Thankfulness

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It is Thanksgiving week.  I love Thanksgiving…maybe it’s the food.  That is part of it, but I love the focus we place on our blessings.

Last week, my husband and I were having an extra crazy and chaotic week.  A sweet friend in our church called and said she was bringing dinner.   I was so thankful for her friendship and thoughtfulness and the really good soup.  What a blessing she was.

Tonight, I am spending some time with my daughter, her husband and grand-gifts #1 & #4.  The hugs, smiles and “will you play with me” are another blessing.

For Thanksgiving Day this year, we have the rare opportunity to have our children and grands together with my sister, brother-in-law and mom.  I can’t remember the last time we got to be together.  Another blessing.

There are so many times I am the recipient of gifts, acts of kindness and thoughtfulness.  I try to express my appreciation to everyone who makes an impact in my life.

But, do I express the appreciation where it is ultimately due?  It is important to let people know they are loved and appreciated, but even more important is to let our God know how much we appreciate all that he does for us – even through others.

In His Word, we are reminded that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.  In Philippians, Paul thanks God for every remembrance of those partnering with him in ministry.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, are you expressing your thankfulness to those God is using to be a blessing in your life and are you thanking your Heavenly Father for them.  Are you allowing God to bless others through your life by being an extension of His mercy and blessing?

Let Thanksgiving Day be a day of thankfulness for our blessings, leading to the season of Christmas, a time to express our thankfulness for the ultimate gift.

Thank Him,

Lisa

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Blessed Beyond Belief

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““And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”” Luke 1:45 NASB

I have been so blessed and I absolutely have to share my blessings with you all! You may or may not know that I am pregnant with a blessed baby boy. We are only 14 short weeks away from meeting him!! Anyway, I  can remember when I prayed to have a baby. When I cried out to God and begged Him to bless my womb. But God answered me by telling me to wait on His perfect timing. I didn’t want to wait (does anyone??), but I know God’s timing is much better than mine. In May, I received an offer for my dream job. I was ecstatic, but I thought I would not have children of my own, at least not for a few more years. Well a month later we discovered that God’s timing is definitely NOT our timing and a little one was on the way. I believed in His promise to me to have a child, and I feel most certainly blessed. It is overwhelming: the awesomeness of our Lord and Savior.

Praise the Lord! He fulfills His promises to us!!! The above verse speaks of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She knew that the Lord had big plans for her and trusted in His timing and words. I am so grateful that God chose to include Mary’s pregnancy in the Bible. What an amazing example to us! We can be blessed to know that God does care for us and will fulfill His promises.

As for this pregnancy, the Lord is to be praised. The baby is healthy, I am healthy, and no complications so far. I am so thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to carry this baby. And I can’t wait for the day when we will get to hold our sweet Elias Gabriel.

Lord, thank You for fulfilling Your promises. In Christ I pray, Amen

~Lauren Ray

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Thankfulness Lost in Busyness

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Life is so fast, right? When I turned 40 last summer it was like my life light turned yellow. It was a divine signal to yield, slow down and enjoy life. I am a goal getter and for me slowing down caused me to have anxiety about hitting the brakes and saying, “No”, when I wanted to scream, “Yes!”

I am a work in process. Still even this morning, I am saying, “No, not right now”, and feeling guilty for not being able to continue life in the fast lane. You know girls, our bodies were not created for a constant flurry of busyness. The Lord has brought it to my attention that we were instead created for thankfulness. YES! Even in my struggle to be transformed from the busy Mama life into the thankful Mama life, I am finding freedom in basking in gratitude and thankfulness.

As I sat in my chair, with datebook in hand, planning my month (yes, an entire month), the Lord gently said, “When you are consumed by busyness you are unable to be influenced by thankfulness”.

So as we enter into the busiest season of the year, let us enter in with a heart filled to the brim with thanksgiving. We often ask, “What can I possibly do to bless the Lord?” After all He is the Creator of all things. Perhaps we could use our thankfulness as a way to bless Him. What if we lived out Psalm 100:4 in our every day life?

Psalm 100:4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His Name.

Thankful,

Shana

 

 

 

 

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He’s Our All in All

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I’ve toiled around many different topics to write about this week: Veterans Day, Military Life, Service, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, Thankfulness, Community. But last night, I stayed out way too late on a school night at a Chonda Pierce concert. She said something that stuck with me, and I really feel the need to share it with you.

Chonda has been through so much in her life – hurt, devastation, abuse, depression, loss – yet, she has remained faithful to God. Here’s why:

The same God that provides peace for her is the same God that provides healing to someone else.

Here’s what she reminded us:

No matter what we are going through, God can meet our needs. If we are sick, He can provide healing. If we are lonely, He can provide companionship. If we feel hopeless, He gives us hope. Need peace? He can provide that too.

Our Mighty Lord is our All in All. He’s our Comforter. He’s our Healer. He’s our Redeemer. Whatever our need, He has the power to meet that need.

So, today, with this short, simple post, I urge you, Sister, to call out to God. Place your hope and your confidence in Him. The same God that provided emotional healing after my miscarriage can bring you comfort after your loss. The same God that gave me peace when my husband was deployed can provide hope in your time of desperation. Let God be your All in All.

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Jesus is in the Storm

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What does the storm look like to you today? Is it physical, relational, emotional, financial, environmental, circumstantial? You fill in the _______________________. No matter what the ‘thing’ is, Christ is in the storm. You may be thinking, “What do you know? My __________ is so big, so rooted, that even Christ isn’t in that!”

Let’s look at the words of Paul in Romans 8:35:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 

That storm you’re going through may be BIG! I assume at times you don’t feel the presence of Jesus. Let us examine all the things that CANNOT separate us from the love of Jesus Christ:

~Can tribulation? (trouble, suffering, anxiety) NO!
~Can distress? (extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain) NO!
~Can persecution? (hostility or ill-treatment) NO!
~Can famine? (shortage, scarcity of food) NO!
~Can nakedness? (lack of clothing) NO!
~Can peril? (serious, immediate danger) NO!
~Can sword? (violent death) NO!

Paul covered any and all storms, right? If you’re going to live stronger in Christ, you must not only read those words, but also meditate on them. What is meditating on the Word of God? It is reading the text, looking up any words that you don’t understand, then pondering on what you’ve read. If you look in the parentheses above, you will see the meaning of each word.

As I looked over my notes, I realized that my current storm fit perfectly within those parentheses. I want to live stronger, I don’t want to go to bed at night with a pounding heart and fear-filled thoughts. If Jesus Christ is your Savior, then nothing can separate you from His love. Hard as this life may be, we have the security of knowing that we can rest in Him and His faithfulness. So when you feel like Christ isn’t in your storm, look at all the words above. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ, you can be confident that He is with you in the storm!

In His love,
Shana

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A Study of Psalm 51:1-7

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Scripture:
Psalm 51:1-7
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Observations: What do I see in this passage?
• God’s love is unfailing.
• He has great compassion for us.
• He blots out our sins.
• Through repentance, we can be washed clean from sin and guilt.
• When we sin, we sin against God.
• His judgement is just.
• We were born sinners, even from the womb.
• God can purify us from our sins, making us clean, washing us whiter than snow!

Application: How can I apply what I see to my life?
Repent of your sins, recognizing your rebellion against the Lord.
Ask the Lord to cleanse you, making you whiter than snow before Him. He is faithful to forgive when we ask Him.

Prayer: Who/What do I pray for?
Pray for yourself, pray for the repentance of your community, church families, and for your family. Ask the Lord to reveal to us how His love is unfailing. As we pray, ask Him to show us how He has great compassion for us and can blot out the sins in our lives, making us clean, whiter than snow.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | 1 Response

No Looking Back

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As a little girl, I’d go out in my grandparents’ garden after my grandfather had tilled the ground. When I tried to follow my grandfather’s footprints, I’d get tickled because his huge prints were cockeyed, almost framing the tilled soil. No matter how funny his footprints looked, they were always in a straight path. Now, even though I have a son that’s an active member of the FFA, I don’t claim to know much about farming, and I can barely (or should I say rarely) keep a plant alive. However, I do know the importance of keeping a straight path.

When we answer God’s call to repent of our sins and become one of His children, we accept the path He has chosen for us. Sometimes the path is straight like my grandfather’s footsteps, but at other times, God leads us along a winding road. Either way, Satan is always there to distract us. He tempts us. He sets snares to trap us. He tries his best to make us look back at our old lives.

In Luke 9:62, Jesus tells us, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Once we become a child of God, looking ahead is the only option. My grandfather’s path in the garden was straight because he kept his eyes focused ahead, knowing that looking back would hinder his work. As Christian women, if we look back, our work will be hindered as well. We can’t grow in the Lord if we are constantly looking back at our past.

We must let go of our past failures.
We must let go of past hurts.
We must let go of bitterness.
We must choose forgiveness.
We must choose thankfulness.
We must choose to look forward with our eyes focused on Christ.

So today, Dear Friend, I encourage you to look forward. Whether you are just beginning to step foot on the path God has set before you or you have been on this path for quite some time, I encourage you to focus on Him. When life gets hard (and it will), look to Jesus. When Satan tries to bring up an old sin or tempt you (and he will), tell him to get behind you, that your focus is on being a new creation in the Lord. My prayer for you today is that you will keep your head held high with your eyes, your heart, and your mind focused on Christ alone.

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Change

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In just a few short weeks, my life will be changing drastically.  Preparing for this change for months now will not be an adequate portrayal of how not only my life but the lives of all those around me will be affected.  This will not be a gradual change but rather the kind you’re thrown into some cold water, head first almost forgetting how to swim.  You feel like you can’t catch your breath or keep your head above water.  But all the while, you are adapting to the change so quickly that you don’t even realize that you have had to change what stroke you are swimming or sometimes even just float on your back to keep from drowning.

Having a new baby, a second baby, has definitely been changing my body for the last 8 months, but other than that, my life hasn’t been altered nor my time been divided the way it will be very soon.  Change is a normal part of our life.  We change locations.  We change direction.  Our opinions change.  Our bodies change.  Life circumstances change.  We are an ever evolving people and adapt to how our lives are affected by big or small change.  Sometimes the change comes easy and other times it seems unbearable.

In the midst of my quickly approaching changes awaiting the minute this new baby girl comes into this world, I take comfort and have peace knowing that I have a God who never changes.  God is never caught off guard by what is affecting my life.  His faithfulness never waivers even in the middle of my doubt.  God always keeps promises.  He is not affected by the mountains and valleys of my life or the way my thoughts continually run in circles.

What I have learned recently in preparing for the many upcoming changes is not that God always keeps His promises.  That reminder is not hard for me to understand because I have seen His faithfulness.  However, another trait that doesn’t change for God are His expectations for me.  My perfection must be laughable to Him because He knows my faults so well.  But, even in my shortcomings, He expects me to trust He has my life in His hands.  When I don’t understand, when my worries seem to overcome my thoughts, when I feel like I need a life jacket from the weight of the water around me, He still expects me to believe in faith that He will take care of me.  His unchanging ways allow me to believe that He will still be faithful.  I may not understand how or even witness in this lifetime some of the ways He has been in control of these changes I am facing, but He expects me to acknowledge that His ways are higher than my own and that my faith can glorify Him no matter my circumstance.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional, Moms, Women's Ministry | 1 Response

Tracks of Low-Self Esteem

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Someone told me something they considered to be true about me.  The words penetrated me to my core—not because they were true. Actually, the words couldn’t have been further from the truth.  (Or is it “farther”?  I can never remember.)

After hearing the words, I gently corrected how I do handle certain situations and continued the conversation.

Truthfully, my mind has drifted back to that conversation—not because of the words.  Actually, the motivation of the would-be informant concerned me.  Why would someone tell someone else something so untrue?

After talking things over with God, He reminded me how a person’s low self-esteem can motivate one to act contrary to God’s ways.  I realized the person lied about me because of low self-esteem.

We compromise who and what God says we are when we do not use His Truth as the plumb line. I have played the victim of low self-esteem in the past, which is what God used to remind me of the symptoms.  I was able to recognize the tracks of low self-esteem.

So, I have begun to pray even more specifically for this person, as well as myself.  God can do more with this situation than I could ever hope or imagine.

Are you dealing with something?  Are you the “something” with which others are dealing?  Give it (the situation) to God. Trust Him to make the ugly, difficult, sordid, chaotic, seemingly unforgivable, or ___________  into something that glorifies Him. (You fill in the blank as needed.)

In the meantime, you get back in step with the Spirit and watch our Great God work!

Here’s to your spiritual health!

~Shelly

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Thanksgiving

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“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 HCSB

I know you’re thinking I have my holidays mixed up, but I promise the pregnancy brain hasn’t affected me that much! I just want to take a moment, dear sister, and encourage you to devote yourself in prayer with thanksgiving. It can be so hard to come to the Lord with thanks on our lips when we’re in a time of struggling. But that is when it is most crucial.

When my husband and I were trying to have a child, we cried out to the Lord often. One day in January, He sent me Psalm 37:4 where He tells us to delight in Him and He will give us the desires of our hearts. I knew in that moment I needed to focus on Him and the blessings He has already provided. That’s what He calls of us. We have to stay devoted in prayer, focusing on thanking Him, even during the hard times.

I don’t know what you’re going through, beloved. But I do know that we have a loving, personal Father who wants us to draw into a deeper relationship with Him. When we enter His presence with thanksgiving, we allow God to change us from the inside-out. I pray that we go to Him with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Lord, thank You for transforming us. Help us to come to You with thanksgiving. In Christ we pray, Amen.

~Lauren Ray

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