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9/4/09 5:06 A

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Great Smokey Mountains and Tourists, by Steve Ridgell

My wife and I visited the Great Smokey Mountain National Park this summer. It was beautiful, breath-taking, and spectacular. While there, we stayed in Pigeon Forge. I was amazed. There is a twenty mile stretch of road leading from Interstate 40 into the Park and it is solid tourist attractions. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and an endless array of shops, restaurants, attractions, and shows. The people, the traffic, and the tourist venues were enough to overwhelm me. Yet every time I looked up I could see the mountains.

I could not help but wonder what the real attraction was for all the people we saw. It appeared that most of them spent their time in the man-made tourist center. The National Park was less crowded, cheaper, and more beautiful. I am sure the mountains were the original attraction for this area, but they have been overtaken by the modern tourist hustle and bustle. Yet, there they are ... just a short drive away.

It is easy to get caught up in the life I have created ... and not even realize I am missing the life God created for me.

It occurs to me that some people live their lives like the tourists I saw. They are busy with the life they created. Yet it is often too busy, too crowded, and too artificial. And all the while, there is a different life available -- the life God designed us to live. God created each of us. He has a purpose for each of us. He wants us to live a life full of hope, joy, purpose, and peace. But most of us will choose to live as tourists in a society absent of those emotions, never looking up to see that there is a different life to choose.

If you have a sense that you are missing something real in your life, and you would like to know if there is a different way to live, then write me at steve@hopeforlife.org. Or check out the blog at www.hopeforlife.org.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/2/09 2:17 A

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Beyond Circumstances: Attitude Makes the Difference, by Rubel Shelly

Many things about your life boil down to the hand you have been dealt. You can't change the fact that you were born in that place and with certain givens for your appearance, IQ, or physical skills. Education and training can open some doors for you, but they cannot change your past, make you taller and more athletic, or alter the fact that some people are unfair in the way they treat you.

In spite of the fact that all of us know that most of our life circumstances are beyond our control, we are all still tempted to fret and complain about things that cannot be changed. Of course they cause distress. They certainly put us at a disadvantage in certain contexts. They mustn't be allowed to define and limit us.

The people who do best with life move beyond the temptation to whine and feel sorry for themselves. They face the disappointment and move beyond it. They acknowledge the bad break and look for a way to turn it around. They work from a half-full rather than half-empty glass mindset.

These people have a different attitude than the defeatist and whiner. They have found a way to make lemonade from their lemons.

One factor you can control is your attitude!

There is a section in John Baillie's "A Diary of Private Prayer" that reads:

Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin.
Let me use disappointment as material for patience;
Let me use success as material for thankfulness;
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance;
Let me use danger as material for courage;
Let me use reproach as material for long suffering;
Let me use praise as material for humility;
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance;
Let me use pains as material for endurance.

When a given day begins, countless things are headed your way over which you have no control. It may be bad weather or someone's bad temper, a deadline that won't budge or a client equally resistant to change. The one factor you can control through it all is your attitude toward them.

Your attitude today will make all the difference in everything that matters.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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7/7/09 5:16 P

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Family Unique: Fuel in the Family Tank, by Rick Brown

The drive from Jackson, Mississippi to Mobile, Alabama was nothing spectacular. Three and a half hours. Two hundred miles. Just a jog in our journey from Abilene, Texas to Tampa, Florida where Mom's home cooking beckoned us over the miles. But to get from I-20 to I-10 you had to make the drive between Jackson and Mobile.

The long drive got longer once we hit that stretch in the middle of the night. We made the turn south at Jackson with half a tank of gas. So while others were sleeping, I tried not to. I was driving. Scott was snoring. And I kept a sleepy eye on the fuel gauge. (Why is it the needle takes so long to get to the half tank mark then drops like the stock market to the empty mark?)

About 50 miles outside of Mobile we were nearing the red zone on the fuel gauge. Scott woke up. I said, "Smell that?" "Smell what?" he asked. "The fumes!" "What fumes?" "The fumes we're driving on."

Next moment we were fuming at each other, envisioning what it would be like for two young guys to be pushing a '78 Camaro through the Alabama outback in the dark.

Your family's tank can run low too. The signs are similar. You drag through your days. You sputter at each other when you speak. Tension increases as pressure mounts. The life journey becomes rough and the ride bumpy.

You need some.

Whereas vision gives your family direction, values fuel the family tank. Values are what you most want to be known for as a family. Values are your "to die for" principles.

Jesus had them. He valued prayer enough to rise early, go to a deserted place, and pray. He valued lost people enough to not care what others thought about who he hung out with. He valued unity enough to die for it.

Have any values you hold that strongly to? You need some. Try writing down four or five that you want your family to be known for. Make them easy to remember. And then start living them out.

By the way, we made the turn onto I-10, gasping and choking right into a truck stop. We pumped 15.97 gallons into a 16 gallon tank. I vowed that day that whenever my gas tank reached 1/4 of a tank I would stop and fill up.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:13-14 TNIV).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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5/28/09 11:59 P

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Making God Touchable, by Phil Ware

Ah, the sense of touch. While it warns us of danger and alerts us to pain, our sense of touch opens up a world of delight, joy, security, love, tenderness, and a host of other emotions. Think about how powerful our sense of touch can be as you think about ...

* the feel of cold skin cream rubbed on your sunburned shoulders making you shudder with shock and delight.

* the sting in your hand from a high five celebrating what you have just accomplished.

* the gentle tousling of your hair by someone you love.

* the gentle drag of your daddy's fingertips across the top of your palm to help you relax.

* the stroke of your mom on your cheek as she puts a cool rag on your feverish forehead.

Most of us have experienced hundreds of other similar moments of touch that thrilled, excited, or comforted us. God made us tactile people --folks whose lives are empty if they are devoid of personal, human touch. So, God refused to only be theoretical or theological: God chose to be tactile and touchable, too.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched -- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1 TNIV).

These words sound like distant echoes from Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Jesus:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:24-28)

What do these passages have in common? In both, John talks about the touchability of Jesus.

Jesus came to our world as God wearing human skin. He came as Immanuel, God with us, in human form. He was God Who was touchable skin in a real human body. This means that God got splinters in the carpenter shop, blisters on his feet during his long walks, sweat on his sunburned face, and piercings in his hands, feet, and side on the cross. Yes, the Passion was God knowingly enduring the humiliation and rejection of His own people in the Cross (Isaiah 53:3), fully with the sense of touch:
... a man of suffering, and familiar with pain ... pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5).

Through Jesus, we witness God touching the broken, the mortal, and the untouchable. This touch of God through the hands of Jesus made His ministry powerful and personal:
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him (Matthew 8:14-15).

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?" ... he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!") (Mark 5:35-41).

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him (Luke 5:12-13).

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. ... Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).

Jesus' ministry was about the touch of God for those who needed it and about God being touchable by those who were seeking Him. Which brings us back full circle to Jesus' resurrection appearance with Thomas and the other apostles:
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:21-22).

Did you hear what Jesus said? We are sent to make God touchable and to share the touch of God with those who most need it!

Those of us who gather around the Lord's Table and follow Jesus are the Body of Christ: we are the physical presence of Jesus in the world today (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Our work is to make faith touchable for a world that cannot see or touch God.

As God's people, who are we touching?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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5/22/09 10:55 A

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Did I Get Everything Right?, by Tim Archer

I don't like paying taxes. I especially don't like the whole process of filing taxes here in the United States. It's amazing how complicated our tax code has gotten. In 1913, the tax code was just over 400 pages long. The instructions for filing consisted of two pages. In 2008, the code had grown to over 67,000 pages; the instructions for filling out the basic form, the 1040, had grown to 155 pages. The complexity of accurately filing taxes fuels an entire tax-preparation industry. Because of that, most of us feel a bit of anxiety when filing taxes: Did I get everything right?

Some people feel a similar anxiety when they think about God. Did I get everything right? Have I made amends for all the bad things I've done? Have I done enough good things? Did I say the right words, go to the right places, think the right thoughts? Even though the Bible isn't as long as the U.S. tax code, the consequences of being wrong can fill anyone's heart with fear.

Did I get everything right?

If you feel nervous when you think about standing before God on the Day of Judgment, you might be surprised at something the apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace? Peace with God? How can we have peace with God when we have to constantly worry about getting everything right in order to please him? The answer to that question is, we can't. If our being right with God depends on us and what we've done, we'll never be at peace. But look at the first part of what Paul says: "Since we have been justified through faith." We can have peace with God because our future doesn't depend on us doing everything right. Writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It's not about what we've done; it's about being saved through faith in the gift that God has to offer us.

God expects us to respond to him in faith, committing ourselves to change our lives, washing away our sins in baptism. But none of that is done as a work, none of that is done to earn salvation. Salvation is a free gift from God, and we can rest assured that God wants to give it to us. We might worry when we mail in our taxes, but when it comes to being right with God, peace should be all we feel.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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5/14/09 6:53 A

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Another Epidemic, by Steve Ridgell

It happens periodically in our world. There is an outbreak of some disease that threatens to become an epidemic. People get nervous, then worried, and some even panic. I do not. It is not because I think I am immune to any disease. But I do not worry.

This time it is Swine Flu. Athletic contests have been canceled, travel has been restricted, and the medical community is on alert. I have no idea what will happen this time. This may become a full fledged epidemic endangering thousands and resulting in hundreds of deaths. Or it may subside and become a footnote in the annals of medical care. But as I write this, even the medical experts seem unsure of what will happen. There is incredible uncertainty.

So where do you turn to secure your future? You could look to the knowledge of our medical community but they seem unable to assure us that they can offer adequate protection. They are not sure if it will become an epidemic, or how to control it if it does. I have heard of swine flu for years but this has caught everyone off guard. All of the
science and all of the knowledge in our society may not be enough to protect us.

Maybe money is the answer. If someone can accumulate enough money, surely they can buy some sort of protection. But this strain of flu strikes without regard to economic status. And no matter how much money you scrape together, you cannot buy protection from this illness. So maybe the answer is just to trust in luck. Or fate. Or karma. Of course, there are no guarantees with any of these. The future still
remains just as uncertain.

I am certain I will survive.

So why am I not worried? It is because my future is guaranteed. I trust God more than science, money, or luck. He has the power to spare me if He so chooses. And if I get swine flu and die, I go to heaven and live forever. It is popular in our culture to dismiss the security Christians claim in Jesus. But in times like these, it seems to me to
be the most secure future of all.

I believe it. If you are looking for something you can count on, write me at steve@hopeforlife.org, and lets talk. Or visit our blog at www.hopeforlife.org.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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5/12/09 2:21 A

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Nearby Treasures, by Kelly Breece

Could you be looking for something that is already right next to you?

On a beautiful May afternoon, my daughter and I decided to visit my nearly 91 year old grandmother. She has lived in a retirement home for quite some time now, and has done remarkably well. She still plays the occasional card game with friends and shares meals with some of the ladies. As time has gone by, however, she spends less time with others and more time alone in her room. She assures us all that she really doesn't mind. After all, she explained to me once, naps are good.

During our visits, I try to think of interesting things to talk about. I get an update on my uncle and cousins who live out of state so she can keep up with them. My daughter is learning to "speak up" when she's telling Memaw all about her baby dolls and her friends because Memaw can't hear well. We also look at a lot of pictures. We've looked at the same photo albums over and over; I don't think she ever gets tired of looking at images of her family and talking about each one as if it were the first time we'd seen it.

As I was putting some pictures back on her antique secretary desk on the other side of the room, I noticed the handmade notebook lying on the table. It was the gift that my Mom had given her for her 90th birthday. For a person who doesn't hear well, written words are invaluable. Mom wanted my Grandmother to know just how much she had touched all of our lives. Mom had asked my grandmother's close friends and family to write a birthday wish for her. These best wishes were all included in this wonderful notebook.

As we looked through this homemade treasure, she was reading every word of every page. Then, about halfway through the book, she said, "I haven't seen this in forever. I completely forgot about it."

Along with the birthday wishes, friends and family had fondly recalled memories of life through the years with my Grandmother. Grandmother had led a Brownie Troop in the fifties. She took cross-country trips and traveled to Ireland. She had even appeared on television commercials at the local TV station back in her younger days. Everyone mentioned the amazing meals she prepared throughout the years. Grandmother had touched so many lives, and in this notebook, people were given a chance to share their thoughts and love. She was moved by what people said about her.

Have you checked your tables lately?

As I watched her reading the book, I thought to myself, "Wow! This amazing little treasure has been sitting on the table about two feet away from where she sits every day and she didn't realize that it was there. I wonder how many powerful reminders go unseen and not experienced simply because I don't realize they are there."

What about you? Have you checked your tables lately? Has God placed something in your life as a reminder of how much you're loved and valued? Are you seeking validation that quite possibly has been there all along, perhaps tucked under something much less significant?

The psalmist said: "He knows us inside and out ... God's love ... is ever and always, eternally present" (Psalm 103:14-17 MSG).

All we have to do is look for it.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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1/24/09 6:01 A

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The Problem with Commitments, by Rubel Shelly

City officials in Bullhead City, Arizona, are in hot water with that town's military veterans over an "eternal" flame. The question seems to be whether to make the flame "eternal" or only "occasional." And I am sensitive to both sides here. On the one side is the principle of honor where honor is due; on the other is the matter of fiscal responsibility in these challenging days. Here's the story, according to the Mohave Valley Daily News of January 10, 2009.

With great fanfare last Veterans Day, the flame was ignited for the Medal of Honor Memorial at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park. An agreement between Bullhead City and Veterans United -- a veterans group that had worked to design, build, and pay for the memorial -- called for the city to maintain the park and the new memorial. The perpetual flame was one of the most distinctive features.

But last week the eternal flame sat cold and dark. The first month's gas bill for $961.17 had come to the city in December. After deciding to leave the eternal flame on through the holidays, it was turned off last Monday as a cost-cutting measure. The city manager explained that the perpetual flame might have to be only an occasional flame -- set ablaze only for special events such as Veterans Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day. The uproar began. "It's an 'eternal' flame," said one spokesman for Veterans United. "That's just not proper." Said another: "You just don't shut off a 'perpetual' flame!" "But at this point," said the city manager, "we don't have any money budgeted, you know, a thousand dollars a month, to pay for that eternal flame." Said the mayor: "You know, under the present financial circumstances, we're very careful on how we're spending our money."

So now they're negotiating. Veterans insist figures for the gas expense were projected in discussions all along. At least one city official says he didn't think the city understood they had to pay the gas bill. I hope they work it out satisfactorily. City officials in Bullhead City, Arizona, are in hot water with that town's military veterans over an "eternal" flame.

So now they're negotiating.

When I read the story, I thought immediately of a dozen -- no, a "bazillion" -- other situations that parallel it. Businesses have cranked up without a workable business plan or adequate capitalization. Crazy-in-love kids have gotten married with no clue of what adult responsibilities for work, education, mortgage, auto insurance, and the like would entail -- much less kids of their own. People have made emotional decisions to get baptized or to commit to a missions project and were not ready to live up to the commitment.

It was Jesus who gave this counsel to some who were thinking about joining his band of disciples: "Don't begin until you first count the cost" (Luke 14:25-33, my summary of his words).

As the perpetual-versus-occasional flame illustrates, it is sound advice. It spares embarrassment later. It keeps a good thing from becoming a failed one.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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12/5/08 7:48 A

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Kat,

Your posts talk directly to me. Thank you so much for sharing. I get pulled away from God with just plain ol busyness. This will make me more accountable. Thanks again. Val emoticon


Val
Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8
__________________
�How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.�


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12/5/08 5:50 A

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How Can I Improve My Daily Quiet Time?
Gregg Farah

Q. I have trouble doing daily quiet times and praying consistently. I want to though. Can you help?


A. I love your heart. And just so you know, I have trouble too. I have times when I'm consumed with God and times when God has to reintroduce Himself to me.

Before I share thoughts from my own struggles, let me ask you a question: Why is this important to you?

Are you hungry for God, wanting to love Him and know Him in greater intimacy? Or do you feel like you're letting others down? You know, other people respect your walk with God, and so you may be trying to live up to their expectations, rather than being more concerned with what God thinks. That's pride, and Jesus addresses that kind of heart in Matthew 23:1-6.

I'm guessing your motives are pure, and you're simply wanting to take the next step with God! But I can relate to that other motive ... the prideful one ... and it's ugly. Don't go there. Instead, here are some things that have helped me when I've struggled with spending time with God.

Don't Miss the Obvious!

Time with God is not a five-minute quiet time or even an hour. Time with God is a 24-hour lifestyle! Sure, there may be times in the day when we get away from our routine to pray or read or journal or sing or ... whatever. But we need to worship God all the time, when we're in school, playing basketball, going to the movies, laughing with friends ... you get the idea.

Accountability

Sometimes I'm motivated by accountability. Ask a friend to call you once a week to let you share what you've been reading and learning and what God has impressed on your heart during times of prayer. Ask this friend to pray for you, to be open to what God wants to teach you.

Prayer Partner

Meet with a friend or two and pray for one another, for non-Christians, or whatever else is on your heart. Designate a place and time to meet and give it to God. Not only will you be motivated to grow closer to God, but your friendship with your prayer partner(s) will deepen.

Think About It

Pick one thing from your Bible reading that you can think about all day long. Write down that thought on an index card and stick it in your pocket. When you're walking between classes or have any time to think (30 seconds or so), pull out that card and read it. Let it soak into your brain. By the end of the day, you won't even have to look at the card ... you'll already be thinking about its message!

Mix It Up

Don't get stuck in a rut. There's more than one way to spend time with God. So try something completely different. Draw, journal, sing, take a walk ... whatever. Just do it while focusing on God.

In his excellent book, The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg reminds us that "our primary task is not to calculate how many verses of Scripture we read or how many minutes we spend in prayer. Our task is to use these activities to create opportunities for God to work. Then what happens is up to Him."

God wants to spend time with you and use you to serve Him. Are you ready?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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12/2/08 9:05 A

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That was so beautiful Kat, and how true. Thank Him always! Val

emoticon


Val
Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8
__________________
�How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.�


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12/2/08 4:33 A

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Thanksgiving
by Phil Ware

Wilbur was a sweet man with a serious countenance those who didn't know him would call him dour or crusty. But, his heart was good and generous and kind. His young grandson, who was four or five at the time, came to stay with his grandparents for a week. On weekdays, they had the typical southern breakfast eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, and coffee. On Saturday, however, Wilbur and Willie Maude usually had cereal and coffee or juice. They sat down at the breakfast table and Wilbur asked his young grandson to say the blessing. The little guy hesitated for a minute, and then prayed, "Dear God, we thank you for this breakfast ... even though it's small. In Jesus' name. Amen." Wilbur cracked up with laughter.

We do have so many things for which we can be thankful. However, if we are not careful, the challenges of our moment in time can wilt the joy right out of our Thanksgiving. Like many of you, I've lost 1/3 of my retirement over the last year. I know folks on fixed incomes who are seriously hurting now financially. I opened an email this morning from a friend who will have no job this week. A family that I love is deep in grief during what is supposed to be a special and blessed time of the year.

These concerns easily give way to fear. With the negative orientation our news and gossip magazines take, our hearts can be seized with anxiety and dread. Our prayers soon become laundry lists of things for God to fix listen to our words: "Give me!" "Help me!" "Heal me!" "Rescue me!"

Certainly we are to turn to God honestly and openly about the burdens of our hearts to "receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 TNIV). But with our cries for help, we must not forget the importance of being thankful for the incredible blessings we have in Jesus (Colossians 4:2).

God isn't asking us for false or forced thanksgiving or some kind of simplistic relabeling of bad stuff. We are called back to the deep spiritual wells of grace we have in Jesus. From prison, Paul writes:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7).
The liturgy of our lives is thanksgiving.
Because we have Jesus, and because he has us, our future is secure. Our relationships in Christ are eternal. All partings and every agony we face here are temporary. With this hope, we are to reframe all of life in a chorus song of thanksgiving:

Cultivate thankfulness. ... Let every detail in your lives words, actions, whatever be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way (Colossians 3:16-17 MSG).
In Jesus, the liturgy of our lives is thanksgiving not just one day a year, but every day until we are lost in the thankful wonder of His presence, at home with Him forever.

Yes, dear God, we do thank you for all the ways you have blessed us, for they are indeed, NOT small!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/26/08 9:48 P

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What's Really Important
by Paul Faulkner

I heard recently from a man in his fifties. He said, "I've learned that the challenge of life is to find out what's important, and to disregard everything else." Not bad advice! It's really a shame to think about wasting your life on cotton candy, soda pop, television and accumulating stuff, while doing without what's really important. But, so many folks actually live this way, totally missing out on the important things of life.

Have you learned what really counts? Missing the point can happen to dedicated and religious people, too. Jesus came down awfully hard on the people who spent a lot of time worrying about how to tithe tiny bits of spices but never bothered about the greater matters of the law: justice, mercy, love, and faith (Matthew 23:23-24).

I guess the question is, have you learned what really counts? Do you know how to disregard the other stuff? God's Word is a pretty good guide in that search. So is seeking after the heart and wisdom of God! Only God can help us find the path to what's truly important!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 TNIV).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/24/08 7:28 P

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That is so beautiful and well said. We must always be thankful for everything God gives us. Amen. emoticon


Val
Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8
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�How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong, because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.�


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A Thankful Heart, by Sarah Stirman

You may think of it as "the official start of the holiday season," you may consider it a day to endure, you may think of it as a day of eating and watching sports, or you may just think of it as any other day. However you see it, Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like that there are no expectations to give or to get. I like that there is an excuse to wear your "Thanksgiving pants" -- my Aunt MaryLynn wears hers faithfully every year -- so that you have room to eat plenty. I especially like that we are reminded to be grateful. (But, does it seem ironic to anyone else that we spend one day being grateful for all that we have in our life, yet get up with the chickens the next day to scratch and claw our way to a sale on all the things we think we must have?)

I hope that when my life is summed up, I am known for being grateful all year -- not just on one day. I teach my children that even through annoying times, there is plenty to be grateful for. I was challenged greatly on this not too long ago when plumbing caused the floor through most of my house to be ripped up by a jackhammer. Yet even through that mess, there were so many opportunities to be thankful we couldn't really complain about a temporary inconvenience.

I believe that young children can learn to be grateful, but it must be modeled for them. Does "Oh, why does this ALWAYS happen to ME???" or "Well that didn't work out like I thought, but I'm glad we got through it" sound more familiar? As the parent, find the silver lining and point it out to remind us all -- especially your children -- to be grateful.

This summer, my 10 year old broke his foot for the 2nd time this year. He was very sad at the prospect of spending a few weeks in a cast, perhaps missing the camp he was so excited about, and being on crutches through the heat of the summer. He was allowed 5 minutes every evening to feel sorry for himself about it -- but that was it. We know too many people that have had far worse than a broken bone for us to waste life bemoaning a break that will heal. After the third day, he really didn't feel like using his 5 minutes. Why waste time complaining about what is or could be, when there are new ways to have fun on crutches?

It doesn't take too much of a rosy point of view to be grateful, but it takes seeing beyond your own life and problems.

* Diet not working? Then you have plenty to eat -- unlike entire countries on our planet.

* Grocery prices too high? Yes, they're painful, but have you seen the gas pump? Prices going down there!

* Drive a crummy car? If you have access to a car, you are very wealthy in the eyes of the world.

Our burdens and complaints would be blessings to many people.

Paul tells a little secret he has learned with his beloved friends in Philippi: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV).

Many of us use this last sentence as our "go-to" verse when times are tough or trials press in on us. Yet it was originally written not to simply withstand a situation, but to be content in every circumstance.

A thankful heart truly is a happy heart.

A kid at heart, I love "Veggie Tales" shows. One of my all-time favorites is Madame Blueberry, who is always blue and grouchy. She tries to soothe her grouchiness with a trip to StuffMart, hoping that buying more and more stuff will comfort her. That doesn't work. She encounters Annie and Junior, singing this song:

I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground
For His love that's all around
That's why I say thanks everyday!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
That's an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
'Cuz He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks everyday!

A thankful heart truly is a happy heart. May your happy heart find reasons to say thanks everyday!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/23/08 11:17 P

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The Lord Is Faithful, by Tom Norvell

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing (Psalm 145:13-16 NIV).

A man and a woman stand in the front of a church building and promise to love one another until death separates us. Troubles come. The joy fades. Temptation gets the best of them. One of them gives in. I could not help it. It just happened. They file for divorce. What happened to faithfulness?

The job offer comes with the promise of a hefty salary, excellent benefits, and the opportunity to advance. The economy slides into a slump, a recession, and things change. First come the rumors of about layoffs. Then, come the layoffs. The perks are gone. The retirement is gone. The security is gone. The future is dark. What happened to faithfulness?

The church felt like home. It seemed to be a good fit. People were coming. Numbers were increasing. People were being encouraged. Plans were being made. Life was good. Then, something changed. Plans were changed. Promises were broken. Hearts were broken. Relationships were broken. What happened to faithfulness?

There was a day when a mans word was his bond. A handshake was good enough. A promise was kept. Vows were sacred. How elected figures talked in public was how they lived in private. When politicians made promises they tried to keep them. Something changed. What happened to the faithfulness?

Look to the Lord!

Does faithfulness still exist?

Has faithfulness disappeared?

Perhaps we are looking for faithfulness in the wrong place? As Psalm 145:13-16 indicates, it is the Lord who is faithful. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. His dominion endures. He is faithful. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. He satisfies the desires of every living thing.

If the political speeches leave you empty, if personal integrity seems to be missing, and if you are weary of the endless contracts and paper work required to provide proof that the person with whom you are doing business will keep a promise causes you to ask what happened to faithfulness, then look to the Lord. Look to the Lord, He is faithful. Look to the Lord, He will keep His word. Look to the Lord, His Kingdom will last and His dominion will endure. You can trust Him. You can depend on Him. You can rest in Him. You can rely on Him. He will not betray you, forget you, or reject you. He is faithful. The Lord is faithful.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/6/08 7:45 A

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Under All These Masks, by Ann Voskamp

He never told us his name, that night. It's the way of the street. Concrete and asphalt and dark don't require you come with a name, for the streets christen with names of their own. And anyways, names may be forgotten, but not a face like his, never his story, the one these streets lent him.

I'm trailing the youth from our fellowship down Yonge Street, the last of the light seeping out of the autumn gold of the trees. I dig my hands deeper into pockets and warm. The gray chill's creeping in, up the wet pavement. It's going to be a long, damp night out here.

A wild mane of graying hair, he's standing, back to me, in front of the Yonge Street Mission front entrance. It's him, his tribe, we've come to minister to, to be ministered to. Tonight's not about what too often happens -- us getting to where we're going, walking wide of the crumpled hurt, looking the other way. Tonight's about the street and its people, their stories. About us each finding Christ in the other. Before I reach the entrance, he steps out in front of me, walks towards our cluster of kids. His buddy stays in the shadows, swigging long out of a 1 liter pop bottle. I feel something inside tighten, twist.

Marisa and Hadassah and Erica are up ahead, huddled together, hands drawn up into warmth of coat sleeves, waiting for staff from Center for Student Missions to meet us, give us directions for the night. Tyler and Dan and J.D. are closer to the street, checking out models of cars blurring by in thickening twilight. I can hear Dan's voice above the others, "Catch that little beemer? Sweet." Kids mingle, joke, laugh, wait.

I'm a few steps behind this bulk of back and tangled hair, watching our kids already gathered up there on the street. And I see him pull down a mask. He's pulling down a mask, walking into the center of them.

I walk faster.

I can see his hands gesticulating, but from behind him, I can't make out his words, words muffled under the plastic of the clown's mask. Yet over his shoulder, I can see the uneasiness of Marisa's eyes and see Hadassah's ashen face. Then I catch a phrase. "Why you think I'm wearing this %*$#& mask? Hey? Why?"

Hadassah's stepping back. The raspy voice yells louder, leans into these home schooled, mostly farm kids. "Why would I wear a *$%# mask like this?"

Tyler's not watching vehicles. Lean and lanky, sunglasses hanging from the neck of his jersey, he shifts from one foot to the other. Erica scuffs her shoe at the crack in the sidewalk. None of us know what to do with this. It's not on the itinerary.

Then this man rips the mask from his face and the blade of his howl slashes at us all stiffened to this spot here. "I'm wearing the &%$#& mask to mask my feelings."

He shakes the painted rubber face in his hand. "I'm masking the real me! Know what I mean?"

I want to raise a hand to my own face, see if I can peel off mine.

There are more words, drifting ones, but I can't hear them. I can see his wide shoulders seem to slump, shudder. Erica looks up. Tyler chews his lip. And the night air on Yonge Street, with the traffic still whistling by, fills with this guttural moan, this pitched wail. It's the exposing of a naked soul. He's crying. Sobbing. I catch snatches .. "I'm so *&$**# up ... Jesus ... Savior ... need ... know what I mean? ... Just so ... Jesus ... Lord ... know what I mean?"

Bared, he writhes, storms past me, a flurry of tears, hair, hands. A mother in the group calls softly after, "Jesus loves you ..."

He stops. Half turning, he tries to steady his voice between the wracking of sadness, tries to find the face that went with that voice. "Yeah, He does. And He loves you too, lady."

The wind whips at his hair and he blusters down the street.

If the story had ended there, we would have had questions, knots I'd have worked long at loosening, and his face, that mask held up in clenched fist, would have lurked in memory alleys of that night. But God has more on the itinerary.

Later, we run into him again at the door of the mission. His mask's still in hand.

His eyes dart, desperate, driven. He's not done. He stands in the middle of the street, blocking the way of our Street Mission worker. There's more to this story, lines he's got wrong, parts we haven't understood. Do we have time to listen? "Hey, I'm sorry, okay, lady? I've got issues, know what I mean? I'm like, bipolar."

His buddy spews his drink, mocking. "You're not bipolar." Like graffiti, the label's smeared across the coming dark, a cuss word. But the scoffing doesn't deter. It's us he's got to say something to, whatever this is. "Hey, I'm *&%$#* messed up, man. Look at me!" He steps into the company of young people. Some look away. "Look at me!" His rage shakes us.

So I look. His nose is crooked, busted up somewhere, healed all wrong. His mouth clings to a few brown teeth. His skin's pocked, ruddy, and his eyes look like a childhood friend's. Maybe he's my age. "I'm a **%$& retard. Fried my brain on crack, know what I mean? Gotta pacemaker in here." He pounds his chest. "OD'ed just down there," he waves his hand, "and it took them five hours to find me. Don't do crack, know what I mean?" His eyes are fiery, searching the faces of these country kids. "Don't get &*%*$# messed up like I did. Love your mom and dad cuz they love you, know what I mean?" He's choking back emotion.

I wonder where his mom and dad are -- if they know he's here, like this, if they care that he's in all this strangling torture. "Gotta Bible?"

He's in Erica's face.

But this, this is what we came for. But we didn't think it'd be like this.

Erica manages a slight shake of the head. "Who's got a Bible?" he hollers at us all.

I'd had one in my small backpack all weekend, but for tonight's street walk, we'd been instructed to bring no money, and I'd left everything back in a locked church basement.

He rummages in his duffle bag. Kids look at each other. But we don't move.

He shoves a dog-earred red Gideon's Bible at Erica. "Read Romans 7:14 to Romans 8."

"Who's got a Bible?"

I can hardly hear over the traffic, the rumble of the city. "Louder. So they can all hear you!"

Then comes Erica's voice, calmed by these words she knows and the Person in them. "... I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do ..."

And a low bass throbs.

It's his voice. He's mumbling the words from memory, his eyes penetrating, his hand keeping beat with each word Erica reads, "... but I hate what I do."

I still inside, rapt. His cerebellum's scorched with fraudulent relief and yet these words are branded deeper, right into his core. "... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." He slurs some of the words, stumbles. Erica reads on and he marks each word with a swaying hand, his voice echoing hers, "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

He's rocking his whole body to the cadence of ancient words, this cry that his flesh weeps. He turns my way and I look into tearing eyes, begging eyes ... "What a wretched man that I am!"

He's peeled it all off and here stands the cold, bare skin of a soul. I can hardly look.

Then there's an exchange of words that I can't hear, our mission worker saying something, nodding and he muttering something in return. Then our group spills past, escapes. And when I, the last one, trickle past, he makes eye contact, asks, "Did I get it right this time?"

Something right. Did I get something, anything, in this busted body right? Do I do any of the good I long to do? The plea madly tugs. Doesn't it echo off the walls of humanity?

I can't fix the consequences of his past, but I can nod, look in deep. "Thank you." I say the words slowly, hoping they soak into his pores. He'd wanted to share hope and Jesus with us. Had his second encounter got it right? I don't know really, but this heart knew the howl of his, and I nod again. "Thank you for sharing."

Into the Toronto night we walk, carrying glimpses of Christ we'd see in the other. For isn't the worst kind of homelessness these masks we wear -- homes outside of Christ?

Later that weekend, I'd come home, pull back clean sheets, tuck my own boys into peace. And, with no warning, little Malakai's lip would waver and tears brim, and when I pulled him close, he'd whimper words I didn't know where they came from, or why then. "I just sin so much, Mom. I can't even remember all the sins and bad things I've done." His chest would heave and the words lurch out. "I ... just ... sin ... so .. much."

And I'd hold him and gently say the last verses, ones a wild man groaned, "Who will rescue ... from this body of death? Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25).

On a Sunday night while the rain fell, I'd hold my little Kai and let him cry into me, and stroke his still-soft cheek. And I'd think how names don't matter, about how we are all the same under all these masks, and of a nameless man, somebody's boy too, and me too, with my own messiness and brokenness.

We're all just wretched ones clutching, unmasked and naked, to the Cross where He hung naked, our only hope.

"Thanks be to God ..."

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/2/08 5:11 A

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Improv Parenting, by Jenny Runkel

"Life is a stage and we are all players in it" (William Shakespeare).

If you think about it, parenting really is similar to theater. In the space of two hours, you can experience comedy, drama, tragedy, and maybe even a nude scene or two -- depending on the age of your child. There is, however, one critical difference: in parenting there is no script. Life sure would be easier if there were, but it just doesn't work that way. Try as you might, no scene you envision with your child will go exactly according to plan. That's because kids have an uncanny ability to shake things up, to bring about the element of surprise, to steal the scene right out from under you.

This brings to mind one of my favorite TV shows, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" If you haven't seen it, you are really missing out. It is a show based on improvisational (or "improv") theater where the actors never quite know what will be thrown their way. The results are often hilarious and always unexpected. These professional actors make incredibly difficult tasks look easy up on stage. They are so creative, so calm, so talented. What you might not know is that they have all been well trained in the rules of improv acting. These rules allow them to access their creativity and turn any scene, no matter how strange or unexpected, into something great. So, with that in mind, I though it might be a good idea to take a look at a few of these rules and see how they might apply to what we do every day. "Rules of Improv"

1. Keep the scene moving forward by saying "Yes, and ..." rather than saying "No!" The worst thing you can do in improv is to negate what someone brings to the scene. You are killing any chance of progressing the conversation. In parenting, this rule is particularly helpful for those times when your child is whiny or complaining.

When it's chore time and your little darling moans about how disgusting it is to clean the bathroom, there is simply no point in negating him. He is right after all -- cleaning the bathroom is unpleasant -- so say "yes, and". "Yes, honey, cleaning the bathroom is awful, and I think the toilets are the worst part." There's no gauntlet for your child to pick up. There's no battle to fight -- there is just a bathroom to clean ... as disgusting as it may be.

Good improv takes hard work and self discipline.

2. Always check your impulses and retain focus. Improv demands intense focus and concentration. We can't do that if we allow ourselves to get sidetracked. Kids are masters at hooking us in to arguments, and if we're not careful here, we'll end up functioning on their level of maturity. When you find yourself really wanting to lash out or throw your hands in the air, reign in your impulses. It's ok to want to go ballistic; it's just not ok to actually go ballistic. By staying focused on how you want to behave, you can quiet those impulses and allow your principles to say a few things.

3. Never enter a scene unless you are needed. Way too often, when our kids are complaining about something, we take that as our cue to jump in and fix the situation. We either "set them straight" and let them know just how easy they have it, or we lighten their load in order to shut them up ... I mean, help them out. But, just like in improv, that can kill the natural momentum of the scene.

Kids are just like us in some respects. Many times, they simply want to vent. Give them space and hang back a bit to see if they can work out the scene on their own. The same goes for sibling arguments. Encourage them to work things out without your intervention and they'll become much more self reliant in the process.

4. When in doubt, break the routine. If you find yourself in a position where you've tried to keep the scene moving and nothing seems to be working -- do something totally unexpected to shake things up.

If you're having the same battle with your daughter over getting dressed that you've had each morning for the past two weeks, I've got a newsflash for you: whatever you're doing isn't working. So do something totally out of character. Switch roles. Let her pick out your clothes and wear them, no matter what. Or better yet, you put on her clothes since they're not getting much use in her room. Trying something different even if it is silly -- maybe especially if it is silly -- is a great way to break the monotony. After all, a good case of the giggles makes everything seem a little easier.

Some of the greatest scenes in movies come out of improvisation. Those actors who specialize in this form make their fellow actors look better and they make it all look easy. But, just because they make it look easy doesn't mean that it is. As you can see, good improv takes hard work and self discipline. I'm pretty certain that the same is true of parenting. So, this week, give a few of these rules a shot and I think you'll have to agree with Joey Novick, comedian and improv teacher, that, "Spontaneity. Creativity. Increased intelligence. Emotional connections. Being in the moment. It is impossible for all these things not to be there when improvising."

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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11/2/08 4:53 A

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Horrifying Halloween, by Phil Ware

Halloween was horrifying that dreadful night over ten years ago. However, the horror didn't have anything to do with costumes, horror houses, or dastardly tricks. After all the candy was gone and the "trick or treaters" had retired for the evening, we heard the horrifying news. A barefoot three year old child was found crying in the street carrying a nine day old sister. The police could not find the children's mother and their grandfather wanted nothing to do with them.

These cold, forgotten, and neglected children were dirty, malnourished, and scared -- a sad reminder of the millions of other neglected children in our world. What can we do to make a difference? Solutions are not easy! But let's pick three beginning points for action.

First, let's love, cherish, and nurture our own children, grandchildren, church children, and neighborhood children. Children are precious gifts from God, but not gifts we possess. We're merely stewards. They're really God's children. They come from Him. He made them and sent Jesus to remind us just how important they are. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." If children are within the circle of our influence, they're our responsibility. What we do for them, we do for Jesus.

Let's insist on children being valued for who they are!

Second, let's insist on children being valued for who they are -- eternal people made in the image of God. The Fall did not strip away our likeness to God -- every child bears the likeness of the Heavenly Father (Genesis 8:6; James 3:9). In addition, God is at work making each child special, even when the child is unseen in the womb of his or her mother (Psalm 139:13-16). God knows this unseen child and has a plan for her or his life. To lose the gift of a child, to see it snuffed out by neglect or abuse, is to lose something precious from God himself.

Third, let's financially, prayerfully, and personally support groups which help vulnerable and forgotten children. These may be crisis pregnancy centers, foster care programs, organizations like Compassion International, children's homes, adoption agencies, special poverty relief programs for families in need, Big Brothers and Sisters, and shelters against violence. We must not abandon God's precious children to the trash heap of despair, abuse, and isolation.

As children, we learned to sing that all children are "precious in His sight" because "Jesus loves the little children of the world." Let's make sure they know they are precious in our sight as well. Don't just get angry and grieve over the neglect, join me and make an eternal difference in the life of at least one of these children whom God loves.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/26/08 2:48 P

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And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, New International Version

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/26/08 2:41 P

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Face the Mirror and Face the Music, by Patrick D. Odum

[John said,] "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

John answered, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same" (Luke 3:8-11 TNIV).

Ever had one of those days that just seemed to go from bad to worse? Some folks in Kane County, Illinois, had a Wednesday in September that was a day like that.

Truth be told, though, their bad days were largely of their own making.

It started out as a day in traffic court for ten people who had been previously identified as having suspended or revoked licenses. They had company when they left the courthouse after their appearances -- undercover police officers followed them to the parking lot and signaled other officers in unmarked cars. When these ten folks got into their cars and drove -- drove -- away from the courthouse, the police pulled them over, wrote them tickets, and had their vehicles towed.

Some of the red-handed complained. One guy said his sister was supposed to drive him to court, but hadn't shown up. "If I didn't appear, there'd be a warrant out for my arrest. I'm in trouble either way." Poor guy. When pressed, though, he did have to admit that he hadn't possessed a valid driver's license in 27 years.

Really, though, what do you say in a situation like that, watching your car being towed away and knowing you really have no defense? It's not like these drivers didn't know they were breaking the law. They had just gotten away with it long enough that they got comfortable. Complacent. It probably never occurred to them that they might get busted.

That's the path of least resistance, to not give your habits and choices much thought until the consequences turn and take a bite out of you like a mongrel dog you've grown accustomed to scratching between the ears.

It's the path of least resistance, which I guess explains why a husband doesn't give his temper much thought until his wife takes the kids and leaves. Or why the stories and confidences you pass on regularly don't seem like such a big deal until you're face to face with a friend who's angry and hurt. It's why we can convince ourselves that an online "friendship" is no big deal -- until a marriage implodes. It's why we can throw our weight and attitude belligerently around a church and never really see ourselves until someone holds up a mirror and makes us look. Recovering addicts talk about needing to hit rock bottom before they decided to get some help, but rock bottom isn't just for alcoholics or drug addicts or sexual compulsives.

God asks us, though, to not let things get that far out of hand. That's what repentance is about.

Repentance isn't something we only do at church on Sunday morning.

Repentance isn't for God so we can let him know that we're really sorry for our sins. He knows how sorry we really are -- or really aren't. And it isn't to pay for our sins, to somehow right the balances. He did that for us, in Jesus. And besides, we couldn't do it even if he asked us to. Repentance isn't for God at all, actually.

Repentance is for us. God knows our tendency to take the path of least resistance and not spend very much time at all in honest appraisal of our behavior, thoughts, values, and priorities. In asking us to repent, he asks us to look in the mirror to see if who we really are is anything at all like what we imagine ourselves to be. "We're children of Abraham," said the religious people proudly in John the Baptist's day. John dared to suggest that God wasn't all that impressed with their professed pedigree. "God can find children of Abraham under any old rock," he sniffed at them. "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

Repentance is the place where we bring our walk in line with our talk. To be the "children of Abraham" that they imagined themselves to be, John said that the haves needed to share with the have-nots. The tax collectors needed to stop enriching themselves at the expense of their brothers and sisters. The soldiers needed to stop using their power to extort the people they were supposed to protect. Repentance is where practice is made to match profession.

Wonder what he'd say to us, church people, who strut around wearing labels like "New Testament Church" or "Evangelical" or even "Christian," and forget to look at ourselves long and hard enough to make sure that who we really are matches the labels we wear? God, after all, can still raise up New Testament Churches or Evangelicals or Christians from the rocks, if need be. He doesn't need our glowing self-characterizations and wordy professions of faith, which are more useful for hiding what we don't want to face about ourselves than bringing about the lives of faith and devotion that he really wants.

I think he says the same thing now that he said then: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Sync your walk up with your talk. Look for the places in your life where conflict exists, and honestly ask yourself what you have to do with creating that conflict. Do you need to reconcile with someone? Change some relational habits? Make restitution for something you've done? Show more love, patience, and gentleness? Back off on the fault-finding?

Look for places in your own heart and conscience where there's conflict -- conflict between what you claim to be and what you often are? What habits do you need to change? What impulses do you need to say "no" to? What values and priorities need to change? What kind of help might you need?

Cultivate an attitude of repentance, and I'm convinced that the Holy Spirit will make the specific areas where you need it clear to you. Repentance isn't something we only do at church on Sunday morning. It's for the office on Tuesday morning and home on Thursday night and the basketball court on Saturday afternoon. It's worked out in relationships and choices and habits that affect every part of your life. "The axe is at the root of the tree," warns John, not really to scare us, but to remind us of the urgency of repentance. God will call us to account. He's not looking for completely pure hearts, but he is looking for penitent ones. He's looking for people who are willing to look in the mirror and own up to what's there without defense, pretense, or self-justification. He can work with people like that. He can shape them and mold them into the people he wants them to be.

So face the mirror, and face the music. And watch with joy the transformation he'll bring about in you.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/19/08 6:05 A

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Steering through the Storms, by Rubel Shelly

These are challenging times, and it is difficult to find a silver lining to some of the darker clouds visible to everyone. As election-year rhetoric morphs from harsh to rancorous, the economy of recession continues to take its toll. All of us know lots of people who have lost their jobs. Who will be next to suffer?

One of the interesting fact that some of us have forgotten is that crisis times have often been the stimulus for creative new beginnings. Notable successes have been generated from the ashes of previous economic downturns.

A little perspective from history might encourage you. Walt Disney lost an acting job as a movie extra and started his famous cartoon company in a garage during the recession of 1923-1924. William Hewlett and David Packard teamed up in Silicon Valley in 1938 during the Great Depression. And Bill Gates dropped out of college to launch Microsoft during the downturn of a recession in 1975.

Crisis does seem to spawn an entrepreneurial culture. When the sun is shining, most people are content to let the boat sail under its own power -- and to sun on the deck. When the clouds roll in and the boat begins to toss violently on the sea, creative people are encouraged to take risks and to chart new courses.

It is time to decide about your future.

What about you? Do you see yourself as a thermometer or a thermostat in these tough times? Thermometers do nothing more than reflect their environments. Thermostats change their environments!

If you have had a bad year, have been laid off, or exist in a generally horrible environment, you have a choice. You can be a victim and whine about your fate. Or you can do some serious introspection, set some positive goals for making things better, and start moving ahead.

In the business world, laid-off and unfulfilled workers have changed the world by being bold in hard times. The same thing is true in other settings as well. Individuals, families, and churches who sense that something is wrong always have choices. The single most important choice is between passivity, grumbling, and dejection on the one hand and exploration, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm for a new challenge on the other.

Now that you have seen the newscasts and figured out that times really are tough, it is time to decide about your future. Make responsible choices on the basis of your passions, values, and priorities and not your gloomy circumstance. With the strength of God to help you, you can move from being a melancholy thermometer to become a difference-making thermostat in your world. You can chart a new course and set sail to a brighter destination.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/19/08 5:49 A

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Steering through the Storms, by Rubel Shelly

These are challenging times, and it is difficult to find a silver lining to some of the darker clouds visible to everyone. As election-year rhetoric morphs from harsh to rancorous, the economy of recession continues to take its toll. All of us know lots of people who have lost their jobs. Who will be next to suffer?

One of the interesting fact that some of us have forgotten is that crisis times have often been the stimulus for creative new beginnings. Notable successes have been generated from the ashes of previous economic downturns.

A little perspective from history might encourage you. Walt Disney lost an acting job as a movie extra and started his famous cartoon company in a garage during the recession of 1923-1924. William Hewlett and David Packard teamed up in Silicon Valley in 1938 during the Great Depression. And Bill Gates dropped out of college to launch Microsoft during the downturn of a recession in 1975.

Crisis does seem to spawn an entrepreneurial culture. When the sun is shining, most people are content to let the boat sail under its own power -- and to sun on the deck. When the clouds roll in and the boat begins to toss violently on the sea, creative people are encouraged to take risks and to chart new courses.

It is time to decide about your future.

What about you? Do you see yourself as a thermometer or a thermostat in these tough times? Thermometers do nothing more than reflect their environments. Thermostats change their environments!

If you have had a bad year, have been laid off, or exist in a generally horrible environment, you have a choice. You can be a victim and whine about your fate. Or you can do some serious introspection, set some positive goals for making things better, and start moving ahead.

In the business world, laid-off and unfulfilled workers have changed the world by being bold in hard times. The same thing is true in other settings as well. Individuals, families, and churches who sense that something is wrong always have choices. The single most important choice is between passivity, grumbling, and dejection on the one hand and exploration, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm for a new challenge on the other.

Now that you have seen the newscasts and figured out that times really are tough, it is time to decide about your future. Make responsible choices on the basis of your passions, values, and priorities and not your gloomy circumstance. With the strength of God to help you, you can move from being a melancholy thermometer to become a difference-making thermostat in your world. You can chart a new course and set sail to a brighter destination.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/12/08 4:13 P

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Faith in the Dry Seasons, by Rubel Shelly

My friend wrote me about his marriage. "It is a dry season for us," he admitted to me as a confidant. "There has been much stress of late and very little hope of relief in the near future. But we press on. We find our joy in little things. I am thankful for her, and I know she feels secure in my love for her."

There is something wise, deep, and very spiritual about that perspective. It stayed in my mind for days. It lets me know he is the good and decent man I thought him to be. My respect for him has grown from what he saw as a sad confession of a dry season in his marriage. How fortunate is his beloved wife!

Then there was the voicemail from another friend. "Please call as soon as you have time," she said. There was an urgency to her request that I recognized. My fear was that it reflected a struggle that has been going on in her life for almost three years now. So I phoned almost immediately. And she told about the feelings that were tugging at her. The addiction will not turn loose, but she is determined not to be dragged down without a fight. Then she used the term. "I feel like I am in a dry place with my life," she lamented. "After the divorce, I am so lonely -- and vulnerable. I need something to fill the void in my soul. But the closest and easiest things are the ones I know will only make the pain worse. It is so hard not to give in, and I just don't know if I can hold on much longer."

This afternoon, I sat down to think about what might be worth sharing with you. In order to focus my thoughts, I pulled down my much-valued copy of a devotional collection of writings from C.S. Lewis. There, on a page already dog-eared, was this highlighted line: "Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please God best."

It reveals who we really are!

Do you hear the recurring theme? My friend's marriage is in a "dry season." Another's personal life feels like "a dry place." Now I read about praying when one's soul is in a "state of dryness." Is it a sign of sorts to a theme worth thinking about? Or is it just the ongoing truth of the human condition? Life is not all fun and games, and relationships -- even with God -- are hard to maintain. We go dry.

What one does in those times of dryness reveals who she really is! To use it as the excuse for walking away, giving in, or giving up says one thing. To see it as a time of testing when holy purpose must trump inconsistent feelings and commitment must be put above momentary desire says something very different.

Maybe an ancient writer was experiencing this same testing of faith in a dry season when he wrote these beautiful lines: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God" (Psalm 42:1).

I hope he survived his dry season and found renewal. I pray as much for you.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/12/08 4:09 P

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Don't Lose Focus, by Mike Barres

Years ago, I realized that it is really hard for me to watch television and talk with my wife. I would begin to talk with her, and then when she started talking to me, I would begin watching the television again. I would lose my focus in the conversation. Now when we begin to talk, we turn the television off.

It's hard to keep our focus on the important things in our lives -- conversations with our spouses is just one example, here are a couple of others that may be even more dangerous.

In the news recently, a story mentioned the possibility of a train engineer using his phone for text messaging just prior to that train wrecking. This seems to be a common and growing problem with text messaging. There have been problems with text messaging during school by students. There have been reports of people text messaging while they are driving -- some states have laws that prevent using cell phones while driving for calling or for "texting." These kinds of things make it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand -- driving safely. It is easy to get distracted.

Recently a friend told me that he was driving down a road that ran along a river. Looking out of his window, he saw someone catching a fish. He was so interested in the fishing that he wrecked his truck. He lost his focus on his driving.

The Holy Spirit has said:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV).

We must learn to discern the distractions!

The phrase that says, "looking to Jesus" is often translated "fixing our eyes on Jesus." We must keep our focus on Him. We can't lose focus on the Lord!

But it is so easy to take our eyes off of Jesus. So many things can distract us these days. We are reminded to "lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us." Losing our focus causes us to get tangled up in things that we shouldn't and worry about things we over which we have no control.

The consequences of my friend wrecking his truck were serious and could have been deadly, all because he lost focus. The same is true with each of our lives. Let's keep our focus on Jesus. Let's take our relationship and walk with Him seriously.

We must learn to discern the distractions that the devil brings along and ignore them and say "No!" to them. These distractions may be sin, they might just be activities that take us away from things that we know that the Lord wants us to do, or they could be worries about things going on around us. However, we must stay focused on Jesus, His Word, and His Kingdom!

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ..." (Matthew 6:33), "looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/7/08 4:39 A

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More than a Fork in the Road, by Phil Ware

There is an old story of heaven and hell attributed to various sources -- often to C.S. Lewis, or before him, to Jewish Rabbis. This often embellished story describes heaven and hell as identical banquet rooms filled with wonderful chairs, a huge table, plenty of guests, and a limitless supply of sumptuous food. Angels bring plate after plate of more sumptuous food so the party never has to stop. The problem is that the food can only be eaten with forks that are over 3 foot long.

In hell's banquet room, the people are arguing, fighting, and starving. Mounds of food rot on the plates as rats run to and fro among the putrefying bounty. The forks are too long for anyone to eat, so they fuss and fight, swearing at one another as all go hungry frantically trying to protect the food before them from their hungry neighbor.

In heaven's banquet, however, the same banquet hall, chairs, table, angels, and food produce a scene of joy, feasting, song, and love. The difference is that in heaven, they take turns serving each other and feeding each other with their long forks. You see, they know the joy of simple service and no one is left out. All are full of food, joy, and song. They enjoy a never-ending feast of love and grace.

For the followers of Jesus, table fellowship and serving each other around the dinner table has always been special. Luke emphasizes it more than any other gospel, but all the gospels show Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, feeding the crowds, blessing bread, going to feasts, and sharing in the Last Supper. Much of this focus on food and feasting goes back to the Lord's Jewish roots and the importance of feast days. Some of it anticipates His presence in all meals -- remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) -- and His followers "breaking of bread" as they shared the Lord's Supper. Each of these is a foretaste of the great feast of joy that awaits Jesus' followers on his return.

Not surprisingly, Jesus reminded His followers repeatedly that the greatest in the Kingdom is a "servant" -- diakonos is the root word, meaning a table servant and the word from which translators coined the term "deacon" (Matthew 23:11; 1 Timothy 3:8-12). Jesus is the ultimate example of what this means:

1. He identifies Himself as a table servant (Luke 22:24-27)

2. He demonstrates himself to be a table servant when He washes His followers' feet (John 13:1-17).

In both cases, the Lord calls us, his followers, to be servants to each other.

In the early years of Jesus' followers, this simple term for "serving as a table servant" became the gold standard of leadership and faithfulness as a disciple. When the early church appointed 7 men to make sure widows were fed in Jerusalem, their task was to "serve as a table servant" (Acts 6:1-7). And frequently, the role of those who preached or evangelized or led in church life were said to "serve as a table servant" -- our translations sometimes use the term minister, but it is this same word Jesus used for table servant (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 1:23-25; Colossians 4:7; Colossians 4:17).
So what are we to make of this?

Let's go back to Jesus as he gives us a defining statement on his purpose and ministry:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be SERVED, but to SERVE, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45 TNIV, emphasis added to highlight the word for table service).

So what are we to make of this?

We have choices as a follower of Jesus. Our life as a follower of the Messiah can either be about wanting to be served, or about giving our life in service. Our view of Christian leadership can be about wielding authority and power, or it can be about serving others. However, the Lord makes clear which his choice is: rather than a position of power or privilege, Jesus is calling us to a life of simple service. In the end, serving others is where we will find our true source of satisfaction, joy, and love. We will be blessed, enriched, filled with joy, and fed only when we make the priority of our life in Jesus to bless, enrich, bring joy, and feed others with the Lord's love and grace!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/6/08 12:55 P

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So Who Are You Afraid Of?, by Tom Norvell

May these words from the Psalmist fill us with confidence and peace as we journey through days of uncertainty, unrest, and anxiety.

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing (Psalm 112:1-10 NIV).

The Psalmist reminds us that appropriate fear is a good thing. The fear he refers to is the fear of the Lord. The fear in this passage is likely similar to a healthy respect for, the acknowledgment that He is Lord, and that He is ruler of our lives. He has power over us. He is in control!

The Psalmist tells us that the one who fears the Lord and delights in His commands should be able to anticipate children who will also see good things, as well as enjoy a kind of wealth and riches that are found in a righteous life that endures forever. Dawn's light will shine through the darkness for the gracious and compassionate righteous man.

The Psalmist tells us that generosity is the foundation for good fortune. Generosity and justice lead to a life that will never be shaken and a life that will be remembered forever.

The Psalmist tells us that there is no need for the one who fears the Lord to fear bad news. He knows that his heart is strong and his trust is in the Lord. He knows that in the end he will triumph. Because of his kind gifts to the poor his righteousness will endure forever and he will have honor for his life.

On the other hand, the Psalmist tells us that the wicked person will never be at peace, he will waste away, and his longings will never be answered.

Living a life that is controlled by fear is not recommended?

Once again we see that there is a choice to be made. In a real sense he is reminding us that our future life, here on earth and in the hereafter, is determined by what we do -- what we fear -- in the now.

For the most part, living a life that is controlled by fear is not recommended; however, in this case it is. Should we allow the fear of financial ruin, or fear of terrorist, or the fear of may or may not happen today or tomorrow to dominate our thinking and dominate our decisions, we will be miserable people. As Jesus said, "Take no thought in tomorrow, for it can take care of itself."

Our fear should be rightly placed in our relationship with the One who is in control of everything.

So, who are you afraid of?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/5/08 2:25 A

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Why Do I Go to Church?, by Sarah Stirman

Newsflash: I don't go to church to worship God.

Oh, I DO worship God when I go, but if MY church were going to be all about ME and MY best way to worship God, MY church would only have ME in attendance, and I would be outside somewhere talking with and worshiping God. I have had the privilege and responsibility of being in on some discussion about "worship planning" recently. I finally told the group: "Not gonna happen -- you will NEVER plan a worship service that is perfect for me, or anyone else for that matter. I don't worship best in 'the pink room' (what I call our horribly outdated auditorium)."

Besides not lovin' the setting for "corporate worship," I'm generally busy. I interpret services for the deaf. That means I'm HEARING what is said and sung and prayed, but I can only process it in the part of my brain that translates it into another language, not the part that absorbs it and lets it transform me or reflect praise to our Father. Even when I'm not "working" by interpreting, I'm "feeding" signs to the person who is interpreting. (The very funny part about our deaf ministry is that we are positioned in the auditorium where the speakers shoot the sound over us -- the interpreters can't hear a thing where we are!) Again, even if being surrounded by hundreds of people were my "thing" for worship, I'm a little occupied.

But, I do GO to church: I'm one of those "every-time-the-doors-are-open" kind of people. (I'm also one of those
"last-ones-leaving-because-they're-turni
ng-off-the-lights," but that's a whole other issue.) Even though I am openly professing to not attend church for the number one cited reason for attending, I think it is a crucial part of my faith and "Christian walk." I'm also teaching that to my children. My children know where we will be "every-time-the doors-are-open," and they know we don't plan events or things that would interfere with our attending.

So ... you GO to church, but you don't go to church to worship God? HUH?

So, why do I go to church?

I actually started thinking about all of this for several reasons. First, the church where I worship has started making an intentional difference in our two morning services. The second service is "less traditional" in nature. And our "more traditional" service is struggling over some bumps of its own. This, as you might imagine if you are a regular attender somewhere, has ruffled a few feathers and created some exciting end-of-the-pew discussion. I have also been included in some committee discussions regarding planning worship. Our "corporate worship" time has been on my mind lately.

Someone is unhappy with the song choices ... or song tempo ... or song leader. Others aren't happy with the screens or temperature or preacher or what-have-you. And -- true confessions -- I'm right there with them in many regards. As I mentioned -- you can't plan a perfect worship for me, especially if there are people involved!

While all of this ha-rumphing was fresh on my mind, I sat down and encountered notes from a worship conference I attended last summer. This was on the top page:
Evaluating worship based on doing the right things in the right way or 'did it make me feel good' is having low expectations. Instead, evaluate worship on whether or not God showed up. There is NO worship renewal without expecting to meet the Almighty God. (Randy Harris)

That quote makes me feel better about not feeling like I am really able to worship at church. Oh, I feel certain the Almighty God is THERE -- but I am only able to worship Him by serving His people while in "the assembly," not by chatting with Him and listening to Him. The best part is, I'm not missing my time with God if I don't get it inside the church building. The Almighty God shows up to talk to me and walk beside me on my morning walk. He listens so patiently while I fold the clothes. He blesses us again and again while I pray over carpool. My entire life -- SHOULD I CHOOSE TO DO SO -- can be a time of worship, complete with the presence of the Almighty God. Because He will ALWAYS show up -- I just have to show up, as well.

And while the songs sung or words said and images displayed at church may or may not stir my soul, I can still worship because I will be in the presence of the Almighty God.

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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10/4/08 8:56 A

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More Than Everything, by Rob Woodfin

In the early days of computers, there was a phenomenon called "caught in a loop." It meant a system had been given a problem it was incapable of solving -- such as dividing a number by zero. It would churn indefinitely. Today, if you key such a question into a calculator, it doesn't get stuck, it just returns "0E" or a similar response, meaning "Can't do it."

You've probably heard in Sunday School an illustration in answer to the question, "How long is eternity?" While found in various forms, the illustration goes this way. A bird picks up pebbles and flies them to the moon till the whole earth has been relocated; but even then, eternity is still just beginning.

How did you feel when you first considered that? It scared me! Not because I thought I might grow tired of living with God. The fear was from being unable to comprehend the magnitude; thinking about something my mind couldn't begin to encompass.

Our brains are like every other part of us: they are finite. There are limits to what we can figure out and understand. Our Creator is the one person who can actually calculate infinity ... because He is infinite.

Here's another brain buster you may not have considered. When Jesus lived among us, we know He felt our pain, shared our grief, and struggled with temptations. But, have you ever ruminated on the outcome if He had succumbed to sin? Then there would have been no forgiveness because there would have been no perfect sacrifice. Not only would He have died the same hopeless death as all the rest of us, but God would have become less than God, because that part of Him would have been forever lost. Talk about a Boolean nightmare!

We become anxious when we are challenged to our limits and beyond. Sometimes we may even experience anxiety attacks ... during a test, speaking to a crowd, or trying to decide what to do when we reach the end of our money before the end of the month. Yet the Bible tells us not to be anxious. That test may wreck your GPA or curtail your college choices. That audience may ridicule you or lose respect for you. You may not have running water to boil the last bag of pintos for supper tonight if you don't pay the bills.

Where do we find the antidote for anxiousness? We read the command, "Do not be anxious about anything ..." (Philippians 4:6 TNIV). We figure we must be too weak to be a good Christian because we do get scared and we do get frustrated and we make ourselves anxious about not being anxious. And how come we don't have the same absolute certainty about every ordinance, every issue, every aspect of obedience that some claim to have? We must not be good enough, which leads us to be more anxious.

Let's take a closer look at that passage. When Paul was encouraging the Christians at Philippi, he was rhetorically putting his arm around them and saying, "I know you're afraid sometimes, but you don't have to stay afraid. Go to your Father in prayer, and His peace, which is greater than any peace you've ever known, will be with you."

So what is the solution?

How can we trust this is true? Come to the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus (Mark 14:32-50). Listen to Jesus the night before Calvary. Can you hear His voice breaking as He asks about His alternatives? Can you see the sweat on His lip and on His forehead -- like great drops of blood? (Luke 22:44) What else could you call that but the highest anxiety imaginable! I believe He was scared -- the words Jesus used are "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mark 14:34). But He didn't remain scared once He turned the situation over to His Father. He was risking everything. His failure wouldn't just lead to a few disappointed disciples, it would have rocked Heaven. But, He found the strength to take on a problem no other being -- human or spiritual -- could pretend to touch. Jesus shared the burdens of His heart with His Abba Father, and then said, "Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36).

We are right in assuming we're not good enough. Neither is anyone else -- no, not one. And no one has perfect understanding. And we all get scared of some things ... no matter how it looks or what we may claim.

So what is the solution? Where do we find this Pi, without which we can't find our way around a simple circle? It is the greatest gift God ever gave us: grace in Jesus. It fills in the blanks. It makes up for our error. It reconciles us to our Maker. It shows us God's love.

We cry to God, "I have this problem." He gives us the answer, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus took on our greatest dilemmas, solved the unsolvable, and brought us God's grace.

Thanks be to God. Forever and ever!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/30/08 4:16 A

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Delivered?, by Phil Ware

Many years ago when I was a seventh grader at Lincoln Junior High, our choir took a trip from Abilene to Austin (about 220 miles) to perform for the Texas Music Educators Association. This trip was a great experience in many ways. After our performance, we went to a cafeteria down on Congress Avenue, a few blocks from the Texas State Capital. After eating, everyone else in our group took off for the bus, but I knew about a Lammes Candy Store a little bit down the street and took off alone.

After getting my stash of candy for the trip back, I had to travel through a wooden chute that had been built to protect pedestrians from falling debris. I noticed just as entered this protected construction
chute, a dangerous looking guy stepped into it behind me. Then I looked up ahead and there was a similar looking guy coming toward me! The adrenalin surged and a wave of panic washed over my body. I was a
skinny kid trapped in this boarded-up chute with two men that were out to get me or some thing from me. Thoughts raced through my head as looked for solutions.

How am I going to get away?

What are they going to do to me if they get me?

Why didn't I stay with the group?

Why will words not come out of my mouth?

Most of us, at one time or another, have been trapped and looking for escape in a dangerous physical or financial situation. The Bible reminds us this same kind of situation existed for us spiritually before God stepped in for us.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons ... the Son... got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating (Colossians 1:13-14 MSG).

What traps us in "dark dungeons" and in "dead-end alleys" and "pits" where we feel forgotten in our own failures?

Cruel evil forces -- spiritual powers at work in our world -- that use addictions, greedy fund managers, evil politicians that work genocide, hate-inspired religious zealots that blow up people, that drive planes into buildings, and warriors who use innocent civilians as human shields (Colossians 1:13-14).

But in addition to spiritual powers that cause problems for us in our world, there are also our own spiritual mistakes, rebellions, and failures that trap us (Colossians 1:21-22). These set our hearts against God and make us view Him as our enemy!

Then there are also all the religious rules that people use to convince themselves that they are better than everyone else (Colossians 2:13-15). The problem is, religious rules have no power. They are like a mirror showing us where we are wrong, but they cannot redeem, empower, or restore us when we stumble and fall.

Amazingly, all three sets of these forces conspired together at Jesus' crucifixion. Satanic power is at work leading Judas to betray Jesus and the cruel maneuvers of the Roman political machine that is less concerned about justice and more concerned about peace. The closest friends of Jesus fail in their loyalty to Him and abandon Him in the moment He most needs their friendship. And the religious rule makers in their jealousy and hatred use parts of their law to convict Jesus while ignoring and breaking other parts.

At first, it appears that this cruel alliance of evil will triumph. Jesus is humiliated, tortured, and killed before a public mob that has called for His blood. Jesus' followers are scattered, hiding in locked rooms and shattered by what has happened. But then Sunday dawns, and as the sunrise bursts across the sky Jesus is alive and everything changes.

Jesus' small, rag-tag group of defeated followers finds new strength and changes the world. This fearful group once in hiding, will all eventually give their lives for the cause they know is much greater than themselves. And what began as a defeated movement of an executed traitor now surges powerfully to reach the farthest corners of the world.

And the reminder for you and me in this? The God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. His grace can rescue us from our dark dungeons, dead-end alleys, and deep pits that have trapped us.

Isn't it time you did the same with Jesus?

So will we abandon the addictions that hold us and follow Jesus and rely on His community to help us find new life?

Will we trust Him to lead us through the consequences of our rebellions to a better place and a fuller life?

Will we abandon rule-keeping as the basis of our salvation ad trust His grace to be our source of goodness?

And now one final question: what is holding you back from fully trusting Jesus to help you escape?

Oh, and did I escape my frightening experience as a seventh grade boy? Barely! I climbed the boards of that construction chute and jumped out just as the guy behind me grabbed my pants leg. I yelled at my friends several blocks ahead, getting their attention, and ran to them as fast as my feet would propel me. I was safe, with friends, and headed home.

Isn't it time you did the same with Jesus?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/24/08 11:49 P

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The Last Letter, by Bill Brant

It's called "The Bucket List," a movie about two men who endured treatment for cancer only to be told they had months to live. Together they compile a list of things they want to do before they "kick the bucket." Thus begins a hilarious and poignant journey to discover what is important when life is short.

There is a real life equivalent. On September 18, 2007, at Carnegie Mellon University, a computer professor delivered a lecture entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," a hopeful and ironic marquee, considering that cancer was already devouring his pancreas.

Two presentations: one imagined, one all too real, for Randy Pauch died from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008, 10 months after his "Last Lecture." Both stories reflect the sense of urgency as time is running out and the need to cut all extraneous things of life to focus on what is really important.

These same motivations are seen and felt in "The Last Letter." Written by an old man on death row, written in a dark, dank, cell. Written knowing he will not escape the executioner by a last minute reprieve or by a technicality. Written knowing that his end is quickly approaching.

He writes with the urgency of a condemned man and tells his only relative, his adopted son, the most important things to remember. This is what he wrote:
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

The prisoner is the Apostle Paul. The adopted son is Timothy and the "Last Letter" is the New Testament book of II Timothy, written shortly before Paul's execution around 67 AD. [Above quote is 2 Timothy 1:7-10 NKJV.]

Today, now, as our world continues to spiral from disaster to warfare, to inhumanity, we must also proclaim the Urgently Important: that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

If you feel the breath of life's executioner on your back, let's look for Jesus together. Write me at brant@heraldoftruth.org or join our blog conversation as we explore what we would include in our Last Letters at www.hopeforlife.org.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/21/08 11:23 P

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Big Rig Ministry: Test Track, by Dr. Tom Pousche

Arriving at Freightliner one early morning, I was informed that I would be involved in a truck test. This would take place in Central Oregon, roughly a four hour drive from Portland, Oregon. Actually, the test track was an abandoned air base used back in World War II that Freightliner was now leasing. They cleverly re-purposed it into a three-mile oval racetrack by attaching both ends of the two parallel runways.

This racetrack had everything from rumble strips (grooves on freeways to wake up sleepy drivers) to street bumps, which ran a quarter of a mile paralleling the inside of the racetrack where these big rigs were put through a grueling test.

At lunchtime, I began reminiscing about the Israelites marching through their wilderness experience. If you remember, God's prophetic leader, Moses, gained their release from Pharaoh's cruel captivity in Egypt through God's sovereign intervention.

As Moses and the Israelites wandered through the desert, there was much whining and grumbling that covered issues from the staple diet of manna to their discomfort with a hot desert. Historically, besides Job's suffering, this is one of the longest tests recorded in Biblical times.

I am convinced after reading the 'zigzags' of this Wilderness journey (Exodus 13:17-22), God not only used those switch-backs for their good, but used that period of testing to demonstrate His Goodness to them as well.

There were 3 possible routes to the Promise Land:

Route #1

Involved a straight northeasterly trail through the land of the Philistines to Canaan. Even though this was the fastest, most logical route to take, it was also a precarious pathway filled with Egyptian garrisons (cruel robbers and killers) -- those who preyed upon the innocent and the vulnerable.

Route #2

Involved cutting across the middle of the Negev (Beersheba), thus making their way to the Promise Land. Again, God did not allow them to go that direction, due to trouble and war they would no doubt encounter on this route.

It was a constant reminder of God's covenant.

Route #3

Involved them heading further south, going around Midian where they eventually headed North to the Promised Land. Why would God send a multitude of disorderly people through a hot desert where they would spend the next 40 years going in circles (something like a racetrack)?

Well, it is like the engineers at Freightliner. They develop the tests for these massive machines in the worst of circumstances, thus perfecting the integrity of the truck. Our loyal, loving God does the same with our lives.

Perhaps this is why Moses carried the box of Joseph's bones (Exodus 13:19) with him. It was a constant reminder that God had made a covenant with His people, and has only good intentions toward them, even when circumstances do not make any sense.

God simply allows His people to be on the racetracks of life. This not only prepares them for other challenges ahead, but it also irons out the obstacles in building godly character. Being inconvenienced is often only a divine interruption for our good. It's where the rubber meets the road.

See you around the next lap!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/19/08 11:07 P

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A Choice, by Tom Norvell

There had been several frustrating and aggravating things happen within the last few days. Nothing major. Just the typical things that come with relocating and dealing with companies who make big promises, but seem unconcerned about fulfilling those promises.

Unfortunately, you probably know the kind of things I'm talking about. The customer service representative promises, "We'll have someone there between Noon and 2:00 PM." They show up at 3:30 PM and do not have time to complete the job. Or, "We'll get it taken care of on Monday between Noon and 3:00 PM." Again, they show up late and fail to finish the job.

I was tired of moving, emptying boxes, and hearing empty promises. So, I wrote the following in my journal:
Father, let me see You in this day. Unfortunately, yesterday -- whether by choice or circumstance -- I saw mostly frustration and aggravation. I'm ready not to focus on those things and get beyond them. I have allowed these things to consume most of my energy. I pray today will be better.

I turned to the psalm chosen for today and read these words:
I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life -- when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD (Psalm 101 NIV).

There was my answer! There in verse 3, I recognized the main object of my irritation and what should be my desire for the day: "The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me." "The New Live Version" says it this way: "I hate the work of those who are not faithful. It will not get hold of me." I wanted to get above and beyond the "faithless" deeds of men. I did not want them to "cling to me" or "get hold of me" any longer.

As I pondered this psalm, I realized that God was answering my prayer. It was as if He was saying, "You want to have a better day? Fine with me. It's your choice." (Ouch!) These are the instructions He gave me:
Sing about the love and justice of God. Praise Him for it.

How's your day looking?

Be careful to lead a blameless life today. That way you will have nothing to fear when I come.

Make every effort to come home at the end of the day with a blameless heart.

Keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart focused on things that are pure, true, honest, and faithful. And, stay away from people who might pull you in another direction.

Keep my word. Be trustworthy. Do not listen to or dwell upon words, no matter who is speaking, that consists of lies, gossip, rumors, or evil. Do not give audience to anyone who is inclined to do evil or who is involved in wickedness.

After I read His words, I wrote in my journal, "Thank You for instructing me in Your ways." It became evident that it was my choice to have a better day. I listened to Him. I chose. It was a better day.

How's your day looking? It's your choice.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/18/08 9:49 P

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Moving Things Around, by Mike Barres

Every once-in-a-while, you'll here a phrase on television or even hear someone say this is real life. I can't really relate to it, but people call it "moving things around." Let me try to explain what this means. Someone is required to pay out a lot of money, in order to pay a debt, to handle an emergency, or to make an investment. They say, "I don't have that kind of money readily available to me. I'll have to move some things around, and it may take a little time."

What they are talking about is having money invested in other places, like in savings, in investments in the stock market, in a certificate of deposit, or something like that. They have to move that money from the several places where it is, in order to be able to use it for the needed purpose.

Most of us can't relate to having much money to "move around." However, we can think about moving things around in relation to time and priorities. We have all heard the old saying, "You need to 'make time' for that. It's important." The problem is that you can't "make" time. There are only 24 hours in a day. You can't "make" any more, but you can "move things around."

We generally move things around to accommodate our priorities.

When it comes to our walk with the Lord, many of us need to "move some things around." In reference to our personal devotional time, many people say that they don't "have time." This is also said about spending time with God's people for worship and fellowship or said about finding opportunities to serve the Lord in ministry.

The truth is that we generally move things around to accommodate those priorities that are important to us. In the future, I would hope and pray that we will "move things around" in order to do those things that are really important to the Lord!

Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33 NKJV).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/17/08 9:16 P

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Forever, by Tim Archer

"99¢ refills forever!" That's what the ad for one restaurant claimed. Seemed like a pretty good deal, so I went ahead and bought one of the special cups from the promotion. Once I had the cup in my hand, I noticed some small letters along the side of the cup: "Promotion may be changed or canceled at any time." Wait a minute! What happened to "forever"? Apparently forever can be changed or canceled at any time. Not only with soft drinks, of course. How many pledges to "love forever" fall by the wayside? Does anyone really expect that everyone who claims to be "best friends forever" will remain lifelong friends? When pop singers sing about loving someone "till the end of time," we know that statement is merely poetic license. In today's world, "forever" just isn't what it used to be. At best, forever means "a really long time."

So when does "forever" mean "through all of eternity"? When God is doing the talking. God can speak confidently about eternity because he has always existed and always will. If a human being wants to promise me something "forever," I take it with a grain of salt. That person won't live forever, so they won't be around to make good on their promise.

We can trust in the promises that God makes.

When God speaks of forever, he can do so because he doesn't change. His essential nature will always be the same. The local restaurant doesn't know what can happen in the future, so they protect their offer with an escape clause. God needs no escape clause. His promises don't carry fine print. He will always be around to fulfill his promises, and he will never change.

When Jesus was on earth, he made the statement: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Centuries before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). What God has promised us, we can believe. When he speaks of forever, we don't have to worry about changes or cancellations. The apostle Paul wrote: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). That's a promise we can believe in.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/14/08 11:27 P

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We are His People!, by Tom Norvell

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5 NIV).

Take a moment and dwell on this one sentence from our psalm for a moment:
Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Ask yourself:
"Do I believe that He is the Lord God?"
"Do I believe that it is He who made me?"
"Do I believe that I am His?"
"Do I believe the I am one of His people?"
"Do I believe that I am a sheep of His pasture?"

If your answer to any of those questions is "Yes!" then does your life reflect that faith?

Does that description fit your life?

The Psalmist says that because we know all this about God, then we shout for joy, worship the Lord with gladness, come before Him with joyful song, enter His presence with praise, and give thanks to Him. In other words, we live like we know the Lord is our God!

Does that description fit your life? Is your life full of joy and thanksgiving and praise?

What if began to live like we believe the words of this Psalm everyday? Let's try it! Beginning today, let's live like we know we are God's people in daily, joyful, thankful praise and worship!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/13/08 9:42 A

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Unlocking the Mystery, by Alan Smith

I heard recently about a man who filled his car with gas at a self-service gas station. After he had paid and driven away, he realized that he had left the gas cap on top of his car. He stopped and looked and, sure enough, it was lost.

He thought for a second and realized that other people must have done the same thing, and that it was worth going back to look by the side of the road since even if he couldn't find his own gas cap, he might be able to find another one that fit.

Sure enough, after only a short time of searching, he found a gas cap. He carefully wiped it off and slipped it into place with a satisfying click.

He told his wife as he climbed back into the car, "I may have lost my gas cap, but I found another one that fits and it's even a better cap than the one I had -- it locks!"

Give thanks to God for revealing the mystery!

Oops! A locking gas cap is a great idea -- but only if you have the key that opens it! Understanding the Bible is much the same way. Remember when Jesus first began speaking in parables -- his apostles came to him for an explanation. They wanted the "key," and Jesus gave it to them. Jesus said, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God" (Mark 4:11).

The book of Revelation is a difficult (some would say impossible) book for people to understand. It becomes a much easier task when you have the "key" explaining the symbolism of the numbers, colors and images found in the book.

Sometimes the ministry of Jesus is referred to as a "mystery." Paul wrote often about the "mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:19), the "mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3), or simply "the mystery" (Ephesians 3:9). The word "mystery" means that it was something that was "hidden" for a while. All through the Old Testament, God was preparing for Jesus Christ to come to this earth, but no one fully understood what that would mean. The prophets foretold his coming, but they didn't fully understand (1 Peter 1:10-12). Even the angels didn't know what God had in mind. But we do. We understand the significance of the crucifixion and the resurrection.

Give thanks to God for revealing the mystery:

The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26-27 NKJV)

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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9/12/08 12:06 A

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The Greatest Gift of Gratitude, by Patrick D. Odum

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17 TNIV).

Oksana Chusovitina didn't expect to be competing in the Olympics this year. It's "been there, done that" for the gymnast from Uzbekistan ... several times.

Oksana competed in her first Olympics in 1992, as part of the "Unified Team" that took the place of the Soviet team. In '96, 2000, and 2004 she was on the team from Uzbekistan. She's 33 years old -- absolutely a senior citizen in a sport dominated by teenagers.

Besides her age working against her, Oksana just has things other than gymnastics on her mind. Interestingly, though, it's those other things that led to her being in Beijing for one more Olympic games.

In 2002, Oksana's then 3-year-old son, Alisher, was diagnosed with leukemia. She went to doctor after doctor in Uzbekistan, always hearing the same thing: "There's nothing we can do." Uzbeki medical facilities at the time just weren't up to par. So Oksana went outside her country, to the University of Cologne, in Germany, where she had sometimes trained. Money came in from all over the world to help pay for Alisher's treatment. He responded, and got better, and finally went into remission.

And Oksana needed a way to say "thank you" to those who had helped her.

Oksana didn't have much -- only one thing, really -- to give. She was an Olympic gymnast. And so she offered to compete for Germany in Beijing. "I don't know how to thank everyone for all their help," she would say later. "Now Alisher is in school and he is doing fine, but we couldn't have done that alone. I compete for those people."

She said that, in fact, right after the medal ceremony in which she won a silver in the vault.

It was the first medal she had ever won in Olympic competition.

It strikes me that you and I share something with Oksana. We've received an amazing gift, just as she has. God has done for us something that we could never have done on our own. He's forgiven us, saved us from death, given us hope, and made us a part of what he is doing in the world. He's done all this through an amazing gift: he gave his Son to the world and allowed the world to do with him what it would.

And, like Oksana, we have the problem of not knowing how to say "thank you" for this gift we've received. What can we offer? What can we do? How do we show our gratitude for forgiveness and life and joy that never end?

Maybe Oksana is on to something. Maybe the best way to show our gratitude is to offer what we have, what we do, and who we are to the One who has given us so much.

Go ahead and do it!

I'm endlessly intrigued by Paul's language: "Whatever you do ... do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." "Whatever you do..." -- that's pretty broad, isn't it? Covers a lot of ground. I suspect that if we learned to take his words seriously, we would have learned pretty much all we need to know about living the "Christian life" to which the church gives so much lip service. What, really, is a "Christian life" if not the offering of every moment, action, thought, vocation, hobby, passion, talent, and pursuit as a sacrifice of gratitude to God? What is a "Christian life" if not living out every moment of every day in Jesus' name in gratitude for what he's done for us and what he will do with us? "In Jesus' name." You know, it strikes me that we have something else in common with Oksana Chusovitina. We are not our own. Oksana isn't German by birth, of course. But when she became a German citizen and put on that uniform, she became as German as anyone else on that team. That "Deutsch land" on her leotard marks her as a citizen of a new nation, and everything she does in the Olympics connects her to that nation. She's still Oksana Chusovitina, but she's chosen to give herself, at least in part, in gratitude to those who have given her a gift she can never repay. What she did in Beijing, she did in the name of Germany.

I'm afraid we don't always consider the implications when we use the phrase "in Jesus' name." Maybe it's too often something we just tag onto the end of our prayers, but to think about doing everything we do "in Jesus' name" sets your head spinning! To do everything in Jesus' name is to take his agenda for our own. It's to allow his priorities and values to supplant our own. To do everything in Jesus' name is to claim not a minute of your time, not a part of your life, not a piece of your heart as your own. It's to open your life to his scrutiny and live it out by his command. That's a huge commitment, to be sure, and not one that can be honored with only one decision. It works itself out over the course of our lives.

For a start, though, you can begin to imagine what it would look like if you did your work, not for the company or firm that employs you, or for your own financial security, but for Jesus. Would it change your priorities? Would it alter the way you spent your time? Would your interactions with your colleagues be different? How about with customers or clients? Would you work more? Less? More responsibly?

Or what might it look like if your school days were lived out in Jesus' name instead of in the name of pleasing your parents or teachers or your desires for securing admission to a better college or a higher-paying job? Would it change how hard you worked? How honest you were? How you lived with your fellow students, teachers, and administration? Would it make a difference in the goals you worked toward?

And how would it change life with your family if you were committed to doing everything at home in Jesus' name? How about friendships? How would things at church be different?

It's impossible, of course, to repay God for the gift he has given us. Thankfully, that's not what he asks. He asks us to show our gratitude simply by offering him what we have. By doing the things that we do each day in Jesus' name. While that's not always easy, it's something we can do.

So, whatever you have planned for today, whatever is on your schedule -- go ahead and do it. Finish that project at work. Clean your house. Read to your kids. Take a break. But do it, do everything you do today, in the name of Jesus. Offer it to him: to his use, to his glory, to his pleasure.

I can't promise you a medal. But you'll have shown him how thankful you are for what he's given you.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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When You Have Lost It All, by Russ Lawson

In the last year, I have seen up close some folks who have lost it all. First, one of the men with whom I work had his house burn to the ground while he was at work. He and his family lost almost everything they owned. Just yesterday, my sister and her son, daughter-in-law, kids and a friend were traveling in their motor home. The engine caught fire; they got it off the road and within 5 minutes it was burned to the frame. They had packed for a long trip and in five minutes lost everything. In both cases, no one was hurt; so what was really lost? Things!

I'm not going to try and tell you that things are not important; we have trouble making it through life without some "things." I admit it, I have "my things" and I like them; they bring me comfort and sometimes pleasure and I really don't want to do without them if I don't have to. As hard as it is to loose our things, we all know that things can be replaced.

Now, some of you have experienced much greater losses, because you have lost husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers or perhaps your best friend. You have lost people who were part of your life, or perhaps in a more personal way, you have lost some of yourself. Maybe you've lost a finger, a hand, a foot, your vision or your hearing, or perhaps you have lost an even more important thing: perhaps you have lost your hope, maybe even your faith.

I ran across a very short, but very profound proverb -- supposedly of Bulgarian origin -- that brings it all into focus: "God promises a safe landing, but not a calm passage." I remember the old hymn that has these words:

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus' Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Paul gives sound words of wisdom for Timothy to share with other Christians. Notice what he has to say, because his advice is still very appropriate:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV)

Where is your hope?

Let me ask you two very short, but very important questions:

What have you lost?

Where is your hope?

As for me, I've lost a few things and a few special people in my life. However, "My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in Jesus' Name!" for I know that God promises us a safe landing, if not a calm passage through this life.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Big Reversal, by Phil Ware

The big reversal! Ah yes, most us have been there.

* "We're just friends; we'll never have a serious relationship."

* "I can't stand her; she is so stuck on herself and opinionated!"

* "I will never move back there!"

* "I sure wouldn't buy that kind of car again!"

* "I will never say to my kids what my parents said to me!"

Then the big reversal happens and everything changes! The friendship becomes more and before you know it, you start talking about wedding dates and rings. The person you can't stand ends up being very different than your first impression and you become lasting friends. The place you said you would never return to suddenly becomes the place God makes clear is the place you are suppose to go. The lemon you bought from a certain car company is replaced a decade later by a newer and much more highly rated model. And before you know it, those things you promised you would never say to your kids that your mom and dad said to you ... yeah, they suddenly make more sense to you and you end up hearing them coming out of your mouth and targeted at your children.

The big reversal hit a fellow by the name of Saul of Tarsus -- the guy we better know as Paul the apostle to the nations. His big reversal had to do with what he thought of Jesus. "He's a blasphemer!"

Not much nuance in that statement. None was intended. Paul was certain of his position and passionate in his pursuit to defend it. Jesus wasn't a nice teacher of Judaism, nor was he a harmless carpenter from Galilee. Jesus wasn't a deluded religious leader from the north, nor was he a political force to be reckoned with. "He's a blasphemer!"

Paul's position was clear. He persecuted those who believed in Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:19; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). In fact, he was on his way to fight this blasphemer Jesus when he first met the Lord (Acts 22:1-8). Then his position on Jesus flipped 180 degrees.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief (2 Timothy 1:12-13 TNIV).

"He's everything to me!" That was Paul's new position. He says it in all sorts of different ways, but maybe his most articulate and impacting statement about Jesus is this:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation -- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:15-23).

"He is everything to me!"

That's Paul's final position. His life was dedicated to proclaiming Jesus and helping folks find the goal of their life in Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29). He was convinced that when his life was over, he would go to be with Jesus (Philippians 1:19-24). Then at God's special moment, this Jesus will return and bring with him everyone who belongs to him and they will share in his glorious presence together (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Or as Paul puts it, "When Christ, who is your life, appears,then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4).

"Jesus is everything to me!" Is he everything to you?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Getting Close to God, by Bill Denton

[Jesus said] "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life" (John 5:39-40 NASB).

The Pharisees made it their job to study and know the Scriptures in order to gain the upper hand on the things of God and keep the rest of the people in the dark. For the Pharisees, the Scriptures had ceased to be a form of revelation. "Manipulation" better describes their use of the sacred texts. By them they engineered and justified their own righteousness, and by them they controlled others. (John Fischer, quoted in "The New Rebellion Handbook", pp. 152-153.)

I have long been interested in religious discussion. A lot of it is extremely good, encouraging, corrective, and helpful. A lot of it is bologna -- especially discussions in which the goal is for each of the participants to prove the other wrong about something. Sometimes even that kind of discussion can be good, but often it degenerates into little more than spiritual manipulation.

We pick on the Pharisees because they are easy targets. A man named Nicodemus proved that not all Pharisees were spiritual manipulators. But as a group, they were susceptible to the charge laid in the quote above by John Fischer. They started out with admirable intentions, but somewhere along the line, they began to justify their own flawed lives while expertly condemning others. The result was that nobody was getting closer to God.

This can be a terrifying way to approach God.

Jesus told the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14). I love that story. Luke tells us why Jesus told the story. "He told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt" (Luke 18:9). That's a very important introduction, because it explains the purpose of the parable. How could a Pharisee draw closer to God if he trusted himself to already be righteous? How could a Pharisee help anybody else draw closer to God, if all he did was condemn them, or insist they become like himself? Neither of those options has a good result.

Interestingly, the only way a person can draw close to God is by not trusting himself or herself. A person cannot start out thinking she is or he is right or that his or her behavior is perfect. Each person has got to be open to the very real truth that he or she is not righteous at all. Even people who have studied and learned God's word should be very cautious about thinking they are too "right."

But, this can be a terrifying way to approach God. For many people, it terrifies them to think about appearing before God with less than a perfect record. Yet God already knows about their less-than-stellar record. He knows about their sins. Getting close to God, really getting close to God, begins the moment one acknowledges what God already knows and understands that the One they fear is the One with the answer to their sins. Humble, sorrowful, repentant, confessing people get a quick and loving response by God. Haughty, stubborn, sin-denying people who are quick to condemn others get trouble from God. One trusts God. The other doesn't. Which are you?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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The Art of Saying, 'I am Sorry', by Steve Higginbotham

Apologizing doesn't come easy for some of us. We sometimes choke on the words, "I'm sorry." Well, in fact, sometimes we speak the words, but we do so with such animosity, the message is lost.

I can illustrate. Being a parent of four children, I have had to "moderate" a good number of apologies. On many occasions, I have told one of my children, "Now you tell your brother/sister you're sorry." What then comes out of their mouth sounds more like a child who is demon possessed than a sincere apology. Teeth clenched ... jaw set ...and the words, "I'm sorry" are spoken in a forceful and almost growling tone. (If you have children, you know exactly what I'm talking about).

But now, that's just kid's stuff, right? Adults don't behave like that, now do we? Well, maybe we're not so obvious, but we still have ways of speaking those words with less than sincerity. For example, how many
times have you heard people say things like ...
* If I have done anything to offend you, I'm sorry.
* Isn't it time we quit pretending ...
* I'm sorry, but if you wouldn't have ...
* If you'll apologize to me, I'll apologize to you.

Isn't it time we quit pretending to be sorry? Let us discipline ourselves to be humble enough to graciously and freely say we are sorry when we have offended others. When confronted with his sin, King David didn't make any excuses, but simply admitted his wrong by saying, "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13).

Next time you need to say you're sorry. Humble yourself and do so, and say it like you mean it.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Misplaced Apology?, by Joey Cope

I was staring at the paper plate in front of me, trying to recall what I had just had for lunch. Slowly, I was able to piece together memories of beef with broccoli, fried rice, and egg roll. The momentary image gave me some pleasure.

Then I drifted back to the speaker. His opening statement was what sent my mind searching for something to occupy it. This fellow is a frequent contributor to our gatherings. He's been around a long time -- a fact that he often brings up. But he's a discontented sort. I can't remember the last time that his comments were in favor of something -- other than finding someone else to be in charge up the line of responsibility somewhere.

He has a companion in these strolls. She is less negative, but equally opinionated. When the two of them get started, I do a lot of deep breathing exercises. I would shut them out completely, except for the fact that they do make some good points. Yet, their delivery and demeanor makes it especially hard for me to be objective. Of course, that's my problem, right?

I've really been working on that. I just about had it under control until a new wrinkle appeared in his presentation. The last two or three meetings, he sits quietly while others add to the conversation. Then, at his moment, he slowly begins speaking these words: "I am sorry for what I'm about to say. I apologize if I seem negative and difficult."

Those few words seem to ice the air in the meeting room. After all, most of the time what he says is negative and difficult. What could be coming if he thinks there's a problem with it?

In my view, if you have to apologize for something before you say it, you probably shouldn't say it.

After all, with just a few more minutes delay or after sleeping on those thoughts for at least a night, isn't it possible that you could come up with a better way to say it? One that could be more readily accepted by the hearer? You might even decide that you don't need to share those words. Or perhaps they would be better received by someone else.

As some one who deals with conflict all of the time, I understand that it is necessary for most people to express concerns -- to vent their emotions. Even then, I believe that we can all work toward a better communication style. A strategy that magnifies the negative is rarely productive. Look at most of the political communications -- particularly in a campaign.

Of course, that's my problem, right?

Except in those rare debate competitions rich with rules and filled with judges trained to score the participants on style, effectiveness, and the rules, no one ever wins a debate. Most of us understand that the only effect of a real-life debate is to further entrench each side into their arguments.

Contrast "debate" with "conversation." I suppose the courteous debater might open with an apology. But, the effective conversationalist always begins with words that build relationship and invite understanding.

So perhaps my colleague is a courteous debater. I am challenged to answer as a conversationalist. An apology offered to excuse future hurt is not one I'm prone to accept.

Of course, that's my problem, right?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen(Ephesians 4:29 TNIV). Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians4:6).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Where to Place the Blame, by Russ Lawson

In general we are not good at accepting blame, are we? No one really wants to look like a bad person to others, and sometimes it is just difficult for people to admit to themselves that they could do something bad or wrong. Through the years, I have become convinced that people -- sometimes even me -- can justify just about anything they want to do. Far too often we fail to see the whole picture or fail to think things through to their logical conclusion before acting.

Most of the time folks try to place the blame for any difficulty on someone else, or at least distance themselves from it as much as possible. Doug Larson wrote this about placing blame, "The reason people blame things on the previous generations is that there is only one other choice!"

Think about that a minute ...

Now on the other side of things, there is the optimist's view that we all make mistakes. Some folks like to remind you, by way of encouragement, that "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." One pessimist fellow had an answer for that when he said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life, but so was yesterday and look how you messed that up!"

So having said all of that, perhaps the question is, "How do we go on with our daily living knowing we are bound to mess up sometime?"

First, we simply can deny that we mess up. I had a discussion with a young preacher one time that told me, "I have been saved and I never sin." I asked him to explain to me the old apostle John's words: "If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him [God], he is
faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts" (1 John 1:8-10 NLT).

Firmly on our own shoulders!

He read the verses -- perhaps for the first time -- and responded, "I don't know what it means, but it doesn't mean what it says!" Hmmm, admission of sin and confession to God, sounds like it might work!

The second choice we have is to realize that we do mess up, sometimes terribly, and then accept the blame for what we have done. Paul reminded the church members at Rome that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Hey, maybe we are not so unusual in denying blame, if God took the time to remind us of the problem, as well as giving us the answer to it in His Word.

God's word does offer the solution to getting the blame -- the guilt of our sin -- taken away. Spend some time reading what Paul says in Romans chapter 6 and see if God speaks to you about how to be free from the burden of blame and of sin. Notice especially those first few verses (Romans 6:1-14).

Ultimately, where do we place the blame? Firmly on our own shoulders!

But the Good News is that God can take it off our shoulders in Christ, and longs to give us forgiveness and comfort!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Finding What We Seek, by Tim Archer

Turtles sitting on a rock. Nothing uncommon, at least not for turtles. Most reptiles, being cold-blooded creatures, like to sun themselves. The only problem was these two turtles were in an artificial pond in the interior of a hotel in Varadero, Cuba. Although their instincts led them to believe otherwise, these two turtles wouldn't find the sun that day nor any other day. The best they could hope for was to gather warmth from the air around them.

I couldn't help but see a metaphor as I watched the turtles. These animals were hard-wired to climb out of the water on a regular basis to seek the sun and its warmth. Age-old natural forces led them to repeat this behavior even though experience would have told them it was a futile endeavor. I couldn't help but think that we, mankind, have an instinctive need to seek God and his warmth, yet many of us fail to see that we aren't looking in the right place. While the turtles have been fenced in against their will, so many of us find ourselves shut off from God's light due to our own choices. God seeks us out and something inside each of us longs for him, yet we remain trapped behind walls of our own making, walls that keep us from going to him for the life-giving warmth that he gives. Some suffer behind walls of intellectual pride. Others find their way to God blocked by some sin that gets between them and their Maker, something they just don't want to let go of. Many people can't see past their possessions or their
ambitions. For some it's past hurts, for others it's fear of the future. We're driven to seek God, yet often settle for a substitute, settle for something that doesn't fully satisfy.

We have a need that only God can fill.

Thousands of years ago, a Hebrew poet wrote: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). It took me some years to realize that the second part of that verse depends on the first part. When we learn to delight ourselves in the Lord, he becomes the principle desire of our heart. He becomes what we seek above all else. That's the secret to true contentment. When we learn to seek God above all else, we either receive the other things that we want or we discover that those things are merely substitutes that will never satisfy the longings of our heart.

Just as those turtles are driven to seek the sun, there is something inside of us that needs God. Unlike those turtles, we have the power to put ourselves in the position of not only seeking what we need, but finding him as well. I'd like to help you find the warmth of God's love if you're having trouble finding it. Just write to me at tim@hopeforlife.org or leave a comment at www.hopeforlife.org/blog. You don't have to spend the rest of your life looking in the wrong place.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Back-to-School Cool, by Hal Runkel, LMFT

It is easy to lose our cool during the transition of back to school, especially considering that it is roughly the temperature of molten lava outside. If you are interested in your child (and you!) having a cool year of school, it's time to change your thinking a bit. Here are three points about this particular year's Back-to-School transition that all parents should consider in order to remain ScreamFree.

No one has done this particular transition before.

Sure, you've done the back-to-school thing, but each kid and each parent is now a year older, most likely entering a new grade, and largely unaware of what the next year brings. All of that means we parents should take the emotional lead by approaching this time with honest humility and questions, rather than arrogant answers and assumptions. Having a curious attitude about what this year will hold is so much better than jumping to conclusions and ignoring the concerns of your child. What does this look like? Maybe it means actually asking (and then listening to) what your kids are saying about something like school supply needs. Just last night, my daughter and I almost went head to head over this very issue. Thankfully, I was thinking about this article and somehow found a way to pause.

She started begging for a new backpack. Now, her bag from last year looked perfectly fine to me. No rips. No tears. I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't care so much about looks and that a new one was out of the question, but then I had a thought. Why not really talk to her about this? Why not come to a conclusion about the need
for a new backpack through cooperative investigation rather than authoritarian presumption? Why not be ScreamFree about it all? Hmmm ... As it turned out, she wasn't at all concerned about the look of her bag, but rather the size. She was worried about how many textbooks 6th graders will need. She was actually asking for something far more valuable than a new accessory. She wanted reassurance about her new schedule, her new workload, her new responsibilities. I almost missed a great opportunity because I assumed that we had done this before and I knew what was best. So, I asked questions and she opened up. And for the record, we both came to the conclusion that last year's book bag will work out just fine.

Optimism is most effective when it is NOT imposed.

We all want our kids to have a "great year." And believe it or not, that's what they want as well. You might not have picked up on that with all of the lamenting they do toward the end of summer, but it's there. It is our tendency to negate all the fears and complaints our kids have about school starting because we know how
important a positive attitude is in determining that "great year". But that's not our job. Hear me clearly: It is absolutely our job as leaders to lead with optimism about the future. We have to come to a place of maturity and faith to believe that the future has plenty of reason for excitement. But we make a critical mistake when we try to impose that optimistic view on everyone else. Doing so makes us come across as needy and nervous. Whenever we say, "Come on, you should be excited! This is going to be a great year!" we are playing cheerleaders trying to convince our frightened or apathetic kids that everything is going to be just swell. Instead, they hear, "Come on, I can't handle you being moody or scared or insecure because that means that I have somehow failed. I NEED you to be excited about this upcoming school year or I'm going to feel like a bad parent!" Simply convince yourself that it is going to be a great year and watch their attitudes follow.

Transitions back to school can be difficult!

Yes, let's tell our kids that we're excited and we really believe in a positive future. Yes, let's tell them this from a genuine point of mature, individual, faith in that belief. But, let's also remember this: what they feel about this upcoming year is up to them. Give your kids some emotional space to struggle with their fears and worries without trying to either minimize or amplify them, and then sit back and watch them soak up your positivity without even having to try.

It's the little changes that prepare us for the biggest ones.

When a transition is clear and unavoidable, there is no excuse for a lack of preparation. One of the biggest mistakes I see parents make in preparing for the school year is the last-minute summer vacation, with the whole family arriving home the day or two before school starts. This is an automatic recipe for a very difficult first week of school. Back-to-school is a transition that's been on the calendar for months, and we all know that even with the best preparation around bedtime and sleep schedules, there are going to be some exhausted kids those first two weeks or so.

By all means, use the week prior to ease everyone, including yourself, back into a school-friendly routine. Start cutting back on bedtimes 15 minutes each night until it's back to usual. Start waking kids up 15 minutes earlier each day, ushering them into a shower and a change of clothes. You can even work with your kids by going online or calling the school to find out when lunch is scheduled for each kid, and begin getting their bodies ready for that meal schedule. Sure, these are little changes, but as in most areas of life, it's the little changes that prepare us for the bigger ones.

Transitions like going back to school can be difficult, that's for sure. But they can also be incredible growth opportunities. It all depends on how you look at things. If you're willing to become more coachable than correct, more optimistic than overbearing, and more intentional than intense these last few days before school actually starts, you and your child are off to one "great year" no matter what lies ahead.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Wake Up Call?, by Russ Lawson

I woke up very early the other morning with a pain in my chest, shoulder and left arm. In general, I'm not one to worry or get overly excited about things and I didn't about this either. I took a couple of aspirin and proceeded to get ready to go to work. Later as I was eating my bowl of cereal, I casually mentioned it to my wife who was
immediately concerned. She wanted me to call the doctor or go to the hospital right then. But I guess by rights of being a man, I didn't. I did promise later that I would call the doctor when their office opened.

I did and they said, "Go to the hospital immediately." I called my wife and she came to my workplace and drove me to the emergency room. They took me in pretty quickly and started the tests and 6 hours later I was moved to a room where I spent that night. After lots and lots of tests, blood work, stress tests, etc., they decided it wasn't my heart. We finally came to the conclusion that I might have torn some muscles or cartilage in my shoulder in a fall I had a short while ago (but that's another story in itself).

Having been a minister for over 36 years, I have spent lots and lots of time visiting folks in the hospital; but this was the first time I have ever been a patient myself. I've visited lots of folks who worry themselves sick -- if they aren't already sick -- while in the hospital. During this couple of days of Hospital adventure, I was never worried or upset; in fact, it never occurred to me to worry. They would take my blood pressure -- for those of you old enough to watch such things, normally mine ran 147 over 71 -- and it was always great. They would ask repeatedly, "What's the name of your blood pressure medicine," and they were always surprised when I told them I didn't take any.

Let me tell you the hardest part of the whole experience; it was simply doing nothing and laying in that bed. What did I learn from this experience? It reinforced the knowledge that God is in control and all powerful and if I put my faith in him I have nothing to fear for myself. I also realized though, that my concerns are for others not
myself. What about my family and friends, what is their relationship with God like? How would they react if something happened to me? Would they be drawn closer to God or shy away? What do the values of my life say to others about my relationship with God?

The sad reality is that when you reach a point, when you just might be closer to the end of your life than you were prepared to be, there is not much you can do. There comes a time when each of us must let go and let God have control of our lives.

Perhaps it's time you wake up and look at your life!

My uncle Dick sent this little saying to me today and it struck a cord in my heart. It says, "When you're down to nothing, God is up to something." It most likely is not a new saying to you; from the little checking I did, it's been around for several years. That, however, doesn't change the truth of the statement. Someone else said, "You are
never closer to God than when you are down on your knees in prayer."

I was brought awake with chest and arm pain. Could it be that perhaps it's time you wake up and look at your life before your life gives you a "wake up call"? Maybe make some changes before you reach a point that there is nothing else you can do?

Paul had this to say:
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:11-12).

I ran across a saying that I like that goes this way, "I've never stayed awake at night over a chance I took that failed, but I've stayed awake over chances I didn't take" (Garth Brooks). What about you?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Splash Down, by Phil Ware

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Having said this, He breathed His last (Luke 24:6 NASB)

She stood there with her toes squeezing the edge of the pool so she could reach as far as her arms would allow her without tipping over and falling into the water. She wanted to be willing to jump into the water, but my hands were just out of her reach. She would have to jump and trust that my hands would be there when she hit the water. It was a trust issue, not a "want it" issue. Eventually, she summoned up her courage and took the leap.

Many a parent knows the sometimes-laborious process of getting a child confident enough to jump into the water. More than a rite of passage or some parental fiendish delight, when you live in Texas around lakes and pools, it's a necessity. More than just learning to swim, a child needs to know how to handle landing with an unexpected splash in the face and navigate to safety. But you don't start with your child on the diving board saying, "Come on, baby, jump in. You can do it! I'll just sit here in my lounge chair sipping lemonade and watch you."

No, you start with your child sitting on the side of the pool with his or her toes in the water, holding your hands, and sliding smoothly into the water. All the while, those tiny hands are firmly in the grip of your strong hands, knowing that you won't let them go. Little by little, you move a bit more away and they have to reach, then stand, and eventually jump to reach your hands. For most kids, this makes the adventure more and more fun as they gain confidence as the process continues. BUT ... sooner or later, you are so far away that your child can lean, even jump, but not quite reach your hands. Your little one has to trust that even if he or she cannot physically touch you at
splash down, you are still there and your hands are close by to reach, rescue, and applaud -- whatever the situation might demand.

The last recorded words of Jesus from the cross are, "Into your hands do I commit my spirit." If we allow ourselves the boldness to look at Jesus this way, we can understand these words in ways that connect with our experience. From the moment of Jesus' cry in the Garden, we enter into the tender relationship of a son and his father.

"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine" (Mark 14:36 NLT).

Yes, Jesus words, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" are the cry of a child launching in the direction of the unknown and trusting that the strong hands of his loving Father are there waiting for them after the jump and the splash down. No matter how we want to clothe Jesus with the divine, we cannot remove from him the reality of his humanness. This is the mystery and the grace of God in human flesh. So in the middle of Jesus' launch into the unknown -- remember he is called the "pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2 NRS) --he was trusting Abba Father for his leap of faith. He had done this all of his life, so now, when his greatest leap was necessary, he could launch himself in faithful trust that the "hands" of his Abba were near.

And because he made the leap before us, we can believe, too. For no matter how far the leap may appear, and no matter how far away the strong hands of rescue may seem, we can know that the Father waits for our launch into the unknown ... not just to rescue us, but also to applaud his precious child who trusted that he was waiting for them at splashdown.

So with Jesus, we can quote the Psalmist and confidently say, "I entrust my spirit into your hand. Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God" (Psalm 31:5 NLT).

We can know that the Father waits for our launch into the unknown.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Forgiveness?, by Sarah Stirman

Years ago in the days of small children in diapers, car seats, sippy cups, and pacifiers, I learned a valuable lesson of forgiveness. It was one of those ridiculously busy times in our life. My husband was drowning in work and church obligations and I was going stir crazy with the little ones at home and had my own share of church obligations.

In the middle of one of those weeks, we were trying to all get out the door for our mid-week service at church. Of course, at church, we all had what seemed to be 437 different obligations, and my husband had a meeting after church. I was still rushing to finish cleaning up from dinner so I asked him to go ahead and take the kids to church since we needed two separate cars there anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed a few kid-free moments and took my time finishing up.

I wandered up to church and stopped and visited with some friends in the hall. As I was passing the classroom where my younger child should have been in class, I quizzed a dad standing outside the class, "He's in there, right?" He seemed baffled, "No, I saw your daughter and her friend taking your son upstairs." Well, that's weird. Maybe I should go check on that.

I climbed the stairs and began walking the hall. The first classroom I came to had the lights on and one very dejected almost-two-year old alone in the room. It was the classroom he attended on Sunday nights. It was Wednesday. I can still see his chubby little cheeks and sad eyes that must have wondered what in heaven's name he had done to be left alone for Bible class. I got him all squared away where he should have been, and tried to go on with my evening.

But I was angry. Actually, I was FURIOUS. Knowing it would be a very long time before I had an opportunity to talk to my husband, I did a very thoughtless thing. I went to the door of the room where he was in Bible class and asked him to meet me in the hall. When he got there, I unleashed with both barrels about how I couldn't believe he would let our 3 1/2 year old take our 1 1/2 year old to class and not CHECK that all were where they should be. Strangely (or not) he didn't respond very well to that particular approach at conflict resolution. He failed to apologize, muttered something about "Well, that's just one more thing I've messed up lately!" and stormed off.

Fine. I finished all I needed to and took the kids home. I got them all tucked in bed and collapsed on my bed. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I KNEW that the Lord would want me to forgive and I hoped my will would roll out of my head with the tears rolling down my cheeks.

However, stubborn soul that I am, I really thought I had a fairly good argument for NOT forgiving: "Lord, I have felt ignored and cast aside from him lately. I can forgive that. But, Father, that is my baby boy. He ignored him. I vow to you, Father, that I will honor my vow to you and my husband. I will not leave him, but, Lord, I don't think I can
ever forgive him. It's my baby boy!"

As the sobs quieted and the words of rage finally left my body, I heard it. No, there was no audible voice in my room. But words came into my head. Words that were not at all in line with my will, but His word: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

I wish I could say that was the last time!

I gasped and cried some more. For His message was clear to me at that moment: "That was MY baby boy. If I can forgive YOU for all the things you have done to put him on that cross, you can certainly forgive the man you love for something your baby boy will never remember."

I was humbled, repentant, and sorrowful. With a few words the Lord reminded me of His holiness and my humanness. How could I possibly be so unforgiving of another human when the Lord of the universe was willing to watch His own baby boy suffer and die to forgive me for everything every thoughtless sin, every willful sin, sins he knew I would commit later, all of them!

I wish I could say that was the last time I have ever been tempted to draw a line in the sand and tell God, "I will love this person, but I will NOT forgive them." I still have those fleeting thoughts, but they are just that fleeting. I can be incredibly stubborn and a generally slow learner about life lessons, but it's hard to ignore or forget
being reprimanded by the Lord of heaven and earth!

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Why Have You Forsaken Me?, by Phil Ware

Alone, alone, all alone,
Alone on the wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony!
The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Live on; and so did I.

Many of us read these words from Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, when we were in high school or college. The two lines that resonate with me as I think about Jesus on the cross are these:

Alone, alone, all alone ...
My soul in agony!

Sounds a whole lot like, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") (Mark 15:34 TNIV). These words of desperation capture Jesus' soul in agony as he hangs upon the cross. He has been beaten with rods, spat upon, mocked, ridiculed, carried his own cross, nailed down, hung exposed before a jeering mob as his life ebbed away.

In this moment of desperation, he bears the weight of our sin so we could become God's righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is abandoned, forsaken, betrayed, and denied by those who are closest to him. He even feels abandoned by God, the Abba Father he prayed would deliver him from this horrible moment (Mark 14:36). These words of Jesus come from the opening verses of Psalm 22. As you read on down through the psalm, you also see phrases that speak of Jesus' agony on the cross:

I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people (Psalm 22:6 TNIV).

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads (Psalm 22:7).

... a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16).

All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me (Psalm 22:17).

They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment (Psalm 22:18).

This psalm is Jesus' story. The psalm describes what Jesus faces and describes powerfully what he feels as he faces its horror. He knew what was going to happen! He told his disciples repeatedly he was going to Jerusalem to be rejected and killed (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34) and the famous psalm describes the Lord's journey in bitterly vivid detail. That's what makes Jesus' words to his closest friends so poignant to me: "A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone ..." (John 16:32).

Jesus went to the cross alone ... feeling alone ... abandoned by his friends. So Jesus words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" are comforting to us when we face unbearable loneliness and we feel that we've been betrayed by everyone. He knows how we feel -- not just because he is God and knows everything, but because he has felt it in human skin. God felt distant to him as he does to us. God seems as unwilling to hear his Son's prayers as he appears to be unwilling to hear our prayers. Or as our Psalm says, "My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest" (Psalm 22:2).

But notice what Jesus said to his followers again, and this time we'll finish the thought: A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me (John 16:32 emphasis mine).

Jesus felt alone ... all alone ... his soul in agony. He even felt abandoned by God. He knew his closest friends would desert him. But, as he showed by referring to the Psalm, that is how he felt: but not what he believed. When you read the rest of the psalm, you understand why he told his friends, Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me (John 16:32 b). Look at what the rest of this famous Psalm declares:

But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me (Psalm 22:19).

I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you (Psalm 22:22).

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help (Psalm 22:24).

"For my Father is with me!"

In the middle of our struggles, we have a Lord who understands what it means to feel so alone that you feel abandoned by God. He carried the weight of the sins of the world. He was deserted by his friends and he felt abandoned by God. But he believed God would deliver him. He trusted that God would not abandon him, no matter what the circumstances appeared to suggest -- no matter how heavy the weight of sin and shame he bore.

What does that mean to us?

It means that when we feel abandoned, we have a Savior who has been there. He went through what he suffered so we could know that we would never be abandoned by our Father (Romans 8:32-39). We can trust that God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).

No matter how we feel, our Savior reminds us that we can believe in God's Word and our Father's faithfulness. Since God didn't abandon his Son when he carried our sins, he won't abandon us in our moments of weakness and brokenness. If the Lord of heaven and earth could cry out honestly in his agony, so can we. And underneath it all, we can say with Jesus, "I am not alone, for my Father is with me."

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We often hear that God turned his back on his Son because Jesus was carrying the guilt of our sin. How do you reconcile that with John 16:32? Where do you find a Scripture supporting this concept?

How is it a blessing to us to know that Jesus felt abandoned, but in faith, trusted that God would not abandon him and would be faithful to his promises?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Pockets of Dreams, by Susan Sagun

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress ... (James 1:27 NLT).

Robert and John, two young boys in the rural area of Kiryagonja, Uganda, were recently discovered by neighbors abandoned and alone in their crumbling mud and tin hut. The boys remember their mother vaguely, before she was cast out for reasons unknown by an alcoholic husband in a country where women have few rights. Eventually
their father simply walked away, overwhelmed by the burden of caring for his sons. When found, the boys had not eaten in several days.

This is a true and far too frequent occurrence in Africa where means of sustainable income is even more difficult than the sparse living conditions. With the all too familiar images of starving children and dying adults, the whole problem can feel too overwhelming to any one individual to make a lasting impact.

One innovative company is making it easy and fashionable to make a difference. Pockets of Dreams is a unique clothing line of little girls' dresses. Every dress has 7 pockets, each pocket symbolizing the dreams that every child should have a chance to come true -- dreams of family, friends, health, wealth, education, opportunity and love. The dresses are really cute but what makes them unique is that for each dress purchased, life gets a little easier in Africa.

Through partnerships with local seamstresses in Uganda, Pockets of Dreams administers the Ugandan Fabric Fund, which assists local seamstresses in buying fabric. As part of their relationship with Pockets of Dreams, Ugandan seamstresses make one dress and gift it to a child in need in their own community and then make a second
dress which they sell to profit their own families -- creating a viable in-home business. John and Robert's story may have turned out very differently if their mother had been empowered to create income to feed her young sons, assisted through Pockets of Dreams or a like program.

Local seamstresses are selected through in-country ambassadors. Seamstresses who have moderate sewing skills and motivation to run their own businesses are chosen, with preference given to women with school-aged children. The local ambassador administers the distribution of funds and oversees the donation of dresses to girls in nearby communities. This kind of grassroots activism insures that individuals are the direct recipients of the aid provided.

Recently, Pockets of Dreams, gifted a collection of new uniforms to a local school for impoverished children. The excitement was electric as Dianna Eckhardt, the Pockets of Dreams ambassador in Uganda, presented the dresses. For most of the girls, it was the first time they had ever received a brand new piece of clothing, much less one made especially for them with faith, hope and love. These dresses were sent with the absolute conviction and belief that life can and must become better for these young ladies, their mothers and their entire families.

We can help these dreams come true!

Pockets of Dreams firmly believes there is a new wind in the air -- a position of favor and restoration that can happen quickly when people both care and step forward to help. With God's help, we believe that change can happen quickly.

Many of the young girls we met in Uganda are nearly as optimistic as we are! For example, Judith, an 11-year-old, takes her studies very seriously, often chiding her classmates for talking out of turn. Rachel, a 9-years-old, would make you believe she was a first year medical student pushing herself daily to read her English lessons
louder and longer than the day before. Rebecca, also 9-years-old, walks through her village every day in clothes so torn and tattered, they barely serve a purpose. But every day she smiles broadly and tells everyone who will listen of what grand new thing she has to be exuberantly happy about.

These young ladies emerged as leaders in their small village school on the day the Pockets of Dreams dresses arrived. They listened attentively as Dianna explained the meaning of the seven pockets. Then, Judith, Rachel and Rebecca carefully explained to the younger girls what every pocket meant -- dreams of family, friends, health, wealth, education, opportunity and most importantly love and ensured they understand that somewhere -- on the other side of the world -- real people truly believe these things can and must come true for them.

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For more information on Pockets of Dreams or to order a dress, please visit the website: http://www.pocketsofdreams.com

See also the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqtaPPe5ET0

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Lord, Help Me Look Ahead, by Tom Norvell

Lord, help me look ahead. It's time to look ahead. Help me to turn my attention away from the things that have already passed and direct my focus toward the things that are yet to be. I've spent too much time looking back. I have spent too much time dwelling on the things that I cannot change. I have spent too little time on the opportunities that lay ahead.

Lord, help me to enjoy the memories I have of my children as they have grown and moved toward independence. But, help me not to dwell so much on "those days" that I miss "these days" we are living now, and enable me to enjoy them to the fullest.

Lord, help me never forget the times and the ways you have delivered me in the past, but do not allow me to think that Your days of deliverance are over, and help me never doubt that You will continue to deliver me in the future.

Lord, help me stop dwelling on the mistakes of the past to such an extent that I am paralyzed with fear of making another mistake.

Lord, remind me that my sins have been forgiven and that I am free to live a life of victory with confidence and boldness in the future.

Lord, thank You for enabling me to accomplish some good things in my life, help me to not be satisfied with those things already accomplished, and help me to continue to rely on You for everything I endeavor to accomplish in the future.

Lord, help us as Your people, to let go of the past, to admit where we have failed, rejoice where we have succeeded, and move on toward what You have planned for the future.

Lord, I have wasted too much time dwelling on the past.

Lord, help us to take responsibility for our oversights of the past, learn from them, and venture into the future without guilt, or regrets, and be fully determined to do a better job as Your ambassadors to the world in the future.

Lord, You have brought us through tragedy and triumph. You have never failed us. We have every reason to believe that our future with You will be glorious. So, let us live today to the fullest and with confidence and with hope.

Consider the example of Moses:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel (Hebrews 11:24-28 NIV).

Consider the words of Paul:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV).

Lord, I have wasted too much time dwelling on the past. We have wasted too much time dwelling on the past. Help me, and help us, to stop looking back and look ahead to what You have planned.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Moving Stumps, by Mike Barres

Two big stumps. I had to move them. The first one went pretty easily. I had it in the back of my truck in no time. Then I went to reach down for the second one. It wouldn't even move. Now I know this might sound crazy to some, but I envisioned that stump in the back of my truck and wasn't going to stop until it was.

The vision of that stump being in the back of my truck, kept me going. I believed it would happen. I had to be passionate about it, however, because it was not going to be easy. I knocked a bunch of dirt off of it to take some of the weight off. I could just barely move it. Then, I knocked some more dirt off. I could get under one side, but I was then able to stand it up on its side by attaching a strap to it and pulling it with my truck.

Then I had a thought. If I needed the truck to stand it up, how was I going to be able to put it in the truck by hand? By this point I'm getting dirty and sweating quite a bit. My heart is pumping pretty good. I realize I need to knock some more dirt off. The stump had about 2 million small roots that made this very difficult. If it weren't for my vision and passion, I would have quit. After about another hour of poking and knocking dirt off, I was finally able to move that stump. I rolled it down into my truck. The most encouraging moment is what I call the "tipping point." That is when you muscle something up just past half way, and then gravity takes over and you know you're going to
be able to do it.

Our passion keeps us going!

All of this made me think about ministry. Many times the Lord gives us a vision for something, but initially it doesn't seem like it's going to happen. In the middle of our efforts, we run into problems and are tempted to give up. Realizing that the vision is from God, our passion keeps us going. Then we get to the tipping point, and we have the joy of seeing that what the Lord has called us to do is really going to happen!

I believe that the Lord still wants to show us things he wants us to accomplish to His glory:

Then the LORD answered me and said: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it" (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV).

I also believe He wants us to pursue serving Him and what he shows us with passion, "not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Flying Solo, by Wesley Shutt

Last Christmas my wife and I were given a kite. It's one of those really large ones that requires two handles and gives you a pretty good work out. You might have seen them flown on the beach before. Where we live there is always plenty of wind so a kite was a great present.

It's nearly impossible to fly this kind of kite alone. Without having someone to help you set it up, get it started, and put it away, it's more than you bargained for. I learned this the hard way.

I set out to fly our new kite on my own one windy Saturday morning. I pulled it out of the bag that we store it in and began to unwind the spools of thin rope. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was going to be very challenging. The wind was whipping the kite around even before I could finish setting up.

So I decided to stand it up against a large light post until I could get the rope taut and the kite ready for flight. Before I knew it, the kite was tangled around the light post and my plan was falling apart. As I began to untangle the rope the wind picked up even more violently and the tangled knots began to tighten. It was then that I realized that doing this alone was incredibly foolish. I wished I had been wise enough to bring someone with me. The situation was becoming more and more hopeless.

There is someone who will never leave us

I've tried flying solo in my spiritual life as well. It turned out to be an even more foolish endeavor than my kite flying experience. God has given each of us two very special gifts, Jesus and his church, so that we never have to be alone. It is good for us to be part of a community of fellow believers that are striving to follow his son, Jesus.

It's easy to think that we are strong enough, courageous enough, or smart enough to fly solo through this life. If that's our plan, sooner or later, our lives will become a tangled mess. There is someone who will never leave us alone even in the most difficult moments. Jesus told his followers that even until the end of this life he would never leave them. His promise is also for you and me.

Eventually I was able to untangle the kite. Likewise, in my spiritual life, when I began to take hold of the gifts of Jesus and his church, the spiritual knots began to untangle.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Playing Through Your Pain, by Rubel Shelly

Whether you play golf or not, you surely know the name Tiger Woods. So bear with me. This week's article (from FAX of Life) isn't so much about golf as life.

Almost a month ago now, Tiger outlasted Rocco Mediate in this year's U.S. Open. Playing the course at Torrey Pines in San Diego, the two were tied after four days. They were still tied at the end of an
18-hole playoff. Tiger won on the first sudden death hole. Some say it was the greatest U.S. Open in history.

No, the score wasn't the lowest ever. No, it wasn't won by an eagle from the fairway. No, there was no miracle shot that ended things. The miracle was that the man who won was able to complete the competition.

Tiger Woods played the tournament with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and two stress fractures below the left knee. As I watched part of the Open on TV, it was obvious that the world's greatest golfer
was in excruciating pain at times. His powerful swing would contort his whole body, wrench his injured knee in particular, and register quite dramatically on his ordinarily poised face.

Golf is only a game, but watching a professional athlete compete through such pain was inspiring. He could have simply withdrawn because of the injury. Fans would have been disappointed but would have
understood. He could have played to his pain and hit the ball less aggressively. He might have fallen back into the pack and taken a high score and low finish. He would have none of it.

Tiger played through his pain. He wouldn't quit. He gave his best on every hole. He insisted on playing to his full potential -- even when that potential was putting both his body and mind under incredible
stress. Hooray for him!

There are pains of all kinds.

The winner of this year's U.S. Open had successful reconstructive surgery on his damaged knee about ten days later. He will miss the remainder of this year's PGA tournament events, of course, while he rehabs the knee. But few people doubt he will be ready to play the tour next year. He is, after all, Tiger Woods. He is the ultimate competitor. He doesn't quit.

There are pains of all kinds. Physical trauma, broken relationships, failed ventures, consequences of wrongs done -- all are different and all the same. And each of us has to decide about quitting, playing to the pain, or working through.

As you're deciding what to do with yours, think about why so many people are speaking of Tiger Woods with such admiration these days -- even the folks like me, who hardly know which end of a golf club to hold.

True courage isn't just outlasting difficulty, but turning it into triumph.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Where Do I Go from Here?, by Tom Norvell

Life sometimes throws us a curve. You thought you had it figured out. You thought you had done it all right. You thought you knew where you were headed. Then, seemingly out of the blue, something comes along that changes everything and causes you to question people, faith, and the very foundations of life. So, you ask, "Now what? Where do I go
from here?"

You have worked so hard to get to this point in life. Made wise decisions. Did not make too many really foolish mistakes. You saved and didn't squander what you had. Then, the shocker! The illness. Everything changes. You ask, "Now what? Where do I go from here?"

You prayed to be good parents. You did it all right. You read everything James Dobson ever wrote. You went to conferences. You attended seminars. You asked the wisest people you knew for advice, and you followed it. Then your child reveals plans that contradict
everything you believe. You ask, "Now what? Where do I go from here?"

You gave your life to the company. You sacrificed your personal life. You sacrificed your family. You sacrificed your health. You assumed, "They will take care of me." Then one day you get the news, "We're
downsizing. Sorry, but you are out." You are stunned. You had no idea this was coming. You thought your job was secure. You ask, "Now what? Where do I go from here?"

Being single was never an option for you. Divorce was never in your vocabulary. You loved your life. That all changed one day when you discovered your spouse had been having an affair. When confronted, they
admit it and say things like, "I haven't loved you for years. I've been unhappy for too long. I'm not sure I ever loved you." Then, they are gone. You are alone. You ask, "Now what? Where do I go from here?"

You have been "going to church" longer than you remember. Your parents took you with them the first Sunday after you were born. Church is all you've known. It's been your life. You were involved in the children's programs. You were active in the youth group. When you went to college you found a group that encouraged spiritual growth. But, one day you
have a faith crisis. Things happen that seem wrong and make no sense. You begin to question everything you've been taught. The questions scare you. You ask, "Now what? Where do we go from here?"

"Now what? Where do I go from here?" A haunting question! It is a frightening place to be. No answers. Everything is uncertain. Where do you go from here?

There is an answer. There is a place.

The disciples of Jesus found themselves in a similar position: On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that
no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

"You have the words of eternal life."

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:60-69 NIV).

Peter's statement is key when life falls apart. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." That faith is what enabled Peter to recover after his failure. That faith enabled Peter to speak of Jesus against the strongest of opposition. That faith enabled Peter to write to us
about standing firm in a hostile world. That faith enabled Peter to give his life for Jesus.

When life caves in on us we must believe what Peter believed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." That faith is what will sustain us when life falls apart, when people disappoint us, when people hurt us, when church fails us, and when we make horrible mistakes.

If you find yourself asking, "Now what? Where do I go from here?" The answer is this, "Lord, You have the words of eternal life. I believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. I will go with You!"

Go to the One who has the words of eternal life. Go to the Holy One of God. Go to Jesus.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Donkeys Kicking, Sharks Attacking, Airplanes Falling, by Russ Lawson

I received an email with the quote, "Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes or shark attacks." I thought to myself, "How could they possibly know this?" So I did some research, and found that no one keeps statistics on how many people are killed or injured by donkeys. I was reminded immediately of the mocking statistical quote, "90 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot."

Now the statistic about donkeys -- whether real or not real -- may not seem to make a difference in the great scheme of things. However, the American Donkey and Mule Society takes exception with this "false
statistic" on their website.

My research also revealed that this maligning of donkeys probably stems from an article in 1987 in the London Times in which a reporter wrote: The statistics on the safety of flying are immensely comforting, despite recent reports of a near miss between a 474 and a RAF Hercules over Carlisle, and the Boeing 747 captain who apparently had to be reminded to lower his craft's undercarriage before
landing at Heathrow. One expert has estimated that more people in the world are kicked to death by donkeys than die in plane crashes.

There you have it! An unknown "expert" using an unsubstantiated estimate -- one of those 90% of all statistics made up on the spot --maligns donkeys and the story is still being spread over 21 years later
as being true. I don't know about you, but I tend to side with the American Donkey and Mule Society on this one.

What is the point of all of this?

I think I would rather take the time to check it out!

OK, I was directed to a website of a "Christian writer" this past week. As I opened the site, I at first appreciated the fact that this writer claimed "to speak only from the Bible, nothing more and nothing less." I spent about 20 minutes reading some of his material, then realized pretty quickly that he had missed some pretty important scriptures and
the facts he presents as true, in actuality, were just a little bit shy of being completely accurate.

Now I don't claim to have "all knowledge" or "all understanding," but I do have the ability to read God's word and figure out when someone leaves something out of a simple teaching -- just like you do. I'm reminded of a couple of scriptures that warn us about such things. One in particular was sent by the apostle John: Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes
from God. For there are many false prophets in the world (1 John 4:1 NLT).

Paul writing to the young preacher Timothy warns him:
... everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will go on deceiving others, and they themselves will be deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13).

I don't know about you, but I think I would rather take the time to check out what I am being told as true by some supposed "bible scholar," than be told something only to find out at the judgment it was wrong? OH, and check it out quickly, because who knows when you might run into a donkey looking for someone to kick!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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God Gets Mad, by Rubel Shelly

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate (Proverbs 8:13 NRS).

When God sees someone abusing his wife, betraying her husband, corrupting a child, or otherwise perpetrating injustice, it makes him mad. Anger is the healthy response of a holy and moral God to the
unholy and immoral deeds we perpetrate against one another.

Some theories of social justice and the spiritual life are modeled more on Aristotle's god -- the "Unmoved Mover" -- than the God we know in Jesus. When thousands are starving because of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, homeless because of recent flooding, or being aborted and abused, anyone who can be "unmoved" is worshiping Aristotle's impersonal god who is without feeling.

Anyone who knows the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth has to feel something of God's outrage at the sight of innocent children suffering. He feels seething anger over the sordid things human beings do to one another. He should be enraged. Cry out for justice to be established. "Give me 100 people who love God and hate sin," said John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, "and we will turn the world upside down for Christ!" Dr. Jack Arnold quoted that line from Wesley in the final sermon he preached in January 2005 -- collapsing and dying in his pulpit as he moved to its conclusion -- and said, "I think I could find 100 men and women who love Christ in America, but I am not sure I could find 100 men and women in America that hate sin." I have been haunted
by that line since reading it. I fear he is correct.

God is passionate!

I fear we are so sophisticated and unmoved by evil that it doesn't make us angry. We'd rather do lists and observe rituals. We prefer to fight our church battles over whose doctrine is sounder than to follow Jesus into unpleasant places for the sake of caring about prisoners, prostitutes, and pushers.

Is there a parent reading this who would not be enraged at the person who seduced his daughter or hooked her son on cocaine? Is there anyone so cold and indifferent to the welfare of your own flesh and blood that you would be "unmoved" that your child has thrown away innocence? Made memories that will haunt and terrify for the rest of life? If you could
receive such news with the calm of a statue, it is only because you have a heart of stone! God has a tender heart that is passionate for his sons and daughters.

If anyone has caused you to think that anger or getting mad is a wrong-headed thing for Christians, rethink that notion. And get mad about something that angers God.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Thoughtfulness, by Mike Barres

Don't you love it when people are thoughtful? They think about others, and look for ways to be a blessing to them. Reminds me of what Paul said to some of his closest Christian friends:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3 NKJV).

Recently I was the recipient of some thoughtfulness. It was such a blessing to me. It was Father's Day. Someone left some banana nut bread on my desk at the church. My grandma McGrath used to make me banana nut
bread. I not only love it, but it brings back pleasant memories of her. Also, someone handed me a little box wrapped in white tissue paper with
a red ribbon. I opened it up and it was a box with four chocolate samplers in it. They were gone before I got home -- don't tell my wife. Then my daughter brought over an old homemade ice cream maker and made
me banana pudding ice cream. I love banana pudding and I like ice cream, so this was a double treat.

It wasn't the food items that were the most important to me, even though they were all really good. The thoughtfulness behind those things warmed my heart.

Think of a way to be a blessing!

We can get so busy, and often we are just looking out for ourselves. The world would be a much more enjoyable and pleasant place if we could be more thoughtful of one another.

I was even thoughtful one time. I was eating at a restaurant for a minister's meeting and as I was checking out I noticed something that I thought my wife would like. It was a great big chocolate bar in the shape of a 100 dollar bill. She is an admitted chocoholic. She has a large coffee (or hot chocolate) mug that says "God brings no stress that chocolate and prayer can't handle." When I gave it to her, she had a big smile on her face. I think that the fact that I was thinking about her, meant as much as all the chocolate (maybe).

Let's do what Paul encouraged Christians in Asia to do: let's be kind and tenderhearted toward one another (Ephesians 4:32). Think of a way to be a blessing to someone this week. They'll enjoy what you did, but even more, they'll be blessed to know that you were thinking of them.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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I Don't Like Hospitals, by Steve Ridgell

I have recently spent time at the hospital while my mother-in-law was recovering from surgery and I realized that I do not like hospitals. And it finally dawned on me why I do not like them: they are full of
sick people. Its the same reason I do not like to go to the doctor's office. That is where all the sick people go. You sit in waiting rooms with people who are not well. They have diseases that may very well be contagious. I do not even like to go for my physical. If I was healthy when I got there, I may not be when I leave. I am not like all those sick people; I am healthy. Well, most of the time.

I guess there are times when I might have a little bug. And I did have surgery for a surface melanoma. Sometimes I feel "under the weather." But I am not a sick person. I don't belong in a hospital, or a doctor's office, like those other people. In fact, I want hospitals to have a "sick" wing and a "youre really not sick" wing. Maybe my doctor can have two waiting rooms.

Yet all of us, including me, get sick and need care. It is not healthy to deceive myself into thinking I am never sick, cannot get sick, and am never a sick person. So I am working on my perception of hospitals
and doctor offices. They are places of healing for sick people, and sometimes that means me.

I wonder how many times we have distorted our view of churches the same way I do hospitals. Do we believe churches are for people who cannot "get it together," who have made lots of mistakes, and whose lives are
a mess? Do we believe that does not describe us, or that we are not like those people who need church? The truth is, we are just like those people. I do not know of anyone who goes through life without needing
help from anyone.

Churches sometimes seem to have gone to the opposite extreme. It is as if they want to appear to be a place where only healthy people meet to celebrate the fact that they are spiritually healthy. It was not meant to be that way. Churches are places of spiritual healing for those who are sick. And they are made up of those who have been healed ... even
while remembering that we are survivors.

Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31).

That call is for me. If you are looking for healing and hope in your life, visit www.hopeforlife.org . Join our discussion about this on our blog. Or write me at steve@hopeforlife.org.

I want to help you find spiritual healing.

Churches are where the spiritually sick find healing.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Father Forgive Them!, by Phil Ware

[Jesus said] This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

(Matthew 6:9-13 with traditional ending from the TNIV).

The familiar words of the Lord's Prayer have been inspiring and instructive for Jesus' followers for centuries. Yet what is gently implied in one line of the Lord's Prayer -- "... forgive us ... as we also have forgiven ..." -- strikes us like a thunderbolt in the verses that follow:

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15).

This is a shattering truth! We will be forgiven only to the extent we are willing to forgive! We can dry up the grace flowing to our hearts by being graceless toward others! But, how can this be?

How can our forgiveness be conditional on anything?

Doesn't the Father realize how badly these people have hurt us?

Why does Jesus place such a high value on us forgiving those who have wounded and wronged us?

Doesn't he know what they've done to us -- betrayed, abandoned, cheated, ridiculed, mocked, and rejected us?

Maybe we misunderstood the message from Jesus? Maybe with some high-sounding theological gyrations we can work ourselves around the sharp realities of Jesus' words.

However, when we listen to Jesus' teaching, he makes clear he is serious about our being a people of radical forgiveness. Jesus told a story about an unmerciful servant who had been forgiven a huge debt he could never repay, yet this servant was unwilling to forgive a large --but repayable -- debt owed him by a co-servant (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus' words are chilling as he makes clear the meaning of his story:

Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (Matthew 18:32-35).

Jesus wants us to know that God is serious about forgiveness! When we examine other passages in the New Testament, we hear this same recurring theme. The apostle Paul challenged Christians to use the example of God and the sacrifice of Jesus as their models of
forgiveness:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 4:30-5:2).

How can we not ask God to do the same thing?

Paul uses similar teaching with a community of new believers in Colossae (Colossians 3:12-14).

A great example of this kind of radical forgiveness is Stephen, who was stoned to death by his religious enemies. His words, uttered shortly before his death as vicious attackers pounded the life out of him with
large stones, are both powerful and convicting:

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59).

These words are a powerful reminder of the high calling Jesus' followers have: we are to forgive as generously as Jesus forgave ...not just us, but even those who were responsible for his torturous death. Stephen's words echo the Lord's words at the crucifixion. Jesus was arrested and beaten. He was unfairly tried and scourged. He was mocked by the religious authorities, the crowd, soldiers, and one of the criminals crucified next to him (Luke 23:32-39). Yet in the middle of humanity's worst moments, we see one of heaven's greatest gifts.
Jesus simply, yet amazingly, said: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

While many truths have been derived from this saying, two seem most clear:

* God is willing to forgive you and me! If he so freely forgave his tormentors at the cross -- those who mocked him, beat him, scourged him, gambled for his clothing, ridiculed him, and watched as those in power sought to humiliate and degrade him through the public spectacle of crucifixion -- he can forgive us if we will come to him and receive this grace (Romans 5:6-11).

* God is calling us to be a radical community... a Kingdom of God community... a community of radical forgiveness and grace... just like our hero and Savior was Lord of forgiveness and grace. We don't remember the cross of Jesus as casual spectators or a bunch of rubberneckers who have paused to watch another gory enactment of human blood lust. No, we remember the cross as the place of grace and we hear the call to be gracious. To be unforgiving to others is to forfeit Jesus' words for us and stop up the redeeming conduit of grace that is supposed to flow from God, through us, to others.

"Father, forgive them ..."

Jesus said it. Stephen repeated it. How can we not ask God to do the same thing with those who have wronged us?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Forgiveness?, by Ron Rose

She came in complaining about my sermons always being about forgiveness and grace... I needed to come down harder on the sinners and in her words, "nail them."

After her rant, I asked, "So, you've got forgiveness and grace all worked out in your own life?"

"Well, Ron, there are some things you can't turn loose of, things that don't deserve grace, or forgiveness. That's just the way it is. I know
it's that way in my family."

She leaned over my desk and revealed a heart hardened by resentment and bitterness, "No, forgiveness is not an option. I've been hurt too much."

The grudge was too embedded. And her spiritual life was powerless and trapped in the wilderness. Lack of forgiveness had turned in a critical, spirit of judgment.

She wanted me to make everyone else as miserable as she was ... as long as she was in charge, of course.

A year later she left the church ... looking for harder preaching.

On the other side of her story is Reginald Denny. Remember him?

Forgiveness doesn't make sense!

Years ago, Reginald Denny drove his truck into the riots of South Central Los Angeles and the video cameras captured every detail of two men smashing his truck window with a brick, hauling him from the cab
and beating him with a broken bottle and kicking him until the side of his face was caved in.

Then at the trial, in spite of protests from his own lawyers, Denny walked over to the mothers of the two defendants, hugged them and told them he forgave them. The mothers responded with hugs and tears.

How could he do that? One commentator stated, "Well you know, Denny did suffer some brain damage."

Forgiveness doesn't make sense: sometimes it just seems like nothing is more important than hanging on to the grudge ... sometimes "turning loose" is nothing but a slogan. But, then God steps in and a miracle happens ... Turning loose becomes an experience.

Don't forget three basics:

1. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you condone what was done.

2. Forgiveness doesn't depend on the other person's apology ... it's the experience of finding inner peace.

3. Forgiveness is a gift for you ... by offering it, your life is no longer controlled by what someone else has done. The weight of hurt and resentment and bitterness are released and you are finally free.

God has forgiven ... so what are you going to do?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Set Free, by Tom Norvell

We celebrate freedom. We struggle for freedom. We long for freedom. We search for freedom. We fight for freedom. Many have died and others will die to defend freedom. That is who we are. Freedom is one of our
most valued gifts.

God is a God of freedom. He understands our desire for freedom. His desire is for us to live as free people. Consider His words: Jesus returned to Galilee with the power of the Spirit. News about him spread everywhere. He taught in the Jewish meeting places, and everyone praised him.

Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, he was given the book of Isaiah the
prophet. He opened it and read, The Lord's Spirit has come to me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight to the blind, to free everyone who suffers ...

Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus.

Then Jesus said to them, 'What you have just heard me read has come true today" (Luke 4:16-21 CEV).

On another occasion Jesus tells us how to be free: Jesus told the people who had faith in him, "If you keep on obeying what I have said, you truly are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

They answered, "We are Abraham's children! We have never been anyone's slaves. How can you say we will be set free?"

Jesus replied: "I tell you for certain that anyone who sins is a slave of sin! And slaves don't stay in the family forever, though the Son will always remain in the family. If the Son gives you freedom, you are free! I know that you are from Abraham's family.
Yet you want to kill me, because my message isn't really in your hearts" (John 8:31-37).

Jesus will set you free.

Then, later Jesus reminds us that He is the truth: "I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Jesus answered. "Without me, no one can go to the Father" (John 14:6).

The message from Jesus seems clear: "I have come to bring freedom. Freedom is found in the truth. I am the truth. If you know me, if you follow me, if you obey me, you will be set free."

Freedom is found in knowing Jesus. The truth will set you free. Jesus is truth. Jesus will set you free.

Praise God that in Jesus we can find the truth that sets us free!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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In the Cool of the Day, by Tom Norvell

As a result of the fire that we experienced last year, most of the vegetation we had around our house died. A very dear friend has beautifully designed and replaced what was lost and has created new spaces that have greatly increased the landscape of our lawn. As the weather has warmed up and the rains have decreased, he called to remind us of the importance of watering the new plant life to increase the
potential for growth and survival. In the message he left on our voice mail he said, "You'll want to do this in the cool of the evening."

Trying to be a good steward and follow his instructions, I purchased a new water hose (the old one had suffered major damage as well) and have
begun to water the plants. Most days, I try to follow his instructions and do this in the cool of the evening. Schedules, however, do not always allow that, so there are days that I do it in the cool of the morning. (I hope that is okay.)

Whether morning or evening, as I have stood in the middle of a flower bed or near a patch of freshly sewn grass with a gentle flow of water from the hose, I have been reminded not only of my friend's
instructions to do this. I have also thought about what is said in Scripture: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:8-9 NIV).

Reflecting on those words, my two thoughts on this have blossomed. First, it is sad and foolish that we try to hide from the Lord God. There are no trees in my Garden (yard) big enough to hide behind, even
if I wanted to. And even if there were, do I really think that the One who created me, the garden, and the trees, could not see me or find me? But there apparently were really big trees in God's original garden. The man in the garden reveals his reasons for hiding. "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." (Genesis 3:10) The man and the woman had lost the innocence of the Garden and the purity of the relationship with the Creator. In his immaturity and foolishness, they apparently decided, "We cannot let the Lord God know
what we have done."

We do the same thing, don't we? Whether in the cool of the day, or mid afternoon, we often find ourselves hiding from God. We've disobeyed the Creator of the Universe. We've dishonored Him. We've strayed from His teaching. We've justified our sinful behavior. We've lost sight of our value in God's eyes and presumed that we have found a better way to live. We've chosen to set aside His plan for us and we have lied to cover it up.

Stop trying to hide.

Then, we hear Him walking in the garden and calling to us, "Where are you?" We are afraid. So, we hide. You can almost hear the astonishment and sadness in God's response: "What is this you have done?" (Genesis 3:13)

Second, God wants to be with us. God came looking for the man. He wanted to know, "Where are you?" He was created to be with God in the Garden. That was the plan. That is still the plan. The cool of the day
is a wonderful time, not to hide from the Lord God, but to be with Him. So is high noon and midnight. When He created the first man and the first woman, He was pleased with His work and described it as very
good. Throughout history through His prophets, and eventually through His son, God has continued to express His desire to be with us, to walk with us where we are. That has not changed.

Today, whether you are in your garden, on the job, experiencing a time of sickness, going through a trial, in a dry and desert place, climbing a mountain peak, or trapped in sin, God is still asking, "Where are you?"

Don't be afraid. Stop trying to hide. Remember, if He created that tree you're hiding behind, He can probably move it if He wants to.

It's still the cool part of the day. The plants need water, and I need to be where God is.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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The Coriolis Effect on the Heart, by Lisa Mikitarian

The effect of the Coriolis force is an apparent deflection of the path of an object moving within a rotating coordinate system. The object does not actually deviate from its path, but it appears to
do so because of the motion of the coordinate system. (Image and quote from Wikepedia).

In a world, among various "coordinate systems" of nuclear families, extended families, church families, work families, and club families; we are jostled, at times deflected in directions we never imagined.

I enjoy listening to young people dream of what life will bring them and what they will bring to it. I resist the temptation to inject reality. Youth is the season for innocent dreaming. Will there be both
sunshine and rain? Sure. The unexpected? Of course! For some with a rough beginning, life may be better than they hoped or expected.

The chances are that whether we've "over-estimated" or "under-estimated," we have a better chance of winning the lottery than we did of plotting the courses of our lives. Following Christ, we know
the ending, but isn't the journey to that end a continual surprise? In the midst of the reaping and the sowing, cause and effect, there dwells the unexpected.

Periodically, we ponder: Where am I? How did I angle off the set path? What an experience it would be to see an aerial view of the orbit of our earthly existences, the way our omniscient Father does. "There's my child, Lisa," I imagine him saying. He's pointing to a solitary figure, wandering through a house, wondering where her children are and how the
season of hands-on-mothering passed so quickly. "She may not know what's next," He says, "but I do."

Where am I?

There is an element of the human spirit longing to know: Where is my place? Where am I going? Pondering these philosophical questions can be so unproductive in the worldly sense. If you believed that God did not exist, wouldn't you think natural selection would have weeded out the desire to know a millennium ago? Yet the desire remains.

Conversely, in the spiritual sense, how productive the longing is. It leads to the Creator -- the One with the answers, the One with the gravitational pull. In passive moments, I feel His tugging on me, and I give in to the joy of being led. Other times, I pull back; I don't want to go that way. Give me a different direction, or a whole new course, one that looks easier, or feeds my worldly desires. Isn't that just like a human being? Ask, ask, ask and then not find satisfaction in the answer?

But the heart of it is this: with Christ at the center, even if life feels off, as if I've just stepped from a spinning merry-go-round, my path is sure.

My path: understanding it, agreeing with it, loving it, fearing it --all possible, yet hopefully subordinate to peace. Perhaps, I took the very long, and very hard way around the barn, perhaps not. It doesn't matter. He knows where I am; it's where I should be, even if it wasn't what I envisioned in my youth. It's all mapped out, my sanctification to His glory.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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I've been trying to post all week, without any success. I don't want to take a chance for this to start not cooperating in the middle of trying to catch up, so will just start back with today. If anyone else wants to post a devotion for the day, please do, it will help fill in the gaps. We seriously need a computer change before school starts up again, because homework can not always wait for even a day or two. I like reading devotions everyday, so know the disappointment, when they are not here. Thanks for understanding, and I'll keep trying.


~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Sat, June 21st, 08

The Frantic Pursuit of Rest, by Bill Sherrill

A few years ago, a Hollywood "star type" was heard to say, "I think we are rushing headlong into oblivion." It may have been a more profound statement than it appeared. At the very least, we are rushing headlong
toward something. And the key word is "rushing." We rush to work. We rush to dine. We even rush to relax. I think that last statement must be an oxymoron, but whatever we call it, we certainly are rushing into
it. Peace and tranquility are seldom achieved in our pursuit of them.

Rather than peace, we are more likely to seek distraction. Noise, visual images, and frantic activity are our constant companions.

Many people have turned to Eastern religions as a means of slowing down the slide to eternity. Others have sought release through drugs. But none of the things men have pursued have brought the desired effect. Everything we do demands an escalation to remain effective. Eventually it is out of control. For many, the only true peace appears to be to
drop out. Why do you suppose man has such a difficult time assembling his life? It would appear that he follows the same reasoning in life that he does in those purchases which need assembly. Question: When
does he read the instructions? Answer: When all else fails!

Most have never read it!

There is a Book of excellent instructions for a life of joy and peace, but most have never really read it. They continue to try to force the various parts together in a display of vain pride. The old saying,
"Please, I'd rather do it myself," is still very much alive. While that sounds very independent, the truth is that we cannot!

I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23 NASB).

The real answer is found in the Book. There, the master of Heaven and Earth beckons us: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light (Matthew 11:28-30)(Emphasis added).

Soul rest is what we are really looking for. Everything else has failed, why not read the instructions?

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Friday, June 20th, 08

Shout for Joy!, by Rubel Shelly

"Like a victorious locker room," says Philip Yancey, "church is a place to exult, to give thanks, to celebrate the good news that all is forgiven, that God is love, that victory is certain."

Have you ever noticed how the celebration goes after a World Series, Super Bowl, or Junior Soccer Match? The players who made errors, missed their assignments, and dropped passes are just as excited and happy as the ones who hit home runs or kicked winning goals. If you're on Christ's team, you get to shout for joy over what he has done and to march in the victory parade.

But somebody says she doesn't feel like celebrating. Another pipes up to say he is nothing but a loser. "My health is rotten!" protests someone. "I'm on the verge of losing my job, and I don't know how we
can keep from losing our house," cries another. "My divorce will be final next week," says a trembling voice, "and I never meant to be alone at this point in my life."

Listen up! You're not a "loser." And despite the distress, sleepless nights, or uncertain markets, you still have reason to cheer -- if you know Jesus Christ.

Think about sports memorabilia for a moment. A few days ago, I walked through a collection of bats, balls, jerseys, and other sports items that were too expensive for me even to handle -- much less consider
buying. A baseball that once cost only a few dollars is worth several thousand because Babe Ruth held it in his hands and wrote his name on it. A football that might sell for $20 is worth hundreds because Troy Aikman has held and signed it.

Do you get the point?

Most baseball cards are not worth the paper they're printed on. However, a signed Ted Williams card my son has in his collection is worth hundreds of dollars because the legendary player once held it in
his hands and signed his name on it.

Are you following me? Do you get the point?

You're not just another sales rep, truck driver, or programmer. Even if you don't make headlines or tons of money, you're valuable. In spite of the fact that you're embarrassed about something in the past or scared of something in your future, you matter. So you can stop selling yourself short. If you have been held in Christ's hands and have the signature mark of the Spirit of God your heart, you are saved. You have
a reason for living. And you have a future that is secure.

You're no loser, my friend. You are the child of the King!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Thursday, June 18th, 08

I Just Wanted to Get Out Alive, by Steve Ridgell

It was a duck hunting trip gone bad. It happened one Thanksgiving several years ago. Mark, a close family friend, my son (then around eleven years old), and I were hunting on land owned by some of Marks family. It was full of creeks and sloughs, and Mark had hunted on it for years. It was a fairly warm afternoon when we started out, and we were able to shoot several ducks. It was late afternoon when the storm blew in: torrential rain and a rapid drop in temperature.

I had not thought much about that day in several years. But when Mark called the other day and mentioned it ... all the memories came flooding back. I remember how dark it immediately got, and how wet we were. I remember worrying about how cold we were getting. The creek quickly overflowed and in just a few minutes, we were in trouble. We had gotten lost. Darkness took away the landmarks, rain obscured
everything, and the overflowing water all looked the same.

We had decided that if we could not find the trail back to camp, we would dig in under some leaves, put my son between us and hope to survive the night. We thought we were close to finding the way out but
it was too dark and too hard to see. We had just decided to give up and try to ride out the storm when a lightening bolt split the sky. And there it was ... the trail was not fifteen yards in front of us. We
still had a rough time getting out; we had some creeks to wade, and a hard walk ... but we made it out alive and we survived.

We were asking Gods help and protection. And we give God the credit for the lightening bolt that showed us the way home. I believe it is by His mercy that we survived. But there are lessons I need to remember
about my relationship with God that I learned in that storm. There are lessons about life I need to remember.

It was my fault we got caught in that storm. I did not check the weather report, we did not dress appropriately, and I did not have matches, compass, or flashlight. Life is like that sometimes. Storms
come when we do not expect them. And they come when we are not prepared for them. Many times I have to face the fact that the storms of life are my fault. I dont always think things through, I am not always
prepared, and I do not see trouble coming.

God's deliverance is not just a conviction. It is a reality.

Yet God delivered me. He did it on that day, but even more amazing, he has delivered me in life. I have hope, joy, peace, and purpose because God has chosen to save me. Storms still come in my life, just like they do in yours. I face them with confidence because I trust God to deliver me safe. He has before, and He will again.

If you want to know more about how to survive the storms of life, visit www.hopeforlife.org . Or write me at steve@hopeforlife.org.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Wednesday, June 17, 08

Spiritual Restoration, by Muriel Larson

Dayton Hyde wrote about a dry canyon on his ranch in "Don Coyote" --his fascinating book on nature's wonders. While sitting on the canyon rim, he glanced down and spotted a grooved stone. He recognized it as
an Indian fishnet weight.

Glancing down the canyon wall, he saw a stratum of diatomaceous earth. This told him that once an inland sea may have covered this land. With his sons' help, and some big equipment, he built a dam across the
canyon. When the snows on higher ground began to melt in the spring, water filled the valley. Before long, various birds and other wild life filled the area. The water brought life to a dry canyon, thanks to one
small clue and an observant, wise man.

Has your life ever felt "dry"?

I felt this way after going through a difficult time in my life. At a Christian conference I attended several months later, however, the fellowship I found there was like the fishnet weight that led to a dry
canyon becoming fertile.

The Holy Spirit renewed me. The living water provided by His renewal once again flowed, and I rejoiced! I was back to looking to the Lord and depending on Him no matter what.

Going through a traumatic experience of any kind may sometimes cause us to take our eyes off the Lord, to lose faith, and to grieve the Holy Spirit with our continuing feelings of anger, resentment, and
bitterness. This in turn leads out to worldly thinking and temptations to sin.

Through the centuries God has used His faithful people to help others who have lost their way in the arid land of the world. I believe in ministering to these "dry souls" as well as to the lost who do not know Jesus. They are "dry" and need some special "water of the Word" that the Lord can inspire us to share with them.

The Psalms are great restorers.

To stay full of the living water of life we should wisely and regularly take in the water of God's Word through reading it and hearing it.

Some Scriptures are especially good at reviving us. I have found that Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 lift me up. Romans chapter 8 gives me proper perspective. Here the Spirit of God assures me: "Have faith -- God will work all things together for good!" Philippians 4 has strengthened my faith as I've practiced God's instructions about finding joy and peace. I know many people have been heartened by the message of peace, joy, and love given by Jesus in the upper room shortly before his death (John 14:1-17:26).

Many of the Psalms are wonderful faith and "rivers of living water" restorers for me. I especially love the following:
*Psalm 23
* Psalm 31
* Psalm 34
* Psalm 37
* Psalm 40
* Psalm 46
* Psalm 103
* Psalm 139
* Psalm 145

And if we pray Psalm 51 humbly and sincerely, as David did, it will restore to us the joy of our salvation! Jesus cried out to the crowd, "Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his heart" (John 7:37-38 NLT).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Tue, June 16th, 08

Moving Beyond the Ashes, by Phil Ware

[Special Note: This article was written ten years ago. As I see friends in ministry struggle and as I recognize my own need for spiritual renewal and am away for bit of rest, I have returned to this article
for my own good, and hopefully for yours as well!]

A drought across much of the country left our forests vulnerable. After a few lightning strikes and a few careless campers, what was once lush, beautiful forested mountainsides now are scarred, ugly, and burned out. The eerie remains of the brutal fire mar the landscape. At first glance, these once gorgeous forests look hopelessly lost to flames. They are burned out and burned down. Yet history teaches us that given time and the right rains, the forest will return. It is a message those of us involved in ministry and service to others need to hear.

Those involved in serving others often find themselves feeling much like the charred remains of a once beautiful forest. Either the challenge of the task, or the well placed attacks of Satan, has left
them depleted and vulnerable. Life takes a turn for the worse, and they find themselves feeling empty, used up, useless, and burned out. What can you do when sleep does not replenish your sense of exhaustion? What do you do when you dont have the energy or will power to quit but dread every sunrise which reminds you of your inadequacy and failure?
What do you do when youre spiritually burned out? I believe the story of Elijah offers us some insight on this difficult problem (1 Kings 18:1-28 & 1 Kings 19:1-21).

Immediately following Elijahs great victory over Gods enemies at Mount Caramel, his life was threatened by evil Queen Jezebel. He ran for his life. Jezebel had killed hundreds of Gods prophets during Elijahs time. He ran from her threats. He ran until he fell exhausted and defeated. He collapsed ... a burned out wreck. He had fallen from the height of ministrys mountain to the valley of ministrys despair. But Gods grace led him to a better place. Elijahs recovery offers us some insight for our own way back from spiritual depletion, burn out, and exhaustion.

The first step? Elijah was honest with God. He told him the frustrations and discouragement of his heart (1 Kings 19:4). He whined and moaned and felt sorry for himself in the presence of God. While Im not big on anyone having a pity party for oneself, it is necessary for us to be honest with God and with ourselves, about how we feel. It may not be right or righteous, but it is where we are. So often we dont
feel we can be honest with God, so we are never honest with ourselves.

The way back from flame-out is honesty with God and with ourselves --honesty about our limitations, our frustrations, and our inadequacies. Quite often, however, we cant be honest with ourselves until weve been honest about our own unrealistic sense of self-importance. Being honest in the presence of God reminds us how petty our perspective really is in the grand scheme of his work in the world.

Next, Elijah rested and received nourishment (1 Kings 19:5-7). Emotional exhaustion and depression can often lead us into poor eating and sleeping habits. Before were ready to attack the challenge of going on, we often need to get some rest and nourishment. As we pause and acknowledge our need for refreshment, God gives us spiritual refreshment as well. We see this same principle with Jesus and his care
for his disciples (Mark 6:31-32). Spiritual depletion and physical exhaustion often are related.

Elijah then went to a place where he knew God had been real to his people (1 Kings 19:8). For Elijah, this was a special mountain on which God had once appeared to his people. For us, it may be rekindling our prayer time, our listening to Christian music, going back and visiting a spiritual retreat, or seeking prayer time with an old friend. The key
is putting ourselves in a place where we know God has acted and blessed his people before. Yes, we know God can act and reveal himself anywhere, but the act of submitting ourselves to him and reconnecting with our spiritual past is often vital for us as we seek to reawaken our heritage.

In addition, Elijah waited on the direction of God for his life (1 Kings 19:9-13). He wanted to experience the presence of the living God. He knew without this encounter, he would not have the strength to go on. For us, this probably means dedicating ourselves to time in prayer, the reading of Scripture, and connecting again with spiritual friends. Often we are like Elijah, wanting and expecting to see God in the dramatic and awesome revelation of his power. Yet more often than not,
Gods presence in our lives is revealed in more subtle ways as we submit ourselves to him and wait for his guidance. This frequently comes to us through the words and companionship of a trusted friend; a
sermon spoken as if it were just for us; a well timed songs message which we need to hear to awaken a spiritual memory; a piece of Scripture we read or remember which speaks directly to our need; or a
bit of especially relevant reading material we "just happen across" as we are waiting for God to show his will in our lives. Gods "still small voice" can be heard, but only if we seek him and are open to his
many ways of blessing us.

There is no magic formula.

Finally, Elijah left that place and invested himself in the future of his people by carrying on his ministry and involving another to follow in his path (1 Kings 19:15-18). Elishah carries on Elijahs great faith and ministry so Gods work goes on after Elijah returns to God. Often the cause of burn out is our own misguided and unbalanced sense of indispensability. When we invest ourselves in others, we let God remind us that his work will go on without us and after we are gone. It is not our ministry, but Gods that is important. Recognizing that we minister
to honor him, not to bring honor to ourselves, helps us involve others in the work of God. This revitalizes us and insures that the torch is passed to a new generation of servants for the Almighty.

While there is no magic formula for a return from burn out, we need to realize God has done a great work through others after they have collapsed under the weight of ministry. He can do that work in us as
well. The charred remains or our present can often be the beautiful place of Gods redeeming work if we will seek him and let him restore life after burnout.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Mon, June 15th, 08

Dad-Dee, by Russ Lawson

I find children a wonderful source of inspiration. Children often demonstrate what we should be as adults or what we should think regarding having Christ in our lives.

My daughter-in-law, Mylinda, shared this little anecdote with me. A few weeks ago she was sitting with 9 month old Allison, playing and talking
with her as we adults sometimes do. She looked at the baby and said, "How did you get to be so cute?"

To her surprise, our smart and beautiful grand daughter looked at her and simply said, "Dad-dee," as if answering her question. When she shared the story with me I just smiled and told her that I hope she
realized that her intelligent daughter inherited it through genetics passed from grandfather to father to daughter!

When you are done smiling at the foolishness of a doting grand father, stop and think about the spiritual application of this story. Who do
you blame (or claim) is responsible for you being what you are? If you are a Christian it's wonderful to be able to be identified as a Child of the King. To say, "I am what I am because of the Father!" There is a spiritual song that talks about having "the Father's eyes." Eyes that will allow us to see what God sees of people and our world.

The child of the King.

If we claim to be a Christian, all that we are and all that we will ever be is because of what we inherited from The Father! The apostle Paul wrote these wonderful words about our "spiritual blood
relationship" to God: I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to
which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:16-18 NIV).

One translation puts verse 18 this way: I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people (NLT).

Never forget that as a Christian, you are the adopted child of God and that God wants to flood "the eyes of your heart" with light helping you realize that you are truly the child of the King!

P.S. Yes, Allison has my blue eyes also!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Sun, June 14th, 08

Coaches Invest in People, by Ron Rose

Preparation

A few months ago I took a day off and drove to a small town in East Texas. It was a trip that had been at the top of my to-do list for a week. I wanted to talk to Edwin once more before he died.

He was thin and weak, but still sharp and alert. His first words to me were, "I have heard really good things about you and what you're doing."

Down deep I knew it would be like that ... he always found a way to help me see God in my life, even when I had lost my way.

I first met Edwin in 1969. He was a banker, a church leader, and a compassionate listener, but to me he was more than that ... he was my faith coach. We never used that term or spoke of that concept; no one
did back then. He was always a step ahead of his time.

Edwin encouraged, pushed, motivated, and inspired me. He invested his life in my life. And, not just me, there are hundreds of people in East Texas who knew this gentle giant who had endowed us all with inspiration.

Edwin was a banker by vocation, but his passion, his calling, was to be a cunning and creative investor in people. And, I was blessed to be one of his accounts.

As I told him of the dream, the coaching ministry and the opportunities God was granting me, he listened with eagerness. It was as though my story and his story were the same. Not one challenge was left hanging in the air; he seemed to know the answers before I could share the questions. He grabbed every word; his eyes danced with joy and celebration. It was a God thing.

When it was time to go, I bent down to hug my coach who had invested in me so many years ago ... All I could say was, "Thank you for life."

And, he blessed me again.

A couple of weeks ago after nearly a century of life on this planet, Edwin Rasco turned in his worn-out physical body, but his spirit is still invested in people. And those people are investing in others.

Faith does that ...

Inspiration

For many years Dale arrived Sunday around 8am and put the children's classrooms in order, making sure that the attendance cards were properly distributed and that there was a pitcher of fresh water in each classroom.

He loved all the kids, and they loved him. He really loved "Messy Games Night." This meant that he might be seen with a big smile on his face, covered with whipped cream, mud and candied lifesavers. He was also good at "Crazy Monkey" and made everyone laugh. Many children said that, when they grew up, they wanted to be like Dale.

These events are still paying big dividends.

Dale sent creative, homemade cards to everyone on his prayer list and he made regular phone calls to encourage people. After his uncle died, he called his aunt to cheer her up. When he got her answering machine, he left a message in song: "I just called to say, I Love You." She kept that message and still plays it on days when she's feeling blue.

In this "it's all about me" culture, Dale was "all about everyone else." He had no theological credentials, but he lived his faith in a profound and influential way. He didn't talk much about what he
believed; he just lived like he knew God.

Dale passed away not long ago at the young age of 37. The church was packed with hundreds of people from all walks of life, people from various age groups, economic and educational levels, and races. The
gathering was a testimony that Dale saw people with none of the world's traditional distinctions. He saw past the differences.

Oh, did I mention that Dale had a child's mind in an adult's body. When he was about 14 months old, he had a seizure and suffered oxygen deprivation. His parents found him limp and barely breathing. They
rushed him to the emergency room where doctors fought to save his life. They did, but he was left with significant brain damage, at least it seemed that way at the time.

Dale's investments are still paying big dividends. Lives have been changed forever and the accounts are still growing.

Motivation

So, do you want to be a faith coach? Do you want to give your life to the task of investing in people? Are you ready to focus outside yourself? For some, it's a calling, for others it's a constant struggle, but for all believers, it's the secret to life the way it was meant to be lived.

Ask God to help you name the accounts (people) where you should place your investments. Be proactive, practical, positive, and powerful. Encourage, push, condition, and inspire.

Coach now, before you call it coaching.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Sat,June 14th, 08

What Difference Would It Make?, by Rubel Shelly

Jack lets us send "The FAX of Life" to him each week. Just over a year ago now, he shared a wonderful story with me and vouched for its details.

The story begins with a nine-year-old boy who was being raised by a single mother. He never met his father, but his hard-working mother put in 72 hours lots of weeks just to make ends meet. He had a sister two years older than himself, and they worked a garden to raise vegetables to eat and to sell.

There was some help from the state welfare agencies. A free-lunch program at school helped feed him and his sister. And the little family felt blessed when they were able to move into a nicer house in a better
neighborhood.

Across the street from the new house lived a kind Christian lady. She was not particularly noteworthy. She didn't teach Sunday School. Her own husband wasn't a Christian, and their children followed their dad's lead and were pretty indifferent to faith. On a given Saturday, however, she saw the little boy and his sister playing in the yard. She asked if they would like to go with her to Sunday School the next day. As much from curiosity as anything else, they decided to go. And their exhausted mother gave permission. It would give her a bit of a break.

With whatever flaws there may have been in that little church, it opened up a whole new world to those two children. For the first time ever, they heard names such as Noah and Moses. They read Scripture and learned the story of Jesus of Nazareth. They saw people who cared about each other and whose lives were somehow different. It made an impression. They accepted Christ in that little community of faith. They were baptized there. They grew up there.

She noticed and cared.

College, time in the U.S. Army, marriage, children -- all these came in time to that little boy. Success in business has allowed him to bless many good works with generous gifts. He has been a faithful teacher and occasional preacher of the Good News. He has even had opportunities to teach in several foreign countries. He and his wife have taken in a number of foster children. Some of the more recent ones have been unwed mothers. Shades of his own childhood!

But Jack told me the story with less concern about the little boy who became a godly man than to speak of that woman across the street from a family without a father. She noticed and cared. Without benefit of
psychology or training in Christian ministry, she did something that most of us might have thought was inconsequential. She cared enough to invite them to Sunday School. There they found their real father -- the Father of their Spirits, who gave them a new life.

Jack knows the details of the story well, for he was that little boy. And he loves to tell the story of Kathleen Callen's invitation to Sunday School that day. He hopes that it might encourage someone else
to do something, say something, or give something that could make a difference in another person's life.

Things that look small are often the things that make all the difference.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Fri, June 13th, 08

Damocles, Spock, and Paul, by Russ Lawson

I read a reference yesterday that mentioned Damocles. I had heard the name before but never read the story, so I looked it up. Are you familiar with it?

The story is told of Damocles, an excessively flattering courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a fourth century BC tyrant of Syracuse. He exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority, Dionysius was truly fortunate. Dionysius offered to switch places with him for a day, so he could taste first hand that fortune. In the evening a banquet was held, where Damocles very much enjoyed being waited upon like a king. Only at the end of the
meal did he look up and notice a sharpened sword hanging by a single piece of horsehair directly above his head. Immediately, he lost all taste for the fine foods and beautiful servers and asked leave of the tyrant, saying he no longer wanted to be so fortunate. (Wikipedia.com)

Most of us occasionally imagine ourselves living a different life. We may even fantasize about being born rich, living in a different place, a different country, having a different wife or husband. It may be that you've dreamed of having children that behave better or parents that love more. We may dream about what it would be like to have a body that functions perfectly or is our imagined perfect age instead of being disabled, old or even young. We might dream of having power to command or freedom from responsibility to do whatever our heart desires.

In the story of Damocles we see the lesson taught: that what we imagine to be the perfect life may have drawbacks or problems we never imagined (like a sword hanging over your head). What we desire or want badly may not be quite as desirable as we like to think it would be.

I may be dating myself, but I remember watching the television program "Star Trek" when it was first on television. There was one episode that has stayed with me for all of these years. In that episode the
character Mr. Spock was forced to fight for the woman to whom he was engaged. He won, but then gave up the right to the woman. He turned to the man who now would be joined to this woman and said some words that tell a truth which most of us fail to realize until too late. These may not be exact, but the meaning is the same: "You may find that having is
not as pleasing as wanting".

How many times in our lives have we wanted something so badly, only to be disappointed when we finally get whatever it was we wanted? Spock was right, "having very often is not as pleasing as wanting, or as we
had imaged it to be."

How satisfied are you with your life?

The apostle Paul had this to say about it writing to a group of Christians who were concerned for his welfare. He wrote: It is a great and truly Christian joy to me that after all this time you have shown such renewed interest in my welfare. I don't
mean that you had forgotten me, but up till now you had no opportunity of expressing your concern. Nor do I mean that I have been in actual need, for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of eating well or going hungry, of facing either plenty or poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me Philippians 4:1-13 Philip's Translation).

So how are you doing? God still has a lot of work to do on me to get me to that point!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Thur, June 12th, 08

The Gain is Worth the Pain, by Tim Archer

I was about 9 years old. I was taking Red Cross swimming lessons at our municipal pool. The day had arrived when I was to be tested to see if I could advance from the Advanced Beginners class to the Intermediate class. Approximately fifteen of us were to take turns swimming from one side of the pool to the other and back, doing various strokes and exercises along the way. I watched as my classmates one by one tried and failed to pass the test. Then it was my turn to fail, I mean, my turn to attempt to pass the test. I got about halfway across the pool when I felt that burning sensation you feel when chlorinated water enters your nose. I immediately stopped and grabbed the side of the pool, ending my test.

One of the instructors was standing above me, a scraggly-haired college student. "Why did you stop?" he yelled, in a less-than-compassionate voice. "I got water in my nose," I explained.

That's when this scruffy college student taught me one of life's great lessons, even if he probably never realized he was doing just that. Bending down, he shouted, "So?"

So?

So? The question took me aback. It had just seemed logical to me that the answer to pain was to eliminate the thing causing the discomfort. My 9-year-old brain had not latched onto the fact that a valuable goal is worth achieving even if we have to go through discomfort to get there. Recognizing that, I wasn't sure what would keep me from completing the test. In fact, I did it rather easily on my next attempt. Seeing me pass the test, almost all of the others did so as well.

At times I think Jesus lovingly says "So?" to so many of the things that seem important to me. The obstacles, the hardships, the barriers that appear along the way can't be compared to the goal that waits at the end. We have to focus on the final destination, not the bumps in the road. The apostle Paul wrote: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). God's plan for us is not to eliminate suffering in our lives, but to teach us to look past it. When Paul and his companion Barnabas were visiting churches they had started, they told them, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The night before the crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

If you're not a Christian, it's only fair that we warn you that the road won't always be easy. But I can assure you that the goal is more than worth any difficulties we might face along the way. I'd like to tell you more about living above the hardships of life, with our eyes focused on the goal. You can write to me at tim@hopeforlife.org or leave a comment on our blog at www.hopeforlife.org/blog.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Wed, June 11th, 08

Very Good!, by Patrick D. Odum

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

The Vatican Observatory announced several weeks ago that it's OK for Catholics to believe in UFOs.

That news will come as a huge relief, I'm sure, to ... well, somebody. The announcement by the Reverend Jose Funes, director of the Observatory, touched off discussion and debate about whether or not God
might have created other worlds populated by other beings, and whether those beings could be granted redemption through Jesus in another Incarnation. It also created debate over what it means to be created in God's image.

Rev. Christopher Corbally, also associated with the Observatory, weighed in on the discussion by alleging that human beings "are always trying to restrict God's creativity, putting theological difficulties
in the way." He went on to say, "I don't think God bothers with theological difficulties." Which begs the question: Can God create a theological difficulty that's too complex for him to resolve?

All that's good and well, I suppose. I guess I tend to be agnostic toward most questions that edge into the fuzzy boundary between science and theology. In an earlier generation, there were those who made it an article of faith that the universe revolved around the Sun, and since then we've learned that our cosmic geography was off and that faith is not nearly so vulnerable that a minor reorganization of the galaxy
could really threaten it. In view of that Copernican shift, I think it wise not to put all of my theological eggs in any one scientific basket. If one day extraterrestrials park their interstellar SUV on my street, maybe I'll invite them to church.

But, I did hear one comment on the blessing and sprinkling of UFO's that troubled me a little, truth be told. It was offered by Rev. Jack Minogue, a priest and former president of DePaul University here in Chicago. Rev. Minogue is apparently a bit of a UFO enthusiast, and his take on the Vatican Observatory's announcement was that no one should be surprised if it turns out that God created intelligent life on other planets. "Do you think we're the best God can do?" he asked in an interview. "I'm sure there are other creatures out there who do better."

Do I think that human beings are the best that God can do?

Yes, I suppose I do.

I don't think that necessarily rules out the possibility of extraterrestrial life, but I guess I do think that all of creation, human beings included, represents God's best efforts. With apologies to
Rev. Minogue, the Creation story takes great pains to point out that God's evaluation of his creation is unequivocal: "very good." I take that to mean that all the parts of the world he had created worked as
they were supposed to and did what they were made to do, and that together they made up a world that functioned to create and sustain life. Even human beings, as many problems as we seem to have, were
originally created both to care for and benefit from that creation.

The problem with the human race, as I see it, is not that we're flawed and yet think too highly of ourselves. It's that we don't think highly enough of ourselves. That's been our problem from the beginning: we weren't content with the honored place our Creator gave us in his creation, and so we bought into the fiction that by taking matters into our own hands we could "be like God." The downward spiral started, not with a Creator who couldn't do any better, but with our own dissatisfaction with being made in the image of God. That's our sad legacy as the human race: it isn't enough for us to be like God. We always overreach, always want to be God, and that ... that, we're not very good at.

Don't buy into the fiction!

It's possible, even likely, that I'm making too much of a minor story on a slow news day. But I think that the way we see ourselves is important -- even if it comes out in an off-the-cuff comment like Rev.
Minogue's. If we think our frailties are hard-wired into us from our creation -- if selfishness, greed, violence, and so on, are part of our nature -- then that doesn't speak very well for God, does it? And, more practically, it doesn't speak well of our chances to rise above our sins. It's ultimately a far too fatalistic view of human nature; if our problems come from a Creator who just couldn't do better, then why fight our nature? We are who we are, and nothing can change that.

As the "noted theologian" Jimmy Buffett says, "The cosmic bakers took us out of the oven too early, and that's why we're as crazy as we are."

I disagree! More importantly, that's not the picture the Bible paints. Again, we're made in "the image of God" (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 5:2; Genesis 9:6; James 3:8-10), part of a "very good" creation. If that doesn't lift your opinion of yourself, nothing will. While we often don't live up to that standard, that's who we really are. We aren't by nature broken, frail things who every now and then manage to perform
above expectations. We are made with the innate capacity to be exactly what God wants us to be, and it's only because of the cumulative effects of sin on us personally, on the people around us, and on the
creation itself, that we don't always live up to that.

But God has never given us a free pass. He continues to hold us accountable to be exactly what he created us to be, while at the same time offering us grace and patience for our failures. "Where are you?"
he asked the first man and woman (Genesis 3:9), crouched and hiding in the bushes in guilt and fear. And he still asks that of every one of us: "Where are you? Where's the person I created?" And even when we're too frightened and guilty to even begin to imagine how to answer, he helps us to find ourselves.

To do so, he went as far as he possibly could. The Creator was conceived in human form in the womb of a woman (Luke 1:30-35), while in some mysterious way remaining God. He lived as a human being, and showed what a human being was capable of when he lived as God intended human beings to live (John 1:1-18). He showed that such a human being had nothing to fear from sin, from Satan, or even from death. And then
he made it possible for us to be re-created, with our sin taken away, our guilt forgiven, our lives transformed and radiant with his glory. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 TNIV).

So don't buy into the fiction, as attractive as it may sometimes be, that there's something fundamentally wrong with you. Remember who you are -- who you really are. You're made in God's image, and in Jesus, that image is being restored day by day. Don't settle for less. Don't live for anything less that what God made you to be (Psalm 139:13-16). Don't content yourself with being anyone other than he made you to be.

After all, that would be, well ... alien.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Tue, June 10th, 08

NOT Just Another Face in the Crowd, by Phil Ware

"I just want to be somebody! I want my life to matter!"

As kids, we played games pretending to be someone important. Our beloved stories as children involved ugly ducklings becoming beautiful swans and a mistreated stepdaughter, named Cinderella, becoming the beautiful princess chosen by the handsome prince. But life seems to beat the dreams out of most of us. We settle for more pedestrian plans and give up our "unrealistic" dreams of being someone important who is part of something important and is specifically chosen to do something important. We settle for being spectators cheering for strangers to win games that mean very little so we can chant "We're number 1!"

Luke writes to reawaken our dreams. "Cinderella isn't a fairy tale!" his story reminds us, "look at Mary, she becomes the mother of the Messiah." "Ugly ducklings do become lovely swans!" his gospel tells us, "remember Elizabeth and Anna who are gloriously blessed after years of disappointment." "Snow White CAN come back to life!" his words beckon us to believe, for "more than just hopes get resurrected in the Jesus story."

And it all begins with the least likely of heroes ...

Luke introduces us to an old, forgotten but faithful priest and his wife. God chooses Zechariah "by lot" to serve in the Temple, something he would only do once his whole life. The "barren" Elizabeth suddenly
is given a son in her old age. Together, they are filled with Spirit-inspired prophecy after nine months of a baby growing in Elizabeth's womb and silence covering Zechariah's days.

God wants us to be part of something important. Mary, Elizabeth's relative, is given a child in her womb without the help of a man. The angel Gabriel, sent straight from the very presence of God himself,
informs her of this coming miracle. This peasant and godly young woman becomes the mother of God's Messiah, the Promised One of Israel.

Simeon, an old and devout "religious fanatic" is blessed to see and hold the Redeemer of Israel. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies about the destiny of this Wonder Child.

God chooses Anna, an "old widow woman" dedicated to prayer in God's Temple, to be the first preacher proclaiming the arrival of the Savior.

Meanwhile, the rich, powerful, and influential are mere bystanders and pawns in God's great drama of redemption. King Herod is merely the token tyrant in the story. Caesar Augustus is only the prop that brings Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Quirinius, the governor of Syria, is a mere historical reference marking the time of the Messiah.

A whole host of everyday unknowns are swept up into God's glorious drama of grace. Shepherds, once glorious because of the heritage of Abraham and David, are now despised. Yet when God announces the birth of his Son with a heavenly chorus of angels, shepherds tending their flocks on the hillside are the chosen audience for God's symphony of joy. They become the first human witnesses proclaiming the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord. The unknowns of the world the village friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the residents of the unknown inn near where Jesus was born, the Temple goers who heard Anna and Simeon become the first to know about God's glorious arrival.

You see, God wants us to be part of something important. So he had everyday folks play the key roles in his story of salvation. He wants us to find our face in the crowd, the person most like us, and realize that this story is not just FOR us, it is ABOUT us. We are important to the Creator of the universe. We are part of something important and
lasting and wondrous when we tell others about this Jesus. When God tuned the world to his grace, we were asked to join his heavenly chorus and proclaim with joy, "Our Redeemer, Christ the Lord, has come!"

Luke wants us to know that this story is ultimately about us being more than just another face in the crowd. It is about us being chosen by God to be his partners, in his story, to share his joy and grace and salvation in the birth of Jesus!

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Mon, June 9th, 08

The Aroma of Christ, by Tom Norvell

As we have moved through the spring season this year the honeysuckle and privet hedge (I hope that is correct) have been in full bloom. (I suppose this happens every year, but it seems more noticeable this year. I'm not sure why.) As I have walked through the neighborhoods, stood on the tee box at the golf course, and even as I have stepped out onto the deck of our house, the sweet aroma of these blooms have been almost overwhelming. It is not unusual to smell the aroma before the plants are spotted. The aroma causes you to stop and look around in wonder, "Where is that aroma coming from?" It has been one of the blessings of this spring season.

However, as delightful as the aroma is for me, I realize that for some it is a reminder of allergy season. Instead of being able to enjoy the sweet smell of spring, their eyes begin to itch, water, and swell. They begin to sneeze, they become congested, and they get headaches. They also look around and wonder, "What is it that is causing this reaction?" Instead of a blessing, they head for the medicine cabinet for some relief.

To some it is the sweet aroma of spring. To others it is a smell of misery and agony.

Paul reminds us that we, the followers of Jesus, have a role similar to that of the plants as we live our lives in this world: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NIV).

The power of this passage is obviously in these words: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

His fragrance is inevitably splashed upon us.

The bushes and flowers that bloom in spring are simply doing what they were created to do. Honeysuckle and roses grow and bloom. The aroma is a natural result. To some it is pleasant. To others it is not.

For the follower of Jesus, our task is to do what we have been created to do, "Spread the knowledge of Him." Some will appreciate us. Some will not. Some will enjoy us. Some will despise us. Some will be drawn to us. Some will reject us. Some will want to be near us. Some will run from us. We cannot control the reaction. All we can do is live the life.

There is no need to complain or wish things were different. This is the plan of God. No good will come from moaning and groaning of how we wish people would get to know us and love us for who we really are. Our task is to live the life.

If we choose to follow Christ, we become the aroma of Christ. His fragrance is inevitably splashed upon us. As we live the life some will stop and ask, "Where is that sweet aroma coming from?" Others will stop and ask, "What is that awful smell?" There are no other options.

To God, when we live the life, we are the aroma of Christ. That's what matters.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Sun, June 8th, 08

The Fred Factor, by Steve Higginbotham

[You know] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:38 TNIV).

Not too long ago, I read a book by Mark Sanborn entitled, "The Fred Factor." The book is about a mailman who took his job seriously, and consistently went above and beyond the call of duty in performing it. While the book is not a "religious" book, the spiritual and biblical applications are everywhere.

Consequently, I have been teaching a Wednesday night adult class on the biblical principles contained in the "Fred Factor," and I have been challenging people to go out and be a "Fred." It has been interesting
to see how much excitement this class has generated. People have taken up the challenge of being a "Fred" (translated -- a disciple of Jesus)and going the second mile with people. I would heartily recommend the book to you. It is an easy read, being only 112 pages long.

Only after she was gone did I think ...

Well, allow me to share a close encounter I had with being a "Fred" this past week. My son, Michael, and I went to the courthouse so that he could get his driving permit. As we stood in line, there was a 16
year-old girl in front of us who was bubbling over with excitement because she, too, had passed her driving permit. As she stood at the window, one of the clerks asked her if she had her birth certificate.
She excitedly said, "Yes Ma'am! I sure do!" Then the clerk asked her if she had her Social Security card. Again, with exuberance, she said, "Yes Ma'am! I sure do!" Then the clerk said, "That will be $12.00."
Suddenly, the girl's disposition changed. "$12.00? I don't think I have $12.00. I didn't know I had to pay anything." Well, she began digging through her wallet and could not come up with $12.00. Finally she
asked, "Can I just run home real quick? I just live a few blocks away and I'll bring you the money."

Well, can you guess what I did at that point? If you're thinking I gave her the $12.00 that she needed, keeping her from running home, while
also making a huge impact on her life by having an absolute stranger help her out, you would be wrong! Nope, I just stood there and watched her run out of the room and off toward home. Only after she was gone
did I think, "What an opportunity to make a difference! And I missed it!" I could have kicked myself. Instead of being a "Fred," I was a "Claude." In fact, with a little reflection, I think I could probably write a book entitled, "The Claude Factor."

So I'll live and learn, and hopefully be more sensitive to the opportunities I have to make a difference in the lives of other people. Not because that's what "Fred" would do, but because that's what Jesus would do.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:10).

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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Sat, June 7th, 08

Clutter, by Larry Davies

"I found your office looking on the internet," a relative said when we were visiting my wife's home town."

"Oh really," I answered, wondering why she would be so interested?

"We've never had a chance to visit your church so I decided to check it out online. Your sanctuary is beautiful and the family life center is interesting but have you seen your office?" she pressed on.

"Actually, I haven't. Why do you ask?" Now, I was really curious. What was her point?

"I made a copy for you. Maybe you should take a peek." She said with a mischievous grin.

Preserved in glossy 8 by 11 Technicolor was my office in all it's ...(gulp) glory? Maybe a better word would be extreme clutter or disaster area or "this site should be condemned" or maybe a bomb crater? Papers were strewn all over my desk. You could hardly see my computer for the mess. A lamp shade was tilted at 45 degree angle. In the background were pictures, books and old mementos scattered all about.

I was embarrassed, ashamed and yes humiliated. I knew something needed to be done but it wouldn't be right to eliminate my entire family? Would it? Okay, get serious Larry, but something needed to be done.

Clutter often involves more than just our office. Chuck Swindoll in his book, "So, You Want to Be Like Christ?" writes a chapter on "Simplicity, Uncluttering our Minds." At one point Chuck shares five steps toward achieving a cluttered mind. As I read each statement, I was forced to declare myself: Guilty!

1. Say yes every time someone asks you to do something.

2. Don't plan any time for leisure and rejuvenation.

3. Don't be satisfied with your accomplishments -- keep moving.

4. Max out your credit cards beyond what you can repay.

5. Acquire all the latest technology so you can simplify your life.

Yes, I say "Yes!" far too often.

Yes, I plan very little time for leisure and rejuvenation.

Yes, I am seldom satisfied with my accomplishments. I do keep moving.

Yes, I've taken on too much debt this year.

Are you caught in the gales of a cluttered lifestyle?

Yes, I've often acquired the latest technology hoping for a simpler life only to find myself maintaining yet another gadget.

Where does it all end? I confess! I am also guilty of a cluttered mind and a cluttered life.

Max Lucado wrote:

We are a nation that believes in having it all. In 1950 American families owned one car and saved for a second. In 2000 nearly 1 in 5 families owned three cars or more ... Americans shell out more for garbage bags than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend for
everything. In 1900 the average person living in the US wanted 72 different things and considered 18 of them essential. Today the average person wants 500 things and considers over 100 of them essential. (From "Cure for the Common Life.")

Our prosperity however carries a hefty price tag. Most of us feel the stress of a hectic, cluttered lifestyle.

The apostle Paul wrote:

I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. For I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, Christ. But I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent. You
seem to believe whatever anyone tells you ... (2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NASB).

When our lives are cluttered we can more easily be led astray.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote a beautiful poem that begins:

One ship drives east and another drives west. With the selfsame winds that blow:
'Tis the set of the sails and not the gales,
Which tells us the way to go.

Two ships driven by the wind, yet one stays on course. Are you sailing where you desire or are you caught in the gales of a cluttered lifestyle? The answer is found in the word: simplify. We must learn to simplify our lives. The reward is a life less complicated, not more entangled. You will have more time, not less. And the fruit is the opportunity to enjoy a long-lasting, satisfying, rewarding, intimate
relationship with almighty God.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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6/6/08 7:30 A

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Fri, June 6th, 08

Stop Signs, by Ann Voskamp

I think it was because my window was rolled down a few inches that he bothered to yell at me.

Otherwise, he might have just left it at that disgusted frown and shake of his head. But his driver's window was cranked down, too. We both
were looking for the relief of breezes from that sun blazing down. So when we turned north off the 4th line, down at Knapp's corner, our dusty van barely paused there at the intersection. He didn't even have
to lean over when he hollered at me. "There's a stop sign there, you know!"

Color, shame, floods my cheeks. But before I can nod, mumble an apology, he and his diesel pick-up rumble off. "That wasn't very nice of him. You had stopped, Mom." Joshua's passenger seat defense tries to
soothe. "Why did that man yell that?" Hope turns back after the truck's dust cloud, looking for answers.

Flustered, I carefully scan to the west, then east, then west again, before creeping forward through the intersection. And then manage a feeble explanation. "He was concerned I wasn't going to brake in time.
That I hadn't seen the stop sign. It scared him. And that's fair."

The wind blows through our open windows, our hair. In the rush of spring, I wonder if each of us replays his words again, the scene, reading his anger as fear. But maybe they don't, their young faces
silently watching the meadow slip close to the road with its petticoat of white trilliums. Maybe it's just me thinking about stop signs nearly missed.

I'm like that. Always rushing, hardly braking in time, off again. In a hurry. So much to be done. Or so I think.

What hard stops in my life have I been driving through -- or hardly pausing for?

How often am I mindfully slowing to intersect my time with God? Early, throughout, and late. Or do I barely make meaningful time at anytime in my day to commune in lingering, unhurried ways with God? Some days,
yes. Some days, no. There are too many rolling stops.

So I'll stop and linger long.

The meadow retreats and waving fields of greening wheat lap up along the roadside. The children, hands pointing and voices sure, debate whether that farmer is planting corn way off in a field on the horizon,
or if he's drilling in beans. And it's just me thinking about stop signs nearly missed and slowing to meet with God.

I'm listening to the prophet in a pick-up: There are stop signs here, you know. So I'll stop and linger long in prayer.

To avoid life crashes.

Lord, if life is crashing ... have I been running stop signs?

Today, it's all speeding by so fast, I simply have to stop and pray.

~~Kat~~ May you be abundantly blessed

"Talk unbelief, and you will have unbelief; but talk faith, and you will have faith. According to the seed sown will be the harvest."
Ellen G. White


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