Friday, June 27, 2014

Unleash Your Joy

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music…
Psalm 98:4

 
Did you ever have one of those days when you wondered where your joy went? It usually happens when you’re tired, overloaded and stressed. All it takes is for one more appliance to break down, one more child to wake up with a fever, one more overdrawn check or one more report of a friend who just got a bad report from the doctor.

Joy seeps out a little at a time, while we’re busy looking at the circumstances around us instead of keeping our eyes focused on the One who holds us in the palm of His hand.

The good news is that if you’re a Child of God, joy is never really gone, it’s just being suppressed. What we need to do is stir it up! How? Put on some music. Lively music. Start singing. Start dancing. Start shouting the praises of our God.

Yes, people will think you’re strange, so you might want to do this at home. Your family still might think you’ve lost your mind, but that’s okay. They might just join you in that dance and you can stir up JOY for your whole family.

So, Unleash Your Joy
Break forth in joyous song
and have fun!

I Want to Be Like Her

Artwork used by permission from Jen at BettyandMaude

True confession time – I used to hate that Proverbs 31 chick.  I mean, honestly – who can measure up to her?

A friend and I were discussing this lady of perfection one day. As I expressed my dislike for this unattainable ideal, my friend said that she had once had a conversation with her father, who is a Pastor about the Proverbs 31 lady. She pointed out to her father that the only way that woman was able to accomplish all that she did was because she had MAIDS!

Her Dad laughed and explained that this passage of scripture is a list of all the things that a virtuous woman might do, not a check list of all the things we must to do in order to be a good woman.

I love the focus verse of the artwork above…

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:25

This doesn’t sound like a woman stressed out with all she has to do. It sounds like someone who has learned to walk with lightness in her steps, knowing that they are ordered by the Lord. Someone who doesn’t fret about what’s coming tomorrow, because she has learned to trust that whatever may come, God is with her and will strengthen her for the journey. She sounds like a gal that is comfortable in her own skin and in her relationship with God.

She sounds like someone I want to be!

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Be a Difference Maker

Artwork used by permission from Melissa Fleming of
MelissaFlemingDesigns


Every Wednesday I meet with three of my friends at our local coffee shop/bookstore. Two of us are writers/bloggers, one creates amazing scripture prints, greeting cards and quilt patterns and one is an avid reader and the sweetheart of the group. We bring our laptops and Kindles and have a great time together under the guise of getting some work done. ;-)

I was listening to Air1 radio and caught a snippet of a song that grabbed my attention “He looks down at his hands and he says, “I am a difference maker.”

When I got to the coffee shop, I noticed a display in the store. They were raising money to buy sewing machines for Gospel for Asia to distribute, enabling women to own their own business and support themselves. (Read more about this program. or watch a video about a woman who received a sewing machine and is now able to support herself and her daughter.) Our little group pitched in and donated to this worthy cause. Did we obliterate poverty in Asia? No, but we did make a difference to one person or perhaps one family in Asia, who can now start their own tailoring business.

Are you a Difference Maker?

God says we are overcomers (1 John 5:4-5) and more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). When we see an injustice, a need, an atrocity, we have the power to step out and do something – to make a difference. Perhaps the issue is so overwhelming that we feel helpless to change it – human trafficking, extreme poverty, world hunger, devastating disease…and the list goes on and on. We may not be able to obliterate these horrors, but we can make a difference. We can reach out to just one person who is suffering – one human being who is caught up in the devastation – one soul who longs for someone to come along side them and show them the way out.

You can be that one person. You can be a Difference Maker.

You have nothing to fear.
God is FOR you.
You are a child of the One True King.
He loves you with an Everlasting Love.
You can PRESS ON & have HOPE because
GOD IS FAITHFUL

Is there someone that God has been speaking to you about? Someone you can help?

Is there an issue that is a burden on your heart? Ask God how you can help to change it.

You can be sure that when God he calls you to do something, he will also equip you for the job.

Now, look down at your own two hands and say, “I am a Difference Maker.”

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The Secret to Great Friendships

Artwork by Jan Christiansen
 
Our pastor began a new sermon series this morning, titled FRIENDS. During the course of the message, he had us pause and fill in 5 spaces on our sermon notes with the names of our 5 closest friends. I  filled in all the lines, but more names came to mind, so I quickly jotted 6 more names in the margin…and I could have written more! In that moment I realized just how very blessed I am to have good friends who love, support and encourage me.

A few years ago, that was not the case. In fact, I remember sitting in my pastor’s office in tears because I had no close friends. What has changed?  Me – that’s what has changed. In the past couple of years I’ve been up to my elbows in ministry. God has shown me what it really means to reach out to others and serve them, to help them succeed, to cheer them on in the good times and pray them through the hard times. I’ve learned that while laying aside my own concerns to encourage others, God has helped me build relationships that fulfill my own need for love and support.  It really is true – if you want to have a friend, you must be a friend.

I’ve also learned that the kind of friends you choose determines the kind of person you become. Birds of a feather DO flock together. We do become like those we hang around with the most, so be wise in choosing your closest friends.

I love this verse in Romans…

When we get together, I want to encourage you
in your faith, but I also want to be
encouraged by yours.
Romans 1:12 (NLT)

This is what I want FROM my friends, so this is what I try to do FOR my friends.

Do you find yourself in a lonely season of life? Wish you had a few really good friends? Remember the law of sowing and reaping. You get what you give, so start now to reach out to others and be the kind of friend to them that you’d like to have for yourself. Before too long, you’ll find that you are reaping a bountiful harvest of friendship!

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Created to be Creative

Artwork by Jan Christiansen

I’ve been enjoying the work of our Mixed-Media Artists so much that I thought I’d give it a try…except I did mine on the computer. I had so much fun splashing on colors and patterns that I think I’ll enjoying doing more pieces in the near future.  It’s always fun to create something with your own hands – to let your mind and spirit free to play, to design, to imagine.

I’m am continually amazed at the world God created – the variety of flowers, their colors, shapes, fragrances. The many different kinds of trees and landscapes. I love the beach and the mountains, the forests, the desert and meadows. I’m intrigued by the weird creepy-crawly insects and different kinds of fish. The animal world is fun and wild and mind-blowing…and then there’s mankind.

What a wonderfully creative God we have!  And just think – we have been created in His image, which means we have this same gift of creativity at work in us. That’s evident by the arts – music, writing, drawing, painting, dance, invention, etc.

I think one of the greatest things we can do is to encourage our children to exercise their creativity and to display their work proudly.

Wouldn’t it be fun if God had a big refrigerator in heaven and lots of magnets to put the artwork of his children on display?

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,
so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky,
over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures
that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;… 
Genesis 1:26-27

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Jesus and Coffee

Scripture Art used by permission from Erin of ArtByErinLeigh

 I confess. I am not a morning person. When I wake up, I want silence and coffee. I want to ease into the day and when I’m ready, I’ll be civil. Of course, life and the people in my life do not play nice. They want me to pop out of bed, bright eyed and…well, you know.  On weekdays my husband goes to work before I wake up, so my mornings are sweet. A quiet house, a hot cup of coffee, my favorite chair and Jesus. There is no better way to start the day!

Those precious moments when I’m curled up in my quiet spot, reading my Bible, praying, listening to soft worship music playing in the background…those are the moments that strengthen me to face whatever the day might throw at me. It’s in those quiet times that I hear Jesus speak to my heart, sense the Holy Spirit leading me, feel the Father’s love wash over me.

If you don’t have a quiet time in the morning, let me encourage you to begin.  Your days will be brighter for having started it with Jesus…and coffee.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14

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Think Before You Speak

Scripture art used by permission from Abby of LittleBirdieBlessings

Don’t you wish that sometimes God would just clamp his hand over your mouth?  Or at least put a 10 second delay on the time a thought enters your head until it comes out your mouth?

The other day at work I entered the break room several times. Each time our hardworking maintenance man was there, drinking a large glass of iced tea. His face was red and you could tell he was hot from working outside. He was taking a much needed break. The last time I walked in and he was there I said, “Every time I come in here, you’re sitting here drinking iced tea.’

In my head, that translated to , “I seldom see you in the break room, so it’s unusual to see you every time I’ve walked in today.” Sort of like saying , “We gotta stop meeting like this.”  Unfortunately the look in his eye and expression on his face let me know very quickly that how I meant it and how he took it were two entirely different things!

I tried in vain to explain what I meant, but I’m afraid I just kept making it worse.  If I had just taken an instant to think about how to say what I wanted to say I’m sure he would be giving me more than a cursory nod each time our paths cross, now.

I’m hoping this is a lesson well learned and that I’ll think before I speak in the future, but I still wish God would clamp his hand over my mouth when He sees I’m about to blurt out something that might be taken the wrong way.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

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Looking for Direction?

Scripture art used by permission from Cheri Johnson of AlteredIris

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
 
My husband has undergone two major surgeries in the past 2 years. I don’t have to tell you, with the state of insurance policies these days, we were facing some pretty hefty co-pays.  I’ve been retired from the outside work force for several years, but the mounting medical bills were forcing me to wonder whether I should go back to work to help pay them off. Job hunting was not something I was looking forward to. If I was going to go back to work, I preferred a job I would love doing, one with hours that work with my part-time work-from-home job. One that would pay well and still give me the freedom to meet with my blogging group once a week and time to write. Not asking much, right?

The prospects of finding that kind of job seemed dim, so I did what any self-respecting Christian would do – I prayed.  Although I know God can do anything, I have to confess, I had doubts about Him providing that perfect job. Good thing that God knows I really do trust Him in spite of my doubts!

A few weeks after I began praying about a new job, a friend (who didn’t know I was looking for a job) emailed me and asked if I would be interested in working as an administrative assistant to the Arizona Director of Women’s Ministry in our district office.  That sounded like a job that would be perfect for me, but I held off on the excitement until I could interview with the Director – someone I had not met.

Too make a long story short…(is it too late for that?)…I got the job! It was just the amount of hours I was looking for, my work days were flexible, it paid well and my new “boss” is a wonderfully sweet woman.

Does God direct our paths when we acknowledge Him and seek His will? You bet He does – in the best way possible!
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For the Beloved Worrier

Scripture Art used by permission RandysDesign

 Worry – I come from a long line of worriers and my Mom is the Queen Worrier of them all. She recently called me from Ohio because she saw on the news that there was a bad wild fire burning about an hour north of where we live. She was distressed, to say the very least. She wondered if we were in danger, expressed deep concern for those in the fire’s path, for the landscape in the area and finally, she wondered if this fire and the other wild fires she’d been hearing about on the news, signaled the end of the world because the Bible says that the earth will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10).

I tried to calm her fears and ease her distress, but worry is an on-going problem for her and so many others. I don’t think I inherited that worry gene – thank God!  I don’t understand the Worrier or the worry. All it does is upset you, stress you out and steal the contentment and joy that Jesus came to give us. Often the worry is mere speculation about future events that may never take place. It’s imagined catastrophe. Even if the source of worry is very real, what’s the point of worrying? Worry doesn’t change anything.

Dear Worrier, if you really want to change bad circumstances…if you want to see God do amazing things for those caught up in those circumstances…if you want to prevent your imagined fears from coming true, go to the One who can change things – the Almighty God, who created all things and holds them together will hear your prayer and reassure your heart that He’s in control.

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”   Psalm 56:3 (NASB)
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Why Mess with Perfection?

Scripture Art used by permission – BettyandMaude
 
I seldom wear makeup because I’m allergic to most cosmetics.
One time my employer asked why I don’t wear makeup and I popped off with, “I figure, why mess with perfection!”
I was joking, of course, but as I was driving home today I heard a song on the radio assuring girls and women that they are beautiful just as they are – to which I say a hardy Amen!

God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
(Psalm 139:14)
He says we were made in his image.

(Genesis 1:27)

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enhancing our appearance, no one should ever be made to feel that they are unattractive just as they are. Perhaps if we valued ourselves exactly as God created us there would be less depression, starvation diets and low self-esteem.  We could start by thanking the Father for the incredibly intricate body he’s given us. A body that’s able to heal itself when wounded, for skin that’s able to stretch and cover us whether we’re 2 foot tall or 6 foot tall, for lungs that take in oxygen and deliver it through an intricate web of arteries and veins to wherever it’s needed. For a digestive system that’s able to take in food and convert it into energy.

We could thank him for giving us emotions so that we could experience joy and excitement, pleasure and peace. Yes, we also experience sorrow and disappointment, anger and jealousy, but then, so did Jesus.

We could thank him for our minds, which store unbelievable amounts of information throughout the entire span of our lives. Minds that are capable of solving life’s most intricate problems, inventing life-enhancing, life-saving devices and cures for devastating diseases.

We could thank him for a spirit, like his spirit, that reaches out for him even before we are aware of our need for him – an innate longing for a relationship with our Creator. Oh, there are so many wonderful things about the way each of us were created, that we could thank him forever. Instead, we spend way too much time whining about trivial things like our hair, our height, our too thin lips or too full backside.

So, tomorrow morning when you look yourself in the mirror, before you put on your makeup and do your hair, take just a moment to say, “Lord, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have been created in your image.”

UPDATE 7/12/14 - I just saw this video on that totally underscores the idea of being happy with the way God made you rather than chasing after some cultural "norm" which in reality is not normal at all. Girl, you are beautiful just the way God made you!


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Turn on the Light

Scripture Art used by permission – MelissaFlemingDesign

I turned off the television and the lamp, then made my way through the dark house, confident that I could make it to the bedroom without turning on the lights. Why not? I’ve made that trip every night for nearly 15 years. It was a straight shot through the living room, then the family room and down the hall to my bedroom. No furniture in the way, easy peasy – except that I hadn’t counted on someone leaving the closet door in the open.  I’m happy to tell you that I didn’t stub my toe, but I did stub my head! Go ahead, laugh, but that goose-egg on my forehead was a powerful lesson…

No matter how much confidence I have
in my ability to navigate a dark house,
wisdom dictates that I turn on a light!

It’s the same as trying to make my way through this sin-darkened world without having the good sense to illuminate my path with the light-giving Word of God. Reading the Bible helps us to develop wisdom, discernment and insight. Without it we are just wandering in the dark, making wrong turns, running into obstacles. Please, have the good sense to take a few minutes every day to shed some light onto your path. Read your Bible and save yourself a headache!
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