Tag Archives: Christian living

Transparent Christianity

Several months ago, as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feeds, a certain status caught my attention.  As I read it, my heart broke.  The friend who wrote it was very upset by the behavior of a woman who was coming to my friend for help.  Apparently, the woman in need was a “Christian” and her attitude and language was in direct contradiction to whom she claimed to be.  The next part of the status is what broke my heart.  The friend wrote something to the effect of how she didn’t even bother with church or trying to be a Christian because it was people like the rude lady who turned her off to trying to be something she was not.  To make things worse, several other people wrote things such as “Christians are hypocrites! I see them in the club on Saturday night, then see them post about the wonderful Church service they attended on Sunday Morning!”  “I will never bother with Christianity, as long as I am a good person, it is all that matters.”

Now, I can go a whole other direction in as to why, as Christians, we should always conduct ourselves in a holy manner.  About how we simply cannot blatantly sin and take advantage of what God has given us, but instead, I just want to share why I am a Christian and in doing so, I hope and pray that these words may cause someone who is outside of Christ to truly explore, and think about why they too, are very precious and very deserving of what Christianity has to offer.

Mercy.  I am a Christian because of mercy.  I am aware of it each time I pray, each time I fail, each time I walk through the doors of my congregation and praise the One who gives me mercy.  Do you know what mercy is?  Mercy is “compassion or forgiveness towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”  It is, in a sense, getting away from a very deserving punishment.  Yesterday, just a day after I realized my tag was out, I was approached by a police officer in the parking lot of my kid’s school.  (And yes, my poor kids, and I were so very embarrassed to be going through this in the school parking lot.)  I was guilty.  I was breaking the law, and was very deserving of the punishment.  I explained that I just noticed the tag the day before while putting groceries in my van, and was surprised to see it well overdue.  I was baffled as to why I didn’t receive my renewal notice.  None of it mattered though, because I stood guilty.  The officer was very understanding, and told me to go park my van until I got the tag taken care of.  I was off the hook!  I was in serious trouble because of my tag and the fact I was driving without a license, because I left my purse at home.  But he let me go.  That is mercy.  I deserved punishment, but the officer walked away.Image

This very same principal is why I am a Christian.  I believe God exists and He rules all.  I believe in his son Jesus and I believe that Jesus went to the cross because of God’s love for mankind.  I believe in God’s justice, and the wonderful choice He gives to us to follow Him or not.  But even so, the thing that still keeps me in awe is the fact that Jesus chose me to save.  He chose death so I can receive mercy from the Father.  I am a Christian because I chose to accept the gift of mercy, and I am living a life of thankfulness and obedience to God because of the sacrifice.  I am a sinner.  I have my struggles and my fallouts.  I get testy with my kids, and I argue with my husband.  I get caught up in jealousy, and I struggle with my intentions.  Being a Christian does not mean I am a saint, a better than you person, or a Bible thumper.  Being a Christian means I am accepting the mercy offered to me.  Being a Christian means I try my best every day to life for Christ because he died for me.  It means cutting the ties with the sinful life I used to lead, and removing myself from situations that may tempt me.  It means I will wake every morning to be a better person because I know I can be.

Yes, I am one of those crazy people who attends each service, and each activity.      I do not go to cover up the skeletons in my closet, or to cast judgment on those who are not church-goers like me.  I go to worship the Father and be with my family in Christ.  I go to be uplifted by the Word, and learn more about what God wants from me.  I go to participate in  taking  communion like Christ asks his followers to do in remembrance of him.  I go because I am part of a family, learning and loving together in His name.  I don’t go to flaunt how great I am to the others there, but I go because I am a sinner in need of prayer and encouragement.   As a Church family, we share our struggles, our joys, our doubts, and our questions about the faith we are to have.  We admit mistakes and ask our friends to encourage us to resist making the mistakes again.  We raise our kids together, and are in each others homes often.

So you see friends, this is the life I live.  This is the Christianity that I am a part of, and I am so sorry that for some of you, Christianity, because of the examples of others, has been a smoke and mirrors act.  It simply is not. The Church is full of admitted sinners, just wanting to love and be loved.  We receive a reward that we do not deserve and we  dedicate our lives to living Godly. Dedicated Christians know life is more about just trying to be good.  We simply cannot find our way to eternity with God if we do not follow Jesus.  He gave, and we must receive, mercy cannot be given to someone who does not want, or thinks that they don’t need it.

I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of peace I have because I am safe in God’s arms.  I want that for everyone, and if nothing, I hope this blog entry will cause those of you who are not dedicated to the Lord to take a second look, ask questions, and go to the Bible for the answers.  This is who I am, a transparent Christian, with a beautiful story of grace and forgiveness.  I am  willing  to admit how much of a sinner I am because in doing so, my story reveals just how amazing God is and how if you allow Him, He can do so much more than you can ever imagine.  I am the sinner getting pulled over in front of my children’s school while other kids shout, “Look!  Our preacher’s wife got pulled over!”.    I was shown mercy when I had no reason to deserve it.  THAT my friends is what Christianity is.  A choice to give your life to God out of a knowing that you alone are not enough.  It is a dependance on Christ, a choice to abandon selfishness and live for something bigger, a love that cannot be measured.

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Veterans Tribute: Golf Carts & Humility

Have you ever witnessed someone going above and beyond another’s expectations?  Have you ever wondered that going above and beyond does not have to be a grand act deserving of publicity, merit, or honorable mention?  Upon arriving at the VA hospital’s notorious parking lot, we found ourselves in a spot that seemed to be 100 yards away from the entrance.  It was the first substantial cool down of this year’s crazy-hot weather pattern, and the temperature was struggling at 53 degrees with 15 mph winds barreling through our climate shocked bodies.  A burly man came whipping around the corner in a golf cart offering us a ride, and yep, we took it.  He was decked out in his black Northface gear, complete with stylish Oakley’s and black gloves.  He has a big bushy grey and white beard, and on his head, he wore a black beanie with a United States Marine Corp lapel pinned to the front of it.  The retired Marine made small talk and instructed us as to where to go once inside.  We made a remark about the crazy Oklahoma weather and he jokingly said, “Sometimes I wonder why I volunteer to do this!”

His remark sent a warm feeling throughout my body.  He volunteers to do this.  This man had gone through the rigorous training of the Marine Corps.  He is part of the “few and the proud”, and he had probably seen his share of misery on the battlefield because he looked about the right age to have fought during Vietnam.  Yet, there he was, driving a golf cart around the parking lot picking up fellow Veterans.  This was a job most would turn their noses up at, but he was there, lending a hand, sacrificing his time, and on that day, his warmth for others.  This simple act made me think of the ultimate servant, Jesus Christ.  He left his throne in heaven to serve us, and give his life for us so that we too, may share in the reward of heaven someday.  The Son of God washed others feet, played with children, ate with sinners and tax collectors, gave the leapers a second glance, and reached out to a man whom society had condemned to solitary confinement.  He went above and beyond by simply humbling himself.

What if we all strove to follow in these footsteps?  To perform extraordinary tasks by simply performing an unwanted duty out of humility?  The Son of God washing others feet, the Retired Marine becoming a golf cart shofar.  The corporate president serving in a soup kitchen.  The teenager picking up trash on a Saturday morning.    In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus states, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus served.  Jesus sacrificed.  Jesus stepped out of the status quo of royalty, set aside his crown of majesty, and replaced it with a crown of thorns on our behalf. 

Let us all set aside the crowns that we think we are sometimes deserving of, and find opportunities to serve big in small ways.  I am thankful to that Retired Marine for the  sacrifice he made when he defended his country, and even more humbled that he set aside his medals, his rank, his honor, and served me with a golf cart ride on a cold day.  I am thankful that Jesus set aside his relationship with his Father; set aside his life for me, a sinner in need of grace.  What are you going to set aside today?

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Reader’s Block

For the past month, I have done little else but read a three part series set of books.  Books.  In the morning, when I would wake, I would grab my Kindle and head for the kitchen table to continue the reading from the night before.  When the kids played, I would curl up and read; I would read while they napped, and sat on the porch and read while they played outside.  We would go to the lake,  but there I would sit, on the beach blanket…reading.  I got lost in the fictional story that was set just 40 something years after the death of Jesus.  The turmoil surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and the gruesomeness of the games of the gladiators whisked me away into that time, and lured me into each character’s story.   There was love, hate, faith, forgiveness, hope, evil, good, mercy, justice, danger, war, and grief all wrapped into this amazing story.  I marveled at the way the heroine in the story kept scripture so close to her heart and would keep it running through her thoughts with every situation that she found herself in.  How did this become possible?  Her father taught her the law as she was younger, and she would attend the secret meetings held with other Christians and take in every word of the letters written to them by Paul, Luke, and John.  With every trial and with every joyful moment, scripture would fill her thoughts and come forth from her mouth.  Reading the story, I became somewhat jealous of this “ready recollection” and wanted the same for my life.  Then, at the end of the last book, it hit me.  How can I ever obtain this kind of wisdom with my time consumed with this reader’s block I have placed myself in?  How am I to allow the Word to affect my heart in the way it effected the characters if I was not in it?  Sure, I was filled with its power when it was laced throughout the series, but was that enough?  I was more caught up in what was going to happen next with the characters.

I reflected back on my own Christian life after the book was over, and I hate to say it, but I have not picked up my Bible and read from it outside of worship services since beginning the series.  I set a huge stumbling block before myself, and didn’t have the self control to get out of the fictional book, and into the living, breathing book of life.  I felt ashamed, I feel ashamed.  I know that curling up with a good, clean book is not wrong, but when it consumes you as much as it has me, I believe it can be.  So what are we to do?  We must find a balance.  Now maybe your time consuming weakness isn’t a book, but it could be TV, Facebook, Twitter, your job, your hobby, even the work you are doing for the Lord may take you away from his word.  Distractions from learning and growing through reading the word are tempting, but can be overcome.  Listed below are some great tips that I collected from the characters in the series.  Their determination to keep the faith and share it with others kept me drawn in as a reader, and gave me good tips on strengthening my faith as the characters had strengthened theirs.

Start each morning in prayer

The more experienced Christians started each and every morning in a prayer of thanksgiving, and requests to God along with the newer Christian.  Their steady and peaceful habit rubbed off on the new Christian and helped him develop a deep, meaningful prayer life with the Lord.  As you wake each morning, put everything else aside running through your mind, and focus on God first making each and every request known to him each day.  “Seek first the kingdom of God..” Matthew 6:33

Bind the word on your heart

It was amazing how in whatever circumstance, the Christians in the series kept the word alive and in their hearts.  The word was so precious to these people that upon hearing the word, they treasured it up in their minds and memorized each and every letter they could get their hands on so they could be filled with the life that the words brought.  Are we seeing the Bible as precious?  Are we craving what our Lord wants us to hear and reading it and meditating on it?  Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us “but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  Where is his word in your life?  Is it alone, unopened, abandoned like I had let it, or is it alive, flowing from the pages, and into your heart.  We must get ourselves back into the word daily, and let it nourish us with its truths.

Let the scriptures speak for you

Often, instead of offering their own words of advice, the characters would speak to others with scripture.  Again, the word was alive and in their hearts, so they were able to share it with others in varying ways and in different circumstances.  They also used the Psalms in their prayers of thanksgiving and praise.  In struggles, they replayed encouraging words from the letters and used these words to comfort themselves as they spoke with God.  Matthew 12:34 warns that “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Is your heart filled with scripture?  Share it, allow it to flow from you as you communicate with others.

Stand firm flee the Devil

The anguish and the temptation to go back to the old self was a strong presence in the books.  Some characters struggled with it more than others, but each of them choose to flee from the temptations set in their paths.  Some choose to remove themselves from things they knew would drag them down, and others stood firm when their beliefs were in jeopardy of being compromised.  Are we doing the same?    We are told to resist the devil  (James 4:7) and that the battle belongs to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:15).  When faced with the temptation to put the word aside to perform other things are we fleeing from the thought or allowing Satan to give us reasons why we can get to it later.  If there is a stumbling block in the way, ask God to remove it, give the problem over to him, and flee the temptation to put it back into your path.

I hope these tips serve as a reminder as to why we must allow the Word to rule in our hearts.  Let us all start each day we have been blessed with speaking with God, and reflecting on his promises in our lives.  Let us set aside the time given to us to bind his words in our hearts that they may speak for us in our lives.  Resist the temptations to set your Bible aside and discipline yourself into reading from it with an open and willing heart to do the things it commands us all as Christians to do.  Happy reading!

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Advice for the New Moms on Mother’s Day

My last four photography clients have all shared one thing in common, they are all new mothers.   I had the privileged of photographing two expecting moms, due with baby girls a month apart from each other.  I also got to photograph a first time mom and her newborn twin boys, and I had the privileged of photographing a first time mom’s son during a developmental milestone of sitting up  at the age of six months.  Being around these new moms, and helping them create lasting memories, had me reflecting on my growing children,  my purpose as a mother, and on Mother’s Day.  I know that I am not as experienced as most moms, my children are still quite young, and we have lots of growing to do together, but I wanted to bestow some of my “wisdom” to these moms, and other moms, in hopes of bringing reflection and purpose to this amazing role that we have been blessed with.

It was so much fun photographing the expecting moms (one being my baby sister).  They had so much excitement and hope for the little girls resting warmly in their womb.  We spoke of family, nursery schemes, the craziness of birthing, and of course, baby names.  Their eyes would light up when the baby was brought up, and the joy of being with child was spilling through their smiles, and being snatched up by the shutter clicking on my camera.   My advice to you, expecting moms, would be to always keep that excitement about your kids.  Days will come when your sweet bundle of joy will keep you up at crazy hours of the night, make messes in diapers that are inhumane, pull your hair, draw on your walls, disobey you, and break your heart.  Through all of this, remember to keep that same wonder and awe for your kids that you poses right now.  Psalms 127:3 states, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”  Enjoy your children, stay excited about being blessed with your children, and keep the flame of wonder flickering in your heart as you raise them.

To the mother of the new born twins, stay gentle.  This mom was handling her sweet boys as if they would shatter into pieces if they were held the wrong way.  She spoke softly to them, smiled when their eyes met hers, and stroked their little faces with grace and gentleness.  Keep this wonderful trait as your children grow.  Be gentle with them, and bestow your feminine grace upon them.  When they need to be discipline, do it with a firm hand, through love, never in anger or haste. 1 Peter 3:4 tells women to adorn ourselves with “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”  I encourage you to keep this passage close as you raise your children, strive to be this gentle woman, for your little boys, and for their Daddy.  This will lead your children to respect you and other women, and your husband will always feel delighted in your calming spirit.

To the mom of the precious six month old, keep encouraging him.  He loved to see you smile and laugh and clap at how he was sitting big and tall for his pictures.  He always responded positively to your encouragement, and he will continue as he grows older.  Encourage him, and gently push him to do even more greater things.  Encourage  him to serve the Lord.  We all can accomplish great things, as long as we have loved ones pulling for us.  Do this for your son, never let him quit, or settle for the norm.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells the Church to “encourage one another and build up one another.”  I believe this request holds true in our own households as well.  Fill your home with praise and admonishment, and lead your your son to greatness.

In closing, I implore each of you mothers to give your child back to the Lord.  The blessings of a child are immeasurable, but even more precious than the blessing of a child is to know that your child belongs to Christ and will one day live eternally with him in heaven.  Choose to dedicate your life to teaching, instructing, and leading your child on the path to Christianity.  Live by example, and they will follow.  Stay excited, stay tender, and encourage your children daily to become followers of Christ and be  workers in his kingdom.  Tell them what Christ did for you, what he did for mankind, and what he can do for them.  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” Ephesians 1:7,8.  Happy Mother’s Day new moms, enjoy each and every moment with your children.  May the Lord bless you on this new adventure!

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Sharing Love, Affirming Faith

One of the things I love most about being around my brothers and sisters in Christ is the example they set for me.  Without being aware, they tend to amaze me with their love for Christ and for others.  I got to see this faith in action in a seemingly small act that still has me smiling.  Last weekend, I went over to a friend’s house so we could deliver some things to Tushka.  Before heading out, I called a friend there to see if we could gather anything else up before we headed out.  She had said that her mother had lost her house in the tornado, and had nothing but the clothes on her back.  I told her we could go find her a few changes of clothes and some toiletries, and bring them with us.  After hanging up the phone, I told my friends about the woman and told them her sizes.  It just so happened that the wonderful woman I was with was that exact same size!  She and her husband immediately went into action, and began to pack a bag full of things for the stranger they never met.  My friend came out of her bedroom with a brand new navy blue wind suit set complete with a jacket, pants, and a navy and white striped shirt.  She said she had just bought it, and it would be a good outfit for the lady in need.  Without hesitation, she threw it in the bag, along with a few other outfits, and we headed out the door.  Most of us would grab something that we had worn time and time again, and toss it in the bag and forget it.  This woman gave something that she bought just for herself to wear, and without even getting a chance to sport the cute outfit, she gave it to someone in need.  Because of her deep love for her Father, she gave what most would not be willing to give up, she died to self, and lived for that moment to serve.

In Mathew chapter twenty-two starting with verse 37, Jesus states, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  I have been so blessed to see this commandment in action, and hope that I have shown others this in action as well.  Without knowing it, my friend re-affirmed my faith in Christ, and this happens each and every time I see others serve Him.  I believe this is why these two commandments are so important, they show love and respect to our Creator, love and respect to our neighbors, and it fills our hearts with a new and fresh perspective on what it means to love God and our neighbors, and encourages us to do more.  It shines a light to those who are lost in darkness, and this simple act begs them to come to the light and share in its warmth.

I thank God for the examples of love and service that He has placed around me, and I am thankful for the lessons in kindness that these acts bring.  We should all strive to give, serve, and love whenever we have the chance.  Opportunities like this are all around us.  Proverbs 3:27 states, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.”  Verse 28 goes on to say, “Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back later, and tomorrow I will give it.’ When you have it with you.”  Give when it is needed, and do not withhold what you have.  God has freely given us His son, eternal life with Him, and earthly blessings to accommodate us while we wait on the Lord.  Let us all strive to sacrifice in this same manner, today and everyday.

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Rise Up and Build

AP Photo/ Sue Ogrocki

As my life disappears with each setting of the sun, I come to realize, that I really am not as in control as I think I am.   This realization hit me pretty hard today as I stood in the middle of a dirt road with the cold wind tearing through my jacket as I gazed upon the eerie scene of a tornado zone.  The smell of fresh “cut” pine was in the air, and as far as I could see, debris and crumbling structures encompassed my vision.  I found myself sifting through rubble in a pasture thinking of the little girl that may have been missing her Ballerina Barbie that was lying at my feet.  I saw pictures of strangers scattered about the tall grass, shoes, books, blankets, and pieces of intricately hand-carved wooden legs splintered and misshapen, drowning in the mud.  Frightened horses were neighing and scuffing their hoofs against the floors of the trailer they were being placed into for safety.  Several families were scattered about trying to dig up familiar pieces of their “homes” really not knowing where to begin.   I too, did not know where to begin.  I became lost in thought, trying to imagine loosing it all, and wondering where I would try to begin.

I spoke with my husband that night about how I could encourage people to rebuild their homes and lives in a Godly way.  He pointed me to the book of Nehemiah, and explained to me how the people of Judah had lost everything during their time of captivity by the Babylonian empire.  This empire completely wiped out the city of Jerusalem, and left nothing but rubble and ashes.  The book of Nehemiah speaks of how they began to rebuild their faith, their homes, and the wall that would protect their city from another invasion.  Everyone pulled together during the time of rebuilding, and everyone was dedicated to a specific task concerning the construction of the walls.  But more importantly, during this process, they took time to pray to God, ask for forgiveness and guidance, reflected on who they were as a people, where they had been, and where they should be going.  The chain of events that took place, made these people turn back to their Creator, and set them once again, on the right track with their worship to Him, as well as fortified the city of Jerusalem.  This book shows how a people rescued each other from ruin and despair, and started a new walk with God.

Surveying the damage and mourning the loss

In Nehemiah chapter one verse three, we see men who had escaped the captivity report to Nehemiah that upon returning to Jerusalem, they found the city to be destroyed, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the gates were destroyed with fire.  The walls of Jerusalem were the people’s protection from the world surrounding them.  It was their comfort, and their place of refuge.  Today, this wall, so to speak, could be defined as our Christian home.  We work to keep our home a refuge from the worldly things around us spiritually, and it serves as a protection from the ailments physically.  We put a lot of love and care into our homes.  We furnish it with mementos and keepsakes from times past, and fill it with love and laughter, opening our homes to those we love.  The tornado that rumbled through Tushka, Oklahoma took many peoples homes away.  With every board and every piece of furniture stripped away and destroyed, so did these peoples memories, and sense of security.  For the people of Jerusalem, the walls that were destroyed left them open and vulnerable, and today, the victims of the tornado feel the same way as well.

Upon the news of the destruction, Nehemiah took the time to weep, mourn, pray, and fast for several days (Nehemiah 1:4).  The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that everything has its season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  We are told there are going to be times to break down (vs 3), and a time to mourn (vs4).  During a time of complete and total loss, we must all take the time to place ourselves in solitude, and allow ourselves to mourn over those things we have lost.  When we mourn, all too often, we find our knees on the floor, with earnest prayers for healing being sent up into the heavens.  Survivors of the storm must take the time to experience this all too important time of healing, because it clears our minds, heals the hurt, and points us to what we should do next.   In chapter one verses five through eleven of Nehemiah, we see the prayer of a man dedicated to pick up the pieces and implored God to put His grace into the situation, and redeem them with His great power and strong hand.

 Rise up and build

Nehemiah was given permission to go to Jerusalem and oversee the rebuilding of the wall.  He took the time to inspect the damage that was done and in doing so, devised a plan and solicited help to get the job done.  In chapter two verse eighteen, Nehemiah tells the people who had come to help that the hand of God would be with their efforts and that they, as a people should “rise up and build”.  In hearing this, the people set their hands to the good work.  Nehemiah was not afraid to reach out and ask others for help, there were many I am sure, ready and willing to rebuild their homes, and were just waiting for instruction as to where to get started.  Nehemiah kept God in the rebuilding plan and had faith that God would see this plan through.  For those of you who are rebuilding your lives, remember to ask God often to keep His hand in your work.  God has stated in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold I am the Lord thy God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?”  There is nothing that can be done to any of His children that He cannot heal; all we have to do is ask for this healing.  We must “rise up and build” as Nehemiah put it, beginning first with the healing of our hearts while we confess our sins, cry out our hurt, and lay our burdens down at His feet. Then, we can move on to the construction of our earthly homes with a clear head, asking God to place His peace and mercy on each task that we are able to perform.

Remember what brought you to this point

In chapter twelve of Nehemiah, we see him dedicate the walls of Jerusalem after the construction had been complete.  During the time of the rebuilding, the people continued to rebuild their relationship with God, and with each other.  They all worked diligently until the task had been complete, and celebrated the wall’s completeness.  They sang songs of thanksgiving and held a feast and worshipped the Lord.  They shared what they had with others, and reformed the stale state of worship they had been in.  Chapter 13 goes on to tell of the way they reflected on what brought them to this point, and the thankfulness they had for surviving.  They rededicated their lives to God and committed themselves to reach forward in their faith all the while remembering what brought them to this new awareness.  For you who are picking up the pieces now, it is going to be a tough journey to wholeness.  Reflect on that journey as you go through it, remember the humility you are feeling, and the hope you have for your future.  Allow others to help you, pray with you, and weep with you as you re-establish your homes.  When the work is done, celebrate with those whom worked alongside you and remember to give thanks to the Lord for “the Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalms 145:9)  Reach forward in your faith and share your experience with others.  Remember how you lost your earthly things, but how you gained patience, humility, friendships, stronger faith, and commitment from everyone who loves you.  Hold fast the promise of eternity, and rejoice in the eternal home you will one day possess in Heaven if you are found faithful.  When your home is complete, dedicate it to the Lord again, and keep His name and His word alive in it.  Make it a strong fortress, impenetrable by the enemy lying in wait, just as the walls of Jerusalem were purposed to be.

Want to help?  Email me at ashdhud@gmail.com and I will get you in touch with people who can point you in the right direction
Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is within your power to do it.
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The Whole Duty of Man

*From the February issue of Katharos Now.  A website for Christian teen girls.  Check it out here!


Happiness for me is a cup of Snickers flavored hot coffee in my hand as I sip the flavorful goodness while reading a good book.  It is that perfect pair of slippers, a beautiful sunrise, a comforting verse from the Word of God, a victory for my favorite team, the laughter of my children, a prayer answered, and a kiss on the forehead from my hubby.  For you gals, it can be a 3 pointer at the buzzer, an A on the test you have studied for for weeks, a text from that cute guy, realizing something new from your daily Bible readings, a call from your bestie, or your parents acknowledging the fact that you actually ARE turning out to be pretty responsible.

 

Happiness is defined as “feeling or showing contentment, satisfied with the quality or standard of, or having a sense of confidence” in the New Oxford American Dictionary.  Where do we obtain true, raw happiness, and keep this happiness alive and well in our daily lives? I believe that the true secret to happiness is found in our faith in, and understanding of God, defining our purpose on this earth, and sharing ourselves with those around us.  If these three basic truths are understood, I believe we will have balance in our lives and a heart full of joy and peace.

 
Wise King Solomon was a man of great understanding.  In fact, he was the wisest man on earth.  He was blessed with great riches and wisdom and yet, in the book of Ecclesiastes, we see a man who lived life to the fullest in a worldly sense, and gained nothing.  He had a sense of unhappiness and regret as he wrote to the generation around him as he spoke of the wasted life he had lived.  He looked for happiness in worldly things and in the end, came up empty handed.  The book of Ecclesiastes is dedicated to all of the things he did in vanity in search of contentment.  As the book comes to a close, wise King Solomon states, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

 
To live a life full of happiness, we must first have faith in the very being that created us and acknowledge His power. Secondly, we must realize that our very purpose on this earth is to fear God and keep His commandments.  Jesus stated this fact in Mark 12:30.  To be truly happy, we must live obedient lives to God.  And the final secret to happiness is to share this faith and this purpose with others.  In doing this, you will win souls over to God, and you will have a Christian support system to share in your Christian walk.  Sure, we cannot be happy all of the time, that is just not possible, but if we live a life with purpose, happiness will always be evident.  Without a purpose, or a sense of belonging, we cannot obtain that peace which causes happiness to develop.

 
Is finding happiness in worldly things wrong?  No, but we must have a balance.  King Solomon forgot this important balance as he became greedy with his treasures.  We all have certain things that bring a smile to our face and warmth in our heart.  These things become even more special when we thank and acknowledge the wonderful Creator who gave such things to us.  We will be able to achieve a certain type of contentment that will sustain us through the times we feel as if we have no joy left within us.  This contentment comes from our faith and belief in God, our earnest want to serve Him, and our hearts full of love as we share this secret with the world around us.

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Go Ahead! Flirt a Little…

“Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.”  Song of Solomon 4:2

Ok, so this is the wall post that graced my Facebook page the other day.  Most people looked at it and thought it was crazy,  but when I read it, I blushed, and felt beautiful.  My husband decided to “artistically” tell me that he though my smile was beautiful using a verse from Songs of Solomon.  I was intrigued by his romantic gesture, and returned a grand gesture myself using a verse from the Songs as well.

When he got home that day, I was on top of the world, feeling like a “woman” and basking in the compliments sent my way.  He grabbed me and gave me a hello kiss which caused our girls to go running off screaming “Ewwwwww!”  While walking down the hall, I overheard Rylee tell Kadence, “Aww, they are in Looove.”  It made me smile  and think to myself I am glad they can see it.

As parents, we get caught up in the chaos surrounding our marriage.  We have jobs to do and things to fix, kids to be fed, and pants to iron.  So many of us feel as if we are but ships passing in the night, and rarely take the time to show affection during these times.  I am pretty guilty of this.  I just forget to give my husband a quick kiss when he comes home, or give him that “wink” across the dining room table.

I remember feeling so secure as a child when I caught my dad stealing a quick kiss from my mom, and I want my children to feel this same security.  Our children need to see the love that we as spouses feel about the other.  This gives our children a loving environment, and gives them a sense of comfort and belonging.  When my husband tells the kids that their Momma is beautiful, their reaction to his compliment is almost the same reaction as mine.  A feeling of flattery and belonging.

So go ahead, flirt a little in front of the kids, steal a kiss, give a compliment, give a hug, pick a flower, cuddle on the couch.  Show your children how a married couple are to behave with one another appropriately, and give your spouse, and your kids the comfort and belonging that comes from these signs of love and affection.

‎”Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death….Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the flood drown it.”  Song of Solomon 8:7

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Challenge Your Christianity

He sat by the water as words of another began to penetrate his heart.  Surrounded by a whirl wind of emotions, he tried to sort out all of the new information that had been presented.  Everything he had ever known had been changed.  The customs and traditions that he took part in for the last 40 years of his life had now been considered void, and he struggled within himself to make sence of it all.  How could he change his lifestyle of devotion to his Creator after being submerged in the practices and teachings of his ancestors?  How could he start anew and relearn a new way of worship after his way had been written on his heart for so long?  The words cut deep into his being, and that day, he became a new creature, washed by the blood of the one whom he persecuted, in the very same river he sat beside as the good news of the gospel filled his thoughts.  He was no longer a Jew, he had been given a new name, a name that would ultimately save him, he became a Christian.

This scene was very common after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  There were thousands upon thousands of Jews and Gentiles alike, hearing the powerful words of the Gospel, the story of Jesus, and what his purpose was for mankind.  The book of Acts is full of conversion stories, and examples of what was redefined as true worship.  Many people were asked to change what has always been right.  Think about this for just a moment, the final and absolute truth had been revealed to you, and it is different then what you in your heart have been practicing, what would you do?  Some accepted the news of the Gospel and became devoted Christians, some let it roll off their hearts and continued with their pagan practices, others, decided to stay in the comfort zone of the old law, and continued on with what they have always known.  We are all creatures of habit, with a strong desire to “be right”, how difficult would it be for you to admit that your religious practices are obsolete, and you need to change?  We all experience this today.  We get together with friends of different denominations and begin to debate the “practices” of one another’s  faith, and try to push our beliefs on the other because we are just certain that we are the ones who are right.  We do not even pause for a moment to question our own.

I urge each and every one of you to challenge your religion.  I ask  you to search your souls and the teachings that you grew up with, or the teachings that you have just recently came to discover, and test them with the Word of God.  I suggest you start where Christianity began, in the book of Acts, study the book, and the practices established in the book. Test the order of your worship, and compare it to the way the Christians worshiped in Acts.   The book of Acts is the story of  the first Christians, and how the apostles, inspired by the Lord, taught them to worship.  Are you worshipping in this same manner?  The book of Acts also describes how others came to know the Gospel, and their conversion accounts.  Acts 2, 8, 9, 16, and 19 are examples of how others put on Christ, compare it to your conversion and ask yourself if yours was similar.

The Bible is our truth and our guide to heaven.  All too often we rely too much on those whom we trust the most to tell us what the Bible says, please friends, search it for yourself.  Look deep into yourself and question what has always been right in your life.  In 1 John 4:1 it states “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  We must put down the commentaries, the words of our favorite preacher, elder, pastor, priest, mom, and dad, and search the scriptures for truths in Christianity.  We are also told to “test all things, hold onto what is good.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:21.  Test your faith, is it practiced according to the scriptures?  If so, hold onto it, if not, you must find it in your heart to let go and start anew it takes strength to do this, but we can ask for this strength from our Creator.  Study God’s word, each and every day.  Find new truths and compare them with the ones you have been taught and keep your heart open to change if needed.  Pay close attention to the different books in the Bible as to who they were being written to, and what they were being written about, in this way, you can keep a clear focus on the lessons being taught, and in doing this, you will be able to appreciate the message more and apply the message better in your life.  It is my prayer that this writing has caused you to take a closer look into what you have been practicing.  The Word tells us to test the things in our lives.  I believe we must constantly test the truths others are trying to teach us.  As humans, we are far from perfect, and we often make mistakes unintentionally, consider this fact, and strive to write the truth on your hearts, the truth of the Gospel of Christ, and his plan for us all.

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Pass It Down

Rylee has been coming home from school singing those long lost songs from my childhood.  She has sung classics like “Jingle bells, Batman smells” ,”Mrs Mary Mack”, and “Cinderella Dressed in Yella”.  I just laugh and tell her that I used to sing those songs when I was a little girl, and to her, she feels like that was forever ago.  I asked her where she got the songs from and she exclaimed from kids at school, or from the teachers.   Nursery rhymes, song parodies, and jump rope chants have seemed to stand the test of time, but even more important than these childhood things, is the word of God.  The word of God has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so.  Even in Christianity’s darkest hour, even through the burning of Bibles,  persecution of Christians, through natural disasters, and acts of vandals, His word still remains.  It is our job as Christians, and as parents, to keep that living, breathing, amazing text implanted in the hearts and in the minds of our children.

In the second book of Judges, chapter 10, there is a disastrous scene.  It proclaims  “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers.  And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that had been done for Israel.”  This generation was not taught the word.  They did not know of how they were delivered from the Egyptians, about the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, about how they wandered in the dessert for 40 years because of their forefathers sins.  They did not know about all of the signs and wonders of the Lord, and how bravely their forefathers fought for the Lord to gain their inheritance into the very land that they were living in.  Why did this happen?  They simply were not told of these things.  The generation before them did not instruct, correct, and rebuke them in the ways of the Lord.  The generation before them forgot how important it was to keep the things the Lord had done for them in their hearts and spilling out of their mouths constantly, as we see in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

The word of the Lord will always prevail, but we need mouths to speak of its truth.  We need parents and grandparents living holy lives as examples to their children and grandchildren.  If we do not do these things, the generation after us will not know God and His testimony, they will not hear of His grace, mercy, and love.  They will be lost, just as the people of Israel, because they were not instructed.  Please, keep the word of God in your hearts and minds so it may spill over into the hearts and minds of your children, grandchildren, the lost, and onto the saints.  We must keep His word alive in us and in the lives of others.  “May the word of God dwell in your richly.”

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