Helping Children with Change

     Does anyone else out there have children right now that are just really struggling with all of this change? Yesterday, my normally very easy going and happy fifth grader suddenly burst into tears very unexpectedly. We weren’t talking about school or Covid-19 at all. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he was just really upset about missing out on his 5th grade field day and graduation. It was bubbling under the surface and suddenly emerged. We are all just reeling from this change, and our kids are trying to process a lot of information very quickly. Are your children struggling?
     The Lord led me this morning to 1 Samuel to the story of another parent in Hannah that was experiencing much turmoil and who would have a son who would experience incredible change. Have you every thought about how difficult it must have been for Samuel to leave the daily care of his loving mother to move in with the preacher and serve God as a boy? Talk about a lot of change!
   We get a glimpse of what helped both Hannah and Samuel in 1 Samuel 1:11-12. It was Hannah’s prayer life. I hope you will be encouraged by her prayer as I was. Notice 3 quick things about this powerful prayer
  • A Prayer of Desperation – Hannah cries out to “The Lord of Hosts”. This is very important because this is the first mention of The Lord of Hosts in the Bible (Jehovah Sabaoth). This is the Name of God we find used in Scripture when a man or woman realizes they can do NOTHING to change their situation and need to see God MOVE! The Lord of Hosts is mentioned over 270 times in the Bible but the next is with David when he is facing Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45). David was also faced with an immovable force in the mountain of a man (Goliath) with no human hope of victory. He comes into this battle calling on the power of the Lord of Hosts! Here’s the great news – God hears and answers the prayers of desperate men and women when it comes to helping their children! If you feel desperation today, you are in a great place to see God hear and move.
  • A Prayer of Declaration – Hannah declares that “I will give him to the Lord”. In other words, she is saying – God, this is your son- not my son. He belongs to you. You gave him to me, and I am giving him back to you. You allow me to parent him for a period of time but he is yours. You love him even more than I do. I TRUST you with my child. Parents, isn’t it great news to know that God loves our kids more than we do and has specific plans for each of their lives? (Jer. 29:11). Our role as parents is not to get them to graduation and then send them out to be independent. Rather, our role as parents is to help our kids move from a dependance on us to a complete dependence on The Lord. Do you need to turn your children back over to The Lord today by saying, “I trust you completely with each one.”?
  • Prayer of Determination – In verse 12 it simply says, “as she continued praying. Hannah refused to quit praying. Never underestimate the power of a praying parent. Susannah Wesley spent one hour each day praying for her 17 children. In addition, she took each child aside for a full hour each week to discuss spiritual matters. It’s no wonder that two of her sons, Charles and John, were used mightily in both England and America. When it gets hard, let’s keep praying. On the tough days, let’s keep praying. When we wonder if it’s working, let’s keep praying. And the best part – The name Samuel means “God Hears”!  Every time Hannah called her son’s name it was an ongoing reminder of God’s faithfulness to help a parent in need.
    It is so hard to see our kids hurting! I hope you can find some encouragement as I did this week in knowing that in this time of change and uncertainty for both parents and children, we can continue to cry out to God in desperation knowing that He has a long track record of hearing the prayers of men and women who have nowhere else to turn, and that we can continue to trust God completely knowing that He loves our children even more than we do.

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Sneaky Squirrel

     One of my favorite things to do is sit on the porch while watching the birds come to the feeder. When the weather is nice, my preferred place for my morning quiet time is on the porch with my open Bible and a very large cup of coffee.  Something that often appears when I am not paying close attention are sneaky squirrels. One will climb to the top of the tree and then jump onto the feeder to claim some of the food for its own. As the bird feeder sways, the entire contents fall to the ground below. A full bird feeder is now left empty. The squirrel has absolutely no fear of me as I try to send him away. He still lunges as though I can’t see him and will only scramble to leave when I get very close. That sneaky squirrel is awfully persistent. He will leave, however, as soon as he thinks I am not watching again will reappear doing the same thing again and again. As I was watching this transpire one morning, The Lord impressed upon my heart that just like those sneaky squirrels there are many distractors in our life that can sneak up on us and leave us feeling empty and depleted. They strike close to home. The past few days I have found myself really just wanting things to go back to the way they were.  As each event has gotten removed from my calendar, I have felt as though I was becoming a little more defeated and depleted. Our three kids are all struggling and wrestling with this, each in their own way. At times, I am not sure how to even help them. As I was fussing at that sneaky squirrel The Lord laid this on my heart and it provided me with such comfort.

  • Satan- seeks to destroy, provides noisy distractions, squanders resources & stays for a short time inflicting damage where he can
  • The Lord- wants us to shelter in His strength, speaks when we are silent & still, secures our future, and stays forever. Hope in Him is eternal.

John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In another version of the Bible the word “abundantly” is used.   An abundant and full life – That seems like a challenge right now doesn’t it? Amidst the fear, anxiety, and stress of Covid-19, doesn’t it seem so easy to allow Satan to deplete our spiritual supply of joy, peace, and hope? Each time the squirrel squanders my bird food, I have to refill the feeder for the birds to feast on again.  It is an active choice to not leave that feeder empty – one I have to make time and time again. We have to make this same choice today, tomorrow, and the day after by refilling our spiritual supply with God’s Word.  God led me to John 16:23-24 on that morning as I was berating that squirrel.  These verses have brought me so much comfort the past few days of quarantine. John 16: 23 and 24, “In that day, you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” My prayer for your family and mine is that we will not allow our enemy to steal our joy and deplete our spiritual supply little by little, but rather allow Our Risen Savior to fill us with His infinite peace and joy.


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Easter 365

     In many ways, I think the Sunday after Easter has to probably be one of the most confusing days for the Risen Savior. On Easter Sunday the crowds swell even if they are online – lol, and yet the Sunday after Easter is generally one of the lowest attended/viewed Sundays of the year. Where did everybody go? Did Jesus go back into the tomb the day after Resurrection Sunday? Is He less powerful, less forgiving, or less worthy on April 19 than He was on April 12 of 2020?
     I think we get a glimpse of the answer in John 21. Peter and the disciples had been to the empty tomb and knew it was empty, they had seen the Risen Savior, and they believed (John 20:8,18,28). You would think you would see them heading out to tell others the great news. Nope, instead you see them going on a bad fishing trip. They went BACK to the familiar, with what they knew, and where they were most comfortable. And then Jesus shows up and basically asks them – how’s that working for you? Are you catching anything? Seeing any results with that?…….What if you cast on the other side of the boat and try it my way? And these professional fishermen who had fished all night and caught ZERO, followed the command of Jesus and had such a harvest they had to get help just to get it all to shore. Peter immediately got it – this HAD to be Jesus. And so Peter jumped in the water and swam to the One that alone has this kind of power.
     I believe this is exactly what Jesus would have US to do in 2020. We can go on about our business after Easter Sunday – back to what we know, back to the familiar, and back to where we are comfortable…..BUT we will see little if any lasting results. What if instead we follow the example of Peter and jump out of our comfort zone and join Jesus in accomplishing the supernatural after Easter Sunday? What if instead of Easter being a DAY, Easter becomes a LIFESTYLE? Jesus is just as much RISEN today as He was on Sunday. The Tomb is STILL empty. Let’s live a lifestyle of Easter 365 days a year in 2020!
 

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Peace This Way!

     Psalm 4 is only 8 verses but VERY powerful. David is incredibly stressed out in verse 1 (“in my distress”), but by verse 8 is resting peacefully (“lie down in peace, and sleep). And get this – his circumstances haven’t changed AT ALL!
 
What did David do to move so far in such a short time? How can we get on this Road to Peace today during this time of change and uncertainty?
 
Here are the 3 Keys straight from God’s Word to get us on the Fast Track to Peace Today:

  Key #1 – Supplication (3) – “hear when I call to Him”

     Supplication simply means crying out to God in prayer? My mother in law used to say, “Go to the THRONE before the PHONE”. What a tip for today! We have 168 hours this week with most of them free to spend with The Lord. Are we taking advantage of this opportunity? Let’s not waste this time. David cried out to the Lord in prayer. Have you cried out to God over this situation? David recalls the past faithfulness of The Lord. Think about the things today that God has brought you through that are bigger than what you are facing today. And David expected God to act. Are you praying with expectation for God to move?

 

Key #2 – Stillness (4) – “and be still”
     “Be Angry” in verse 4 is better translated “Tremble”. Literally, fear the Lord and His awesome power. It means to take time and Be Still before the Lord (Psalm 46:10). It means remembering that our God is much bigger than Covid-19. Let’s take our eyes off of this virus and put our focus on our God. He is Greater!
 
Key #3 – Surrender (5) –“put your trust in the Lord”
     David completely turned the situation over to The Lord. He is declaring – I don’t know what the future hold, but I know who holds the future. Instead of trying harder, I am going to trust more!
 
Final thought – Sometimes God changes the situation of the person, but most times God changes the person in the situation! Let’s follow David’s example in Psalm 4 and get on the Road to Peace today!

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Hope in the Storm

     Has this Covid-19 crisis made you feel like you were headed in one direction and are all of a sudden way off-course? Do you feel like you are doing your best, but not making any forward progress? In Matthew 14:22-33 the disciples found themselves in a powerful storm facing these same feelings. They were being battered by the waves, far off from their intended destination, and struggling and straining but seemed to be going nowhere.  However, there were 4 important things in the boat that day that helped them and I believe can help us in the storm that we currently find ourselves facing.
 
   First, there was the prayers of Christ. Where was Jesus when their world was falling apart? In verse 22 we see that Jesus was having an all night prayer meeting. And in the midst of THIS storm, Jesus has NOT changed. Romans 8:34 says that Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. That is GREAT news! Right now, Jesus is praying for you and I.
 
     Second, there was the presence of Christ. Mark 6:48 includes that Jesus saw the disciples and then joined them in the storm by walking on the water. Jesus shows up in our storms, and he will go to ANY lengths to get to us and encourage us.
 
     Third, there was the power of Christ. Jesus showed up and says something incredibly powerful in Matthew 14:27. We have a powerful declaration surrounded by 2 commands. The declaration is “I AM”. Jesus is echoing what God said in Exodus 3:13-14 when Moses questioned God’s power. God said to Moses and Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “My power is NOT in question.” I AM WHO I ALWAYS HAVE BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE.” The first command is, “Be of good courage”. We see this same command to the man lowered through the roof (Matt. 9:2), to the woman with the issue of blood (Matt. 9:22), to Blind Bartimaues (Mark 10:49), to Paul when discouraged in prison (Acts 23:11), and to the disciples facing their greatest trial (John 16:33). Don’t miss it – every time God says this He is saying it to a person that has come to the end of their options and is lacking strength. His Word is  – BECAUSE I AM, YOU CAN! The second command is, “Do not be afraid.” These professional fishermen weren’t scared of the storm as much as they were of the Savior. When the I AM showed up they realized that this SAVIOR was much greater than this STORM. In that moment, their panic turned to peace, their terror turned to trust, their concern turned to courage, their fear turned to faith, and their worry turned to worship!
 
      Finally, there was the past miracles of Christ. Jesus had just fed 5000 men and many more families with five loaves and 2 fishes and had 12 basketfuls of leftovers. There must have been at least one basketful of bread on the boat. If the disciples would have just looked over their shoulder they would have been reminded that the last time they faced an impossible situation that Jesus was faithful. If we look over our shoulder, I bet we will see our own miracles. We can stand up on these past miracles of Christ right now knowing that the One that was faithful in our past, will be faithful in our present and future (Hebrews 13:8).
 
     This Covid-10 Storm is real, but our Savior is greater. I hope this Word will help you as much as it has helped me during this time.
 

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A Root Reset

I’ve heard the phrase “I just want things to go back to normal” many times the past few days. The things that my children often complain about are now their heart’s desire. The normalcy of early wake-up times, athletic practices, car lines, and school lunches are all gone. A full plate of activities is now suddenly empty.

     This past weekend, Stephen and I had the blessing of attending a marriage retreat. Over the course of the weekend, God continued to impress upon on my heart two verses. He said “these are for you” and it would not be until four days later that I understood why.

Ephesians 3:17-18, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

      The word roots means different things to different people. Whether it is physical tree roots, graying hair roots (much like mine lately :), or spiritual roots, the best roots are strong and healthy with the ability to sustain the most powerful storm.

     My thoughts about spiritual roots immediately ran to two Godly sets of grandparents – one who lived on a farm and one who lived right next door to my house as I was growing up.  Both would always make time for me when I would visit. One was often shucking corn outside, while the other was either listening to Christian radio or watching Wheel of Fortune, depending on the time of day. The one thing they both had in common was deep roots – legacies of abiding and dwelling in The Lord.
 
     God brought me back to those verses in Ephesians four days later when He whispered, “What if I don’t want things to go back to normal?” What if the current root systems that are being developed are shallow and weak? What if I need to do some replanting in your life?  I thought of my three children and the type of roots Stephen and I are putting down. God completely laid this on my heart in regards to making intentional investments. I am sharing in the hopes that it may help encourage your family during these days, as our family reexamines our roots.
  • R- Redeem The Time

As a busy mom of a 14, 10, and 5 year old our house is often chaotic. Yesterday, one was playing basketball on the small hoop over his door, one was playing the guitar as she sang, and the other was teaching her class of twenty baby dolls. Many of her students were being placed on the stinky square due to their misbehaving:).  I thought, “Lord, how will I manage this for multiple days?” He impressed upon my heart, “Julie you will not have this day again. Use it wisely. Have the conversation with your teenager you have been meaning to have. Play a game of basketball with your son that you never have the time to do. Join your five year old’s imaginary class and just relax. Hope she doesn’t send you to the stinky square! Strengthen those roots. Time is the best way to do it and you have a lot more of it now.”

  • O- Order Your Steps
     Our kids are watching every comment and every step we make. Where do they lead- to the spiritual or to the superficial? My mom died before her father. At his funeral I knew she would have wanted a particular verse shared. Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord: and He delights in his way.” Papa Carter’s steps were always faithful. He read his Bible every day, loved his family, and never did he speak a harsh word about anyone. His steps were greatly affected by how he grew up. He would always walk behind me turning off the lights as I exited a room, ate every bit of food on his plate, and would never even think about missing a church service for any other reason than sickness. He would often talk about how the Great Depression affected him.  His steps greatly impacted those who came behind him. It really made me consider where I am leading those who are following closely behind.
  • O- Opt out of social media (even if just a little :))

This one is hard for me. I love connecting with others. However, God impressed on my heart that strong roots are not formed during screen time. They are formed during conversations, laughter, even in those ugly moments of disagreements and frustration over e-learning, they are running deeper. His word to me was to not spend endless amounts of time watching what others are doing, while neglecting to connect with the ones under your roof.

  • T- Train the littles
     I have been reminded as I have attempted to homeschool that I really never was good at math and do not know how to navigate helping a five-year old and ten-year old very well. I find myself getting easily frustrated, which I never would with someone else’s child.  The Lord impressed – just as we have to teach math, reading, and sight words, we have to teach them how to read their bible, pray, and keep a journal. What an incredible opportunity The Lord has given us right now to teach on what is most important.
 
  • S- Simple and Strong
      In these uncertain times, we must trust that God has our BEST in mind.  He is a loving Father who desires to give our families so much more. Simple. Strong. Deep Roots.  We must avoid the constant comparisons about what others are doing. My prayer is that our families experience Ephesians 3:18-19 “….to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that this love surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
 

During this time, let’s focus on what we can accomplish with our families. Let’s dig deep, go farther, and use this extra time to reexamine our roots.


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Rags to Riches

     My husband, Stephen and I have three kids at three different ages in very different seasons of life. We are blessed with a 7th grader, 3rd grader, and a 4 year old. It is completely overwhelming to me at times that The Lord chose me to be their mother.  There are many moments where I wish I could have a second chance to just get it right. In the wake of losing my mom to cancer in 2012, if I am honest, there are times when I wish that I could just bypass Mother’s Day. As always, God’s grace is sufficient; however, it is still hard to see the mother’s day cards in the store, the cakes in the bakery, and the flowers declaring “happy mother’s day.” For some, it is just not happy. God led me to share this devotion from Proverbs 31. I hope that it will encourage you in whatever season you find yourself this Mother’s Day weekend!

      The first time I studied Proverbs 31, I honestly laughed a little. The words listed below are not typically ones heard in the day to day aspect of being a mom:

  • Far above rubies (verse 10)
  • Girds herself with strength (verse 17)
  • Her household is clothed with scarlet (verse 21)
  • Strength and honor are her clothing (verse 25)
  • She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness (verse 26)

     Let’s just be honest for a moment. How many times have you and I opened our mouth without kindness on our tongue? The moments in our house that seem to be the most frantic are in the morning. Backpacks. Lunchboxes. Last minute homework review. Everything is done in a hurry to attempt to rush out of the door at 7:10 am so that everyone can be where they need to be on time. My four year old, Ruthie, calls it the “hurry, scurry, Murray” moment. I am not sure who Murray is, but the hurry and scurry sure are right.

     Take a moment and read Proverbs 31, and as you do make a list of the women who have impacted your life. This passage has much to see about being the woman God has called you and I to be – whether as a mother, daughter, niece, cousin, sister, grandmother, or aunt. As you look at the list of the women, one thing I am sure of is that in order to impact your life they had to ABIDE in The Lord. I took each letter of the word ABIDE and have made an acrostic. I pray that this might be of help to you as it has been for me.

A = Abundant Life

     God wants us to live a life that is abundant and full.The definition of abundant is “existing in large quantities, plentiful.” Abundance also means rich, lavish, generous, overflowing, and ample. Do these words describe your spiritual life or would you describe it as depleted, empty, or defeated? In order to abide in Him and experience His abundance, we have to be willing to focus on the BEST that He has to offer. There are a lot of good things that demand our attention. The question is – where does God want us to focus? In order to do that, we often have to get rid of distractions that are keeping us from being all that God has called us to be. I would encourage you to spend a few minutes asking The Lord:

  • Is there is an area where I need to scale back?
  • Is there an application on your phone that I need to delete?
  • Is there an unhealthy relationship that has formed that I need to end?
  • Is there any GOOD thing that is keeping me from a GOD thing?
 
B = Binds Her Tongue (verses 8, 26)

      I did some research this week and found that the average woman speaks 20,000 words a day, while the average man speaks 7,000. I would say that I am probably well above average in this category – lol.  Once our words come out of our mouth or after they are posted on social media, there is no retrieving them. I can still remember my 4th grade Sunday School teacher explaining the above with a tube of toothpaste. She proceeded to squirt a whole tube of toothpaste out onto a plate and then asked us to place it back in the tube. We couldn’t complete that task. It is the same way with our spoken words. Think about what words are “oozing” from your mouth. What you are sharing with your children? What are you posting on social media? Does it glorify The Lord? I have to constantly keep a watch on my tongue.

 

I = In His Strength (Verse 17)

     Verse 17 says, “…she girds herself with strength.” In order to be the woman that God is calling us to be requires that it must be done in His strength and not our own. I heard something once that I have never forgotten. It was stated that in regard to parenting- the goal should be for your children to move from dependence on us to dependence on God Satan loves when we gird ourselves in OUR own strength. He knows that when he can get us to accomplish something on our own, that most times it will fail miserably. In His Strength, not in ________________ (write your name) strength! Isaiah 41:10 is one of my favorites. Claim it this week in regards to your family.

 

D = Dressed in Riches (verses 21, 22, 25)

      In verses 21, 22, and 25 you will find several words relating to how we should dress. Scarlet. Fine Linen. Purple. Strength. Honor. I love to shop. I always tend to gravitate toward the same style and color of dress when I go shopping. My husband, Stephen will often say, “That looks like one you already have.” Honestly, I tend to buy it anyway if I like it. It made me think this week that I do have a lot of outfits in the same color. God nudged my heart with the fact that I often get comfortable and gravitate toward a similar pattern in my relationship with Him. Think about your wardrobe spiritually speaking? Does your physical wardrobe look pristine while spiritually you are dressing in tattered rags? Are you falling apart on the inside when in Christ we have access to fine linen and royal purple garments? God wants to take us this week from rags to the riches that He offers!

 

E = Extends Equipping Grace (verse 20)

     Verse 20 talks about extending a hand to those in need. I want you to think about how Jesus invested in his disciples for a moment. He lived with them, taught them, instructed them, fished with them, and traveled with them. Although Jesus ministered to and loved on the masses of people that followed Him, he primarily devoted himself to the work of a few in order that the masses may be reached more effectively. He invested in them with an intent focus to train and equip them for when He was no longer there. He corrected them when needed and then sent them on their own journey. As a mom, we have to equip our children by giving them the tools they need and then at some point extend that grace by sending them out. I am not in that season of being a mom but pray that God grants me the time to get there. You and I are not promised another moment, day, or month. God reminded me this week that – Spiritual investments will never return void! Sometimes though it’s hard to see our impact in the day to day routine of life. But, verse 28 reminds us that there is a day when our children will thank us for our investment. Aren’t you glad that what we do truly matters to our family, and to the Lord? 

 

Go back to the beginning of this devotion where you wrote down the women who taught you to abide in The Lord. If it is possible, write them a note this week expressing how thankful you are for them. I guarantee you that it was an intentional act of investment and focus on ABIDING in HIM! And on a week that is difficult for many including myself, let’s be the Proverbs 31 woman God intended us to be!
 

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Preventing Burnout

     I felt like the Lord gave me a specific Word this past week for anyone that serves the Lord in a ministry that may be suffering symptoms of burnout. Please pray often for those that lead in ministries. Did you realize that South Carolina leads the nation in forced ministerial resignations and pastor suicide? I encourage you to stop and pray for the men and women of God that serve in your church today.

     In first Kings Chapter 18 Elijah had boldly stood against over 800 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. He had prayed and God had sent fire from heaven. It was an incredible movement of God. Elijah and the people had an incredible mountaintop experience. But in the very next chapter, Elijah is so weary and worn down that he is hiding in a cave. Have you ever felt like Elijah? In 1 Kings Chapter 19 we see several familiar signs of burnout.

  • Bad decisions – Elijah has stood against 850, and yet now he’s running from one woman. We do things when we are tired that we would normally never do. Have you ever made a costly decision solely based on exhaustion?
  • Isolation – Elijah retreated into isolation. He did not want to be around anyone. Have you ever felt like that you cannot take one more email or text? Have you ever felt like that if one more person requires your attention that you might explode.
  • Resignation – Elijah told God he was tired and didn’t care to do this anymore. Have you ever felt like it might be time for you to do something else?

However, we also see several keys to overcoming burn out:

  • Rest (19:5,6)– Noticed that Elijah was so tired that he fell asleep twice. It is so important in ministry to recharge our batteries. It’s important to make sure we are getting enough rest. We need to take time for vacation, and when we go on vacation to actually be on vacation. The worst thing we can do is to be on our phones while we’re out on the beach with our family. Sometimes we think we are irreplaceable. That is a lie of the enemy. If the ministry falls apart if we are gone it is due to pride and poor planning. Elijah tries to tell God how important he is twice in verses 10 and 14. But God reminds Elijah and us that he will accomplish his will with or without any person. God was in control the whole time.
  • Refreshment (19:6,7)– God made him a meal twice. Most times in ministry we are pouring out. It is so important that we allow God to pour back in. Otherwise, we will get to a point where we have nothing to pour out and offer anybody. Notice in the second part of verse 7 what God says – The journey is too much for you. In other words, if you continue on this track, you will not make it. It is so important in ministry that we stay in the Word – and not just for the benefit of others.
  • Return to God’s Presence (8) – Elijah returned to the presence of God. Mount Horeb was the place where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments. It was a place of meeting God. It is to be still and know that he is God. It is sitting at his feet and listening for His words. And it was when Elijah was still before the Lord that he once again heard that still small voice. Is it possible that you have been moving so fast that it’s been a while since you could hear that voice?
  • Recomission (19:15-18) – Elijah received a Fresh word from the Lord. He got a new anointing, a fresh power. When was the last time you received a fresh word from the Lord? And part of that new information was that God was sending him a helper in an Elisha. Who could be your Elisha? Who could help you fulfill God’s purpose and calling in your ministry? Pray for God to send you an Elisha. 
 
     I am certainly not any expert on this subject. This is something I consistently struggle with and continually have to bring before the Lord. What else would you add to the subject of preventing burnout?  Would love your thoughts and insight!

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He Knows My Name – Julie Cannon

     When I was pregnant, I was frequently asked many questions from strangers. At times, it would feel like the great inquisition. Questions would typically go in this order:  When is your baby due? May I touch your belly? Are you having a boy or a girl? Are you having twins (my least favorite)? Have you picked out a name? It would always amaze me when I would share the names we were considering and folks that we didn’t know very well would share the reasons why we shouldn’t choose those names.
 
      Stephen and I would always make a list of our favorite names and take long consideration into making our choice. A name is permanent. It is the first gift that you bestow upon your precious little one. It is one that you spend a lot of time calling and sometimes yelling – lol.
 
    In John Chapter 20, Jesus calls Mary by her name! How precious is it when the risen Christ calls YOUR name? When HE speaks, all doubt, fear, and uncertainty are replaced with assurance, faith, and the certain knowledge that He knows YOU by name. Notice that initially Mary did not recognize who Jesus was. She thought He was the gardener. It was not until He spoke her name did she have full realization of who she was speaking with (verses 15 & 16).
 
       My name was called in a different way this past week. Normal, routine, and expected are all three words that I often take for granted. I frequently complain the most in the midst of the mundane. I was reminded how ordinary moments can be the ones that are the most extraordinary. They are also the ones that are most missed when they are gone. I had gone for a routine doctor’s office visit for a regular check-up. The doctor found a place that looked suspicious. He diagnosed it as a subcutaneous nodule and referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. I saw this surgeon a few days later who took x-rays and said “Mrs. Cannon this is a lump and it is definitely going to have to be removed.” He has been a surgeon for 41 years. He thought it was benign, but that it would need to be biopsied upon removal. This was on a Monday. My CT scan had been set up for the following Monday and then a visit with a specialist for the next Thursday. I called and had my CT scan moved from Spartanburg to the Village at Pelham. When my doctor called to check on me, I explained to him that I had moved up my scan to a different location. He volunteered to call the specialist to see if she could see me any sooner. He called me back within minutes and said, “This is amazing. That same day that you moved your scan too is the very first day that she will be seeing patients in the Pelham location. You will be in the same building.” It was not a coincidence- it was all God. EVEN in the small details, He knows your name. He told me that he and the surgeon had consulted and that they thought this was a sacral tumor. A tumor. I got this news before church last Wednesday and was struggling to even put one foot in front of the other.

    

      The next day as I sat in the waiting room, I anxiously waited for the nurse to call my name. As I lay down for the CT Scan, I looked up and saw the photo included with this post. I asked the technician if I could take this photo. As tears streamed down my face during the scan, I was reminded that no matter the outcome, God knows my name. It was written so clearly on this machine. As the machine took the images, all I could think of was my children. The moments that I often complain about- the packing lunches, the loads of laundry, the toys all over the house. How that in a day, life can surely change with the outcome of one test. As soon as I left, my name disappeared, and the board reflected another name for another scan.

The verses that God had given me for this particular week were Isaiah 43:1-2. At the end of verse 1 it says, “…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”

     When Stephen and I saw the specialist just an hour after the CT Scan, she said she was confused. She showed us the CT scan images and said there was nothing there. The tumor that had been there just a few days before was no longer showing on these new images. She was puzzled, however, Stephen and I were not. We knew that God had performed a miracle. She said, “Mrs. Cannon when your doctor called me yesterday he was very concerned. Frankly, I thought we would be looking at surgery next week. However, there is nothing to operate on.”

     As I walked out of the waiting room that day, I was flooded with thoughts of thanksgiving.

  • Thankful for another day to pack the children’s lunches.
  • Thankful for another day to wash the clothes and look for mismatched socks.
  • Thankful for another day to sit in the car line.
  • Thankful for another day to pick up Ruthie’s baby dolls which are strewn all over the house.
 
Just as God called Mary’s name outside of the EMPTY tomb, He knows and calls our name.If you have surrendered your heart and life to The Lord, then you are His as it says in Isaiah 43:1. If you are reading this guide and you have never made that decision, then what better time to make that decision than Easter. I want to conclude this post with, Isaiah 43:2
 
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
 
 
     Everywhere that it says YOU, take a pen and cross it out and write your name over the top. Personalize this verse to your life and your family and then post it somewhere you will see it often. I have it on my desk at work and have looked at it many times over this past week. Notice that it doesn’t say IF you pass through the waters or IF you walk through the fire, it says WHEN. We will pass through the waters; however, we do not have to be afraid. You and I can relinquish control to the One who knows OUR name!
 

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Healing Fractured Relationships

        Ever been hurt by someone you thought you could trust?? Have you ever been stabbed in the back? Ever been kicked when you were down?Ever invested so much into someone only to see them sell you out when you needed them the most?
    The story of Peter is a story of a close relationship that was devastated and then restored. Think about Peter for a few minutes. Peter was a man of great faith. Peter dropped his nets and his fishing business and left it all behind in order to follow Jesus and make fishers of men (Matthew 4:18). It was Peter alone that joined Jesus out on the open water while the other disciples remained in the boat (Matthew 14:28). And it was Peter alone that declared Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).
     Peter was also a man of great love and loyalty. It was Peter that pulled Jesus aside and informed Him that He needed to stop already with the talk of his death ( Matthew 16:22). It is Peter that initially refused to allow Christ to wash his feet (John 13:8). It was Peter that declared that even if every person fell away from Him that he would remain faithful (Matthew 26:31-35). And it was Peter that cut off the ear of the servant that came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10).
     All of this was out of the great love and loyalty and respect that Peter had for Jesus. Peter had such high respect for Jesus that he could never ever imagine that the Son of God would be arrested, beaten, spit on, mocked, and executed. For Peter, that was just unimaginable.
     And then his friend is arrested. And Peter is confused and scared, and in a moment he blew it. He stabbed Jesus in the back. He kicked Jesus when He was down.  I think of all the things that hurt Jesus; His best friend selling him out was at the top of the list. He knew it was coming but it still hurt badly. Jesus must have thought – I’ve invested so much in this person and they turn their back on me when I need them more than ever. Luke 22:61 captures the heartache – “The Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord.” 
      And the Bible says, Peter wept bitterly. He sobbed uncontrollably. His is a picture of regret, pain, loss, guilt, and shame. I’m not sure there is anything in this life quite as painful as a fractured relationship.
     So now our story changes from examining Peter to examining Jesus. Because…. There is only one main character in the Passion and that is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus The Christ! What did Jesus do in order to repair this fractured relationship with perhaps his best friend in the whole world?
 
1. Jesus made the first move (Mark 16:7) 
     Mark 16:7 to me is one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible. The angel of the Lord tells the ladies at the tomb – The Lord has a message. I want you to go and let the disciples know, and let Peter know too. I called him out by name. I love him and have plans for him and am not finished with him. You let Peter know that I’m looking for him! 
 
2. Jesus took intentional steps toward complete restoration (John 21)
     John 21 records the time that Jesus went to Peter and the disciples, and brought up a good memory (miraculous catch). It was something they had shared together that meant a lot to both of them. And then, He completely forgave him and completely restored their relationship. Peter had denied Christ 3 times. Jesus restored Peter 3 times. It was a complete restoration.  And then Jesus said, let’s get back to work. It’s over. Let’s move forward.
     And that same guy is the Peter that went on to be the leader of the New Testament church. The first time he preached 3000 people got saved. And tradition has it that Peter was martyred in Rome by Nero in A.D. 67, that he was crucified upside down, feeling he was unworthy to die as his Savior had. Our Jesus can take someone that has hurt someone very deeply and use them very greatly! 
 
     For someone reading this, Jesus wants to let you know He is making the first move on your behalf. He loves you! He has a plan for you! He’s not finished with you! And this article is to let you know that Jesus is looking for you. Run to Him today. I believe that the reason Peter ran to the empty tomb was not in order to verify the power of Jesus through the Resurrection. Not Peter. Peter never had trouble believing Jesus was the Christ. He saw it when no one else did. Peter ran to the empty tomb that morning to let his best friend in the whole world know how sorry He was for letting Him down. You can do the same and run to Him today.
     For someone else, Jesus is calling you to make the first move in a fractured relationship. Would you be willing to bury your pride and make that difficult first move toward reconciliation and restoration. Maybe you need to bring up a shared memory that meant something to both of you, and then forgive completely and for good. 

     Nadine Collier became famous in June of 2015 for three words she said to Dylan Roof, the young white man who a few days earlier had gunned down her mother and eight other African-Americans during a Wed. Bible study at their Charleston church: “I forgive you.” With those words about the June 17, 2015 killings, Collier set off a global debate about forgiveness. Over a year later, her grief is heavy. Collier misses the sound of her mother’s voice, the smile on her face she greeted worshipers as an usher at Emanuel AME Church, the spring in her step when she led the procession for Communion. Collier said that she learned in the bond hearing that forgiveness isn’t weak. It’s not resignation or a duty done begrudgingly. And it is not easy. Here is her full address to Roof:

     “I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”… You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”
 
    God used this Word in my life. I pray that God will use this Word to restore a relationship in your life that is fractured! 
 

 


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