Lessons From a Master Gardener

When I was in San Francisco I toured the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was created by Makoto Hagiwara in 1894. Mr. Hagiwara was clearly a master gardener. I was awed by the cultured beauty and peace of the garden, but I particularly loved the Bonsai trees. How did they grow so perfectly shaped? I knew there must be a story behind each one, just like each of us. I found the answer in the Bible.

Through my brief study of the art of Bonsai, I learned the trees are actually regular size trees or shrubs that have been cultivated to a small size. To maintain the tree’s small size, constant  pruning must be done to control growth. Roots must be cut back so the tree will not grow beyond the size of the container. Branches are wired to shape them into the desired position. The trees require regular maintenance to keep their design intact.

When I began to read my Bible regularly, I realized a Christian is like a bonsai tree. We start out as a new believer, ignorant, eager, and desirous of becoming like our Lord and Savior. We are raw material waiting for our Lord to teach and train us, so that we may be pleasing to Him and able to do the work He calls us to do.  

Jesus explained this in John 10:10b, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Most importantly, God wants us to bear fruit. Jesus said in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:  and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

In John 15, we learn about the true vine. Who is the vine? Jesus. God, the Father, is the husbandman or gardener. The branches are Believers. In a biblical sense, we find that abiding is the result of a personal relationship with Jesus. If we are not part of the vine of Jesus, we will wither and die.

Just like the Bonsai master prunes his tree, so does the Lord prune His children. The beautiful form of the bonsai is accomplished by placing wires around the branches to bend each one gradually into the desired shape. Through God’s shaping process, the Believer is groomed to better produce fruit.

The Lord shapes us through His Word and through life experiences. He trains us to put aside the selfish and self-interested tendencies of the natural person. He reminds us that we are rooted in Him through the Holy Spirit. He keeps us, just as the Bonsai master keeps his trees.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10:  “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

As a Believer, we are expected to obey God’s Word because we love Him. We recognize the sacrifice He paid so we might be saved from the punishment for sin. Abiding is about love, commitment to Jesus, and obedience to His commands. As we grow and develop as Believers we will be used to reach others. Our Lord created each of us for a purpose that He reveals to us in His good time.

Change in us and in a bonsai tree is gradual and oh so slow. I am thankful that my Lord is patient and kind to me, giving His life that I might have eternal life.

Written by Linda Hull

 

More about the Bonsai…

*Here is a link to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco:

http://japaneseteagardensf.com/

http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/japanese-tea-garden/

 

*If you would like more information about bonsai trees, check out this website:

https://www.bonsaiempire.com/

*Here is a link to the United States National Arboretum’s page about The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum which features a bonsai photo gallery.

http://www.usna.usda.gov/PhotoGallery/BonsaiGallery/index.html

A Good Biscuit!

by Linda Hull

What brings a family together? Food! Joining loved ones around the table is a heartfelt blessing because families are God’s gift to mankind. A delicious meal is worthy of praise, for it is truly a gift of love to the family. I should know because my Grandmama was one of the best cooks in the world, notably for her buttermilk biscuits!

“Helping” Grandmama in the kitchen was a real joy back in those little girl days! Back then, just about everything was made from scratch. Cooking took more time and effort than it does in today’s world. It also provided many opportunities for talking about life.

It was a fact of life that Granddaddy had to have his biscuits every night at dinner. So making biscuits was the last menu item to make before everyone was called to dinner. That’s because Granddaddy liked his hot, with lots of butter and strawberry jam!

While the rest of the meal simmered on the old stove, Grandmama would gather her ingredients. The flour was kept loose in a pullout flour bin in what was probably an old Hoosier type cabinet, a novelty in today’s kitchen. Next she would measure out all her ingredients into the sifter. The flour, baking powder, and salt were shaken together as she turned the crank. Next she scooped out the shortening and placed it in the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Once the ingredients were assembled, she took a table fork and pressed that shortening into the flour mixture until it resembled coarse meal. Next came the buttermilk with a little cup for me to drink. Then she would scrape the mixture all up into a ball of dough, kneading it for just a little bit. Not too much or the biscuits would be tough.

After rubbing a bit of flour onto her rolling pin, she rolled that dough out to about a half inch thick. Each biscuit was cut from the dough with her biscuit cutter and placed on the cookie sheet to bake. My little bit of dough was added to the cookie sheet too, a testimony to her diligence in teaching me, and my desire to be just like Grandmama.

You know, you can learn a lot about God and His ways when you make biscuits. When I think about Grandmama’s hot biscuits, I think about Luke 6:38 (KJV): “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Biscuit making is a lot like life. You see, God knows we women are givers by nature and by design, but in order to be useful to Him, He has some work to do in our hearts. God sees us as that lump of dough that needs to be worked to make a good biscuit! He gives us everything we need to become the person He wants us to be, including the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word. He presses us down a bit to bring us into conformity with His Word. Then he shakes us up so we learn to depend on Him. He shapes us by our life experiences into women who are useful in furthering His Kingdom. He teaches us that what we give always comes back to us with more besides. When life brings discouragement, just remember God is making you into a good biscuit!

 

***********

 

Following is my biscuit recipe roughly based on Grandmama’s old recipe.  I’ve made adjustments like using self-rising flour and using the Crisco brand shortening.

 

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

 

2 cups sifted self-rising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons Crisco shortening

2/3 to 3/4 cup buttermilk

 

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut shortening into flour mixture with fork until it resembles coarse meal. Add liquid gradually, stirring with the fork, until the mixture sticks together. Turn out on a lightly floured clean surface. Knead gently for about 1/2 minute until it feels elastic. Flour the rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thick. Cut dough into biscuit shapes with a biscuit cutter or a floured beverage glass. Place on un-greased baking sheet in very hot oven (450 degrees F) for 12-15 minutes.  Biscuits should be lightly browned. Serve immediately with butter and jam. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen depending on the size of the cutter.  

 

Bibliography

 

“Baking Powder Biscuits.” American-International Encyclopedic Cookbook. Thomas Y. Crowell Company. Copyright 1972 by Homemakers Research Institute.

 

How To Find Real Love: The Inside Guide

The number one thing that most of us want in our future is a happy relationship and, later, a happy marriage. Does that sound sappy? Yeah, probably, but it’s true. The idea of having someone who’s a constant support for you and the real love of your life is a dream for many people. Here are some tips on how to form a happy and healthy relationship and meet the person God has chosen for you.

Get Out There

If you want to find a partner, then you need to be in places where it’s easy to meet people! A lot of people expect love to simply fall in their laps, but that doesn’t happen in real life all that often. If you want to find love, get involved at church, start new classes, get talking to people around you at work, and don’t dismiss people too quickly and easily. Download dating apps, but make sure you’re careful to let a friend know where you’re going and what time you expect to be home if you go to meet anyone from them. Remember that kindness and humour are much better qualities than a man who’s instantly attractive to you, if you’re looking for something long term.

Be Realistic

We’ve all been fed stories by the media, by movies and by romance novels about the perfect man, the perfect relationship, the perfect diamond engagement ring, the perfect marriage. But the truth is that perfection simply doesn’t exist in relationships. That doesn’t mean that you should settle for someone who doesn’t treat you well and who you’re not quite sure about – on the contrary, you deserve nothing less than to be extremely happy with whoever you share your life with. But you need to remember that even Mr Darcy, the most famous romantic hero of all time, was actually a pretty awkward, standoffish weirdo, and it took a little time before Lizzy Bennet saw through that to the good heart beneath his snobby exterior. Don’t dismiss a good guy because he isn’t perfect – chances are, you aren’t perfect either. Trust God to lead you to the right person.

Get What You Deserve

Although it’s important to be realistic, it’s even more important to make sure that you’re with someone who treats you well and who has the same moral values as you. Don’t expect to be treated like a queen – on the contrary, your relationship should be more to do with give and take than that. You should be just as kind to him as he is to you to create a healthy and happy relationship. It’s important that he treats you well, that he keeps talking to you, and that you feel you can trust him. Above all, you should both put God first and when those priorities are lined up your relationship will benefit.

Be Open And Honest

The truth is that no one really has time for mind games. At the end of the day, they simply aren’t worth it and they make no one truly happy. If you open your heart up to whoever you’re talking to, then sure – there’s a chance you could get hurt. But remember that you could also find something incredible by being open and honest about what you want. Good luck! Finding love is a challenge, but it’s one that you’re very equipped for and likely something God already has planned for your life.

 

Hollis Creek Revival: In the River

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
hollis creek revivalI was drawn to Hollis Creek Revival immediately; ten seconds into my first listen of  “Wildfire,” I knew this was a band that I wanted in my daily musical rotation.  A somewhat tamer version of Needtobreathe, they are in that same southern rock, earthy, organic vein.  This is music I can’t get enough of.  And while they sound great, even more importantly, their lyrics are treasures; morsels of truth that both comfort me and inspire me to live closer to Him.

Their press release explains that the band recorded In the River with the intent for the first half of the album to have a more modern feel while the later half to have a “more vintage, retro” sound.  Overall all, the record is cohesive, and there isn’t necessarily a fine line where they flipped a switch from one approach to the other.  At least, that wasn’t audible to my ears, anyway.  But what I did notice is the first half of the album has a general, upbeat motivational perspective, like a bird’s eye view of the world, and the second half has more of an introspective and personal feel to the songs.  It has a “hey, world, this is who we are as a band and how we feel” introduction to a “and, hey, by the way, since you are still listening, this is WHY we feel the way we do.”  It’s pretty ingenious, actually.  They’re so forthcoming, and I feel like I could be friends with these guys since we have so much in common.  I adore that transparency.

“Wildfire” is brilliant.  Both the song and the video are both so seriously good.  Anyone who has a smidgeon of wanderlust will love the song; anyone with a call to missions will understand the embers they speak of.  While understanding this earth is not our true home, God reveals himself in the sunrises and the sunsets, the majesty of a waterfall, the constancy and power of ocean waves.  He’s everywhere.  Anyone who says miracles don’t exist anymore hasn’t taken time to wonder at the complexity of butterfly’s wings, the act of breathing… But once that perspective of amazement has been adopted, it’s just so overwhelming; the desire to get out, see more, to share more, to tell others!  This song tells of that passion.

“Home” and “Violin” stand out to me as well.  They’re both slower songs, one near the beginning and one near the end of the album, but they tell stories in the great way that timeless songs often do.  “Home” is not what you might expect-it’s about being in the presence of heroes and ancestors and legends who set a precedent, and without them, your life would look completely different.  The name Hollis was the name of the lead singer’s grandfather, and this song is another bow at reverence for lineage that made an impact.  “Violin” tells the power of music and the bonds it can create.

Whether it is learning trust over time and realizing God is never late (“You’re Right on Time”), learning to let the pain go by turning burdens over to Him (“Weightless Yesterday”), or realizing God is always waiting for us to seek Him (“Like Brand New”), Hollis Creek Revival use their gifts to create an album that brings both comfort and inspiration.  The last song, the hymn “What a Day That Will Be,” reminds us of the bigger picture…getting to heaven, but all the other songs do an amazing job of encouraging us find joy in this life by remaining connected to the truth.  With that as our focus, there is no reason we should let not live our lives like a “Wildfire.”

For more information, please visit:  www.holliscreekrevival.com.

 

Chit Chatting With Sara Jouret

Written by: Jill Sheets

 HeadshotRecently I had the honor of interviewing a very talented author Sara Jouret.

Sara wrote the amazing book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart,” which is a book that anyone who has struggles can relate or identity with. Continue to read on and learn more about the book and about Sara’s strong faith in God.

R: Tell us a little bit about yourself.


S: I love to create, which is why I enjoy writing, cooking, painting, sewing, photography, and art in general. I grew up with two brothers, but no sisters. This caused my interests to be more diversified. I also enjoy things like watching sports, camping, playing video games, etc. I can be quiet and a little reserved at times, but it’s simply because I like to take everything in first. I love meeting people and hearing their stories because it helps me to understand who they are like nothing else can. Most of all, I love God! He is my everything and the only reason I am still alive today!!

R: Tell us about your book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart.”

Sara Jouret book cover
S: Mosaic of a Broken Heart is about a girl who faced many difficult obstacles in her journey to becoming a lady. It walks you through her joys, struggles, hopes, and fears, but also shows how God was able to take her most painful life experiences and bring amazing good from them. It includes many things she learned during her journey and how she saw dreams come true in many unexpected ways.

R: Why did you decide to write the book?


S: For many years, I had been wanting to write a book because I love writing, but I didn’t want to write my life story because it felt too messy. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I was too ashamed to let others into the “messiness” of my life. Over time, God began working on my heart by showing me He can use the messiest stories and bring so much good from them if we allow Him to. Every time I began writing my story, I found it to be extremely difficult. Once I decided to turn it into fiction and use my personal journals, the writing process was less intimidating. The only things I changed were names and minor details in order to protect those in

the story. It has never been my intention to hurt or destroy anyone else by writing my story. I simply wanted to help others. I wanted them to know they are not alone in their life struggles and pain. So many are afraid to talk about their struggles because they don’t want to appear imperfect. Others are afraid to share what they are going through because they don’t want to be judged and ostracized by others. God showed me in so many different ways that writing my life story was what He wanted me to do. Even though it was scary and extremely difficult, I wanted to obey Him and do what He asked me to do.

R: How did you decide on which journal entries to use for the book?


S: It was difficult because I had twenty-three years of journals to consolidate. I typed every single journal entry and then sifted through them to see which ones would help share the story in a way which was understandable. I did a lot of praying throughout the entire writing process because I wanted to make sure the story was what God wanted it to be. Words are powerful, and I know I will be held accountable for the words I speak and write. I wanted to make sure the words in my book were honest, but also conveying what God wanted me to share with others.

R: Do you mind telling us about some of the things you went through?


S: During the first fourteen years of my life, I experienced a lot of different health issues (epilepsy, hearing loss, various illnesses, broken bones, etc…). When I was fourteen years old, I was in a serious car accident. The traumatic brain injury I sustained left me unconscious, and I was life-flighted back to a hospital in my hometown. I came out of the coma after three days, but spent the next five months in the hospital and rehabilitation relearning many things. Even though my doctors didn’t think I could, I was able to graduate from both high school and college with God’s help. Growing up, my worst fear was to be abandoned by my future husband. When I was thirty-two years old, I fell in love and got married. The day after the wedding, the abuse began. Over the next fifteen months, the abuse continued to get worse. Because I take my commitments very seriously, I had no plans on filing for divorce. After being abandoned by my husband, I realized he had no intention of working towards reconciliation. The divorce was finalized a year and a half after our wedding day. It was devastating, but something unexpected happened. Through my worst fear becoming a reality, God was able to bring amazing good into my life. Because I was in a time of transition after the divorce, I was able to live with and take care of my Grandma J. until she passed away. During the twenty months I took care of her, I had the amazing privilege of praying with her as she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. The time I spent taking care of Grandma J. also gave me the opportunity to cultivate a wonderful relationship with my father, which is something I had longed for. Even though life hasn’t been easy for me, I know God has brought beauty from my pain. I am trusting He will continue to use my story to encourage others and draw them closer to Himself.

R: You have been through a lot. How did you keep your faith through all of it?


S: When I was growing up, I was very involved in a variety of church activities. Many of the activities included studying and memorizing scriptures. I truly believe God used the scriptures I memorized before and after the car accident when I was fourteen years old to help me through every difficulty I have faced throughout my life. The more I read the Bible, the more I fall in love with my Heavenly Father!! I am not perfect, and I will never have life figured out because it is so complex. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated, upset, hurt, etc. because of what I’ve been through, but God has always been faithful to help me endure the difficult times and learn from them. My constant goal is to become better instead of bitter, but I know I could never become better without God’s continual help and strength. He has been so faithful, and I am so thankful for His unconditional love!!

R: Do you have any plans on writing more books?


S: Yes! I am currently working on more, but they are all in the beginning stages. Writing makes me happy, and I love helping others. As long as I am able to help others through my writing, I will continue writing books.

R: Where can people get your book?


S: To purchase Mosaic of a Broken Heart (the ebook), they can go straight to my website (www.SaraJouret.com) and order their copy.

R: What do you want people to take away from reading your book?


S: I want people to know it is possible to make it through anything with God’s help and come out better on the other side of it. Life is full of difficulties, but we can make it through the most difficult situations because of God and His love. I want people to be encouraged and strengthened in their relationship with Him. I want them to know God is more than able to bring beauty from their deepest pain if they allow Him to. Finally, I want them to know they are not alone in their struggles!

R: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?


S: I have so many favorites!! It’s difficult to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorite verses is Philippians 4:13. I quote it often because I’ve found reciting scripture helps me make it through each day.

R: Who has been your biggest influence in your life?


S: My grandparents and my parents. They have all impacted my life in so many different ways that it’s difficult to single one of them out individually.

R: What are some of your future goals?


S: I love helping people, and I am always looking for ways to help others more effectively. I am currently working on a few different projects to help those aging out of foster care, domestic violence victims, and those with disabilities. My main goal is to honor God with my life. Even though I cannot tell you exactly what my future endeavors will look like at this very moment, my constant prayer is that I will honor Him in every way!

R: It is not easy being a teenager especially when Christian. What advice would you give them in general?


S: Stay close to God through prayer and Bible study. He is the only One who can help you endure the difficulties in life, but He also wants to be a part of your good times. Include Him in everything! Memorize scriptures. Write them in your journal. Recite them as you go throughout each day. I recite them as I’m driving, cleaning house, etc. My relationship with Him has helped me through every moment of my life. Finally, don’t ever be afraid to be the person God created you to be!

R: Do you have an official website? Are you on any social networking sites that you would like to share?


S: Yes! My website is www.SaraJouret.com. I can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under Sara Jouret.

R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?


S: Life is so short when compared with eternity. Live well. Love well.

R: Sara, thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.

 

Manafest: The Moment

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

 

manafest-themomentCarpe Diem:  seize the day.  I remember a foreign exchange student trying to teach me his definition of a concept I thought I knew.  He thought fearless meant reckless, freedom meant wild, seizing meant capturing.  I was enchanted by him, and I fell for it all only for it to culminate in a devastating end.  But it taught me what carpe diem meant to me, and how it set me apart from most people.  Manafest’s The Moment puts it all into perspective:  about living this life fully and trying not to waste an iota of time.  Sometimes, he has me singing along at the top of my lungs with my windows rolled down, enjoying freedom, and others, he has me sitting up a little straighter, goosebumps on my skin as I realize how easily I get led astray when I thought I had focus.

I love how a word can have several meanings, and I love even more when a theme can be so dynamic as several perspectives are considered.  Manafest zeroes in on the concept with the title track, “The Moment,” going with the obvious and then widening the scope with the following tracks.  “Edge of My Life” has so much energy, and it hits me personally as he lists the responsibilities of life and all their distractions, taking us into a secular world rather than the one God wants us to live.  I love “Criminal” for the way he proclaims his devotion without shame.  I’ve often wondered, if I was put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence against me.  There would be my Bible, my writings, my journals.  But even more importantly, I want the testimony.  I want dozens of people standing as witnesses to how I lived my life.  There’s not enough time to fudge the lines.  Either you’re a Christian or you’re not, either you’re living it out, or you’re not.  “Cage” is the song that surprised me, the thought of life being too short to be put in a box, whether it’s one of our own creation or whether it’s one we allow others to put us in.  Again, life is too short to not live in freedom.  I would like to say “Diamonds” is my favorite track, but this is an album full to the brim of “this is one is my favorite…wait, no, THIS one is.”  I love the story behind it (a song about addiction inspired by Brian Head Welch’s battle), but that chorus “Diamonds aren’t the only thing that shines” gets me every time.

While all these tracks show versatility, the underlying motivation of this album is all about the pursuit of being the people God wants us to be.  He gave us dreams and passions for a reason, but we fall away from them for a multitude of reasons.  Manafest mentions in one song, there’s no right way to do the wrong thing, but he flips that on it’s head and sheds light on the fact that there’s no wrong way to do the right thing in a different song.  It’s funny how we dismiss really great ideas, talk ourselves out of taking chances, let the smallest of setbacks discourage us completely.  None of that is what God wants for our lives.  His portrait of what our lives look like to Him is so much more wonderful than the ones we paint for ourselves.  Why do we do that?  Why do we cover it with gray and desolation and heartbreak?

I truly love this album.  I would have loved to have given it to my younger self.  I would have

loved to have given it to that foreign exchange student.  I would have given it to him and said, “This, this is what I believe. This is what carpe diem means to me.”  I don’t have the opportunity to give it to him because I don’t know where he is, but I can recommend it to you.  And as a favor to myself, I will play it when my painting gets a little bleak and my doubts start to obscure the view.

For more information, please visit www.manafest.net and be sure to download a copy today.

Veridia: Inseparable EP

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
veridia-inseparableI love rock music. I love the intensity in it that no other genre can sustain. I love the edge. And I love the unexpected emotions that a solid rock album can provide. While Veridia might understandably be compared to Fireflight or Flyleaf, they reveal their own personality on Inseparable. This five song EP has me rocking out to their anthems, but most importantly, they have me gasping for breath with their stunning perspectives on the realities we share. After recovering from some pretty substantial insights in these tracks, I have those “I never thought of it that way before” moments, and I know Inseparable will be a go-to album with longevity on my iPod.

My favorite track is “Mechanical Planet.” Their creativity reminded me of the genius in The Screwtape Letters written by C.S. Lewis; both force me to face the reality that while God yearns for my attention, a darker force is at work, too. I can either listen to the lies (the devil), or I can pursue the truth (God). The song is delivered from the perspective of satan who delights in the self-loathing, knowing that as long as a person is chin-deep in misery, she can’t be hearing God and fulfilling the potential he has bestowed upon her. The lyrics are absolutely brilliant, told from a creative perspective, but the chilling lyrics delivered two-thirds of the way through the song are the bow holding the song together. Once spoken, the lead singer could drop the mic and be done:  “I never wanted you to believe/That when you are down on your knees/That someone is actually listening…That you have never fought alone. Never have you fought alone.” I challenge you to listen to this song while you’re down and realize you are totally playing into the opposition’s hand by entertaining all that negativity.

“Furious Love” has my attention from the beginning of the song with the undercurrent of the strings and the first verse that tells the story of a girl placing her worth and value in the vision of a guy. They steal my heart with the simple lyric “The girl I was/I soon forgot;” I’m reminded how the focus of superficial beauty and giving the power to a human to make me feel “loved” depletes who I am in my soul. Thankfully, God doesn’t love us conditionally this way, and the song effectively delivers that sentiment home.

“We are the Brave” (“Whatever it takes/We’re gonna make it together”) and “Disconnected” (“We should be building bridges/Instead of burning them down”) are great rock anthems that will gain the casual listener’s attention but reveal this band can play with the best of them, including the seasoned counterparts that share their rock sensibilities. Make no mistake, though, they are distinguished enough to stand on their own; the brilliance of “Mechanical Planet” and “Furious Love” solidifies that truth. The best thing about discovering a young band like this is not just that I get five little gems that I can listen to on repeat, but to realize they probably have only scratched the surface of what they will deliver. I’m anxiously awaiting new tunes from them that prove me right.

For more information, please visit www.veridiamusic.com and be sure to download Inseparable today.

Love and the Outcome: Ocean Way Sessions: Live

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins
love and the outcomeIt’s been a difficult couple of years for me.  I keep putting myself out there, making bold efforts for God, and the results never pan out the way I think they should.  I have felt completely and utterly dejected.  Maybe a little ignored. Abandoned, even.  Yes, by God.  My futile attempts have been met with a stony silence, and doubt surfaces, mixed in with a little anger.  Saying all this makes me feel a little ashamed, but I only say it because I’m thinking I’m not the only one who feels it.  Certainly, I’m not the only one.

So, literally, thank God for little EP’s like this one that help put things back in their proper perspective.  Love and the Outcome are a married couple from way up north who packed all their dreams, and fueled by faith, moved to Music City to pursue the artistic releases God placed in their hearts.  The Ocean Way Sessions include five songs from their full length album, plus the previously unreleased track “Home;” all of which were performed and recorded in front of live audience.  The result is six gems that have reminded me of what not only are the most important “things” in my life, but the relationship I sometimes ignore because I get so busy doing.

Hands down, my favorite lyrics unfold in the song song “King of My Heart.”  “Lord, help me believe what I believe.” My disbelief is often what makes me want to run in the other direction and hide, but this song reminds me to bring it to Him; my doubts are never surprising to Him, nor do they make Him love me less.  The song basically is about remembering that He is the center amidst all the pursuits the world tells us we need to chase after.  Do I want a relationship with Him, most of all, or do I want these “accomplishments”  that I justify by saying they’re for Him, more?  When I find myself opening up to Him in prayer, or when I sincerely search for His counsel by opening the Bible, the peace that overwhelms me is better than any fleeting moment of success.

The song “What a Promise” reminds me that I am not alone, and most importantly, it reassures me that I am loved.  The lyric of the bridge “You give strength to the faithful/to rise up on eagle’s wings” gives me the hope that sustains me through all the disappointments.  He has my back.  While I may never see the fruits of my labors, none of them are in vain.  He has His reasons, and His promises are never broken. Equally as important to me is the song, “Heart Like You.”  The first verse reminds me that there is nothing in life as important as Him…”Burn away all the things I hold tight.”

“Story You’re Building,” sonically, is my favorite.  I love the acoustics that are prevalent in the live recording, but the ability to tell a story and weave it into a melody are what draws me in.  Love and the Outcome share many similarities to the beloved duo All Sons and Daughters, and it is songs like this one that reaffirms that, yes, I need BOTH bands in my life.

The song “He is With Us” says it best:  “We can trust our God/He knows what He’s doing/’Though it might hurt now/We won’t be ruined.”  It is this promise that has sustained me, through the harshest of disappointments, and best of all, it is probably the very same promise that has given Love and the Outcome the courage to share their songs and His truth with others who take the time to listen.

For more information, please visit www.loveandtheoutcome.com and be sure to download the live EP today.

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.