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Elisabella's Books: Encouraging, Enlightening and sharing God's heart to yours



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9/28/15 11:08 A

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

No More Guilt-Induced Doubt
RENEE SWOPE

"Let us then approach Godís throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

The retreat was just a few weeks away and my message outlines were due, but not quite ready. Knowing the stress I felt, my mom invited me to work at her house that Saturday since sheíd be gone all day.

Studying and preparing with no kids or interruptions sounded like perfection to me!

Mom said sheíd be running errands until 5 p.m. Sheíd already planned to watch our boys that evening so my husband, JJ, and I could attend a surprise birthday party. He could meet me at Momís house, and weíd leave from there.

A quiet house was just what I needed to get into my "zone" of focused study. I was making great progress, and kept thinking how perfect the setting was Ö until my mom came home Ö two hours early.

Not only was she early, she was noisy! Displaying her new landscape treasures, she unloaded several cement pavers on the floor in the kitchen, where I was working. Then she walked back out to her car and returned with grocery bags that she plopped down on the kitchen table, next to my stuff.

Normally this would have been fine. It was her house and I was grateful to be there, but not today. I wasnít done, and I was terrified Iíd never get back into my "zone" again.

It didnít matter though. My time was up, and unfortunately that was only the beginning of my terribly horrible, very bad day.

As I started to put my papers away, I knocked over a water bottle, which spilled onto my laptop! You can imagine the mayhem. Finally after mopping up my mess, and laying hands on my laptop while praying for protection over my files, I decided to get ready early for the party.

From 5 p.m. on, I waited for my husband to arrive. But he didnít arrive Ö not at 5 or 5:30. The party was 20 minutes away, and I knew it could ruin the surprise if we were late. But he wasnít answering his cell phone either, so I didnít know whether to be irritated or worried.

I decided to borrow my momís car and meet JJ there. But, just as I was pulling out of the driveway, he pulled up.

Surprisingly, he didnít look a bit hurried. And to make matters worse, my 6-year-old son got out of the car first, walked over to me and said, "Daddy told us you would be mad."

That was an understatement! But also confirmation we still needed to drive separately to the party. Because my perfect day was about to turn into the perfect storm!

Confused that I was still driving out of the driveway, JJ waved for me to stop and asked, "Arenít you going to wait for me?"

"No," I snapped. "Because youíre acting like a [beep]."

Just about that time, my 8-year-old son walked up and said, "Mommy! You just called Daddy a [beep]."

It was a mess. I was a mess. And I was convinced God wondered why He ever thought it was a good idea to have me speak at my churchís retreat.

Guilt crashed over me in waves of accusation and condemnation: Iím not cut out for this. Iím not godly enough. I have no business teaching a message I canít even live.

We ended up going to the party together, with fake "everything is fine" smiles. But the next morning at church, I went straight to our womenís ministry director to confess what happened and step down from speaking at our retreat.

Her response shocked me: "Renee, if you donít need this message as much as the women attending, then you are not qualified to teach it. But because you need it as much as we do, you are. Youíve been appointed and you are anointed to do this."

I had never experienced such a demonstration of Godís grace. Her words reminded me of todayís key verse and showed me what it looks like to "approach Godís throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

I ended up speaking at the retreat, and although I feared some women might judge me, I shared what had happened that weekend. Instead of judgment, they offered acceptance, love and a sense of relief knowing they arenít the only ones who blow it occasionally.

Isnít it hard to believe God could use us when we mess up? Yet the Bible is filled with stories of men and women He used greatly ó despite their downfalls.

Although guilt from the enemy tempts us to give up on ourselves, grace reminds us God never will. Instead, He can take what feels like destruction and use it for reconstruction through our dependence on Him.

When we confess our wrong thoughts, words and actions and receive Godís forgiveness, we can replace guilt-induced doubt with His grace-infused confidence.

Lord, I come to You today to receive Your mercy and find Your grace to help me. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (NKJV)



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9/23/15 2:32 P

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Thanks for the words of encouragement everyday!

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9/22/15 3:52 P

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SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

Lord, Teach Me to Laugh
ANN SPANGLER

"Why did Sarah laugh and say, ĎWill I really have a child, now that I am old?í Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Genesis 18:13b-14a (NIV)

My prayer life ramped up significantly the day I became a parent.

As the single mother of two adopted children, I feel both tremendously blessed and incredibly challenged.

Like any mother, I want my teenage girls to launch well, to know that they will reach adulthood as people who can take care of themselves and relate well to others.

Because both have special needs, Iím anxious about how difficult this might be. Sometimes, in fact, I feel like one big blob of worry.

Since I adopted my children late in life, I love recalling the story of Sarah. Sheís the woman in the Bible who had a baby when she was 90 years old. I love her not just because she holds the world record as the oldest woman ever to get pregnant, but because sheís so real. Like most of us, sheís a long way from perfect. Still, because of how God worked in her life, she learned that nothing is too hard for Him. Hereís a tiny window into her story:

Hers is a face that still makes men look; so beautiful it once charmed kings.

You might think her a fool for all the nonstop laughter. Her body shakes with it. But she is no fool, only a woman who canít stop marveling at what God has done. Although her husband is more than 100 years old and sheís not far behind, she is pregnant with his child. Who wouldnít find that funny? Two old sticks kindling a fire!

Sarahís joy is so strong and wild that nothing can stop it. "God has brought me laughter," she says, "and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me"(Genesis 21:6, NIV). And so she named her son Isaac, which means laughter.

I love learning about Sarah because it gives me hope for the story God is telling with my life and the lives of my children. Like her, I want to become a woman who has learned to laugh, not because sheís perfect or her life is easy, but because she finally gets it ó that nothing in this great big world is too hard for God.

Like Sarah, I havenít a clue as to how the future will unfold. But instead of allowing myself to dissolve into that big blob of worry when difficulties arise, I can express the truth that God will help my children and me, regardless of whether or not He does so according to my timeline. From a practical standpoint, Iíve found my faith growing stronger as Iíve learned to fill every prayer request with praise and thanksgiving.

I expect that learning to laugh in the midst of lifeís challenges will be a process rather than an event. It may take the rest of my life. But as Iíve added more praise and thanksgiving to my prayers, Iíve discovered my anxiety receding and my joy increasing.

Lord, thank You for the way Youíve surprised me with so many good things. Please help my faith to grow stronger so that regardless of circumstances, I will always find joy in You. May my laughter be like a song of praise to You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 126:4-6, "Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.í (NIV)



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9/21/15 11:20 A

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When it all Falls Apart
AMY CARROLL

"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32 (NIV, 1984)

Everything seemed to go wrong at the same time. Instead of having "one of those days," I was having one of those months!

The emotional load in our home increased as my eldest son moved back from college, filling every square inch of our little house with testosterone. My youngest son graduated from high school and then had an accident that would require surgery. My computer crashed, not just once but three times. A spur-of-the-moment trip required hours of unscheduled time. An event I was planning seemed to teeter between success and epic fail. On top of it all, my little dog came down with intestinal issues Ö Iíll spare you the details.

For a time, not one thing in my life seemed to measure up to the picture of perfection in my head. Not my messy home. Not my fearful mothering. Not my unstable professional life. Not my overloaded schedule.

Nothing.

I felt weak and overwhelmed. For a woman who loves order, a managed schedule and peace, itís not easy to face times like these. Maybe youíve had seasons similar to mine. Perhaps for some of you, itís been even longer ó even one of those years ó when chaos seems to reign.

As difficult as it is to cope when life gets messy, we can view struggles as a great opportunity to operate in a new way. Rather than focusing on whatís wrong and imperfect, we can turn our focus to the Perfect One, our heavenly Father. When itís obvious our best efforts and planning arenít good enough, we can shift our perspective to the Source of our true strength.

Our key verse, Psalm 18:32, reminds us: Our own strength isnít enough, but Godís is.

We all want to be strong and competent. Yet the Bible suggests we should embrace our weaknesses as a reminder to trust in Godís strength alone. Paul gave us a picture of the perfection of our weakness when he said, "And He has said to me, ĎMy grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.í Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB).

Iím learning to embrace chaos as a sweet call from God to rest in Him when my own work falls short.

Striving for perfection is exhausting. But God waits for us to give in and step aside. Once I end my pursuit of perfection, God can begin His perfecting work in me. Weíre unable to create perfection, but God makes our way perfect.

What does it look like in everyday life to exchange my weakness for Godís strength? To choose His way over my way?

Itís trusting Him, rather than trusting my own capabilities.

Itís surrendering the pictures of perfection that I carry around in my head to the presence of God in my imperfect reality.

Itís walking in daily obedience to His Word and direction, rather than charting my own course.

God works powerfully in the midst of our weakness to show His power as we trust, surrender and obey. Thatís when His strength and perfect way is displayed most brightly in our lives.

Lord, I know if I surrender to You I donít have to be strong all by myself. Instead of sinking into my tangled circumstances, will You teach me to draw on Your strength? In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 1:25, 27, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than men Ö but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." (NASB)

Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe." (NASB)



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9/17/15 12:02 P

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TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

AMEN!

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9/11/15 3:45 P

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SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

Your Life Can Display Godís Power
TRACIE MILES

"ĎIt was not because of his sins or his parentsí sins,í Jesus answered. ĎThis happened so the power of God could be seen in him.í" John 9:3 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered why God allows you to suffer? Was it something you did wrong? Or was someone else at fault? We want to find someone to blame, especially when so much bad happens in our world.

I struggle with these thoughts as well, but years ago Godís Word helped me see a different perspective. Jesusí disciples had these same questions, and John chapter 9 records Jesusí interesting response.

Jesus and His disciples were walking through the streets of a city when they encountered a blind man. One of the disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind: "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ĎRabbi,í his disciples asked him, Ďwhy was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parentsí sins?í" (John 9:1-2, NLT)

Jesus lovingly put their confusion to rest with todayís key verse, "ĎIt was not because of his sins or his parentsí sins,í Jesus answered. ĎThis happened so the power of God could be seen in himí" (John 9:3).

I imagine the disciples standing there, looking perplexed by Jesusí answer. How could this manís blindness display the power of God? How could this physical infirmity bring glory to God? How could his life serve a higher purpose?

The passage continues, "Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind manís eyes. He told him, ĎGo wash yourself in the pool of Siloamí (Siloam means Ďsentí). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!" (John 9:6-7, NLT)

The blind manís sight was completely healed, but notice that his healing wasnít immediate. He wasnít healed when Jesus spat on the mud and smeared it on his eyes, but only after he obeyed what Jesus instructed him to do.

The blind man was healed when he chose to obey the command of Jesus to "go." Without questioning or hesitating, the man went and his obedience resulted in not only healing, but discovering a holy purpose from his pain.

Like many, this man had been suffering with undeserved physical and emotional challenges for decades. He may have lived his entire life feeling inferior, unloved, rejected, excluded and possibly believing he had no purpose. He may have also assumed his past and his current limitations rendered him useless. After all, he didnít have any special skills or qualifications Ö or even eyesight.

But here stood Jesus, telling everyone this manís life could serve as proof of the power of God. But it only happened because of obedience.

Unlike the blind man in this story, we often talk ourselves out of obedience, rather than trusting and obeying Godís command to "go." But when we walk in faith, even when we donít feel ready and have to push through our doubts, fears and hesitations, true healing and purpose can begin to take shape in our hearts and lives.

We donít always get answers to why something happened. But regardless of our circumstances or our limitations, when we choose to take a leap of faith, we too can experience true spiritual healing and see a new perspective about our past for the very first time.

What a wonderful world this would be if we all caught a glimpse of how God wants to turn our pain into purpose and use our lives as proof of His power.

Lord, I want my life to serve as proof of Your goodness. Fill me with courage and motivation to go and share with others what You have done for me. Show me how You can turn my pain into purpose and make my life count for You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

Psalm 119:60, "I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands." (NIV)



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9/9/15 6:24 P

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Lynn Cowell

SEPTEMBER 9, 2015

Headed in the Wrong Direction
LYNN COWELL

"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

I anxiously glanced at the clock thinking, If I leave now Iíll still make it on time.

This wasnít a meeting I could comfortably slip into if I were late Ö because I was the speaker!

Grabbing my purse, I headed for the garage door when I thought I heard bleating. Yes, bleating, as in a noise coming from a very small animal.

What in the world? I have no idea what that is, but Iím late! Trying to put the strange noise out of my mind, I kept heading toward my car. But try as I might, my heart wouldnít let me ignore the sad sound, no matter how late it was going to make me.

I turned around and made my way closer to the tiny cry. There, next to our backyard gate, stood the tiniest of fawns. This precious little thing couldnít have been more than a couple hours old, as it wavered on tiny legs.

On the other side of the fence stood the object of the babyís sorrow ó his mother. They were separated by the fence, and the baby was trapped. He couldnít get to her and she had no way of getting him out of our backyard.

This wasnít the first time a little one has been born in our yard. I believe deer spot the cool shade of our woods and decide our yard is the perfect place to give birth. But our yard is not as it seems. When the baby is born and the mother hops back over the fence, her fawn is trapped, alone and without care and protection.

Our yard may appear safe and peaceful to an adult animal, but to an infant it is anything but. I wondered: How many times have I unknowingly jumped into a situation I deemed safe only to get caught where I should not have been?Things like:

Ö Entering benign conversations, where my speech takes a wrong turn and I find myself gossiping.

Ö Bored or stressed, as I make my way to my pantry only to indulge in foods that harm, rather than help, my body.

Ö Wanting to guide my child, when I speak words meant to bring discernment, but instead bring damage.

Todayís key verse warns us, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Sometimes, we can feel like weíre doing the right thing, like the mother deer, when in fact, weíre heading in a wrong direction. How can we know whatís right?

Jesus promised us in John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" (NIV).

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We need Him. We need His guidance to make wise choices and not become trapped by sin that hurts us and damages our relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us, available all day long, with the wisdom we need to live the rich and satisfying life Jesus wants for us. Our part is to listen for His direction.

After making a few phone calls to animal experts, I was instructed to pick up the fawn and lift him over the gate to safety. He didnít struggle as I gently lifted him from the ground and delivered him back to his mother. I am so thankful that in my life, as I listen to the Holy Spirit, He too, lifts me up and helps deliver me out of the traps I get myself in.

And yes, thankfully, I did make my speaking engagement just in time.

Holy Spirit, I invite You today, to guide and instruct me. Help me not simply choose what seems best to me, but teach me to listen for Your guidance so I can make wise choices. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 10:10, "The thiefís purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." (NLT)

Isaiah 40:11, "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." (NASB)



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9/5/15 12:59 P

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Covenant of Peace
No matter what you may be facing in life, God is with you. You donít ever have to feel anxious, worried or upset because you have a covenant of peace with Almighty God. That means His peace is always available to you.

The Bible tells us that Godís peace passes understanding. That means you can have peace when it doesnít make sense to have peace. When the rest of the world seems to be upset or fretting, you donít have to be upset. When gas prices go up, you can be at peace knowing that God has promised to supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. When the housing market seems unstable, you can trust that God is your refuge, and He will cause you to dwell in safety. Heíll make a way where there seems to be no way.

Begin to thank God for His peace and faithfulness in your life. Declare that the peace of God rules in your heart and mind. As you dwell on Godís promises, your heart will be at rest, and youíll experience the blessing of His peace all the days of your life.

A Prayer for Today
ďFather, thank You for Your covenant of peace. I receive it by faith today. I choose to keep my heart and mind fixed on You in Jesusí name. Amen.Ē



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8/31/15 5:03 P

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Are you Busy or a Busybody?
GLYNNIS WHITWER

"We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies." 2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV)

Busy and I have a complicated relationship.

There were years when I was too busy. Fast-forward was my mode of operation, and my family got lost in the wake. Looking back, I regret many decisions that kept us all on the go!

After a near meltdown, things had to be different. I made significant changes to balance my schedule. I stepped out of volunteer positions, cut back my hours at work and learned to honor the Sabbath. I still kept a productive pace, but this time it was healthier. Yet when people commented on how much I got done, there was this bit of shame that crept into my heart.

Were their observations innocent or a veiled suggestion, with a hint of disapproval, that I still work too much? Why did I still feel so guilty about my level of work? Was being busy bad?

In my search to understand the truth about busyness, God led me to our key verse for today from 2 Thessalonians 3:11: "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."

This chapter as a whole shines a completely different light on being busy. It elevates it. Hereís what Paul (the author of 2 Thessalonians) says just before our key verse: "We were not idle when we were with you Ö We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate" (2 Thessalonians 3:7b, 9, NIV).

So if busy isnít the real problem, what is? In this passage, we get a hint at a potential problem: being a "busybody."

Busybodies can look busy, but in reality they are busy with things that donít concern them. As a result, they neglect the work they should be doing.

This truth cut right to my heart. When I take on responsibilities that arenít mine to assume, Iím ineffective in what I am called to do. As a result, my schedule gets chaotic, and the people I love suffer from my too-busy life.

Hereís another truth. The Bible doesnít say we need to be busy all the time. We need Godís wisdom to know when to work and when to stop. Jesus modeled rest as well as hard work. He knew when to draw away from the crowds, from ministry, from work and press pause in the middle of the day. Jesus also modeled honoring the Sabbath as a complete day of rest and honor to God.

The Bible shows us how to be busy in a healthy way. We can learn to care for our priorities and not take on those assigned to others. We are not slaves to being over busy. We can trust God to help us get our work done in six days so we can honor His command to rest.

When I realized my life was out of my control, it took time to rein it back in. There was plenty of time in prayer asking God to show me my best choices, my priorities, my work. It was a yearlong process of stepping out of wrong commitments and recommitting to right ones.

For me that meant cutting out evening activities and nighttime phone calls so I could be available for my family. It meant saying no to responsibilities Iíd done for years, but consistently added stress, like singing on the worship team Sunday mornings. It meant working at home so I had flexible hours.

Getting control of our schedules isnít always easy, but it is possible. Iím still learning to rest, and I still struggle with keeping my schedule in balance. The good news is God is faithful to help define my priorities for this season. Now Iím not ashamed of being busy in the right times with a focus on the right things.

Father, thank You for showing me that Iím wired to work in the exact way You planned. Help me guard that wiring and not take on more than I should. I want to be a woman who lives Your priorities for my life. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Titus 2:4-5, "Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (NIV)



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8/21/15 3:05 P

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JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE ALONE, GOD SEND
ENCOURAGEMENT TO LIFT YOU UP. SEEK THE LORD
WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND. FOR HE IS ABLE TO MOVE
JUST WHEN YOU THINK HE IS NOT. HE IS THE LORD
AND HE NEVER CHANGES.

BE AT PEACE, JUST ME, ANGELREJOICES emoticon



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8/20/15 5:46 P

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Am I Messing Up My Kids?
LYSA TERKEURST

"ĎNeither this man nor his parents sinned,í said Jesus, Ďbut this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.í" John 9:3 (NIV)

Okay moms, as another school year is upon us Ö letís get gut-honest. Have you ever had these thoughts tug at the corners of your mind:What have I done wrong? Am I messing up my kids?

Iíve had two in-depth conversations recently with friends, and the same theme was woven throughout both conversations. Our kids sometimes struggle and when they do, often our first thought is: What have I done wrong as a mother?

Certainly good can come from a healthy assessment of how weíre doing in our crucial role as moms. However, when the question comes in the form of a personal assault rather than a call to action over a specific area of improvement, itís not healthy.

Itís paralyzing. Itís draining. Itís defeating. Itís evidence of a hole in the spiritual filter of our minds.

So Iíve been determined to fill my mind with Godís truth. I figure the more truths I have to fill my mind with, the more untruths will get crowded out.

Iíve been taking a book of the Bible and focusing on one verse from each chapter. Then I reflect on what this verse says about God and how it speaks to me personally.

The other day, before a conversation with one of my friends, I read John 9. In that chapter, Jesus meets a man who was blind from birth. His disciples ask Him, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2b, NIV).

Then this verse jumped out at me and seemed to swirl in my thoughts constantly: "ĎNeither this man nor his parents sinned,í said Jesus, Ďbut this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in himí" (John 9:3).

Because this verse kept bumping into my conscious thoughts, I knew it was crucial to think on it, pray through it and let it seep into some deep places needing this truth.

Then later, when I was talking with my friend, there were little hints of that question: What have I done wrong as a mother?

What a delight it was to have that verse right on the top of my mind. Like a healing balm, I soothed my friend with the truth that what her son is going through right now has nothing to do with her mistakes or even his for that matter. God is helping her son work through some fears that will eventually be a mighty display of spiritual depth in his life.

Sweet sister, have you caught yourself asking lately, "What am I doing wrong as a mother?" Maybe it is time to make some adjustments.

Or maybe, redirect this line of thinking with a different question, How might God work in this situation so that His work can be displayed in my childís life or in my life? Either way, remember this truth: You are loved by God and so is your child.

Dear Lord, help me process my motherhood journey using the filter of Your truth and nothing else. I need Your assurance and guidance, God. I donít want to do this without You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

Romans 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." (NIV)



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8/17/15 4:41 P

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If I Have to Fold One More Piece of Laundry Ö
WENDY POPE

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, Ďchildren of God without fault.í" Philippians 2:14-15a (NIV)

Dear Mom,
I refuse to accept the fact that I have to do my responsibilities by myself. Love, Blaire

My 6-year-old daughter wrote this letter to me in protest of her chores.

Her bold stance cracked me up, and the articulate manner in which she stated her case made me proud.

I went to her room to explain, that although I appreciated her initiative, she still needed to complete her chores Ö and with a good attitude.

Throughout Blaireís young life, we taught her that her attitude was just as important as her responsibilities. Like most children, she still complained and argued.

Sometimes it would have been easier for me to do her chores rather than train her to adjust her attitude. But I knew that wasnít the best approach. So I prayed and asked the Lord how I could teach my children not to complain and argue about their responsibilities. God gave me this answer: Lead by example.

One day, as the kids were watching a movie in the living room, I dragged in another basket of laundry and plopped it on the couch.

As I folded, I started to murmur under my breath, "If I have to fold one more piece of laundry Ö" before I stopped myself. Looking back, I realized I often complained while completing my responsibilities.

It was time I acknowledged to myself that Iíd been setting the wrong example.

Philippians 2:14-15a says, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, Ďchildren of God without fault.í"

When we complete our responsibilities without complaining and with a happy heart, our children will know how to do the same.

Children imitate what they see. At that time in my life the Lord was refining and pruning my attitude, and one area that needed care was how I approached my chores. My heart harbored negativity toward caring for my household tasks. This directly impacted my childrenís behavior and dispositions. I determined to allow God to change my heart so Iíd be a better example for my kids.

I decided to:

Renew my heart each morning. (Psalm 90:14)
I quickly realized how different my attitude was when I started each day with prayer.

Repent of the sin in my heart daily. (Psalm 51:10)
I had to confess my wrong attitudes every day. Otherwise, my heart became heavy when I carried them from day to day.

Rend my heart. (Joel 2:12-13)
What I put in my heart definitely came out. There were changes I had to make about what I put in my heart and mind. This meant adjusting what I heard and saw to keep a positive attitude.

Rest my heart when necessary. (Psalm 127:2)
Rest needed to be more of a priority. It was hard with children and the amount of work I had to do, but I had to set a bedtime and stick to it even if the laundry wasnít put away.
Whatever duties are yours to finish today, set your heart to do them without complaining. Youíll bless the Lord and inspire those around you.

Lord, thank You for encouraging me today with Your Word. I pray Your spirit will prompt me to respond to my responsibilities in a way that is pleasing to You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (ESV)



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8/11/15 4:56 P

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Jennifer Rothschild
AUGUST 11, 2015

Nobody is a Nobody
Jennifer Rothschild

"Ö In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named Godís Somebody." Hosea 1:10 (The Message)

She greeted me as I entered the cafeteria on Parentsí Day, with a voice as warm and sweet as hot chocolate. Our eldest son, Clayton, was a college freshman and this was the first time weíd been back to visit him. Weíd met faculty members, the dorm resident director and lots of his new friends. So, when this woman greeted me, I politely asked, "Now, tell me who you are?"

The woman hesitated. Her pause made me wonder if I had said something wrong. Maybe she wasnít accustomed to being asked this question. Maybe, I thought, I should know who she is. I imagine she looked down and saw my white cane and realized I was blind, and that might be why she answered in such a kind tone: "Oh, Maíam. Iím nobody. I just clean tables."

I reached toward her and found her hand. "You are not a nobody! You are not just a table cleaner!" I told her. "My name is Jennifer. Whatís yours?" She laughed and told me her name.

As I said goodbye and walked with my son to our table, I thought to myself, That woman is not a nobody! Nobody is a nobody!

And itís true, isnít it? Nobody is a nobody, and nobody is just a table cleaner. Or, just a mom. Or, just a clerk. Or, just a housekeeper. Or, just a teacher. Or, just an Ö anything! But we often find ourselves in places or seasons of life where we feel like a nobody. It can be hard to see our own value if we feel constantly overlooked, or when we associate our value with our virtue. You know, if we are good, we are worthy of being acknowledged. If we behave, we merit attention.

There was a woman who lived back in the 8th century B.C. who probably felt like a nobody. Her name was Gomer. I bet if someone asked, "Who are you?" Sheíd probably shrug and say, "Oh, Iím nobody." Or, she might say, "Iím a mess. Iíve got a past Iím ashamed of. I was a prostitute. Iím nobody."

But her answer should be, "I am not a nobody, I am Gomer. I am loved and accepted and, yes, I am prone to wander."

Gomer had been a prostitute, but she became a prophetís wife. Her identity changed when she said "I do" to Hosea. When you declared "I do" to Jesus, you received a new identity, too.

You became Godís somebody! When you are in Christ, you are a new creation!

You are not your current failures or your past mistakes. You are not your successes or your virtues. You are not what you do, what you did, what you havenít done, what you should have done or what you wish youíd done. You are not what you have gone through. You are not what someone else has said about you. You are not a nobody! You are a chosen, loved woman whom God calls His beloved.

His beloved Ö that is who God sees when He looks at you. Can you begin to accept the you God sees?

Just like Gomer, you are a somebody ó a loved, significant somebody. God chose you even when you felt like a nobody. He loved you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). God didnít choose to love you because you were some spectacular somebody. He didnít choose to love you because you were already lovely. He loved you and, then, you became lovely. Your value comes from His inherent value.

Youíre already loved, so you just need to embrace how God sees you. Yet, how do you do this Ö especially on those days when you feel like a nobody?

Hereís one sentence ó just one little sentence ó packed with big truth to help you when you feel like a nobody. Write it down, memorize it and repeat it to yourself: How I feel is not who I am.

Now, say it to yourself out loud! How I feel is not who I am! Good job! Say it over and over. How I feel is not who I am!

From one somebody to another, letís remember the truth that we are not how we feel! We are Godís somebodies!

Lord, because You are worthy, I have worth. Help me to find my identity and value in You and You alone. Protect me from the lie that says I am what I do or how I feel. I choose to walk in the truth today with Your strength. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Titus 3:4-7, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." (NIV)



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8/6/15 6:19 P

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AUGUST 6, 2015

What Are You Missing?
LYSA TERKEURST

"The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." Psalm 14:2 (NIV)

A few summers ago, my son Mark was working at a family camp. While the mountains were breathtaking, the friends were plentiful and the food was every teenagerís dream, he missed home. Not horribly ó but just enough to tug on the vulnerable places of his heart.

I knew he needed some sweet comfort from home. So, I packaged up some things he needed and a few items I knew would make him happy and sent my gift of love.

After a few days, I kept wondering when Iíd get a text from him with smiles and "Thank you!" and "Wow! Youíre the best mom ever!" messages. A girl can dream, right?

But no text message came.

Each day that went by, I grew more and more frustrated by his lack of acknowledgement of my gift. I started to wonder if heíd even received it. So I had Art, my non-emotional husband, call because he could simply ask, "Did you get the package from Mom?"

Our son answered, "Oh yeah, I did get a box from Mom, but I havenít opened it yet."

Huh?

Who receives a gift of love packaged up and sent to them and doesnít even take the time to open it?

In that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit prick my soul, "Lysa, sometimes you do this very same thing. Oh, if you only knew the number of experiences God Himself has packaged up and sent your way that you didnít take time to open Ö

"Or the number of times God has planted a bunch of wildflowers at the end of your driveway just to make you smile, but in the rush of where you were headed, you didnít notice Ö

"Or the number of times God has treasures in His Word waiting for you to uncover that would perfectly prepare you for something youíd be facing that day, if only youíd lingered with Him a little longer."

Todayís key verse, Psalm 14:2, reminds us, "The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God."

I wish this verse were worded differently. I wish this verse read: "The LORD looks down from heaven to see MANY who understand, MANY who seek God." But thatís not the reality of the verse. And sadly, sometimes in the rush of all I feel I must do, itís not the reality of my life.

I want it to be. But my soul is so prone to distractions.

Seeking ó really seeking ó is more than just reading a few verses from the Bible in the morning and trying to be a good person that day. Seeking requires me to sacrifice the things I feel compelled to chase so I can be available to notice Godís clear direction.

Whatever we chase, like it or not, gains our full attention.

And I wonder sometimes why I feel a little insecure ó a little unsettled ó a little disappointed with things I thought would make me so happy. I guess you could say sometimes I get a little homesick.

While I love vacationing here in this world for however many years the Lord will give me, I know where my real home is, and I know Who is waiting for me there.

And now I know He takes time to tie up little care packages from home ó a few things I need, a few things Iím supposed to pass on to others, and a few things He knows will simply bring me joy.

Then God waits Ö to see Ö if Iíll notice ó if Iíll remember Ö if today will be the day Ö that I lift up my face Ö pause in the busyness Ö and really seek Him.

Dear Lord, forgive me for all the times Iíve rushed by Your gifts and overlooked Your blessings. Today, I want to pause and really seek You with all Iíve got. I love You, Lord. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)



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8/5/15 8:12 P

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AUGUST 5, 2015

Giving God Your Not Enough
SUZIE ELLER

"As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ĎTruly I tell you,í he said, Ďthis poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.í" Luke 21:1-4 (NIV)

I put my 2-year-old twins in the back of the shopping cart and my 3-year-old in the front seat. I only needed a few items and didnít want to drag out the double stroller with the extra seat in back.

Everything was going well until I passed a line of shiny new Big Wheels. I scooped the twins out of the cart and then turned to get Leslie. I thought it would be fun to show them to the kids.

Thatís when I heard a whoosh!

Ryan jumped on one Big Wheel. His twin-sister, Melissa, on the other. Like rockets, they blasted off.

While Melissa jetted to the back of the store, Ryan shot toward the front where the double doors opened into a busy parking lot. It took nearly 10 minutes to capture my runaways.

I left the store, overwhelmed.

As a mom of three toddlers, I often experienced feeling "not enough."

Not enough sleep. Not enough hours in the day. Not enough of me to go around. But on that day my "not enough" went deeper. I judged myself far too harshly.

In todayís passage, we meet another woman who has experienced "not enough." Sheís clutching two farthings Ö barely 1/100 of a dayís wages Ö surrounded by men with overflowing resources, who gave large offerings. Yet Jesus told the disciples her offering was greater.

Why?

The rich men gave out of their excess while the widow gave out of her not enough.

Maybe youíre a mom and there are days you feel as if you give out of your not enough all day long, or you compare yourself to others.

What does the widowís example teach us?

She gave all she had.

When itís all youíve got, itís significant. As moms, we bring everything to Jesus ó all of it, the good parts and the hard parts. You bring your desire to make a difference. You bring your personality and talents, whether you are the mom who jumps on the bed with her kids, or the mom who makes the tastiest cupcakes ever.

You also bring the harder parts, like your doubts.

When we place our "not enough" like doubt or impatience or lack of knowledge in His hands, it translates to trust in Him ó believing that Heíll help us fill those gaps.

She willingly gave.

The widowís two farthings were of great value to her.

Willingly offering your child means that you understand that God has a stake in this, too. He has a plan and a purpose for your child. He loves him or her. He knows your childís DNA and the number of hairs on his head.

But it doesnít stop there. Just as He loves your babies, He treasures you. Donít hide because you feel like you made a mistake. Willingly walk into His presence and give Him all of you. Heíll meet you there.

She trusted God with her offering.

Parenting is a continual process of putting in our two farthings. Trust God for the long-term, friend. Youíre parenting every single day, but it all adds up as they become the human beings God created them to be.

If I could go back to that young mama in the store, Iíd wrap my arms around her and say, "The Ďnot enoughí you give day in and day out is seen by God and by His grace and power it is more than enough."

Father, today, I give everything I have and everything that I am to You. I joyfully bring my "not enough." In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, ĎMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.í Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christís power may rest on me." (NIV)



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7/25/15 11:02 A

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Two heads are better than one ó especially when it comes to protecting your brain! Being in a fulfilling long-term relationship helps to protect your brain health as you age. But getting proactive together about protecting your brain is the ultimate investment. Your partnerís cognitive health affects your quality of life óand vice versa. Remember this: Being ďbrain health partnersĒ isnít just about sitting around doing crossword puzzles together. Itís about nourishing your bodies and minds ó with nutritious whole foods, lots of physical activity, smart stress management techniques, a network of supportive relationships, quality sleep and rest, and continued learning. Get your personalized Brain Health Index score and a detailed action plan on our Healthy Brains website ó and then get out your calendar. Schedule brain-friendly activities like walks and bike rides, dinner with friends, grocery shopping (think veggies, fish and other Mediterranean delights), classes that inspire you, and downtime too. Make this your new date night: some brain-friendly foreplay (like a rousing game of Scrabbleģ, chess or backgammon) followed by cozy time with your sweetheart.



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7/17/15 3:09 P

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Why I Stopped Praying Against Fear
JULIE K. GILLIES

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Hi. My name is Julie. And for entirely too long my middle name might as well have been Fear.

Fear influenced many of my decisions. Fear amplified my imagination in a bad way ó I was the worst-case scenario queen. Fear even tried to prevent me from moving forward in obedience to what I sensed God calling me to do.

So I did what any wise believer would do. I prayed. For years, I diligently prayed against fear. That God would take away my fear. That fear would leave me alone. That fear would vanish. That fear would be far from me.

Eventually I realized those prayers would probably require me to live in a bubble, limit my interactions with people, never attempt anything that could be considered risky and quite possibly never leave my house.

Ahem Ö

But the truth is, until Christís return, fear will always exist on this earth. We live in a scary world where bad things happen. One look at the news headlines makes that clear.

John 10:10 tells us that the enemy "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (ESV). One of the primary ways he does this is through fear. The enemyís intent is to keep our eyes riveted on our fears and stop us from trusting God. Stop us from making wise decisions. Stop us from believing things can change. Stop us from pursuing the seemingly impossible dreams in our hearts.

It soon became clear to me that there must be a better way to pray. That praying against fear wasnít enough, because fear still held far too much influence over me. And if God had not given me a spirit of fear, as our key verse declares, I wanted to sense a difference. I wanted to be brave and strong on the inside so fear could no longer shake me.

So my prayers changed. Drastically. Instead of just praying against fear, I began to use Godís Word and pray for specific things. God-inspired things. Like courage and confidence and amazing peace.

Though we might not always be fearless, by praying specifically for qualities found in Godís Word, we can fear less. If youíre battling fear on any level or in any area of your life, Iíd like to invite you to do the same.

Instead of praying that fear will be far from us, we can ask God to give us strong, bold and courageous hearts (Joshua 1:9) when fear comes near.

Instead of asking God to take away all fear, we can ask for His grace to run toward the big, scary things with great courage (1 Samuel 17:48).

Instead of praying that fear will leave us alone, we can pray that when we are afraid we will trust and have confidence in God (Psalm 56:3).

Instead of asking God to make all fear in our lives vanish, we can pray that His peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and supersede all fear (see Philippians 4:6-7).

Praying this way changes us. It has changed me. I no longer make decisions based on fear. I recognize worst-case scenarios forming and instead of entertaining them I nip them in the bud. And I am moving forward in obedience to the things God has called me to do.

God doesnít promise to always take away all our fears. Yet He gives us the power, love and self-discipline necessary to embrace His life-changing truth. When we pray His living and active Word something amazing happens ó God strengthens our hearts. He helps us trust Him, girds us with His amazing peace and enables us to move forward in courage.

And we will fear less.

Hi. My name is Julie. And my middle name is Brave.

Dear God, Help me not be paralyzed by my fears, but when I am afraid, help me trust in You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 34:4, "I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears." (NLT)

1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (NIV)



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7/10/15 3:46 P

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JULY 10, 2015

Who Am I Becoming?
LYNN COWELL

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Dragging my feet and my heart, I headed to her room, finding her buried in her schoolbooks. She was responsible; I hadnít been.

Welling up with tears, I began my apology. Seems like Iíd been doing that a lot lately. This time I had failed to order my daughterís graduation announcements.

What kind of mom am I?

My girl smiles as I blubber my confession. She reassures me: this is not an emergency. Tilting her head, she looks at me as if Iím from another planet. Not because I forgot, but because Iím crying. Who is this woman? I imagine her asking in her thoughts.

I know she must wonder about me these days.

Lately, I havenít been recognizing myself either. The normally organized, rational, on-task woman canít seem to keep it all together.

Maybe the forgetting isnít so unintentional. Could this be my heartís way of trying to put off the inevitable?

On my desk sits the form, the one Iíve procrastinated completing, requiring me to admit her age. Sheís an adult now. How did that happen? My mind wonders, Will she still need me? Who am I now? What is my place? Change is hard.

Iím guessing that like me, youíve either just come out of a season of change, are entering a season of change or itís just on the horizon. It might not be your youngest graduating from high school. You might be returning to school, making a move or looking for a new job.

Change has a way of swirling in and around our lives. Just when we adjust, like a squirming toddler, life refuses to stay still. We finally think weíve gotten control, when chaos erupts again. One activity stops while two are added. And whether we like the new thatís come, or wish we could run and hide, our feelings donít change the inevitable.

Facing another change, and handling it well, requires a woman of character. Change requires traits I feel like I havenít fully mastered and so I tend to think, Iím just not patient. I canít be kind.

But maybe, just maybe, times of transition are Godís way of bringing the change. He just might be setting up this opportunity for me to grow into the woman He knows I can become.

Iím learning I can allow the pressure of transition to transform me. I can permit the rain and the sunshine in my life to grow His fruit in me Ö the kind described in todayís key verse from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Every day we are becoming something different. The question is, Who are we becoming? During the planting, watering and weeding of change, if we will be diligent and faithful during each season, weíll see beauty grow in our lives.

As we lean into God, asking for strength through the peace or through the pain, He will make us into the women Heís intended for us to become: Women becoming Godís definition of beautiful.

Dear Jesus, I donít always like the change that comes in my life, but I do want to be beautiful instead of bitter. Grow in me the traits You call gorgeous and help me to embrace this season. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 5:24-25, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (NIV)

Romans 8:5, "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit." (NLT)




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7/6/15 2:37 P

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JULY 6, 2015

Can You Hear Me Now?
LEAH DIPASCAL

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 (ESV)

Maybe youíve heard someone say, "The Lord told me _____" or "Iíve sensed the Lord saying _____ to my heart." Did it make you wonder if you could discern Godís voice too?

Maybe like me, youíve wondered: Is it really possible to hear Godís voice? Can I know when He is speaking to me? Maybe that was just a random thought? What if I make a decision based on what I think God is saying and then discover I was wrong Ö then what?

I wrestled with these questions several years ago when our family was going through a tough time. Much was at stake, and despite numerous conversations with my husband, considering every option, it was clear that a sacrifice was required.

One morning, as I stared into my bathroom mirror ó trying to ignore the knot in my stomach and holding back a wall of tears ó I turned on my blow dryer and started drying my hair.

I asked again, "Lord, what if I canít discern what Youíre telling me? Will all the chaos and thoughts swirling in my mind drown out Your voice?"

As the high-pitched sound of my blow dryer blasted away, I began to hear another sound. It was muffled and faded, yet I was aware of it.

I ignored the sound at first, but even with my blow dryer going, I could still hear a familiar tone.

I turned off the blow dryer and surprisingly heard my friend Renee Swope. Confused at first, I walked into the bedroom and realized her voice was coming from the radio. She and Proverbs 31 Ministries President, Lysa TerKeurst, host a daily broadcast called "Everyday Life with Lysa and Renee."

Renee and I have been friends for years. Weíve spent lots of time together engaging in honest and transparent conversations.

As I listened to Reneeís voice, the thought came to me, "Because you know Renee so well and have spent a lot of time with her, you can discern her voice, despite the overwhelming noise of the blow dryer."

I realized God was teaching me a new truth about discerning His voice.

Just like my close relationship with Renee, God showed me that a close relationship with Him ó based on truth, transparency and time invested ó was essential to discerning His voice.

Over the years, as Iíve spent more time in Godís presence ó through prayer, reading His Word and singing songs of worship ó Iíve come to know Him better and recognize His voice.

Maybe youíve felt like God has been silent lately. Like youíre not sure God actually speaks to you or that youíre capable of discerning His voice. If so, let me give you three things to consider:

Believe: Jesus said in John 8:47a, "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says" (NIV). If youíve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you belong to Him. You already have the capability of discerning Godís voice when He speaks to you. This happens through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Anticipate: 1 Samuel 3:9b says, "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening" (NIV). What if we approached each day with an attitude of anticipation, making this verse a welcome invitation for the Lord to speak to us? Letís set our hearts and minds to a place of readiness as we wait to hear from God.

Follow: Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (ESV). God doesnít just speak to be heard. He speaks to be obeyed. When we discern Godís voice of direction or correction, we have to be willing to follow in obedience.

That day in my bathroom was a defining moment. I didnít receive a specific answer to what our family was supposed to do. But Idid receive a beautiful promise from God, that when the time was right, He would let us know. And no noise from this world would block out His voice, as long as we stayed close to Him.

Dear God, help me discern Your voice. Give me an attitude of anticipation to wake up every morning and say, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." And when You speak, let me be faithful to follow and obey You. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 30:21, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ĎThis is the way; walk in it.í" (NIV)

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



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6/29/15 3:23 P

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Even in the Midst of Dirty Dishes
SHARON GLASGOW

"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Godís varied grace: Ö whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies ó in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 4:9-10,11b (ESV)

My friend Stella and her husband have been missionaries for more than 60 years, and have led countless people to Christ. At the time of my visit, she was in her eighties and still serving. Another friend, Sheli, and I were honored to stay with her for a week to minister alongside her.

We traveled 30 hours to her home in Takamatsu, Japan, and arrived late in the evening. Stella ushered us into her kitchen for a hearty meal, then prayed for us before we all went to bed. When the sun was barely up the next morning, we feasted on an enormous breakfast in her tiny kitchen.

The kitchen was crowded, her appliances old and worn, dishes piled high in the sink from her lavish food preparation ó yet the atmosphere felt entirely like home. As she and her husband read Scripture and encouraged us, tears welled in my eyes, the love of Christ enveloped us; it overwhelmed me.

Immediately after breakfast, Stella began cooking again; this time for 100 women. Sheíd rented a banquet hall and invited friends, telling them an American would be speaking and there would be food. We cooked and set up tables for the luncheon, and then I was ushered to the front to speak. Her objective in hosting the event was to build relationships in hopes that those who came for lunch would come back again for church on Sunday. Many did!

While driving home after lunch, she told me sheíd invited a large group to the house for dinner that night. I couldnít imagine how we could clean up the mess weíd left behind and simultaneously prepare another meal. How would we get it all done? She didnít seem concerned. Instead, she was fueled by the energy of what the Lord had done at the luncheon.



There have been times Iíve worried more about my kitchen than how I could serve others. Iíd fret over the size and messiness. But I was inspired as I watched this woman who had no concerns about the dirty pots in her sink. Stella didnít let an un-swept floor keep her from ministering. She set the table beautifully and welcomed her guests. She and her husband prayed and read Scripture. Hearts melted.



Years have passed since that week in Japan and I think of my friend Stella whenever I have company. Over the course of her life, she has ministered to thousands in her home, and many have come to know Jesus there. Her ministry had nothing to do with a spotless kitchen. In fact, her kitchen was a mess. But whenever God opened a window of opportunity, she seized it.

I want my service to be like Stellaís. Hers is like that described by the apostle Peter in todayís key verse, grounded "by the strength that God supplies." I want to long for people to know Jesus more than I long for the perfect kitchen.

God cares more about whatís happening among the people in our kitchen than He cares about the state of it. My missionary friend taught me that it is possible to share Godís love, demonstrate His character and offer hospitality ó even in the midst of dirty dishes.

Dear Lord, show me ways to serve through the resources Youíve given me. Help me care more about people than things like dirty dishes. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 31:15a, "She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household." (ESV)

Proverbs 31:25-27, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (ESV)



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6/22/15 2:23 P

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Glynnis Whitwer
JUNE 22, 2015

I Guess I Wasnít "Fine"
GLYNNIS WHITWER

"See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1a (NLT)

Standing on the risers in my grade school auditorium, the girl next to me scanned the audience, desperately looking for her father. Her parents were divorced and her dad had let her down more than once. He said heíd show up this time. But as the directorís hands signaled our final note, and there was no father in sight, my friendís face revealed her pain.

My dad wasnít in the audience, but I didnít expect him. My mom was there. And my dad? Well Ö he was home, probably reading a book. But compared to my friendís sadness, my disappointment was minor, I thought.

For so many years, I compared my growing up experience to othersí, and thought, Iíve got nothing to complain about. Surely, I must be "fine." Others had it so much worse than I did.

Sure, my dad never attended any of my choir concerts or saw me sing (from third grade through high school), but my mom never missed one.

Although my dad wasnít involved in my day-to-day life, my mom was my number-one problem solver.

And even though my dad never said he loved me, I didnít think I needed to hear those words. After all, my motherís love more than made up for it.

Other friends had missing or cruel fathers. Theyíd been openly rejected. Their parents divorced. Their house was chaotic. Not mine. Iíd just had a quiet overlooking. One that I accepted as normal.

And I really did believe my father loved me in his own way. I held no bitterness. His own father had died in an accident before he was born. Even as a child, I knew he didnít have any father examples.

I was fine.

Yet over time, an independent streak took root. A hardness grew that kept me isolated from needing or wanting help. I developed a "pull yourself up by your boot straps" mentality that impacted my opinion of others who needed help, and my own weaknesses.

I never connected it with my fatherís passivity. I genuinely thought I was doing fine. Until someone challenged me to consider the impact my human father had on my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

Only then did I consider the impact of all I had missed. No tender moments, no champion, no confiding of worries or requests for help. No father-daughter dates or advice on a boyfriend.

The honesty caused a pain that surprised me. And I struggled with that same feeling of guilt as I compared myself to others and the truly hard lives they had. I didnít want to dishonor my father. But Iíd opened a door I knew God wanted open. So I pressed in to the honesty.

My little-girl heart had tried to heal itself by developing an inner strength. Only that "strength" built a wall, instead of a bridge, to Godís heart.

My independence had kept me from a deeper relationship with God. I loved God, but I didnít really trust Him with my heart or my problems. He was a distant Father to me, more like a king on a throne than a Daddy holding my hand.

Yet once I allowed the door of my heart to open, it started to soften as I forced myself to admit that in reality, I wasnít fine. I did need help, and in a way my independence simply couldnít provide. I confessed the hurt and pain that I had covered up in fierce self-sufficiency.

And God whispered words of truth. He reminded me Ö

Ö I never missed a choir performance.

Ö You can come to Me for help; Iíll be there before you finish your request.

Ö I started saying "I love you" thousands of years ago.

Todayís key verse tells us God loves us as His children. So as an adult, I had to learn what it was like to have a Daddy who loved me perfectly.

As God continues to prove Himself faithful, Iíve admitted this truth: Sometimes the pain from what didnít happen is as real as the pain from what did.

The healing I initially didnít know I needed has made me a better person. But itís still a work in progress. I still struggle to admit any weakness. And yet every time I do, I experience the realness of Godís love anew. My heart is becoming more merciful, gracious and kind Ö to others and myself.

If youíve dismissed your pain as insignificant compared to others, I invite you to experience the same healing Iíve received. God wants to fill in all those missing pieces and be your perfect Father.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me so perfectly and seeing that my heart needed Your tender healing. And thank You for being the perfect Father for me for eternity. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

1 John 4:16, "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." (NRSV)



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6/16/15 2:55 P

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JUNE 16, 2015

Why Daughters Were Made to Dance
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received Godís Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ĎAbba, Father.í For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are Godís children." Romans 8:15-16 (NLT)

Sheís fresh out of bed, still clad in her pajamas, when she finds me outside sipping coffee with my husband.

Her daddy is dressed in shabby jeans and a faded t-shirt, the patron uniform of Saturday morning yard work. But when that song she loves pulses from the radio, our littlest girl turns to him like heís a tuxedoed prince and asks if heíd like to dance.

Thereís grass to mow and weeds to pull, but he sets down his coffee and accepts the invitation with a regal bow. I clutch my coffee cup and savor the sheen in my daughterís eyes as her daddy twirls her around with a smile.

And suddenly I remember the woman who once told me she didnít need a daddy Ö

Weíd met at a church retreat where weíd learned about our identities as Godís daughters. She sat beside me, her hair wound tightly in a bun, with arms folded even tighter across her chest.

On our last evening together, the speaker used a simple metaphor to retell our salvation story. It wasnít perfect theology, but the imagery resonated with the women in the room.

"Once upon a time there was a Father who created His children to dance. But those kidsí feet got shackled by sin and their hearts stopped beating to the rhythm of Heavenís love. And, in time, they forgot who they were.

"But their Father didnít forget.

"While His children stumbled and staggered, He devised a plan to set their feet free and teach them to dance again. He stretched out His arms on an old rugged cross and invited His children to return to His embrace and waltz with Him into eternity Ö"

When the speaker finished, women jumped to their feet to worship with abandon. Except for the woman beside me.

She sat silently until the music waned. Then with trembling lips she murmured to me, "I donít need a daddy. I just need a savior."

Her eyes brimmed with a lifetime of hurt and I asked if I could pray for her. Embarrassed, she shook her head no and headed for the door.

I sat there alone, stunned and sad, and closed my eyes in prayer anyway. Moments later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "I still think Iím too old to ask God to be my daddy," the woman explained. "But if I ever change my mind, Iíve always wanted to learn to waltz Ö"

My attention returned to the dancing duo before me. My daughterís arms flapped happily like a bird set free.

And I see it clearly ó how every daughter of God was made to soar in the safety of her heavenly Fatherís arms.

Then my husband holds our daughter close as the music slows, and together they sway to the songís end. Maggie nestles her chin on my manís shoulder and exhales a satisfied sigh. "I just dance better in your arms, Daddy!"

I smile at my daughterís declaration and wonder if the woman at the retreat ever learned to "dance." I hope she did.

She was right, of course. We all need a savior. But according to our key verse, thatís not where our story ends. Once weíve been set free from sin, God invites us to call Him "Abba," a loving and familiar term, similar to "Daddy."

Itís there, in our heavenly Daddyís arms, where weíll learn to "dance" freely, living as His treasured children.

Your steps wonít look like mine. And mine wonít mimic yours. But we can all grab our Daddyís hand and let Him lead us step by expectant step into the life Heís dreamed for His girls.

And, remember, according to my daughter, we all just dance better in our Daddyís arms.

Dear Jesus, I donít want to miss the life Youíve dreamed for me. Guide my steps and teach me how to live as Your child: confident, joyful and free. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 30:11, "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing." (NLT)

Psalm 90:12, 14, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Ö Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives." (NLT)



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6/11/15 10:55 A

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Awesome testimony! The enemy wants us to believe that we can't possibly understand God's Word so we won't read it and never know the Truth. Kudos to you for finding a way to defeat Satan!

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6/9/15 2:56 P

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Angie Smith
JUNE 9, 2015

How the Bible Became More than Pages of Tissue
ANGIE SMITH

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

One of the first things I learned about successfully fitting in with Christians was the power of nodding my head.

It made people think I understood things I didnít, and it masked the insecurity and frustration of feeling like the Bible was never going to make sense to me. So, when they said things like, "Iím so inspired by Paulís courage," I would bob my head and make a mental note to investigate it later.

When they upped the ante with phrases like, "This story takes place in modern-day Iraq," I nodded. I couldnít point to modern-day Iraq on a map if my life depended on it, let alone do the mental bridge-building to get to the part where this realization was as euphoric as it seemed to be for other people.

Have you ever felt like that? Itís all over your head and youíre counting the minutes until you can leave the situation that reminds you that you arenít smart enough to "get it."

And itís the worst. Itís the absolute WORST.

Iím a relatively bright person, and I tend to pick things up (fairly) quickly. But the Bible? That was different. I just couldnít make sense of it.

So many pages. Such thin, thin pages.

Like tissue that taunted me. Thatís what the Bible was to me for many years: taunting pages of tissue.

Eventually I became so frustrated that I walked into my local Christian bookstore and asked where the childrenís section was. Then I sat cross-legged on the floor, thumbing through the bright photos and short summary stories for a few hours.

And donít laugh, because it actually helped me. I bought a few childrenís storybook Bibles and after I finished my classes each day, I would sit on the balcony of our apartment and read. Slowly, without letting the voice of condemnation speak louder than the voice of devotion.

That was my start of reading and understanding the Bible. Iíve had other Bibles since then, and Iím thankful I didnít give up trying. Because the more I read, the more I began to understand the bigger story of Scripture.

Maybe you can relate?

You love the stories youíve heard, but arenít sure how they fit together. Or maybe you understand it from an academic perspective, but you canít quite get your heart to care.

Or possibly, youíve simply done what you could to understand enough to get by in a small group, yet you go home feeling like youíre behind the curve.

I want you to remember something very important: The Bible wasnít written just for a few experts to understand while baffling the rest of us.

Did you hear that?

The Bible was written for all of us, and as our key verse reminds us, it helps equip us for every good work God intends us to do. With that being the case, I want you to erase any part of your self-talk that says you arenít smart enough or educated enough or even spiritual enough. Deal?

As we commit to reading Godís Word and not giving up, weíre throwing off anything that has held us back. And weíre moving forward in full confidence that He will bless us with the desire of our hearts ó to know Him better.

Father, thank You for sharing Your perfect Word with us. Help us to overcome our fear that we arenít smart enough to understand it. I want to know You better and am willing to do whatever it takes. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 19:7, "The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (NIV)

Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (ESV)



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5/30/15 12:25 P

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Leah DiPascal
MAY 29, 2015

Shouldn't This Be Easier?
LEAH DIPASCAL
"When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say." Revelation 3:7b (CEV)
I have a confession to make. There have been times in my past when I felt like God was getting in the way of my plans.
More often than not, I would admire my friends and notice how they seemed to be on the fast track toward success in life. I, too, had goals I wanted to accomplish, dreams to pursue and a calling I longed to fulfill. Why did it seem like they were making great progress and I wasnít?
Determined to make things happen, the achiever in me insisted on bulldozing forward with big expectations and lofty dreams. If I just work harder and stay focused, everything will go according to my plan.
I longed for God to stamp "yes" stickers on all my prayer requests and open every door of opportunity that I thought would be the perfect fit for me. But that didnít happen.
Instead, I faced many challenges and obstacles. It seemed as if Iíd take one step forward and three steps backward Ö like I was encountering more roadblocks than open doors.
My self-made highway toward all those dreams started to look more like a dirt road littered with potholes of discouragement and puddles of frustration. So, I prayed harder, sought God more and asked why He wasnít taking all of my great ideas into consideration.
I wanted to be optimistic and full of faith, but the more I pondered and asked questions, the more I second-guessed my calling. Self-doubt filled my mind:
If God has gifted and called me to this, shouldnít it be easier?
If Iím trying to do Godís will, why does it seem like Heís denying all my prayer requests? Surely, He knows this is important to me!
Look at this great opportunity. Itís exactly what Iíve been asking for! Why do I keep getting overlooked?
Not all of the answers came right away, but I refused to give up. I kept reading my Bible and asking God the tough questions. I continued to trust Him and follow His lead even when things didnít make sense.
Then one morning as I was reading my Bible and journaling, I came across todayís key verse from Revelation 3:7: "When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say."
Then this thought came to me: A closed door is not Godís objection toward me; itís His sovereign protection over me.
Suddenly that changed everything. I looked at the closed doors in my life from a new perspective.
God loves me too much and knows me too well to give me everything I ask for. His protection for me will always override my earthy wants and desires. Even when I have the best intentions in mind, His plan is always better.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 84:11-12, "The LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly Ö blessed is the one who trusts in you!" (ESV)
To "walk uprightly" means to have a faith that is genuine ó to continuously seek after Godís will and obey Him in every area of our lives.
If youíre walking uprightly and God closes a door that you think is a great opportunity, I hope you will remember this devotion and hold onto this truth: God is not setting you up for disappointment or failure. Heís setting you up for something better.
The gifts God has given you and the calling Heís placed on your life are irrevocable. Whatever door God opens on your behalf cannot be closed by anyone. Godís plans for you will succeed and His promises stand firm forever.
Meanwhile, letís not only thank God for the doors Heís opening, but also for the doors Heís closing. Doors that could potentially lead us to harm, should we get our own way. Letís be sure to remember: God is not getting in our way ó He is the only way to complete victory!
Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts and calling Youíve placed on my life. Help me to trust You when things don᾿t go according to my plans and desires. Let me see the potential of a closed door as a divine detour that will lead me closer to You as I wait for something better. Iím so grateful Your promises stand forever. In Jesusí Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)



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5/26/15 4:11 P

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"If indeed there had been anything better and more profitable to the health of men than to suffer, Christ would surely have shown it by word and example." ó Thomas ŗ Kempis



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5/23/15 11:12 A

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May 23

1 Samuel 9

God instructs Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king over Israel.

INSIGHT

The sovereignty of God is a difficult concept to keep in balance. Often we find ourselves making too much or too little of it.
It is true, however, that many of the events in our lives, which seem to come at random with no significance, are actually events that the Lord is using to orchestrate His purpose in our lives.

For example, Saul goes looking for donkeys and ends up discovering that he will be king of Israel. We should always bathe our daily activities in prayer, for we never know what the Lord might be preparing for us.

PRAYER

∑ Even though you may be in pain, praise the Lord that He loves you and cares for you:

Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments
(Psalms 112:1).



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5/15/15 3:55 P

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MAY 15, 2015

The One Thing We Can All Have in Common
TRACIE MILES

"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 (NIV)

As I read her email, my heart felt heavy. She had endured so much pain in her life, none of which she deserved or caused.

Then I read another email. And this personís story was completely different, yet the pain and heartache of her life seemed unfair, too, and more than one person should have to endure. Then another email. Then another.

Countless emails sat in my inbox ó each one saturated with intense emotion and vulnerable honesty. All sharing a different experience and a different level of hurt, shame or regret.

One had been physically abused. One was betrayed. One battled addiction. One divorced. One had been sexually abused. One struggled with fear and anxiety. One had chosen abortion. One had been unfaithful. One had a serious disability.

The list was long, and every one of these women had something in her past that once made her feel insignificant, void of value and unlovable to God. Yet, despite their different experiences, all these women had one amazing thing in common, which stood out loud and clear.

You see, each one had allowed God to transform her pain into purpose, and as a result, their lives now shine as a living testament to the power of a Holy God. Each one had watched God turn something difficult into something that would glorify Him.

Romans 8:1-2 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (NIV). This verse reminds us that no matter what has happened in our lives, or what we have or have not done, God loves and values us unconditionally.

Later in that same chapter, in todayís key verse, we read God not only loves us, but has a plan and a purpose for our lives ó not despite our past, but because of it.

Paul experienced pain and suffering through various forms of persecution: imprisonment, beatings and rejection. He spoke from the wisdom of his own experiences and exemplified the transforming power of Godís ability to turn any mess into a message.

Paul encouraged believers to embrace Godís promise that He can use all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, not only for Godís good, but also our own.

Regardless of how difficult our pasts are, as children of God we have a commonality in Christ Jesus our Savior: God will use for good what the devil intended for evil. When we allow God to use our pain for a purpose that glorifies Him and ministers to others, we enjoy the blessing of spiritual healing and transformation like never before.

No matter how different our prior experiences, we can still have one precious thing in common. We can each choose to live as proof of the power of Jesus to change a life. All things truly can be used for the good of those called by Him.

Lord, Iíve always felt I couldnít be fully loved or forgiven because of my past and that maybe You had no purpose for me. Help me embrace the promise of Romans 8:28 ó of Your love and plans for my life. Help me discover the amazing purpose Youíve ordained just for me. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (NLT)

Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (NIV)



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5/11/15 12:58 P

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Leslie Ludy
MAY 11, 2015

Embracing the Inconvenient
Leslie Ludy

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these Ö you did for me." Matthew 25:40b (NIV)

I will never forget the day my son Hudson learned what an orphan was. A close family friend had just returned from Haiti where she visited an orphanage and had taken heartbreaking photos of destitute children in desperate need of loving homes.

As a wide-eyed 3-year-old, Hudson stared at the pictures and asked, "Who dose kids? Why dey sad?"

I explained that the children in the photos were orphans, children without a mommy or daddy. As Hudson pondered this, his heart was gripped with compassion. He suggested we go to Haiti and bring home 20 orphans to live with us.

I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and then informed him I didnít think weíd have room in our house for 20 more children. A few days later, Hudson led me upstairs to see several "orphan beds" heíd created. Each bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow and one of his favorite stuffed animals.

There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddyís room, two in his sisterís room, and five in Hudsonís bedroom. (Heíd taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself!)

"See?" he exclaimed. "We do have room!"

I was speechless.

God was using my 3-year-old to remind me of His simple solution for the orphaned, the destitute and the starving: sacrificially sharing what we have with those in need.

That day, God challenged my heart with some poignant questions: Was I willing to serve the weak, even if it required personal sacrifice? If Hudson was willing to share his mommy, daddy, bedroom and favorite stuffed animals with children in need ó then what was I willing to share?

Those questions changed the course of my life. While we didnít bring home 20 orphans, God has led us to adopt four children in need of a loving home. The journey has not been easy, but through it we have seen Godís amazing faithfulness.

In our noisy, busy world, itís easy to become consumed with self-focused pursuits and remain indifferent toward the needs of the lost and dying around us. I have been guilty of this attitude many times.

Whenever Iím struggling with a self-focused mindset, Iím reminded of a sobering story I once heard about the Jewish Holocaust.

In the story, a German church sat next to the railroad tracks where cars of Jews rattled by the church, on their way to the concentration camps. The prisoners would scream as loudly as they could, begging the churchgoers to help. But the Christians didnít want to get involved. Instead, as the cars rolled past, they sang their hymns loudly to drown out the cries of the suffering.

Astounding, isnít it?

Still today, there are cries of anguish resounding all over the world ó from the starving child to the persecuted Christian. Yet how often do we drown them out with entertainment, busyness, materialism or selfish ambitions? God asks each of us to turn down the noise in our lives and learn to love and give the way He does, embracing the inconvenient and holding nothing back.

Naturally, this will look different for each of us.

Some of us might be called to minister to the homeless, others to adopt, others to fight for the unborn, others to help orphans, others to encourage the persecuted ó and countless other possibilities.

Cultivating a sacrificial lifestyle often starts with one simple step, such as ministering to someone in our community. I encourage you to let God stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. He will open your eyes to the ways in which He desires you to become His hands and feet to those in need.

Throughout history, the Christians whoíve made the most impact for Godís kingdom rarely lived comfortable or convenient lives. Their mighty acts for God required enormous personal sacrifice and a willingness to venture far beyond the realm of the easy and convenient. If todayís Christians are too busy, who will take up the torch of Gospel-centered rescue work in this generation?

Lord, help me learn to look past myself and see the needs of others. Teach me to love others the way You love them, sacrificially. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 20:21, "So Jesus said to them again, ĎPeace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.í" (NKJV)



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4/28/15 3:49 P

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you can post onl any one of these post and even strat a new topic! thank you for posting.

Life is fragile Ė handle with prayer.


Reminders frome God
"Do not fear. I am a wall of protection around you."



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4/28/15 11:22 A

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not sure if we are suppose to comment here...but thank you so much for the time you have taken to posts these today I read the last one ....
"Today, weíre faced with the same challenge. Will we love God and choose His way to experience life and blessings, or will we choose our way and set ourselves up for some potentially explosive consequences? " I so need to stay focused and not wander off :) enjoying your team...

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4/24/15 3:34 P

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Leah DiPascal
APRIL 24, 2015

Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts
LEAH DIPASCAL

"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

I saw the blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror, and knew it was not a good sign. A quick glance at the speedometer revealed I was going faster than intended.

I quickly began to build my case as I pulled over to the side of the road. With my two toddlers in the back seat, I was sure this would be an easy fix. After all, once the police officer heard my reasons for being distracted, he would certainly let me off the hook with a simple warning, a gentle smile and a cheerful, "Have a good day, maíam!"

Thatís not exactly how it went down.

Despite my attempts to explain, the police officer didnít budge. It didnít matter that I was lost in an unfamiliar section of town. It didnít matter that my friend had just given birth to her second child, or that Iíd spent hours preparing a meal for her family.

I was secretly hoping the lingering aroma of chicken fettuccini would prove my point. But despite all my good intentions and lengthy explanations, the officer proceeded with four words no one wants to hear: "License and registration, please."

Five minutes later, I was back on the road with a nasty speeding ticket sitting on my dashboard. It might as well have been a neon sign flashing the words: loser, busted, cursed.

We cried the whole way home. My kids cried because they knew Mommy was veryupset. I cried ó not because I was sad or embarrassed ó but because I was angry.

What kind of officer gives a ticket to a good person who prepares a meal for a friend in her time of need? Sure, I was guilty of going a tad over the speed limit, but the consequences seemed harsh and I felt completely justified.

As the day went on, my anger mounted and my invisible stress barometer climbed to new heights. I couldnít stop thinking about our brief and aloof conversation. Over and over, I mentally replayed alternative dialogues: I should have said this Ö What if heíd said that? Ö

By the end of the day, I had a fierce headache, a knot in my stomach and a "donít-go-near-her attitude." All the over-analyzing, replaying and mental back talk created a toxic mess in my mind and body, making an unfortunate situation worse.

My choice to speed produced the hefty consequence of a ticket and a marked driving record. But choosing to fixate my thoughts on the problem was like dousing gasoline on a tiny spark. That spark had become a consuming fire, distracting me from the real blessings God had for me that day ó like the little ones in the back seat of my car and getting home safely.

In todayís key verse, Moses challenges the people of Israel to choose between life and death, a blessing and a curse. How? By choosing wisely. To love God, obey His commands and place Him above all else in their lives.

Today, weíre faced with the same challenge. Will we love God and choose His way to experience life and blessings, or will we choose our way and set ourselves up for some potentially explosive consequences?

Our words, actions and reactions are a direct result of our thought life. Left to our own sinful nature, we can easily find ourselves in a cycle of toxic thinking, choosing and reacting.

To be women who choose wisely, we have to go to the Source of all wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (NIV).

Freedom doesnít come in making our own choices. Freedom comes by seeking Godís perfect wisdom to choose wisely in every area of our lives.

Friend, where are your choices taking you today? Are your thoughts, words, actions and reactions reflecting who you are in Christ? Letís encourage one another to choose wisely and live in the blessed freedom that God has already made available to us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the many blessings Youíve given me today. Help me to choose wisely so I can live in freedom for Your Glory. In Jesusí Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:25, "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it ó not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it ó they will be blessed in what they do." (NIV)

Romans 8:6, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (NIV)



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4/17/15 5:37 P

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APRIL 17, 2015

The Cure for Envy
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS
"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didnít sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.
Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasnít envious. Simply, uh Ö discouraged.
Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.
Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come sheís moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasnít jealous, of course. Merely, uh Ö competitive.
The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague whoíd been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. "Itís not fair, Lord!"
His response was swift. "Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?"
Groan. Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters ó women who love and serve the Lord ó I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, "I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one personís work above another, if not absorbing the worldís way of doing things?"
Her words echo the Apostle Paulís: " Ö For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.
Todayís verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, hereís the way out:
Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth" (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.
Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over Johnís place in Jesusí ministry, and asked, "ĎLord, what about him?í Jesus answered, Ď Ö what is that to you? You must follow meí" (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).
Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" (Romans 12:15a, NIV).



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4/7/15 3:22 P

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Rachel Randolph
APRIL 7, 2015

Stuck in the Muck
Rachel Randolph

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
After several cold rainy days in October, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Tired of being cooped up, we seized the moment and met up with a few friends at a small petting zoo. The sunny morning was exactly what my son Jackson and I needed.
When his naptime approached, we were having such a good time that I decided to linger a little longer. Then the rain reappeared and poured on our playdate.
I said my goodbyes and marched across the now freshly soggy farm to where Jackson was playing. "Itís time to go, buddy," I said, reaching out for his hand.
"I donít waaaaaant to goooooo!" he whined, walking backwards out of my reach.
"I know," I empathized. "Itís hard to leave fun places."
"Nooooooo! I STAYYY!" my now overly tired toddler yelled, turning to run from me. I quickly scooped him up and carried him across the petting zoo as he screamed and kicked his muddy shoes all over me.
"Stand right there," I firmly ordered, setting him next to the car and reaching inside for the baby wipes. When I turned around to clean him off, he was running like an escaped convict through the parking lot.
My sharp-eyed, fast-footed 2-year-old was running toward a back entrance to the zoo. In hot pursuit, I followed. But by the time I made it through the gate, heíd positioned himself on the opposite side of an empty, muddy horse pen.
Across the rusty red bars, he was staring me down with the iron will of a Ö well, of a defiant, exhausted toddler.
I darted to the right to grab him. He matched my steps. I slowly paced to the left. Across the pen, keeping steady eye contact with me, and like a cowboy ready for a draw, he paced with me. After a few rounds of this, I realized: checkmate. He had me. I could not get to him. Unless Ö
I could make him fall.
I walked to the left, and he followed my lead straight into a muddy patch. His pace slowed as his boots sunk down into the muck. I quickly moved to the right. He did too, but his boots didnít follow, and he fell right into my muddy trap. His strong-willed defiance quickly turned to a whimpering plea for his mommy.
I wonder how often God feels like this with us. He simply wants to get us on the road to a safe place for nourishment and rest, while we jet off in our own direction, sure of something better.
Does He, in His love, let us fall into a muddy puddle so we can feel the discomfort of life without Him?
Isnít it true that when we find ourselves stuck in the muck of life, we long more deeply for Godís loving arms to come and take our hands and lead us out? We cry out, "Daddy, I need You. Please pull me out of this mess!"
I imagine He gives the same knowing smile I did when my son, laying face up in the mud, finally cried out for me. He kneels down and as we see in Psalm 40:2, lifts us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire ó our muddy boots dangling from our safe perch in His arms ó and whispers, "Iím here love, been here all along. Iíve just been waiting for you to ask. Now letís get you cleaned up." Then He sets us on solid ground, giving us a firm place to stand.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I would trust and obey Your lead in the good times and in the times when I feel like Iím sinking into the mud and mire of life. I truly believe God, that Your way is better, Your way leads to a fuller, deeper, more nourishing life. Help me to stop running from You and instead run toward Your loving embrace. In Jesusí Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 25:4-5, "Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (NIV)



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