Have you ever tried to plan something, anything, and had to keep changing different things? I’m not talking about the little things like who is sitting where or who is doing what. I’m talking about how life was supposed to look. How your marriage was suppose to be. How you would raise your little (or big family)? And instead of it looking how you picture it, life throws curve balls and the very people or things you were counting on have shifted their stance making your life one crazy hectic rollercoaster that you don’t know how to get off of shifting your life from the good to the bad and ugly…
Life is funny like that sometimes. People are funny. Even our own selves are the culprits sometimes. If only we lived in a world were everyone was perfect one hundred percent of the time doing one hundred percent of what we should. HA! Right. But, then again, how boring would that be. Making mistakes is one of the greatest gifts that we have in this life. Stay with me here… Ok so maybe not the mistake itself, but the gift of reconciliation through and in love that we get when we finally choose to clean up our mess whatever that may look like. That, that is a gift that only a messy life being cleaned up can give.
I have gone through some tough times in my life. Some when I was young, some in my marriage, some in my walk with Jesus, and some from me just plain being stupid. There where times in my life when I wonder what in the world is going on? Why has this happened? Will I survive? How can anyone make it through this? What was I thinking? There were times when I cried. Times when I hurt. Times when I laughed and loved and times when I have never felt so alone. There are times that I would not ever wish on my worst enemy, but even if you offered me all the money in the world I would not trade a single one of the bad times.
I hear ya… “Yeah right Alexandria, everyone has a price.” But the truth is, if you took away even one part of my past or present experiences, I wouldn’t be me. Because it is in the dark places that I found the brightest light. It is when there was no plan B that I was made aware just how much my God loves me. And until you have been to that darkest of places, that LOVE that we just love to talk about is only an idea, a notion that is fleeting and there when we need to comfort someone, or ourselves, with the right words or things. It’s the idea of love that we have, not the undeniable belief and understanding of love that only comes through really experiencing it.
The Bible in numerous places talks about hearts being hardened, and because their hearts were hardened they didn't understand. I believe that those dark moments that we go through in our life can soften our hearts and teach us Love. Real Love. Agape Love. Not because we are standing in the dark, dark in itself does not, cannot teach, but it is the darkness that makes us more aware of the littlest light. We were not created as children of the dark, but children of the light. We crave it, need it even. When we come to that place where we lack light in our life it is up to us to open our eyes and seek it out. We are not going to be perfect. We will stumble, but we must not give up. We must not quit. Keep going. Keep moving. Only then will we receive understanding of that Love that most people talk about. And only when we have experienced that Love can we share it.
You see, when we are walking through our “stuff” God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us that He will be our light. In Romans 8 it talks about nothing in all of creation being as strong as God’s perfect Love for me. I take that to mean literally whatever I come up against in my life, my God’s love for me will get me through it. Just a few verses up it says in verse 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him… I only need to remain in His love for me (John 15:9). In Psalms 139 it says that He knew all of my days before I had one. My life both good and bad has never been a surprise to God. He is not afraid of my mess. Isaiah 30:19-21 says, How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, He will answer you….Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” He knows all my good, bad and ugly and still He says ‘Don’t worry, My Love for you is stronger. Just come to Me and I will be there.’ (Alexandria paraphrase version LOL.)
But we have a part to play. Are you ready for it? We have to call. We have to cry for His help, when we do He WILL come. “As soon as He hears.” So my challenge to us is this, call on Him. In the good, the bad and the ugly and watch what He does in your life. It isn’t always easy, but it is simple. Call on Him. Ask Him to show you what He is doing. Ask Him for help and direction and wait expectantly for what He says knowing that His love is enough.
Written by: Alexandria Brown
The story of the anointing at Bethany is a passage of Scripture that has become very, very dear to me. Mary's passion and her unabashed pouring out of all that she had stir up in my heart such a longing and desire to come before Jesus just as she did, with all that my everyday coming and going has to offer. Let's head into the gospel of John together, sweet friends.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn't this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He didn't say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was in it.
Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.””John 12:1-7
I wonder at the boldness of Mary, coming before her Jesus with her alabaster box.
I wonder at the intimacy of her relationship with Jesus, fully God, fully man.
I wonder at her indubitable trust, faith, adoration... to approach her Savior with all that she had. An extravagant and inordinate gift that was at the same time... insufficient.
I wonder at how her heart must have pounded, how that must have been all that she heard as she moved toward Him.
I wonder if she could have even begun to grasp the enormity of what she had resolved to do, the immediate and unwavering obedience required to do something so inconceivable.
I wonder if all else simply fell away, vanished, as she gazed upon the Messiah, her First Love, King of her heart.
I wonder at the elation, the exhilaration of drawing near to Jesus. How exposed and vulnerable she must have been and yet how sheltered and covered she was in His presence.
I wonder at the hush in the room as the perfume was poured out, at the breathlessness of all present, how all eyes must have been fixed to the scene unfolding before them.
I wonder of the all-consuming love and joy that must have been burning in Mary’s heart as she wiped her Lord’s feet with her hair.
I wonder at His love overwhelming and filling and spilling out of her.
I imagine her brother’s miraculous resurrection fresh in her mind.
His body in the tomb, her Savior’s seemingly untimely arrival. How He was deeply moved by her sorrow, how He wept. How He called the dead to LIFE at the sound of His voice. His tender mercy, His loving kindness- forever and indelibly in her mind.
I imagine that every time she looked upon the life in her brother’s body, at his every breath and movement, she remembered what Jesus had done for him. For her. How could she repay Him?
Only her finest, most precious possession could do. And I wonder, as she broke open her most expensive treasure, as she sacrificed her alabaster box filled with pure and expensive nard, if she could have imagined His body broken in the ultimate sacrifice, His very life for His most cherished treasure- her heart and the hearts of all creation. The spotless, unblemished, ALL SUFFICIENT, perfect Lamb offered up so that WE can be reconciled to the Father forever. So that nothing stands between US and a HOLY GOD- the great I AM.
Jesus’ body was absolutely shattered and broken and His blood was poured out. His blood is poured out onto us so that our sin is washed away- it is GONE. So that we are dressed in His righteousness, so that we, too, are spotless. So that WE, once dead in our sin, can enjoy communion with our beautiful, holy God. So that we can have life to the full.
In that story of the anointing at Bethany in John 12, something that stood out to me was that it says after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, ’So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’
The aroma of Mary’s gift, of her sacrifice, FILLED the house. The aroma was overwhelming to those present. And that aroma LINGERED, in Mary’s hair and on Jesus’ body in the days before His death, burial and resurrection.
I find it so interesting that in 2 Corinthians 2:15, Scripture says that WE are the FRAGRANCE of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
Jesus told His disciples that Mary kept her perfume for the day of His burial. I wonder.. if her pouring out then was in preparation for His death.. I wonder then if OUR pouring out today could be in preparation for His return. In preparation for eternity with our Savior.
I wonder if we could be so enamored with Christ, if we could experience His love and power in such a way that the scent of His sacrifice on US would fill every place that we enter.
I wonder if His Great Love could enable us to live SO given that it commands the attention of everyone we encounter.
I wonder if we could trust Him to receive our time, treasures and talents and to then sow them into the growth of His Kingdom.
WRITTEN BY: Olivia Caldwell
It was late night and everyone in the house was asleep. I was sitting on the couch crying. Again. This was a bad cycle I had found myself in. Depression is a thief and right now it wasn’t only stealing my sleep but it was stealing my joy as well. And I felt helpless to fight it. I had done all the normal things that helped - talk about it, get some sunshine, take my medicine, push on - but none of it was helping now. What else could I do? The obvious answer from the other side didn’t seem so obvious then. I did however, reach for my Bible and with tears prayed for a word from God to help ease this deep sorrow enough that I could at least sleep. As always, He showed up.
Psalm 107: 8-9 “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
I latched onto these verses and thought that if I was ever hungry and thirsty for God, now was the time. I needed to remember to be thankful. His promise for wonderful deeds and satisfaction if I just reach out to Him. This was the lifeline I needed. As I prayed in that moment I also heard the words “I AM” resonating within my heart.
I knew from growing up in church that God used this phrase to refer to himself with the children of Israel. In Exodus 3:14 it says “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Isrealites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
This meant something to them because it was telling the Israelites that the God their fathers had worshiped - that THEY worshiped - was the one who was sending Moses. What was this supposed to mean to me at this moment?
God is eternal and constant and wants me to lean on him. He sends us help and comfort through the Holy Spirit. I had been running away. I had been trying to overcome things on my own. While I believe that I need the medication, because there is a time and place for it, I also think that I need God! He was telling me I AM for you. I AM here to comfort you. I AM listening. But most importantly he was telling me I AM enough. The same God that called Israel out of enslavement in Egypt was caring about me right now. He cared that I wasn’t sleeping, that I was feeling hopeless. He cared that my days felt heavy and lost. He wanted me to turn to Him. He wanted me to remember His power was what would help me through. As much as I wanted someone to take away the sadness, no one in my life could do that. They weren’t meant to. God made me and knew what I needed. He wants to satisfy me - if I will let him.
I was able to sleep after that. It was a corner that I turned in that cycle of depression. Of course, I might have another round of the same. But, that verse will be much quicker to come to my mind and comfort me. I will be faster to remember to turn to God, I hope.
What is the great I AM trying to tell you? I AM….?
Written bY: Angie Reese
Every young mother has dreams for her children. As we hold that newborn babe in our arms, we begin to see the potential in this tiny human being…one made in the image and likeness of our Creator God. We wonder if that baby girl will grow up to be a carbon copy of her mommy or will she accomplish so much more than her mama had ever dreamed? We see our sons and are in awe that this little man will grow up to be a man perhaps like his father, even having a wife and children of his own someday. We have visions of tea parties, t-ball, and prom dates. But more than anything, I believe we mothers just want our babies to grow into happy, healthy adults.
I was that young mother so many years ago. My babies were just beautiful.
I knew more than anything else I wanted to instill in each of them the love of their heavenly Father…to teach them to walk with God and to view the world around them through the lens of His Word. I wanted them to grow to be God-honoring, responsible adults with families of their own. I too wanted them to grow into happy, healthy adults.
And so, my husband and I set out to make the dreams become a reality. We were doing the best we could to get our children off to a good start in life. We loved watching them grow into who and what they were created to be, each one with his or her distinct personality. So, aware of the way God had gifted each of them in different ways. Our children, Brad and Lyndsay, were truly a blessing from the Lord.
And then it happened…our son, Brad, had a stroke. He was only thirteen years old, and he had a stroke! This was not in our plans! We had to revise. Brad had to relearn everything…to walk, talk, read, write, add, subtract, even to recognize a penny, nickel, and dime.
We were to later learn that Brad has a very rare migraine disease called Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM), so rare that it strikes only 0.01 percent of the population or less. SHM is a condition that has caused our son to suffer two traumatic brain events over the years: the first event being his stroke at the age of thirteen (February 1999); then again, the summer after Brad finished his sophomore year at Florida Christian College (July 2007), he experienced another migraine that led to non-stop seizures putting him in danger of permanent brain damage if the seizures could not be stopped. In order to stop the seizures, they put him into a medically induced coma. Finally, the seizures stopped, and ever so slowly Brad began to regain consciousness. In all, Brad was in the Neurocritical Care Unit of Johns Hopkins University Hospital for 16 days! We spent the months of July, August, and September in a series of hospitals. Finally, just a few days into October, we were allowed to bring him home.
Both events in 1999 and 2007 resulted in multiple hospital transfers, multiple days in ICUs/Neurocritical Care Units and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. Those days were followed by many months of outpatient physical, speech, and occupational therapies. Each time, Brad was unable to do anything…talk, walk, speak, read, write, compute simple math, recognize coins, complete basic care skills, or understand basic social skills. All had to be relearned. I jokingly tell people that I have raised our one son three times. In reality, it’s not a joke but a big part of the story of my son’s life…and mine, as well as every member of our family.
God has a plan and a purpose for my son’s life…for my life. The plans that formulated in my heart as a young mother so many years ago have taken a dramatic turn. I would have thought by now, at age 29, my son would have graduated from college, be established in the profession of his (and God’s) choice, and be married with one or two children of his own. His own dream since he was nine years old was to be a pastor, be married, and have children by the time he had reached his present age.
Many times I have prayed, “Lord, why…why have you not given him his heart’s desire? Surely they line up with your will?” Just when I think none of it makes any sense, God gives me glimpses of His purpose, His glory on the mountaintops. He shows me light on this valley floor. And I am once again comforted and filled with the peace that passes understanding…HIS peace.
Sometimes, in His great love and mercy, God has given me a glimpse into some of the whys.
Times such as this:
The Waiting Room
Sitting in the waiting room of the outpatient rehab hospital, I cried out to God, “Why, Lord, are you allowing my son to struggle once again? Why, Lord, would you allow Brad to be assigned to a speech therapist with an accent that isn’t even close to his native language? How in the world is he ever going to learn the proper pronunciation of the English language with this guy? Why does Brad even have to go through all of this again? Why do we all have to go through this again? Lord, you can heal him…please...why don’t you heal him?”
In the midst of my crying out to God, the therapist, the very one I was just complaining to God about, stepped into the hallway and asked me to join them in the therapy room. He had a few questions he wanted to ask.
Apparently, in the process of the therapy sessions, Brad had insisted that the therapist help him work on writing a sermon. Since writing is a part of speech therapy, the therapist had agreed to help Brad with the sermon. I think at this point he was willing to do anything that would get my son to cooperate in the therapy sessions. In his sermon, Brad was trying to go through the entire Bible beginning with creation, working through Moses and the Exodus (including every one of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea), basically hitting every single miracle in the Bible all the way up to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In this process, Brad had basically forced his speech therapist to look at God’s Word. Not only that, but this young man was raised with a faith that was contrary to Christianity and was beginning to question his own religion. He asked me what kind of church we went to and what we taught. He said that his wife actually attended a Baptist church but that he had never considered going to church with her or looking into her Christian faith. He had been content with his own system of belief. However, after going through the sermon with Brad over the past month or so, he was now considering visiting his wife’s church. He was ready to look into Christianity!
You see, while I was out in the waiting room crying out to God…well…more like complaining, my son was in there introducing his therapist to the One True God. And suddenly I understood. That young man’s eternal destination, his eternal salvation, is far more important than the instant healing of my son.
Sometimes God gives us those moments of clarity in the whys so that we learn to trust in His wisdom, His timing, and His mercy. I have experienced enough of those moments to know that He is faithful and can be trusted with the whys. As I begin to release the ‘right’ to always know why God works as He does, or even why God allows things to happen, peace sets into the depths of my soul. He becomes my hope and my anchor in the storms of life.
Am I saying that God actually chose to inflict my son with this awful condition? No. We live in a fallen world. Everything has been affected by that choice made so long ago. What I am saying is that God, for whatever reason, has allowed this to come to pass, and He has and is going to bring about His glory and His good for Brad and our family. We are promised in His word, “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).
I trust that God is working this out. I know that the enemy wants to use this to destroy our family. He might as well give up because God is in control, and we have willingly placed our lives in His hands. He can be trusted.
My son loves the Lord and has been called! I just have to let go and let God work out His plan in His time. I have to follow His footprints, His path for our lives. In those times when life seems to have gone off track, yet again, I have learned to just let it go and trust that my loving, all-knowing, and faithful Heavenly Father has this, too!
Written by: Gay Idle
Read more from Gay at www.gayidle.com.
How important is kindness? In a recent study of 37 cultures around the world, 16,000 subjects were asked about their most desired traits in a mate. For both sexes, the first preference was kindness!
As women of character, we must develop the desire to be kind. This character trait is critical in reflecting Christ in our lives.
I think most people would say kindness is going out of their way to help someone. That is true, but there is so much more! The dictionary defines kindness as: the quality of being warmhearted, considerate, humane and sympathetic.
The character trait of kindness is an important one and, in most of us, must be developed. It simply doesn’t come naturally to many of us.
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
Paul’s definition of the fruit of the Spirit lists kindness as the fifth fruit. This is a natural progression of the fruits. If we exhibit the first four fruits of the Spirit-- love, joy peace and patience-- then we will show kindness.
Violence and other terrible influences in media can cause people to become desensitized toward the needs and feelings of others. Our children must be taught what it is to be kind and we must pray for them to have the desire to be kind to others.
Some people believe that to display kindness is to appear weak, but it is just the opposite.
To be kind takes courage. Displaying kindness toward another person requires discipline and a determination to take the focus off ourselves.
Paul warns of us an end time world without kindness in 2 Timothy, Chapter 3.
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.
2 Timothy 3:1-3
Where Do We Start?
Keep a soft heart-We must keep our hearts soft and tender toward others and allow ourselves to feel compassion. This is often a difficult area for those of us who have been hurt in the past. But it is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore it is important enough to focus on. Ask Jesus to help you keep a tender attitude and a soft, pliable heart toward others.
Look for opportunities-Watch for people and situations that the Lord places in your path that could use a word of kindness. Let’s purpose to be aware and alert to situations and needs of others.
Take action- We must decide to take action as soon as we see the need. If we hesitate, or think “I will do it later”, the opportunity may vanish. Taking action will often include some kind of self-sacrifice on our part. This often is a sacrifice of our time, or an altering in our own personal schedule. Taking action may be simply speaking encouragement to someone, giving them hope and showing them, they are not alone.
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18
Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4
We must be careful that our acts of kindness are not motivated by pride.
What is every act of kindness we ever displayed was kept quiet and no one knew? Would we still be as motivated to act? Genuine kindness is lending a helping hand when you expect nothing in return.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4
Live It Out
What does the word kindness mean to you? What do we accomplish when we show kindness?
Ask God to place kindness and mercy in your heart. Take a closer look at those who have not treated you kindly or mistreat others and ask God to give you a merciful heart and kind attitude toward those people.
Written By: Sherry Poundstone
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