadly, I must admit, more than once. I always try to give a creature the benefit of the doubt, and give them more than one opportunity to get back into my good graces. However, if a rooster continues to jump on me and spur me after a couple of good warnings, well that rooster just may turn into a good old pot of chicken and dumplings or chicken gumbo! I don’t keep anything on the farm that can harm me or any other unknowing victim!

The birds have taught us so much. We’ve learned patience as we waited for eggs to incubate and hatch. We’ve learned a new math called chicken math which is quite different from the math we learned in grade school! We’ve seen the beauty of God’s creations with brilliant colors in each of the birds we have raised, and we’ve seen how God created each one of these creatures distinctly different with their own little personalities and quirks. Most of all, the birds taught us how to love God’s creations, and they made us want more! God created humans with the ability to love. The Bible spells out the account of the greatest love story ever written, from Creation to the Revelations, and it fills my heart with great joy. If God put so much love and thought into creating these birds of the land and the air, I can only imagine how much He must love us humans! He made us in His image so He must really love us a lot! Just the thought of the love is so awesome. The love of our Father, His attention to the details, and the way He cares for all of creation is something I will never get over! I just have to say it again, “Thank you, God!”

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Give me a word, Lord: A SERVANT’S HEART

Luke 22:27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

Matthew 20:25-27 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I awoke this morning with my prayers and thoughts on a good friend of mine. When I think of the term “servant”, this is the person I think of. She has the true heart of a servant. She is constantly doing for others. She recognizes a need, and she meets that need. She prepares soup and cookies for the elderly. She gathers up Christmas gifts for the needy. She makes sure that the needs of those she comes in contact with are being met, no matter how big or how small the needs may be. She is literally one of those people who would give the very shirt off of her back to someone in need. Y’all, this girl is awesomeness dipped in awesome sauce! She truly has a servant’s heart. The tables have turned, and for once, we are being given the opportunity to serve her. She is going through a particularly trying time right now, and her sisters in Christ who she has served so graciously and unselfishly through the years are going to be able to do just a tiny little act of service to her. It still pales in comparison to the service that this beautiful soul has provided to our community over the years.

A servant is a person who carries out the will of another, but a faithful servant is one who carries out the will of God. Scripture reveals to us many faithful servants of God. We can read about Abraham, Moses, and David, or Mary, Esther, or Ruth. There is a big difference in being a servant and being a faithful servant of God. A faithful servant is one who is humble. This type of servant doesn’t make a big deal out of what they are doing. They serve without trying to receive glory for their actions. We may never even know the acts of service that were provided by a faithful servant, but God does. A faithful servant is faithful. Well, that sounds like a given, but it is true. A faithful servant shows up. They are there when needed. They don’t make commitments loosely. A faithful servant is available. That is a difficult thing to be in this day and age. It is hard to be available when we are dealing with all of the busyness of life, but when we are being a faithful servant of God, we make ourselves available. A faithful servant gives of his/her precious time, and gives that time freely to others for the glory of God. A faithful servant is someone who is teachable and trainable. We will never know all that we need to know for the glory of God, but when we sign up for His service, we must be willing and able to learn and grown for God’s glory.

We are all called to be faithful servants of God. We may not be called to be the Father of nations like Abraham. We may not be called to rescue God’s people from Egypt as Moses was. We will never be called to be the mother of Jesus. That was reserved for Mary only. We may not be called to save a nation as Esther did. We may not be called to follow the mother of our late husband and live in a foreign land for the glory of God as Ruth did. No, our servanthood will look a lot different, but that doesn’t mean that is is any less important. We must all be faithful in serving God on a daily basis.

Jesus came to serve, to seek, and to save. He walked among others as a true servant. He wasn’t too good for the dirty work either. He even washed the dirt off of the feet of His disciples. He showed us how to live the life of a faithful servant, and it is His desire that we follow in His footsteps. I want to be more like my friend with a faithful servant’s heart, and I really want to be more like Jesus. Being a faithful servant isn’t an obligation that we are charged to do. No, my friends, being a faithful servant is an opportunity to reflect Christ, to show His love to others, and glorify the Father. Serving God isn’t a chore. When we learn to love like Jesus loves, being a faithful servant becomes a passion. Let us get out there today and serve our risen Savior!

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Give me a word, Lord: STICKS AND STONES

Romans 12:17-21 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Proverbs 18:21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

There is an old saying that we chanted as children, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” Those words were lies. Yes, it is true that sticks and stones can break bones I suppose if the sticks or stones are big enough, but words, oh my goodness, they can hurt much more than sticks and stones. How many times have we uttered words that we immediately wished that we wouldn’t have spoken? As soon as the words have left our tongues, we want to recall them, reel them back in, take them back. And when others speak hurtful words to us, our bones may not break, but our hearts sure do.

Words can bring life. Words can bring blessings. Words can speak truth, or they can speak lies. Words can bring joy, or they can deliver a death blow. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue can bring death or life, and we see this time and time again. We hear spoken words of scripture and love coming from the same mouths that later speak curse words and evil. We pray and read our Bible, and then we get in traffic behind a crazy driver and we lose our cool. How do we tame the tongue? James tells us that we can not. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. (James 3:7-10).

Yes, my friends, our tongues are wicked, but we can choose to monitor the words that come out of our mouth. We tend to speak from the heart, and if our heart is full of Christ and things of the Lord, the words that we utter will be sweetened with the flavor of Christ. It doesn’t always come easy. Some mornings we roll out of bed, stub our toe after oversleeping because the alarm didn’t go off, rush out the door to get into our car to try to get to work on time only to end up directly behind someone’s 90 year old grandma who decided that this was precisely the right time of day to take a leisurely 30 mph drive. How we handle what just happened sets the tone for the rest of our day. We can either lose our cool and take our anger out on everyone who crosses our path for the rest of the day, or we can thank God for slowing us down. That little old grandma may have been placed in your path to prevent you from being involved in an accident. God may have needed to slow you down so that you could spend a little time talking to Him before your day really gets going. Yes, we can choose to see the hidden blessings. Don’t you see? Our attitude and the words that come out of our mouth is a matter of choice. We get to make the choice. We are in control of our tongue and our attitude. We get to choose. We make the choice!

Today, there will be many opportunities to use your words. We can choose to use our words wisely to further the kingdom, or we can use our words to kill and destroy. Our words can bring hope, strength, and courage, or they can destroy dreams, crush confidence, and really bring someone down. Today and every day we must be mindful that our words have strength. Our words can build up and bless others, or they can break them down. Let us be ever mindful to use words that are seasoned with salt and sweetened with the honey of the Holy Spirit. I’ve often heard the saying, “Is that the same mouth that you kiss your mama with?” This is spoken alluding to the fact that someone is using language that is unbecoming of one’s mother’s presence. We should also ask ourselves, “Is that the same mouth that you are praising God with?” Let us begin each day praying Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

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Give me a word, Lord: COME TO THE TABLE

Matthew 25:34-36 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.

Eight years ago, my husband was building my dream barn. Yes, you read that correctly…my dream barn. We planned every detail over about a year’s period of time. When we broke ground on that barn, I was extremely excited. When we were close to completing the barn that I had already filled with critters, my husband saw an ad for some stall doors. He decided to go look at the doors, and that decision turned out to be one that would improve our meal time from that day forward. Let me explain. The man that was selling the stall doors also had a huge mahogany board that was 38 inches wide, 12 feet long, and 3 inches thick. He asked Jeff if he wanted to buy that board. Jeff at first said no. We were nearing completion of the barn, and had been paying for it as we went. We didn’t need that board, and we didn’t really need to spend any extra money on a board. They talked for a while, and the man explained that he wanted the board to be made into a table. He said someone has previously tried to buy it, but the person wanted to cut it up to make violins. He didn’t want it to be cut up into tiny pieces. He wanted it to be made into a huge table. When he learned that we have a big family, he reduced the price of the board to $700. Jeff couldn’t pass it up. He made a call that very night to a woodworker and scheduled an appointment. In my minds eye, I knew exactly what I wanted, and a few months later we had a 10 foot long solid mahogany table with ten hand crafter chairs. It was rustic, beautiful, and it completed our home.

Most days, that table sits empty as we only have three of us living at home now, my husband, myself, and our youngest. But thank God, it doesn’t stay empty for too long at a time. We completely fill up the table and all ten chairs when our kids, their spouses, our grandson, and our parents come for Sunday lunch. We frequently even overflow to the kitchen island. That table is the heart of our home. It is where friends and family gather, and it is where many major decisions have been made. We discuss world events, our daily hurdles and blessings, and important conversations have taken place at that table. Exciting announcements have been proclaimed while sitting at that table. We have laughed and shed tears while gathered there. And that table is where I sit with my coffee in hand first thing every morning to read my Bible and write a devotional. Yes, my friends, that old slab of mahogany turned out to be a true blessing. With that solid old table, we will be able to continue to invite many to come to the table at our home.

There’s another table that we have all been invited to, and that one is much more special that our well loved kitchen table. We have all been invited to dine with the King of all glory. But while we await that glorious day, we have the blessed opportunity to share our table. As children of the King, we are given the ability to show the love of Christ each and every day. We can do this by feeding the hungry, loving the unlovable, and inviting others to come to the table. We can seize those opportunities to really share and show the love of Christ, share the gospel, and invite others to come to the table of the King. Whether your table is big or small, wooden or glass, take every opportunity to invite others to come to the table. Open your heart and your home when possible, and use every chance you get to share Christ so that everyone comes to the table of our Lord and Savior!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE LITTLE THINGS

Matthew 25:21 The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!

I think one of the greatest errors of our Christian walk is the fact that all too often we look for the BIG things. We spend too much time looking for God to show up and show out in a really big way that catches our attention and the attention of others. We watch for His miracles. We pay close attention to miraculous healings and life changing events. It is true that God is behind all of these things. He is, but it is also true that our great big wonderful God also has His hands in all of the little things that are ongoing in our daily lives. He slows us down and puts an obstacle in our path to prevent an accident. He blesses us when a friendly stranger pays for our coffee or lunch. He places someone in our path that speaks the exact words that we needed to hear at that very moment. He cares about every little thing in our lives, every little detail.

Yes, my friends, God really is in the little things too. Because He cares about the little stuff, as His children, we should care about the little stuff too. As Christians, we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus right here and right now. We mistakenly await the moment that Jesus reveals His spectacular big plan for our lives. We wait for that awesome opportunity in which we can really show the love of Christ and make an impact for the kingdom, but as we all know, those opportunities may not come around every day. So what are we to do in the meantime? We are to take care of the little things.

In Matthew 25, we read the parable of the talents. Scripture is speaking of a form of money, but as a parable, we can relate the term talents to the many talents that God has given us. He expects us to use those talents for His glory, and we can’t just sit around waiting for the big opportunities. We can’t hide our talents away and wait for the return of the Master. No, Peeps, the talents we have been given should be used on a daily basis. Our Master has entrusted us with much, and we must ask ourselves, what are we going to do with our talents? What has God entrusted us with? He has placed us in specific relationships in which we are to invest our time and talents. He reveals spiritual, physical, social, and economic needs in our own communities. His Holy Spirit gently taps on our heartstrings and opens our eyes to those in need and to those who are lost. One of the greatest gifts that He has given each of us that we are obliged to give away to others is the gift of love. Oh yes, that little gift of love shared with perhaps someone who feels unloved or unlovable goes a long way for glory of God.

God has blessed our lives with many little talents and abilities, and He has blessed us with much love. We must not hold onto all of these little things. No, my friends, we must use these little things to further the kingdom of God. When we began to use the little things faithfully for the glory of God, He will give us more responsibilities. I don’t want to show up in heaven one day, and get to the judgement seat and hear, “But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Rather, I want to hear these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

If you feel like God has only entrusted you with the little things, be thankful that He has trusted you with these things. Don’t hide them away or wait for the next big thing to come along. Use those little things, follow God’s lead, and allow those little things to glorify the Father for when we do this, the little things become big things for the kingdom!

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Give me a word, Lord: STANDING ON THE PROMISES

John 15:7-8 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Sunday night, we had a night of praise and testimony at church. Our praise team really did an extraordinary job singing and leading with some good old time gospel mixed in with a bit of contemporary music. It was wonderful. My husband and I were discussing the music later, and we admitted that we had both received a wonderful blessing that night. It is always a blessing to be able to take time to simply praise our wonderful Father. This morning, and old hymn has been running through my brain. The hymn is called Standing on the Promises and it was written by Russell Kelso Carter. Let me share one of the verses for you. Standing on the promises I cannot fall. Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call. Resting in my Savior as my all in all. Standing on the promises of God.

I like to know the history of these old hymns, and when I did a bit of digging, I learned that Mr. Carter was actually an ordained minister who later became a doctor. He suffered from a heart condition and many crises in his early years which caused him to search the Bible for the healing promises of God. He said that after he began claiming and holding on to the steadfast promises of God, he slowly regained his strength and his heart condition healed over a period of several months. He stood firm on the promises of God. And just like Russell Carter, you and I can stand firmly on these promises too.

Promises are made to be kept and not to be broken. According to a web search, there are 8,810 promises in the Bible, 7,487 of which were made by God to humankind. (Quoted from Pepperdine Digital Commons.) This is quite reassuring because of two things. First of all, God has never broken a promise and never will, and secondly, because we know that God has never broken a promise, we know that these promises are trustworthy. Let’s look at a few of these many promises.

God will turn all your ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61).

God hears your cries (Psalm 10:17).

God brings good out of suffering (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God gives us peace (Isaiah 26:3).

God will provide (Philippians 4:19).

God will sustain us (Psalm 94:18).

And my favorite, God will never leave (Hebrews 13:5).

Yes, my friends, promises are made to be kept, and our loving, holy Father has kept every promise that He has ever made. He continually works everything out for our good and His glory. If you have lost your way and are feeling out of sorts this morning, grab your Bible and look for the promises of our good, loving Father. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will bring peace and comfort to you in your time of need. He is ever present, and we can surely stand on His promises to get us through the best days and the worse days.

God never promised to remove all of our trials, troubles, heartaches, and difficulties. However, God did promise that when we are surrounded by conflict, strife, and trouble, we can trust that He will give us assurance, security, and peace that only can be provided through a loving relationship with Him. The non-believer can not comprehend this, but as a child of God, we know. We can trust Him. We can believe in Him. We can stand on the promises of God.

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Give me a word, Lord: LET THEM SEE YOU IN ME

Galatians 2:20 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.

John 15:9-12 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

What do people see when they look at me? On the outside, they are going to see a kinky haired woman who is aging rapidly. The knuckles of my hands are knotted and swollen. My hair is graying faster than I can color it. The wrinkles of time are appearing on my face. I’m not twenty anymore. That is for sure. I do try to tame the mane. I take anti-inflammatories for the arthritis. I color my hair every few weeks, and I do apply wrinkle cream when I think about it. I do my best to try to look presentable to the world, but I still fail miserably. I am so very thankful that the outward appearance is not really what matters most in this life. What really matters is what is on this inside of this shell of a woman. Christ lives within me! The Holy Spirit resides right inside this aging body, and He keeps me strong, and fresh, and raring to go. I know that He is there, but when other people look at me, do they see Him in me?

I pray daily that I shine the light of Jesus in my actions and my daily walk. I pray that I can be a beacon of light for Him. I pray that others see Christ in me. Some days, this is pretty easy. On a good day, it is super easy to remain upbeat and be happy and smile all day, but what about those bad days? Do people see Jesus in me then too? Oh my, I pray that they do for it is during those bad times that we can really shine for Christ. When things get tough, the tough get going, but where do we get going to? That depends completely upon your relationship with Christ. If we allow Christ to be at the center of everything, we will depend upon Him in every single situation we encounter…the good times, the bad times, and all of the in between times. And when bad times come our way, well, we simply “get going” to Christ. It becomes second nature. We realize that we need Him in every aspect of our life, and when we turn to him during the storms, people will see Him shining through us especially during difficult seasons.

When we allow Christ to be the ruler of our hearts, we are no longer that old person we once were. We don’t change our outward appearance, but what is on the inside becomes completely new and fresh. We no longer live for ourselves, but rather we live for Christ. He resides in us, and He shines through us to all who see. When we remain in Him, we are filled with unspeakable joy, and that joy overflows from within us even on the bad days. Others will see the joy of Jesus within us when we are going through the most difficult storms of life. That, my friends, is when others really see Jesus in us. That is when He really shines.

C. S. Lewis said, “Don’t shine so others see you. Shine so that through you others can see Him.” This should be our goal every single day. Each day I pray and ask Jesus to let others see Him in me. I know that I fail so many times. The old self seems to get in the way too many times, but praise God that He never gives up on me. Being a reflection of Christ in our daily walk could possibly be the only image of Christ some people ever see. It could be the only glimpse they get of Christ. Some will never step foot in a church. Some will never ask about Jesus. But if we strive to be like Him, filling our hearts with Him daily, continually reading His Word, and living out the love of Christ in all we do, others will see Jesus in us. Let us make sure that others see Him in us each day.

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Give me a word, Lord: SISTERS & BROTHERS IN CHRIST

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

Matthew 18:19-20 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Yesterday was a day that I have been anticipating for over a month. Our church ladies’ ministry has been on a temporary hiatus due to COVID-19. We recently regrouped and planned out a tentative schedule for the coming year. To kick off 2021, I invited the ladies to my home for a Mugs & Muffins event. I was hopeful that we would have a sunny day, and praise the Lord, that is just what He gave us. Twenty two ladies attended, and because of the beautiful weather, we were able to safely gather on our back deck overlooking the creek. My husband and I prepared spinach quiches, fruit platters, summer sausage and cheese platters, blueberry muffins, and banana nut muffins. My friend, Lisa, made some delicious pecan pie muffins. We had coffee, milk, water, and a variety of juices. After filling our plates up with food, I led a devotional from my blog post of yesterday, and we brainstormed about upcoming activities and missions for the coming year. We prayed together. We spoke out concerns and praises, and yes, we joined together in corporate prayer. It was a truly wonderful day. This fellowship with sisters in Christ is something that I have been desperately missing over the past year. These ladies aren’t my biological family, but they are my family for sure!

I was fortunate to be part of a pretty large family. My daddy and mama had four daughters. My daddy remarried and gained two more daughters. Yes, I was one of six girls. I grew up in a house with five sisters. My daddy was severely outnumbered. I am thankful for the relationships that were built with my sisters growing up. Having a house full of sisters taught me much about family and friendship. I am still closely in touch with my sisters, and now, God has blessed me with an additional family: my faith family.

Being a part of a church is much more than just tuning in for a morning sermon once a week. Being part of a church is being a part of a family. We are all children of God, and as such, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not just people passing one another on our way to our pews. No, we are family, and as family, we know each other. We talk to one another, we pray for and with one another, we know what is going on in the lives of one another. We encourage each other. We share hope, and love, and oh so much more.

God did not create us to live out this life alone, and He didn’t put us on the glorious planet to isolate from one another. No, my friends, God created us to love one another. Brothers and sisters in Christ help one another succeed. We lift one another up. And when we come together in prayer, two or more agreeing on a concern, and we bring our prayers to the Lord, He will hear our prayers. His Word tells us this, and I believe it. I’ve actually seen it in action more times than I can say.

I am so thankful for my five sisters, and I am very grateful for my wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. God has every single detail in our lives all figured out, even down to the fact that we need these wonderful people in our lives. God may not have given you biological brothers and sisters, but if you are His kid, you have a humongous family! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to share your Christian walk with brothers and sisters that God has given you. Gather with your faith family today!

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Give me a word, Lord: JESUS AND COFFEE

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.

This is one of my favorite verses from the book of Hebrews. A few years ago, my co-workers made a t-shirt for me that had a big coffee cup on it, and the words, “This girl runs on coffee and grace. Hebrews 4:16” I have just about worn the threads out of that t-shirt. It is true though. I love Jesus and coffee, and I’m so thankful for the undeserving grace that He gives me daily. I’m sure I could do without coffee if I had to, but I can’t go one minute without Jesus. I like coffee a lot, but my true love is for Jesus. Coffee may give me a boost to get up and go, but it is the love, grace, and strength of Jesus that keeps me going day in and day out. Just for fun, let’s talk about our relationship with Jesus and coffee because let’s face it, I spend a lot of time drinking coffee while talking to Jesus. I’d like to use an acrostic for the word Hebrews to accomplish this task and review a few things about coffee that perhaps isn’t so appealing, and a few things of Christ that very desirable.

H-HABIT

E-EASY

B-BITTER

R-REGULAR

E-EXPENSIVE

W-WATERED DOWN

S-STALE

HABIT. Drinking coffee can definitely be habit forming. I used to be addicted to sodas. At first, it was Coca Cola, and then I became infatuated with Diet Coke. It wasn’t until I was in my forties, and I realized the negative effects that aspartame was having on my health, that I gave up my love for sodas. My husband introduced me to coffee, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s not merely the habit of drinking a cup of coffee, but rather it’s an addiction. If you drink as much coffee as I do, and you skip it for about 24 hours, the little men with jackhammers in your head will start pounding away reminding you of the detrimental lack of caffeine. This, my friends, is how our relationship with Jesus should be. It should be habit forming, and so much so that if we miss even one day in His presence, we get an overwhelming craving for Him. Praying, seeking Christ, and reading His Word should be such a habit that it is second nature to us.

EASY. Thanks to the latest and greatest technology, the perfect cup of coffee is only a few seconds away. We have a Keurig, and after much trial and error, we have found the perfect coffee for us, and it is so simple. If you keep the water reservoir full, all you have to do is drop a K-cup in the Keurig, press a button, and voila, the perfect cup of coffee. That’s about as easy at it gets. We try to make this Jesus thing hard. We try to make all of these lists of laws, rules, and regulations that we must follow, but when we do this, we are not giving Jesus the credit He deserves. A loving relationship with Jesus is easier than making a cup of coffee. All you have to do is ask Him into your heart. That’s it. No strings attached. He has already done all of the hard stuff. All we have to do is give Him our heart, and He will take care of the rest. Easy peasy.

BITTER. Don’t you just hate a bitter cup of coffee? I think the bitterness of coffee is what turned me off to it for so many years. I have always enjoyed the smell of coffee brewing, but for years it was that bitter taste that turned me away. I started off my affection for coffee with heavily flavored concoctions. My husband called it fru fru coffee. I tried all kinds of flavors, and I found many delightful blends. Eventually, the coffee didn’t taste bitter anymore. I came to enjoy the robust flavor of coffee. Unfortunately, there are quite a few who claim to be Christians that walk around oozing with bitterness. The words and actions that are emitted are sometimes so bitter that it could easily turn someone off to Christianity. As followers of Jesus, the aroma and flavor that we should be sharing is one that is sweeter than honey. When are hearts belong to Jesus and our minds are on things of Him, there is no room for a bitter spirit within us.

REAL. Although there are a variety of flavors and richness of coffee, there are actually only two types: caffeinated and decaffeinated, AKA the real stuff and the fake stuff. I drink coffee for the taste of it, but I have to admit that I love that little caffeine kick that it adds. I keep a few K-cups of decaf coffee in the cabinet for late night cups, but that is a rarity. I like the real stuff. I love the boldness of a rich cup of caffeinated coffee. But coffee can be deceiving. It may look like a real cup of coffee with a delightful boost of caffeine, but in reality, it could be a big old cup of decaf…fake coffee…not the real deal. Christianity is much like this. Everyone falls into one of two categories: either you are a Christian or you are not. There is no middle of the road here. You can’t sit on the fence. Either you are all in or you are all out. People play the game frequently. They boast of their religion. They look real on the outside, but there is no fruit. There is no heart change, no Jesus on the inside. They are playing the game…they are fake…and are not the real deal. We must live out our Christian walk being real with everyone we come in contact with. We must share Jesus and let others know that He is the real deal and that we are really in love with Him.

EXPENSIVE. Y’all, coffee can be very expensive, especially if you like to drive through Starbucks or PJ’s Coffee or one of the many other specialty coffee shops. They serve up delectable coffee flavors with a frothy top, blended in ice, or even served over ice. They will design your coffee half-caf, full caf, low fat, whole milk, sugar or no, and pretty much however you desire it. But that professionally prepared coffee comes at a price. It’s much more costly than making a good old cup of hot coffee in the comfort of your own home. Salvation was expensive for Christ. He died on that cross for each and every single one of us. He was tortured and crucified so that we may be made right with the Father. This was the single most costly gift of love ever given, and it didn’t cost us a single red penny. I’ve heard so many say that Christianity is too costly. You have to give up this or that, or perhaps you have to become someone else, live a different way, or act differently. It is not until we accept this precious gift that we truly understand. The Holy Spirit gradually changes us. We don’t want to be the person that we used to be, and we slowly but surely become the person Christ intended for us to be, and although Christ paid the ultimate price, it didn’t cost us a thing!

WATERED DOWN. When I first started making coffee, I made it a little on the weak side. It was watered down. In fact, I can remember my daddy coming over for a cup of coffee, and asking me what was in his cup. When I replied that it was coffee, he informed me that the stuff in his cup was not coffee because he could see right through it. He told me coffee is supposed to be black and rich. It shouldn’t be watered down. Christianity shouldn’t be watered down either. I have grown so weary of watered down Christianity. It seems that it is the nature of our current culture to pick and choose the parts of the Bible that people want to follow and ignore the rest. Sins are ranked on a scale of not so bad to horrible, and those that are currently considered not so bad are gradually being accepted as good. People, we can not water down the Word of God. If we accept that the Bible as the living Word of God, then we have to also accept that the entire book is the truth of God. We can’t water it down. We can’t pick and choose the parts we like. We have to love the whole Word. Don’t water down the truth, my friends. It is God’s Word.

STALE. Before I learned to love coffee, I owned a coffee pot that I kept stored away deep in a kitchen cabinet. I also kept a bag of coffee in my freezer to try to keep the coffee from growing stale. My mom was an avid coffee drinker, and when she came to visit, I pulled out that pot and those frozen coffee grounds and brewed her a pot of coffee. On occasion, she would share with me that the coffee had grown stale. I laugh about it now because I realize that a poor bag of coffee could feasibly live in my freezer for five years before getting used up. That allows for plenty of time for the grounds to grow stale. Talk about stale! Stale coffee is undesirable. It has lost its flavor. It’s boring. It is no longer of any use. I fear that this is what is happening to the church these days. People are staying away from church due to safety needs during this pandemic. Many times we are watching live streams of services online. I’m so thankful that online services are available for those who can’t meet in person, but I fear that this is leading to a world of Christian consumers rather than contributors. We can enjoy a livestream service from our sofa, but we can’t serve from our sofa. We miss out on a very big part of worship which is community, community with fellow believers. We can’t feel the power that is felt in a church full of believers praising and worshipping together. We need the church when we aren’t fully present. We need to meet together so that we do not grow stale in our faith. 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. (Hebrews 10:25) We need our church family, and our church needs us. Meeting together rejuvenates us, refreshes us, and keeps us from growing stale.

An old meme says, “Men should make coffee for their women because it says so right in the Bible: Hebrews.” I don’t know about all of that. At my house, whoever rolls out of bed first brews the coffee. He brews and she brews. My husband makes my coffee just the way I like it, and I make his coffee for him just the way he likes it. However, making a cup of coffee isn’t the first action of my day. No, my friends, before coffee comes prayer. I wake up and thank my Lord and Savior for another day and ask Him to guide my path as I begin a new day. Coffee comes right after prayer, and with that cup of coffee comes a big old dose of Jesus. Yep, that’s right, I sit down at our kitchen table and dig in the Word. I do this out of habit, and I pray that it is a habit that sticks we me for the rest of my life. I know that living for the Lord will not always be easy, but I know that He will guide my steps. I pray that I never appear to be a bitter Christian, and that the sweet flavor of Jesus rolls off of my tongue in speech and in my actions. I also pray that I continue to be real in my walk. I have always been a what you see is what you get kind of girl, and I pray that others see Jesus in me when they look my way. I pray that I never forget the price Christ paid for my salvation, and may my remembrance of this keep me from living a watered down Christian life and from growing stale, May we start each day with prayer, a big old cup of coffee, and a little Hebrews. Then we can truly 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.

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Give me a word, Lord: A FRIEND INDEED

John 15:13-14 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.

Friendship is truly a precious gift from God. Everyone desires friendship so much so that the world of social media is making millions of dollars by making internet friend connections. Facebook has over 2.74 billion monthly users, Twitter has 330 million, and Instagram has another billion. Those numbers are astronomical, and it shows us that this world is a world full of people who desire friendships. As I think about all of the wonderful friendships that I have held so dear over the years, there is one friendship that stands out above them all: my friendship with Jesus! There is an old hymn that I have probably sang since my earlier years called What a Friend We Have in Jesus written by Joseph M. Seriven. Today, I’d like to focus on the lyrics to this wonderful old hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful? Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

As a young child singing this song, I’ll admit that it was hard to fathom this relationship with Jesus. This Jesus that we sang about sounded pretty amazing, but how in the world could I carry everything to Him? I didn’t know where to find Him. I couldn’t see this friend called Jesus. In my childhood days, I knew who He was because I had been in church since my birth. I had heard about Him, but I didn’t really know Him. But as I grew older, I learned that this Jesus friend we sang about all of those years was a friend indeed! He became my best friend.

God has blessed me with some truly wonderful friends through the years. Some friendships lasted but a season, however, some of the truest friendships which budded during my childhood continue through to this day. There are people that God has placed in my life that I can truly count on. There are friends who are there to listen when I need to rant, who lend a shoulder when I need to cry, and who encourage me when I am feeling down, I thank God for these people who are an irreplaceable part of me. God knew I would need these friends, and He provided them for me…each and every one at just the right time. But more importantly than all of the wonderful friends that I have been blessed with over the years, God gave me Jesus. He gave me the truest of all friends. 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. (John 15:13-14)

Yes, Jesus came to earth as fully man and fully God, and He laid His life down for each and every one of us. There is no greater love than that. Jesus is the very best kind of friend to have. He bore all of our sins and griefs that day on that old, rugged cross, and because of this amazingly unselfish act of love, we have the privilege to bring everything to God in prayer. Privilege is a right or a benefit. We have the right to bring everything to God in prayer. Isn’t that amazing? And it is all because we have this wonderful friend called Jesus. With Jesus as our Savior, we don’t have to forfeit peace or bear pain. It is true that we will have trials and temptations. Oh, my friends, we see trouble everywhere we look, but with Jesus, we don’t have to handle any of the these things alone. We can take all of our burdens straight to the cross. We can put everything at the feet of our Lord and Savior. There truly is no friend as faithful. He knows our weaknesses, and He gives us His strength. He loves us so much more than we can ever comprehend.

What a friend we have in Jesus! He is a true friend indeed. Do you have a personal relationship with this Jesus? If not, I beg you to get to know Him today. You won’t regret it for even a second. Give your pain and sorrow, trials and temptations, and trouble to Him today. He will give you peace like you have never known. He is a friend indeed when you are in need, and if you don’t have Him in your heart, you are a friend in need!

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Give me a word, Lord: IT’S ALL RIGGED

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Since gradually becoming a little bit more mature in Christ (I still have a long ways to go to reach maturity), I have become very fond of Romans 8:28. I realize that God truly does cause everything to work together for the good of His kids who love Him and who are called for His purpose. Our pastor always says, “It’s rigged…for our good and God’s glory.” I must confess that I have borrowed his little catchy phrase more than a time or two over the past few years because it is very accurate.

I could sit here and list hundreds of examples of God causing everything to work together for my good and His glory, but I know you don’t have all day to read my ramblings. I will give you a specific example, however. A few years ago, I felt a tugging at my heart to go on a foreign mission. I had made a mental note to call our local Baptist association to find out when a trip would be coming up, but I kept putting that mental note on the bottom of the pile of notes that were sitting in the warehouse of my brain. Every few days, that thought would come back to the surface, and I would dwell on it for a brief period of time, but then, I’d tuck it away again. Out of sight, out of mind. This went on for a while. I had even spoken to my husband about this desire for missions that I kept thinking about. I thought about it a lot, but I didn’t act on it. Then, I arrived home from work after a hectic, crazy day. Jeff was offshore. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to feed all of our critters and our children when I received a call from a chiropractor friend of ours. She said that a medical group would be going to Iquitos, Peru, for a medical mission trip that summer, and they were in need of one more provider. She wanted me to pray and consider going with the group. I talked to Jeff who, as I said previously, was working offshore, and he immediately said, “sign us up.” So we prayed, and I signed us up, and that trip was a life changing event in my Christian walk.

God placed it on my heart that I needed to do a foreign mission. He may not have verbally told me that this was what He wanted me to do, but His Spirit nudged me…continually…repeatedly, preparing my mind, over and over again until I received that phone call. Not only that, we had actually received a nice bonus and tax return that particular year, and the cost of the trip, travel, airfare, food, and lodging was sitting right there in our bank account waiting to send us on a mission trip. It was almost like God said, “Get ready, girl. I’m fixing to do something big through you.” And I think I heard Him say, “It’s all rigged, girl. It’s rigged for your good and my glory!”

We signed up for the mission trip, got all of the necessary vaccines, and began preparing for the unknown. I’ve participated in local missions, but I didn’t know anything about foreign missions, not first hand at least. Did I mention that neither me nor my husband speak Spanish, and I was unsure of how we would even communicate with these people? There was a lot of fear within my husband and myself. There was fear of the unknown, fear of the language barrier, and fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone. Every single detail was worked out, from the preparing my mind before I even received the call to go, to covering the expense of the trip, to having interpreters assigned to translate for us, and wouldn’t you know it, God gave me a beautiful, sweet translator who became a very good friend. God worked out every single little detail.

I loved my time in Peru. My heart broke 500 times while I was there. My heart ached for the lost, the sick, and the poor. My eyes were opened to exactly how blessed we Americans are and how much we take for granted. I saw lives changed while there. Seeds were planted and harvested, but do you want to know something? I thought I was going to Peru to be a blessing to the people there, but it turned out that the joke was on me. I was the one who walked away with a humongous blessing. This trip opened my eyes and my heart for missions, not merely foreign missions, but all missions. I realized what a lost world we live in, and my heart was forever changed. I was no longer satisfied with my Christian walk on the sidelines. No, that trip put me in the game. Now, I can’t help but see my mission field in every aspect of my life…my job, my town, my state, and so on.

It is all rigged, my friend. God has this whole thing we call life rigged, and because He is God, He has it rigged for our good and His glory. If something keeps coming to the forefront of your thoughts, if there is a tender nudging from the Holy Spirit, listen up folks. Pay attention! God is most likely preparing you for something big, something good, something life changing, and something that will truly bring glory to Him. Yep, it’s rigged!

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Give me a word, Lord: HE EXISTS

Romans 1:18-20 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

A man went into a barber shop for a hair cut. Pleasantries were exchanged, and the barber proceeded to cut the man’s hair. While the man was sitting in the barber chair getting his hair cut, he read his Bible. After the barber was finished with the man’s hair, he said, “I don’t believe that God exists.” The man was very puzzled and asked why. The barber proceeded to tell him that if God existed there wouldn’t be so many people hurting, suffering, abandoned, or alone. This left the man speechless. He wasn’t sure how to respond at that moment. He left the barber shop, but just as he reached the sidewalk, he turned and saw a man with very long hair and a long beard. He walked back into the barber shop with the young long haired man, and stated, “I don’t believe that barbers exist.” The barber laughed and said, “Yes they do. I am standing right here. How can you say that?” The man said, “If barbers exist, why does this man have long hair and a long beard. Barbers must not really exist.” The barber replied, “Barbers do exist, but this man has to come to a barber to get his hair cut. He can’t get it cut if he does not come to the barber.” The man smiled and said, “Exactly! God exists too, but the reason there is so much hurting, suffering, abandonment, and loneliness is because the people do not come to Him.”

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. (Psalm 19:1-4) The existence of God has been debated time and time again, but try as the non-believers may, they just can not disprove the existence of God or Jesus Christ. I’ve completed studies by Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace. Both were proclaimed atheist, one a journalist and one a homicide detective. Both spent time and energy trying to disprove the existence and resurrection of Jesus. They truly investigated the Bible forensically and evidentially and tried to prove it to be false, but in both cases, these men not only were unable to disprove the Bible or the existence of Christ and the resurrection, they fell in love with Christ and the Word, and they are now proclaiming the gospel to others.

Our universe gives us overwhelming evidence of the existence of God, but just as no one can be forced to go to a barber for a hair cut, no one can be forced to believe in God. Yet, it doesn’t take a renowned journalist or homicide detective to look around at the created world and see the evidence of God’s divine power. It is so amazing that it makes believing in Him and His existence the only option. The heavens proclaim His glory. The skies reveal his craftsmanship. God doesn’t have to yell and scream, “Hey, I’m here! I exist! Look at me!” No, that’s not his style. He speaks without a sound or a word, and His message has gone throughout the earth and to all of the world. When we see the created world, we can’t help but ask ourselves how it all came about.

It is human nature to ignore the obvious. We tend to take things for granted. The sky and the earth has always been here for as long as mankind has existed. Why question it? Because the God that created it also created you and I in His image, and He wants us to get to know Him. He makes His existence obvious to even a knucklehead like me because He wants a relationship with me. As insignificant of a being as I am, the very thought of a God so amazing wanting to know me makes my heart sing. Scripture reminds us that God was there in the very beginning before this earth existed. (Genesis 1:1). God has no beginning and no end. Time and space do not bind Him. (Psalm 90) And that always present, wonderful God who always was and always will be wants a relationship with each of us so much so that He gave His own Son as a propitiation for our sins so that we could be made right with Him. (John 3:16)

It is true that there is much hurting, suffering, abandonment, and loneliness in this world, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. God is here, but He doesn’t force Himself on us. He makes Himself known in all of creation, and He gives us His Word. The means to salvation has been spelled out to us, but we each have to make a choice to come to Him. There is really no excuse for not knowing Him. I’m so thankful that I know my God and my Savior exists. I want to shout it from the rooftops because I don’t want to spend eternity in heaven alone. I want all of you Peeps to be there too! If you don’t know Him, today is the very best day to recognize the existence of our holy Father, and accept Christ as your Savior. And if you already really know Him, get up and get out there and tell someone about Him today. You may be the one to plant the seed, or you may be the waterer, but God will gladly use you to bring others to Him today!