I hope that everyone’s holiday season was spectacular! Of course, we all know the new year is a time for goals and resolutions. This year, I set a goal to trust in God and hope in His plan more than I ever have, being completely open to His plan, knowing He will guide my footsteps through times of joy and pain. I challenge you all to do the same. When we put our trust in God during good times, we are saving up for the bad times. Our hope in Jesus Christ endures the worst of conditions. It’s more than our optimism. Let your hope be unchanged throughout 2015. Put all trust in God. He is God with us; all sufficient.
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The season of giving is fast approaching. Maybe you are already involved in the hustle and bustle, making sure you choose the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Or perhaps you're leaving hints here and there to make sure you receive the perfect gift ;). Either way, this time of year seems to not only bring joy, but also a bit of stress - the shopping, the cooking, the decorating, all of which are part of the fun and festivities, but all of which can overwhelm the easiest of schedules. With all of the busyness of this wonderful time of year, I encourage all of us to reflect on the important things.
As I look over the past year, I realize how truly blessed I am. Several times recently, I've been asked for a Christmas wish list. Each time, my answer is the same, "I really don't have one." I'm not in dire need of anything in particular, which is a huge blessing. But even in this stance, I find myself occasionally getting caught in the excitement of receiving the "perfect" gift. Hmmm... maybe money, clothes, a new watch, purse, a puppy, or perhaps a new car. However, I remind myself that I have chosen to celebrate the Christmas season with a different approach. This year, maybe you'd like to join with me. How about we make it our responsibility to receive the perfect gift.
Through scripture, we learn that God chose a pure and willing vessel named Mary to give birth to the greatest and most perfect gift of all, love through Jesus Christ. Why not open ourselves with willingness and prayerfulness during this giving season for Jesus to be born in us! Let us make our heart His Bethlehem. May He shape us into something new and incredible. And above all else, let His light and love shine through us to the broken and to those bound in darkness. May God's gift to us be received without reservation, and may the time we have set aside to celebrate this marvelous gift of love through Jesus Christ bring hope and cheer. And may HIS Christmas story speak through us all!
During the season of Thanksgiving, it's easy to be thankful, especially for family, friends, and feasting. But it's not so easy to be thankful for things like a flat tire, an empty wallet, or a gloomy day. And what about when that so called friend brings on hurt feelings? Or when a doctor speaks a dreaded diagnosis over your symptoms? Sometimes, the simple word no makes it difficult to be thankful.
Last Thanksgiving, something tragic happened that made it very hard for my family to be thankful. My mom's cousin was walking his dog that brisk morning and suddenly fell dead. Doctors and nurses tried all they could to revive him, but he had crossed over. How could this happen? And on Thanksgiving Day? Only God has the answers for situations like this, but all we can do is what the scripture instructs us to do in I Thessalonians. "In every thing, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
One day out of 365, we are encouraged to be thankful. So I suppose it's a day we shove out all of the things that would strip us of gratefulness and clothe ourselves with the cloak of gratitude. What would happen, however, if we made every day of the year a day of thanksgiving? In spite of all the negatives, such as the wilting economy, the homeless, the abused, can we plow through with a spirit of thanksgiving? Being thankful is more than cliche'. It's disciplining our mind and our spirit, that no matter what comes our way, we will be thankful… everyday… in every thing.
The flawless sky of October with sprinkles of yellows and reds is absolutely inspiring and sets the stage for reading some great books. I grew up with books. As a very young child, my family visited the library and would check out as many books at one time that was allowed. My mom read to my sister and me every day until we learned to read. Over time, I've had many favorites. I don't necessarily follow any particular author; I just like to find books that speak to me, whether fiction or nonfiction. When choosing a book, I try to make sure it is morally decent. I am currently reading ANOTHER DAY IN THE FRONTAL LOBE, a book in which the author, a female neurosurgeon, recounts some of her most dramatic cases. Not just this month, but throughout the year, I want to encourage you to read, read, and read some more. Reading is a window and takes us on journeys otherwise not available.
Over the past few weeks, a book that has captivated my attention is Gray Matter. Not only is it fascinating with its dramatic descriptions of successful and unsuccessful surgeries, but it is spiritually inspiring as Dr. Levy, a neurosurgeon discovers the power of prayer for his patients and their families. Working in the medical field, I can relate to Dr. Levy's insights when it comes to medical practices coupled with prayer and the healing process.
I was driving to church this past Sunday morning and I could not help but roll my windows down, breathe in the crisp morning air, and take in the early signs of fall, fast approaching. I do love this time of year, for it is the time I am really able settle down after all the happenings of summer and get into a routine. A huge part of my daily routine is getting my form of exercise. I am a huge fan of the outdoors. My favorite physical activity of all is cruising on my bike down long, winding, country roads. However, on days I am not able to ride my bike, I will either go to the gym or go for a run.
Discipline in bodily exercise and living a healthy lifestyle is Biblical. Third John 1:2 states "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be n health, even as thy soul prospereth." We have all heard references to our body being The Lord's temple and that we are take care of it, but even more important than physical health is spiritual health. Having a disciplined walk with God does not just entail a blessed life, it also leaves us with the hope of an eternity with Jesus. Paul spoke of physical health in retrospect to spiritual health when he wrote Timothy. First Timothy 4:8 says "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise for both the present life and the life to come.' So, yes, live a healthy lifestyle; exercise, eat healthy, and do not be afraid to enjoy yourself every once in a while. But most of all, pray everyday, read you Bible and search for God's will in your life....prepare for the life that is to come.
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HOT! HOT! HOT! Whew! The weather is hot! It is that time of year when it has become almost unbearable to spend an extended amount of time outdoors. Thankfully, it is also the time of year for watermelons! My favorite fruit! I love being able to eat a cool, juicy, delicious watermelon on an August day. However, I do not love it so much if it is not a seedless watermelon. I do not like the extra effort a watermelon with seeds makes me exert. Every bite requires me to have to spit seeds out, and if I am not outside, it requires me to have to take the effort to find a container to spit them in. It makes me so happy going to the grocery and being able to buy a hassle free, seedless watermelon.
In our lives, we sometimes go through situations that leave little black specks on our heart, just like those dreaded black seeds in an otherwise perfect watermelon. When people we invest time, effort, and energy into say things or do things that hurt us, we have a tendency to avoid them due to the blemishes, or black spots. We go on the search for people who appear spotless… or seedless. We keep that feeling of betrayal inside us, so that we remember not to trust that individual again. However, this is not the way we were instructed to live our lives. Matthew 6:14 states "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you." The lesson of forgiveness is a very difficult lesson to learn because it requires us to let go of our pride in order to let the wrongdoing go. Forgiveness is an opportunity for growth. Just like those black seeds take some effort, once they are "let go", they hold with them the opportunity to let something new grow and flourish. So, take this opportunity that has been afforded you. Go to a brother or sister who has wronged you, forgive them, let the situation go, and watch the things God will let flourish in your life.
I can't believe it's already the end of June! Where did it go? Looking over my shoulder, I realize how blessed and fortunate I am to have godly men praying for me and caring for me. My dad and my grandfather are two of the most faithful Christian men I know and l never want to take that for granted. As this month that celebrates fathers is closing, I want to not only give high respect and honor to the fathers of families, but also fathers of our church and of our nation. Without the great prayerful leadership, hard work, and dedication of fathers, our lives would no doubt be drastically different. So to all of the fabulous fathers who have big decisions to make on a daily basis to guide families, business, and government, thank you!
On my 18th birthday, I received a card from a dear friend of mine. I don't remember much about what the card had printed on the front, or the clever catchphrase (surely a Hallmark moment). I do, however, remember what was handwritten on the inside…
"Happy Birthday, Hayley! Remember, those who love you… especially your mom and dad who are usually right and have your best interest at heart. Listen to them and heed their advice, even when it's the last thing you want to do."
Four years down the road, looking back, I probably should have made at least a dozen copies of that card and placed it as a constant reminder in my life.
I was raised by very loving parents who have a very strong walk with God and always made sure I was involved in church activities. I was also homeschooled by my mother… which was a lot harder that you might think! (ha!) But, like most young girls, I reached a point in my life where I thought it was time to figure some things out on my own. The majority of the values my parents instilled in me, I never questioned, but some things I just had to learn myself.
There were a few situations that, I'm ashamed to say, I blatantly went against my parents' advice. My parents never went by the "let her make the mistake, and she'll come around eventually and realize we were right" method. As a matter of fact, it was just the opposite. My parents fought tooth and toenail over me… and honestly, I resented it at the time. No, I never went totally crazy and never went out partying, drinking, or doing drugs. But if my parents had given up the fight, it might have come to that end.
As young people, it's so easy to think we know everything and to think that those who love us and are authority figures in our lives don't understand. However, this is not the case. Authority is placed in our lives as a part of God's divine plan. Yes, we all have different giftings and are called to do different things for the kingdom. However, we are ALL called to be submissive, not only to God and His Word, but also to the authority God has placed over us.
No, my going against my parents' advice in the past did not result in a tragedy, or spin my life far off the course God has for me, but it did place some issues and burdens on my life that I would otherwise not have to face. At times, I would forget that His stamp of approval is the only one that matters and NOT validation through the eyes of others. I struggled so much with desiring the approval of others that I felt as though my joy had been completely stolen. I became very weak and was no match for my flesh, but I came to realize that the joy of The Lord is my strength!
I am so thankful that my parents never gave up on me and that they unconditionally loved me through all things.
If you are a young girl or boy who struggles with these same issues, be honest with yourself and with your authority figures, whether it be a parent, youth pastor, pastor, teacher… whoever! God placed them in your life for a reason! Appreciate them.