Friday, November 30, 2012

CARING CHILDREN by Cathy Westmoreland

If you were to ask some of my Sunday School kids something about me, they might say I am very emotional. I AM! Some Sundays (okay, many Sundays), I shed a tear or two from the pure joy I feel when I hear some of the sweet prayers being lifted up to our Heavenly Father. I never divulge the content of the prayers that are said each Sunday morning in my class. The children know that I love them and will keep their trust. But I can say that hearing one child ask for another child's parent or sick family member makes me so thankful. It tells me that many of our parents are teaching their children to pray not only for themselves but for others as well. I am so blessed when I see their love for God and their faith in knowing He hears them. They believe He will do the best thing for them. The faith of a child is priceless!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

THE BLAZING FURNACE by Tony Manley


“So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, WERE BOUND and thrown into the blazing furnace. “Dan. 3:21

“and these three men, FIRMLY TIED, fell into the blazing furnace.” Dan. 3:23

“The blazing furnace”- hot, deadly, painful, and a place I never choose on my own!  When I am dealing with “the blazing furnace” of life – whatever or whoever that looks like - I too, find myself “bound” and “firmly tied.” Verse 21 –“thrown into” and verse 23 –“fell into” tell us these boys were put there without their consent.  Isn’t that another aspect of my “blazing furnace?” I find I usually didn’t ask for this!  Not to mention, I can be guilty of calling on my deadly default buddies –deserve and entitle - to help make my case! 

I do love the courage and conviction of these Hebrew boys – true heroes of the faith. I love the detailed description of the before, during, and after of “the blazing furnace.” But the detail that has always intrigued me most – “there was no smell of fire on them.”(Dan. 3:27)  Wow! I know all the details are miraculous -NOTHING WAS BURNED, but how does a person not have even the smell of a fire on them? I take great pride in my sense of smell. I am quick to notice fragrance and stench. Truly, smell is a big deal in my life.

BUT just this week, after all the years of loving the detail about the lack of fire smell, God showed me a more timely truth for this season of my life. The boys went into “the blazing furnace” “bound/firmly tied” but came out “unbound” (Dan. 3:25).  Something did get burned – THE THING THAT BOUND THEM WAS REMOVED – GONE when they came out of “the blazing furnace!” “The blazing furnace” was actually the place/tool God used to free them and to reveal His greatest work – freedom! Freedom came in “the blazing furnace.”

The times I have experienced the most freedom with the Holy Spirit have followed acts of obedience, and I would dare say more often than not, there was a “blazing furnace” involved. I know God is plainly, loudly, and intensely taking me through “Freedom 101” with Him as my teacher. My desire is to live life in and out of “the blazing furnace” “unbound” just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.





Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ADVENT...PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS

Every year, I am always on the lookout for something that will help prepare my heart for Christmas and keep me from getting lost in all the commercialism of the season. This year I have come across several posts of books that people are reading alongside the Bible. The first two links are posts from Noel Piper's blog. She explains what Advent is and makes book suggestions. The third link is a Facebook post by Proverbs 31 with lots of great ideas. When you decide what you are going to do personally or with your family, please leave a comment in the comments section or tell us on our Facebook page.




Proverbs 31 Advent Posts

You may also enjoy re-reading our Refresh blog's December 2011 Advent Posts where a young mother read a Bible story and made a craft every day with her four children. Just click on the links to the lower right-------------------------------------------------------->



Monday, November 26, 2012

CHRISTMAS APPETIZERS

It's 4 weeks until Christmas, so all the recipes over the next month will center around foods for Christmas parties or buffets. Today's recipes take only minutes to prepare and are great appetizers to take to a party. 


Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 T. brown sugar
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
graham sticks or graham crackers

1.  In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until fluffy.
2. Gradually add sugars; beat just until combined.
3. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. If not using pecans, place mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. If you want to use the pecans, first put the cream cheese mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 
6. Just before serving, roll cheese ball in pecans.
7. Serve with graham sticks or different flavor graham crackers. 



Ranch Chicken Dip

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (1 oz.) envelope Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1 (5 oz.) can chicken, drained

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat well. Serve with assorted crackers. Serves 8.






WORD FOR THE WEEK

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, 
who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. 
They rejoice in your name all day long; 
they exult in your righteousness. 
For you are their glory and strength, 
and by your favor you exalt our horn. 
Indeed our shield belongs to the Lord, 
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:15-18

Don't you want to learn to walk in the light of the Lord's presence all day long? Look at the benefits!




Friday, November 23, 2012

THANK YOU by Tony Manley



As a follower and devoted member of the Broadway women’s blog Refresh, I have to say “thank you.” This past month I have quickly gone to the blog so I can get to know another’s heart.  I have heard young, old, mothers, singles, empty nesters, “boot camper”- young mothers, hurting, joyful, quiet, verbal hearts and any other adjective one can throw in the mix!

I am fortunate to be a member of this particular body of women. As an older “girl,” I have watched many of the writers’ lives over the past years. The truth of their words, the faith of their hearts, the hurts, hopes, and joys of their experiences as they are living for Christ on this side of heaven have given me great encouragement! I am blessed to live in this community of sisters who express transparency and desire to be more like Christ. Each is a teacher in the good times, weak moments, and needy chapters of life! Truly, this is a picture of the family of God learning to live well together.

Sometimes life is so fast and spread out that sitting and lingering with others’ hearts is almost impossible! I am thankful this blog lets me get to know a glimpse of women’s hearts that I only see from a distance and wonder who they are and how they are doing. I have loved hearing the eloquent expression of each heart (I do love words a lot!). This blog has given me cause to smile more, pray more, and desire more to know others in my walk with Christ. 

As I prepare for a more intense few weeks in the holiday season, I look forward to who and what the blog will share…recipes, lessons, scriptures, needs, hopes, joys, hurts…whatever shows up daily (and trust me, I check it), I am thankful the post will be one that is useful to this heart! 

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”  Ps. 105:1-4




Thursday, November 22, 2012

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR by Christie Smith


Well, we've made it through another year. It's been good and bad, easy and hard, messy at times...well, messy most of the time. I've washed countless dishes and clothes and floors and sticky hands and dirty faces. But I'm still here. There has to be a reason I'm still here. This time of year we stop to give God thanks, but for what really? We say it's for our friends and family...for keeping us safe another year...for the blessing of grace and mercy. But is thanks really thanks if it's only words? Can't we tell when our kids or spouses utter "I'm sorry" out of have-to instead of from a heart of want-to? So how much more can God see through our pitiful "thank yous" on Thursday around the turkey?

They say our heart is where we put our time and our money. Where has my time gone this year? How many hours wasted on catching up on the status updates from people I haven't seen in years? Do I know more about strangers’ kids than I do about the ones living down the hall? Have I spent more hours reading my books, e-mails, messages and useless info about other people's lives than I've spent reading out loud to ears that eagerly wait for a loving word from their mother? I stop this holiday to tell the Lord "thank you" for all the many blessings He's given me...but what good are my words if my life proves otherwise?

I want my life to count. I want to answer God's calling. I just get lost in all the laundry and whining and activity that makes me too busy to notice the true blessings. I want to mold these little people He's given me into the men and women of God He's created them to be. I'm just not sure I'm doing my best when exhaustion and frustration are what spill out of my mouth instead of the encouraging things I wish I had said. How do I slow my mind...my heart...my life long enough to notice the blessings? How do I stay focused on the mission of mothering instead of the monotony of Mondays? How do I keep the weeks from slipping by...one by one...until the years are gone with no memories of the "simpler times?" The lazy summer days replaced with running this kid to practice and that kid to her friends and picking another up from camp. The days of jumping in piles of leaves lost to another weekend jam-packed with birthday parties and more practices and games and rehearsals. And afternoons spent playing with the kids sacrificed for getting the laundry caught up and the everything finished before I have to run to my next appointment. 

This Thanksgiving I want my "thank you" to be a declaration to this rat-race life that I'm not going to take it anymore! No more of your unrealistic expectations of what success looks like! No more spending more time keeping up to date with my virtual friends than I do my spiritual ones! This year I want to slow my life by slowing my mind to see the things I miss in my rush to get it all done. I want to actually feel thankful more than once a year. I want be stopped in my tracks on a Tuesday in February when I see a red cardinal land on a snow covered branch. I want to lose my breath in April when I walk outside and smell the rain and see my babies running wild in it...instead of worrying that they're just creating more laundry. When summer comes and they want me to stop what I'm doing to watch them swim, I'm going to say yes (well, I'll say yes more this year than last ;). This time next year I'll be truly thankful in my heart because my life will be one lived fully aware of what it's grateful for...instead of a life made to stop once a year to notice it all. I may not be 100% successful in this pursuit to be more thankful, but I think it's worth a try. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TWO RECIPE SUGGESTIONS FOR THANKSGIVING

If you haven't finalized your Thanksgiving menu yet, here are 2 possibilities. This Green Bean Casserole, recommended by Brenda Riden, is not your usual cream soup one. This one calls for Alfredo sauce. And the bonus is that it frees up oven space by using the slow cooker! 

And if you need a show stopper dessert, you will definitely want to try Paula Roten's suggestion of Praline-Pumpkin Mousse Cornucopias. She promises, they are easy to make and impressive to serve guests. They taste good, too!

Green Bean Casserole from Southern Living

2 (16-oz.) packages frozen French-cut green beans, thawed 
1 (10-oz.) container refrigerated Alfredo sauce
1 (8-oz.) can diced water chestnuts, drained
1 (6-oz.) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (6-oz.) can French fried onions, divided 
1/2 cup chopped pecans 

1. Stir together first 6 ingredients and half of French fried onions; spoon mixture into a lightly greased 4-qt. slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on LOW 4 1/2 hours or until bubbly.
3. Heat pecans and remaining half of French fried onions in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant; sprinkle over casserole just before serving.




Praline-Pumpkin Mousse Cornucopias from Allrecipes


6 sugar ice cream cones
Vegetable cooking spray
All-purpose flour
1/2 (17.3 ounce) package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 (3.4 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup caramel topping, warmed
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans


1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Wrap each cone tightly in aluminum foil, covering it completely and tucking any excess foil into the cone cavity. Spray the foil cones with the cooking spray.
3. Sprinkle the flour on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet on the work surface. Cut the pastry sheet along the fold marks to form 3 rectangles. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 4 strips, making 12 strips in all.
4. Press the ends of 2 pastry strips together. Starting at the pointed end of the cone, wind the pastry strip around 1 cone, slightly overlapping edges of pastry (strip will not reach the bottom of the cone). Spray the pastry cone with the cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Place the pastry cone on its side, with the end of the strip facing down, onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pastry strips.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Let the pastries cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Carefully remove the foil cones from the baked pastry.
6. Beat the milk, pudding mix, pumpkin and cinnamon in a medium bowl with a whisk until the mixture is thickened.
7. Beat the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Spoon or pipe the mixture into the pastry cones.
8. Stir the caramel topping and pecans in a small bowl. Place the pastries onto serving plates and drizzle with the caramel mixture.





Friday, November 16, 2012

DO MY BELIEFS SERVE ME WELL? by Paula Roten


(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.

DO MY BELIEFS SERVE ME WELL?

It’s 2012. I’m 59 years old and have been married 37 years. My two babies now have babies of their own. My husband and I have been through births and deaths and marriages, the terrible twos and teenage rebellion, the first day of kindergarten and the last day of college, looking for a job and the uncertainty of keeping a job, helping our children with their children and helping care for our aging parents. And now, we are experiencing difficulty and pain on a level we’ve never experienced before: our 4 yr. old granddaughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor on a Monday and had surgery on Thursday. Almost immediately she went to St. Jude for radiation and chemo. The fear (no, more like terror and panic)…the helplessness-knowing I can’t fix this for her or her mommy and daddy…the literal pain in the stomach and heart…the roller coaster-super sonic speed of events…the desire to wake up and realize this has all been a horrible nightmare.

So, have my beliefs served me well? Are they real now that something really bad is happening? What are my beliefs?

I believe God is good and loving and has a plan.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Ps. 84:11 – “No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
Prov. 3:33 – “He blesses the home of the righteous.”
Jer. 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Rom. 8:28 – “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.”

I believe bad, sorrowful things happen, but I can choose to respond with trust, believing God’s got this (and me).
John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Gen. 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”

I believe God loves me and wants me to run to Him and find my comfort in Him. 
Ps. 23:1 – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” 
Ps. 47: 5 – “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God.” 
Ps. 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Ps. 56:3 – “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”
I Pet. 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

I believe God will give me strength to face the darkest trial.
Ps. 73:26 – “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Phil. 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Ps. 112:7 – He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” 
Is. 33:2 – “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress.”

I believe God gives me hope to ask for anything from Him – I personalize these by putting my granddaughter’s name in the scripture.
Matt. 21:22 – “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”
Ps. 91:14-16 – “Because he loves me…I will rescue him. I will protect him…I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Ps. 138:8 – “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”

I believe God gives me hope and joy regardless of my circumstances.
Rom. 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I believe God is able to do the miraculous.
Eph. 3:20 – “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”
John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


So why am I not responding in anger and bitterness? Well, frankly, because I’ve been there, done that, and wasn’t any happier because of it. I was miserable and made everybody else around me miserable, too. Plus, I’ve learned that angry, miserable people are never great advertisements for Christianity. In receiving this event as something God has allowed and wants to use for His glory, I’ve discovered some things that are beyond understanding, but I’ve experienced them nonetheless:

I’ve discovered that I cannot pray and feel terror at the same time. And when I do pray about what terrifies me most, God gives me peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
II Cor. 10:5 – “…and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I’ve discovered when I suffer, I become more intimate with Christ.
Philippians 3:10 – “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

I have a greater appreciation for my salvation, for God allowing the death of his son, and for Jesus willingly giving his life for me.

I have a greater empathy for hurting people and am more aware of the impact of my prayers for them.

I’m learning to actually thank God. It takes pure willpower and choice...every time. It is never ever in my feelings to do it. But I know that a life of thanksgiving is God’s will.
I Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Psalm 50:23 – “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”
Eph. 5:20 – “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When I choose to thank God, I receive his peace.
Phil. 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Col. 3:15 – “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…And be thankful.”

God refines me through difficulties and brings Himself glory.
Is. 48:10-11 – “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.”
II Cor. 4:11 – “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.”
II Cor. 4:17 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

So again, the question before me is DO MY BELIEFS SERVE ME WELL? The better question might be CAN I TRUST GOD?
I'm pretty sure that this is just the beginning of a long, difficult time period for my family. So I would appreciate your prayers for a miracle for our granddaughter and for us all to remain faithful, no matter what the circumstances. I have seen my God prove Himself faithful in the past and right now at the beginning of this storm. I can only believe He will continue to be faithful and give me comfort, hope, encouragement, faith, purpose, a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, eternal life, a worthy testimony, and peace all the way through to the other side.






Thursday, November 15, 2012

TO BE(LIEVE) OR NOT TO BE(LIEVE)? by Kendall Wright

(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.

As I’ve been sitting here the past few weeks wondering what important question I wanted to share for this, I couldn’t help but think of how many questions there truly are in my life. The conclusion to my college career is rapidly approaching and there are so many decisions to be made concerning where, what, how, and with whom I will be spending the next chapter of my life. I don’t necessarily consider myself a worrier (or at least won't publicly admit to it), but needless to say, I spend a majority of my time caught up in questions concerning all that’s going on and what is to come. A few weeks ago, though, in the midst of a seemingly unmanageable situation, it finally clicked. It’s amazing how many years it can take for something the Lord has been trying to teach you to just suddenly make sense. In the midst of all my doubt and worry, something I’d been reading suddenly stuck out in the sweet gentle voice of Elisabeth Elliot who, by the way, is one of my favorite people in the whole world despite the fact we’ve never met. “I do know that waiting on God requires willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” 

What are your unanswered questions in life? I’d love to say that I only have one, but sharing each and every one of them would simply take more time and space than y’all would be willing to give me! Amazingly, I’m coming to discover that all of my questions, big and small, can be condensed down into one simple question: Do I or do I not truly believe that God—The all-powerful Creator and King of the Universe who dreamt of me and then loved that dream so much that He carefully knitted me together and didn’t stop there but lovingly went on to send his only Son as a sacrifice so that I might be able to spend eternity with Him—is in full control? I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to grasp this concept, but it is. So often we have those little sneaking doubts in the back of our minds…that one (or more than one if you are like me!) question that seems to ease its way back into your thoughts and before you know it, you’re sucked in. The wise words of Elisabeth Elliot once again ring in my mind: “Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” Who are you taking your questions to? Are you unloading them before family and friends, are you letting them silently weigh you down? Are you writing them down in a journal and “praying” about them, or are you truly handing them over to the only One who knows what is in store for you?

In the midst of all the questions that generally tend to rule my thoughts, Christ has somehow turned my unmanageable life into a life of joy and peace due solely to His gentle reminder of all of this every day. And what makes it so beautiful is that it doesn’t even make sense. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I’m slowly learning to take comfort in the fact that while there will always be questions surrounding our lives and our futures, we have a Great and Loving Counselor who takes utter delight when His children come to Him in faith and look to Him for the answers to our inmost questions. 

Isaiah 46:3-4 “Listen to Me, Oh house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He, I am He Who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

PROBLEMS by Maxine Durham

(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.


When problems arise in your life, what is your normal reaction? What or Who do you turn to?
 


Disclaimer: I love the disciples! They seem normal. I tend to think of Paul as some super man. He was always strong and joyful...even when beaten or in prison. I'm much more like the wishy washy disciples. Strong somedays...a big weenie the next. The disciples didn't understand a lot....and Jesus was right there touching them. Paul seemed to truly "get it"...and Jesus wasn't physically with him. So, understanding my similarities to the disciples might lend a bit more understanding to my latest discovery.

We are all familiar with Jesus feeding the 5000. It's in all 4 gospels, and we probably have heard it 5000 times. Last week, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to something I'd missed (don't you love it when that happens?!). The disciples knew there was a problem...all these people needed food. And they knew Jesus could handle the problem...so they went to Him. BUT they went to Him with their feeble understanding and puny little man plans.

When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him, and said, "This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat." Jesus then performed the miracle and provided food for all, with 12 baskets left over (perfect for the 12 hungry disciples).

Usually, I keep going. But I stopped. They knew the problem and went to the One who could fix it. But they didn't ask for the miracle. They didn't say, "Can you please feed them?" They asked Him to solve the problem the way it made sense to them. They surely knew He could provide...they had seen the miracles themselves. They still didn't "get it." Whew, I don't feel as stupid now. If they didn't get it, then I'm not the only one that sometimes is slow! Not only am I sometimes slow to ask for miracles, it isn't even my first thought. I think of a way that He could fix a situation...without considering that He can do WAY more than my little brain can even begin to comprehend.

It's not that I lack faith (well, honestly, sometimes I do lack faith...but I have seen His miracles, too!) I don't think the disciples lacked faith...they went to Him to fix the problem, didn't they? I think they (I, we, you) forgot that HE IS ABLE TO DO MORE THAN THEY COULD IMAGINE!!

Another thing I cherish in this story...He still provided the miracle even though they didn't ask for it!!! How many times have I presented Him with a problem, my idea of a solution...only to find Him blow my mind with an even more amazing answer?

So, I pray that I will always remember to go boldly to Him...and to go ahead and stretch my little ole non-theological mind to ask for something big!


Mark 6:30-43
Isaiah 55:8 -9
Ephesians 3:20
Hebrews 4:16


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WHO AM I by Christie Smith

(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.

 Who am I?

We hear this question so often in life, usually entering high school or college when we are trying to figure out who we are apart from our parents. But I think that we never answer that question in the context it should be answered because we always ask from the wrong point-of-view. We are usually asking ourselves, "Who am I in this world? How do I stack up compared to everyone else around me? What can I accomplish in this society?" We should instead be asking, "Who am I in Christ?" I really think that how we see ourselves tells us a lot about how we see God. Do we really believe He created everything (John 1:3, Col 1:16) and that includes us? If so, do we then believe that everything God created is good (Ecc 3:11, 1 Tim 4:4) and with purpose (Romans 8:28-30)? What does it say about our view of God and His Word if we have low self-esteem? If we are insecure about our looks or our personality or our purpose, what does that tell us? Maybe it's not an issue of doubting God. Maybe the problem is that we have never really asked ourselves who we are because of Him...who He created us to be and why. Maybe our lack of confidence lies in the fact that we are comparing ourselves to the world's standards instead of comparing ourselves to God's standards. So, stop and ask yourself "Who am I? Who did God create me to be? What is my purpose in being here?" We know that God doesn't make mistakes, so if we figure out what His purpose is in creating us, maybe we will begin to understand what it means to be truly happy with who we are. Then we will start to fulfill exactly what He intended for us from the very beginning.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

THE SLUGGARD by Kim Wright


(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.


The sluggard. Have you ever thought about that fellow, so often mentioned in the book of Proverbs? Do you ever find yourself (as I have) skimming quickly over those verses, because in your mind that word describes someone else: a drunk, a homeless person, perhaps, but certainly not me! I live in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood! I cook, clean, work hard, and volunteer! I have 10 kids, for crying out loud! A sluggard? That doesn’t apply to me at all!

Recently, I came across a verse that stopped me in my tracks. It caused me to re-evaluate my idea of a sluggard…and to realize “that fellow” looked an awfully lot like me!

Proverbs 13:4 - “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

You see, in my mind, a sluggard is lazy because he simply doesn’t care…but this is a misconception! The sluggard has desires! In fact, he craves a different life! I have many desires myself! How convicting to realize that I can desire good things…but if I am not being diligent working toward them, if I am being lazy in my church attendance, my prayer life, my Bible study, just to name a few…then I will never see those desires realized! In other words, wanting something badly isn’t good enough. There has to be action on my part!

How encouraging to know the alternative is true, though! How exciting to realize that if I am diligent, my desires will be fully satisfied!
  
So how does this translate to my life? How should this change the way I live? I began by writing down some of my greatest desires for my life, my kids, my home, and my marriage. I asked myself, “What do I crave? What do I most desire in each of these areas?” As I began to write down these deepest longings of my heart, I asked God to show me how I could be more diligent in seeing these desires come to pass. For instance, I have long desired to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but if I am not diligent in making right choices about what I put into my body…if I do not make time to exercise…it simply is not going to happen! 

My home is another area where I need to exercise more diligence! Despite my desire to have a clean, organized home, it seems that the laundry, dishes, and clutter overwhelm me most of the time. However, I must keep at it! If I am diligent in using my time wisely…putting down my phone, and picking up a dishrag…it is amazing what God allows me to accomplish!
  
I desire so much for my kids! I crave for each of them to have a deep, growing, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ…to walk in His ways…to seek Him with all of their hearts! However, I cannot be lazy about praying for them, training them, and teaching them God’s Word! A quick “God bless them & keep them safe” prayer isn’t going to cut it! They are being bombarded with temptations, peer pressure, and the world’s philosophies daily. Satan wants my children! I cannot afford not to be diligent on their behalf!

My list continued on…but I think you get the idea. I have a new index card on my bathroom mirror that asks the following questions:  “Am I being diligent spiritually? Am I being diligent physically? Am I being diligent in my housekeeping? Am I being diligent relationally toward my family?” Your desires will most certainly be different than mine! You may be strong in areas that I am struggling with, and things that come easily to me may be frustrating to you!
  
The important thing is to ask yourself these questions:

“What are my greatest desires?” 
“Have I committed these desires to the Lord?”
“How can I be more diligent in seeing these desires come to fruition?”

I am praying that as I commit each of these areas to God, and am diligent in doing what He has asked me to do…He will take my meager efforts and give me the help I need to see my desires…and His desires for me… fully satisfied.


Friday, November 9, 2012

WHAT DO I WANT MORE OF? by Faye Holley


(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.


What do I want more of in my life?  

As I pondered this question, the same thought kept surfacing: Gentleness.

Not to me, but from me to others.  

So how do I get it, in order to give it? 

Gal. 5: 22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness and self-control.”

That sounds too easy, doesn’t it? It is already mine – I just need to cultivate it. I find that to be easier said than done. My desire is to share God’s truth without wavering, but with the gentleness of Jesus.

So, what is a “gentle” spirit?

Nancy Kennedy, author of When He Doesn’t Believe describes a gentle spirit as one that is refined, not rough or harsh. It’s courteous and generous, tame and gracious. It’s calm and calming, mellow and tender. A woman with a gentle spirit is a delight to be around.

The word gentle brings to mind a summer breeze, a mother cuddling her baby, a hand on the shoulder of a grieving friend, a kiss on a scraped knee, a hug that says “I am here for you.”

Gentleness includes true humility that does not consider itself too good or too exalted for humble tasks; it is defined as restraint coupled with strength and courage.

Gentleness involves outward actions!  

I like the way that The Message version of the Bible explains gentleness. It says that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will no longer feel the need to "force our way in life." (Galatians 5:22 The Message)  

So how do I cultivate gentleness in my life? It seems I need to surrender full control of my life, my soul, my heart, my will – my spirit – to the precious Holy Spirit, asking Him to reveal areas in my life that need more gentleness and asking Him to cultivate gentleness in me. 

I am thankful that God loves me too much to leave me as I am! He is good and everything He does is good!





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST PRIORITIES IN MY LIFE? by Pam Gross


(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.


What are the biggest priorities in my life? (Where your heart is, there your time will be also)

Okay, so I don't usually do the writing in my family, but I thought I would try to put some words to the thoughts that this question provoked.

When thinking about this question, I had two trains of thought: what the world's answers would be and how the Lord would answer. I could be very spiritual and answer from the Lord's perspective. But in thinking of how the world views priorities and how Christians should view them, some of my priorities weren't in the proper order!

First, the world's priorities are usually in search of success, happiness, pleasure, money, power, and prestige. I'm not saying that all or any of these are wrong, but they need to be properly prioritized.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the 
world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."  I John 2:15-17

 A Christian's priorities should be in contrast to the views of the world. Our priorities should be as follows:
               * Knowing God better every day through personal time with Him in His Word.
                * Developing a good prayer life which is essential for spiritual growth and tuning in to what God is doing in this world.
                *Christians must pour themselves out for others. Of course, this requires daily dying to self and setting aside worldly goals and priorities.
                *Christians are to be salt and light. This should be automatic if we are filled with the Spirit.
                 *We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Are the activities in my life that get most of my time a reflection of the above priorites?

I must say some were a little off kilter! As a Christian I know all the "right answers." But thinking about the priorities of a Christian versus the worldly priorities, I've had to adjust some of them. In doing so I pray that God will bless me, and in turn, I can be a blessing to those around me. 

I am thankful for so many things in my life. The usual - family, friends, etc. - but during this season of Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful that my priorities can be on the same page with my Father's! And therefore my heart and life can be filled with the Holy Spirit and all my priorities can be in the proper order!!!





MUD MONKEY REFRESHMENT

Just want to remind you all 
about our 
Mud Monkey Pottery 
Girls Night Out 
this Thursday night 
from 6:30 - 9:30. 
You will need to pay 
a $5.00 cover charge 
plus 
whatever you decide to paint. 
Bring an easy snack 
to share with the group.
Expect 
FUN, 
FOOD, 
and a great FINISHED product
that you won't be ashamed to display.
COME ON...JOIN US!
AND BRING A FRIEND!



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

WHAT IF by Lisa Newman


(Articles between now and Thanksgiving will be based on questions to ask yourself so you can prepare your heart to truly be thankful. They are written by different women in our church. You may want to read the first one, Preparing for Thanksgiving, by Christie Smith.


What if.......?  

Have you ever asked that question? Be honest!

What if I were married?
What if I were single?
What if I had more children?
What if I had a child?
What if I had more money?
What if I had a different job?
What if I went back to school?
What if I had married someone else?

What if ........?  I used to ask myself that question a lot. Years ago when I was in middle of raising kids, working, trying to hold my marriage together. Yes, there I said it. Jesse was in seminary and worked 3 jobs; I was working and we had 2 kids at the time...and we never saw each other. We were burning the candle at both ends and sometimes things would catch on fire! So, I would find myself asking that question.  “What if I could get a do over of my life, would I choose this one?” Of course, looking back I see it was a very selfish question. But I couldn’t see it then...not until many years down the road could I see it. Life then was hard and it wasn’t near what I thought it would be when we started on this journey. And some days I wanted out!
  
It took me years to realize that I don’t get to choose the life I have...God has chosen this life for me and I just get to live it out for Him. Oh, how I wish I could go back and redo some of the things I did back then. I would be a different momma to my kids. I would be a different wife to the love of my life. I would be a better servant of my King!
  
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV) He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end.

In HIS time, he made my marriage a beautiful thing. In HIS time, he made me a better momma. In His time, he is still working on me! Sometimes we get so impatient with life we want it fixed now...but sometimes God says wait on MY time so he can teach us valuable lessons and stretch and refine us. Don’t get me wrong. I hardly have it all together yet, but God is still teaching me and loving me through this beautiful life.  I love the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor: He makes beautiful things, He makes beautiful things out of us!
  
In this season of thanksgiving, I’m asking myself, “What if I were truly thankful for all HE has done and is doing?” I think we should ask ourselves this question often! Are you looking at life with eternity in mind?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

THANKSLIVING by Maxine Durham


I recently finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Where You Are. I'll confess that it took me several months to get through it. She is a pretty deep theologian...and since I am not, sometimes I got a little overwhelmed or just goobed out!  But, her point was amazing. If we constantly bring God thanks for all the little things, we are constantly worshipping, which brings joy, even in our boring day-to-day lives.

So, this November, I'm going to challenge myself to start a Thanksgiving journal...well, let me call it a THANKSLIVING JOURNAL. It's not necessarily for the huge things, but for the things I kinda have to be searching for.  

Every believer would start their list with the unimaginable gift of salvation. My little old southern brain honestly cannot handle that thought. I don't get it. I don't understand how very HOLY GOD is.....or how very sinful I am. How GRACIOUS HE is....how undeserving I am. Why HE chose me before the beginning of time? Worked on my dirty behalf? Let people beat HIM, spit on HIM, and mortify HIM publicly before hanging on a crude cross and dying an agonizing death....to go to Hell and take MY punishment. To have me get so busy and wrapped up in all this "important" stuff and (let me be honest) sometimes forget it. That, even after knowing everything HE did for me, I still sin....over and over. I'm constantly turning my back on HIM and choosing my ways instead of being quiet and still to even try to listen for HIS way. I'm a disgrace...a hypocrite...a pharisee...a loser.

And, YET, in HIS love and mercy (I cannot even fathom this!), HE still died for me, saved me, and somehow (this is wild!) uses me to bless others! 

So, aside from salvation (which should have me rejoicing every minute of every day), I am going to strive to seek out HIS love gifts. I'm not going to overcommit myself. I can't promise I'll find one each day for a year. Or go to 1000. I do pray, though, that I get so consumed in realizing HIS gifts that this is a lifelong, every day action. But, I'm starting small.....remember my brain is slow!  

Isaiah 6:3b
Isaiah 64:6
Ephesians 1:4