Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unwrapping the Gift of Humility

Most of us are busy preparing to celebrate Christmas next week.  Shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating, addressing Christmas cards, planning visits, etc. take up much of our time and brain power.  Christmas is something to be celebrated!  Our Savior, came to Earth, and was born to save us.  We rejoice as we remember the miracle of Christ’s birth.

The aspect of Christ’s birth that really strikes me is the humility of it.  It really isn’t one that is focused on all that often.  We know the story so well, that maybe we forget just how amazing it really is.  When parents begin to raise their children, we want them to be filled with self-confidence and strength, but do we think about nurturing humility in them?  The world sees humility as weakness.  Who wants their child to be perceived as weak?  No one.  We teach our children and perhaps, even ourselves, not to roll over and play dead, but to stand up for ourselves.  While we do that, we are to be Christ like, and Christ was the epitome of humility on Earth.

Let’s look at some examples of this:
  • ·         Jesus had been surrounded by perfection and beauty in the presence of God, and yet he descended here to be born in a dirty animal feeding trough.
  • ·         His mother was young, and unmarried from an obscure town.  Mary was not a prominent citizen from a royal family.  Being  a child conceived out of wedlock was scandalous in that time.  Yet, our Savior chose to come in this way.
  • ·         When King Herod heard that a king had been born in Bethlehem, he killed all of the children there two years old and under.  This wasn’t exactly a peaceful situation that He chose to come into.

These are very different circumstances than the ones that detail the recent birth of the royal baby in England.  Why would the King of Kings choose this?  It’s baffling.  His humility continued throughout His life.  He chose to be a servant. 

Karen shares the following story:
I was the Director of Operations for a big church.  One morning I was at work at 5 am to set up for voting.  The night before, we had a stopped up toilet in the men’s room. Yuck!  We called a plumber and he fixed it.  I went to check on it that morning.  He had fixed it all right, but I found a mess.  He had sloshed the “contents” all over the walls and floor.  I had to clean it.  I couln’t ask someone else to clean, even if there had been someone else to ask.  I got out the rubber gloves and scrubbed someone else’s excrement from the toilet, walls, and floor…but I moaned, groaned, complained and whined the whole time. 
Then, BAM! Suddenly, God spoke to me in a way that made me laugh and then it made me cry.  On the floor, on my knees, I heard Him say, ‘Karen, if you are going to keep seeking the world’s definition of greatness, you are going to keep finding yourself cleaning up someone else’s “contents”.’

Humility isn’t being weak.  It’s being a part of a kingdom where our lives are not based on what we can do, but what God can do through us, and how we can serve Him and other people as we strive to show love. 

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, let’s remember the sacrifice that He made in coming here to save us, choosing to serve and continually cleaning up our messes.
Help us remember the miracle that You provided for us through the physical birth of Your Son.  Open our eyes to the joy of giving without receiving, the blessing of lifting up others in praise, the excitement of watching others succeed, the beauty in humility and the power in servant hood.

Passages to Ponder:
James 4:7- So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Matthew 20:28- For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.
I Peter 5:6- So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda and Kim McClure

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Learning Life Lessons

WHAT do you think of when you hear the word discipline?  For most, the word has a negative connation, but it yields positive results. 

WHO do you think of when you hear that word?  Is it a teacher from the past, your parents, your boss, or God?  It could be any or all of them.

The word discipline means training that corrects, molds or perfects moral character.  Those of us who have children know the burden of disciplining them.  Yes, I said it is a burden.  It’s hard.  It’s hard on us emotionally to do something that we know is going to upset our kids even when we know it has to be done.  There are many times when making sure that your discipline remains consistent with your children ends up punishing you too.  It’s immensely difficult to stand your ground. 

So, why not just give in?

We don’t give in because we love our children.  Discipline is one of the building blocks of love.  We are all born with the nature to do wrong.  We have to be taught what we need to do, and the difference between right and wrong.  This training teaches our kids respect, to have standards and to have self-discipline.  Ask any teacher and they can tell you easily which students have rules that are enforced in the home and which ones don’t.

Developing moral character in our children is the goal.

 The process isn’t about beating them over the head with what they did wrong over and over again, but getting to the HEART of the issue and instructing them how to handle a situation better next time.  We do it out of love and grace.  We push ourselves to remain consistent because the years of redirecting, and teaching pay off as our children grow up.  When we fail to do this, it sends the message, “ I don’t care either way what you do.”  

How sad would that be to feel that from God?

God is our Father.  As His children, He will discipline us.  God is molding us into what He wants us to be, and if He sees us going down the wrong track, He will set things in motion to teach us something valuable.  Being the child receiving the discipline isn’t fun either, but it is necessary.  The beautiful side of it is that we know that God loves us, because if He didn’t, He wouldn’t bother with trying to teach us something. 

God loves you with mercy and grace- He forgives and He FORGETS! My relationships would be so much better if I could get that "forget" part down.

God is slow to anger- but He does get angry! Just as we get angry with our kids, it’s usually because they have hurt us.  I think our Father above may feel the same at times.

God loves you with a love that never stops- There are no conditions to His love.  Whether we choose to obey Him or not, He is still going to love us.

As God shapes us into what He wants us to be, the process is painful, because we are fighting against our sinful nature, but the results are always good.  How awesome is it that He loves us enough to help us get up when we fall?  It would be much easier to just turn away and focus on His children that are “behaving” better than we are at the time.

Hang in there!  If you are feeling like nothing is going your way, God might be trying to teach you something.  Stop, find a quiet place, and ask Him what you need to know.  Then…LISTEN and allow yourself to learn.

Passages to Ponder:

Proverbs 13:24- Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.  Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

Proverbs 22:15-A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away.

Proverbs 29:17- Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Tammy Holtzapfel, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald and Kristy Tolley

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Time Is A Four Letter Word

Time is how we measure the existence or duration of something.  Our calendars are full of appointments with times next to them, we express our age based on a measurement of time, we describe our children by stating their year in school.  When you’re young, time drags on forever, and as you get older, it seems to zoom by leaving us to wonder where all of it went.  We often say “ I just don’t have time.”  The truth is, we all have the same amount of hours in a day, and we all must choose what to do with those hours.  When you prioritize your day to maximize the use of your time, is spending time in Scripture and praying at the top of your list, somewhere in the middle, or is it a flexible item at the bottom that can be skipped if need be?

First off, to quote my childhood preacher, “I’m preaching at me, and letting it run off on you.”  God wants to be in the center of my heart.  He wants to be in the center of yours too.  It’s interesting that one of the greatest gifts He gives women is to be a mother, and boy, do kids take up a lot of time.  It’s easy to give our children that coveted center spot.  We want to protect them, and we want them to be the best at everything so we schedule ourselves and them with lessons and practices and tutoring sessions until we hear ourselves saying, “ I just didn’t have time..”.  There’s nothing wrong with lessons or practices or tutoring as long as God still has priority, and we acknowledge Him as the giver of these children, as we humbly and lovingly accept the role as their protectors, teachers, and providers. 

Television is a big issue with time too.  I love sitting with my family and watching tv.  There’s nothing wrong with watching tv, but the amount of time I spend watching it compared to the amount of time I spend in God’s Word is embarrassing for me to even share.  If this speaks to you, let me go further.  There are several of us that have struggled with watching shows that we enjoyed, but knew they weren’t good for us.  If you feel convicted to turn it down or off when your kids come in the room, ask yourself why you’re watching it.  I, Kim, am speaking as a recovered addict of the Real Housewives of Everything.

If it isn’t television for you it might be Candy Crush, Facebook, or many other things…even ministry. Yep, that’s right.  Doing good things for the Lord can actually overtake the priority of studying His word and praying because “I just don’t have time..”  That’s a dangerous place to dwell.  It doesn’t feel dangerous, but that’s what make it even more so.  God isn’t honored when we work so hard for Him that we forget to read, pray, or when our family is neglected by our service.

A popular saying is that time changes everything, but God’s word doesn’t change. Ever.  People will tell you to “Get with the times”, well okay but we need to be in alignment with God’s word and that doesn’t change no matter how many kids we have, how many tv shows are created, how many games are downloaded, how many friends we keep up with on social media, or how many ministries we are serving in.

Somehow, we need to find a happy medium so that we can enjoy all of these things and still put God at the top of the list. 
  • ·         Talk to Him about your kids and their lives.  Ask Him to guide them and you as you parent them.
  • ·         Ask God to “nudge” you when the shows you are watching are sneakily harming your spiritual growth.
  • ·         Ask God to show you which ministries you should be involved in, and to help you examine your motives in saying Yes before you get involved.

There is no greater witness to others about your relationship with God than the way you invest your time.
If your calendar could talk, what would it say about you and your relationship with God?

Passages to Ponder:
I John 5:21- Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
Revelation 2:3-4 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.  But I have this complaint against you.  You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.
Matthew 6:33- Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Catherine Caracio, Kathy Derda and Kim McClure

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Project Lifestyle: What Does My Reality Show?

I am a huge fan of Project Runway.  It always amazes me how the designers can create such unique designs.  The process is fascinating.  They receive the challenge, create a pattern, get their materials, and physically construct the garment that shows their individuality while self-evaluating, and fitting it to their models before it is shown on the runway.   It truly is a process, and consistency is key while sticking to their goal no matter the curve balls that might be thrown at them. The lifestyle that we project as Christians to the world is relevant to this. 

Receiving A Challenge
When we truly have Christ in our lives, it shows.  There is a definite change in our behavior, our demeanor and in the way we deal with challenges.  When we have Jesus as our Savior, we are changed from the inside out and our new lives reflect that change.  It is evident in everything we do.  You can’t hide a light, no matter how dim.  It always shines in darkness.  I’ve been around families that know Christ and some who don’t that are facing tragedy.  The difference in their attitude and outlook is night and day: literally darkness and light.

Creating a Pattern
A pattern is a reliable sample of observable characteristics of a person.  Designers use patterns to form a foundation of their ideas.  The patterns that are observable in our lives form the foundation by which people see us.  A fake or phony can be spotted a mile away.  It’s important to back up what we say with our actions.  As Christians we know that we can’t be bad enough to make God love us less, and we can’t be good enough to make Him love us more.  To show a reliable sample of Christ like characteristics to the world, we just need to obey.  It isn’t about being perfect, it’s about trying to be consistent and being humble enough to apologize and ask for forgiveness when we mess up.

Getting the Materials
Where do I get the stuff to make my lifestyle reflect Christ? God’s word gives us what we need.  It is important to know what the Bible says about this.  Ephesians and James are great books to start with.  Reaching out to other people who are also on the journey is a good resource too.  Many times we think that we are the only people in the world that have our specific problems, but that isn’t true.  Having a support system that will listen and help you find the materials you need is a gift.

Constructing our Individuality
God created all of us as individuals.  He loves each of us individually.  There isn’t a cookie cutter that we all have to fit into.  It’s important to be yourself- completely genuine, so that when you do talk about your faith, people believe you because they know you are authentic.  It’s also important not to judge others for being individuals.  God created them the way they are, and they might think you’re as wrong as you think they are.  Loving each other will always trump judging each other-ALWAYS.

It’s important to evaluate ourselves and how we are representing Christ.  Are you going to struggle with messing up and not showing self control all the time? Yes.  Don’t give up, though.  Take responsibility for your struggles, own up to your mistakes and stop beating yourself up for not being perfect.  Personally, I want to hear about Christ from someone who will share their struggles with me, rather than someone who never admits to facing difficulty.  Don’t be afraid to share your process of self-evaluating.  Someone might really need to hear it.

Fitting and Adjusting
If after some self-evaluation, you feel that your lifestyle needs some adjusting, don’t be afraid to do it.  We might need to add some love and humility into our lives, while cutting off some areas of gossip and greed.  While this will help us fit better into God’s plan, it will almost always make us not fit in as well with those who don’t follow Him.  Faith that does nothing, is worth nothing.  Have faith that adjusting your lifestyle to fit into God’s plan will work out for the best, and allow Him to make the needed adjustments in your life.

Being on the Runway
All eyes are on the model on the runway.  All eyes are on us too.  What kind of model are you?  Are you a work in progress that is willing to create a consistent pattern and readjust your lifestyle to reflect Christ in the best way? If so, people will notice and they will want to know what is different about you. 

God loves all of us.  He knows we are imperfect, and He loves those things about us too.  Be yourself, and consistent in your faith when life throws curve balls.  Be who God created you to be and represent Him in the best way you can.

Passages to Ponder:
Matthew 3:8- Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.
Ephesians 5:8- For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.  So live as people of light!
James 2:24- So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda, Tammy Holtzapfel, Maria Kucharczuk, Kim McClure and Kristy Tolley

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

10 Things to Say When The Words Won't Come

Have you ever had a time when you really just didn’t know what to say?  Someone comes to you and pours out their heart and problems.  You want to respond in the correct way, in the way God wants you to respond, but the words just won’t come.

 It happens when we pray too.  Many times, we want to tell God how we feel, what we need, what we want, and what we are worried about,  but the words just won’t come.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:26-28 that the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words, and that God knows and understands what the Spirit is pleading for on our behalf in harmony with God’s will.  I love that! I NEED that!

An effective and powerful tool to use when the words won’t come in prayer or with a friend, is to use God’s word.  Praying God’s word back to Him can relieve stress and burden from you because His word is true and it accomplishes all it sets out to do.

Here are 10 Scriptures to say when your words won’t come.

1.       I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.- John 17:15
This is a verse that I pray for my children.  Jesus prayed this for His disciples before His arrest, when He knew the time was coming.  Jesus knew that they would need protection from the evil one.  I find it powerful to pray this verse for my teen children as they face the world on a daily basis.

2.        I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those he called- His holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance- Ephesians 1:18
When people begin to doubt God’s goodness, and their importance to Him, this is a great verse to pray.  Change the words a little “I pray that ______’s heart will be flooded with light so that _______ can understand the confident hope You have given to those You have called.”

3.       May He grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed- Psalms 20:4
We all have times when choices have to be made.  Should I take that job?  Where should I live?  Is it time to buy a house? Etc.  Although, it is essential to remain humble in order to please God, He wants us to come to Him with our heart’s desires and let Him know what we want.  This verse can reassure someone or yourself that He really does care and wants us to be happy as we seek God’s will in our lives.

4.       Come close to God, and God will come close to you- James 4:8a
It’s easy to become distracted by the business of life, and put God on the backburner.  Some feel when that happens, that they aren’t worthy of God’s grace, and they don’t know how to get close to Him again.  This passage makes it simple.   That’s what busy people need- simplicity.  If we come close to Him, He will come close to you.  That’s comforting.

5.       Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.- Psalms 80:19
It can be heartbreaking when someone we love turns their back on God.  One mother of a son who proclaims that he no longer believes in God prays this verse in this manner, “ Restore him, Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine on Him, that He may be saved.” 

6.       How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying Your word- Psalms 119:9
Purity is hard to come by.  Whether it’s someone who is young in age, or someone is young in their Christianity, this Scripture can be prayed as encouragement in its simplicity.  Obeying God’s word will keep you pure.

7.       I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit- Romans 15:13
When friends come to you and they are depressed about something, they are lacking hope, joy, and peace.  God is the source of hope.  You cannot be depressed and be hopeful.  These words are powerful to hear.  Don’t be afraid to pray it for yourself.  “ I pray that You, the source of hope, will fill me completely with joy and peace because I trust in You.  Help me overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Try it and mean the words, you will see change happen in your life.

8.       Now all glory to God, who is able through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think- Ephesians 3:20
When someone is struggling with confidence or feeling unable to do something, this proclamation that God is working within them can be very encouraging.  He can not only help them succeed at what is before them, but can lead them to even greater things.  This is another verse that can be prayed for our children as they set out in their own lives. “Now all glory to God, You are able through Your mighty power at work within _____ to accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think.”

9.       This is my command- be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.- Joshua1:9
God doesn’t want us to be afraid, but it is a common emotion.  Fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear for a medical report result, fear of confrontation in a relationship.  Remind yourself or a friend when fear sets in, that God is with you wherever you go.  He is there.  Be strong. Be courageous. Look for Him and He will be found.

10.   He does great things too marvelous to understand.  He performs countless miracles- Job 9:10
This passage is one that has brought comfort to many people as they are facing a crisis in their lives.  God still performs miracles.  He does things that we never see on our behalf, and we couldn’t understand them if we did see them.  When fear, exhaustion, and doubt start to set in, pray this verse to God and thank Him for doing these things on our behalf.

You might be asking how to remember these when you need them. 
  • ·         I have a list on my iphone, and when someone asks me to pray for them,  I find the one that speaks to me at that time, and I pray it for them, and then I let them know what the Scripture says. 
  • ·         Make a list on a piece of paper and stick in it your wallet.
  • ·         Highlight or underline in your Bible.

When the words won’t come, use the Word of God and watch the power of it transform a situation.

Do you have Scripture that you pray?  Please share to encourage each other.  

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Maria Kucharczuk and Kim McClure

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Friend Factor

If you have children, you know how important their choice of friends can be.   It is hard when they become older and we, as parents, are not their main source of advice.  Who we count as friends is important in our lives too.   When you watch those safari shows and you see herds of animals, notice that it’s the one that gets separated from the herd that gets attacked.  It’s important to have a group to stay in for protection from attacks.

What is the friend factor?  The word factor means “one that actively contributes to the production of a result”.  Have you ever considered that your friends are actively contributing to the production of a result in you?  They are.  And you are doing the same for them.

So, what are some things that constitute a friendship that will produce a good result?

F- Faithful:  Many, especially women, get caught up in the concept of being popular, and will let anyone into their inner circle, to create an image of popularity.  There are also many of us that have learned that it’s more important to have a few really good friends you can trust, rather than a lot of “friends” that you can’t.  These faithful friends are people who share your beliefs and will respond to a quick prayer request text or a question no matter what time of day or night.  It’s a lot easier to try new things and shoot for the stars in life when you have friends who will love you and have your back whether you succeed or fail. 

R- Reason:  A friend serves as a voice of reason.  Let’s face it, we can tend to get carried away and blow things out of proportion at times.  We all need that friend who isn’t afraid to call us out on that, the one who isn’t afraid to set us straight when our thoughts are on ourselves, whether we are wrapped up in work, relationship problems, addictions or anything else that turn our thoughts away from God in a situation.

I-Influence:  Every girl at every age needs a friend that can be completely trusted with your heart, and even with the sins you are battling.  Loving one another in the not so fun times, the trials, the differences, etc. without judgment is crucial. Allowing yourself to be influenced by someone that you trust and shares your beliefs can lead to being a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate person.

E-Encourage:  We all need encouragement.   Even when we don’t fully understand what our friend is going through, it’s okay.  Being there with them is what matters.  Having a friend that will hit the gym with you, comfort you when you are sick or your child is going through a tough time is a treasure.  Knowing that you have someone who will point out the positives when you feel vulnerable can be very fortifying.

N-Nurture:   Your friends mold you into who you become.  Sometimes, we find friends who have a negative effect on our lives.  Those relationships can be tricky and it’s difficult to end a friendship, but if a friend is bringing things into your life that are keeping you from growing, they are not good for you.  Friends  nourish your spirit, not drag you down. 

D-Discern:  When developing a friendship,   it’s key to remember that each person is an individual truly made by God, not a clone of yourself.  A discerning friend will help you recognize things, people, or events that may not be good for you.  They have the advantage of standing outside of a situation and looking in with their unique perspective.  If you really trust this person, don’t just brush off what they are saying, try to see it through their eyes.

I hope that everyone out there has at least one friend in your life that fits within the friend factor.  Think about your friendships, and ask yourself:
  • ·         Do my friends know that I will support them in new adventures whether they succeed or fail?
  • ·         Am I willing to listen to someone be my voice of reason?
  • ·         Am I vulnerable enough to trust my friends when I am struggling with something?
  • ·         Am I ready to be there for my friends even though I don’t understand what they are going through?
  • ·         Am I willing to release any friendships that are dragging me down spiritually?
  • ·         Can I open my eyes and try to see things from a friend’s perspective?

That’s the kind of friend we should be.  Pride makes that difficult for many of us.  Once you have been betrayed by a friend, it can be hard to trust someone again, but it’s worth it.  Let’s strive to be the kind of friend that produces a good result in others.

Passages to Ponder:

Proverbs 27:17- As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 24:26- An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.
Proverbs 12:26- The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.
Malachi 3:18- Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Jodi Dunbar,Tammy Holtzapfel, Maria Kucharczuk, Kim McClure and Kristy Tolley

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Peer Pressure: Not Just for Teens

Isaiah 51:7
Listen to me, you who know right from wrong, you who cherish my laws in your hearts.  Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults.

Peer Pressure is a term that is mainly associated with teenagers.  Adolescence is a confusing time.  As one grows into adulthood, the knowledge of right and wrong is within, but when faced with certain situations, it can be difficult to live that out when in the minority.  Eventually, most people mature into adults who are able to think for themselves and do not depend on the approval of others as a basis of how to live.  I believe this is what God wants us to do also.  He wants us to be spiritually mature so that we depend on His word to see what is right and what is wrong, not what those around us think.

Sadly, I know many adults who continue to base their decisions on how they will be perceived by others, rather than having the confidence to stick to their beliefs of what is right and what is wrong.  One reason for this is that they don’t like conflict or confrontations.  The truth is that you will most likely be confronted. Unfortunately, the people who are trying to convince you to do something that you don’t believe is right, will be twice as loud as the opposing side.  Maybe that’s because they’ve figured out that bullying works, and in some twisted way, they have decided that it’s acceptable.

As an adult who chooses not to drink any alcoholic beverages, I can tell you that peer pressure and bullying isn’t just for teenagers.  I don’t understand why people get so worked up over it.  As long as the behavior doesn’t become destructive, I don’t care if they drink alcohol, so I never get why they get so upset when I don’t.  Just as a side note, there might be reasons that people choose not to participate in certain behavior that has nothing to do with you, such as medical reasons, family history of dependency, a commitment to stop the behavior, it doesn’t fit into their framework as being the right thing to do, and others.  And News Flash! Those reasons aren’t any of your business.

Choosing to do what is right will cost you.  There may not be any monetary cost, but there is almost always a cost in popularity and acceptance.  It takes a lot of self-confidence to step out in faith, especially when it comes to telling others about Christ and what He did for us.  Being scorned and insulted is never enjoyable.  It’s human nature to want to be liked by people, and God wants us to have relationships while we are here, so I don’t believe we are supposed to curl ourselves up in a world that is totally permeated by Christian culture either.  We are supposed to let our light shine in a dark world, not just reflect off of others who share that light. It’s easy to talk to others about Jesus when we share the same beliefs.   It’s not so easy when they don’t.  Having said that, we have been commissioned to go out there and tell people about the gospel.  God is a necessary part of that equation.  He is the one who prepares a heart to hear the gospel.  He uses us to do His work, but ultimately He is doing the work within the hearts and souls of other people.

How can we know if someone is ready to hear it?   Kathy shares the following, “I have decided to start my day with these words, ‘I will only do and say what you want me to.  I will only walk where you want me to walk.  Just lead me.’”  Those are wise words and a great way to start any day.

How to Stand Firm:
  • ·         Know God’s word and know what He says is right, and what He says is wrong.  That’s where the basis of our framework should come from.  Don’t take anybody else’s word for it.  Spend 10 minutes per day in your Bible while asking God to show you what He wants you to see in His word. 
  • ·         Stand strong in your beliefs, and gather a support system of people who will encourage you and help you see the truth when you’re under pressure. 
  • ·         Plant seeds of faith by living your life reflecting Christ, and pray that God will open hearts to receive Him.  Be patient and don’t give up.
  • ·         When you’re feeling down and outcast, remind yourself of what Christ went through for you.  There is no comparison.

Passages to Ponder:
Galatians 1:10  Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Exodus 23:2  You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.  When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kathy Derda and Kim McClure

Monday, October 21, 2013

Trust, Trials, and God's Truth

Psalms 33:4
For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.

Trusting others is an issue for lots of people.  Most of us have been hurt by someone we love, and that leaves a mark on our emotions.  We might forgive them for hurting us, but we may never fully trust them again.  God can be trusted.  He doesn’t change.  There are many promises in the Bible that He makes, and He fulfills every one of them.  This week, let’s look at a few of the promises that we can count on.

Philippians 4:19 tells us that God will supply all our needs.  Karen shares the following testimony:
                My husband was laid off from work a few years back.  Just as we were about to sell our house, God gave me two full-time job offers at the newspaper where I worked.  When we weren’t sure we could buy groceries that week, we received two anonymous gift cards to grocery stores in the mail.  On one of our most desperate nights, we noticed a basket on our backyard picnic table.  It appeared to be a basket full of foil-wrapped candy.  As we unwrapped the foil packages, we found they contained, not candy, but money- twenties, tens and fives..again anonymous.  We still don’t know who heard the call of God to care for us in these special ways.

Psalms 34:18 tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted and will rescue us when our spirits are crushed.  Marla shares the following testimony:
                My mother was not healed (on Earth) of her leukemia, even after many prayers, begging and pleading with God.  BUT the hearts of myself, my family members and others (hospital workers, etc.) were forever changed through watching her strength and never failing trust in the Lord.  Maybe God had plans to work on a lot of hearts rather than heal my mom on Earth.  She is Heaven..and what a much better choice.  Although I miss her terribly, I know we will be together again.

James 1:5 tells us that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it.  Kristy shares the following testimony:
                It’s important for me to trust in Him and not my own fickle heart.  I’m the world’s worst at not thinking things through before acting on them. Or, I’ll over think them so much that I won’t know how to make a decision.  God perfectly paired my husband and me, as he is the logical person in our marriage.  I’m ready to jump all in, and he’s the one to tell me to wait. I can’t really trust in the Lord if I’m jumping into things, can I?

These testimonies are just three pieces of evidence that show the truth of God’s word in our lives.  He provides for us by using people and circumstances to fulfill His promises.  If everything in life stayed on an even keel all the time, we would not change or grow, and probably forget to praise God for our blessings because we would be used to them and begin to take them for granted.

What’s the catch?
You might be asking yourself that question.  You may read the testimonies above, and be wondering why it isn’t working for you. First of all, God works on His timetable, not ours.  He knows our future and He knows the perfect time to deliver on His promise for us. He will never be too late.  God also makes it clear through His word that He requires something from us in order to receive His promises…complete faith.  Check out the following verses for further proof.

Hebrews 11:6  And it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.

James 1:6-7  But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God aloneDo not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Romans 4:20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise.  In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises.

·         Do you believe that God exists?
·         Do you sincerely seek Him?
·         Do you believe that He will reward you?
·         Is your faith in God alone or are you trying to control the situation?
·         Are you wavering between believing and doubting?
·         Are you fully convinced that God is able?
Ask yourself those questions, and allow yourself to believe His promises and trust Him.  That’s all He wants from us.  The humility to believe that He can and will provide His promises.

If you’d like to share further stories from your life of how God has proven His promises to you, we would love to hear from you.  Please comment below or message us at

Contributors:  Karen Bromby, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald, and Kristy Tolley

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Legacy of Loyalty and Kindness

Proverbs 3:3-4
Never let loyalty and kindness leave you.  Tie them around your neck as a reminder.  Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.

When the question is posed, “Why do you hold back in telling others about Jesus?”, it’s common to hear people say that they are afraid that they will be watched too closely, others will see their mistakes, and call them a hypocrite.  It is a huge responsibility to set an example with our lives when we proclaim to follow Christ.  People do watch, and they do notice when we make mistakes, but the beautiful thing is that they also notice when we admit our mistakes, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. 

DC Talk had a very popular song with Jesus Freak.  It says, “What will people say when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak? What will people do when they find out it’s true? I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak, there ain’t no disguising the truth.”  If we live our lives honoring God, people are going to notice that we are different, and there won’t be any way to disguise it.  Proverbs 3:3-4 mentions two traits that God says will help us find favor and help us earn a good reputation not only with people, but with Him.  Those two traits are loyalty and kindness.  It says never let these things leave us.  We should remind ourselves about being this way, and have them carved or written deep in our heart.  That’s where we show love. 

Loyalty is important.  It’s absolutely necessary in a successful marriage, it is an integral piece to the puzzle of friendship, and it’s expected within a family.  Businesses have discovered the importance of it.  My wallet is filled with loyalty cards that reward me with discounts and free products when I spend my money with them.   

Being kind to others is a key component to our witness to the world.  God says that the best thing we can do to show Him to others is to love them.  The dictionary defines kind as sympathetic, helpful, and gentle.  Listening to others, helping them, and treating them gently will exhibit the love of God to people.

When I choose to be loyal to someone, it means I am not wavering in my devotion to that relationship.  That level of devotion is built over time in friendships, while it is immediate in some relationships.  When you see the face of your child for the first time, there is a deep level of loyalty that is instinctive.   My first thought when someone hurts me or someone I love, is not one of kindness.

I have recently had a situation where someone I am loyal to has had a difficult time with another individual treating them unfairly.  My actions, responses, and words were not always kind.  When I was around other people that began speaking about the same situation, I joined in on the bashing.  I know that I tarnished my good reputation as a Christ follower to those people.  That could be enough to make me just quit talking about Jesus because people might see me as a hypocrite.

Eventually, I did the mature thing about the situation, and after a lot of prayer and some advice from some of my most loyal friends, a discussion took place, and we all feel better about it now.  All I can do is renew my effort to show kindness in every situation and really pray about the importance of being loyal and kind to people, ask for forgiveness and start anew.

I am grateful for the mercy and patience that God shows me in my relationship with Him, and I want to show more grace and mercy to the people He has placed in my life.  God is still working on me, but there ain’t no disguising the truth, I am a Jesus freak.  I hope I can grow and leave a legacy of loyalty and kindness.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Passages to Ponder:

Proverbs 11:17- Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.

Romans 2:4- Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?  Does this mean nothing to you?  Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Proverbs 22:1- Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than gold or silver.

Kim McClure

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Roller Coasters and Restraining Our Inner Veruca Salt

Psalms 138:8
The Lord will work out His plans for my life- for your faithful love,  O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for You made me.

Life happens.  It has ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes flips us upside down.  It sounds like a roller coaster ride doesn’t it?  Just like on a roller coaster, no matter how nervous you are before you start, and how you might think “Why am I doing this?” during the ride, it always comes to a stop and most of the time, you’re glad you did it.  Sure, you might throw up, but most of the time people are all smiles when it’s over and that experience makes it easier to do it again when the opportunity arises.

When life starts to feel like a roller coaster ride that we don’t want to be on, how do we respond?  Are we humble enough to ask God to show us what the purpose of this is, asking Him for guidance and totally trusting Him, or do we channel Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory demanding that we get exactly what we want, pointing out anything that varies from what we want, and expecting the results we want to be done NOW? Veruca’s father spoiled her and met her every demand, which was what turned her into such a brat.  Our Heavenly Father doesn’t play that game.  He doesn’t make deals.  Doesn’t it sound ridiculous to say, “But, Heavenly Father, I want this now!”?  And what happens when He doesn’t respond immediately?
  • ·         We might react by running to anyone who will listen to us express our situation, and asking for advice.
  • ·         We might retreat like a rabbit to its hole feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
  • ·         We might give in to feeling depressed and begin taking frustrations out on others with outbursts.
  • ·         We might exemplify Veruca Salt herself and just plain pout.

Romans 8:28 tells us that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.  Did you catch the end of that verse? “His purpose for them”? His purpose for our life might not line up with our plans.  Do you live knowing that no matter what comes up, God will never abandon you and that He will continue to love you?  It’s difficult to see the top of a mountain when we are in the valley, but our eyes need to continue looking up, because that is where the answer is.  A storm might have put you in that valley, but you can’t fear the storm because our Father walks on water.  He may not be instigating whatever is happening in or around us, but He will always constant.  If we trust in Him, and not ourselves, we will be stronger for it in the end. 

Remember, God knows the past, present and future.  He always knows something that you don’t. He knows how and where and why the ride ends.   If He has said “no” to your plans, He isn’t being a mean Father, He must have something better in mind.  Believe that to be truth.  He might be trying to derail you or protect you from further suffering. We always get through the roller coaster rides of life, and when we look back we can see God’s hand and how He was in it all along.

If you know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you know that Veruca won a contest and she wasn’t very happy to see that she wasn’t the only winner.  She wanted to be the star of the situation.   

Who has the starring role in your story, you or Jesus?  Let Jesus have the lead role, jump in and hold on!

Passages to Ponder:
James 1:5- If you need wisdom, ask our generous God,  and He will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking.

Proverbs 3:5- Trust in the Lord will all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Philippians 4:6- Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.

Contributors:  Kathy Derda, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald and Kristy Tolley

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nurturing a No-Nagging Zone

Proverbs 19:13b- A quarrelsome wife is annoying as constant dripping

We all have a list of things to do, and sometimes we feel that those tasks will never be accomplished.  When a task has a deadline, it increases the importance of that task, but what do we do when our spouse or child doesn’t feel the same urgency that we do?  Ladies..we tend to nag them.  It’s a natural response.  In my case, it’s an issue of letting go and not having control over the situation.  If I have control over it, then I know that it will get done on my timetable and I will be able to check it off my list.  However, life doesn’t work that way.

This passage in Proverbs compares a quarrelsome wife to water that constantly drips.  Have you ever had a leaky faucet? It can be a sound that wears on one’s patience and nerves, until somehow your brain adapts and you start to tune it out.  That’s what happens when we are quarrelsome or argumentative with people.  We wear on their patience and nerves until they start to tune us out.  Just last week I texted my son “I’m not going to nag you, but…” . I guarantee that he didn’t even read the rest of that message. 

The truth is in this world where most homes have two partners working outside the home full-time, and children with activities packing our calendars, we can get a little tired which can lead to irritability and stress.  I have no doubt that Satan loves to see our calendars full of activities and that he fully enjoys when we take our stress out on each other.  After all, he would love to destroy the family unit.  There is no other way he can hurt us so deeply or make us doubt God’s goodness than when we lash out on those we love and our family unity suffers.  We need to learn to pick our battles, and pick them wisely.

                Karen shares what choosing her battles has looked like in her marriage.
“I spent a good part of my first few years of marriage nagging my careful, thoughtful, SLOW husband to complete projects that he started, and to start projects that he didn’t think of and on and on and on.  What helped me to stop nagging was studying Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.  This book helped me to see the good qualities that make my dear husband so careful, thoughtful, etc., and it helped me to see that my nagging was not good for my marriage.  I used to create false deadlines to push him along.  I used to try doing things myself to just get them done which infuriated him.  I used to leave notes and reminders.  I don’t do any of those anymore.  I let normal consequences occur, and that was difficult for me at first.  Now that I don’t nag him anymore, when I truly do need something done on a timetable, he listens and tries to do it in a timely manner.  We’ve come a long way baby!  Another thing that only God could do.”

We are under a lot of pressure to succeed.  Parents feel the pressure to perform at work so that they keep their job which continues to provide stability and financially for the family.  Kids are under pressure to succeed in school and in their extra- curricular activities.  Home should be the place where we can all come and not feel pressure, but there are things there that have to be dealt with too. 

Jeremiah 10:23 tells us “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.  We are not able to plan our own course.”  God is in control.  We are not.  Our homes don’t need to be spotless, we don’t have to be involved in every activity and win top honors in all of them.  In some cases, these issues are prideful and cause more pressure than pleasure to those involved.  If your home runs smoothly, and is a no-nagging zone, would you share with us your tips for success?  Your experiences might help someone that can relate to your situation.  We would love to hear from you!

Passages to Ponder:

Colossians 3:21- Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.

2 Peter 1:5-6 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.  Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness.

Romans 8:6- So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 

Contributors: Karen Bromby and Kim McClure

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Popularity, Pop-Culture, and Purity

I Thessalonians 4:3
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from sexual sin.
They need you to be bold and brave, and not shy away from talking to them about something that we didn’t discuss when we were growing up. Yes, I’m talking about sex.  Teenagers have recreational sex coming at them from every media outlet and social network.  Compare an episode of Happy Days to an episode of How I Met Your Mother, and you will see how much television has changed as far as discussing sexual activity.  Long gone are the days when Fonzie would allude to having a girl sleep over in his apartment.  Now, the characters are berated and ridiculed if they come home after a date, instead of sleeping over or bringing someone home.
They need you to take advantage of teachable moments and talk to them about society’s view of sex, the objectification of women, and God’s plan for sexuality.  Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of young women posting photos of themselves in little clothing, posed like a Kardashian so that every curve is seen.  Be a strong advocate and start these discussions.  It can be uncomfortable, but it is needed.
They need you to let them know that sex is intended to be an emotional connection of intimacy between two people that are willing to share their ENTIRE lives with each other, not just a way to pass the time on a Saturday night.  God wants us to be holy.  The word “holy” means worthy of complete devotion.  If we keep our sexual life holy, that means we are only sharing it with someone that has complete devotion in a relationship. 
They need you to let them know that the idea of being “popular” in high school with the boys because of sexual activity isn’t a new concept and it has been scarring women for years.  There is a double standard for girls.  It isn’t fair that the girl is labeled “easy” and the boy is heralded as a hero, but that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it has been for a long time.  Things such as wearing different colors of lipstick, nail polish or bracelets to signify how far they are willing to go with a boy is not showing self-respect and just feeds the fire of young men seeking to use them.  This is starting as early as age 12, because some girls want to lose their virginity just to get it over with, so they will be experienced.   
They need you to tell them that sexual purity is a gift to their future spouse.  The culture has changed as far as acceptance of sexual immorality, but God’s word hasn’t changed.  It isn’t uncommon to hear of girls asking their youth pastors how far they can go sexually before it isn’t okay.  They need to hear that they are worth the wait, and we can’t just rely on pastors to tell them.
They need you to encourage them even if you failed to live out this plan in your own life.   You might cringe when you read this, because you remember your own choices and know that you didn’t preserve yourself for your husband.  That can be a regret that is hard to shake.  Don’t allow yourself or others to remind you of that, and convince you that you aren’t worthy to talk to others about it.  God’s grace turns mistakes from shame into something with purpose.  Allow Him to do this through you.  The younger generation does watch the older generation, so we need to set the example.
They need to know that it isn’t too late!    God can redeem anything!  Jesus sacrificed Himself and suffered tremendously so that we can be redeemed.  Even if that line of sexual purity has been crossed, it can be forgiven and you can start over anew thanks to God’s plan of salvation. 
They need you to pray for them.  Pray that they would love and respect themselves, not craving attention in a way that could harm them emotionally and sometimes even physically with diseases.   Pray that they will know that they are worthy, and don’t need to gain “love” by doing things with guys and then telling the world about it.
Some of these things might shock you, but I assure you that “lipstick parties”, comments such as “If you don’t’ have sex, what do you do when you’re together?”, the codes for different colors of nail polish, etc. are all very real and not uncommon.  While many of us had pregnancy as our main concern in our youth, it’s now STDs that are developing at such a rate that medicine can’t keep up with treatments.  Many of these have life-long lasting effects that teenagers can’t comprehend.  I encourage you to open up a discussion with a young woman in your life, and be willing to really discuss these things with them.  At the least, you will know that they are hearing the truth as uncomfortable as it might be for both of you.
Passages to Ponder:
I Corinthians 6:18- Run from sexual sin!  No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.  For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
Titus 2:12- And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.  We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God.
Psalm 30:1- I will exalt you, O Lord, for you rescued me.  You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
Karen Bromby, Monica Brown, Kathy Derda, Jodi Dunbar, Kim McClure, Marla McDonald, and Kristy Tolley

Monday, September 16, 2013

Yielding to Yes

Ecclesiastes 11:4
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.  If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
Sometimes, it’s just as important for a Christ follower to say ‘Yes, as it is to say ‘No’.  God gave Solomon great wisdom and understanding, as well as knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore.    I Kings 3:12 says that God told him that He would give him a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have.  So, when the person with those traits speaks advice, we should listen. 
Here, Solomon is telling us that waiting for things to be perfect will result in you doing nothing, because things will never be perfect.  Some folks have a tendency to “watch every cloud” when making a decision, therefore ending up missing the opportunity that presented itself.  Others may make a quick analysis and decision.  Which end of the spectrum are you on, or are you wisely planted in the middle?  I find it interesting that when speaking with married couples, it almost always seems that one of them is a cloud watcher, and the other is one to make quick analyses and decisions, which tends to strike a good balance in their relationship.
My family is currently in a transitional period.  I have a son who is away at college, and I have a daughter who is a senior in high school.  My husband recently accepted a job 7 hours away from our home.  We have moved several times.  In fact, my friend, Shawna tells me that I owe her another “M” page in her address book because she filled hers up changing my address so many times.  When my husband and I made the decision to accept his job here 5 years ago, we determined that we would not move our kids again until they finished high school.  So, over a year ago when murmurings started happening about this new position opening up, we stayed firm in that decision.
I prayed and thanked God for the opportunity that was being presented to my husband, but I also asked Him to delay the start date until my daughter graduated from high school.  Running down a list of why the date should be postponed, and reasoning out the logical thinking that I had going on in my head.  Wow! That’s bold, huh?  Telling God WHY He should do something.  Well, guess what?  He didn’t listen to me.
 He did, however, provide a peace in my heart and as the time approached and things became official, I actually had a sense of security about the whole thing.  After all, with every move we have made, I have met some amazing people that have blessed and enriched my life in immeasurable ways.  Why wouldn’t I trust Him to take care of this situation?  I had no reason except my prideful ways of thinking that I knew best.
To no surprise, I have already been proven wrong.  We, luckily, get to see my husband frequently as he is traveling back and forth a lot, but in the time that he has been away, about 50% of that time has been spent somewhere else: doing research, in meetings, etc. preparing for next year.  Let me sum up what that would have looked like if God had done this on my timeline.  45 year old woman whose youngest child just went away to college is in a new town, with no established relationships other than her husband who is out of town 50% of the time.  That, my friends, would have been a recipe for disaster.  Instead, while he is transitioning and prepping for next year, I get to be surrounded by familiarity and enjoy my daughter’s senior year with her.
He knows best!  If we truly believe that God has our backs, then we should have a spirit of adventure and a willingness to try things when we feel we are supposed to.  God doesn’t provide a spirit of fear.  He provides a spirit of power, and love.  If there is something you feel called to do, or if there is a major decision looming on your horizon, trust Him and if He is telling you to go for it. Then…GO FOR IT!!  Ask God for wisdom.  He loves a humble heart.
We might be at a place in life where we are in this position, and we might be at a place where we are watching our adult children find their “pace” in decision making.  Share your experiences with people and let them know how faithful God has been to you.  What are you waiting for?  Yield your pride to Him, let Him guide you and honor Him by saying “Yes”.
Passages to Ponder:
2 Timothy 1:7- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
I Kings 3:10- The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.
Job 12:13- But true wisdom and power are found in God;  counsel and understanding are His.
Contributors:  Karen Bromby and Kim McClure