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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!

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Give me a word, Lord: WATERING WEEDS

Matthew 7:17-20 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Galatians 5:22-25 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

Spring is coming. In just a few short days, we will be turning our clocks ahead an hour, springing forward with Daylight Savings time. We will find an extra hour of daylight at the end of each day. I get excited thinking about the spring days that will soon be arriving. We actually got a little taste of spring in the air yesterday with a day filled with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. As my father-in-law would say, “it was a blue bird kind of day.” With spring comes gardening. We grow a lot of our food right here on the farm, and I love to garden. Digging in the cool, dark soil and planting seeds is soothing to the body and mind. We plant the seeds, we water, and then we wait. God provides the sunshine and additional water with rains from above. It seems like it takes forever for that first little seedling to break through the soil and burst forth, but as quickly as one arrives, another will break through, and then another. The watering helps in this process of seed to seedling, but do you want to know what else that water helps produce? Stinking weeds! Yes, every year we grow some very beautiful weeds, and we spend many hours pulling weeds. We realize that the weeds will prevent the plant to thrive and produce adequate nutrition. It seems like the weeds suck the life right out of the fruit bearing plants. There is one weed in particular that our garden seems to be fond of growing: pigweed. It is a weed with sharp thorns, and it grows fast and it gets big. It will take over a garden in a week if allowed to thrive. I despise the pigweed the most, and I have spent many a day gardening planning my conversation with Adam and Eve when I get to heaven. We are going to have a discussion about pigweed for sure.

When I look at my own life, I see a lot of pigweed growing at times too, and I’ve learned that if I water those weeds, they will surely grow. Remember Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 4. He taught of the parable of the different soils. Christ reminded us in those words that spiritual fruitfulness or barrenness depends on the type of soil in which the seed of God’s Word is planted. Jesus talked about the choking influence of the thorns and weeds noting that they squeeze the life out of the fruit producing seedlings, leaving no room for fruit production. Jesus talked about the the weed of worry which pulls us in a direction away from Him and His glory. We are all guilty of allowing this stinking weed to creep in from time to time. It can come in the form of a distraction such as busyness. It can look like insecurity, or it can just appear to be a problem that we dwell on rather than dwelling on the Problem Solver. The second weed that Jesus warned of is the deceitfulness of riches. We live in a very rich, prosperous country, but wealth is deceiving. It allows us to rely on ourselves for our provisions, and it deceives us into thinking that we are in control of our finances. Wealth causes us to have a numb heart in response to God’s direction in our lives. The third weed that Jesus spoke of was the desire for other things. Oh, aren’t we all guilty of watering this weed and letting it grow? We want what we don’t have, and we tend to forget that we already have what we need. If we water any of these weeds for a little while, they will grow and flourish, and when these weeds flourish, they choke out our production of fruit.

Galatians 5:22-25 reminds us of what we need to do differently. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. We must not water the weeds in our garden of life, but rather water the good fruit producing seeds. Allow the Holy Spirit to take control and help us to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. When these seedlings begin to break through, water them like crazy. Get in God’s Word. Study scripture. Talk to God and ask Him to use your for His glory. Remind yourself that Christ has already nailed those wicked weeds to the cross and crucified them there. We shouldn’t be watering weeds when they’ve already been crucified!

What kind of weeds are you watering today? Are you allowing weeds to take away your joy and keep you from enjoying the fullness of life in Christ? Maybe it’s time to start weeding the garden. Let us stop watering weeds, and instead, let us water in the fruits of the Spirit and go out and be fruitful for our Lord and Savior!

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Give me a word, Lord: FELLOWSHIP

Hebrews 10:25 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.

I Thessalonians 2:8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.

Acts 2:42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, gives an excellent description of the fellowship community of God. He says that the church community is “a grouping of persons whom God has called together, whom God will keep together, and who will survive by God’s grace.” I don’t know about you, my friend, but I am forever grateful that God saw fit to group me with the people that He called me to gather with, and I am very grateful that He keeps us together. I am a member of a small Mississippi church. We are not great in number, but we make up for that in spirit and love. COVID-19 has been a difficult season in all walks of our life, and it has affected the church as well. People haven’t been able to gather as usual. We have worked through the glitches of video streaming services, gathered in our cars for parking lot sermons, and finally, we have returned to the sanctuary. It is still somewhat different. I’ve missed seeing the faces of many members of my church family, especially the elders, but I have noticed recently, with the availability of vaccines, a few of those precious faces are returning.

For the past few weeks, we have taken a “break” from Sunday night services to have a time of fasting and prayer to seek God’s will and direction as we move forward. Last night we had a “break-the-fast” breakfast for supper fellowship meal. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Seriously, y’all, gathering together and fellowshipping with your church family is not only good, it is a necessity. We Baptist love to get together and enjoy each other’s company over a fellowship meal, and this Baptist in particular has truly missed our time of fellowship.

The men and ladies of the church came together and laid out a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. We had a variety of sausages, waffles, glorified grits, quiches, breakfast casseroles, muffins, cinnamon rolls, hot biscuits, gravy, jelly and jams, fruit, milk, juices, and coffee. The food was quite delightful, but it wasn’t the food that made the night perfect. No, it was the fellowship. It was finally being able to gather with my people at my home church, hear our pastor share scripture and wisdom, and visit with those people that I love so dearly.

This is not a perfect world. Our church is not the perfect church. We are not perfect people, but there is one thing that joins us in unity as a body of believers, and that is the perfection of our Savior. When we have the good fortune of gathering together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are given the pleasure of dwelling upon the lives of those we love. We share our life experiences, our accomplishments and defeats, our cares and concerns, and we share the love of our Father with our faith family. These times of fellowship are so encouraging and sweeter than honey from the comb, and Christian fellowship rejuvenates our mind, body, and spirit.

I pray that you have great fellowship with your faith family, and if you don’t have a home church or a faith family, I pray that God places you at a church with a family that may not be perfect, but who will be perfect for you. Don’t neglect gathering together with God’s people. It truly is blessing to fellowship with other believers. Relationships blossom, wisdom is shared, and we are further equipped to go and tell others the Good News of the gospel.

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Give me a word, Lord: WASTED DAYS AND WASTED NIGHTS

Matthew 6:29-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 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? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights is not a song you will hear in a Sunday morning church service, and it is unlikely that you will hear it on your gospel radio station. No, it is an old twangy country song by the late Freddy Fender. In case you aren’t familiar with it, let me share a bit of the lyrics. Wasted days and wasted nights, I have left for you behind. For you don’t belong to me, your heart belongs to someone else. Why should I keep loving you
When I know that you’re not true? And why should I call your name when you’re to blame for making me blue?
Old Freddy isn’t talking about a relationship with God here, but rather he’s singing of an old flame that apparently burned out before he was ready. So why I am even writing about this old song today? Because I can relate to the idea of wasted days and wasted nights.

It saddens me to think of how many days and nights I have wasted in my lifetime. I’ve wasted much time worrying about things that were out of my control. I’ve wasted hours upon hours during the daylight and into the night trying to solve the problems of the world. Not only have I wasted days and nights with worry, I’ve wasted days and nights pouring all of my energy into things that turned out to be unworthy of my time. If that old devil had his way, we would be wasting time thinking about our regrets and our mistakes all day long every day. He wants to steal every minute he can possibly steal away from God, but once we become aware of how truly precious our time is, we soon realize that we can’t afford to waste it.

We don’t have time to waste worrying about the mistakes of yesterday or worrying about the fears of the future. We don’t have time to lay around beating ourselves up for past regrets and feeling sorry for ourselves. We must put those things behind us, and do as old Freddy did and stop calling out the names of those mistakes and regrets because we know that those things will make us blue. And not only that, living in the past keeps us from receiving the fullness of the future that God has in store for us.

Scripture reminds us that worrying won’t add even a minute to our lives. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:27) This scripture also reminds us that we have a loving Father who cares about the details. He takes care of the birds, and He creates beautiful flowers that last but a season, yet He creates them with such intricate detail. If he is going to feed the birds and decorate our fields with beautiful flowers, I think we can rest assured that He will meet our needs.

Let’s flex our faith muscles today. Don’t let the enemy steal your time and energy. Instead, let’s use our energy to build our faith in Christ. Let us not waste our days and nights with things that make us blue and do not bring glory to our Father. Let us replace the fear that grips us with faith that binds us to our Father. It is time to take our time back. Don’t waste any more days or nights, rather choose to spend your time doing what matters for the kingdom. Choose to spend your time doing what matters to you and to Christ. Don’t let the enemy steal another second of your time. Invest your time. Don’t waste it. When the enemy tries to put you on the endless path of worry or regret, call to mind the promises of God and meditate on Him and His faithfulness. We don’t have to waste another day or night if we trust in Christ!

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Give me a word, Lord: NEVER BEEN THERE

Hebrews 11:8-10 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

Consider for a moment when you have traveled to a place outside of your comfort zone. It may have been to begin a new job, it may have been for a fun, filled vacation, or perhaps it was for a mission trip to a foreign land where people speak in a different tongue. All of those situations are uncomfortable at first. Although we may be full of excitement, at the same time there is that awkward awareness that we are a stranger in this place. We do not quite know what to expect, and that may cause a bit of fear. Now, consider where we are right now. We are sitting here in the middle of a pandemic that has been ongoing for a year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never lived through a pandemic before. I’ve never practiced medicine in a pandemic. At first, it was awkward and strange, but now curbside patient visits has become common place. We still do not know everything that we need to know about this virus, but we are learning a little more each day. But still…I’ve never practiced in a pandemic. My teacher friends have not taught in a pandemic, and their students have never studied during a pandemic. Our preacher has never preached through a pandemic. Local businesses have never functioned during a pandemic. Come to think of it, no one that I know has had to function in the middle of a pandemic before this past year. Well, that’s not totally true. I know God, and I know He has continued to be God through many pandemics, plagues, and such. But, I’ve never been here before.

This season may be new to you, but it is definitely not new to God. Perhaps God has placed us right here and right now in this place we have never been so that we remember to rely completely on Him and trust Him like never before. God isn’t experiencing any of this for the first time, and the very best part about all of this is knowing in my heart of hearts that even though I am feeling overwhelmed, confused, and more tired than a cat with ten tails at a rocking chair contest, God already knows how all of this will work out, and because I have faith in Him and His plan, I know that it will all work out for our good and His glory.

I’ll be completely transparent with you, my friends, and tell you that this mess has worn me down! It has given a whole new definition to the word tired. A couple of weeks ago, I felt like I was on the brink of tears every single day. I felt lost in this strange land of COVID-19. I’m still learning the language, and I feel like every time a get a handle on this thing, it starts speaking in a whole new tongue. Although a few things seem familiar and have become second nature, other things continue to change on a daily basis. I have spent much time in prayer, and I begged God to show me the way and return me to my place of joy in Him. This past week went by with a winter storm, shortened work days, icy roads, and a big old mess, but guess what? I felt the joy of my Savior. I smiled through it all. He never left me, and he renewed my joy in His Spirit. Yes, I survived again, but i didn’t just survive, I thrived in the Lord.

You may be feeling like Abraham right now. You may feel like God has called you to leave your home and go into a foreign land. You may feel like you are not sure where you are going or where you will end up. We may feel lost in this land of COVID-19, but we have NOT been forgotten. This is indeed a confusing season, but we can all rest assured that even though we don’t know where we are going, God does. And when it is all said and done, we will reside in our heavenly home, and all of this will just be an old memory. God has got you! He always had kept you in the palm of His hand, and He always will. God’s got you!

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Give me a word, Lord: WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Philippians 4:8-9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

There are way too many times in life that I have wasted hours upon hours worrying about something that I had no control over. It took me years of prayers and conversations with God to finally accept this one small fact. Although I like to be in control of every situation, I am NOT in control, and worry as I may, my fears and worry will not change the outcome of a situation. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:27) I’ve also discovered that worry itself is not the only thief of joy. The way we look at things plays a big part in how things go.

If we look at a certain situation and make up our minds that the situation will end badly, in all likelihood it will. We tend to look at things and determine an outcome perhaps based on past experiences. Fear sometimes drives us to see only bad results, and unfortunately when we see bad results we get bad results. But that is not the way the our Father designed us to live. No, He has much better plans for us than that. And when we fill our hearts with Christ and things of Him, our whole perspective changes.

In Sunday School, I started a new routine with our class. Before we begin each week, we have to list one pit (bad thing that happened during the week), one peak (good thing that happened during the week), and one praise (something that we want to praise God for). I think this is a helpful reminder to put the events of our week into a godly perspective. We all have bad days, some weeks more than others, but it is important for us to remember that no matter how bad the week was, there is always something good, and there is always, always something to be thankful for. We must reflect back on the events in our lives from time to time and remember to truly be thankful and praise God for the blessings that he has given us.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Paul reminds us in the book of Philippians to fix our thoughts on what is true and honorable, right and pure, lovely and admirable. This comes naturally when we fix our eyes on Christ. If we look around and look for Christ in everything, we begin to see Him in everything. If we are searching for things that are excellent and worthy of praise, we will see those things, and when we honor Christ with praise that He so deserves, we find peace in all of our situations. I have experienced this first hand more times than I can possibly count.

This past year has been a trying one for all of us in many different ways, but there have also been a vast number of blessings. Let us not sit around and count the heartaches and the trials, but rather let us count our many blessings and in turn praise our Father for each and every one!

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Give me a word, Lord: HANG ON, THE SON IS COMING

Matthew 24:42-44 So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

Revelation 1: 7 Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!

I’ve noticed the grayness this week on my early morning drive to work. Yes, it is a gray world right now. Winter is slowly coming to a close, but the world around us doesn’t know that yet. The skies are gray. Except for the multitude of pine trees and a few live oaks and magnolias, the trees are even gray. They have shed their leaves, and all that remains is the gray bark on the tree and its limbs. The grass is brown and appears dead and lifeless. I have quite a few patients who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. They become depressed during the winter season, and as I look around, I get it. I can understand how all of this grayness can get a person down.

It is quite easy to let the gray engulf you and bring you down, but we’ve almost reached the end of winter this year. God has given us a week of frozen temperatures so that we get at least a little taste of real winter, but y’all, spring is coming. If I stand on my tip toes, I can almost see it. Here on the farm, we live for spring. We can’t wait to prep the ground, get our hands in the dirt, and plant our spring garden. Spring babies are being born, and the barnyard is full of life. The trees begin to bud out with new leaves and blooms slowly develop. The sun that has been hidden for far too long behind a sea of gray clouds begins to overcome the clouds and shine down brightly bringing new life to all that was gray and brown. In just a little over a month, spring will arrive and with spring, the sun is coming! All of the dead appearing trees and grass will come to life again, and everything will be beautiful. We will enjoy green leafy trees and grass, blooms and blossoms in our pastures and flower beds, and fresh vegetables from our garden to our table. Yes, the death of winter will be overcome by the new life of spring. The sun is coming to bring new life to our lives. Just you wait and see.

The coming of spring is exciting indeed. It is definitely my favorite time of the year, but there is one event that should have us shaking in our shoes with excitement. The Son is coming! Oh, the date isn’t on our calendars. We don’t know the day of His great return, but we can start planning for it now. We can prepare our hearts by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, and we can prepare others by getting out there and getting busy. Just as we prepare for our spring gardens on the farm, we can prep the soil in the lives of others to prepare the way for seeds to be planted. Get to know your friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Share yourself with them, and listen and learn who they are. If they don’t know Christ, share your testimony. Plant a seed. If you’ve planted a seed already, but you can’t see a seedling springing forth, plant another seed. Then, don’t forget to water the seed. Continue to share the gospel and pray for that person. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Perhaps you are in a gray, dark place this morning, and you can’t see the sun. Let me take a moment to remind you that it is still there. In this great big universe that is too awesome for me to comprehend, I know that even on these dark winter days when we can’t see the sun, it is still there. It is somewhere behind those gray clouds just waiting to peak through and shine down on us. The sun is there even on the very darkest, coldest days of winter. It doesn’t leave us. We are just a little further away from the sun during these dark, gray months. If we are feeling like we are in a dark, gray place in our hearts today, may it is because we have moved a little too far away from the Son. I can assure you that He didn’t move. He never left. He is always there watching, waiting, and ready to shine down brightly on you. If you can’t feel the brilliant light of the Son, move in a little closer. He is there, and some day soon, the Son is coming back to call the children of God home.

Can you even imagine what that glorious day will be like? Oh yes, my friends, the Son is coming, and when He does, all the dead in Christ shall rise. We will be swooped up and taken to our heavenly home. We will see the newness of life at the feet of our Lord and Savior. All of those dark, gray days will be behind us, and nothing or no one can dim the glorious light of our Savior. We will walk through those pearly gates and tread on streets of gold. We will sing praises to the King of kings. There will be no more tears, no sadness. The Son came to earth to give us life, and the Son is coming again to give us a new life in our eternal home some day! The Son is coming my friends! Are you ready?

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Give me a word, Lord: NOT FINISHED

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Romans 8:28-29 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. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Do you ever wonder why we are still here? Why does Jesus linger? The older I get, I ponder this a good bit, and lately, I feel sure that we are closer now than we have ever been to the return of Christ. Why does He delay? Well, only God can answer that question. The scripture tells us, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Mark 13:32) What if He is waiting for us to finish the good work that He has started in each of us?

No, God isn’t finished yet, and for whatever reason He is choosing to delay the return of Christ, we can rest assured knowing that it is because He isn’t finished. He isn’t finished molding me and making me to be the person that He desires for me to be. I have grown much closer in my walk with the Lord over the past few years. He has definitely changed me. He has given me a desire to serve Him, to study and read His word, and a yearning to share the gospel with others, but I am still lacking. I know that I am not yet the person that God created me to be. I fail Him daily, yet He always picks me right back up, dusts me off, and helps me start all over again. No, He isn’t finished with me yet. I’m a handful, but thankfully, God has big hands!

God isn’t finished using me yet either. Consider this for a moment. What if God has added one more day to our lives, not because we need it, but because someone else needs us? Have you ever considered that? God not only wants to do a good work within each of us, He also wants to use us to do a good work for Him with others. He desires for us to be a reflection of His love, to show grace and mercy, gentleness and kindness, and most importantly, to share the gospel. Right this very moment, there is a person in your life who needs you more than you realize. That person sees that radiance of God’s love in you, and they want what you have. God is using you to touch that person’s life with His light and love. But what about the bad times we go through? What about all of the trials we are enduring? Oh, my friend, God is using those too! Yes, He most definitely is. Through our faith in Christ and with the strength that only comes from Him, we endure our trials differently from the non-believer. We struggle, yes, but we endure. We don’t get mad and give up. Instead, we learn to lean even further on the Lord, and in doing so, our relationship with Him strengthens as He carries us through trial after trial. We come out refined like pure gold and stronger than we ever thought we could be. The funny thing to consider is that God sometimes uses those trials to not only strengthen our relationship with Him, but to bring others to Him. When we share our testimony of just how faithful our God was during the storms of life, our testimony will bring others to Him. Also, when others see how we weather the storms with the grace and strength of Christ, it makes an impact!

I know God isn’t finished with me yet, and I am so very thankful that He has never given up on me. I’m thankful that He continues to refine and purify me, strengthen me, and use me for my good and His glory. God isn’t finished with you yet either! Like that old hymn says, “We’ll work till Jesus comes, and we’ll be gathered home.” I can hardly wait to be gathered home, but until then…I’ll keep working because I know God isn’t finished!

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Give me a word, Lord: TWO THINGS ARE CERTAIN

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die,

Hebrews 9:27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  We had a bit of a winter storm here yesterday. It probably wasn’t much of a winter storm for those who live in the northern climates, but for us folks down here in the deep, deep south, it was significant. We aren’t prepared for weather like this with frozen roads and ice everywhere. As a precaution, many businesses closed early yesterday, including my clinic, and we are even having a late start today to allow the sun to come out and hopefully melt away a bit of the ice. So what is a girl to do with a few extra hours off on a freezing cold work day? Oh, I know! Let’s gather up all of the information for our taxes and get everything ready for our accountant. That’s always so much fun…NOT! It is actually a bit of a chore. We don’t have simple household taxes. We have our personal income, rentals, farm expenses and income, and we have to gather all of the information from all of these ventures once a year because as I said earlier, two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Preparing everything is a chore, it isn’t very fun, but it can thankfully be accomplished in one frosty cold afternoon. If you work in these United States of America, you must pay taxes…some years more than others. It’s inevitable. Although it is a bit of an aggravation, we are accustomed to the process, and we only have to gather all the receipts and paperwork up once a year.

But what about that other certain thing: death? How can we prepare for that? That isn’t really something we can prepare for only once a year, nor is it something we can just ignore. No, my friends, unless Jesus Christ returns beforehand, we will all ultimately die. In fact, from the day we are born, we begin the process of dying. Our body forms cells, and cells die continually. It is inevitable. We can’t stop it. There is no fountain of youth that will give us eternal youth. We can color our hair, slap on some wrinkle cream, and try to appear younger than our years, but the body will continue to age. Yes, we will all die some day, but the thing is, we don’t know when that some day will be. Will we die young? Will we live to be 102? Only God knows the answer to this question, but we can rest assured that one day our days on earth will end and eternity begins.

Life is short. Death is certain. Eternity is forever. And where we spend eternity depends on how we prepare while we are still living. Peter gives a little insight in I Peter 1:17:21, Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Our life on earth will end in physical death, that death is followed by judgement, and judgement is followed by eternal life.

We all get to live, and we all get to die. We will all be judged, and we all get an eternity after this life on earth. The big question is, “where will you spend eternity?” I pray your answer is heaven, and I pray that you know this without a shadow of a doubt. How can we know for sure? Well, we can’t gather up all of life’s receipts of our good deeds and turn those in. That won’t work. No, my friends, it is very simple. Too simple, in fact! We must only accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Believe that He died for our sins and was resurrected, and confess that He is our Savior. It is then after we ask Him to be the Lord of our hearts that our eternity is assured. Then, all those good works come naturally. The good works won’t get us to heaven, but it is because of our faith in Christ that we begin working for Him.

Get those taxes together in case Jesus doesn’t return by April 15, but even more important than those taxes, get yourself together today. Just remember this fact. If you owe taxes, you have to pay taxes, but with death there is a loophole. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the gift of eternal life is free! Jesus already paid the price. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23) Make sure that you know where you will be spending eternity. You may have until April 15. You may have fifty years left on this earth. You may only have today. There is no better time than now to choose Jesus!

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Give me a word, Lord: THANKFUL FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD

John 10:11-18 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

It is lambing season on our little farm. We have already been blessed with two sets of twins and two singles this month, and we have one mama ewe who is holding on and holding out on us. I’m a bit worried that she will decide that today is the day, but I sure hope she holds on for a couple more days at least. The weather man is predicting that the temperature will drop to 16 degrees tonight. We are in for some freezing rain throughout the day today, and then we will have frozen temperatures for the next 24 hours. It looks like it is going to be a very cold week. Maybe that doesn’t sound cold to some of you, but to this Mississippi girl, that is C-O-L-D! Besides that, even though our animals are semi-used to the bipolar weather of Mississippi, they aren’t used to those kind of temperatures. Yes, they are in a nice big barn, but still, that’s cold!

Today, I woke up with my sheep on my mind. I began thinking back to the many times that we have had to bottle feed a baby lamb, and I’m quite thankful that I’m not bottle feeding one at the moment. It can be quite a task. When there are babies on the bottle, I have to roll out of bed at 4:30 instead of 5:00 am. It’s tough to get those little boogers to take a bottle at first. They know that the nipple is artificial and is nothing like their mama’s. So I work with the baby. I give a little bit of formula at a time. The lamb will play with the nipple, chew on the nipple, and try to suck for just a moment or two, and then it will become aggravated and start bucking and bouncing around on my thighs like a wild deer. So I have a little talk with the baby lamb, and I try again…and again…and again. When I don’t think the baby is getting enough, I feed the formula little by little with a syringe. Oh, the lamb will take some of it happily and readily, and then it will fight and stomp all over me. We do this 3 or 4 times a day, sometimes for several days, until the baby finally learns to latch on. By the time I finally get the baby lamb to suck the bottle correctly, I’ve got about 75 little black and blue hoof prints bruises on my legs. Why do I do this? It’s simple. I love the baby lambs, and I refuse to give up on them until I am sure that they have received enough formula, not enough to merely sustain them, but enough to keep the babies alive and well.

When I consider this, I realize how much this is like our great Shepherd caring for us. He is such a good, good Shepherd. He lets us try to do things our way. He allows us to struggle. We fight Him. We get aggravated with life. We gladly receive some of His blessings, but we refuse others. We fall, and He picks us back up. If we start slipping away, He offers us the love, nourishment, and the gift of eternal life, not merely enough to sustain us, but to keep us alive eternally. I can’t help but think about all the many times I fought Him, and I sadly consider how many little bruises I may have left on His heart. Yes, I know I’ve left a few bruises on the heart of my Savior over the years, and for that, I am eternally sorry. However, I am so very grateful that He has never given up on me. Just as I won’t give up on that baby lamb who needs me, Christ will never give up on me because He knows that I need Him so much. I rejoice knowing that He loves me, and that He will never give up on me!

Today, I am thankful for the good Shepherd. Do you know Him? Have you bruised His heart a time or two? Don’t let that separate you from the loving care of the good Shepherd. He is ready, willing, and able to nurse you back to a wonderful, loving relationship with Him! Call on the good Shepherd today!

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Give me a word, Lord: MY FIRST LOVE

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes: in him shall not perish but have eternal life.-

Romans 8:1-4 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! Today is the one day of the year that we celebrate love. I have no idea why only one day was chosen for this spectacular celebration, but I am glad that we do set aside at least one day to remember and reflect on all the things of love. For many, today is one of celebrating their great romance. We share gifts and chocolates and romantic dinners with our sweethearts. We give chocolate filled hearts to our children, family and friends. We think about how much we truly love the person that we are doing life with. But for some, that special person has been called home to Jesus. Others haven’t yet met that special someone. Yes, for some this is a very lonely day, but it doesn’t have to be. For you see, there is one true, eternal love of our life that has been with us all along and who will never leave us.

I feel the love of my husband, my family, and my friends on a daily basis. I really do, but some days (most days actually) I really, really need to feel the love of my Savior. I am so thankful that He is always there. Life has been a bit stressful this past year. I’ve never worked in a pandemic before, and I pray that when this COVID pandemic ends (if it ever ends) that I never have to work through one again. I’m speaking from my heart when I say that I am so tired that my tired is tired. This whole thing has been very wearing on the body and the mind. It is easy to get dismayed, but then there’s God! My first true and forever love shows up and reminds me that He is very near. He reminds me that He never left me and that He is still in control and that I only need to be quiet and still.

A Chris Tomlin song came on the radio on my way to work yesterday. It is called Take My Life, and somehow, that song was exactly what I needed to here for this Valentine’s weekend. Let me share the lyrics with you: Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days. Let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King. Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee. Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect and use every power as You choose. Here am I, (here I am) all of me, (all of me). Take my life, (take my life) it’s all for Thee, (it’s all for Thee). Take my will and make it Thine. It shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thine own. It shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord. I pour at Your feet its treasure store. Take my self and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

If you are feeling not so “Valentiney” lovey, dovey today, or perhaps feeling sad or alone, don’t give in to those feelings. Go back and reflect on your first love: Christ. He is the one who gave up His life for each and every one of us. When we begin to comprehend what Christ did for us, how much He gave up for us, and how much He truly loves us, we learn what true love is. Let us recline in the joy of our salvation. Let us celebrate this true love we have for the Savior and this wonderful, unconditional love that He has for us. Let us give of ourselves fully to Him today and every day. Let our hands and feet be used for His glory. Let our lips be filled with His words. Let us give of ourselves to others, and ask the Lord to use us as He see fit. Let us show the love of Christ to this lonely, crazy, chaotic world we have found ourselves in. I know that Jesus can loves us through this pandemic, and we can love others through ti as well.

Today seek out and remember your first love. Celebrate Christ today and every day! You are loved so much more than you could ever imagine! I hope that you have received that precious gift of salvation. There is no greater gift than the eternal love of our Savior. Share that gift with someone you love today!

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Give me a word, Lord: SEEK HIM

Psalm 105:4-6 Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

A couple of years ago, my husband bought a camera for me for Mother’s Day. It isn’t a professional camera, but it is definitely the best one that I have ever owned. It has an excellent zoom lens, and that lens has allowed me to zoom in on things that are at a great distance and draw them in so that I can see even the minutest detail. I was able to give my new camera a work out a couple of months after receiving it when we vacationed in Costa Rica. It enabled me to see beautiful flora and fauna and many beautiful creatures. Even though I am far from being a professional photographer, that camera makes me look pretty good. I’ve spent hours outside at night trying to get a great shot of the moon and Jupiter and Saturn. I have searched the night sky trying to find the perfect shot. As soon as I get a glimpse of the moon in my camera, I zoom in and bring the moon up close and personal. I can even see the craters of the moon. The moon is 238,900 miles from earth, but I can seek it out and find it, and I can photograph it in detail. It is quite amazing. It makes me feel so close and yet so small.

It is humbling to realize that God sees us up close and personal. He zooms in on us and is aware of every single detail that is going on in our lives. His zoom lens is oh so much better than mine! He sees all of those happy moments, the sad ones, the fun moments, and the aggravating ones. He sees us. He knows us. He wants to be up close and personally involved in every aspect of our lives. He seeks us out, but are we seeking God? Scripture tells us that we are to seek the Lord continually, but many of us struggle with this command. We are so busy with the multitude of daily tasks that we feel the need to accomplish. Our own interests and duties consume our lives, and our priorities get out of whack.

The psalmist reminds us here that we are to search for the Lord and seek him, but how do we do this with all of the busyness we have to deal with on a daily basis? Scripture and prayer are always good places to start. How better can we seek the Lord than through His word and through conversation with Him? I’ve prayed for God to give me a craving for His Word, and He gave me a hunger that can’t be satiated. The more I seek His word, the more hungry I become for it, but on the other hand, the less I seek His word, I find that my appetite diminishes. If we want to seek the Lord, we have to hunger for Him!

The problem we have in this society is that we aren’t hungry. We are all fat and happy, and we aren’t craving the Lord. We live in a fast food society, and we expect for our relationship with Christ to be served up in the same manner. We go to church, but we glance at the time while we think of what we have to do next. We drive the short distance to church in a comfortable car. We sit on comfortable pews in air conditioned and heated buildings, and we complain if it is too hot or too cold. We take a minute here or a minute there to read scripture, but we aren’t really studying or getting anything out of it. We pray before meals and when we find ourselves in a bind. Many times we may even take our salvation for granted. We keep it in our wallets like a “get out of hell free” card. We aren’t seeking God. We aren’t hungry for Him.

God deserves better than this, my friends. He deserves our full, focused attention. We should be seeking Him with a giant zoom lens, and looking for Him in everything. We should be seeking His will in our lives, and we should be spending time with Him on a regular basis. It seems that this world is falling apart. The chaos is too much to handle. We are sinking in a bed of quicksand, and we can’t find our way out. There is a better way, y’all. We don’t have to live life on the sidelines. We should be living life to the fullest, but the only way that we can truly live life abundantly is through a close, personal relationship with God.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4) Consider the awesomeness of our Lord and Savior. Consider His wonderful creations, and realize that you are one of His miracles. He created you to glorify Him. We can’t glorify Him if we aren’t seeking Him. But if we seek Him–we will surely find Him! But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him. (Deuteronomy 4:29) Zoom in on the Lord today. Start searching. Begin seeking. He is there…waiting…patiently. Seek the Lord today, and I guarantee you that you will find Him!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE ROAD TO TRANSFORMATION RUNS THROUGH THE TUNNEL OF TRIBULATION

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 30:17 But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds declares the Lord.

I Corinthians 10:13-14 No temptation has overtake you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.           

My husband, Jeff, and I have a small farm in the north end of the county. Jeff has raised beef cattle for much of his life, and a few years ago we decided to buy a few chickens. At the time we didn’t realize that the chickens would be the gateway drug to this way of living that we now call life. Through the years, we have obtained, bartered, sold, bought, and traded a menagerie of animals. We have or have had fainting goats, sheep, cattle, ducks, chickens, geese, guineas, pheasants, 2 kangaroos, deer, skunks, possums, a fox, lemurs, coatimundis, raccoons, flying squirrels, squirrels, Patagonian cavy, prairie dogs, alpacas, peacocks, rabbits, dogs, cats, and the list goes on and on! Through my experiences as a nurse practitioner, farmer, wife, mama, and grandma, God has blessed me tremendously. Every year, I have found myself growing closer and closer to God, and every year, He just keeps on blessing me more and more. It’s amazing how that works, isn’t it?

From the outside looking in, it looks like my life is a bed a roses, right? I mean really, I’ve got the best husband in the world, a lovely home, farm, critters galore, children, family, friends, an awesome job, and I was allowed to publish a few books. Roses! Well, yes, but everybody knows to get to the rose, you have to encounter a few thorns. Boy oh boy, have I encountered a few thorns.

At the age of 11, my mother and father divorced. I think that my mom thought that she had missed out on life by marrying at a young age and having four daughters practically back to back, and she wanted to get out there and live it up. She unfortunately fell into the trap of alcoholism, and alcohol then controlled her for most of her life. I watched my mother tragically go through so many different relationships, and she struggled to keep a relationship with her children and her family. She was able to function as a nurse for many years despite the alcoholism. I saw so many things in her life that just scared me to death and made my heart hurt to the core. My mother wanted to be free of the alcohol, but the alcohol had control over her life. I prayed for her and her addiction, I cried over it, and I wanted to see her break free of those chains that bound her. It was a very long, hard road for her. There was so much loss in her life, so many trials that defeated her, but still despite all of the terrible things going against her, she had two things in her corner: the love of children that just wouldn’t go away and prayed over her daily and a God that is bigger than any addiction.

At age 57, (that’s just 3 years older than I am right now), my mother finally broke those chains. She finally went into a rehab after making a heart decision. She wanted to stop drinking for herself and for her family. She wanted to break free of this dependence so that she could enjoy her family, her children, and her grandchildren. She didn’t go to rehab this time because someone made her. She did it for herself and her family and it worked. She remained alcohol free for the last two years of her life. I lost my mom at the age of 59. She fell down her steps and broke both ankles and subsequently suffered a pulmonary embolism. I received a phone call from my uncle at 10:30 pm on April 3, 2004. She was staying at my uncle’s home after her fall down the stairs. She was in cardiac arrest. I arrived at his home and performed CPR on my mother until the paramedics arrived, but it was too late. She was already gone. Oh, I’ve cried my share of tears over this loss, but more than tears I rejoice because in her case, I know that the arms of the Lord are around her right now, and that one sweet day, I will see her again.  That gives me peace that transcends all understanding. I know she was a believer. I’ve read the journal that she wrote through rehab, and I have no doubt that she is in heaven, and I praise God that He gave us those last two years we had with her before her death.

Addiction has touched all of our lives, but we must remember that nothing is too hard for God. He will take what is broken and restore it. He is there, waiting, waiting for you to call on Him. I didn’t plan to share these words today. I actually kind of fought it, but the Holy Spirit kept nudging me to write this so I think perhaps someone needed to see this today. Whether you are one that is currently struggling with addiction, a recently recovered addict, or you have a family member dealing with addiction, I have found through my life experiences that there is only one cure and that cure comes from FAITH in the Lord Jesus Christ. When you are overwhelmed with health problems, bad news, or relationship struggles, the Word of God can be your source of supernatural help. Praying and talking to Jesus about my problems gives me strength that I could never finding in myself alone! So don’t give up! Always remember that the road to transformation must run through the tunnel of tribulation. This is so true! Remember my earlier reference regarding roses and thorns? It’s kind of the same thing. What I’m saying is this time may be painful, full of trials and tribulations, but just keep remembering in the end the transformation will be like that of a beautiful rose. God promises greater things in store – a future filled with promise and hope!

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Give me a word, Lord: PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY

Genesis 2:24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

I Corinthians 11:13 But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

It is estimated that most Americans will eat 3,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during their lifetimes. THREE THOUSAND! That’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly. Most children in the United States are introduced to the perfect combination by the age of four. As an adult, I like to mix a little peanut butter and jelly in a bowl and eat it with a spoon, but that isn’t a sandwich. You have to have the slather that sticky, sweet mixture over a couple of slices of bread and put the bread together to get the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Peanut butter is a little sticky, and it mixes well with jelly. It is full of protein and nutrients that we need for our good health. It does our body good. Jelly is pretty great too. In fact, we make homemade jelly through the year and give it away as gifts at Christmas. Jelly can be extremely sweet and sugary. It is sometimes tart and tangy. It is a delight to the senses. Yes, both peanut butter and jelly can be eaten alone, but when you put them together, you get a fantastic combination.

Marriage is a lot like a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you think about it. The husband and wife represent the sticky peanut butter and sweet jelly. Some days the husband may be the sticky glue that holds the couple up and helps to hold them together, and some days it may be the wife’s job. Each spouse at different times provides nourishment for the relationship that is needed on a daily basis in order for the relationship to survive. Some days the husband is sugary sweet, and some days the wife will add the sweetness. Each partner has days of tartness, tanginess, and mixtures of sugary sweetness. We all have good days and bad days, but when the husband and wife are a great team, they work through those good and bad days together. Each spouse plays a vital part in making the marriage work.

Peanut butter is good by itself, but it is great when you add a little jelly. But what about the bread? You can’t make a great sandwich without the bread, and you can’t have a great marriage without the Bread of Life. Yes, you guessed it. The bread represents Christ. When a man and woman are joined in marriage, God puts them together in a way that no one else can. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33) A pastor can not put a couple together, nor can a judge. Only God can provide that perfect union of husband and wife. Even though you have some sticky peanut butter holding on to the jelly, you have to have the bread to keep it all together. Yes, marriage is a lot like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A couple brings many great things to the table when they join in marriage, things that help to bring them closer together as a couple, but if that couple fails to keep Christ at the center, all the goodness they bring to the marriage will NOT keep them together. We have to ask and allow Christ to be the center of our lives and the center of our marriages. He will help hold us together in a way that we can not do in and of ourselves.

I’m speaking with a little bit of personal insight on this subject, for you see, I am on my second (and last) marriage. My first marriage failed. We had a little peanut butter and a little jelly, but there wasn’t an over abundance of either. I had Christ, but my ex-husband did not. Christ can’t be the center of a union when only one half of the union is following Him. I could take this opportunity to play the blame game, but I won’t. When I reflect back now, I realize that the marriage didn’t make it because we didn’t make God a priority together. I still pray for my ex-husband to this day, and I’ve learned to let go and let God control every aspect of my life. When Jeff and I married, I prayed for God to take over. I prayed for God to be the center of our marriage, and boy oh boy did He ever! I am now married to a wonderful, loving, Christian man who prays boldly with me. He teaches Sunday School at my side, and he is a deacon of our church. He is my peanut butter, and I am his jelly, BUT GOD is the bread that is holding us together!

To make a good sandwich, you have to have all the right ingredients. You can’t make a sandwich without the bread. If you are trying to make a chocolate cake,, but keep ending up with a lemon one, what do you do? You check your ingredients! Today, I pray for your marriages. I pray that you realize that even if you are a great team made up of the finest peanut butter and the sweetest jelly, you aren’t going to make it if you don’t have the Bread! Make sure you include the most important ingredient: God! Ask God to be the center of your marriage. Move over and let Him in! It’s peanut butter jelly sandwich time!!

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Give me a word, Lord: GOD DOESN’T MAKE JUNK!

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

Hebrews 4:16. Why this verse? Because that is where I find my confidence: in God alone. I want to talk to you this morning about confidence and reassure you that if you aren’t feeling confident, you are not alone! We all go through periods when we do not feel like we have it all together, and there are probably many times that we feel alone. Life is tough. I write daily because I feel an urgency from the Lord to share His word, and I pray that some of what I say may be a blessing to someone today and perhaps give someone the confidence and courage they are seeking.

Today, I want to take you back to the days of my youth. Indulge me for just a moment. Imagine this: There was a girl in school who was very skinny and gangly, gawky, and nerdy. She didn’t have much of a figure, she was flat chested, and had no curves at all…well you get the picture. This girl also had to wear thick glasses because she couldn’t see well. She was practically blind. The glasses were as thick as those old glass coke bottles. To make matters even worse, she had a terrible overbite. When I say overbite, I mean a a serious overbite. She covered her mouth when she spoke. She would have crawled under a building or wished that the earth would swallow her up rather than stand in front of a crowded room to speak to people. Do you have a picture of her in your minds eye? Let’s fast forward almost 40 years. That gawky, nerdy, girl is now this woman who is sitting at my kitchen table full of confidence writing these words as I prepare my mind and heart for my busy work day. This confidence has come to me very gradually through the years. My chest is still flat. I’m still not much to look at. I now have to wear reading glasses to read as my eyes have grown old. I have ridiculously curly hair that I often have to color to hide the gray. Yep, I’m still a work in progress, but by God’s grace, I come before you with confidence!

When I was in high school, I thought that high school was the whole world. High school is awesome for the popular kids, the ones who are great at sports, the ones who are excelling, but it’s not always a fun place to be. It wasn’t fun for me at all. So what changed? How did I go from being a shy wall flower to become the blooming idiot before you today? Let me share a few secrets with you. My dream in high school was to become a nurse or a writer. When I graduated high school, I wanted to go to nursing school, but that meant I had to take a speech class. I wasn’t ready for that. Instead I went to work for a couple of years, basically it was because I was scared to death to take speech class and make speeches. I gradually began taking night classes, yes…including speech, and I excelled in those classes. I’ve always been blessed with good grades, and I have always been determined to do my best no matter what I am trying to do. I was accepted into nursing school, and graduated valedictorian of my class, but then…because God has jokes…I had to make a speech at graduation…in front of a whole gymnasium full of people…I literally thought I was going to pee my pants.  But I did not, and I made the speech and survived!

After graduating nursing school and acquiring a job, I found my smile. I met an awesome orthodontist who corrected my overbite by using a combination of braces and oral surgery to break my jaw and screw it back together. It seems I had what is called a hypoplastic mandible. That means that the bones of my jaw didn’t develop fully. The treatment was to break my jaw, bring it forward to the proper place, and then put 3 titanium screws in each jaw. It was an awful procedure, but I finally found my smile. No more hiding behind my hand to speak to people. I started smiling more than ever.  I ditched the glasses for contacts, and later Lasik surgery. I corrected some of the outer things that I was self-conscious about, but was that really necessary? I think I can answer that with an emphatic NO! Yes, it made me feel better about the outer me, but as I’ve grown older, I realize that the outer me isn’t nearly as important as the inner me. Society urges us to focus on looks, but some of the most beautiful people I have ever met may be considered the ugliest by the standards of society because real, true beauty lies within.

I gave my life to Christ when I was 13 years old, and I never regretted that decision for a moment. I have, however, made many mistakes through the years. I’ve not lived a perfect life, and I’ve not even lived up to my full potential as a strong Christian woman. But looking back, I see God’s hand over every single aspect of my life: the good times and the bad times. Even those days when I felt horribly awkward in high school, God had a plan. He knew then that one day I would be sharing my story with you to encourage you.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5

“But the very hairs on your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

Wait what??? God knew me before I was even formed in my mother’s womb, and He knows how many hairs are on my head? Have you ever tried to count the hairs on your head? It’s just about impossible. But the Bible says that God knows me that well. All I can say when I think of that is “Wow, I must be pretty important to God.” God made me, and He made each one of you, and God doesn’t make junk! When I started to really understand this, I began to have more confidence in myself and much more faith in God. Every year that passes, I grow stronger in my faith and in doing so, I gain more self-confidence. I am after all the daughter of the King, and I wear my crown proudly! Let me just share how God has worked in my life through the years.

After nursing school, I decided I would become a nurse practitioner. I applied for the Acute Care NP program, but God knew that wasn’t for me and opened the door for me to be accepted into the Family NP program. As a family nurse practitioner, I am able to care for entire families. I am able to minister to them, pray with them, and pray for them. God has even opened doors to place me in the right clinic at the right time and held my hand gently as I struggled through difficult days and loss and grief. I have been practicing for more than 20 years now, and I could spend all day long telling you how I’ve been blessed in my career.

But wait…there’s more! I’ve been on two international mission trips in the last few years. First to Peru, and then to the Dominican Republic. I ache for those who are suffering and are lost. Isaiah 6:8 says “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’” When I read that verse, it touches my heart, and I realize that I am not doing enough to reach others. I asked God to use that book to open doors for me to share more about Him. God then allowed me to publish three books and to begin this daily devotional blog.

Now back to how I went from gawky teenager to confident old lady: for me, it was my learning to place complete and utter faith in Christ. And when I finally learned to do this, everything just fell into place. How do you gain more self-confidence? First of all, you have to determine what lies you are telling yourself. What makes you feel bad about yourself? Make a list of the flaws that you think that you have and the lies that you have been telling yourself, and then at the bottom of that list, write in all capital letters: God doesn’t make junk!  You must then reject this negative thinking. Replace these lies that you tell yourself with truth:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139.:14

You are precious to God. Isaiah 43.4

You have been cared about since conception. Isaiah 46:3

You are God’s child which means you are the son or daughter of the King. John 1:12.

You are Jesus’ friend. John 15:15

So, according to this, you are all wonderfully created, precious, known and loved by God, and you are a prince or a princess! It is time to celebrate YOU. God made you, uniquely, wonderfully, and there is no carbon copy of you. Let that crown sparkle! Now what? The infamous and wise Dr. Seuss once said, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go…” He also said, “Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” It’s time to realize that you are made just as God planned it, and even if you can’t see the end of the story right now, it’s not to late to start writing the book.

We all come from different backgrounds. We each have had your own struggles. I urge you to lift one another up. Encourage one another, and in doing so, you will find encouragement, and ultimately courage. Choose your friends carefully. Surround yourself with positive people who seek good, and not evil. Surround yourself with people who are loving and kind. It’s a proven fact that if you spend all of your time with negative people, you also become negative. Stay positive, stay strong, and “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.” Our confidence comes from God alone. Once we realize that, everything else simply falls into place. You were created for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify our God. You are the daughter or son of the King. Live like the princess or prince He intended for you to be! God created you, and God doesn’t make junk!

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Give me a word, Lord: HE WILL NOT CHANGE

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 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. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

Everything is changing! I’ve heard that phrase since my early childhood days, and I have been saying it myself quite a bit recently. Our government officials have changed. Policies are changing. Gas prices are up. We are wearing masks everywhere we go now. Babies are being born, and loved ones are dying. Even the weather forecast changes. Last Friday, the forecast called for snow, but now it is showing 60% chance of rain with high of 54 degrees. No we won’t be seeing any snow here on Friday. After six years of the same schedule, my work schedule has changed recently too!

Yes, things are going to change, but thankfully, there is one constant in our lives that will never change: God. It is so comforting to know that in the ever changing, chaotic world, our God never changes. Change is scary. We don’t like it. Some changes are good, and some are even great, but some changes make us feel very uncomfortable. The changes that have been ongoing lately have been quite uncomfortable. From one day to the next, we aren’t sure what is going to happen next, BUT God does. He has already seen tomorrow, and He knows exactly what tomorrow holds. The best part of that is knowing that although we don’t know what tomorrow holds, we know Who holds tomorrow.

When you are feeling lost and can’t seem to find your way in this ever changing world, don’t be dismayed. Just look for the Light. Consider for a moment that you are driving your car on a very dark highway. The only light you see is that of your headlights. You continue to drive a little further and a little further as the headlights continue to light your path. You can see a few feet in front of you, and you push on. The light shines brightly on the road ahead of you, and you can continue travelling. God is our light. We can’t see what lies ahead, but God shines down on us brightly and lights the path we are on. He shines His bright light on our path so that we can see the direction that we are travelling. He gives us enough light to get to where we are going. He gives us enough! Yes, He always gives us enough and so much more.

God is still here with you. He hasn’t changed. He never left your side. He is the same today as yesterday and a hundred years ago. He is that same gracious, loving Father. He loves you so much! Let His light shine down on you today as you travel this ever changing world. Oh yes, the world is changing, but our God…He is still the same!

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Give me a word, Lord: OH MY HEART

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Isaiah 1:15-18 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “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.

We are on the brink of Valentine’s Day, the day of love and red hearts filled with candy. It is one day that we set aside each year to celebrate love. The store shelves are filled with decorative heart-shaped boxes filled with many different types of confections. Personally, I do not like Valentine’s Day candy hearts. I don’t like biting into a chocolate treat only to find a gooey center. Those heart-shaped boxes are full of deceptive treats in my opinion! I want pure chocolate sweetness. Give me a big old Hershey’s candy bar. Yes, solid milk chocolate. I don’t need all of that other stuff. Just give me the chocolate.

God probably looks down on us in a similar way. God wants a pure, sweet relationship with each and every one of us. He wants our whole heart. He desires a one on one relationship, and He wants to be the Lord of our hearts. He doesn’t want all that other stuff in our hearts that is muddying up the water. No, my friends, our Father wants our whole, pure heart. He wants the real you and the real me without any added flavorings.

Yes, our God wants a real relationship with us, and He doesn’t candy coat it. Scripture provides us with examples of prayer, and we learn through the scripture that prayer begins with a very personal relationship with God. When we enter into a relationship with God, we slowly begin to understand how to live, our lives are slowly transformed, and He becomes our Father. He creates within us a clean heart, a pure heart, and a heart that beats for Him. What in the world does this mean? A clean, pure heart doesn’t come naturally. We are all born sinners. Our hearts are not pure. God has to create a clean, pure heart within us, and even more important, He continues to re-create a clean heart within us over and over because we can not maintain it under our own power. But we can ask Him to give us a clean heart, and He will!

We began a study on stewardship this week, and early in the study, we were reminded that to be good stewards, we must have a heart for Christ. We must attempt to live like Christ, and in doing so, we will exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. One issue we run into is the lack of a clean heart. Isaiah shares with us the importance of cleaning up our hearts. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. God knows our hearts, and He knows our actions. We can pray to Him all day long, offering the same prayer over and over, but if our hearts are not clean, if there is sin in our lives, He is not listening. Sin separates us from a relationship with God, but it doesn’t have to. God is ready, willing, and able to forgive us for any and every sin in our lives, and better yet, He will also help us to stay away from sin if we only ask.

Let’s do a heart check this week. Does your heart look great on the outside like those beautiful red heart-shaped boxes filled with sweet treats? Does it look deceptively good like the Valentine’s chocolate that is pure chocolate on the outside, but the inside contains many surprises? Or does your heart look clean and pure before the Father? Is your heart pumping for the glory of God, or is your heart pumping for your own sinful self and pleasures? Check your heart today, and if it perhaps looks a little dirty, all you have to do is go to God and ask Him to clean it up. He will give you a clean heart. He will renew His Spirit in you. Won’t you call on Him today?

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Give me a word: Lord: SUNDAY MORNINGS AIN’T EASY ‘ROUND HERE

Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Jeremiah 31:25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.

Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.

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

Today is Sunday, and the usual chaos is ongoing around here! We have a new puppy who is eight weeks old who is trying to consume all our attention. We have meetings at church at 9:00 am before Sunday School at 10:00, and we are trying to accomplish too many things at this farmhouse before we leave. I’m thinking that I should have rolled out of bed at 5:00 instead of 6:00 today. One thing is for sure though, if the good Lord is willing, we will be at church this morning because that is very important to our family. I pray that this morning you find your way to church also. Don’t let the busyness of the day keep you away from the Lord’s house. I’m sharing an excerpt from my book “Inspirations from the Funny Farm”. I hope you enjoy it!

Everyone that knows me well knows that Sunday is my favorite day of the week What those who know me don’t know is that actually Sunday morning after 10:00 am is my favorite day of the week. One might think, oh how lovely! She actually takes a day to leisurely sleep in, rolls out of bed at 10:00 am after a long night’s rest, and really takes that “Sabbath is the day of rest” thing seriously. The one that thought that would be dead wrong! We don’t rest on Sundays at my house until after 10:00 am, and then, if we are lucky, we may even get to sneak in a little nap about once every third Sunday or so.

 I’m here to tell you that when good old Lionel Ritchie wrote “Easy Like Sunday Morning”, he definitely was not talking about Hodge Lodge. No sir! Sunday mornings can be quite rough at times. There is just so much to do, and it must be done in such a short amount of time that I generally feel like a chicken running around with my head cut off. The devil knows that getting to church on time is a priority for me on Sunday mornings, and he will do whatever he can to try to change my plans and make me late, make me lose my temper, or make me get my mind off of things of Christ.

When the kids were younger, wrangling them out of bed in a timely manner was difficult in itself. Then, there was “I don’t want to brush my teeth.” “I can’t find my other shoe.” “I’m not wearing this.” “Where is this or where is that?” By the time we were all loaded up in the car on our way to Sunday School, I was feeling a much stronger need to feel the Holy Spirit moving inside of me. If getting the kids out of the door and arriving at church by 10:00 am was my only task, I guess that wouldn’t be so difficulty, but wait. There’s more!

Every other Sunday, we cook Sunday lunch for our family. Jeff’s mom, Nanny, cooks on the opposite Sundays. Sunday lunch is serious business at our house. We make sure to sit down as a family for our evening meal at home with the immediate family living under the roof every single night, but on Sundays, we feed the immediate and extended family: our grown sons, their wives, our grandson, parents and occasionally our pastor and his family or other friends. There is a minimum of 10 people gathered around our table for lunch, and we cook to try to please the masses. We always cook a meat dish, a minimum of two vegetables or perhaps a casserole, bread, and of course, sweet tea. On our Sundays to cook, I begin cooking as soon as my feet hit the floor so that lunch will be ready when we get out of church. I am not complaining, just explaining. I love cooking for my family, and I love having family all gathered around the table.

Because I’m a little bit OCD, I have to make sure the house is tidied up before family and friends come over to our house for lunch. While lunch is cooking, I’m also busy cleaning the house, putting everything that is out of place back into its proper place, and giving the house one more good sweeping and mopping. I can’t enjoy having a house full of people if the house isn’t clean even if those people are my people. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness.

Somewhere between cooking and cleaning, ordering kids around, ironing clothes, and finding lost shoes, we have to take care of the animals. Yep, that’s right. We live on a farm, and the farm duties continue even on Sundays. If there are babies on bottles, I usually get up an hour earlier to make sure that we have time to feed all the babies. I’ve chased pigs through the yard in my Sunday dress and high heels on more than one occasion. The pigs have knocked the gate off the hinges and set everyone free early on a Sunday morning. These unexpected incidents result in Jeff, Crystal, and me roaming our 80 acres, gathering critters, and leading them back to the barn. We’ve had early morning goat, sheep, and calf deliveries. We’ve received calls that the cows were out and have had to rush to get them back into the proper field before church. And if we are lucky enough to have an uneventful animal morning, all those critters still have to be fed and watered, and that takes up a bit of our time.

Yes, on Sundays, we get up at the crack of dawn to prepare a full meal for our wonderful family, get the kids ready, feed the animals, tidy up the house, handle human and animal emergencies as they come, dress myself, prepare our Sunday School lesson, and run out the door in a feeble attempt to show up on time. We generally arrive on 2 tires screeching into the parking lot just before 10:00 am. All the while, I’m checking to make sure my hair isn’t completely crazy, although it always is, and praying that my shoes match. As we walk through the doors of the church, I let out a great big sigh of relief. We made it! Thank the good Lord above, we made it!

Sunday mornings are not easy for sure so why continue that exhaustingly crazy routine week after week? We do it because that’s our life, and we love it! Sundays are for God, church, and family. We don’t prepare a big meal for show. We prepare a big family meal with love so that we can enjoy the company of our most cherished love ones as we gather around our big old mahogany table. I love cooking for my family, and I love that they are continuing to help keep alive the Sunday family lunch tradition. So many family traditions are falling by the wayside.  The kids are all practically grown now, so there is no more wrangling and fighting to get them up and dressed and out the door, but I would still do it to this day if I could. Having my kids in church is of utmost importance to me. Even though getting them there wore me out most Sundays, it never wore me down. And the animal adventures, well they are part of who we are, and we just take it one adventure at a time and go with the flow.

The chaos is worth it because as soon as I walk through the doors of the church, my Father’s house, I realize that I am exactly where I need to be. The coming together on a regular basis with my brothers and sisters in Christ always rejuvenates my mind and spirit. Singing praises to our Lord and Savior (even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket) brings joy to my heart. Studying God’s word in depth makes me crave more of Him. No matter how crazy the morning was, when I leave church around noon on Sundays, I always feel refreshed, recharged, and renewed.

It may feel like you are going to lose your mind doing everything you have to do before church on Sunday. I know that I have been pretty close a time or two. Sometimes, we want to throw our hands up and just quit and say, “it’s not worth it. I quit.” It seems like it would just be easier to stay home, after all, Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, right? Yes, yes, it is, and if you can just get out of that door and get your family to church, you will find no better rest for the body, mind, and spirit. Resting is Christ is the best rest we can ever know. I will continue to nag my children, family, and friends, beg and plead for them to go to church, and aggravate them to pieces because I want everyone to know that same kind of peace and to find rest in Christ. I’d rather lose blood, sweat, and tears and have my family in church with me and see them come to know Christ than sit back idly and watch them go to hell. Take your family to church. Don’t let that old devil make you think you can’t get there. Just get up and go like their life depends on it because quite frankly, it does! Jesus is so worth it!

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Give me a word, Lord: COMFORT

Isaiah 51:12-13 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?

COMFORT! That is something that we all desire, yet it seems to be something that is so hard to attain, especially if we are trying to find the comfort in and of ourselves. We are all going though trials, some trials are much greater than others, and at the end of the day, all we want to do is collapse in our big old bed, pull the sheets up, and wrap ourselves up in our comforter. I have never really given the fact that bed coverings are called comforters until this very minute, but what a great name for that piece of bedding. Yes, after all of the trials and triumphs of each day, we desire and seek our Comforter.

Isaiah 51 reminds us where we actually can find comfort, or rather we can find Who comforts us. That bed feels nice indeed, but if our mind is still racing and wrestling the trials of the day, that bed will not bring us the comfort we are really seeking. No, my friends, that comfort is found in Christ alone. We struggle to understand why God allows specific situations into our lives. We know that His ways and purposes are far greater and well beyond our limited understanding, We wrestle with the suffering, but with Christ, we realize that the suffering is never wasted. Each and every circumstance that we walk through with Christ makes us more like Him and brings glory to Him.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) God promises that He will comfort us in our troubles if we trust in Him, and by doing so, we will be able to comfort others who are in troubled times. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? I’m not saying that God gives us trouble so that we can relate to others in trouble, but just think about that for a moment. The experiences that we endure in this life help us to grow in Christ, and when someone comes into our lives that is going through a similar experience, because of our good God provided loving comfort to us through the situation, we too can be a comfort to another who is going through a similar situation. Our experiences grow us to be like Christ, and we get the wonderful joy of being a comforter to others as Christ is a comforter to us.

I truly believe with my whole being that God placed me on the career path that I am on. I fought it. I didn’t want to be a family nurse practitioner. I wanted to do acute care, but God turned the steering wheel and put me on this path. Oh, I’ll admit, I’ve had good days that let me know this is my calling, but lately, I’ve had a whole lot of bad days that have made me doubt my calling. I’ve actually talked to God on several occasions and asked Him if He was sure that this was where He wanted me to be. COVID-19 has gotten me down more than one day of every week, and I’ve thanked God repeatedly for the wonderful job that I have, but there are days that I just get tired, y’all. I’m serious. When more than 30 people register in the first two hours that the clinic is open, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I ask God, “Are you really, really sure this is what you want me to be doing? I mean, God, really, are you sure?” It is then that He sends His Comforter to provide the reassurance and comfort that I am looking for. He allows me to spend time with a patient who has lost a loved one, and I can draw on the experience of losing my mom as I try to comfort them. He allows me to help alleviate the fears of one who has just been diagnosed with COVID-19 as I relate my experience with having COVID-19. He allows me to comfort those who have come out of troubled marriages as I share a bit of my past troubled marriage that ended only for God to bless with a wonderful Christian husband that I now have. He gives me opportunity after opportunity to share His love and the gospel with those cross my path. I get text messages from patients thanking me for my caring spirit. I receive thank you cards in the mail thanking me for my compassionate care. But I can’t take credit for any of that, my friends. It is God who has pulled me through trial after trial to put me right here where He wants me to be. It is Christ alone that deserves the thanks!

He is my strength. He is my comforter. We are all weak, and we can not walk through this crazy world alone, and God doesn’t intend for us to do so. Let the Comforter wrap His loving arms around you today and comfort you, and then, share that comfort with those you come in contact with today and everyday!

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T LIVE IN THE TUNNEL. LIVE IN THE LIGHT!

John 1:9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

1 John 1:5-7 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

Isaiah 25:1 O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.

Many moons ago, when I was a young girl, my daddy and step-mom would load all six of us girls up and take us to Gulf Shores, AL, for summer vacation. We would rent a big house right on the beach and share the home with my parents’ friends and families. Those were definitely some of the good old days. We enjoyed endless days of sunshine and salt water, seashell searching, crab chasing, game playing, and relaxation. There was no specific itinerary or agenda. Gulf Shores has grown over the years that have passed since my childhood, but it is still a very special place to me. It always reminds me of a time that we slowed down and took time to enjoyed the precious little things in life.

We traveled to Gulf Shores by car, and to get there from our home we had to go through Mobile, AL, and after passing through Mobile, we had to drive through the George C. Wallace Tunnel. I’m sure in comparison to other tunnels, it isn’t that impressive, but as a child, this tunnel made a great impression on me. It seemed huge, and it was quite scary to realize that we were underneath a very large body of water. I remember wondering what would happen if the tunnel sprang a leak while we were passing through. This tunnel appeared large to this child, yet at the same time it seemed restrictive and there was an overwhelming sense of confinement. Although lit by man made light, it seemed dark, and it also seemed to be very, very long. I remember mixed emotions from those of fear to excitement about being able to go through the tunnel. It was always a great relief to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been driving through a very long tunnel. I’m not that scared little girl anymore, but still I feel the overwhelming sense of confinement. Almost a year ago, we became aware of the COVID-19 virus. As the first information began to unfold before us in the field of medicine, we were unsure of how bad this was going to be and how long it was going to last. Reflecting back, I now see that the virus has turned out to be much bigger, darker, and restrictive than I had ever imagined. I feel like we are driving through a very long, very dark tunnel. I spend my days in PPE, diagnosing patients with this dreaded virus, counseling survivors who have lost loved ones, crying with them, and praying continually. It has definitely been a very difficult season, not only for the health care provider though. It has been a difficult season for the world.

This dreadful virus has created frustrations that seem to be never ending. I feel like I’m trapped in the middle of the tunnel, and I want out. I want to put my foot on the accelerator and race to the end of the tunnel. I want to see the light! I have prayed many of Psalms through this season. O Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me, for you do what is right. Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe. You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. (Psalm 31:1-3, 9, 14-16)

I have called out to God through this trial. I want to hurry up and get to the end of this whole mess. I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve realized that I can’t just keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. It apparently isn’t going to shine on me anytime in the near future. My prayer now is for Christ to shine His light brightly while I’m in the tunnel. Rather than wishing my way out of this tunnel, I’m going to lift my eyes to Christ while I sit here in the middle of it. As a child, I admit that I was a bit afraid of the tunnel, but I knew that my Daddy was driving and eventually, he was going to drive me right out of that tunnel to the other side. Once we reached the other side, it was just a short distance more to paradise in a little town called Gulf Shores. As an adult, I admit today that I am a little bit afraid of this tunnel I’m in, but I know that my heavenly Daddy is driving and eventually, He is going to drive me right out of this tunnel to the other side. And once we reach the other side, it will be just a short little distance more to travel before I finally reach paradise in a place called heaven!

If you are in a dark tunnel today, don’t try to speed up and rush your way out. It is our human nature to want to get to the end of the tunnel to see the light, but all we really need to do is invite the Light into the tunnel! We are all in a tunnel, but we don’t have to live there. Let’s live in the light!

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Give me a word, Lord: PRAYER IS IMPORTANT

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I John 5:14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.

I Chronicles 16:11 Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.

James 4:2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was trying with great difficulty to move a stone. The little boy tugged and pulled to no avail. He was putting all of his weight into it and struggling terribly, yet he could not even make the stone budge in the least. His dad had been quietly watching his great efforts. The boy noticed his dad watching, and informed him that he couldn’t move the stone. His dad asked him if he was using all of the strength he had. The boy answered, “yes.” He said that he was using all the strength that he had. His dad replied, “No, you aren’t using all the strength you have. You haven’t asked your dad to help you.” The dad then walked over and moved the stone.

This little story reminds me of the many times in life that I have struggled with challenges and circumstances that I couldn’t handle alone. When we are going through difficult times, and we think that we are giving it all that we have and are using all of the strength we have, but we still can’t overcome the challenge, maybe we too have forgotten to ask our Father for help. Yes, we sometimes forget where our strength actually comes from, and too often, we get so caught up in trying to handle things on our own that we forget to ask our heavenly Daddy to help us out. We forget to pray. James 4:2 says, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Many times, the thing we want is a solution to a problem, a way out of a difficult situation, and an answer that we are longing for. We fight and wage war on the problem and many times with those around us, but we forget to pull out our most important weapon: prayer.

The Bible is chock full of verses that remind us of the awesome power of prayer. When we study God’s Word, we find hope, yet we tend to question the power of prayer despite our hope and faith. Why do we do this? I think it is simply because can not fully comprehend the power of our great God. We do not know nor can we understand His ways, but we do know that He is in every aspect of our lives. We know that He cares for us deeply, and His plans, though we may not understand them, are always for our good and His glory.

God has pulled me through many trials, and often times, He has picked me up and carried me through the difficult situations. There are so many people suffering right at this moment in time. I have counseled a great number of patients in the past few weeks who have lost loved ones. It seems that we hear of another death almost every single day. It gets frustrating. Despair tries to take hold. We pray for those who are ill with COVID-19, cancer, and other illnesses. Prayer requests are made known on social media, in the churches, and via text. People cry out prayers to God and ask for healing. But God doesn’t heal them all…at least not in the manner that we want Him to heal them. So why, with so many people crying out to God in prayer does He not answer the prayers? We are quick to think that God didn’t listen or that He didn’t hear the prayers being spoken. Maybe God was ignoring those prayers. No, I’m certain that God doesn’t ignore us, and I know that His Word tells us that when we come to His throne, He hears our prayers. God has a plan and a purpose for everything. He knows what is going to happen ten minutes from now and ten years down the road. We can not begin to comprehend the great knowledge and goodness of our God, but we can rest assured that He hears our cries. When He calls someone home, that person is no longer suffering. That person is no longer in pain. He may have called the person home at exactly the right moment in time to prevent a totally different suffering. We can’t possibly know, but we can recline in knowing that our loved ones who are fellow believers are at the foot of our Lord and Savior with no more tears, no more pain, and definitely no more suffering. They were healed, not the healing we asked for, but the healing that God knew they needed.

Prayer is a powerful tool that we can’t leave tucked away safely in our tool chest and pull out only when times get too hard. God wants a daily relationship with us. He wants a daily conversation, but also wants to be the strength that we need to get through the difficult times. If you are struggling today and you feel that you have used every bit of strength that you have, don’t forget to call on your heavenly Daddy. Ask God to help you. Talk to Him. He will be your strength through every trial. Call on Him…and wait! Wait patiently for the Lord.

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Give me a word, Lord: BUT…WHAT IF I’M RIGHT?

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

Recently, someone said, “You take this Jesus thing way to seriously. What if you spend your entire life worshipping Him only to find out in the end that you were wrong?” How can one respond to such a question? I have to answer that question with another question, “But what if I’m right?” Consider this for a moment. I have spent the majority of my life worshipping Jesus Christ. I’ve attended Sunday School and church services on a regular basis. I’ve even taught many Sunday School lessons. I’ve spent an awful lot of time getting to know this Jesus. He is not only my Savior. He is my friend. He has been an ear when I need someone to listen. He is my encourager when I am feeling defeated. He gives me continual joy even in the depths of despair. He is the light in the darkness. Above all, He is my salvation. He died a cruel death on the cross to take on my sins so that I could be forgiven and made right with the Father. He did this for you, and He did this for me. He arose again just as prophecy foretold. He is the Messiah.

What has this Jesus done for me to make me love Him so? Everything! He has done everything. That sounds kind of a like a sucker answer at first glance. It sounds like I didn’t put very much thought into it, but in fact, I have given it great thought and consideration. I have gradually realized that everything that I am and everything that I have accomplished in life is because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Every battle that I have won, every crisis that I have overcome, every ounce of blessing that I have ever received is simply because of Jesus and who He is. So, yes, I guess the skeptics could say that this girl has “wasted” a whole lot of time worshipping Jesus.

Well, just for argument’s sake, what if I am wrong? (Let me interject right here that I know that I am right without a shadow of a doubt, but just for argument’s sake let us consider this for a moment.) If I am wrong, I’ve spent my life worshipping Christ and in doing so, I’ve walked through this crazy life filled with unexplainable joy, even during my darkest days. I’ve walked through life knowing that I was never alone. I have traveled through the storms feeling comfort and protection. I have enjoyed unexplainable peace regardless of the circumstances. I have felt loved, so very loved, with a kind of love that is unconditional. I have gained forgiveness when I felt like I couldn’t forgive myself. Oh the joy within my entire being! I can not find the words to describe the great joy I have known while I’ve been wasting my time all of these years worshipping this Jesus. So…if I’m wrong, one day I’ll die and according to some, that will be the end of it. I will be buried and my life will end. Was I crazy to have worshipped Jesus all of these years? I think that even if I’m wrong, my time hasn’t been wasted. I’ve enjoyed joy, friendship, comfort, protection, peace, love, and forgiveness over and over again through the years. If I’m wrong, I don’t regret that one bit!

But….what if I’m right? If I’m right, when I die, rather than it being the end, life has just begun! Yes, my family and friends will place me in a grave, and it will appear that my life is over, but I know within my heart of hearts that at that moment, my life will really begin. I will be spending eternity in heaven with my Savior and King. I will be singing praises to the One I’ve worshipped all of these years. (I sure hope that my heavenly body comes with a better singing voice because even though I love to make a happy racket, I’m not sure heaven is ready to hear that racket for all eternity.) Just imagine it though! I will be right up there in glory singing praises to the King of kings, serving the Father, and walking the streets of gold forevermore. I will be able to speak to those great prophets of the Bible. I can ask Adam and Eve about the fruit they ate that resulted in sin in this world but also a garden full of thorns and thistles that I have to deal with every spring. I will be able to have a deep discussion with Noah about that massive ark He built. I can talk to David about his battle with Goliath. I will be able to sit and enjoy a conversation with Ruth and Esther. And yes, I will be able to speak to my Savior and praise Him for all of eternity! Oh my, it is going to be so fantastic! I can hardly wait. And if I’m right, and you are wrong….eternity is going to look much different for the naysayer. Eternity in hell is somewhere that no one wants to even think about, but it is a reality that we can all avoid if we just believe in Christ!

So…what if I’m right? The one who fears the Lord, trust in Him, and believes in Him has so much to look forward to. Christ invites us to ask Him about the things to come. Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come. (Jeremiah 33:3) Isaiah shares the message of repentance and hope. Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. (Isaiah 55:6-7) Paul reminds us that we can’t save ourselves. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9) But our God made a way for us through His grace and mercy. For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

If I’m wrong, I’ve lost nothing. But…if I’m right, I’ve gained everything!

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Give me a word, Lord: THERE IS A KANGAROO IN MY BED

Genesis 2:18-19 The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

Colossians 1:15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Good morning, friends! I’ve been sharing some pretty serious stuff lately, so today, I thought I would share something a little more light hearted. If you don’t have an animal in your life, you really ought to consider acquiring one…as soon as possible! God has gifted us with so many wonderful animals through the years, and we see His majesty of creation in every unique detail and quality. Animals are so much fun, and they freely give friendship when you are alone and always have an ear ready to listen at the end of a trying day. Today, I am sharing an excerpt from my book Inspirations from the Funny Farm about one of our favorite pets, Roo. I hope you enjoy. Have a blessed day!

Several years ago, we happened upon an exotic animal auction, and at that particular auction on that glorious day, they had a baby kangaroo for sale. He was beautiful, and we had to have him. We scooped him up and brought him home to Hodge Critter Lodge. We named our baby kangaroo, Roo. He was ten and a half months old and absolutely the most adorable creature I had ever laid my eyes on. His fur was as soft as fleece and light gray in color. He had big old kangaroo ears, bright brown eyes, a thick, muscular tail, and long hind legs. He was on the bottle, and still went into a pouch at night to sleep. He was definitely the most unusual pet we had owned to date. We fell head over heels in love with him immediately.

We got home with him late on a Saturday night, and brought him to meet my mother and father-in-law after church on Sunday. They loved him as much as we did. We had owned Roo for less than 24 hours, and as we were leaving my in-laws, my husband stopped on their drive and said, “let’s put Roo on the rye grass and let him eat some grass.” I was hesitant because even though he was a baby, I knew that kangaroos could hop fast. I also knew that he didn’t really know us as his mom and dad yet because we hadn’t even had him in our possession for 24 hours, but as usual, I didn’t say no. I soon had major regret for not saying no. Jeff stopped the truck in the middle of the drive. Now you need to know that Nanny and Paw Paw live on a 320 acre farm. Their drive is ¾ a mile long. There are cow fields on each side of the drive. There is an area that they cut for hay that is not fenced. Well, that is the area my husband decided to let Roo get some fresh, green rye grass. I bet you can figure out what happened next. Yep, Roo took off like lightning. My heart sank to my toes! Dollar signs in flames flashed before my eyes, and I saw us on the headline of the local newspaper “couple loses kangaroo the day after purchase.” I almost cried. Instead of crying, I got down on the ground and sweet talked Roo. We would get almost close enough to pick him up, and he would hop away again. I literally had to snake crawl on the ground, beg and plead, whisper and coo, and try every tactic in the book. It took nearly an hour and a half to catch him. Needless to say, we didn’t let Roo out to eat grass again unless he was in a fenced area!

At the time we brought Roo home, I was working in town, and this allowed me to come home on my lunch break and bottle feed and diaper him. Oh yes, he wore Pampers diapers! Here I was a forty something year old lady ordering diapers through the mail for a kangaroo. I learned to strategically cut a hole for the tail. He was fairly easy to diaper at first, but as he grew older, putting a diaper on Roo was about as easy as holding on to a greased pig. I’m pretty sure I could put a diaper on just about anybody or anything after diapering Roo.

While I worked, we kenneled him at first, and we allowed him to roam the house when we were home. He made friends quickly with the dog and the kids. Before I knew it, he was sleeping in my bed…under the covers…with his head on a pillow…in between my husband and me! I don’t know if I have ever met anyone else who has claimed to sleep with a kangaroo. Roo had little short arms, a huge muscular tail, and very long legs. Thankfully we have a king-sized bed because Roo thought he was a king. He stretched out over about half of the bed and left six inches on either side of him for my husband and me.

Roo didn’t seem comfortable in the kennel, and he got along great with our Yorkie, Diego, so we made the decision to leave him out of the kennel while we were away from the house. He would hop up onto the bed in a single leap. We put things out of his reach that could have been harmful. He never really caused any trouble. He laid around and watched TV just like a human. He bounced balls, hopped all over the house, and snuggled up and loved on us more than any other exotic pet we have owned in the past. He stayed in the house until he started kicking us out of the bed. We eventually moved him out to the barn with our axis deer fawn, Bucky. Roo and Bucky were the best of friends, and the transition from house to barn went smoothly. I think that Roo adjusted to living outside better that I adjusted to him leaving my bed.

I stay in awe of the majesty of God and His creations. A kangaroo is definitely a creature to make you realize how awesome our God can be. He created this creature to be beautiful, soft, cuddly, and yet he can hop as fast as the wind, and he has a tail and hind feet which protects him from harm. God covers every single detail in every single creation, and He created humans to oversee His creatures. I will never understand why God allows me to play an active role in caring for His creatures, but I know from His Word that He created animals so that humans would not be alone. There is something so peaceful and comforting about having quiet time with animals and with the Lord. I cannot count the many times that I have talked to my critters and talked to God whenever dealing with a sticky situation, and every single time, I feel encouraged and at peace after having that little talk. It does a body good to unload the troubles of the day with a trusted furry friend and the good Lord.

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Give me a word, Lord: PULL ME OUT, LORD

Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

Yesterday afternoon, we received a call from a neighbor who lives a few miles down the road. Her husband was sick in the bed, recovering from COVID-19, and his blood sugar level was elevated above 300. One of their cows had gone into labor, but there was a little problem. The calf was in breech presentation. Our friend could see one lonely hoof extruding, and it was upside down. The mama cow had calved three times before without any problem, but she wasn’t going to be able to deliver her calf this time without a little help. We worked together to get the cow into the head gate. My husband gently pulled both of the back hooves out and tied a rope around them. The rope was then hooked to a come along, and utilizing the come along, the calf was gently pulled from his mother’s womb. She fell to the ground and took her first breath. Jeff quickly wiped the secretions from her nose and mouth, and she took her first breaths of fresh air. We released the mama cow, and she went straight to her new baby, and she began cleaning her up and claiming her as her own. How awesome it is that God allows us to participate in such wonderful aspects of life! But it is even far more wonderful to realize that God is ready, willing, and able to pull me out of any and every circumstance that we find ourselves in.

Do you ever feel like you are sinking in a pit of mud, and you just can’t pull yourself out? Last weekend we were trying to move a calf to another field and as we were walking through the muddy area of the field, my boot sunk down deep into the mud, and I almost fell over trying to free myself. It is quite easy to get stuck in a rut. We may fall into habits which we never intended to develop, and before we know it, we are stuck. We are stuck in circumstances in which we can not figure out how to pull ourselves out.

Consider King David’s words. He waited patiently for the Lord, and the Lord heard his cry. He pulled him out of the pit of his despair. Yes, the Lord pulled him out of the mud and the mire, and set his feet firmly on a rock to stand and steadied him as he walked along. That same God that pulled David out of the pit of despair is the very same God that we serve. He hears our cries, and when we patiently await Him, He will pull us out of our pits too!

Don’t you just love the Lord’s response to David’s cry. David said, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.” He didn’t say, I cried out to the Lord, and He lectured me, scolded me, or fussed at me. No, he said, I waited patiently and the Lord turned to me and heard my cry. David didn’t have to prove himself to God. He didn’t have to earn grace. He only had to cry out to the Lord and wait patiently for Him, and our great God saved Him from despair.

We are all human, and as such, we are all born into sin. We are going to get bogged down in the mud and mire of sin from time to time. We are going to try to jump into situations feet first now and then, without praying about the situation and asking God to take the lead. Thankfully, we have a loving, caring Father who is full of grace and mercy. Our Father will gladly place a rope around us and gently pull us out, telling us to come along and follow Him. He sets us on solid ground. He guides our paths. He pulls us out of desperate circumstances. He cleans us up, and claims us as His, and He gives us a new song to sing.

If you are finding yourself stuck in a rut of despair this morning, don’t stay there. Cry out to the Lord, and wait patiently for His deliverance. God is waiting for your call, and He is ready to answer just as we answered the call of our neighbor. Don’t live in the despair of your circumstances, but rather rejoice in the joy of the Deliverer. Won’t you let Him pull you out today?

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Give me a word, Lord: PUPPIES AND PEEPS

Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Romans 10:12-15 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Two days ago, we picked up the most beautiful little, mini Schnauzer puppy. I named her Holly. She is a parti blue merle, and she has the cutest little face. I fell in love with her immediately, and she has become a new member of the Hodge family. I love animals, all animals! My husband and I have been referred to as the crazy critter people on more than one occasion. Yes, I do love my critters. They are very well fed and cared for, and they eat better than a lot of humans. I talk to my critters, and sometimes they listen to what I have to say. They give me great joy and comfort, but they don’t give me eternal peace. As much as I love them all, I realize that my critters do not have souls. They won’t spend eternity with me, and although they listen to me preach to them from time to time, they can’t receive the glorious gospel message. That message is reserved for my human Peeps.

C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Great numbers of persons have no concern about eternal things. They care more about their cats and dogs than about their souls.” When I read this, it saddened me tremendously. I do care greatly about my critters. I go to great extent to make sure they are comfortable and cared for, but do I care as much about the souls of man? Do I go through great extent to reach others for Christ? Is not sharing the gospel more important than cats and dogs and critters? I know that it is. So then why is it so much easier to talk to my critters than to share the gospel with the lost? It probably has a lot to do with being in the zone…the comfort zone that is. Yes, we tend to find our comfort zone in life, and it is hard to step out of that zone, but my friends, it is imperative that we do. It isn’t just life or death. Sharing the gospel doesn’t merely make a difference in the life of someone here and now. It has eternal consequences. Peeps, it is time to get out of our comfort zones. Lives depend upon it!

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” If we want to reach people with the gospel, we must begin by showing them love. I can not tell you how many times we have had a difficult patient register for a clinic visit. The person begins with an awful attitude with the receptionist. He may be rude to the nurse. He may even be using a little foul language, and by the time it is my turn to see the patient, I have been warned about what an awful attitude this guy has. I then have two choices. I can gear myself up to go in there and give back just as much as I get from him, or I can choose to show the love of Christ. Through my many years of practice, I have learned that the latter choice is the way to go. If I go in with a smile on my face and try my best to listen attentively to what is bothering the patient, nine times out of ten, the patient’s mood and demeanor change before he leaves the clinic. We have to listen to those around us, and sometimes listening does not mean literally hearing the words coming out of their mouths. We must pay attention to body language, demeanor, and in turn, give a loving, caring response. We can’t simply go around preaching the gospel, folks. We have to live it. We can’t merely talk the talk. We have to walk the walk. We must show the love of Christ in all of our actions and deeds.

True, genuine love is not man made. We can’t fake it either. Genuine love comes from an internal transformation that is facilitated by God’s love for us. When we are influenced by the love of God, our attention shifts from self to others. When we spend time in God’s word, we learn what it truly means to deny ourselves for the sake of others. And when we learn to deny ourselves for the sake of others, we learn to truly love as God loves us. How then can we begin sharing the gospel with others? We simply begin by reversing our focus. The needs of others must come first. Look for tangible ways to show your love for those around you. Listen to others. Don’t always do the talking. Take time to really listen. Get to know people. Buy someone a coffee, and spend time listening to what they have to say. Give of your time. Oh, I know, none of us have very much free time to give, but that is what makes it such a valuable gift. Give your time to someone. Sit with someone who is alone. Run errands for a shut in. Offer to babysit. Give of yourself by giving of your time. These little acts of love and kindness show another person that you care about them, and it shows love for others and not of self. Use these opportunities to show the love of Christ and to share Christ with others.

It is totally okay to love your animals. I don’t think God would have given us all of these wonderful creatures if He didn’t want us to love them. However, His Word tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) We must love our neighbors. Who are our neighbors? Our neighbors are every single person we come in contact with…the nice people and the rude people, the ones that smell good and the ones that smell bad, and even the bad ones. Yes, God says we have to love our neighbors, and there is no greater way to love someone than to share Christ with them. Continue to love those critters, Peeps, but don’t forget to love God first, and next, we have to love people!

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Give me a word, Lord: COMING BACK

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

You didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did happen. It didn’t happen all of a sudden. It was a slow fade. Life got busy. Sporting events and activities started popping up back to back. Church doors closed temporarily. Your schedule was much too hectic. So you missed one Sunday, just one…and then another…and another. Before you knew it, you looked back and realized that it had been months since you gathered with your church family. You want to go back. The Holy Spirit keeps nudging you, reminding you almost daily that you need to find a way to get back, but how? How can you show your face after being gone for so long? What will people think? What will they say? Will they judge you for staying away? Will they shame you? No! Absolutely not! Your church family will be genuinely happy to see you again. They have really, truly missed you, and they will be so very glad to see you again. Do not let fear keep you away from the house of the Lord. You only have to take the first step and go.

Don’t get too upset with yourself. We have all had busy seasons in our lives, myself included. Don’t beat yourself up for getting away from church. The important thing is to get yourself back. How can we get back to church and stay in church regularly? First, take the step to go. Make up your mind that tomorrow will be the day that you will go to church. Then, find an accountability buddy at church. Find someone who perhaps has a similarly hectic schedule and partner with that person to keep both of you accountable. If you begin missing services, that person will bring you back, and if your buddy misses, you in turn will bring him/her back.

Next, you have to remember that your church family truly does have the best intentions. They really want you to return to fellowship with them. While you have been gone, things may have changed. There may be new members, new activities, and we may feel totally out of sorts. It may feel uncomfortable. When the eyes of of church family land upon us, we automatically think the eyes are judging us for being gone so long, but in reality, those eyes are noticing you. They see a long last family member returning to the table. They are so excited to see you back. They may say things like, “I haven’t seen you here in a while.” Don’t take offense to these words. Instead take these words as words of encouragement. That person noticed you weren’t at church. They cared about you enough to notice your absence, and they cared enough to notice your presence. It was not a word of condemnation, but rather a word of encouragement. We must see the words for what they mean, and not for what we think the words mean.

Finally, I encourage you to get involved in your church. Find your niche. If you are involved in the activities of the church, it is a whole lot easier to stay involved. Don’t over commit yourself, but you absolutely must commit. I realize that life is busy enough, but you must commit yourself. When I first married my husband and moved my letter to his church (now our church), I felt like an outsider for a very long while. I felt like I didn’t belong. I attended regularly, but I didn’t feel at home. It was not until I made the move to involve myself. I offered to teach a Sunday School class, and then my husband and I became involved with the youth activities. I became active in our Ladies’ Ministry, and eventually was asked to be the church treasurer. Now, when I walk through those doors, it isn’t a chore. It isn’t a strange land or strange house. No, my friends, when I walk through those doors, I am truly at home. I am in a place surrounded by my brothers and sisters of another mother, but of the same Father. I am surrounded by the children of God. I am at home with my faith family. And when I miss services, even for one week, I feel like I have missed out on an important engagement. I can’t wait to get back!

Whether you fell out of church in a slow fade or left abruptly, I encourage you today to make up your mind that tomorrow will be the day that you get back to church. God really wants you back, and His kids have really been missing you too! Come on back to church, y’all! You will be so glad that you did!

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Give me a word, Lord: REVEALED

Romans 1:19-20 Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Psalm 19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

I’ve often wondered about tribes in extremely remote areas. If no one tells them about God, how will they know Him? Are they condemned to hell because of the unfortunate remote place of their birth?If a missionary never reaches these people, are they doomed? What about those people that live in our cities and our towns who have never stepped foot in a church? What about the people who run in different circles, circles that never overlap with the circle of a Christian willing to share the gospel? Does God forsake them? His Word assures us that He does not!

We can’t confuse God with nature, but we must acknowledge that through nature God makes himself known. Living on a farm has removed any doubt about this. When we awake in the early morning hours and dawn has not yet overcome the darkness, there is stillness in the air. It is so quiet that you can literally hear the breath of God. The sky is filled with stars, and the moon shines brightly like a little night light to lend light to us as we await the dawning sun. The sun gradually begins to peak out. First, the sky begins to light up ever so slightly, and then colors begin to fill the morning sky. The sky above is filled with golden hues of yellow, rose shades of pink, and beautiful blues. God fills the earth with glorious color and paints a sky more beautiful that the greatest of art in the best museum. The sun doesn’t merely pop up every morning. God gives it a brilliantly colorful introduction that takes my breath away every time.

As the sun arises, and sometimes even before it peaks out, the critters begin to stir. The dogs run, and jump, and bark playfully. The turkeys gobble, the chickens cluck, and the emus make their little whistling coo. The peacocks squawk loudly so as not to be ignored, and the sheep and goats baa, baa, baa. Birds are joyfully singing and welcoming the new day. In the distance we can hear our cows lowing. As day breaks, we can see the beautiful trees, flowers, the clover on the ground, and grass in the fields. None of this came about by happen chance! It’s not the result of a big bang or evolution. No, my friends, this is the work of the Master!

God created the heavens and the earth. And every single day God’s glory is being proclaimed. The glory and majesty of God’s presence is a constant testimony to His greatness. With every rising sun, we are reminded of His existence. It isn’t a verbal revelation, but rather a complete non-verbal reminder of who He is, and there is no language barrier. God makes His presence known, and He reveals Himself to us through His spectacular creation.

Now this doesn’t mean we should stop proclaiming the gospel. God revealed the gospel to us through Jesus Christ, and we can not keep that good news to ourselves! It is our calling as believers to share the gospel. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15) Let us continue to spread the gospel, and may we reach a great many people and people groups. But we must remember, our calling is to share the Word, but God himself will do the revealing!!

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Give me a word, Lord: WAITING ON A DEER

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

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ, also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”

I Corinthians 1:7 So that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today I would like to share an excerpt from my devotional/inspirational book, Inspirations from the Funny Farm. I hope that you find a little enjoyment and see the truth in these words.

People find it funny when I tell them that I love to deer hunt. I don’t know if it’s because I am such a dainty little flower of a woman (not!), or perhaps it is because we have pet deer that I truly love. I, however, do not find anything funny about it. Deer hunting is serious business. We don’t hunt for sport though. If we kill it, we eat it, and eat it we do! I can close my eyes and smell the scent of some fresh backstrap frying up in a pan. Oh mercy! I can hear the sizzle of venison sausage cooking up for breakfast, and let’s not forget the hundreds of dollars we’ve saved eating ground venison instead of ground beef. It’s much leaner, and therefore, much healthier. Venison does a body good for sure, but it is also great for the mind.

My passion for deer hunting has grown strong over the past few years. I’m not a great hunter, but nonetheless, I love to hunt. My husband and I have gone on draw hunts together. I enjoy those hunts because we get to sneak away for a few days just the two of us. We also get to spend those days out enjoying God’s beautiful country. It brings rejuvenation to the body and the mind. I like the draw hunts a lot. I truly do, but if I had my rathers, I would rather hunt out of the old Snaggy Pond hunting house on my husband’s dad’s land. Jeff’s dad, Paw Paw J.B., has 320 acres of farmland and timber. Over the years, Jeff and Paw Paw have built several hunting houses on his land. To me it is better than any state wildlife management area. It is cared for under the watchful eye and steady hand of Paw Paw J. B. He loves that place, and it shows. His land is like a huge wildlife park.

When hunting, I have to arrive early in the afternoon to get up in the stand before the deer start to move. It seems crazy to arrive an hour or two before “deer thirty”, but it is a necessity. I don’t want the deer to see, hear, or smell me as I ascend to the stand. Once I’m there, it’s hurry up and wait, meaning I hurry to get up there and then I wait, and I wait, and I wait. If you aren’t a patient person, this probably isn’t for you. Some days, I sit there for 2 or 3 hours and see nothing. When I say nothing, I mean N-O-T-H-I-N-G! Other days, there is wildlife galore. The afternoon may start off with me watching a flock of turkeys feed. I always enjoy watching them as I take notes as to how many turkeys I saw and how many of them had long beards because Paw Paw is going to need that information. Not only is he an avid deer hunter, he is also an amazing turkey hunter.

I’ve seen quite a variety of birds during my watchful waiting, and I’ve even seen a bobcat once. After the turkeys finally move out, it’s pretty much dead quiet for a while. That’s a great time to just sit still and be quiet with God. I do some of my best thinking during that quiet time, and God and I have some real good conversations from that hunting house. Those conversations are never boring. We’ve solved many a problem out there.

Finally, about 45 minutes before dark, the first doe will gradually sneak out to feed on the fresh green rye grass. It never fails, as soon as I get the first glimpse of movement, my heart skips a beat, and then it begins to race. Once I determine that it is a doe, the rate of my heart gradually returns to normal, and I sit back and enjoy the show. Does begin to come in one or two at a time. Some arrive with a young yearling at the side, and others arrive alone. A lot can be determined from watching the does.  For example, if she is quietly grazing and appears disinterested in her surroundings, there probably isn’t a buck anywhere in the vicinity. However, if she is looking around constantly, ears perked up, and acting nervous, there is probably a big boy nearby. When the does start acting skittish, my heart pumps a little harder and a little faster because I know that excitement is coming soon. I ease up on the edge of my chair, and I even catch myself holding my breath with anticipation. I feel that I just can’t wait even one more minute, but I can, and I do.

As the sun slowly fades away, I quietly beg for that big boy to peak out, even if it’s just for a moment. I can’t tell you how many days darkness has completely overwhelmed me without me seeing even one single buck. But even when I don’t see a big buck, time in that old hunting house is always time well spent and never a disappointment. For you see, even though I didn’t get what I wanted, I still got what I needed: time with God and His glorious creations!

What if we all sat anxiously awaiting the return of Christ with that same bated breath? What if we could hardly catch our breath and our hearts skipped a beat or raced because we caught a glimpse of what is to come? Jesus has promised us that one day He will return. We don’t know the day or even the hour of His return, but we know that He is coming. We should be waiting with great anticipation, awaiting the return of our Lord and Savior. Our hearts should quicken with excitement at the thought of His return, and we should be filled with excitement as we look forward to that glorious day. So many times, we get distracted by the day to day grind, the ordeals of our lives, and we take our eyes off of Jesus. Maybe we should sneak away, to a quiet old deer hunting house, and just sit still and just be quiet, and listen and talk to God a so that we can renew our excitement for Christ and our future as we remember His promises. If we are focused on Christ, truly focused on Christ, we can’t help but get excited because as children of the King, our futures will be bright!

I’m sharing a photo of a deer that I killed a little over a year ago. He was an old deer, 10 to 12 years old, that I shot at 55 yards through thick woods with my crossbow. That was truly God blessing me (yet again) because I’m not that good! I give all glory to God for every good thing in life!

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Give me a word, Lord: PRIORITIES

Haggai 1:4-6 “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!

Haggai isn’t a book we read often, and it is considered one of the minor prophets, not because he was minor in importance, but rather because the book Haggai is a pretty short book. In fact, this book in the Old Testament consists of only two chapters with a total of only 38 verses. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because it is a tiny chapter, it is not important. In this book, we are reminded that we must get our priorities in order.

Haggai begins with a call for the people to rebuild the temple of God. The word of God came to the prophet Haggai in which God informed Haggai that the people were saying that the time had not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord, and God asked the people if it was a time that they could live in their comfortable homes while the house of God lied in ruins. After seventy years of captivity, temple construction had begun. In the second year, the foundation had been built, but it did not continue. The people were distracted and pressured by the people in the surrounding lands to give up the work (Ezra 3-4). Then the work of the temple came to a standstill for twenty years. The people had become apathetic and complacent. God used Haggai to rouse the people to begin building the temple again and to remind them of their priority.

We must remember that the significance of the work rebuilding the temple does not lie with the building of the Temple itself, but with the restoration of a proper worship of God. The people needed to have God as the center of their lives. Without the Temple of God, there would not be worship of God, and without the worship of God, the people are left without a spiritual compass. The people were living only for themselves. They lived for their own comfort and enjoyment. Their only worldview was a materialistic one, just like many today. They lived for themselves, and everything revolved around them. They had lost their focus on God, and they had begun focusing only on themselves. If we want to have the abundant, fulfilling life that God has promised to us, we have to make God a priority. We must make God the center of our lives.

Through Haggai, God reminded the people of their priorities. They planted much, but harvested little. They ate but were never satisfied. They drank but continued to thirst. They put on clothes but didn’t have enough to keep warm. They put their money in their pockets, but their pockets had holes in them. God gave these words to Haggai the prophet many years ago, but they still ring true today. This world we live in has become a world in which the people do whatever makes them happy. I wouldn’t doubt it if there was a law currently being written in congress stating “the people can do whatever they want as long as it makes them happy.” I’m serious. It has come to this. We have lost our focus. Our priority has become one of pleasing self rather than serving God, but make no mistake, God is not going to allow this self-pleasing lifestyle to continue.

How do we get back to the basics of simply being the children of God that He created us to be? How do we get our priorities in order? First, we have to remember what our priority is, my friends, and that priority is God! The term priority can be defined as the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important. Is God important? Yes! Should He be regarded and treated as important? Definitely. But we can’t merely put God on the top of our list of priorities. When we do this, we give Him a place, but we intertwine His place with a whole bunch of other stuff that we also consider important. Take God off of that list, folks. Yes, you read that correctly. Take Him off of your list of priorities. God shouldn’t be at the top of the list. He should be the list. He should be our absolute one and only priority. Everything else pales in comparison. Take some time today to reflect on who God is. Spend time in His Word. Remember His glory and grace, His mercy and love. Consider what God truly means to you, and make Him a priority in your life today. This is no time for apathy and complacency. Now is the time to make God our priority!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE PERFECT GIFT

John 3:16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

I woke up this morning from a dream. In my dream, I was rushing around trying to find the perfect gift for a friend’s birthday. I was dreaming that it was her birthday that very same day, and I still did not have a gift to give. I was searching high and low, yet I still had not found the gift when the beeping of my alarm brought me back to reality. I had not forgotten her birthday. It is not today. It is not even this month, but still the search for the perfect gift was on my mind. What is the perfect gift? I’m quite sure what is perfect for one person may not be so perfect for another, but I do know of one very perfect and also priceless gift. It is a gift that literally keeps on giving, and this gift lasts forever. What gift is this? The gift of salvation.

We all know someone, a friend, a relative, a colleague, or just an acquaintance who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior. We may live in the house with these people, we may work right beside them, we definitely see them at the grocery store, and we may even go to church with them. It could even possibly be you, my friend, reading this today who hasn’t yet made that decision to follow Christ for whatever reason. I’m here to tell you that there is no better day than today to share this wonderfully perfect gift with someone and to accept this gift if you have not yet accepted the glorious gift of salvation.

I know what you are thinking. “It’s too hard to share the gospel.” “I’m not very good at it.” Or perhaps, “It will feel awkward, and I don’t do awkward.” But friends, those are simply excuses we make to ourselves when we don’t want to get out of our comfort zone. I know because I have been there. If you are a born again Christian, think back for a moment to all of the people that poured into you before you made that step of faith and accepted Christ. Each person that pours into us plants a little seed. Others come along and water those seeds, and eventually the Holy Spirit moves within us. Peeps, we must be busy about planting and watering. We must continue to daily pour into others just as our friends, family, and loved ones poured into us.

But how? How do I step out of my comfort zone and share the gospel? There are many ways, and none of our plans will ever be perfect. We merely need to remember that God is perfect, and He will provide the words if we ask, and the Holy Spirit will provide the moving. We only need to be willing vessels. Probably the best way to NOT start the conversation would be telling someone, “You are going to hell if you don’t accept Christ as your Savior.” That statement is truer than true, but it isn’t likely to begin building a relationship that will allow the Spirit to move in that person. Scare tactics do not equal heart and mind conversions. We must build relationships. Get to know the person. Share yourself with them. Show them your sincerity. Also, it is important to just be yourself. Don’t try to speak with big eloquent biblical terms or words. Someone who has never been to church may not have a clue what you are talking about and this may turn them away. Share your heart. Share your testimony. Share how Christ has worked in your life, and share what a a wonderful change He has made in you. Don’t be judgmental, and don’t take their response personally. Everyone you witness to will not immediately accept Christ. Just remember that it is not your job to make a person a believer. You and I are the messengers. It is the Holy Spirit that takes that message and gives understanding. Answer any questions that come up, and if you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know that answer, but I will get back to you,” and get back to them with the answer. Finally, pray. Pray with that person and for that person continually.

I know I’ve shared this before, but it is worth sharing again. Our pastor, Dr. Patrick Shane Moore, shared this evangelism tool with us a couple of years ago. He has taught us so much about evangelism, and this tool has proven to be valuable on more than one occasion. I still have this written in several of my Bibles, and it has come in handy. If you aren’t opposed to marking in your Bible, try it out. On the inside front cover of your Bible, write, “What does God require for a person to go to heaven? See John 3:16.” (Write the corresponding page behind the scripture verse each time and highlight the noted scripture on the page in the Bible). Turn to John 3:16 and highlight the scripture. On that page write, “God’s Promise: He loves you! See Romans 3:23.” Turn to Romans 3:23 and write, “The Reality: we all struggle with sin. See Mark 1:15.” Turn to Mark 1:15 and write, “The answer to sin: Jesus. See I Peter 3:18.” Turn to I Peter 3:18 and write, “Jesus died for you! See Romans 10:9.” Turn to Romans 10:9 and write, “Your God requires you to confess and believe. Turn to the back page of the Bible.” Inside the back cover of the Bible, write, “Prayer of Salvation: Dear Jesus, Thank you for loving me and for dying for me. I ask you to forgive me of my sins. I am willing to turn my life over to you. I’m willing to live for you. I ask you to be my Savior and Lord. Amen.” This is a great tool to have in your arsenal. If someone asks how to receive Christ, and words seem to fail you momentarily, all you have to do is pray and grab your Bible and walk them through these verses. I have purchased a bunch of New Testaments and marked them with this information to distribute to others.

Sometimes sharing the gospel comes easy, and other times we feel like our words get all tangled up as we struggle to say the right things. No matter what, we must continue to share the gospel. Two things to take to heart. First, when we share the gospel, we are sharing the most perfect, wonderful, priceless gift in the world. We want everyone to receive that gift, and therefore, we must keep sharing it as often as possible. Second, we must remember that we can’t make someone accept this wonderful gift. Our job is only to share it. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Won’t you share this perfect gift with someone today, and if you haven’t yet accepted this gift, I pray you accept this perfect gift today! God loves you, and I love you!

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Give me a Word, Lord: WALKING ON WATER

Mathew 14:25-33 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Costa Rica is our second most favorite place on earth, second only to our home. In this one small country, there are mountains, rain forests, and pristine beaches all within a short distance of each other. It is a quite beautiful place with brightly colored flora and fauna. They also have quite a few unique creatures hanging around such as many varieties of monkeys, sloths, and we’ve even seen a silky anteater once. On my first trip to Costa Rica, I saw a totally cool little dude whose genus is Basiliscus, but his friends call him the Jesus Christ lizard, or for short, the Jesus lizard. Why would one call a lizard a Jesus lizard? These little guys are small, and they are fast. Because of their light weight and rapid speed, they can literally run across water for good lengths before sinking. Yep, they walk (or rather run) on water. Pretty cool, huh?

Our scripture today reminds us of a man that walked on water. Yes, Jesus walked on water. He is Jesus, and although it is absolutely amazing that He can walk on water, it isn’t surprising when we recognize who He is. But Peter? He was a mere man, but he walked on water for a few moments too. The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee when a storm struck. They had been battling the waves for hours, and were surely growing weary. Around 3:00 in the morning, Jesus came to them. He was walking on the water in the midst of a terrible storm. When the disciples first caught sight of Him, they were terrified. They perhaps thought that they were seeing a ghost. However, when they heard the voice of Jesus, they knew that it was Him. Immediately, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” Peter climbed over the side of the boat, and despite the winds and the waves, he began walking on the water towards Jesus. However, when he took his focus off of Christ, and he began to take note of the winds and waves, he became terrified and sank.

We can glean a lot of good stuff from this scripture, but the most important take away for today is not that Peter sank, but that Peter climbed out of the boat to walk towards Jesus. We may be in the middle of the storm of our lives, paddling fiercely until our arms feel as though they are going to fall off, battling the winds and the waves, and feeling unsure of when or how we will be delivered from the storm. But when we are in the midst of the storm, we must remember that we are not alone. Just as Christ walked on water to rescue the disciples, He is walking on water towards you and I. He is there. He is always there. He is willing, able, and ready to save us, but folks, we have to climb out of the boat! We have to take that leap of faith. Even when our faith falters, He is there to grab a hold of us and save us. We merely have to trust in Christ knowing that He is our salvation.

Peter didn’t look at the storm when he climbed over the side of the boat. He climbed right out ignoring the storm and stepped out on faith. He didn’t look at the dire circumstance in which he was in. Instead, he kept his eyes and his focus on Jesus. Peter heard the voice of Jesus, and this gave him all the courage he needed. Another key thing to note is that Peter physically climbed out of the boat. Consider this for a moment. It would be hard for me to climb out of a boat and attempt to walk on water on a good day, but Peter did this in the middle of a violent storm. By stepping out, he further demonstrated his faith in Christ.

As Christians, we are asked to step out on faith…even in the midst of storms, perhaps especially in the midst of storms. When the storms are violently raging and the waves are crashing in, it is then that our faith is tested and purified. It is then that we meet our salvation. And even if we fail, which we very well may, we can always count on our salvation and the saving grace of Jesus. If Christ is calling you out of the boat today, even if it is in the middle of a storm, go to Him. Don’t focus on the raging storm. Focus on the Savior. Don’t walk. Run! Run like a little Jesus lizard. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is the Messiah. He is our salvation. He is calling you today. Won’t you come…come to the Savior today?

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Give me a word, Lord: START RIGHT HERE

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

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Daniel 11:32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

My drive to work each day takes about 25 minutes, and I spend that drive getting my mind geared up for the day. In doing so, I keep my radio tuned to American Family Radio, and every time a song comes on that I like, I turn the volume up a little more. By the time I arrive at work, the radio is booming loudly, and I am full of joy and ready to start my work day. Yesterday, as I was driving in to work, a song, Start Right Now, by Casting Crowns came on the radio. As I intently listened to the words as if for the first time, I was overcome with a great need to share the words of this song. Take your time and read these words. Sing along if you want.

We want our coffee in the lobby. We watch our worship on a screen. We got a rock-star preacher who won’t wake us from our dreams. We want our blessings in our pockets. We keep our missions overseas, but for the hurting in our cities would we even cross the street? But we wanna see the heart set free and the tyrants kneel. the walls fall down and our land be healed. But church if we want to see a change in the world out there it’s got to start right here. It’s got to start right now. Lord, I’m starting right here. Lord, I’m starting right now. I’m like the brother of the prodigal who turned his nose and puffed his chest. He didn’t run off like his brother, but his soul was just as dead. What if the church on Sunday was still the church on Monday too? What if we came down from our towers, and walked a mile in someone’s shoes? Hmm ’cause we wanna see the heart set free and the tyrants kneel, the walls fall down and our land be healed. But church if we want to see a change in the world out there, it’s got to start right here. It’s got to start right now. Lord, I’m starting right here. Lord, I’m starting right now. We’re the people who are called by His name. If we surrender all our pride and turn from our ways, He will hear from Heaven and forgive our sin. He will heal our land, but it starts right here. We’re the people who are called by His name. If we surrender all our pride and turn from our ways, He will hear from Heaven and forgive our sin. He will heal our land. It’s got to start right here. It’s got to start right now. Lord, I’m starting right here.
Lord, I’m starting right now.

Our prayer for the longest period of time has been, “Lord, please heal our land.” We pray for healing, but what are we as Christians doing to help bring about the healing? We want everything to be served up to us on a silver platter. We want healing, but we want God to do all of the heavy work. Christianity has turned from one of contribution Christianity to consumer Christianity. People want coffee shops in the churches and worship services on the big screens. People want Rockstar preachers who look great on stage but are careful not to step on any toes, and we want to hold on to our blessings and not share our tithes with the church. We support missions overseas, but we forget those lost ones right here in our own communities. We want changes in our government. We want the hearts of the leaders to be changed. We want walls to fall down and our land to be healed, but basically, we just want God to do it all by Himself. We know that He can. Oh yes, He can, but maybe, just maybe, He is waiting for us to start…right here…right now.

It is indeed well past time for a change, my friends, but that change needs to start within the heart of every single Christian. We have to stop being consumer Christians who want to be served. Consumer Christians feel entitled, and they point fingers at everyone but themselves when there are problems. Consumer Christians focus on what we are going to get out of this relationship with Christ or from our church, and they often have trouble finding a church home. Instead, it is time for us to become contributing Christians! Contributing Christians come to serve. Oh yes, a true Christian has the heart of a servant, and we should each have a desire within us to serve others. There are many ways to serve, and sometimes you just have to find your niche. If you haven’t found it yet, keep searching, but while you are searching, keep serving! Serving others allows others to see Christ in you, and when we serve others, rather than blessing those we are serving, we often find that we are the ones who receive the blessing. Contributing Christians have hearts of gratitude and gratefulness. Rather than feeling entitled, we feel grateful for the blessings that God has so graciously bestowed upon us. Contributing Christians take time to look around for the needs of others, and even ask others what they need. What does the church need? Are the needs of others within the church body being met? Contributing Christians realize that it is not all about “me”, but it is really all about “God and people…all people.” Rather than asking what I will get out of this, a contributing Christian gives without expectation of return trusting completely in God and His plan for their lives. Contributing Christians don’t have trouble finding a home church, but rather they find a church family that is an extension of their own family.

We must keep praying and petitioning for God to heal our land, but I feel within my heart that God wants each and every one of us to be an active part in the healing process. We can’t continue to sit back and consume. It’s time to start contributing. It is time to surrender our pride and turn from our ways. It is time for church on Sunday to still be church on Monday…and every day of the week. It’s time for us to come down from our high towers and walk a mile in someone’s shoes. It’s time to not only contribute to foreign missions, but to make an effort to walk across the street to help someone in need. It’s time to share the gospel. We can’t keep on keeping the Good News to ourselves. It’s time to start right here, right now!

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Give me a word, Lord: FAITH IN THE FIRE

1 Peter 1:5-9 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

These sure are some scary times we are living in. I’ve reached a point in my life that I almost don’t even want to watch the news and see what is happening, but rather just put all my trust in Christ. We often ask why does God allow crisis into our lives? We know that He is a loving God, full of grace and mercy, yet still crisis comes upon us again and again, one trial after another. It is our natural human instinct to think that crises are bad, but that is not necessarily true. God often uses trials to bring about something good for us.

Peter reminds us in the scripture reading today that through our faith, God is protecting us by His power, and therefore, we should be glad when we are enduring trials. Glad? He is kidding, right? No, Peter reminds us that when we endure trials, the genuine nature of our faith is revealed. How genuine is your faith in God? Put a little fire under your faith and see. Peter uses the example of our faith being tested as fire tests pure gold. Have you ever thought about or seen the purification process of gold? Purification comes from the gold being plunged into the heart of the fire — the place where fire is harshest and turns blue — and being kept there until the gold which is being purified loses any resemblance to what it once was. The end result of the process is pure gold without anything added to it, no debris, no filth, no dirt — just pure gold. Now consider this in relationship to testing faith. When we undergo a trial that is too much for us to endure, we recognize that we must place total faith in Christ. We fully trust that God will be our salvation, and our faith is genuine, pure, without any doubt to hinder our trust in Him.

I can’t help but think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when I think of purifying faith through fire. Nebuchadnezzar had a statue of himself constructed that was ninety feet tall and ninety feet wide, and he had commanded all people to worship the statue any time they heard the sound of music played. Young Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego only worshipped the one true God, and refused to worship this statue. They were brought before the king and given the opportunity to bow again before being thrown into the fire, but they still refused. They responded, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:17-18) These young men were tested by the fire, and their faith was most genuine. They trusted that God would save them, and they said that even if He didn’t, they still wouldn’t worship the gold statue. That, my friends, is true faith by fire.

Right now, our faith is being tested by fire, but rather than asking, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?”, we should be asking, “What is God trying to teach me through this situation?” When we are going through a trial, we get good practice at sniffing out the very presence of God in the middle of a circumstance that otherwise just stinks! We can’t resist this kind of faith. When we do, we miss the whole point. But when we follow God’s lead, place full and absolute trust in Him, we soon discover a blessed richness that last long after the terrible crisis has ended. Basically, we have two choices when it comes to trials. We can sit back and whine and complain, throw a pity party and sulk, and fuss about how unfair our life is, or we can place full and complete trust in God knowing without a shadow of a doubt that He will bring us through the trial. He will show us the way, and through the fire, our faith will be purified as we see that every trial is for our good and God’s glory.

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Give me a word, Lord: GIFT OF GAB OR TERROR OF TALKING

Exodus 4:10-12 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”  Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

If you didn’t know me in my early days, you wouldn’t believe that I was the shyest girl in my class. I was deathly afraid to speak in public. I would prefer to dig a hole and crawl inside rather than open my mouth and speak in front of other people. I didn’t just have a little fear of public speaking. I was downright terrified of it. In fact, I had such a fear that I put off going to college for a few years after graduation because I didn’t want to take speech class. That sounds crazy to me now, but at the time, when I weighed my fear of public speaking in one hand and my future career in the other, the fear of public speaking won by leaps and bounds. Fast forward to present day, and I think it is safe to say that I finally found my voice. Yes, God has blessed me with the gift of gab. I have a lot of things to say, and I really need to say them. In fact, I get teased because when I’m trying to say all the stuff that I need to say, I talk rather fast causing people to doubt my southern roots.

Although I’ve been given the gift of gab (and I utilize this gift fervently), I still actually prefer writing my thoughts down to share as opposed to public speaking. It is easier to take pen and paper and let the thoughts pour out. Afterwards, I can read over the words and make corrections and make sure that what I am saying is what I mean to say, whereas once the spoken word is out there, it is there to stay. I had a wonderful teacher in high school named Mr. Jackson who always told us, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” It’s been a few decades since I sat in his class, and those words still run through my mind when I’m preparing to speak.

Moses was chosen by God to deliver His people from captivity in Egypt. God spoke directly to Moses and explained what He wanted Him to do. God said what He meant, and He meant what He said, but how did Moses respond? “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” We have all probably responded this way at one time or another. “Not me, Lord. Anyone but me! You know there is someone out there who is better qualified that I am to do what you want.” Moses was human. He had natural fears, and he voiced those fears to the Lord. But isn’t it interesting how God responded? “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” These words bring this wordy girl confidence and courage.

I love the Lord, and I love to tell others about the Lord, yet there are many times when I feel ill equipped to share. I am afraid that the words will come out wrong. I’m afraid that although I mean what I am saying, I may not say what I mean. But I must confess that it is in those times that God always shows up and shows out. When I am invited to speak at different engagements, I pray that God will give me the words and the boldness to proclaim His Word, He has never failed. When I’m speaking to patients, offering words of encouragement through scripture and prayer, or when I’m not sure what to say, God always provides the words. He never fails. If you want to share the gospel, and let’s face it, that is what we are all called to do, you MUST SHARE THE GOSPEL! You aren’t good with words? That’s okay. God will give you the words. Do you get tongue-tied? Have no fear. God will untie the tightest tongue. Do your words get tangled? God specializes in untangling the tangled webs we weave. It’s okay to express your fears to God. In fact, He wants you to, but it is not okay to let those fears keep you from sharing the gospel.

Whether you have the gift of gab or terror of talking, if you are following the will of our Lord and Savior, He will equip you with the words. God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. I am living proof of this. You can rest assured that if God tells us to do something, He will make a way for us to do it. He will give you the words. You only have to open your mouth! And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (Mark 16:15)

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Give me a word, Lord: CUT IT OUT

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.

As I write these words today, I am riding along side my ride or die partner–my sweet husband, Jeff. We have taken some amazing rides together over the past few years, but today isn’t an exciting, fun filled journey. We are actually en route to the dermatology clinic to have a basal cell carcinoma removed from Jeff’s face just below his nose. This isn’t a new thing for him. Jeff is a fair skinned, red head who has worked outdoors farming and in the oil field most of his life. That Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico, and Middle East sun is no friend to a fair skinned, red head! Because of this, my dear, sweet hubby gets to see a dermatologist every six months to eliminate the sun damaged areas. Every once in a while, the spot turns out to be a cancer, and it has to be excised. The doctor told him to expect to be in surgery for two hours today. They will excise the cancer, take the specimen to the pathologist to examine to see if they cleared all the margins (got all of the cancer out). If not, they will excise a little more, examine the specimen, and repeat until the cancer is totally excised. In a couple of weeks, we will return to have a second cancer removed from his temple.

The spot is a tiny little spot, and it seems that it would be easy to excise looking at it from the outside. But we don’t yet know what lies beneath the surface. That is the way sin looks to us sometimes. On the surface, something doesn’t look so bad. We decide it’s okay to let the sin into our lives because it isn’t really going to hurt us. It’s just a tiny little thing that can’t do too much damage. It may even be something that no one else can see. No one else knows about this sin that we’ve allowed to creep into our lives…but God knows.

That is how sin consumes us. We give it an inch, and it takes a mile. For the most part, we don’t intentionally set out to fall into the trap of sin. We don’t wake up one morning and decide that this is the day we are going to fall into this great big sin. No, we are all born sinners, and we unfortunately have ongoing sin in our lives. Some examples of chronic, intentional or perhaps unintentional sins, include refusing to forgive someone, being a chronic complainer or “pot stirrer”, disobedience in tithing, using foul language, or even substance abuse. We may be indulging in those “little” sins, but we aren’t participating in “big” sins like murder, theft, or adultery so we feel like we are doing good. We tend to put our sins on the scales and weigh them out. We get rid of the big sins, but the little ones won’t hurt us, right? Wrong! Sin, all sin, separates us from a relationship with the Father. Christ didn’t bear our sins on the cross so that we could keep on sinning, but He did do this so that He could intercede for us with the Father.

Christ wants us to cut sin out of our lives. He doesn’t want us to just shave it off at the surface. No, Christ wants to excise those sins from our hearts and minds with the precision of the greatest surgeon. How do we cut sin out? First and foremost, we must repent. We must recognize the sin, ask for forgiveness, and turn away from it. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)

After repentance, we must ask God to help us to see the sin as a sin. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Next, we need to ask God to give us a desire of the heart and mind to remove that sin from our lives and keep it out. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence,  and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,  and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:10-12) Finally, confess that sin to God and grab a hold of the forgiveness which the Father is ready to deliver.

It’s time to cut it out, y’all! If we want that loving relationship with our Lord that we crave, we have to cut sin out of our lives!

(And if you don’t mind, say a prayer for my husband today! I know he’s in the hands of the Great Physician.)

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Give me a word, Lord: FRIENDSHIP

Proverbs 18:24 There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 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. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

God has truly blessed me with wonderful friends in this life. Friends have come and gone through the years but not without leaving an imprint forever on my heart. One of my dearest friends has COVID 19 currently, and because this virus is crazy and doesn’t read any of the textbooks and causes a different physiologic response in everyone, I have been spending a lot of time in prayer for my friend and in quiet reflection. Friendship is just one of the many gifts that God bestows upon us, and it is a gift that should be treasured over gold, fortune, or fame.

Friendships bring joy and laughter into our lives. I recall the many good times with friends in which we’ve laughed until we literally cried. We’ve shared our good times, joys in life, births, adoptions, marriages, and so much more. But friendship isn’t just about sharing the good times. True friendships are important for maintaining our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. Yes, it is quite true. We all need a good friend or two to walk through life’s journeys as we travel through the hills and valleys.

We have friends, but do we all have truly close friends? Is there a person or persons whom you have allowed into the innermost part of your life? For you see, a true friend is one that shares deeply with you and is not there just for the good times, but remains close through the bad times. What makes a friend a good friend? A good friend has many qualities. A good friend is someone whom you can be honest with, rely on, talk to, and someone who also listens to you. It is someone who knows the most intimate parts of your life and loves you in spite of yourself.

If you spend a little time in scripture, you will see that the Bible has a lot to say about friendship. Abraham was called a friend of God. He was the only one in the entire Old Testament who was given the honor of being called a friend of God. Jesus had a close group of friends that we know as the twelve disciples. During the three years before the crucifixion, they had become very close friends. They walked together, talked together, fished together, ate together, sailed together, and just hung out together. Jesus wasn’t merely their teacher and master, He was their very good friend. During the last supper, Jesus spoke these words to his treasured 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. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:13-17)

Jesus shared what it means to be a friend, and He called the disciples His friends. He laid down His life for them, but guess what? He laid down His life for you and me also! Jesus knows what true friendship is, and He demonstrated it in the greatest act of friendship ever when He took on the cross for each and every one of us. We didn’t choose Him, He chose us! Christ is the best friend you will ever have. He wants us to talk to Him. He wants us to share the vivid details of our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Christ knows us inside and out, better than we even know ourselves, but just like our best friends here on earth, He not only likes us warts and all, He loves us! Enjoy your friendships today. Pray for your friends, and pray to the very best friend you will ever have. Today, I thank God for friendships!

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Give me a word, Lord: DEAD ZONE

Colossians 4:2-6 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.  Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Cell phones have become indispensable it seems. We carry our phones with us wherever we go throughout the day. We don’t want to miss an important phone call or a text. But every now and then, our cell phone fails us. We may be in an area with a poor signal and our phone doesn’t work. It drops our calls, and we can not even make or receive a simple phone call from these areas. I call this the “dead zone”. Our house has a big metal roof, and pretty much the entire house is a dead zone when it comes to cell phone reception. There are certain areas near doors or windows in which the phone will work properly, but a lot of times, we have to make and receive our calls outdoors. (We don’t even want to talk about internet reception.) On my drive to and from work, there is one area on the highway that is an absolute dead zone. I always catch myself telling my friends or family on the other end of the line, “I’m going to lose you. I’m about to drive through my dead zone.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like being in a dead zone.

I was thinking about those dead zones this morning, and this made me ponder the thought of other dead zones in our lives. I can’t help but think of those spiritual dead zones that I’ve encountered through the years. I can recall times that I have been pleasantly involved in conversation and interaction with the Father, and other times in which I seemed to have entered the spiritual dead zone. The problem at those times, however, was not that of a poor cell phone signal. It was a problem of a poor Christian signal. Yes, I confess, that those dead zone periods were due to my own signal growing weak. I wasn’t spending time reaching out to God. I wasn’t calling on Him, sharing the praises in my life, sharing my despairs, sharing my hopes and dreams, and sharing everything that was going on in my life. God had not turned off the signal. He had not failed to answer the call, but rather I wasn’t attempting to even make an effort to place the phone call.

As I said previously, I don’t really like being in a dead zone. I don’t like having my phone calls dropped or having to stand on one foot with one arm in the air trying to reach a cellular signal, but more so than that, I really, truly dislike being in a spiritual dead zone. I think that may be the loneliest place in the world. So how then do we keep a strong signal? How do we stay out of the spiritual dead zone? We simply must make an effort to stay connected. For you see, God keeps an open line for each and everyone of us 24/7. The reception is always great, and He is always there. It is us who produce a lapse in reception or signal. To prevent ourselves from entering the spiritual dead zone, we must stay connected.

First and foremost, we must build a daily practice of prayer. In order to stay connected spiritually, we have to talk to God on a regular basis. Set aside some quiet time each day to really spend time talking to the Savior. Yes, He already knows what is going on in our lives, but He wants us to share those details with Him. He wants a personal relationship with each of us. We have to get down on our knees and share ourselves with Him. How can we connect with someone if we never spend time in their presence, if we never talk to them, or if we never share ourselves with them? We can’t. Make prayer a priority in your life. Work prayer into your daily schedule. You may have a quiet time first thing in the morning or late at night, or you may even find that you do as I do and have a continual prayer that begins when I wake up in the morning and continues throughout my day and even through the night if I awaken during my sleep. We must connect through prayer. It is imperative!

Secondly, we must build a practice of daily scripture reading. I have often heard people say that God doesn’t speak to them. Well, personally, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but I have heard Him speak. Sometimes it is that still small voice within me urging me in a certain direction, but other times, it is through His Word. When we read the Bible, the living Word of God comes to life. It tells us how we should live out life, and it teaches us what is right and what is wrong. The scripture shows us how to love like Jesus loves, and it convicts us when we are walking outside of God’s plan for our lives. Yes, we must stay connected through scripture.

Finally, we must stay connected with fellow believers. This is very important. Can you be a Christian and not go to church? I suppose you can, but I can’t even imagine life without my faith family. We need others to walk alongside us on our faith journeys. For one, our Christian brothers and sisters help to keep us accountable in our actions and our walk with Christ. Also, our faith family will lift us up when we are feeling weak, down, or discouraged. Faith filled friends help us to grow in our faith and knowledge in Christ, and they help keep us grounded and rooted in Christ. We need relationships with fellow believers. Christ set the example for us as He surrounded Himself with disciples and friends. We were created to be relational people. I absolutely believe that connection with a church family is necessary in helping us to remain connected to Christ.

My friends, if you are in a spiritual dead zone, today is the day to get out of that zone. Call out to Christ. I promise you that there won’t be any static on the line. He is willing and able to take your call, and I know He is ready to hear from you! Won’t you connect today?

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Give me a word, Lord: KEEP PRAYING

Daniel 6:10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.

Yesterday morning at church, I was reminded of the story of Daniel and the lions’ den. Oh I know that this is an old familiar story, but it is still one that should be revisited from time to time. Our pastor pointed out three positives to remember during times of persecution, which included the reason, the reaction, and the result of persecution. You may or may not be feeling the weight of persecution at this moment, but if you are serving God faithfully, sooner or later you will. If we live for Christ, and we long to follow Christ more than the world, we will be persecuted. The thing we have to remember is when we remain in Christ, He remains in us, and nothing or no one can snatch us away from Him.

How should we react when we are being persecuted? Let us take a few moments to look at Daniel so that we may glean some knowledge from his actions. The administrators and officials didn’t like Daniel. They didn’t like that he held a position of authority in the kingdom. They had tried to find fault in him and were constantly looking for evidence to give to the king that would bring Daniel down a notch or two, but they found Daniel faultless. They soon realized that the only way they would be able to get Daniel into trouble would be using his worship for his God against him. So these guys hatched up a plot, and they brought it to King Darius. They told him to give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:7) The king agreed, and signed this into law. Daniel knew about the new law, but what did he do? He kept on doing what he always did. But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. He kept on praying, y’all! The result of Daniel’s persecution was courage and commitment. Daniel’s courage to continue to pray caught the attention of many, and his commitment to prayer caused many to praise God.

God opens our eyes to different things every time we open His Word. The Bible is definitely active and alive. My biggest take away this time was the fact that no matter what we are going through, the situation doesn’t change who we are in Christ. We must keep on praying. Keep on getting down on those knees and worshipping and praising our Savior. Daniel didn’t sway from his normal routine. It was his routine to go to his room, kneel by the window facing Jerusalem, and pray three times a day. When he was told that he could no longer do this, he didn’t go hide in a closet. He didn’t scream and shout in rebellion. He didn’t cause a scene and pick a fight on social media. He simply continued doing what he always did. He prayed.

We tend to get caught up in the lions’ den part of the story, and we tend to overlook the praying by the window part. Daniel gave us a great example of what to do whether we are enjoying good times or bad, peace or persecution. His daily routine was to pray to God three times a day every day, and even when he was told that he could not do this any longer, he prayed. We have to have faith in the Father in all situations. In Sunday School yesterday these words struck me: “Faith guarantees nothing but what is beyond this life…the hereafter.” We are going to have trials. We may even suffer persecution. Having great faith doesn’t mean that we will escape any of these things, but folks, we aren’t living for the here and now. We are living for eternity. This is not our home. We are just passing through. If you want to make a difference in this world, your employment, your school, your church, and your family, then you must keep on praying!