Imagine this scenario. Peter always gets home at 8 p.m., even though he’s only required to stay at the office until 6 p.m. His wife, Katie, constantly asks him to come home on time; to join her and the kids for dinner. Even so, Peter constantly makes excuses: “We need someone to provide for this family,” or “We can’t get through life without work.” Katie once really appreciated Peter’s tender heart towards others and the way he affirmed her. Now she only thinks about his lack of generosity or selflessness. [Read more…]
“Valentine’s Day is coming!” my daughter exclaimed surrounded by pink and red hearts at the store.
“Yup,” I replied, swiftly pushing my cart past the displays.
Valentine’s Day has long been a holiday that caused an inner battle for me. On one hand, I spout that it’s a silly Hallmark holiday and we should show people we love them every day.
Of course, while I’m saying this I secret long for sweet declarations of everlasting love, preferably with a heart-shaped box of chocolates and flowers. [Read more…]
The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. – Nahum 1:7
A man was having critical problems. His wife left him, leaving their three children in his care. He was in the army and his responsibilities were many.
Not only was he doing his work, but he was also the sole caregiver to his children.
He talked with his chaplain who tried to encourage the man to allow God to work in his problems.
But the man continued to say he was going to give up, that he couldn’t do all that was needed.
The chaplain decided to try a show-and-tell lesson. [Read more…]
Words by William Whiting, Tune by John B. Dykes
In December, at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush, the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” was sung.
This was a song I recognized from the last line of the first verse. The title I was familiar with was “For Those in Peril on the Sea”. My familiarity with the hymn under this title, came from the hymn’s connection to the Titanic.
This was the hymn strongly believed to have been sung on that fateful Sunday of April 14, 1912, at the close of the worship service only hours before the famed liner collided with an iceberg.
The hymn was written by William Whiting, who was an Anglican churchman from Winchester, England. He was born on November 1, 1825 in Kensington, England. He was educated at Chapman College and Winchester College. [Read more…]
The auctioneer called and said he would come by next week. My stash included old chairs, boxes of ceramics and pottery, assorted artwork, yards of fabric, a nearly new basketball that the children had outgrown, Cabbage Patch dolls with their original certificates, framed mirrors …… and a few pieces of furniture.
I had carefully wrapped breakable items and placed them in boxes; the garage was nearly full when my daughter pulled up with extras from their basement. “People will buy anything at an auction. You never know…” said her husband. One unusually heavy piece took me by surprise: a long burlap-covered cabinet painted a pale yellow.
The redeeming factor was a beautiful piece of marble cut exactly to fit the top. It had been found in the barn! One of the cherry Windsor chairs had a rung missing, but the wicker child’s dressing table and bench were glistening white with their fresh coat of paint. [Read more…]
Hymn Stories by Diana Leagh Matthews
The New Year is upon us, bringing new beginnings and new hopes and dreams for the future.
However, regardless of where life takes us, one thing is for sure. We need a firm foundation.
How Firm a Foundation was published in 1787 by John Rippon. When it appeared in Rippon’s ‘A Selection of Hymns,’ it was signed simply “K.”
All efforts to identify this mysterious “K” have been fruitless, and the mystery remains to this day.
Some reprints show the author was “Keene.” Dr. Rippon’s musical director was R. Keene and it’s believed he might be the author of the text, although it’s just speculation. [Read more…]
I must have been feeling melancholic on the day I wrote the poem below. I was a young mother with three children, ages two, five and seven.
Only a few months before, major surgery had been necessary to save my life. I was slowly recovering when the words of this poem formed in my mind and found their way into a small book I used for my journal. [Read more…]
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
4 Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.
Safety: this is the first word that seizes my thoughts after reading Psalm 23. The soft rhythm produces a sense of stillness––an inability to do anything but breathe a soft sigh. How many times have we read through this psalm without heralding its true meaning? [Read more…]
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
January is a traditional time for “starting fresh.” We make resolutions that we hope will transform us during the coming year into better, happier people than we were in the year just finished. Usually, those resolutions are to lose weight, work smarter, and a few other similar ones.
It is our hope that making these improvements will bring us happiness—at least that’s true for me. [Read more…]
Note: The following is an excerpt from The Pilgrim Chronicles: Thanksgiving Stories for the Stage, a collection of plays/programs with complete production notes designed for schools and churches.
Check out this comprehensive American history enrichment tool by Kathryn Ross, culminating 20 years of teaching this important aspect of American Christian history. Visit www.pageantwagonpublishing.com/thanksgiving-plays.
On October 3, 1863, at the height of America’s Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation including these words of note:
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy . . .
I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands to set apart and observe the last
Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens . . . it is announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord . . . it has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
Did you know that there are thousands of this type of proclamations with such language on record dating back to the first Jamestown Thanksgiving in 1619 Virginia? In our almost 400-year American history America’s national leaders and presidents have regularly acknowledged our nation’s dependence and gratefulness to God in this way.
But, when the fourth Thursday in November rolls around each year, it is the picture of the Mayflower, pilgrim men and women, and Native American Indians who are embedded in our collective imaginations.
We gather around tables with our families, feasting on traditional turkey and stuffing. But did you know that in the fall of 1621, in an outdoor setting, European Christian pilgrims and Native Americans actually ate more seafood and venison throughout their three-day Thanksgiving feast dedicated to the God of the Bible?
They had much to be thankful for in that day. And much to mourn.
The Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving Story
The Pilgrims’ story begins in 1607 when Christians in England met secretly to worship God according to the way the Bible taught, rather than the way King James and his state-appointed bishops mandated that they should.
These brave people came to be called “separatists” because they “separated” from the Church of England. They realized that the Bible taught freedom in Jesus Christ to know right from wrong and the principle of self-government with their hearts submitted to God, rather than mere traditions of men.
Religious persecution increased to intolerable levels. The worshipers fled from England to Holland. William Bradford records the details in his famous diary writings:
Thus, being constrained to leave their native soil and country, their lands and livings, and all their friends and familiar acquaintances, it was . . . thought marvelous by many to go into a country they knew not . . . where they must learn a new language and get their livings they knew not how.
It was by many thought an adventure almost desperate, a case intolerable, and a misery worse than death. They were not acquainted with the trades and traffic, but those things did not dismay them for their desires were set on the ways of God to enjoy His Providence and they knew Whom they believed.
Living in Leyden, Holland, the Pilgrims knew relative peace for about ten years. But all was not well. Leyden was a beautiful place of wealth and worldliness. They were free to worship God, but easy-living made it easy to lose the sense of God’s will.
Their children grew up with no memories of England, greatly influenced by the worldliness of the Dutch children. Through a miraculous set of circumstances, King James, who had persecuted them a decade before causing them to flee, granted them a charter to establish a colony in Virginia, in the New World.
The Pilgrims returned to Plimoth, England to set sail for the American shores. During the turbulent ocean voyage, a storm knocked them off course, bringing them to the Massachusetts shoreline near Cape Cod.
It was too late in the year to sail south to Virginia, so they decided to settle where they were. But, before disembarking for settlement, they drafted the first constitutional document of our nation—a declaration of organized agreement amongst themselves.
The Mayflower Compact set forth in writing the Pilgrims’ purposes in coming to the shores of America, and their commitment to each other and God as a governmental body.
They made settlement in a prepared clearing where Indians once lived but had died out four years earlier of disease. Before the cold of winter set in, they had just enough time to build one common shelter. Though a small beginning, they believed God was on their side.
In January and February of 1621, a “General Sickness” fell upon them. With only six people well enough to care for all who had become ill, they bid farewell to many husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and children who died.
Of eighteen married women, only five survived. Of twenty-nine unmarried men, servants, and hired hands, only ten survived. By March, spring was in the air. Bravely, they pressed on building six new cabin homes.
With the change of season, the “General Sickness” departed, leaving new challenges before them.
Farming the new land required new skills and wisdom in the use of depleted resources. The Pilgrims prayed to God for help to farm in unfamiliar soil. The Lord sent two Indians into their midst who had met Englishmen before and knew the English language.
They also knew God, having converted to Christianity some years earlier. They helped the Pilgrims make friends with the surrounding Indian tribes. Trade was established, providing necessary goods.
The Indians, Samoset, and Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to farm new foods like corn and squash and pumpkin.
In the fall of 1621, one year after the Pilgrims arrived on Plimoth Plantation; God’s blessings were evident in a plentiful harvest, inspiring plans for a Thanksgiving feast. They invited the Indians and the great chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his braves, plus a good deal of wild game meat to roast.
For three days, the Pilgrims gave thanks in prayer, feasted, and enjoyed contests and games with the Indians. No matter how small their beginning, the greatness of their losses, or the trauma of their trials and sufferings, they rejoiced in their freedom of worship, the greatest blessing of all for which to give thanks.
These details and more, concerning the Pilgrims’ day-to-day life, are recorded in The Ballad of Plimoth Plantation, a poem turned folk song written three years after the Pilgrims landed.
It humorously sketched a picture of life on Plimoth Plantation, meant to be heard back in old England. The Pilgrims honestly recorded the highs and lows of settling in the New World.
They encouraged new settlers to join them, trusting God in all things, as noted in the final verse:
Now you whom the Lord intends hither to bring Forsake not the honey for fear of the sting,
But bring forth a quiet and contented mind
And all needful blessings you surely will find.
And, I’ll still praise Jehovah for my God is good.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks-giving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
Want to learn more? Curious to know what the Ballad of Plimoth Plantation sounded like when sung? And all the verses?
Check out Miss Kathy’s podcast dramatization of the story with links to a five-part blog series on the Plimoth Plantation Thanksgiving—a critical moment in American history, the establishment of America’s purpose, and a powerful demonstration of the American mind.
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was being baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.’” Luke 3: 21-22 (NIV)
The story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21-22 establishes a foundation of how He would serve, sacrifice and surrender to God in His ministry to come.
If we look around us, sacrifice isn’t hidden away. It’s there even in what we might see as insignificant moments. In the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist claims Jesus should be the one to baptize him instead of the other way around. But the King steps back to place Himself behind those who’d lined up for baptism- those ready to embrace a new beginning with God are put before God in the flesh.
Jesus obeys, laying down His will and surrendering His all, to be sacrificed for all. The reminder of sacrifice and surrender begs a question from all of us: What if our schedule, our time, responsibilities, needs- even our desires and dreams- what if they all took a backseat to our relationship with God?
What kingdoms am I willing to give up in order to make Him King of my life?
If we look at Luke 3:21-22 what stands out?
The act of sacrifice is to give of something we adore in this life- for a will and a purpose greater than our own. God sacrificed for us, giving the world His Son, and Jesus sacrificed for the world, surrendering His will and offering His life.
The Gospels document Jesus’ baptism, but Luke offers us the only clear indicator that the first thing Jesus did to embark upon ministry was to make Himself last. Instead of taking a step forward to lead and model obedience through being baptized FIRST, Jesus instead took a step back…to SACRIFICE and SURRENDER.
When we surrender to Jesus, we give back our lives- including the desire to hold onto the adored things of this life.
The word “when” in these verses indicated a place in time- meaning “just after”- establishing the foundation of faith through authentic sacrifice and surrender. Other translations of Luke 3:21-22 give the same indication that Jesus held back, placing himself last by allowing others to be baptized before Him.
So what can we take away from these verses?
Jesus was willing to sacrifice displaying what it means to put oneself last in servant leadership, he models surrender in baptism and He seeks God first with prayer at a pivotal moment.
To truly be set free from the enslavement of sin, we willingly make ourselves last. That means taking an authentic look at what we’re slaves to and what we are willing to lay down to find freedom in Christ. We SACRIFICE and SURRENDER- just as Jesus did for us.
What would it look like if we really needed the Word of God in a way that isn’t a chore but a gift with every new day, and we’re willing to sacrifice to do what it says?
KRISTY CAMBRON is an award-winning author of Christian fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of Bible studies, including the Verse Mapping series. She’s a Women’s Ministry Leader at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, and a passionate storyteller who travels to speak at ministry events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. Her work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books, RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, and received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations. Kristy holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing, and has 15 years of experience in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 Corporation, working in partnership with such companies as the Disney Institute, IBM/Kenexa, and Gallup. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, and can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.
Remember the popular song asking Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Did you know?”
Whenever I heard that song, I thought about what it must have been like for Mary. I realized most people thought Mary was just some average teenager off the street. They had no idea who she was or that she actually knew what was going to happen.
Mary learned as a child that her parents had dedicated her to God before she was conceived. She knew God named her Mary, gave her parents instructions how to feed and raise her, and that she was to be dedicated to the Jerusalem Temple by age three.
Angels told her parents, the barren Anna and her wealthy husband Joachim, that their daughter would be the most blessed woman to ever be born on Earth. The only person more blessed than Mary would be her Son, Jesus.
Eye witness testimony by James, Joseph’s youngest son, told about Mary. James lived with Mary and Joseph and traveled to Bethlehem with them. His eye witness testimony about Mary, written by him and his scribe, was used in early Christian churches for hundreds of years after the death of Christ.
These ancient scriptures are full of accounts about angels. They tell about the tribulations of Mary’s parents and their communications with angels, the first three years of Mary’s life, her ten years of living in the Jerusalem Temple with angels daily visiting and feeding her, her holy vow to God, the reluctance of Joseph to take another wife, life in Joseph’s home, the trip to Bethlehem and the miraculous birth of Jesus, Immanuel, the Savior of mankind.
I felt sad that people did not know the facts about Mary. I had studied ancient scriptures for many years and became quite an expert about Mary’s life. She lived over 2,000 years ago when there was an infant mortality rate of 50%. After much contemplation, I wrote her story using the eye witness accounts from James who later became a chief Apostle and the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem after the death of Christ.
Her biography was written in a historical narrative format, a story form and easy to read. I named the book: MARY KNEW-A Biography of Mary from Ancient Scriptures. Near the front of the book is a copy of the signed testimony from eye witness James.
Mary’s parents suffered before being informed by messenger angels from God that they were going to be parents. Angels instructed them before her conception how to raise her, what she was to eat, and what was forbidden. She was never to be placed in a position where someone could later start a rumor or give false witness about her. She was not allowed to go outside her home or visit with commoners. Her few visitors were priests or playmates that were proven to be undefiled and followed guidelines set for her visitors.
Her parents provided a large sanctuary room for her during the three years she lived with them. It had no windows. She could not see the sun or moon or trees, the ground or sky. She could not hear rabble-rousers of the village or what was going on outside.
At age three, she was dedicated to the Jerusalem Temple. She was immediately taken by the High Priest into the Most Holy room, much to the surprise and anger of some priests. Once settled in the virgin apartments in the Jerusalem temple, she was visited daily by angels in her apartments and Most Holy areas of the temple. She never left the sanctuary of the temple to go outside during her eleven- year stay. Her parents died during that time.
The detailed story of Mary’s life unfolded in a magnificent manner. Angels and miracles followed Mary continually. Her holy vow to God created difficulties among the temple priests. Zacharias, the High Priest at that time, used ancient scriptures to solve the vow problem after God’s loud voice told him and everyone in the temple what to do.
God’s guidance about how to solve the problem of Mary was sought by priests and given several times. Ancient prophecies over 3,000 years old were fulfilled in front of hundreds of temple witnesses.
Imagine being a witness when a Bible prophecy was fulfilled in front of you! How moved those witnesses were was evidenced by their shouting, crying, rolling on the floor and praying. They would never forget what they saw for the rest of their lives. That was just one of many prophecies fulfilled.
To write her little-known story was a unique experience for me. In asking for heavenly guidance and for the right words to use throughout the endeavor, I felt information was provided to make it memorable for anyone who would read the book. I asked three persons to read the book and give advice.
The first, a male engineer, said he wanted to read just a few paragraphs before dinner to see what it was like, but couldn’t put it down until it was finished. He stayed up most of the night. Laughing as he told me, he said he surprised himself at how deeply he became involved in her story and how much information he learned. He had no idea Mary was such a holy and blessed woman.
Her magnificent biography, with details from eyewitnesses including her midwife, is now published. MARY KNEW-A Biography of Mary from Ancient Scriptures is now available in paperback and eBook format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book sellers. Buy it online from RUBY’S Reading Corner.
After you read Mary’s biography, please leave a review on Amazon.com. I would love to read your comments. To help others learn more about Mary, I began and will enlarge a website dedicated to her: www.maryknew.com.
Irene Baron is an author and illustrator of numerous fiction and academic books, as well as an educator for over 30 years in the various fields of science. She is a public speaker for workshops and seminars for science educators, and she has received many awards for her contributions to science education. She also holds private pilot ratings from the Federal Aviation Administration for single and complex engines.
Irene has recently published a biography of Mary the Mother of Jesus, now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner.
It starts out as this big community of people, events, and fun leading up to the wedding day. There’s just so much love in the air. It’s the season filled with congratulations.
Working towards making the big day perfect brings all kinds of stress but it’s all going to be worth it when it’s better than we imagined. We’re so focused on THE DAY that we forget about nurturing the relationship.
Then all of a sudden, in a matter of hours, it’s over. The day has come and gone. The people have gone back to their lives. There are no more events. Life feels ordinary, far from all the excitement of preparing for the wedding. We’re in our new place, and it’s quiet. This is where the marriage begins.
Did you get the memo that it was going to be work, real work, but real fun work too? I sure hope so.
Remember why you wanted to be married in the first place. To live a life with your best friend. To enjoy their company forever. To share in a commitment of love. Has that changed? Probably not, but something has changed in you.
The three best pieces of marriage advice I got were:
Make yourself happy. He can never make you happy. It’s not his job, and even if he tried, he couldn’t bear the weight of such a heavy task. If you think about it, a human being cannot do God’s work.
Bringing joy into the hearts of people has always been and will always be God’s work.
And . . .
Your marriage account is empty. You cannot withdraw what you didn’t deposit. If you want love, deposit plenty of it. If you want compassion, deposit plenty of it. If you want reliability, deposit plenty of it.
If you think about it, it’s a biblical principle that leads to a happier you. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving.
And . . .
Love is service. Make a decision daily to outdo each other in showing love. Sometimes we have to go back and be reminded of the true meaning of love in 1 Corinthians 13. To be patient, kind, not envy/boast/be proud, not dishonor, not self-seek, not be easily angered, and not keep a record of wrong. That’s our definition of love.
It’s easy to focus on the other person, what he should do, and what he should be. It’s human nature.
Try this next time you find yourself going down that mental path: picture yourself pointing the finger at your partner.
One finger is pointing at him, and four fingers are pointing back at you. The only thing you can control in life is yourself. Don’t lose yourself in trying to fix another person. It’s wasted effort that yields very bad results.
Focus on being the best you that you can be. Living with purpose and zeal for life and love. That’s the only way you can ensure that you will always be destiny bound.
The marriage in the Bible that we are shown intimately is that of Abraham and Sarah.
1 Peter 3: 6 states, “For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.”
The word “master” captures respect for her husband.
This scripture does not focus on what Abraham did, but what Sarah did. A wise woman builds her house. Let’s serve our husbands and children out of love.
The world says, “I won’t do anything for you unless you do something for me”; but God says I will cause the sun to shine on the good and the bad. Let’s strive to love like our Lord does.
It’s an extravagant kind of love. Never waiting to see how we will respond, but continuously showering us with his love. When we get tired, He will fill us up.
We cannot create marital bliss even with our best efforts, but in obedience to His word love will abound in our homes.
Priscilla Shumba is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, she is currently residing in Australia. She is passionate about encouraging people to live up to their destiny.
The emotions that course through you when you get the call from your child saying, “We’re in labor!” but the baby isn’t due for another two months. Excitement, concern, joy, fear—it is quite a roller coaster. And it happened to me not once but twice in the same week!
Monday morning was the first call. I spent the day at the hospital as the staff worked to stop my daughter-in-law’s labor. We played cards and watched TV between the nurse’s check-ins. The check-ins grew farther apart, along with the contractions. By Monday night, the contractions stopped. There was relief sprinkled with a little disappointment that we wouldn’t see our fifth grandbaby just yet. My daughter-in-law was released Tuesday evening with no restrictions and an appointment for an ultrasound on Friday.
She spent Wednesday at home, resting. But in the middle of the night, the contractions returned. We got the second call at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning. There was no stopping it this time. Their first baby wouldn’t wait for her due date. We needed to get to the hospital. The feelings returned. All of them.
This was really happening. What if the baby’s lungs weren’t strong enough? What other things could happen with a preemie? I was too focused on the scary stuff. My granddaughter was about to be born. It was an exciting time, regardless of the outcome. As we drove the dark, deserted route to the hospital, I prayed, asking God to prepare our hearts for whatever this birth would bring. Immediately a peace filled me, not that everything would be fine, but that God would be with us through whatever today brought.
We were there less than three hours when Everlee was born—a healthy, beautiful, baby girl. She was bigger than they thought she would be, almost four pounds. And she was perfect. We cried tears of joy, mixed with relief. God gave us a special gift. We were prepared for the worst, but he had another plan, and we were so grateful.
Seeing her for the first time filled my heart with such love. She was so tiny, so precious. She looked like a little doll. I wanted to scoop her up and kiss her, but the NICU has rules. So, I stood next to her bassinet and watched her chest rise and fall and took in the incredible detail of her fingers and toes. Such small knees. She had blonde hair. I praised God for this little miracle. Psalm 139:14 rang in my ears, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
The nurses explained everything that was happening with her and what we should expect. They checked the miniscule IV and feeding tube. They explained the amount of energy she expends just digesting a teaspoon of food. Pooping is even more exhausting. They don’t do more than two big things a day because more would be too much for the baby. We could cup her (place our hands on her head and feet) but not hold her or touch her or rub her limbs—it would be too much stimulation.
There was so much to learn about being fearfully and wonderfully made.
On day nine, I entered the NICU with my son. He said, “Do you want to hold her?” He opened the side of the isolette, and I cupped my hands on her head and feet. Then he said, “Why don’t you sit down?”
“Because I won’t be able to reach her. Remember, I’m short with T-rex arms.”
“No, sit down, and you can hold her in your arms.”
What! I get to finally cuddle this precious, little bundle? I sat myself right down. My son lifted his daughter (which he could have done with one hand but carefully used two) and put her in my arms. I would have cried, but my smile was so big, it made my eyes squint shut, not allowing any tears to escape. It felt like I was only holding the blanket. She was so light and so small and so fearfully and wonderfully made.
Day fourteen, the feeding tube was removed. Day twenty, my son and daughter-in-law stayed overnight in a regular hospital room with the baby, preparing to take her home in the morning. It was my son’s birthday—what a gift! All her tests had come back normal. She was perfect. On day twenty-one, they left the hospital as a family. Three weeks. The medical staff had said she might have to stay in the hospital for eight weeks but could go home in three to four weeks if all went perfectly.
Being fearfully and wonderfully made took on a new meaning, as I marveled over this beautiful, intricate creation. I will never read that Psalm again without thinking of my tiniest granddaughter. So small yet so perfect—fearfully and wonderfully made.
November is the month of Thanksgiving and a time to give thanks. This is a month when we concentrate on what we must be thankful for. So, what better time to look at a popular Thanksgiving song?
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come is a harvest hymn that was written in 1844. The song was written by Henry Alford.
In the days when most people survived off the land, they understood the importance of the harvest. There was an urgency to safely gather the harvest before the winter storms rolled in.
The first stanza is written to be an invitation to give thanks to God. The second and third stanzas are a commentary on the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, as recorded in the gospel of Matthew. The last stanza is a prayer for the Lord’s return.
Henry Alford was born on October 7, 1810, in London. At sixteen years of age, he felt the presence of God and gave his life to Christ. He followed in the footsteps of his ancestors and became a clergyman and was a prominent Greek scholar.
He was the author of forty-eight hymns, wrote many songs and published a hymnbook. At the age of 47, he was appointed Dean of Canterbury, a position he held until his death on January 12, 1871.
The lyrics were set to the tune, St. George’s, Windsor written by George J. Elvey. The tune first appeared with Alford’s text in the Anglican hymnal, Hymns Ancient, and Modern.
George Elvey was born on March 27, 1916, and served as organist at the Royal Chapel at Windsor Castle for 47 years. In 1871, he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He died on December 9, 1893.
In Honor of Veterans’ Day
My father, Gabriel DiLeonardo, came from a large family—13, most were girls. Since all but one of his sisters and only one brother lived close to us, I did not know them well.
There is one I never met—my father’s second oldest brother—Uncle Egidio. He came to the United States as a young man in 1913 when my father was only three years old. Uncle Dom, the oldest brother took care of him. Until World War One broke out. Uncle Dom was already married.
When the United States entered the war, Uncle Egidio decided to enlist. He wanted to hold up the honor of his new country. He was so proud to be in America! I’m not sure if he became a citizen by serving (laws were different then) or if was already a citizen when he joined.
What I do know is that this man fought for our country and was wounded—seriously. It has been my grandfather’s intention to bring the entire family over, one by one. The war prevented that.
It was not until 1921 that my grandfather was able to bring the rest of the family over to America. My Dad was eleven years old. For the first time, he met his brother Dominic (the two of them were look-alikes) and his brother Egidio.
He did not really get to know Egidio well, because Egidio had been so badly injured by an attack of poison gas in the trenches of France that he could hardly speak or breathe.
In addition, I suspect he suffered from “shell shock,” what we call PTSD today. Uncle Dom worked to get Egidio into a Veterans hospital—where he spent the rest of his life.
Uncle Egidio died in 1976, having lived almost all of his adult life in a hospital. The nurses told me he was a kind and gentle man. By the time he died he probably understood English, but the gas injuries likely prevented him from speaking.
When I hear about how the country behaved toward Italians in the 1920s, it saddens me. My Dad fought in his neighborhood for respect and my Uncle fought so that those who bullied my father, his brother, could do so in a free and safe country.
Those in charge of pursuing the peace when the war was winding down decided it would be nice to have everything end at eleven in the morning on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
So, people fought and died up to the last minute. It is said that thousands died on that last day—due to the hubris of leaders who wanted an “interesting” end time and did not consider the men who would die right up until the last gun was silenced.
It is said that the bitterness, the rancor of the following year’s Treaty of Versailles that carved up the world among the victors was a direct cause WWII and the terrible devastation that brought.
That all seems so long ago. In fact, it was exactly one hundred years ago, this year. My personal connection pushed me to visit some WWI battlefields a few years ago and to look up my Uncle’s records.
I could not find out much about him. So, I invented a life for him. Before and during the war in a series of short stories. The first of those stories has been published.
But even more than that, thinking and reading about WWI and the amazing literature that flowed from it, has given me new insights into our need to be kind to one another, to live as Christ would have us live—to understand and care for the poor and the strangers among us, to love those whose ideas are different from ours, even if they do not love us.
So, for all of this, I wear the poppies of the famous Flanders Field (poem honoring those who died in WWI) on November 11—for my Uncle, for all who died in and because of that war, for all who lived through it, and for our country, that we may never repeat the sins of the past.
Mornings can be hectic, but there is one thing even more important than a healthy breakfast—prayers before school. In order to maximize prayer impact while respecting the likelihood that there will only be a few precious minutes in the morning, I have worked out a formula that was pretty effective at our house.
Of course homeschoolers, not having the need to commute, can use that time for prayer, without dividing the prayer time over several days.
The purpose of these morning prayers is to model for your children the worship of God through prayer, that we can rely on God for and in all things, big and small, and to instill these comforting verses in our hearts and those of our children so that throughout life these verses will emerge to help support them when they need it.
The system involves praying for the week ahead on Sundays for a longer time, using favorite verses of your choice and Ephesians 6:11 et al. Just as you would lay out clothes for the week, you should pray for the protection of God over each child’s week. During the year, you can add activities to this –draw the armor, begin to learn the passage, talk about what they mean.
Although you can do more preparation for the following day at family devotions, to best address the needs of each little heart in the family, wait for the moment when it is just the two of you at bedtime.
Then, add prayers and a verse for each child’s special needs for the following day—a test (maybe a verse on wisdom) meeting new people, how they can be salt and light in the classroom.
Pick a verse that meets that child’s needs. For instance, for my daughter, as for myself, Philippians 4:6-7 would be the verse.
Then a quick morning prayer to go with the quick kiss goodbye from you to remind them that no matter what happens, she need not be anxious about anything.
Of course, then we need to remind them that we will be in prayer for them all day. To keep that promise, I often write down the time of a special event.
When the day ends, be sure to follow up—in the after school talk and at the dinner table, unless it was a confidential request that your child wants to share only at bedtime.
Once they leave the house, it’s time for prayer from Mom to God on their behalf. Here are some of the things I prayed most often and that I still pray for our daughter even though she is long past school, and is out in the working world:
- Joy in learning (working), in the day and in the Lord—after all, each day is the day the Lord has made
- That she would be protected during the day from physical harm and spiritual aggression from evil—in any form, thought, word or deed. That she will put on the full armor of God.
- Prayer that the teacher (supervisor) will speak only the truth and if there is something contrary to God’s word taught, the children in the class will be protected from it.
- Prayer for her to be encouraged according to his or her abilities and needs.
- Prayer that she would be a blessing to others.
- Pray that the verses the child is learning will stay in your child’s heart all day, and …that he or she will be able to call up in moments of distress.
- Pray that you can encourage the teacher in some way.
After school time will be much richer if your child knows you have been participating via prayer in his or her day—it gives you more of an opening.
Morning prayer — a must, that can be easily inserted into a busy morning even without waking the child an extra twenty minutes early.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling.
Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Leotta-Author-and-Story-Performer/188479350973
by Francis Chan
Book review by Carol Peterson
Every once in a while, you read a book that changes you. Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit is one of those books for me. I read it years ago and again recently, having been asked lately by people on separate occasions, “Have you read Forgotten God?”
Chan’s basic premise is that, as Christians, we pay little attention to the Holy Spirit. We pray to God the Father and have a personal relationship with Jesus. We claim to believe that the Holy Spirit lives in us. But, Chan concludes, we pay little attention to that fact. We focus on the other two persons in the Trinity and avoid the issue that the Holy Spirit is there, right now, and always in us and ready to guide, direct, comfort and encourage us.
What I personally gained most from Chan’s book was that this reminder of the Spirit’s presence caused a desire to allow the Spirit to work in and through me. I wanted a relationship not just with Father God and my Savior Jesus.
Chan’s reminder that Jesus left the Holy Spirit’s presence as a gift for me (and you), instilled a deeper desire to have communion with my closest spiritual partner in life—the Holy Spirit.
What changed for me in a practical way? I began to be more open to the Spirit’s leading. I began to allow the Spirit to pray through me for people and circumstances I would not have thought to pray for on my own. I began to pray not only to Father God and my Jesus, but also to pray to the Spirit, thus opening my heart to the whole presence of God.
My journey of faith began to move forward. My sense of the power of the Spirit has grown—not because I somehow have “more” of the Spirit, but because I could more clearly sense His presence and leading. And then follow Him
I recommend Forgotten God to anyone who professes belief in the Trinity and seeks to allow the Holy Spirit to have more power in their lives. I pray the book will change and empower you.
Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan is available from RUBY’S Reading Corner
Carol Peterson, Author My mission as a writer is to educate, entertain and inspire–children, their teachers and parents, other writers, and readers of all genres. As a children’s writer I try to “Make Learning Fun” by helping busy teachers address curriculum accountability standards, and encouraging other writers to do the same. You can connect with Carol at her blog, Carol Peterson, Author Carol is a member of the Ruby Book Review Team.
Check out Carol’s Book Club in each issue of RUBY magazine for her latest book reviews!
“What are you holding in your hands that you can’t let go?” I heard a recent sermon that asked this question. The conclusion was that we need to learn to hold everything that is in our hands loosely. This was a particularly poignant message as we had to “let go” of one of our friends from our church family just the other day. An unexpected relinquishment of a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who had been ill for quite some time, but things seemed to be getting better for him.
As I put my arms around his wife and she collapsed into broken sobs of despair, I realized again that one day we will all need to “let go” of everything we hold in our hands and in our hearts. If we have our God to hold on to, and know that He is holding on to us, we can walk through those times of “letting go” a bit easier . . . although it will always be a time of great pain and sorrow, but we are not without hope.
In the midst of our days on earth, in the face of loss, we will all journey through the valley of grief and agony of spirit. That is normal, and grief has its own time line. If we love deeply we will grieve deeply over the loss of those we hold dear to our hearts. I have heard, and experienced in my own small way, that “love becomes a wound that bleeds.” You know this is true if you have lost someone who is a part of your very being, your soul, and your self.
But we know from God’s Word that this life on earth is only temporary and that those who have believed and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation, will live eternally in His presence. There is coming a day when all tears shall be dried, there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more death. But that is hard to imagine in our moments of deepest grief.
Today, I choose to focus on what God has given and not on what other people have taken away. I choose to hold tightly to His promises for restoration, redemption, and salvation. And I choose to accept the reality that I must develop the “art of letting go.”
I’ve often said, “If I was going to die of a broken heart, that would have happened a long time ago,” but in truth I believe that people can actually die from a broken heart. In the midst of the most crushing grief, we must remember that God will uphold us through it all, and He will give us hope so that we can learn to live again, to love again, and to seek His blessings. It is not easy, but it is possible.
The reality is that people have lived without an overabundance of material possessions throughout history. Many people, even today, live without the basic necessities of life. They struggle to find food, water, clothing, and shelter. When given the opportunity, we should consider sharing out of our abundance with those in need. There are many ways to do that, through charitable giving to volunteering at a local homeless shelter, to sponsoring a child in a third-world country, to adopting or providing foster care for orphans, among others.
But we can only do that if we learn the “art of letting go.” For some of us that begins right here at home, taking time and investing the energy needed to “let go” of some of the excess “stuff” in our homes, the hurtful resentments and grudges from an unforgiving heart, and the overwhelming time commitments that many of us struggle with.
I know some of you are thinking right now about the scene in “Frozen” where we are reminded to “Let it go.” But this is serious business! It’s time to reevaluate all of those things that are in our hands that we think we can’t live without. We need to examine our commitments, our values, and our possessions and turn it all over to God to do with as He chooses. We need to give Him our time, our finances, our possessions, our heart, our family, our home, and our whole being. If we let it go, God will redeem it, just as He did with Job: The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first . . .
So, this week as we are sorting through piles of accumulated stuff that somehow finds its way into our house – when we moved into this house lots of boxes of “stuff” were just piled up in the garage waiting for the day when we would finally get around to looking at it again – I am reminded that I need to work on developing the “art of letting go.” After all, if all that “stuff” has been sitting in a box in the back of the garage for two years, what are the chances that I will EVER actually, really, truly NEED it?
And on closer inspection, I need to look into my heart and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of “stuff” in there that I need to get rid of, too. I’m pretty convinced that getting rid of excess baggage, either in our homes or in our hearts, will bring a sense of peace or order that will then be a good place for us to seek God’s presence, where we can hear His voice, and we can learn to depend on Him, and trust Him for the inevitable day when we will need to face more difficult losses.
Can we let it go? If we start now to clear out everything that is distracting us from seeking and walking with God, when that day comes, we will be so much better prepared to let our most treasured possession go, knowing God will keep His promises and although we might be “struck down . . . but we are not destroyed.” How are you doing on letting go? It’s not easy, but you will truly find God’s presence in the quiet, even in those moments of deepest despair, and you will know that He offers hope to the broken hearted.
I wish for you this summer, and all year long, the joy of His presence and the peace of His promises. I wish you times of reflection and heart-examination, and I wish for you the courage and the determination to “let go” of everything that is hindering you as you strive to walk with Him every day.
Our home has a lot of patriotic themed décor. Not only because I love the combination of red, white and blue together, but because my husband is a veteran.
Over the last twenty seven years of marriage, we have slowly collected patriotic artwork and décor with battle scenes of historic civil war battles, paratroopers, and our latest is a special edition print for the 278th Army Calvary Regiment which he served with in Iraq.
We display these things because it is so much more than just being an Army veteran, but it stems from a love of God, our country and honor for those who have served before him.
I love to decorate our home for the warmer summer months with little touches of red, white and blue. Not only can you leave them up from Memorial Day until Labor Day, but they also provide a festive touch to regular family gatherings.
This month I have embarked on a creative endeavor to make a patriotic themed project for each week during the month.. A few are quick and easy projects but a couple require a bit more time, for instance, the Four Sided Patriotic Blocks I worked on this week.
For this project you will need:
- Artminds™ Whittler’s Kit
- Acrylic paints in Navy, White, and Red
- Painters Pens in Navy, White, Red and Silver
- Craft brushes in various sizes
- Vinyl letters and stickers if desired
- PolyAcrylic top coat in semi-gloss
I chose the Artminds™ Whittler’s Kit because it comes with three precut wood blocks in different sizes. No cutting or sawing required for three different sizes of blocks to stack together. I painted each block entirely in one color of the red, white or blue. I found that this took several coats to get a nice paint cover.
The next step is entirely up to you. I chose to use a method of creating the words for the blocks on my computer, printing them out and then cutting out each individual word as a template. Using colored chalk on the back of the word template, I then traced over the original side with a pencil on the wood to leave a chalk image of the word to fill in with paint.
This method is fairly easy but took much longer than I had planned. And it did not give me clean crisp lines for the letters that I wanted. But I had already committed myself too far in to this process to change it at the last minute. If I ever make a set for another holiday or for inspiration, I will shop for vinyl letters in different fonts and colors to stick to the blocks. This would also be less time consuming than painting each individual letter and word.
I chose to create four sides to each block to be able to create several different patriotic sayings to display and change as I liked throughout the summer months.
“Pray for our Troops”
“God Bless America”
“Pray for America”
“God for America”
“Faith Family Freedom”
“Home of the Brave”
“Pray for Freedom”
“God Bless our Troops”
Any combination of words and sayings can be painted on each side of the blocks. The trick is to plan them out beforehand on which side of the block so that you get the words in the right order when stacked.
I can already imagine making a set of these blocks with portions of Bible verses or daily reminders of God’s love, faithfulness and provision. Every day you can rearrange the blocks for new inspiration.
I may leave this set of blocks out all year!
Donna Powell is a Christian wife and mother, and a Certified Interior Designer. After leaving a demanding career to take care of her father, Donna now spends most of her time blogging about home decor and renovating her mid-century modern home located in the hills of East Tennessee. Her blog can be found at www.modernonmonticello.com She has been married to Brian for 27 years, an Army veteran and Physician Assistant working in Neurosurgery. Donna and Brian have two grown children. When they aren’t renovating their rental property or planning a future in flipping houses, they also take in abused and rescue animals and currently have four dogs, a cat, and a rabbit.
For more inspirational articles and creative inspiration, visit Donna at Modern on Monticello
Thank you, Lord, for Billy Graham’s life
and the impact it had on me.
I pray You keep growing and flourishing
that long-ago planted seed.
Thank you for his wife, Ruth,
and her beautiful poetry,
pointing me to You,
helping me see more eternally.
Bless his family as they grieve,
bless and multiply his legacy…
May it result in much more ministry,
All, Lord, for Your glory!
Cindy Evans is a published poet living in the greater Atlanta area. When she’s not
writing, you may find her a faith-based movie with her husband, making trail mix
or serving at the local Christian hospice.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”—Hebrews 4:12.
My insides lurched as I clenched the receiver, trying to digest my brother’s words on the other end of the line.
“Dad’s pretty ill, Shara,” my brother said. “He’s been diagnosed with a debilitating disease that could be life-threatening. The doctors gave him medication they hope will work.”
He paused. “It doesn’t look good.”
I called my parents’ house and talked to my mom. While on the phone, my dad suddenly motioned to her to call 9-1-1. That was only the beginning.
The year was 2006 and everything we considered normal life abruptly came to a stand-still. Leaving Bruce in Texas to tend to our horses and music ministry, I flew to California.
In one phone call, I had become the foreman, secretary, and bookkeeper in my dad’s construction business, as well as a caregiver.
My plan to stay a couple of weeks turned into two months. Hope reigned when he received treatment at the hospital and returned home.
All would seem well, and then I was dialing 9-1-1 for the ambulance or rushing him back to the hospital myself. I finally quit booking flights home because I kept having to cancel them.
I needed help beyond the physical. I needed God Himself to show up in a big way.
Sitting in the emergency room once again, I stared motionless at the scene around me: doctors and nurses hurried from one section to another.
A gunshot victim groaned through the partition on one side, and there was some sort of unidentifiable commotion on the other.
I looked over at my 75-year-old dad—a very resilient man—whom I had seen really ill probably once in my entire life. It was nearly unbearable to see him in a hospital bed with a bunch of tubes hooked to him.
The tightening sensation of fear threatened to suffocate me. I choked back the tears and tried to stay strong.
All the Bible verses and sermons I had heard went straight out the window—I remembered none of them. At that moment, all I could say was “Jesus, help me.”
A still, small voice stirred within me, “Didn’t you bring your Bible?” I reached for my bag and yes, there it was.
Blinded by the fear that gripped me, I never saw the tabs and bookmarks that flagged my favorite verses. I just opened my Bible and numbly, randomly started flipping.
On my second “flip” it opened, miraculously, to 1 Corinthians 2:5: “that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
Encouraged, I flipped one more time and again, miraculously, the pages fell open to 2 Corinthians 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”
The Lord knew I would need these two verses that night and throughout the entire two months. I grabbed a hold of them with a white-knuckled grip.
His Presence in the emergency room jarred me loose from the paralyzing grasp of fear. His encouragement caused me to reach for Him through His Word, giving me hope even through distressing doctors’ reports and procedures; the stress of running a construction company; and other unthinkable situations that tested me during that time.
God’s Word saved me and in turn, saved my dad.
It happened one night as we sat together in his hospital room. Suddenly, for no reason, his blood pressure shot up into the danger zone.
The Lord’s urgency spurred my heart as He told me to start reading His Word—out loud! I grabbed my Bible.
By this time, my dad’s face was beet-red. I looked at his face, looked up at his patient monitor, looked down at my Bible, and started reading. As I read, a nurse came in with a shot. Lord, no! Please, no more medications for my dad!
Now, I have no medical training whatsoever, but I sensed in my spirit that shot was the wrong thing to do. I was close to panicking as the nurse stood there with the needle poised.
All I could do was sit there, read, and pray. Curiously, though, the nurse wasn’t moving. She quietly watched the monitor, and I kept reading the Word.
As suddenly as his blood pressure rose, it dropped. I stared in amazement as my dad safely recovered.
The nurse, visibly relieved, said, “Good, I really didn’t want to give him this,” and walked out of the room.
Later in the evening, I found her at the nurses’ station and asked her what had happened. She confirmed there was no explanation as to why my dad’s blood pressure sky-rocketed.
And then she added thoughtfully, “I heard you reading the Bible when I walked in.”
“Well, I’m quite sure that is why your dad’s blood pressure came down.”
She then shared something I will never forget. “In all the years I have worked at this hospital,” she said, “I’ve seen powerful things happen when the Word of God is read to patients. In fact, I’ve seen a marked difference between the patients who have the Word read to them and the ones who don’t.”
Wow. The Word of God, as it proclaims, is life.
From then on, I read to my dad every day—the spoken Word of God was a powerful force!
Sometimes he was awake, sometimes he was asleep. But I continued to read, if only in a whisper, saying his name in all the personal spots of the verses:
“John Bueler, Sr. will live and not die”—Psalm 118:17; “No weapon formed against John Bueler, Sr. will prosper”—Isaiah 54:17, etc.
My dad turned 86 this year—a walking miracle. “Don’t rest on the wisdom of men, but the power of God,” and “walk by faith, not by sight”!
Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: www.ponyexpressministry.com and her blog: www.trail-tails.blogspot.com, or come for a visit on Facebook.
One sunny April day, breast cancer
announced itself in my life,
unleashing on my family and I
an unprecedented era of strife.
“But this was going to be my year!” I protested,
“Did you think you were in charge?” God contested.
And so it began, months of pricks and prods,
as I decided to beat cancer, whatever my odds.
First came the chemo, with its unwelcome hair loss,
sprinkled with muscle pains,
and a river of emotions to cross.
“I can’t take any more!” on days I’d cry,
only to pick myself up, and give it another try.
Spring turns into summer, and that also fades,
and all too soon, autumn’s displayed
its many shades.
Surgery now looms, to complete the clearing,
and in my heart, emotions are searing.
Another mountain still left to climb,
best to take it, one day at a time.
It hasn’t been easy, the road to beat breast cancer,
but I know my prayers, God will answer!
Caroline Emile: I’m a happiness & fulfilment coach, passionate about helping soulful women be their best selves, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017, and immediately set my intention to beat it! I’m a citizen of the world, having lived in four countries on three continents by age 16. I love travelling, dancing and exploring new cultures, and all things brightly coloured – like butterflies!
Last year, I started keeping a list of prayer requests, dated and described, and then, to my great surprise — answers! Clear direction for a son, help and success in a ministry opportunity, a new and wonderful job for my husband.
Reviewing the list from time to time, I’m reminded to give thanks, and I’m reinforced in my thinking that when it comes to prayer, there is always something new and fresh God wants me to know.
Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is clear and comprehensive enough to serve as a primer on prayer for the uninitiated, but Sue has shared so many deeply insightful stories and has woven them so beautifully with Scripture that those who are further along on the journey will also find a rewarding read.
Twice in the gospels, Jesus talks with His disciples about mountains moving at their command. Of course, this is not a matter of showcasing the disciples’ great faith, but rather, the power of God at work on behalf of those who believe.
I have been guilty of praying small and safe, so it was a challenge to hear Sue’s rallying cry to pray with confidence, boldness, and grace. The book is set up with odd-numbered chapters covering real and raw stories of women who witnessed mountain-moving responses to their prayers, while even-numbered chapters pose questions based on living the principles here at ground level.
Belief in the ever-present, always-available Maker of Heaven and Earth is the foundation for a vibrant prayer life. Unfortunately, fear, shame, anxiety, perfectionism, entitlement, and timidity often derail us in the mountain-moving life. Staying close to Truth is transformational, and this becomes evident in the lives of women whose childhood wounds have been healed and whose “orphan mindset” has been replaced with assurance that in God’s eyes, they are a much-loved daughter.
Sue hammers on one truth about this following life that almost cannot be overstated:
“Just because you obey God does not mean that it will be smooth sailing forever and ever.”
Our obedience opens the door to God’s help and connects us to God’s plan, but prayer requires trust at every level. Offsetting the vending-machine-God mentality, Sue reminds readers that Jesus suffered greatly in His time on this planet. The following life is not lived above emotional pain and loss. Women who feel like the walking wounded are encouraged to turn to God rather than blaming God for their wounds.
Biblical examples of women like Hannah who prayed for a child and Esther who prayed for the rescue of her people demonstrate that prayer is a powerful weapon, that it launches us into our destiny, and that — amazingly — it is as simple as a conversation in which we transparently come before God bearing “our stuff.”
Just as conversation builds relationship between people, prayer is a day-long interaction with God. And since it is not simply prayer or my puny faith, but rather GOD who moves mountains, I want to press into that relationship and know the heart of this powerful God. Indispensable to our prayer life is a right understanding of who He is, and Sue has shared rich Scriptural insights:
- Jesus is uniquely equipped to comfort and strengthen us when we face rejection. Remember what happened in Nazareth? When He challenged the hometown crowd, they were ready to drive Jesus off a cliff!
- It’s an American idea that if God calls you to a task and if He is truly in it, then success always follows. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Some of our most enriching spiritual growth experiences come through failure.
- Jesus always had choice words of condemnation for the Pharisees in the crowd and set the example for us. “Becoming a woman who moves mountains means you care more about what Jesus thinks than the Pharisees in your life.”
F.U.N.K. and H.O.P.E.
Sue employs a couple of creative acronyms to stimulate readers to prayer that results in renewed thinking and powerful life-change. The next time you feel as if you are in a funk, realize that you are Floundering Under Negative Knowledge. Everything that seems dark and wrong may be very true, but staying close to God’s truth fights the slide into the pit.
Likewise, when the dark tunnel seems endless, hope says, “Hold On, Pain Ends!” God offers His hope when ours has long ago sputtered to a stop.
God-confidence gives perspective for the long haul of praying in light of God’s specific promises. There is so much that He wants to do as He trains us in righteousness, so many good works, prepared beforehand, that are waiting for us who walk with Him. Thanks be to God that we have been invited to come before Him in confidence, boldness, and grace.
Women Who Move Mountains by Sue Detweiler is available from RUBY’S Reading Corner
Visit Michele on her blog, Living Our Days: Gaining a Heart of Wisdom, for more insightful and inspirational articles and book reviews.
Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”
It was on a Wednesday, in the afternoon, when weather reports started flashing like lightening of the encroaching storm. My friend Barbara and I were at our church, working on different projects.
We were on the second floor when another warning alarm sounded. Weather warnings were furiously flashing on her phone to take cover immediately. We headed to the basement and suggested that others take the warning and go as well. No takers, so we went alone.
We ensconced ourselves in the ladies restroom, and together we rode out the storm. It was such a peaceful and calming experience to sit there with her and chat about inconsequential things that were happening in our lives. Barbara made a statement, while we were waiting, that will stay with me always.
She has the sweetest most soothing voice, and she said to me: “If it gets really bad what better place to be than in our church?” After twenty or thirty minutes, Barbara received a notification that the worst had passed.
Upon returning to the upper level of the church, we learned that the storm never happened. The worst of it was some high winds and a sprinkle or two. The storm may never have happened, but a beautiful thing happened that day. I have always loved Barbara, but, now, a new dimension has been introduced to our friendship–one of trust with new insights of who we are. I know in my heart that it was more than riding out a storm together; because, upon leaving the basement, my heart was full of God’s love.
Thought for the Day: Colossians 3:12 (NIV)12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Prayer: Elohei Chasdi – God of my goodness, kindness, and faithfulness, thank you for sending friends to ease us through difficult situations. Show us how to express our gratitude to each other and to You. In the name of our Savior and your Son, Amen.
Nells Wasilewski lives in a small southern town, seventy miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. After retiring, she began pursuing her lifelong dream of writing. Her writing has been greatly influenced by her faith in Jesus Christ, personal, experience and nature. She has been writing poems, prose and stories all her life. Nells has recently started writing devotionals. Her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, Barefoot Review, Three Line Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Dual Coast Magazine, High Coupe Journal, Ancient Paths, Tanka Journal, Hedgerow and Penned from the Heart https://nellswasilewski.blogspot.com
“Be exalted, O Lord, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power”—Psalm 21:13.
Nursing homes are never an easy place to be. Many times they are the last destination for ones who have lived a fairly long life. Most residents are not in the minds they once knew, and all ail from one sickness or another.
Bruce’s 93-year-old grandmother had been in a nursing home for quite some time. No longer able to stay with her family because of medical issues, she became a permanent resident.
Bruce, my mother-in-law Betty, and I made our way to the secured area of the facility where she resided. She sat in her wheelchair, absently staring at the floor. As we approached her, she looked up, sheer delight spreading across her face. We hugged and kissed her, wheeling her into the little living room reserved for private family visits.
Although happy to be sitting there together, our conversation started to get a bit strained. Grandma was hard of hearing, couldn’t talk very well, and suffered from memory loss. Long silences filled the gaps in our conversation.
There had to be some way of communicating together.
Suddenly, I felt the Lord impressing on me to sing. However, I choked up with emotion as I fumbled around for a starting point. I sensed the impression again, urging me to continue. Pulling myself together, I asked, “Can we sing?” With great relief, all three of us plunged in, enthusiastically singing out the old familiar hymns: Amazing Grace; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; How Great Thou Art.
Grandma’s face lit up and away she went! The strain was chased from her face as she sang with us at the top of her voice. The wheelchair seemed to melt away. We were all lifted up and out of that nursing home to a familiar and happy place where communication gaps and sickness don’t exist. For those moments, we enjoyed the same space and the same time.
Intrigued, I watched her joyfully expounding on every word. She remembered the words!—words she had sung long ago that had been tucked away in silent rooms somewhere in the recesses of her mind. The melodies of those old hymns led her heart straight to those rooms, unlocking them like special keys to forgotten doors.
Apparently, the singing from our little room wafted through the entire wing of the nursing home, and more than one heart was unlocked that day. The nurses still talk about it. God’s Presence had a profound effect on patients and staff alike.
Praise in the form of music is powerful and transparent, walking through any wall that has been erected and unlocking every door that has been tightly shut. It knows no boundaries. (Acts 16:25-26)
Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: www.ponyexpressministry.com and her blog: www.trail-tails.blogspot.com, or come for a visit on Facebook.
My mother was exceedingly proud of her ancestry, which boasted two aristocratic English families whose roots went back to the Mayflower. My father, less than impressed with her credentials, once wryly referred to Mom’s genealogy as her “family twig.”
I received as a Christmas gift a calendar Bible, and as I ingest my daily helpings of God’s Word, I’ve been struck by God’s choice of flawed vessels to bring His Son into the world. For example…
Did you know that Jesus’s distinguished lineage included Jacob, who connived his way through life, lying to his ailing father and alienating his only brother? Also among our Savior’s illustrious ancestors was Perez, the illegitimate offspring of Jacob’s son Judah, whom he conceived with his widowed daughter-in-law when she was posing as a prostitute.
Peyton Place, anyone?
And let’s not forget David, the man after God’s own heart, whose illicit union with Bathsheba resulted in the murder of an innocent man in one of the most shocking cover-ups recorded in God’s Word. These two adulterers later produced Christ’s ancestor Solomon, whose liaisons with foreign women led the wisest king who ever lived into idolatry and compromise that besmirched his throne and ultimately divided his kingdom.
These are the some of the juicier tidbits in Jesus’s history. From a humble beginnings standpoint, Christ descended from Leah, Jacob’s unloved wife, who played second fiddle to her beautiful sister Rachel, and had to be pawned off on unsuspecting Jacob through her father’s trickery. God’s Son could also claim in His list of relatives Rahab, a member of the world’s oldest profession, and her daughter-in-law Ruth, whose widowed status forced her to beg scraps and marital protection from a stranger.
Truth really is stranger than fiction.
I can only conclude that Philippians 2:8 (“And being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross”) is the understatement of the century – no, the millennium. Better yet, the entire stage of human history.
Christ’s heritage, culminating in His birth to an unmarried teenager who just barely escaped being left at the altar on the strength of a dream given her disgraced fiancé, better qualified Him to land a role in As the World Turns than to head up the divine church.
And yet, this family tree was carefully, painstakingly constructed by none other than God Himself to serve as the vehicle by which He would introduce freedom to handcuffed humanity.
How fitting that the Son of God, who descended from such “colorful” ancestors, chose to grow up in an obscure town which His peers held in contempt. John 1:46 states that the thinking of Jesus’ day was “Can anything good come out of [Jesus’ home town] Nazareth?” Apparently, something good could – and did – come out of this humble, despised city.
Kind of gives you hope for the rest of us, doesn’t it?
Thea Williams’s short story, “Phoenix,” appears in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers. Her work appears in Focus on the Family Magazine and Al Anon’s The Rap. Subscribe to Thea’s blog at www.reflectionsbythea.blogspot.com By day, Thea educates and prays for young minds at a local school district. Contact Thea at https://www.facebook.com/thea.williams.16 or https://www.youtube.com/user/theabwilliams.
A Disturbing Narrative
There’s a story in the Bible, which grabs at my heartstrings whenever I read it. I’m troubled by the tragedy that unfolds, by the unnecessary waste of a young life, by the foolishness of a man’s vow, by the fact that our sovereign God did not intervene to save this young woman. It is hard to understand love’s sacrificial mindset.
I’m referring to the story of Jephthah’s daughter. Have you read it? If not, or should you need to refresh your memory, it can be found at Judges 11:29-40. In order for you to fully appreciate the message of this article, you will need to be familiar with this disturbing tale.
A Devoted Daughter
Now I’ve often heard about the special bond between a father and his daughter. It is not something to which I can relate, since I didn’t have that kind of relationship with my biological father. However, having walked with God for some years now, I believe I’m beginning to enjoy a similar bond with my Heavenly Father.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jephthah’s daughter loved her father very much. She was obviously watching and waiting for this mighty man of valour to return home from war. As soon as she sees him, she runs out to meet him. She’s overjoyed at his safe return. She celebrates his triumph in customary fashion, with tambourines and dancing. Alas, her love and devotion for Jephthah becomes her undoing. Her love for her father costs her life.
Now let’s apply this scenario to ourselves on a spiritual level. Do we love our Father God to the extent that it costs us our lives? I’m not referring to a literal death here. I’m referring to the demise of our old way of thinking and living, which runs counter to God’s commands, his word and his will. I’m referring to our constant challenge as believers.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Do we love God with ALL of our heart, soul and strength as He requires? Have we crucified our flesh with its affections, appetites and desires, as His word demands? (Deuteronomy 6:5; Galatians 5:24).
Whilst I reflected on the various elements of this story, I wondered: where was Jephthah’s wife? I imagined her busy at home, tidying up, or preparing a special home-coming meal. And then I remembered Martha.
Martha, who hadn’t chosen the ‘better part’. Martha, who became preoccupied with serving food instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Are we like this? Too busy with our personal business, or too busy ‘serving the Lord’ to sit at his feet, to make him a priority in our lives?
If this is the case, may I remind you of Jesus’s words in Matthew 10:38-39? (See Amplified Bible). May I remind you that to be his disciples, we are required to lose our lower life (the life focused only on earthly quests and concerns) and pursue the higher (God-quality and spiritually focused) life?
God’s Measure of True Love
Now, with regards to our relationship with the Lord, we learn from Revelation 3:16, that He prefers we are cold, rather than lukewarm. Fellow Christian writers and readers, let us not be deceived into thinking we are ok because we go to church, participate in Christian activities and believe in God. Don’t forget, the devils also believe! So let me ask you—are you guilty of loving God with your lips, whilst your lifestyle declares otherwise?
Jesus revealed in no uncertain terms that there will be those who are convinced they are in the right place with God, working his works etc., but the Lord will turn to them and say: I never knew you; depart from me. And let’s not forget the five foolish virgins who found themselves shut out from the marriage feast, to whom the same damning words were spoken: I do not know you!
Are we paying heed to these stark warnings? Do we take them seriously? Do we yet understand love’s sacrificial mindset?
The ‘S’ Factor!
God requires an intimate knowledge of him. Relationship. Not words. Not unfulfilled intentions.
It can be easy in this age of grace to become careless. To be like the prodigal son, to avail ourselves of the rich resources of God’s Kingdom (his love, forgiveness, grace) and squander them selfishly, without care or consideration for the high price paid for us to enjoy our inheritance.
Wake up daughters of Zion! Wake up to the fact that the only life worth living is in our Father’s house, under his protection, submitted to his rules and regulations.
Wake up to the fact that we have an enemy, who hates us, and seeks to deceive and destroy us 24/7. Those suggestions that we can take God’s resources and use them for our own ends, where do you think they emanate from? Satan of course! Embraced and endorsed by our selfish inclinations, by our own carnal appetites and agendas.
We don’t even have to commit terrible sins. Just not be fruitful. Just not be concerned about the issues on God’s heart. Just be too busy with our personal dreams and desires to care about the needs of our neighbour, to participate meaningfully in the work of God’s kingdom, to fall on our knees and pray.
Daughters of Zion, I speak to myself and I speak to you all – wake up! Let us understand love’s sacrificial mindset.
Love’s Mature Outlook
Moving on, I’d like to focus on another admirable quality of Jephthah’s loving daughter. She is not bitter with her father, or about her fate. How about you? Have your experiences of life caused you to become angry with God, resentful about your experiences and negative about your future?
Dear reader, I suffered many years of spiritual malaise because of wrong attitudes. I carried around in my heart an ever increasing record of offenses and was both inwardly and outwardly hostile towards those who hurt me. Yes, life can be unfair. However, spiritual maturity, faith and trust in our Father God, enables us to overcome and carry on with the right attitude.
Cultivate A Friendship Circle
Jephthah’s daughter called upon her friends and shared her sorrow. They mourned with her. Do you have good, genuine, spiritual friends whom you can call and depend upon when needed? Who will pray for, and support you if, or when things fall apart?
Now don’t be discouraged if you don’t have such supportive friendships. There’s always the help and counsel of the three Godhead members to fall back on. In fact, you should be pursuing close fellowship with them anyway.
I believe your relationship with each (Father God, Jesus, Holy Spirit), is vital to your spiritual health and strength. Your relationship with them should not be superficial. But deep. Strong. Like Paul’s—so that you are convinced in your heart that NOTHING can separate you from God’s love.
The Heroine’s Finale
As mentioned at the beginning, the story of Jephthah’s daughter always tugs at my heart. I usually take issue with God about it. Why did he allow her to die? It seems so harsh and unfair. I’ve never really gotten an answer.
However, I do acknowledge that God’s ways are higher than my thoughts and ways. We are not qualified to judge. Yet isn’t this how we can feel about the things we face in our own lives sometimes—about that false accusation, that persecution, that sudden catastrophe?
Jephthah’s daughter may have lost her life but she made history. God saw to it that she was inscribed within the pages of the Book of books.
There are those seeking to make history, to make a name for themselves, to make it according to worldly standards but in doing so, lose their own lives—whether literally, mentally, or spiritually.
Dear readers, let’s make sure we aren’t so foolish as to gain the whole world, yet lose our own soul.
Let’s remember we are not our own, we’ve been bought with a price. Let’s ensure that when all is done and dusted, our names appear in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Join us in the RUBY community for more inspirational posts and discover opportunities to connect with other Christian women.
I’d describe myself as a God-seeker and recovering perfectionist. From an early age my love of words and insatiable appetite for stories kindled a passion for writing. I’ve enjoyed modest publishing success both in print and online and spent several rewarding years as one of a team of editors for a Christian women’s publication. I like to write devotionals, inspirational articles and poems and occasionally a short story. My blogs are Women of Warfare and Purpose Driven Achiever where you can read inspirational and thought-provoking articles.
There are days, I know we all have them, in a brief moment of silence, when we wonder if we are doing everything that God intends for us. Especially as women, we often find ourselves busy, busy, busy with daily tasks that frequently seem endless. Which of course, they are. Because no matter how many times you fix supper, you will have to do it all over again tomorrow. And laundry. You can do a thousand loads of laundry, and tomorrow there will be MORE laundry.
If you are a mom of any age, if you still have children at home, there is a never-ending round of activities that require your attention. Some days I just feel like I’m running in circles, and nothing I am doing, nothing in which I am investing my time and energy, will last. Everything will have to be done all over again tomorrow.
That is when I find myself, in those all-too-seldom moments of quiet . . . sometimes in the silence, I stop and think about all of that. And I’ll be honest, some days I get discouraged, wondering if anything I am doing is making any difference in the world. If you are honest, you will admit that you feel that way on occasion, too.
One day recently I was asking God to give me just a bit of guidance, just so I would have a greater sense of confidence that I am actually hearing Him correctly, and this daily round of running to dentist appointments, piano lessons, volleyball practice, orthodontist appointments, choir concerts, and youth group meetings matters to anyone.
When I finally landed back home, and the girls were quietly doing other stuff (besides fighting like sisters often do!), I sat down at my desk to work on the RUBY magazine – and again I asked God to give me a clue. Does anything that I am doing with my life make any difference at all, to anyone? Or is all of this activity just keeping me distracted from something else, something bigger, something more important?
That’s when I suddenly realized, as I was reading through some of the submissions for this issue of RUBY magazine, that MY writers – yes, MY writers – some of YOU who share your heart and love for the Lord with all of us who read your words – YOU are my ministry. Especially when I read the words of new writers who are timid and afraid to put their precious ideas and thoughts down in black and white and send them off to someone (me!) that they don’t even know – and they trust me to treat their voice and their words with respect.
I have been so encouraged, and truly blessed, by the writing that is submitted each month for our little magazine. And I am so grateful and honored that God has given me the gift of your friendship. I have learned so much from MY writers, and I am so excited to look to the future with all of the opportunities that God will give us, together, to share His words of blessing, inspiration, and encouragement with the world.
So if you ever wonder what you are doing, if God is using you, or if anything you are doing every day is making a difference in the world – know you are not alone, and remember that He has given you a story, and words of encouragement, so that you can share them with the world. We make a pretty good team, I think!
My neighbor’s dog was deaf and blind. She started out with hearing and vision, but age took its toll on this “short person in a fur coat.”
We knew this beige, wide-eyed shih tzu for 13 years. Her name was Dusty Miller, and she comforted everyone in our family at one time or another. When my father lay weak and helpless on what would become his death bed, Dusty curled up at his feet. When my sons had a bad day at school, they went down the street and scooped up Dusty.
In her later years, Dusty found the most enjoyment from being in familiar surroundings because she was minus two of her senses. We carried her up and down stairs and guided her in safe directions when walking.
One night towards the end of her life, I took Dusty out to “do her business” so her “mommy,” Anita, could do some business of her own. As usual, I steered her around obstacles and out of harm’s way, nudging her onto grassy surfaces so she could do her thing. I watched with great interest as Dusty circled and sniffed and even poked her whole face into the earth beneath her.
She was compensating for what she didn’t have, calling on her senses of touch and smell to make up for that which she lacked.
Like Dusty, I’m playing hurt at the moment. Breathing trouble secondary to a bad case of flu sent me to the hospital yesterday in the wee hours of the morning. Technology problems have me in a tizzy, spending many hours and dollars on computer snafus which an end user like me just doesn’t cotton to. In short, life on life’s terms isn’t pleasing me right now.
What’s a girl to do? Here I am, trying to serve the Lord with my writing talents, and I’m running into stop signs. But we don’t sit at stop signs endlessly, do we? We pause, evaluate our surroundings, and use our best judgment to move ahead when an appropriate amount of time has passed.
That’s just what God’s been guiding me to do. He’s assuring me He’s in control, despite appearances to the contrary. He’s instructing me to move forward in any direction that’s not blocked, making headway wherever possible. This article is the first step in that direction.
Like Dusty, I’m figuring out how to work around my deficiencies, and not let them render me senseless.
“If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”
2 Corinthians 8:12
Thea Williams’s short story, “Phoenix,” appears in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers. Her work appears in Focus on the Family Magazine and Al Anon’s The Rap. Subscribe to Thea’s blog at www.reflectionsbythea.blogspot.com By day, Thea educates and prays for young minds at a local school district. Contact Thea at https://www.facebook.com/thea.williams.16 or https://www.youtube.com/user/theabwilliams.
Have you ever waited??
For someone . . . for something . . . for the next step . . . for healing . . .for breakthroughs and miracles . . for life to happen? I think at least once in our life, we all experience a season of waiting; I know I have.
At times, my season of waiting reminded me of the winters in Minnesota – perpetual and in sub-zero temperatures! Still, I was constantly finding pockets of warm relief and burning hope in Jesus and it kept me going.
Until not too long ago when I hit a frozen wall and felt the chill right down to my bones…
I still don’t quite know what happened but suddenly I felt encumbered by the weight of waiting. I felt snowed in and all at once, my season of waiting simply became too excruciating.
And the disquiet began; the 3am restlessness in bed that allowed panic and anxiety to arrest me, as I grappled with the unknown.
The fear that would only subside when sadness stopped by to lull me back to sleep.
The constant need to put on my “game face” so I wouldn’t inconveniently break down in random places or worse still, let people see my fragile interior.
Because that was my true state – I was fragile. I was struggling. Plain and simple. I believed God had forgotten me and His Word that promised me that “He will never leave me nor forsake me” threatened to become a mere theory.
My head grasped His Words but my heart resisted it – because my reality did not reflect it.
I began to allow my fear of the unknown and the uncertainty, which accompanies a season of waiting, to push God’s Word back into that tomb.
Only He could resurrect it again in my heart.
Then one day during my draught, when the usual silence deafened my ear, I heard something that felt like a punch in my gut. I had just come home and as I turned the key into my door, I heard:
“If I do not give you anything else, will you still love me? Or will you fall out of love with me?”
I knew it was God because I heard those words in first person and the writer in me knew enough to know that they weren’t my words or my thoughts.
I collapsed to the floor and broke down in wailing tears! All I could think of at that moment was that I broke my Father’s Heart!
And I said, without flinching or thinking and with all the conviction I could muster, “I don’t want anything else Lord. Just you. You are enough. I’m sorry.”
And finally, for the first time, I fully understood what it meant to say that Christ is enough. I got it and more importantly, my heart got it!
Not a whole lot has changed since that day. That season is not yet over. I am still waiting, but I’ve come to realize that SO IS HE!
Not unlike the time when He waited for Noah to complete the ark. While Noah took what must have felt like an eternity to build the ark, probably under scrutiny and scornful gazes, God had patiently waited.
He could have snapped a finger and built the ark in an instant to accomplish what He needed to do on earth. After all, He was eager enough to start, afresh but He didn’t.
He waited for Noah to build the ark in his own time because He needed to accomplish something in Noah, too.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Centuries later, my Abba is still waiting. The great I AM is waiting – this time for me.
Waiting for me to take my eyes off what I don’t yet have and set my gaze back on what I do have – Jesus.
Waiting for me to let Him do what He needs to do in me during this season of waiting, so I will be ready for where He is leading me.
He is waiting for my transformation to be made complete and for me to wholly step into all that He has called me to be.
Just knowing that He too is waiting for me, makes me eagerly say, “Take this too Abba. Take my waiting.”
Because the truth is, the winter of waiting is a burden that’s too heavy to bear alone and giving it to Jesus so I can be still, and rest in Him makes the walk lighter and the wait warmer.
Have you been waiting? What does your season of waiting feel like?
Suzane Avadiar is a freelance writer, cat-lover and avid traveler. Over the last 16 years, she has written extensively for various publications and companies in the global marketplace. Writing is not only her full-time job but also her passion and instrument of worship. She now writes solely about her faith and has a deep desire to reveal the heart of God through her writings. Suzane writes daily devotions on social media for her church, C3 Subang and is currently completing her first book, Sent to Journey – a Devotional for Travelers. She blogs at www.senttojourney.wordpress.com and resides in Malaysia.
“Patches of fog won’t hold up under sun.” I clipped this intriguing phrase out of a newspaper, pondering its meaning.
“Patches of fog” reminded me of the confusion and depression I’d experienced.
“Lord, give me clear sailing,” is what I often cry when I feel the fog’s so thick I’d really rather die.
Then, just for a moment, He’ll cause the fog to lift.
But He says, “My grace, sufficient, is the greater gift.
“When at last, you’ve stood the test,”
He gently lets me know, “you’ll receive the crown of life. The trials help you grow.
God didn’t abandon me in the fog; He sent sunshine to penetrate it and break it up. “Patches of fog won’t hold up under sun” became a promise to me that eventually the depression and confusion would be gone. Like most promises, it is linked with responsibility.
I had to choose whether or not to expose my “fog” to the sun.
God revealed underlying attitudes of rebellion, self-righteousness and resentment. As I confessed these, (i.e. “laid them out in the sun”), He forgave me and cleansed me of them.
God sent His sunshine through other Christians, also. They prayed and talked with me—when I sought them out. I could feel His light and warmth driving away the fog as I attended worship services, sang praises, prayed, read my Bible, and listened to Christian music. The sun couldn’t shine on me if I hid in a cubby hole. I needed to get out into the sunshine to let it warm me and lighten my heart.
Some fog seemed endless. However, God works in fog as well as in light. The Psalmist mentions God riding on the clouds. Perhaps I needed to experience it in order to call out to God. When I called to Him in my distress, God delivered me and began to work out His loving purpose in me.
The Psalmist says, “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, …. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses,” (Psalm 135:6-7, NIV).
These verses say to me, “When your world is coming to an end, God is the one who makes it foggy and scary and bitterly cold.” Why would He do this? He must have a good reason. I came to realize I’d been clinging to some idols. Other people, my emotional needs, my natural desire to be loved and appreciated, had become more important to me than obedience to God. He knows it is best for us to worship Him alone. It took a storm to rip me away from idols to which I had clung.
Jesus came to me in my cloud of depression and confusion, warming my emotions with reassurances of love. This sunlight gradually broke my fog into patches and drove it away. Now, if I hit a patch of confusion or depression, I turn to God, exposing my heart to His sunlight through His Word, prayer, worship, or Christian fellowship. Soon the fog is gone.
“Patches of fog won’t hold up under sun;” they disappear.
Judith Vander Wege: I’m a Christian Writer, Composer, Bible Study Leader, child of God and follower of Jesus Christ. I’ve had nearly 300 short manuscripts published in such magazines as The Quiet Hour, ALCW Scope, Standard’s Devotions, Aglow, Evangel, Foursquare World Advance, Live, Power for Living, Vision, The Lutheran, Upper Room, Light From the Word, and Columbia Basin Herald. You can read more of my bio on my web site’s “about” page at judithvanderwege.org or .com. I have a Facebook page at Facebook.com/JudithVanderWege
A deceptively warm February 40 years ago saw my beloved father experiencing a near-fatal heart attack. I can never forget learning, after enjoying an overnight visit with a school friend, how my mom, hands full with three minor children, no job or even driver’s license, elected to leave me an extra day in the company of relative strangers while she dealt with the crisis. I remained there, blissfully unaware that my dad lay critically ill as I dressed Barbie dolls.
Fast forward 20 years to February 1991. I shivered on a cold gurney, awaiting surgery which would remove the remains of my unborn child, who had died before ever leaving the womb. Although the calendar said I was only 14 weeks pregnant, this baby already had a name – Abigail – and a huge place in my now broken heart. In short, I was devastated. I remember desperately waiting for the calendar page to turn so I could shudder off the cold, bleak month that had claimed my daughter’s life.
In February 2003, my precious mother took her last breaths, following years of frail health. Metastasized cancer diagnosed the previous fall caught us all off guard, and swept her away from us in less than three months.
While it stings to revisit all this sorrow, I find great comfort in recalling God’s mercy during those desolate periods. In wandering through each pain-filled song of my life, I find ample evidence of amazing grace rippling through every aching chord.
After Dad’s heart attack my sister Jane, whose goodness is rivaled only by her practicality, bought Mom driving lessons, rendering her less dependent on her ailing husband. Dad mercifully remained with us another 30 years, longer than any male in his immediate family, although his health was irreparably damaged. He was blessed with good quality of life, thanks to the grace of God and the benefits of 20th century medicine. He lived to see all seven of his grandchildren grow out of diapers and into their school years. The realization that we almost lost him made him that much dearer in our eyes.
While nothing could bring back my Abby, family and friends rallied to bind up my wounds. My sister Jo Ann, herself ready to deliver her second child, realized the seeming unfairness and understood why I couldn’t bring myself to visit newborn Madelyn when she arrived March 1. Instead of insisting I celebrate my new niece, Jo and her husband Scott, whom I consider a brother, sent me a glorious begonia with coral blossoms that reminded me life could still bloom even in the starkest winter.
For her part, my sister Roz took me out for an expensive haircut, with the thought that a new look might bring a smile to my tear-streaked face. Best of all, the following February found me weeks away from cradling my own darling Aaron, who made his entrance March 16, 1992. Five years later, almost to the day, his precious brother, Ethan, came on the scene. February, indeed, gave way to marvelous March.
When Mom was in the last stages of her illness, Jane packed up her suitcases and nursing skills and boarded a flight home across the country. She made it in time to tend our mother and say goodbye. Roz’s husband Tom, also more brother than brother-in-law, came to the rescue, hauling Mom’s debilitated body up when she would slip down in her hospital bed.
In the aftermath, I cried on the phone with my counselor while emptying Mom’s closet. That dear lady wouldn’t take a cent for our phone session. A neighbor who had never before been kind cleared snow from our driveway, and others we barely knew showed up to her memorial service. We didn’t get through unscathed, but neither were we forsaken.
In every season of grief, almighty arms held my family and me high above an abyss of uncertainty and pain. Those arms aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath
are the everlasting arms.”
Thea Williams’s short story, “Phoenix,” appears in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers. Her work appears in Focus on the Family Magazine and Al Anon’s The Rap. Subscribe to Thea’s blog at www.reflectionsbythea.blogspot.com By day, Thea educates and prays for young minds at a local school district. You can also contact Thea on her FB page. Thea is a regular contributor to RUBY magazine.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious hands. Isaiah 41:10 NLT
On August 24, 1996, I married my soul mate, Brandon, in front of all of our family and friends. As I walked toward him down the long aisle of the church, butterflies swarmed in my stomach. My palms grew sweaty as I realized every eye in the sanctuary was on me at that precise moment. I smiled as I glided along but on the inside, my nerves threatened to conquer me.
Proceeding with the ceremony, we bowed together in prayer at the kneeling bench. As we knelt there, eyes closed, heads down, and hearts open, my hands started to tremble. In the midst of the preacher’s eloquent blessing prayer, Brandon reached over and placed his hand over top of my right hand. He squeezed my palm and kept his hand there throughout the rest of our time on the bench. He spoke no words, but it was as if he was saying to me by his gentle touch,” It’s ok, I’m here for you. Don’t be nervous. Everything will work out fine. I’m here no matter what.”
His small act of love warmed my hand and my heart. He brought peace with his touch and calmed my anxiety. From that instant, a calmness washed over me as my nerves were pushed to the back pew and my excitement for the future welled up inside me. I knew we were meant to be and his effect on me further proved the point
Throughout our marriage, Brandon’s hands have been there to help calm my nerves and tensions on many occasions. From praying for me, to wiping tears from my eyes, his gentle touch always makes it better. He is always there to take his turn driving the kids to their activities or washing the dishes because I am stressed or too busy to get it all done.
And those hands have shared in an abundance of happy moments, too. They were there to cradle both of our newborn babies closely to his chest. They shoot basketballs with my son and hit volleyballs to my daughter.
They toss sticks to our rowdy dog as he playfully fetches them. They hold me close as we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. They guide me on beautiful walks on the beach and in the forest as we hike to see waterfalls. They teach small group Bible studies at church and type on the computer countless hours to provide for our little family.
Brandon is faithful to always be there, no matter what- just as he “said” to me with his graceful hands on our wedding day.
God is a lot like that. He is always available to help me with His trustworthy guidance…any day, any hour, any second. He promises in Isaiah to provide strength and assistance when I’m struggling. He desires to calm my fears and give peace with His presence. He gives hope with the reassurance in my relationship with Him as my Lord and Savior.
I have confidence in His ability to be victorious over any obstacle. His relentless love constantly pursues me and continues to work personally in my life every day He cares so much about me (and you) that He reaches out to grasp me tightly with His Holy hand when I’m too feeble to stand on my own.
As I think about how God moves in my life, I realize part of God being faithful to His promises in Isaiah is by sending Brandon into my life. He has blessed me with a devoted husband to do life with- through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. It’s almost as if Brandon’s hands are an extension of God’s own hands, always there guiding, protecting, and helping.
Take comfort in the knowledge God loves you and wants to share in every part of your life, no matter how big or small. He is dependable and loyal to His Word. He will not fail as you trust Him in every area of your life, giving over all your thoughts, worries, dreams, and hopes to Him. Let the Lord’s hands provide tranquility on your amazing journey of life.
Lord, thank you for being my Lord and Savior and for caring so much that You desire to have a personal relationship with me. You are steadfast as You share in all the moments of my life, whether good or bad. Grow my trust in You as I learn to depend on You completely. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Alisha Ritchie writes from North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her husband, Brandon, of almost twenty years, and two busy but wonderful teenagers, Zack and Abby. She is a Physical Therapy Assistant by profession but in recent years has also become a multi-published author of devotions and inspirational stories to inspire others in their walk with God. You can read more of her writing at www.seekhimdaily.wordpress.com
Sometimes people find my shopping strategies humorous when I tell them that I always pray before I embark on a little shopping trip. Seriously, I pray that God will help me to be a good steward of the money I have, that I might find the best bargains, and to realize what I do or do not need. I also pray that God will make me a blessing to sales clerks or anyone I meet in the stores.
A few years ago, my husband and I were at a Pastor and Wives’ retreat when we had free time in the afternoon. Since I worked full time teaching in the public schools, had 3 sons, and kept busy in the church, I was excited about having a little shopping time. When I told the group about my strategies, one of the pastors laughed and wished me the best.
My husband dropped me off at the large discount store there in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I enthusiastically began my search for the best bargains. Just as I discovered a whole table of great sweaters, I heard an announcement come over the intercom. “Will Paula McVay please come to the service desk?”
Checking to make sure I had my purse and items I wanted to purchase, I made my way to the service desk where I was met by a serious looking, professional man. When he asked to see my ID, I began to wonder if something was wrong with my husband. Had he been in an accident? Was he ill?
When I asked him if everything was alright, he somberly replied, “I just wanted to make sure I had the right person. Here is your shopping list from God.” Glancing over my left shoulder from where I heard laughter, I saw my husband and the other pastor from the seminar feeling quite successful in their little prank.
Actually, my husband was quite proud that I always found the best deals and dressed our family and furnished our home with durable and fashionable things that looked way more expensive than they actually were. Maybe I’m a little naïve, but I felt that God always blessed us so greatly because we loved giving to the church…especially missions.
Many times we did not have much, but knew the needs were there. One time, our church was in the midst of a building program and my pastor husband asked us to pray about what God would have us give over a 3 year period and to write it on the response card. My husband thought that he would pledge for us and I thought he wanted me to.
It wound up that we had doubled pledged. Ouch! We prayed about it and decided that must be what was needed. Even though we had 3 sons in college, we were able to make every payment. Amazing!!!! We never went hungry and with all those bargains, things looked good.
Some people say that if you give, God will shower more on you. Actually, we hit some really hard times right after that event. The market crashed and we lost an exorbitant amount of money on the house we were trying to sell. After going through almost all of our retirement nest egg, we finally sold the home for 100,000 less than its previous assessment.
The scripture says to give and it shall be given unto you. I’m not a theologian, but I think that “it” might not be money, but something even better. God did shower us with his peace that we had made every payment, that we had money in savings, and that we always had enough for daily needs. Every time I drive by that beautiful building, my heart swells with thanksgiving for the ministries that go on there.
Now that God has allowed my precious husband to make that journey to Heaven, I have even more decisions to make. I’m so thankful that Isiah 55:4 tells me that God is my husband and James 1:5 tells me that wisdom is mine through Him. Just last week, I went mattress shopping. As usual, I asked God to help me find the best deal and to be a blessing to the sales person.
As I walked into the store, I saw only one sales person and no customers. I breathed a quick prayer of thanks that I would have plenty of time to ask any questions. The salesman and I easily connected as we talked about his children and my teaching experience. When he wrote up the sales, he was commenting on what a great deal he was giving me.
I expressed my thanks by saying, “I do feel so blessed that God has shown me the best place to come and given me a sales person who is so knowledgeable.” He began to talk about his faith and how he was struggling. Wow! You just never know when God will give you an opportunity to witness.
He expressed his desire to grow stronger and ask for suggestions. I was able to tell him that God’s word tells us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of God. “ He told me he had a study Bible and how he wished he spent more time; however, with his four children and busy schedule, he often neglected doing so. God helped me to remember how I had struggled in those same areas especially when my children were at home. I was able to share how I learned that taking time to read and study and pray actually saves time because God gives us wisdom for life.
He began to tell me that his pastor lived right down the street and that he went to church on Saturdays. I told him I thought that was great and since he goes on Saturdays, he might enjoy visiting our church on Sundays since our pastor, my son, who had also bought a mattress from him, was an excellent teacher.
Now, why was I surprised when he exclaimed, “I would love to visit! I have to work sometimes on Saturdays so going on Sunday to your church would be perfect.” We talked some more and when I got ready to leave, he called out to me, “Wait, I need to get the name and address of your church. Do they have a web site?”
Who would ever imagine that buying a mattress could be so exciting? Even though I did not have a list from God, I had the confident faith that He would lead me and help me to make the right decision. It’s time to get out there again for those “After Christmas” deals. I’m excited to see where God leads. Happy Shopping!!!
Paula McVay attended church as a child where she first heard about the grace and love of Jesus. She accepted Christ as her savior at the age of 12, and accepted God’s call to full-time ministry at the age of 13. Paula has been a teacher in public schools, a pastor’s wife, a mother, and a mentor to many over the years she and her husband, Doug, were in pastoral ministry. Paula is the mother of three sons, and five grandchildren.