Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20 Beautiful Things


Today I want to give a shout out to my friend, Laurie Wallin. She’s an encourager extraordinaire. Laurie gave me permission to share these affirming truths that are true about you…

20 Beautiful Things That Are True About You

1)      You’re capable (Philippians 4:16).
2)      You’re stronger than you think (see #1).
3)      You can forgive (Matthew 6:14).
4)      You’re uniquely gifted for this moment (Ephesians 4:11-16).
5)      You are valuable (Matthew 13:45-46).
6)      You can be generous (2 Corinthians 9:7).
7)      You’re beautiful (Song of Solomon 4:7).
8)      You’re smarter than you think (Isaiah 1:18).
9)      You are loved (John 15:13).
10)  You are desirable (Song of Solomon 4:7).
11)  You matter (Luke 19:1-10).
12)  You’re braver than you think (Matthew 14:29).
13)  You are creative (Genesis 1:26).
14)  You are accepted (Ephesians 1:6).
15)  You are part of something bigger than yourself (Matthew 28:19).
16)  You’re redeemed (Ephesians 1:7).
17)  You are special (1 Peter 2:9).
18)  You’re not finished yet (Philippians 3:12).
19)  You are weird (in a good way. 1 Peter 2:9).
20)  You are wonderful (Psalm 139:14).




Father God, help us to internalize these truths found in Your Word. Then guide us as we share them to encourage hurting people throughout the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Okra is Gross--Don't Even Try to Change My Mind

Not long ago, I posted this status on Facebook:  


In the hours following that post, I had dozens of posts in response. Some people agreed with me—vegetables are gross, they said. Most people disagreed, however, and they tried to win me over to the veggie side with mouth-watering descriptions (and even pictures) of their favorite vegetable dishes. Small, good-natured disputes broke out between the veggie-lovers and the sane people. Side arguments occurred over the merits of mayo over ketchup.

It was all in fun, and no feelings were hurt.

But it got me thinking in another direction.

No matter how the veggie folks tried, nothing they said convinced me to try a fried green tomato or a cucumber and radish sandwich. My mind is made up—I will not be moved. And although I didn’t try to pull any vegetable-eaters to my side (other than a single, unconvincing “ew” about olives), I’m sure such an attempt would have been equally useless.

How many of us have been pulled into similar disputes on Facebook or some other media forum about something far more serious than okra and squash? I know that I have—I’ve even instigated some of them. The internet gives us a safe place to argue: we aren’t in danger of actual physical confrontation, and if we hitch onto a conversation started by a friend of a friend of a friend, we’re virtually anonymous—those people don’t know us, so we aren’t accountable in any way for what we’ve said.

So we post something about a social, political, or spiritual issue—and for most of us, there’s considerable overlap there—and then the wars begin.

The thing is…no matter how convincing I think I am (facts, statistics, scientific studies, news articles from reliable sources, personal testimonies, scripture verses), I will never convince someone who believes the other thing. In fact, several months ago I asked that very question on Facebook: If you firmly believe in something—let’s call it Schmoople—and someone showed you all sorts of evidence against Schmoople—would you change your mind? Overwhelmingly, everyone who responded said no. Schmoople is Schmoople, and nothing will shake my belief.

And really—is the computer the best setting for this kind of conversation? If I want to convince someone about the truth of my belief—social, political, spiritual, or vegetable—the best way to do this is to cultivate a relationship with her, to make her some (fair trade) brownies and coffee, to love her. If Schmoople comes up—and if it’s truly important—we can discuss it within our loving relationship.


So I’m not going to do it anymore. When people post things I disagree with, I will bite my tongue. I’m not posting things that will be incendiary. It’s just not loving. I’ll still “like” things that I agree with, because I want people to know where I stand, but I’m not going to start arguments, and I’m sure not going to pitch in just so my voice can be heard. That’s the exact opposite of humble, and I don’t want to be that any more.

ChurchArtPro

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pride and Humility

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6
Ever wondered why, when you're doing good things for God, they don't always work out? Why your efforts to bring folks to Christ, for instance, or raise support to be a missionary are such a struggle? Ever had a great lesson to teach your Sunday school class, but you got tongue-tied, or the kids refused to listen?

There are several possible reasons, of course. God's timing. Outside circumstances.  The hearer isn't ready. And that's just a few. But there's one that perhaps you don't consider too often.
Could it be that God is opposing you?
I don't know about you, but just because I'm doing the Lord's work doesn't mean I'm in His will. My motives are not always right in His eyes. I write for selfish reasons. I serve to be praised. I pray to look good. I share the gospel to "increase my numbers." I help my husband in hopes he'll help me back.
Photo source
I think, in brief, that my reasons are more important than God's.  I'm looking to make MYSELF increase, whether I realize it or not. And that is displeasing to the Lord. And though He sometimes allows us to succeed despite our attitudes, it is not always so. Sometimes, when our pride is our motive, He opposes us, and the work we are doing. And it doesn't succeed.

But if we humble ourselves and do His work for His glory, then perhaps He will show us favor and give us the victory - in HIS name.

Heavenly Father, I know that my motives are not always pure, and that sometimes THAT is the reason my ministry is unsuccessful. Help me, Lord, to do everything for You, and with the motives You wish me to have, because then, no matter the outcome, I know I will be in Your will. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When a Beach Blanket is more than a Beach Blanket


A package arrived in the mail the other day. My wonderful sister-in-law, she who never forgets, sent me a birthday gift.




It’s a beach blanket. Folds into a nifty carrying case. Zipper closure. Waterproof backing. And the best part?






The colors.



Because prior to the arrival of this gift, here’s what we’ve been using as a beach blanket.






Look closely. Unlike the vibrant colors of the new one, our old one is the color of …. sand.



Think about it. A sand-colored beach blanket. 



What’s the point?



It was never intended as a beach blanket. It’s an old blanket that got relegated to the car trunk and then pulled out for trips to the beach. 

It really hasn’t worked well. 



You want a beach blanket that will designate your claim to the beach. Something that says, “Hey, this is our 5 square feet of beach for the day. Watch where you’re kicking that sand!”



The old one didn’t do it.





You want something that will keep the moisture off of your precious hineys when you sit on it.



Another blanket failure.



Something easy to carry down to the water.



Nope.



Something that’s attractive.



Nope again.



You want something that will at least do the job.



Just barely.



But now we have the real thing. The packaging told me so.  It’s a “beach blanket.” Meant for the beach.



Territory designator? Check.


Waterproof? Check.


Easy carry?  Check.


Pretty?  Double check.



Since I’m prone to think too deeply about everyday objects, I look at this beach blanket and my mind goes here:



#1. My sister-in-law really is amazing and I really, really need to be better about remembering her birthday.



#2. When it comes to my faith, am I more like the old beach blanket or the new one? Have I become like the dull, sandy-colored blanket that quietly blends in with the surroundings, barely functioning? Or am I more like the new model-



bold with color, 

Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14


equipped to do the job, 

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13


ready to stake a claim? 

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14


And when God makes his next move, which type of blanket is he going to pick to take on the journey? 


In his loving service,

LuAnn Kern





Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tradition

My husband, John, and I moved to the TriCities 28 years ago. Soon after our arrival, we began to hear stories about the annual BIG EVENT held here each year – the Hydroplane Races. So we attended. Once was enough. But in connection with the races was a two-day Art in the Park show, which attracted vendors from all over the northwest.

We enjoyed ourselves there.

And so began our annual attendance to Art in the Park. Nothing kept us away. We helped decorate our home with purchases made. One year John received an electrocardioversion treatment in the morning and we slowly walked through the park later in the day. Yesterday it was my turn to cause us to walk slowly. I have developed plantar fasciitis – complete with a painful heel. But I did purchase some jewelry.

After 28 years, I would say attending Art in the Park is a tradition.

The definition of a tradition is a custom or belief that is passed down through the generations or that is done time after time or year after year.

When my children were young, we started many traditions. Hiding Easter eggs is a ritual many children enjoy, but I hated to just throw the eggs away after days of playing with them in the yard. So when it was decided that we were through with the eggs, we sat in a large circle on the grass and had a demolition derby – rolling an egg until it collided with another one. It was a mess to clean up – but we had great fun.

How many children grew up with that tradition?

I wanted my girls to have memories that would live on after they moved away. But more importantly than demolition derbies, I desired that they have some Christian traditions to keep them grounded as they moved through life. One such tradition was that each Christmas Eve we sat around the tree and quoted the Christmas story from the Bible. What a wonderful memory.

As a Christ-follower, it is imperative that we hand down our Christian beliefs to the next generation.

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (MSG)



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Story Writer


A middle-aged woman wearing comfortable sandals and a practical cardigan leans in toward her companion at the fast food counter.  I watch as she gestures toward choices highlighted on the menu above their heads.  Her companion is much older.  My guess is that she is the mother of the first woman.  The younger woman cups her hand around the ears of the older woman and gestures once again.  The older woman nods, mutters something, and the younger woman finally places an order.

 

From my place in the back of the line I watch.  I can imagine the day, decades ago, when the roles were reversed and the now stooped and very elderly woman was a busy mom, taking meal requests from her little girl.

 

"Pink, Mommy, pink!"  My three year old daughter squeals about something in her favorite color that has caught her eye.  I nod, having no idea just what is exciting her at the moment.  I order for both of us, we find a table in the mall's food court, and sit down.  Since my daughter is my only companion this day and her conversation is pretty much limited to her favorite colors, her favorite princess, and her favorite movie, I allow my eyes to roam the court, watching others.

 

I see a tired-looking young mom, balancing a tray of food with one hand.  She has a duo of tow-headed youngsters with her, obediently clinging to her stroller handles.  Two blue blankets cover the seats.  I assume that, underneath, new twins sleep.  She must be so tired!

 

I spy a foursome of coltish, young teen girls.  Nervously, they sneak glances at one another while laughing at something the other has said.  I remember those days of my own - wishing I had the courage to be my own person, but craving acceptance from my peers.  You couldn't pay me to be a teenager again.

 

An older couple shares a table, not talking.  The atmosphere around them is relaxed, though.  There's just nothing to say at the moment.  They've already said it all and are simply enjoying the act of being together.

 

High-pitched voices behind me catch my ear.  A wife chatters in rapid Spanish to her husband who listens quietly (or can't fit a word in).  I can't even begin to guess what's happening there!

 

It occurs to me that while I am watching others, they may be watching me.  What do they see, I wonder?  Can they figure out my story by looking at me?  They see a mom who passed the friendly side of forty some time ago.  They probably smile because it's obvious my daughter is mine by adoption and that fact seems to please most people.  If they're really into their people-watching, they may assume that I'll leave the mall, drive home to a couple more equally cute children, a nice house, and an adoring husband - the whole package. 

 

As we all know, appearances are often deceitful.  I wonder how well I was able to guess at the stories I saw around me today in the mall.  Perhaps what I saw on the surface had very little to do with reality.

 

Fortunately, there's One Who already knows our story.  We don't have to explain anything to Him.  He created us, love us infinitely more than we understand, and yearns for our companionship.  When nobody else knows our story, He does.

 

Because He's writing it.

 

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 You know my sitting down and my rising up;

You understand my thought afar off.
 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Ps. 139:2
 
 
 
Picture courtesy of lovewithoutalimit.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Feeling Lazy?

Am I the only one who feels the urge to be lazy during the summer? Bright sunshine and warm temperatures make it difficult for me to concentrate on the things I need to accomplish. Friends are headed on vacation and neighbors congregate at the pool.

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing. In fact, taking a break is necessary. Studies show that productivity is actually enhanced when we take regular breaks from our work.

Laziness v. taking a break

I’m not disputing the value of taking a much needed break. What I’m talking about is doing nothing because I don’t feel like working. And trust me, I struggle with this one.

The Bible has a lot to say about people who are lazy. It refers to them as sluggards. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

Lessons from Proverbs

Here are some things I learned from the book of Proverbs:

1 – Laziness sets a bad example for my family and those who are watching me

My daughter learns from my example. If I exhibit laziness by consistently sleeping in late, ignoring the work I have to do, and sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time, how can I expect her to act any differently? God’s Word puts it this way:
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. Proverbs 6:9-11
2 – Laziness causes me to make excuses and give myself an easy out

When I want to avoid the things I should be doing, I can find lots of excuses: it’s too cold outside, it’s too warm, I’m too tired, I did a lot yesterday. And the list goes on. But the results can be devastating. Although all work and no play can make me a dull person; all play and no work leaves me with a never-ending list of things that need to be accomplished.
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. Proverbs 20:4
3 – Laziness is a form of selfishness (click to tweet)

When I choose to be lazy, not only am I ignoring the work I should be doing, but I’m failing to contribute to the lives of others. As a wife and mother, I’m responsible to provide certain things for my family. Notice the wisdom in Solomon’s words:
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8

Laziness leads to all sorts of problems (click to tweet). I’m better off realizing the benefits of the work God has given me to do and doing it to the best of my ability.

Your turn

Do you struggle with laziness? What will you do to make the most of the time God has given you?


Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for showing me the pitfalls of being lazy. Forgive me when I act selfishly and refuse to do the work You’ve given me to do. Help me be a diligent worker, and a good example to my family and others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


*Maria I. Morgan is an inspirational writer and speaker and is passionate about sharing the truths of God’s Word with today’s generation. She lives in sunny Georgia with her husband and daughter, two dogs and two cats. Visit her on the web and download a free copy of her eBook, God Speaking.  Connect with  her on Facebook and Twitter!

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