Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Flowers

Some Christmases stand out more than others, and our first Christmas in the old farmhouse was one that I’ll never forget.

With only one large bathroom and two teenagers, we immediately set out to add another bathroom. Carpenter’s tools were strewn about the living room where gaily-wrapped presents should’ve been. My usual holiday spirit was buried deep beneath the never-ending layers of sawdust. The closer it came to Christmas the more I desperately wanted restoration – in my house and in my life.

One snowy day, while sorting through boxes of old wall d├ęcor in an attempt to make the place feel more like home, I suddenly got a longing for something new for the walls. However, with all the expenses of remodeling, there wasn’t money for non-necessities.

I tried to get over it but the longing only grew. I even prayed and asked God to take away the desire, but strangely, when I did, I immediately saw a clear vision in my mind of a beautiful dried-flower spray, full of shades of burgundy and pink. I shook my head in an attempt to make sense of what had just happened. The image was so vivid; there were even glitters of gold sparkling throughout it. I knew I had never laid eyes upon that spray, yet it had been clearly detailed in my mind.
The closer it got to Christmas, the more I thought about that floral wall display, almost looking for it with a sense of expectation.

At last it was Christmas morning. Even though I had told no one about my desire, I tried hard not to show my disappointment when the gifts were all opened and there were no flowers.

So, after putting the turkey in the oven I decided to pamper myself. I stayed in my robe (oblivious to the after Christmas mess), curled up on the sofa with my new book, and settled in for a comfortable read.

Suddenly my husband called from the kitchen, “Honey, were you expecting your mom and your sister?”

“Uh… no.” I had just seen both of them the night before, and besides, they always call before coming way out to our house.

But sure enough there was my mom carrying a plate full of goodies and my sister by the trunk of the car. I momentarily panicked, realizing there was no time to clear a path in our living room or to get dressed.

As my mother bounded through the front door she gave me a big hug, saying, “Your sister’s coming. She has something for you in the trunk.”

“What?”

None of this made sense. My sister Sue and I had not exchanged Christmas gifts since we were kids. I had nothing to give her.

Sue finally came inside, breathless, carrying a long, narrow box. She handed it to me, hugged me at the same time and excitedly exclaimed, “A co-worker makes these and I just had to get you one. I didn’t know what color to choose, but something told me to . . .”

With chills racing up and down my spine, I lifted the lid of the box. Without her needing to tell me the colors, I knew exactly what they would be . . . pink and burgundy . . . with a sparkle of gold throughout.

“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago” ( Isaiah 25: 1).

Friday, December 17, 2010

He Sees You When You're Sleeping

He’s popping up all over the place. Now that his presence has been officially ushered in at the end of the Thanksgiving parades, that plump, jolly, white-bearded man in a fuzzy red suit will be found in every mall.

While some say Santa is a myth, many scholars agree that Santa Claus was actually a real man named Saint Nicholas. It was believed he was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop from the area that is now known as Turkey. Old St. Nick was a true saint; holy, charitable, and with a heart for the Lord evidenced by the way he sacrificially gave to others.

It can be hard to find fault with the likes of Santa; his personification is one of joy and giving. Still, it is a shame that many children (and even adults) know more about the mythical aspects of Santa Claus (where he lives, what he drives, and what his eight coursers names are); than they do about the real reason why we celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ. The real reason for the season has become even more obscured over the years, yet ironically even St. Nick worshipped the One who was born of a virgin. St. Nicholas knew the price Jesus paid for redeeming sinners; he was so humbled by this fact that he dedicated his own life to being a blessing to others.

There is an image that has become popular in the past few years. You’ve probably seen it; Santa Claus removes his hat and is bowing down to the infant Jesus as He lies in His manger. It is a perfect reminder of the proper perspective that almighty God wants us to have. After all, one day every knee shall bow to the Lord (Romans 14:11).

Personally, I like the fun of including Santa Claus in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but not at the expense of the Truth. Christmas should be one huge birthday party with Jesus in the center. Lest we forget, Jesus is the One who “sees you when you’re sleeping; He knows when you’re awake”. And He knows whether or not you truly love Him and whether you are truly sold out to Him. He knows whether He is a priority in your life or not. In actuality, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. The question that this season begs to ask is, how well do we know Him?

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely (Psalm 139:1-4).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving to Remember

When I reflect on past Thanksgivings, there is one that stands out more than the rest. It was not the meal that was so unforgettable; rather it was the awesome way God came through during a time of desperation.

It was 1997 and we were moving for the second time in a year. We had rented a house while waiting for the old country farmhouse we had purchased to be vacated, and then remodeled. Finally, the remodeling was finished and it was time to move – on Thanksgiving Day.

Even though the day was hectic, we stopped long enough in the afternoon to dash to my mother’s house and inhale turkey and all the trimmings, barely tasting the food. On the way home we stopped by our storage shed and emptied it, including loading the old washer and dryer into our pickup truck. How we hoped they would both work; with all the unforeseen expenses from the remodeling, money was tight. And, just the other day the previous owner had shared with us that there were muskrats tearing apart the dam on our pond.

Ugh.

It was dusk when we finally got home and unloaded the truck. I held my breath when my husband plugged in the appliances. Sadly, just as we suspected, nothing happened.

Then I remembered my brother Danny was an appliance repairman – I’d call him! But when his wife answered the phone and explained that Danny’s schedule was jam packed with furnace repairs, I plopped down at the kitchen table, exhausted from the move, and wept. All these expenses and now we need a washer and dryer?

And, along with that problem were those pesky muskrats; I didn’t even know what one looked like, much less how to get rid of one. Why does life have to be so hard?

I found myself crying out to the Lord, and was suddenly, painfully reminded… I had not been praying about our situation. I had been so stressed from moving that I had neglected the Lord. I hadn’t been reading my Bible, praying, or spending any quiet time with Him at all. I had put God on the back burner; that is, until now.

I prayed from my heart, pouring out my concerns about our finances, the appliances and even muskrats. I praised God for who He was, believing He would take care of everything. Instantly I was filled with peace and went on to bed, knowing somehow, that God would work it all out.

But the next day when the phone rang, nothing could have prepared me for what would transpire.

The caller was Phil, a co-worker of Danny’s. He explained that Danny had told him about our old appliances, and Phil hoped we could work something out.

Shocked, I gasped, “Sure! What did you have in mind?”

Phil began, “My teenage son likes to trap.”

“Great!” I anxiously butted in. “He can trap in the forest. No problem.”

“That’s not what I had in mind,” Phil continued. “I heard you have a pond and, well, if you and Chuck would “let” my son trap muskrats on your pond, I’ll fix your washer and dryer.”

Chills ran up and down my spine as I recalled my prayer from the night before. Only God knew my desperate plea, and only He could orchestrate something this awesome.

And now, years later, I continue to gain strength from the memory of how God came through one exhausting, yet incredible, Thanksgiving.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34: 17).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Give Thanks to God

Thanksgiving is in the air and most of us are anxiously anticipating a traditional celebration. In today’s culture that celebration is defined by the three F’s: food, family, and football.

Earlier celebrations of Thanksgiving were defined by three F’s, too, but those F’s represented: food, fellowship and…the Father. God was a huge part of the day. According to www.earlyamerica.com: “A Thanksgiving Day two hundred years ago was a day set aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today's custom.”

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Instead of pigging out, they went without. Instead of gathering around a table laden with food, followed by a nap or staring at the tube, they focused their mind, mouth, and heart on their provider – God.

While it is wonderful that we continue the tradition of setting aside a day to (hopefully) give thanks, in actuality, God wants us to give thanks to Him daily. And we can even take that a step further to say that He wants our heart to be in a state of regular thankfulness throughout each day.

We don’t have to look far to see something to give thanks for: air, water, food, and clothes are good starters. However, as Americans we are blessed to have many types of assistance to cover our needs, such as The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, local food pantries, unemployment checks, homeless shelters, and emergency hotlines. We often take this wonderful assistance for granted. It can be easy to forget that not all countries have such provisions for their citizens.

Two other privileges that we are blessed to have in this great country are freedom of speech and freedom of worship. Because of them both, I am able to freely write this column, a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

Having an attitude of gratitude is also the secret to a powerful prayer life. For Christians, being thankful lays the foundation for constant fellowship with the Lord. Actually, having a thankful heart is God’s will for us. In first Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Another added benefit to cultivating a thankful heart is inner peace and joy. When we continue to praise God, even when our circumstances are gray, God blesses us with incomprehensible peace. We are not denying the problem; we are simply not giving in to it. We are keeping our joy in the Lord and in the knowledge that He is in control of all things. He has our best interest at heart, and promises to work out all things for our good.

And that alone is something to be thankful for!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 118:1).

Thanksgiving Blessings to You and Yours,
Connie

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tis Only A Season

God is a God of change. This is especially evident by the seasons He created. Spring represents a season of new growth, summer is a season of embracing life, fall is a season of colorful preparation, and winter is a season of rest and dormancy.

God even created seasons in our lives that seem to parallel our earthly seasons: infancy through childhood is an innocent time of exploring our world, teenage years are wrapped around discovering who we are, adult years are dedicated to raising our family and working for our future, and our senior years are a time of rest and reflection.

The first two stages of our lives quickly fly by, but our adulthood can last for decades. This begs the question: how does our Creator want us to spend this very long tenure of life? Does He have plans for us, and if so, how can we know what those plans are?

Throughout Jesus’ ministry we find one major theme: servant hood. Jesus’ life was centered on service to others. He healed people, fed people, and even washed their feet. God has gifted each Christian to serve others, too, and all within the midst of living our daily lives. While pursuing an education, marrying, starting a family and earning our living we are to be sensitive to filling the needs of others. In other words, servant hood is to be part of who we are, day in and day out, all of our lives.

It’s relatively easy to serve others when we have the time, energy, and the financial means to do so. The hard part comes when we don’t feel good, when we are pinched for time, or when we lose our job.

My husband recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, and not by choice. After almost 40 years of service to our country (in some capacity, including the Viet Nam War), he was given a ten day notice that his contractor position was being abolished. Even though we knew this day would eventually come, it wasn’t our plan to have it arrive so soon. And quite honestly, we panicked; that is, until we remembered that God had allowed it. While my husband’s job loss was a surprise to us, it was not a surprise to God. God knew it was coming and He has a purpose for it. My husband and I both know this will be a season of leaning on the Lord in a new way, but we also know it is no time to stop serving or to stop giving. When we do our part and stay obedient to God, He promises to do His part and take care of us.

There are a lot of people in this country who have recently been forced to switch careers or move into smaller living quarters due to a sudden job loss. It’s tough out there right now, but if we remember that it is only a season, and that God has allowed it for a reason, it can be easier to face. After all, He is a God of change. When He says, “I want to do a new thing,” we need to trust Him and keep our hand in His. We need to face it, not run from it. We need to remember that this “imposition” is part of His overall plan for our life. Someday we will look back and see the good that came from it. We will see several secondary changes that turned our scary journey into an intimate time of growth with the Lord, which could not have taken place any other way.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)

Praying you enjoy this season of your life,
Connie

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Everlasting Evergreens

Dusk was falling and the dishes were piled high that evening in late October. As I filled the kitchen sink of our old country home with hot soapy water, I felt compelled to keep looking out the kitchen window. Our tree farm was dotted with thousands of sweet-smelling pine trees and evergreens. They looked beautiful to me, yet the previous owner told us they were unmarketable because they hadn’t been trimmed for years.

“Maybe we should bulldoze them and start over,” my husband Chuck had begrudgingly suggested.

I couldn’t believe they were worthless. With the soft light of dusk shadowing their majestic frames, the trees seemed alive to me and glowed with an ominous allure.
I continued washing the dishes, yet my mind was on the pines. Then, out of nowhere, I heard a luring voice inside me say, “Walk among those trees and pray over them.”
I obediently peeled off my gloves and without a word to anyone, slipped quietly out the front door.

The air was cool and crisp and smelled of rich earth and heady pine as I made my way through row after row of Norway spruces and white pines. How I loved that holiday scent and the happy, carefree, childhood memories of Christmas past it conjures. Add to that the fact that pine trees don’t completely shed their needles, giving a sense of permanence and stability, was comforting, as well.

I found myself connecting to the trees in a way I never had before. They were part of God’s creation, alive and vibrant. Like me they weren’t perfect, yet they still had a reason for being. I noticed the matted grass under the trees, evidence of where deer had rested. And I heard the light rustling of feathers as birds settled in for the night in the thick pine boughs. I realized these trees were being used by God to bring protection to His creation. Suddenly Psalms 148: 7 and 9 filled my heart: Praise the Lord from the earth… you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars.

I prayed over the trees, thanked God for them, and asked Him to bring us a buyer. I knew in my heart the trees had worth, and with the many expenses of the farm we needed the money. Even though I had previously contacted several nursery owners and none were interested (including our friend, Bill), I still had hope.
As I descended the hill toward home I thought of Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God had shown me the needs of His creation and that He was taking care of them. He knows our needs, too, and will take care of us.

Chuck was on the porch as I ran up to him, exclaiming, “I was praying over the pine trees. I know they are worth something.”

“Okay, Honey. I’ll call Bill again tomorrow if it’ll make you feel better,” he responded, half-teasingly.

At that moment the phone rang. I expected it to be Bill… and it was!

When Chuck finished talking to him, he shook his head in disbelief. “Bill wanted to know…if we still had some trees for sale.” Chuck paused and swallowed hard. “He has an interested buyer.”

God will supply all our needs. Our part is to walk with Him and be obedient, trusting in His perfect timing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Missing Piece

When my daughter Chelsea was young we enjoyed going to garage sales together. They were like treasure hunts to us; we never knew what unique item or great deal would be unearthed with each stop.

When Chelsea was of preschool age she would scour every sale in search of board puzzles, thoroughly scrutinizing each one to make sure all the pieces were accounted for. She loved putting them together and would spend hours at it. As soon as she finished one, she would flip it over and assemble it again, thrilled each time her picture was complete.

Before long she wanted more of a challenge and she quickly graduated to several-hundred-piece puzzles. As a teenager, she enjoyed displaying her completed masterpieces on her bedroom walls.

But one garage sale gamble of a large, 500 piece puzzle, did not pay off. After several days of laboring over it, just as Chelsea was putting the last few pieces into place, she realized it was one piece short.

“Oh, no. I have to throw it away, Mom,” she lamented. “It’s missing a piece.”

I felt bad for her and quickly suggested that we search for it. We looked all over her room, on the floor, under her bed, and even inside her closet. The search, however, proved futile.

“I wonder if we could make a fake piece to fit in its place?” I offered, knowing when I said it that it wouldn’t work, but wanting desperately to help.
Finally, I begrudgingly assisted Chelsea in throwing it away.

Later that evening I began to ponder the similarities of how each one of us is just like that puzzle; each of us are incomplete, too. God purposely creates in us an emptiness in our lives that can only be filled by a relationship with Jesus. While many of us attempt to fill that void in our life by “making a fake piece” through indulging in outward pleasures, God’s word tells us that we will not have inner peace until we make peace with His Son. When we sincerely ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and come into our heart to live, He fills the void inside of us, causing our hearts to overflow with love and joy, and especially …peace.

Jesus completes the picture between God’s holiness and man’s sinful state. Jesus is the perfect fit.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Always an Example

We are always being watched by someone. Each one of us is an example to others, good or bad. Christians in particular are being watched by the world, especially when we go through tough times. While some people watch us to see how strong our faith is, others are actually looking for a good example to follow when they themselves face challenging situations.
I was blessed to have one of those life changing Christian-based examples when I was just a child of eleven. While attending my grandfather’s funeral I witnessed an inner strength in my grandmother that has stayed with me all of my life. My grandparents had been married for more than 50 years and I knew that Grandma loved the Lord with all her heart. But what really surprised me was the peaceful countenance she displayed throughout the entire funeral process. I had assumed she would be absolutely devastated; after all, fifty years is a very long time to live with someone. But when I witnessed her serene demeanor, I was taken aback.
I did not know Jesus personally during that time. I did know, though, that my grandmother had a relationship with the Lord that was a priority in her life. She made an impression upon me at a young age simply by praying out loud regularly and leaving her Bible lying open when I visited her. I knew she regularly had Bible studies with friends and that she attended church whenever the doors were open. Grama was a sweet, peaceful person who would readily throw her head back in laughter when she was tickled by something.
Even though I didn’t completely understand my Grandmother’s faith, I was definitely drawn to it, and never more so than at my grandfather’s funeral. When I finally saw my Grandma’s face in that sea of mourners, and then witnessed her inner peace throughout the funeral process, it drew me to her Jesus, even as a child.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
God has used that memory of “faith amidst the storm” countless times in my life. It is one of those “pillar of strength” reminders of the peace that can only come from a relationship with Jesus; a peace that passes understanding. Most gratefully, that same peace is now helping me to endure my own struggles in life.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t cry or grieve over the loss of a loved one; even Jesus openly wept. But God wants us to “not be as one without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). That is, in our sorrow we still believe that God is sovereign. We are to live our faith, even through the tough times, with the hope of tomorrow.
While weeping may remain for a night, rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30: 5). We can rejoice in the promises that God give us, so that after we are gone, our memory, too, will be a pillar of strength to others, pointing them to our heavenly Father.
The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. This peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7 NLV).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections on Reunions

A few weeks ago was yet another high school class reunion. It has been ten years since I’ve attended a reunion and I was very excited about it. Before the actual date, one of the organizers sent me a list of those who were confirmed to attend. As I scanned the list I smiled at many of the names, reliving some of our fun times.

The week after our class reunion we had an out of state family reunion on my mother’s side. I wasn’t able to attend due to a writer’s conference, but as I reflect on family times together, they too, cause me to smile at the memory of the good ole days with beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Of course not all memories are pleasant. For instance there was the classmate my sophomore year who spread a false rumor about me, devastating me for weeks. Then there was the uncle who chided me for being in the dessert line – again. Not all of our gatherings create good memories, and understandably some reunions can leave you feeling inferior. It can be hard not to compare yourself to those who are the same age, whether it is an ex-classmate or a cousin, and hear how they have become the CEO of a large corporation or the principal of a school. Some get-togethers can cause you to feel as if you haven’t done anything significant with your life, which isn’t always a bad thing; it can spur you on to taking that leap of faith to change your course in life for the better.

But this recent class reunion was somehow pleasantly different from all the rest. Gone were the masks that we girls, especially, would wear as we would try to impress others with our outer appearance. Of course we all wanted to look our best, but quite frankly that was not what mattered the most. Over the years the masks have fallen off and in their place was a heartfelt love for one another. What seemed to matter most was that we were all still here, especially since eight boys from our class have passed on. And one of our girls almost didn’t make it; Mary, a veteran of the Iraq war. It was especially touching to see her as she walked into the room with a cane. It was obvious that Mary had been through hell and back, but most thankfully, in the process she found God. Of course He had always been there; she’d just never been so desperately in need of Him before.

And that was my prayer as I drove home in the dark that night following the reunion; that each one of my classmates would, if they haven’t yet, come to realize that Jesus died for them and that they needed to open the door of their heart and invite Him in. As I rounded the final curve of my drive home I suddenly came upon a brief, light fog in the valley where we live. It reminded me of the verse from James 4:14: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”. And it’s true; much like that patch of fog – we are here one minute and gone the next.

As another reunion closed, our goodbyes to one another were bittersweet, all of us probably wondering if we would ever see each other again. Yet for those of us in Christ we know that our earthly goodbyes are always temporary, for we have an eternal reunion to look forward to.

I couldn’t help but see a few similarities between the two: at our class reunion we sat on picnic tables with cement underfoot, in heaven we’ll be walking on streets of gold. And a few guys brought guitars and we had a “jam session”, but in heaven ear has not heard the melodious sounds of the majestic, heavenly choirs singing praises in chords that we can’t imagine. And then as we shared our physical ailments and how almost all of us were wearing bifocals now, I couldn’t help but ponder how in heaven our bodies will not decay or age. (And of course the women are hoping chocolate will be there in abundance – and we won’t have to worry about it going to our hips!)

Yes, there is much to look forward to at that Reunion to beat all reunions. I truly hope you’ll be there.

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3 NIV).

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Passing of the Torch

(As of July of 2010 I have become the weekly inspirational columnist for 5 newspapers in central Ohio. The following article is my first column, giving homage to my dear friend and fellow writer, Faye Landrum. I hope to blog my columns a week or so after they are published. Enjoy!)

The Passing of the Torch

It is with both a heavy heart and a twinge of excitement that I write this first column. The usual author, Faye Landrum, has been a dear friend for almost 15 years. If you’ve been following her musings you know of her love for the Lord, and how she lives to serve Him. However, all things must pass, and Faye is now passing the writing torch on to me.

When I first met Faye at a monthly writer’s meeting she shared that she was approaching 70 years of age. I was immediately impressed because not only did she not look 70, but she did not act it. Most of us, as we age, become increasingly drawn to our comfort zone and are less excited about stepping out of our box. We hesitate to try new things and we don’t like to push ourselves; instead we look for the easy way out. But when Faye was faced with a challenge she would most often choose to embrace it, wanting to know the best and quickest way to deal with it so she could get on with life. And over the years, as I came to know, admire, and respect her, I witnessed almost every new decision being bathed in prayer.

Not only was Faye my dear friend, but she was also my mentor. The dictionary defines “mentor” as, 1) a wise and trusted counselor or teacher, and 2) an influential senior sponsor or supporter. Faye was both, and more. She was my spiritual mentor; I was her Timothy and she was my Paul (New Testament scriptures). And she was my writing mentor, too, regularly encouraging me to keep at my gift of writing; reminding me that there were a lot of hurting people in this world who needed to hear that God loves them and is there for them. Her dedication to the craft would remind me to only submit my best work, because “after all, we are writing for the Lord”.

Yes, I knew early on that I was sitting at the feet of a wise servant of the Lord. And seeking wisdom myself, I took advantage of every opportunity to learn from her. We traveled many states together, attending writer’s conferences and book signings. I regularly witnessed her humble demeanor in action, especially when strangers would tearfully share their grief over the recent loss of a loved one. Oftentimes Faye would freely give away copies of her “Moments of Comfort” book, or her “Final Mile” book, reminding the recipient to keep trusting the Lord and that He would get them through.
And if one of our many adventures should result in having to take a detour due to a wrong turn, she would usually laugh and remind me that, “getting lost by yourself is a nightmare; but getting lost with a friend is a journey!”

Now it is time for yet another journey, and sadly it is one that Faye and I must each travel alone. I am deeply honored to be filling her shoes in the “passing of the pen” as a columnist for the Post, although they are certainly big shoes to fill. I hope you don’t mind that I dedicated my first column to her; and yes, I promise to only submit my best work. After all, I am writing for the Lord.

Well done, good and faithful servant… the pleasure has been all mine.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For the Love of Facebook

I, like millions of others, have become caught up in the world of Facebook.

I told myself I wouldn't - but after much pressure from my kids and ex-classmates, I caved. And...I am glad I did. The ministry opportunities are endless! There is such a relaxed atmosphere about Facebook and the way it seems to allow/encourage users to be more open and willing to sharing their heart, that I could spend all day just encouraging total strangers!

Of course, you do see a lot of selfless advertising, and that, too, doesn't seem to bother me too much. If I'm not interested, I simply don't click on the prompt.

But, there is one prompt that I hope, if you see posted on fb, you won't skim over. Yes, I too am unashamedly blowing my own horn. And I have to ask ...is it bragging or promoting yourself, if you are using the gift that God gave you to "promote" Him and how Jesus has changed your life? I truly think not. But this promotion thing is something that Chritstian writers, especially, struggle with a lot. Most of us are very uncomfortable with it, and quite frankly, we don't like the way it takes up our time and keeps us away from doing our actual writing. However, if we want to get the "Word" out, then we have to promote the "words" God gave us. Ohhhh, a vicious cycle, but one we must travel, nonetheless.

So, if you have a few minutes to spare, and would like to learn more about me, please go to the below site that was posted on fb today. (Don't delay, there is a free book giveaway if you sign up at the end of the interview.)
Facebook Author Interview Today: www.sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com Enjoy!

Facebook Blessings to You,
Connie

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

With spring (finally) in the air, I couldn't help but see the analogy of the physical end of hibernation for some of God's creatures, and the spiritual ending of a personal dark, cavelike experience in my own life.



My husband and I have been going through a challenging time in our lives that is new to us. We are traveling a path (thankfully together) of obedience to God which involves a new ministry at a new church. We don't like to think of it as abandoning our "family", but rather enlarging our family.



When we really stop to think about it, as born again Christians we will all be together, every denomination, and forever. For reasons that only God knows, He sometimes pulls us away from a body of believers for a season, to grow us and to serve Him in different ways. It is not necessarily our choice to go, and we don't always know where we are going. But like Abraham, we step out in faith and in obedience.



I can imagine that Abraham, too, was afraid. I can imagine that some of his godly friends that he left behind were maybe even disappointed in him. They didn't get it. Some of them probably thought, "Could this really be God? To take you and your family away from us and put you on a path to...somewhere?"



And I can imagine, too, that while he traveled to the unknown, he also endured a cavelike experience. A time of darkness - a time of not fully understanding. As head of the household, he probably felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.



And maybe he was even hurt by the reaction of some of the faithful that he left behind; especially those who were not encouraging him to be obedient. There were gossips back then, too, and I can imagine some of them saying, "There has to be another reason why Abraham left us."



Iimagine the joy, though, that Abraham and Sarah experienced when they finally arrived at their destination. They had been obedient. They had fought the good fight of traveling a hard road to an unknown territory. They had seen God's hand all along the way.



We can't let others stop us from moving on. We can't wait for their understanding. God will take care of that in time. Our part is to pray and obey.



Oh, hope does spring eternal! And our eternal hope that we have in Jesus trumps the enemy's attacks every time.



May you have eternal hope in Him, too.

Connie

Monday, January 25, 2010

Protect Your Joy

I don't know about you, but there are times when I regret watching the news. While I feel a need to keep up with current events, I also feel a growing need to protect my peace and joy.

I'm not talking about the morning entertainment shows, where all three or four hosts are gabbing at the same time about the latest you-tube video. Rather, the evening news, with the depressing war statistics; almost daily "natural" disasters (what's so natural about a disaster?); and the horrendous crimes that mentally unstable people inflict upon others, especially precious innocent children.

I've even noticed that some of the national news broadcasters attempt to soften the repeated blows by ending their half-hour segment of depression with a feel-good piece. And I have to admit, it does help a little. But oftentimes, an hour after the show has aired, my blood pressure still continues to feel stuck at a number much higher than it was before I viewed the tube.

Something interesting along these lines happened a few weeks ago, while writing under deadline. Time was of such the essence, that I had to forego almost everything outside of my office, including the daily news. (Probably a good thing, since my writings are inspirational.) And, in order to finish the book proposal that I was working on, I had to have my nose in the Bible for five days straight verifying scripture verses and parables that I was referencing. And guess what? Even though I was feeling the stress of a deadline, I had incredible peace (and dare I say, joy) during each one of those 12-hour writing sessions.

And interestingly, when I finally did resume watching the evening news on the sixth day, I realized how little I had missed. The same issues were being discussed with the same pro liberal twist, along with the same negative conservative slant. The same war was being fought, and the same terrorists were up to no good.

I could say that those five days of peace were due to not watching the news and not taking into my mind and spirit the horrible happenings of the world. But we all know that ignoring the negative doesn't necessarily bring about the positive. No, the true inner peace and joy that I experienced those five days, and that I have been experiencing on a daily basis ever since I invited Jesus into my heart 21 years ago, can only happen as a direct result of knowing the Prince of Peace. I am not referring to knowing facts "about" Jesus, but truly knowing Him on a personal level. As in a "best friend" forever level. As in someone who "knows you inside out" (warts and all) and loves you anyway, level. As in a "sticking to you closer than a brother" level. And, as in a "I will always love you and never leave you" level.

While I have been blessed to have had lots of friends some of them came into my life for a short season and some came in for a simple reason. Many have come and gone, and a few have stayed through the decades. But, if I am completely honest, not one of them has been there exclusively for me, filling all of my needs (as I have not been there exclusively for them, either).

Yet, never has the Lord failed to be there for me. Never has he failed to comfort me when I was sad, or pick me up after I had been knocked down. Sure, there have been a few times when I did not sense His presence, but never has He completely forsaken me.

But I have to humbly admit, I work at this relationship. Besides being in the Word regularly to write inspirational works, my husband and I begin almost every day with a Bible study (usually at 4:15 a.m.!). Filling our mind with God's word before facing our day is like putting on a spiritual suit of armor. Only God knows the daggers that are going to be thrown at us each day, so it makes sense to turn to Him for protection.

After seeing the difference it has made in my peace and joy level by saturating my mind with the Word and not taking in the biased and depressing news, I've come up with the perfect antidote, for those times when I do watch the news. Besides watching Wheel of Fortune afterwards :-), I put Philippians 4:6 into action: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. I say a quick prayer over what it was that troubled me.


And another personal favorite scripture verse for these stress-filled times is: He keeps in perfect peace all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him! (Isaiah 26:3 )

May His peace be with you, too,
Connie
 
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