A Tangled Mess!

 

When I was in cosmetology training, a little girl was brought in with very long braids. Her mother wanted her hair washed because she hated to deal with the tangles. It seemed simple at the time, but it soon became an “oh no!” situation.

As I unbraided the little girl’s hair, I realized that she was very tender-headed. Washing her hair was very difficult, because whenever her hair was pulled even the littlest bit, she cried out in pain. It was inevitable that her hair would tangle as it lay in the bottom of the sink. I tried to smooth it out with the cream rinse, but it didn’t work.

I started to panic. My session was ending, and I still had to comb the tangles out. It was a slow process, with no shortcuts. Despite my best effort, I couldn’t untangle that child’s hair. My best effort wasn’t good enough.

This is a sad story, but it speaks to what life can become when we let our sin control us. Life becomes a tangled mess! No matter how hard we might try to fix things, nothing really works. It’s painful to live out sin’s consequences, and embarrassing when our sin is revealed.

God doesn’t want us to live out our lives on our own. He wants to be included in our lives. He has the remedy to all our problems. When we make our own decisions apart from God, even to the best of our ability, we are bound to fall short. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV)

God requires perfection. The Bible says in Matthew 5:48,be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Obviously we all make mistakes and do wrong things. Unfortunately, no matter how much we want to clear away our guilt, we can’t.

God sent His son Jesus to die on a cross to take the punishment we deserve for our sin. Since Jesus is sinless, He’s the only one who could pay our sin’s price so that we might be forgiven. Romans 5:8 says, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

What must we do to have our sin cleared away? Romans 10:9-10 gives us the answer. It says, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

This is good news! God teaches us we can be saved from the punishment of our sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Hopeless situations are God’s specialty! The tangled mess of our lives can be fixed if we will trust that Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s requirements. He forgives all our sins, and promises us a place in heaven. If you are tangled in sin, pray and ask God to forgive you. Commit to giving up your sinful life, and choose to follow God’s way as it is told in the New Testament.

 

Written by Linda Hull

Help! I Just Can’t Do It!

lindahull2Sometimes attempting new things or learning new skills requires a brave heart, lots of determination, and the willingness to keep trying. Finding the right kind of help makes the difference!

Sewing was never my favorite thing to do, but it seemed like something I should enjoy. I could accomplish small things like sewing on a button or re-stitching a seam. I got by, but in my mind, that’s not sewing.

I think it goes back to my much younger days in Girl Scouts, when my first attempt to sew a dress went sour. I remember how excited we girls were to create a beautiful dress and model it for our mothers. It sounded so exciting!

Mama, of course, was thrilled to discover I was interested in sewing. She was looking forward to lots of mother-daughter sewing projects. I wasn’t, but my self-imposed pressure to impress others was running high.

Multitudes of fabrics and counters full of patterns were overwhelming. I wanted a simple, elegant, and especially glamorous dress. My first dress had to be perfect. In hindsight, maybe that was part of my problem. Beginners are never perfect at their craft, but the pressure to succeed was high.

The day of the first class finally arrived amidst much excitement. Imagine twenty girls in a small room all talking at once, comparing equipment, patterns, and material. It didn’t go well.

I attended two lessons and quit. Why? I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I couldn’t bear to fail, so I quit rather than putting aside my pride to ask for some much-needed help.

Mama tried to help me at home, but it was impossible for us to communicate. As far as I was concerned, she was speaking a foreign language. Plus, I was too stubborn to listen, even when help was offered.

That was then, but now I’ve learned an important rule of life: never quit, keep on trying.

My next attempt at learning to sew came later on. I discovered the local cooperative extension program offered a beginner’s class. My confidence level was cautiously hopeful. I was determined this time I would learn how to sew, whatever it took.

Much to my surprise, everyone there had struggled with sewing, yet still wanted to learn. Me too! The instructor had a wonderful sense of humor and the patience of Job, which I’m sure she needed. She led us through each step, slowly and carefully, with constant praise and encouragement for even the littlest things we got right. Under her teaching, we all excelled. There were no dropouts from her class.

Success felt good! I had conquered my fears, pushed my limits, and accomplished my goal. I felt redeemed from my previous failed sewing efforts. I could hardly believe it!

What made the difference? I’ve learned that to find success, you have keep at it, and have patience with yourself. But while those two are key elements, there is another that is even more important.

Several years earlier, I had trusted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Jesus changed my heart, and when He did, my attitude changed. My pride was broken. I was humble and ready to learn. I am so glad He is always ready to help in time of need.

The Bible says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV, Phil. 4:13 )

That’s all the encouragement I needed!

 

 

Written by Linda Hull

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You Are a Temple: 1 Corinthians 3:17

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

corinthian-317I was a fat child.  To say I was pudgy or chubby or even plump would insinuate that I was cute, and I wasn’t.  The kids at school called me Fatso.  Fatso.  Playground mockery is so ridiculous; just looking at that word I wonder where they came up with it, but within that word is a thousand implications that still make me tear up.  Unwanted.  Ugly.  Disgusting.  Rejected.  Hated, even.  As a fat and sensitive person, I went home more times than not, crying.  My dad told me that if I didn’t want to be made fun of for my weight, I should do something about it.

And so I did.  Or I tried.

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, I lost over twenty pounds.  I got lots of attention.  One teacher even asked if I was sick.  The names changed; I was suddenly called…Skinny.  Looking at that word, all I feel is empty.  It took me less than a year to realize that while the girls didn’t call me the same names, they could still be mean in other ways.  And I discovered that even though I had a new label to wear, I still didn’t feel so great about myself.

A Temple.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians a few weeks ago and loving the verses.  I was praying over them and meditating on them when a highlighted verse on the page over caught my attention.

You are that temple.

To be told that I am pretty or loved or valued makes me uncomfortable at best, downright suspicious at my worst.  Those playground children planted seeds, and I have spent most of my life sowing them.  Long after the bullying stopped, I continued to look in the mirror and say things that make words like Fatso sound like compliments.  To be told I am a temple is a hard pill for me to swallow; it goes against everything the world, and then myself, have conditioned my soul to believe.

And judging by the conversations I have had, and the state of the world that surrounds us, I know that chances are, you don’t believe those words, either.  We try to fill our self-esteems with products marketed to us to make us prettier, relationships that will complete us, lofty goals and impossible achievements that will feed us validation, and labels everyone around us deems acceptable to give us identification.  Meanwhile, all of that goes against the truth that we are created with a purpose, and that we are loved and treasured, right now, for simply being.

If we accepted that simple, yet completely profound, concept…we are loved, we are a temple, and completely believed it, how different would our behavior be?  I know for a fact that I would stop hesitating because of my insecurities and start doing more for others.  I would save a heck of a lot of money, knowing that new hair color won’t transform me into the image my Pinterest promises me I will become.  I could keep myself from wasting years in a toxic relationship because I know I am worth being loved by someone who understands my value.  I would stop abusing my own body by poisoning it with food or substances that are not good for me, or, on the flip side, I would stop punishing myself by restricting myself from getting the nourishment my body needs.  I would stop comparing myself to everyone else and would be satisfied with all my abilities…and my limitations.

And most importantly, I would stop listening to the whispers in my head that tell me I am not good enough.  I would fill myself up with the truths and the promises of the Bible, so much so that all the ugly lies would have no room to reside.

If I believed

That I am

A Temple

My entire world would change.

It’s sad to me that I found it easier as a child to alter my physical appearance than it was for me to change my internal dialogue.  I want to live out my life the way God intended for me to live it, and each time I try and fill myself up with fluff that abates the pain in superficial ways, I only get further from His vision for me.  The truth is, His promise is enough, and I have to commit myself daily to doing what I can to realize it.

The world is preaching love as a solution to the violence and the ugliness that surrounds us.  And they are not wrong.  We need to love each other more.  But I think that the love has to find root in ourselves, and for ourselves, as well.

So do me a favor:  Go to the mirror as soon as you’re done reading this and tell yourself you are a temple.  If it makes you squirm or giggle or uncomfortable, that’s okay.  Tell yourself again.  In fact, write it on your mirror in your favorite lip gloss so you see it when you look at yourself.  Tell yourself you are a temple numerous times a day until you believe it, and keep telling yourself as a reminder.  Tell yourself as often as you need to, to keep the lies and the poisons at bay. Tell yourself you are a temple so often that when someone, including yourself, tries to tell you you are anything less, the lie sounds so ridiculous, you pay it no attention.  Tell yourself you are a temple so often, you see the beauty in others, for they are temples, too, and treat yourself and them, as nothing less.

1 Corinthians 3:17- If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

 

A Bottle of Love Poured on His Feet

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Image from http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

Image from http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

Lately, I’ve been writing out my prayers.  It’s a way to make me focus more on what I need to say to God, or a way for me to unravel all those confusing thoughts or doubts or worries in my head that I tend to ignore when I pray out loud.  When I’m at a loss as to what to pray for, I read Bible passages or think about what was discussed on Sunday.  And lately, I’ve been asking what I would do if I was placed in the position of the main character.  

 

The honest answers haven’t been all that comforting to me.

 

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the story of Mary.  As in, the one who washed Jesus’s feet with expensive perfume.  In front of the disciples.  The same week that Jesus was to be crucified.  I asked myself, would I honestly have done what she did.

 

Mary had a bad reputation.  She had to know that as she kneeled before Jesus, the disciples were judging her.  In my head, I would have played out the worst possible things they could say to me, and it would have kept me from doing it at all.  I am that pathetic.  I would have thought to myself, “I’ll tell Jesus how much I love him when the disciples are gone.”  

 

Because I am that weak.

 

This saddens me because my cowardice would mean a loss of witness to who knows how many people?

 

I also considered that Mary had just witnessed Jesus raising her dead brother Lazarus from the dead, and I asked myself, if I had seen that, would I still I have no courage?

 

And the answer, truthfully, remains the same.

 

Because, let’s be real, I know for a fact my life would look dramatically different if I hadn’t chosen to follow Jesus.  In many ways, he has raised me from the dead, although perhaps not literally, dozens and dozens of times.  I should wash his feet for that reason alone, but I probably wouldn’t, for the reasons stated above.  The fact that I know he has saved countless lives of those I love wouldn’t sway me.

 

I’m so ashamed.  I take it for granted that I have a savior who loves me that much.  Whereas, her gratitude overflowed.

 

When I was younger, I sided with Judas, who criticized her for wasting what could have been sold and given to the poor.  Jesus being Jesus knew that Judas was a thief and would ultimately betray him, puts him aside right quick.  I wonder, sometimes, what Jesus would have said to a disciple he trusted more, say perhaps, John (known as the one he loved).  But John didn’t say it because he was probably thinking he should be willing to pour out expensive perfume on Jesus, too.  He was probably wondering why he hadn’t done it first.

 

And I’m left to examine the reasons why I don’t have the courage to love Jesus so passionately that my worship exposes me and makes me so vulnerable.  I have no problem giving my time and my money to charities or good causes.  But I’m not so quick to do the right thing for someone if I feel I might be judged for it.  The personal reasons why surface pretty quickly, but they aren’t important.  It’s what I do about it so that I can change my response.

 

I found this verse, and it challenges me:

 

Galatians 1:10 says, “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.”

 

I meditate on that one a lot.  I have to.  I get caught up in wanting to please everyone, and I forget that just because I am called to be the light to others, not everyone is going to appreciate that light.  Not everyone will run towards it.  And that’s okay.  I still have to keep shining. I may never know the hearts I inspire by my random acts of kindness or my honest acts of worship; I simply have to have faith that God will use it more than I will know.  While I can’t see the bigger picture, I have to trust that there is one, and it is more beautiful than I can imagine.

 

With all that said, I want to be so close and so in tune with my love for Jesus that my fear doesn’t have a chance to register on my radar.

 

God didn’t call me to be Mary.  Perhaps he sees my worship, and it is enough for Him.  He made me who I am and how I am for very particular reasons.  But the bottom line is could I love Jesus more, and am I revealing that love to the best of my ability?  Do I care more about His opinion or the opinions of those around me?  

 

When my answers shame me, it’s time to adjust my behavior accordingly.  I’ll never be perfect, but that’s not the goal.  The goal is to give praise to the one who is perfect, even if it means offending those who don’t understand.

High

Written by OmoobaJesu Adetunji

brighton-birdsNickname it all you want crack, dope, doe, stuff, or just go plain and simple and call it drugs marijuana, heroin. I am pretty sure by now you get where I am going and what this is about.

I’ve always wondered why people do drugs or have other addictions or cravings at certain times. Although I never really got my curiosity quench for a while, there came times (very very few times) in my life when I actually felt confusion, fear, frustration at its utmost peak and then I kind of understood why some people get into drugs and get hooked on it. The truth is they just want peace, they want stillness in the middle of a storm; they know their problem can’t just decide to take a vacation and then fly to Hawaii and stay there, but they want oblivion and just, perfect peace. The only problem is that this so called oblivion only lasts a few minutes and the peace they get isn’t really perfect, this is what they call being high, then they come crashing back down to earth and get low again.

I got news for you… there are times when you will want to get high on something! Those times WILL come. Luckily enough for you and I, God knew this would happen so He got it all figured out. It’s right there in the bible.

ISA 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are FIXED on you. (NLT)

… People with their minds set on You will keep completely whole… [MSG]

You will guard and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You and hopes confidently on You (the Voice)

 

See? Peace, not just any peace but perfect and constant peace, comes upon you when you keep your mind fixed on Jesus. When you reach the worst pits in life, you just wish all your problems would disappear and you are desperately in need of relief. Just think about Jesus and you’ll have peace like no other. Get high on Jesus. Be consumed in thoughts of Him- His love, His grace, His kindness, His words, His death, His resurrection; there’s so much to fix on!

Jesus loves you, girls, more than you’ll ever know, understand or imagine, He loves you unconditionally. No matter what you do or have done, the bible says His love never quits, His love is relentless! (I think ‘em dudes need to take love lessons from Jesus)

There… that’s something to get your mind fixed on.

Why is Salt Important to Christians?

by Evelyn Horan

salt-spoonRecently, as I was helping Mom prepare our evening meal, I  was salting  the vegetables. I thought about the use of salt in our daily activities, as it is known to add flavoring to food and  is one of the oldest and most used substance on earth.

But most importantly,  I recalled Pastor Don’s message. He said salt has a special meaning to all God’s people. He said, the Old Testament tells us Lot’s wife disobeyed God’s command to not look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of her disobedience, she became a pillar of salt.

Pastor went on to explain that a covenant, as mentioned in the Old Testament, is a promise or an agreement between God and his people.  It is an agreement that God will care for and meet the physical and spiritual needs of all His followers. God instructed Moses to tell the people to put salt on every meal offering.

Pastor said, “When God speaks of salt as part of the ‘covenant’ He is speaking of an agreement between Himself and mankind that is purified by the symbolic use of salt. It is one of the most meaningful uses of salt in the Old Testament for we given the understanding that the use of salt, under certain holy conditions, represents God’s everlasting covenant, (a promise).”

Pastor Don gave us special references.   In the Old Testament, when God tells Aaron that all offerings of holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto God, He then has given to them, their sons and daughters, and other generations to follow, a promise  (a covenant) forever to meet their physical and spiritual needs, represented by of the use of salt.

Then in Matthew 5-l3, in the New Testament, Jesus tells the disciples and the world to be a good influence, when he says, “Ye are the salt of the earth;” but if the salt have lost its flavor, how shall it get the flavor back?  It  is good for nothing.

Next, Mark the apostle records Jesus exhorting all people to have peace in their hearts toward one another. “Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves and have peace one with another.” (King James Bible)

Although, I knew the use of salt in our diet is important, while I thought about Pastor’s message, I began to understand that salt also has important spiritual implications for Christians, when we consider the principles and teachings of God and apply them to our daily lives.  As His followers,  we are, as Jesus tells us, “the salt of the earth.”

While salting our food, I resolved  to remember to pattern my behavior and my daily activities, by trying to obey God’s teachings.

Laughter Is God’s Gift To Us

by Evelyn Horan

laughingSometimes when we feel stress and concern from our daily experiences, we prayerfully turn to God for His understanding help. Often, we receive help from our Heavenly Father through His gift of laughter to us, as He uses our friends and family to help relieve the pressing tension that has occurred.  Then, we are able to regain our good judgment to solve our problems. At such times, lighthearted laughter and a smile or cheery comment can lighten the pressing situation.

I’m certain many of us can recall times when a friend or family member has been aware of our concern and has tried to ease the situation with a humorous approach to the difficult problem.

In sharing lighthearted laughter from their remarks, “Hang in there! You can solve the problem. It’s a piece of cake!”– “You can do it. I’m sure of it!..”  ” We’re backing you all the way,”..You’re the mighty problem-solver. Go for it!”

“Oh, sure,” we say, ” easy as falling off a log, as long as it’s not too high. Remember I’m afraid of heights!” We all laugh heartily, and that smooths out the past tensions.

With a feeling of relief, and a happy attitude, we can now look at the situation clearly,  with confidence in our ability to meet its challenges.   Because God’s gift of laughter, through caring friends and family, has helped, and now we are renewed and fresh, with clear thinking, we can approach methods to solve our problem that seemed too difficult, only moments ago.

With much relief, we turn gratefully, to a caring God whose bountiful love and understanding provide a way for His children to overcome the pressures of life that can come from stressful living in school and other places. It is easy to believe, we should happily praise our God for His goodness to us by giving us the gift of laughter to share with one another.

We joyfully sing our songs of praise, like David the Psalmist, with sincere gratitude and thankfulness, as we try to fulfill God’s desires for us.  And now, with God’s gift of laughter, shared with friends and family, we often find our problems are no longer insurmountable, and our daily struggles and concerns begin to seem minor as they become solvable.

Giving to God Brings A Return Blessing

by Evelyn Horan

giving-handsMany of us have heard our pastor say that one tenth of our income, or “the tithe” belongs to God.  It is true that the amount of finances I’ve given to God has come back to me, many times.  We’re told the principal of giving is that we must give first to God to release the “flow,” so that He, in turn, can give back to us.  In other words, we give to Him first; then He can give back to us.

I  have often worked as a baby-sitter with an uncertain income.  Just when I thought there would be no offers for work, I would get a phone call, and I would have a new job. This happens many times, as I continue to “contribute my money gifts to God.”

When new work comes to me, I recognize it is God’s gift back to me.  Keeping in mind, God’s generosity to me, I know that God wants to bless us.  But first, we must be willing to give to Him, trusting in His promise to always meet our needs. Then  when we share our finances joyfully with God, we discover how He blesses us again and again when we first give to Him.

Looking for Light

by Veronica Williams

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?’ (Psalm 27:1)  

lightHave you ever been afraid?  I know some children won’t go to sleep at night if a light isn’t left on, the reason being their scared of the monsters in the dark.  Are you afraid of monsters and things which go bump in the night?  As little children before we go to sleep we are taught to say our prayers.  I remember in addition to asking the Lord to bless mommy and daddy that I was taught to say the following prayer:

‘Now I Lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

If I should die before I wake

I pray dear Lord my soul to take

I often wonder if saying those words are reassuring to a small child.  Essentially we’re asking that the Lord keeps us safe as we sleep, and if he is ready to take us home that our souls go to heaven.  In addition to those words a night light will ensure that most young children feel safe and are able to sleep in their own rooms by themselves.  Being able to see what’s in the room takes away the fear of unpleasant things lurking in the shadows.

I believe that Jesus Christ who proclaimed himself as the light of the world can be seen in a similar way.  He too shines in the darkness and makes us feel safe and secure able to face most of the threats in the world.  In John 8:12 Jesus tells us that he is ‘the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’

We are very fortunate that we as Christians can rest in him and know that through him our salvation is assured.

 

Sometimes I Make Mistakes

by Evelyn Horan

face in handsThere are things in my life that cause me problems.  Sometimes, I make decisions that are not  right for me. It’s not always easy to say “no” to suggestions and activities others ask me to share with them, and  I make mistakes by giving in to their ideas without using the wisdom God has given me.

At times, I think I’m the only one who starts out with  good intentions, and then something goes wrong in the situation, possibly not according to God’s will.  That’s when I feel disappointed in myself. I wonder what I could have done differently? Why did things turn out badly for me?  Then just before I feel really discouraged, I remember God is my friend.  He cares when I make mistakes, and He’s always ready to help me straighten out the problems I’ve created.

Last Sunday in church I heard a story about a rich man who had two sons.  His youngest son had many problems and destroyed his life badly. The youngest son asked his father to divide up his property and give him his share because he wanted to go out on his own and live life the way he wanted to.  His father knew his son’s plans weren’t the best, but he knew if his son were to learn how to use God’s wisdom for us, he would have to let him have his way.  So the father gave his son his share of the inheritance.

“Good! Now I’m free,” the young son told himself.  He left home and went away.  He began spending money on what he thought was a good time.  He made new friends who helped him spend his money.  They led him into many kinds of unwise behavior.

But as soon as his money was gone–so were his friends.  Then a famine spread over the land and food and jobs were scarce.  The young son finally found work–caring for pigs!

He began to think of home.  He remembered how much his father loved him.  Even his father’s servants had plenty of food, but he was now hungry and starving.  He decided he would go to his father and ask him to forgive his foolish behavior.

For many days the son walked home.  As he approached his home he saw someone running toward him.  Was it his father? Ignoring the dirty, smelly rags his son wore, the boy’s father threw his arms around his son.

The boy told his father he had made many unwise choices. But his father didn’t let him finish.  He took off his robe and wrapped it around his son.   He told his servants to prepare a banquet to celebrate the wonderful day!

Great love came into the runaway son’s heart.  He discovered his father still loved him and had forgiven him for his lack of intelligent use of God’s wisdom for him. This same thing happens, when I realize God loves me in spite of my lack of intelligence and wisdom in my activities.  He runs to meet me, when I decide to return to Him.  He throws his arms around me and gives me His understanding love. God is willing to love me in spite of my mistakes.  It’s so easy to love Him back, when I know He’s always there for me with His love,  encouraging and forgiving me, when I ask Him in my prayers.

From now on, I’m going to be more careful by asking myself, “Is this what God would want me to do?”  Then,  I’ll make wiser and better choices in planning activities in my daily life that would be pleasing to God.