Blessing Tree

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of all the blessings in our lives. I am abundantly blessed.

I am blessed to have faith in a Savior who was born on earth, lived as a man, died, was buried, and then resurrected to give me eternal life.

I am blessed by a family who is as close as a family can be. We love each other and like to spend time together. We laugh and play and eat and worship together.

I am blessed with friends who are kind and fun and loyal.

My faith and family and friends are my greatest treasures in life.

For my blessing tree this year, I have asked every guest in my home during the holiday to write down a blessing they have received and add it to my blessing garland. The red, white, and green garland is the perfect accent for the tree that holds my special ornaments made and collected over the years. The tree is filled with memories of my children and holds their handcrafted decorations and pictures. By hosting several holiday events, my tree reflects many blessings: family, health, grandchildren, faith, friends. It is heartwarming to read blessing after blessing. I didn’t read one blessing that referred to anything materialistic. Each person took time to give thanks to God for his goodness.

As we look ahead to 2013 let’s continue to thank God for his goodness and claim the promises of Scripture. God wants to bless us abundantly. We are not promised financial prosperity, but God promises us spiritual blessings of peace, love, joy, forgiveness that exceed any financial blessing we can imagine.

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:12)

 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD (Psalm 89:15)

Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:1-3)

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Choose to focus on God’s blessings!


Monday, December 10, 2012

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. Psalm 62:5

During this Advent season one of the words I’m dwelling on is expectations. I loved reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in my 9th grade English class. Born in humble circumstances and poorly educated, Pip's great expectations were to become a wealthy and educated gentleman. His life was suddenly turned upside down when he was visited by a London lawyer to inform him that he had come into the great expectations of handsome property and would be trained as a gentleman on the behalf of an anonymous benefactor. Unfortunately, Pip’s financial and social rise also resulted in an emotional and moral decline as he focused on wealth and status.

Perhaps a better role model for living in expectation is Simeon, the honorable Jew who lived in eager anticipation of the coming Christ.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…” Luke 2:25-28

Simeon was a righteous man who lived his life waiting with expectation, eagerly looking for the “consolation of Israel,” the one who would fulfill the hopes and dreams of the Jews. Imagine be known as one who was so filled with God’s spirit that he lived a life excited about coming Christ. Imagine living a life, day after day, with excitement and anticipation of the Messiah. For generations, the promise that a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter, and from family to family. After centuries of waiting, God’s promise came true as Simeon held the expected one in his arms. In the baby Jesus, Simeon saw the long awaited one, the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Living in expectation is an important part of life because it brings with it hope and excitement. During this advent season we are to commemorate the birth of Jesus but we are also to live with eager anticipation for his return.

Is it possible to devote our lives to the eager expectation that Simeon demonstrated?

Isaiah 40:31 shows us what happens in our lives when we live in eager expectation for God.

"But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired." (Amplified Bible)

We will gain strength and power. We will draw closer to God. We will run and not become tired. I would like to stir up my expectations but what does that mean?

Philippians 1:20 tells us how our lives will look when we eagerly for Christ.

"For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die." (NLT)

When we are committed to expectant living, we choose to live a life that doesn’t cause shame, is bold for Christ, and honors him.

As we anticipate the return on Christ, here are some ways to live with expectancy:

• Ask God to stir up your heart with a spirit of expectancy.

• Read scriptures that focus on the blessed hope we have in life eternal with Christ and with his return to earth.

• Remain faithful to your biblical purpose: to glorify God and edify others.

• Live in love and serve in ministry

• Surround yourself with others who choose to live a life of hope and anticipation for Christ’s return.

“Come, thou long expected Jesus!”

Be Prepared

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do you recognize the emblems in the pictures? They represent the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I proudly wore the uniform of the Brownies and Girl Scouts and remember each week reciting the motto, “Be prepared.” The 1947 Girl Scout handbook put it this way, “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.” We learned all sorts of skills to help us to be prepared for whatever situation we were in.

This week marks a special time in the life of the church as we begin the Advent season. Advent is another way of saying, “Be prepared.” We begin sort of a countdown to Christmas. That countdown began for me weeks ago. I’m preparing my house for a Christmas Tour of Homes so I’ve been a busy elf readying the house for visitors. I’ve brought out the trees, ornaments, lights, and household decorations, all in cranberry, gold, and green, in order to create a festive atmosphere in my home. It’s pretty exhausting getting prepared for an event, isn’t it!

And there’s the shopping and cooking I do to prepare for Christmas celebrations. I have begun the gift buying for family and friends. Even with online purchasing such a convenience, there’s still a lot of thought and planning that goes into my purchases. Oh, and all the food preparations. I need to consider the perfect cookies to make for the annual cookie swap with the moms’ group I lead. And Christmas dinner for the family is at my house, so I need to make sure I’m prepared with plenty of food and just the right table decorations.

Oh, yes, I’m getting prepared for a Christmas filled with festive decorations, beautifully wrapped presents, and scrumptious food. But…isn’t there much more preparation that needs to be done? I really need to prepare my heart for Jesus. The Advent season is the time to commemorate the First Coming of Christ and to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus promised that he would return to earth and that we must watch and be prepared for his coming. We know when Christmas happens each year, but we do not know when Christ will return. How do we prepare? We need to busy ourselves doing the things he taught us by living out of twofold biblical purpose: Glorify God and edify others. When we remember to show our love for God and one another, we are preparing the greatest event we Christians will experience – the return of our Savior to the earth.

So…during the Advent season I will take time to experience the real joy of Christmas. I’m going to focus each week of the season on one of four words that help me to experience a prayerful Advent.

Week 1: Expectancy - looking forward to Jesus’ coming with excitement and hope

Week 2: Preparation – taking time to prepare my heart for the Christmas season by spending time daily in prayer and meditation

Week 3: Faith – examining where I am in my spiritual journey and determining where I need to be

Week 4: Promise – reflecting on the promises of God to be with me always and making promises of my own to God

“My soul finds rest in God alone; My salvation comes from God.”

Psalm 62:1

Thanksgiving Branch

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Thanksgiving Day millions of Americans will gather with loved ones to celebrate our blessings. This year I created a Thanksgiving branch arrangement as a reminder of the blessings of friends and family. When guests come to my home during the season, I ask them to write a blessing or two on a card and then I hang it on a branch in the arrangement. It’s been a great addition to my holiday traditions and I enjoy reading what my friends and family hold dear. Most people list their relationships and their faith. We could all fill a Thanksgiving blessing branch to overflowing with our own list of blessings. My blessings seem to fall into these categories: faith, family, friends, favor, and focus.
  • Faith in a God that is good – always good.
  • Family that makes me laugh and loves me in spite of myself.
  • Friends who loyal and loving and funny and kind. 
  • Favor given by God who calls each of us his “favorite.” 
  • Focus on my life’s purpose.
"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his faithful love endures forever!" Psalm 107

Another Thanksgiving idea…. provides a great idea to remind us of our nation’s blessings. The snack mix favor called Thanksgiving Blessing Mix includes a Thanksgiving Blessing to share with family and friends during the holiday.
 2 cups Bugles brand corn snacks
 2 cups small pretzels
 1 cup candy corn
 1 cup dried fruit bits or raisins
 1 cup peanuts or sunflower seeds
 1 cup M&Ms-brand chocolate candy
 16 Hershey's-brand chocolate kisses
 In a large bowl, gently mix all ingredients except Hershey's Kisses.
 Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup Thanksgiving Blessing Mix in small cellophane treat bags. Add one Hershey's Kiss to each bag. Close bag with chenille stem or twist-tie.
Makes 16 Blessing Mix gift bags.
Thanksgiving Blessing
Bugles: Shaped like a cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, a symbol of our nation's abundance.
 Pretzels: Arms folded in prayer, a freedom sought by those who founded our country.
Candy corn: Sacrifices of the Pilgrims' first winter. Food was so scarce that settlers survived on just a few kernels of corn a day.
 Nuts or seeds: Promise of a a future harvest, one we will reap only if seeds are planted and tended with diligence.
 Dried fruits: Harvest gifts of our bountiful land.
 M&Ms: Memories of those who came before us to guide us to a blessed future.
 Hershey's Kiss: The love of family and friends that sweetens our lives.

Troubled Waters

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Do you remember a day you waited for with great anticipation and excitement? It may have been a birthday, a holiday, a wedding, a graduation, or a special event. You probably thought about it often, maybe you dreamed about it, and you probably talked about it frequently to your friends and family. Depending on your personality, you may have had some anxiety because of the challenges involved in the occasion.

Imagine the anticipation and excitement the Israelites faced as they stood before the Jordan River the evening before they were to cross over into the Promised Land. They knew that on the other side of the river they would find the life they had dreamed of.

The Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. They had the Promised Land in sight but there was one problem: the Jordan River lay in their path. It was flooding season, and the waters were deep and turbulent. They most certainly felt anxious as they looked out over the swollen river and also considered the fortified cities that surrounded them. The Israelites had a spiritual mountain to overcome; they needed to pass through troubled waters. Even as we approach a momentous occasion, we are often faced with troubled waters.

Joshua gave the Israelites an encouraging word from God.

Then Joshua addressed the people: “Sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle-wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5

God did not make the rivers subside, but he gave Joshua a set of orders that he passed on to the rest of the camp.
1. Camp officers were to order the people to keep an eye on the Ark of the Covenant. As soon as they see the priests carrying it, they were to fall in behind.
2. The whole group was to expect something amazing to happen.
3. The priests were to pick up the ark and then go stand in the river.
This last command took courage. They had not experienced the parting of the Red Sea like the previous generation. They had wondered the desert, so the priests didn’t even know how to swim. But…the priests had faith that as soon as their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. The priests stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan River while the Israelites passed on to dry land. God stopped the river from flowing AFTER the priests put their feet in the water.
The Israelites shifted their focus from their mountain to God and God performed miracles. Their mountain became a miracle. They stepped out in faith right into the middle of troubled waters and God led them to the other side.
What mountains have your focus?
  • A financial problem
  • A troubled marriage
  • A struggling child
  • Poor self-esteem
  • A bad habit
  • A physical habit
  • A bad attitude
  • Family problems
Maybe we need to shift the focus of our prayer. Let’s quit focusing on the mountain. God knows our mountains. How does it look and sound when we focus on the mountain? We dwell on the problem. We try to work out the solution when what God wants is for us to step out in faith right in the middle of our mountain so that he can lead us to the other side.
Let’s focus our attention on the one who can move mountains.
Let’s spend time adoring him, confessing to him, thanking him, asking him to show us his presence. Let’s pray in faith. Let’s have the courage to step out in faith. God will work miracle wonders among you.

God Box

Monday, October 22, 2012

A friend recently loaned me the book The God Box by Mary Lou Quinlan, and said she thought I would enjoy it. She added, "It will remind you of your mother." That was all I needed to hear. I knew that anything that would remind me of my mother would be a good read. My mother (we affectionately call her St. Mary) is a saint above saints, a prayer warrior, a model mother, and my dear friend. Quinlan shares the beautiful story of her own prayer warrior mother in the book.

In the midst of grieving for the loss of her beloved mother, Quinlan finds her mother's "God Box," a private collection of notes to God. Mary Finlayson (note: our moms share the same first name) had jotted down prayer requests to God on behalf of family, friends, and strangers and stuffed them into boxes. These petitions spanned twenty years of Mary's life. Imagine the emotional journey that Mary Lou and her family took as they uncovered request after request, the joys and the sorrows of the last two decades that Mary had given to God.

Mary Lou writes, "Mom's faith never flagged. She never stopped hoping for a cure or a miracle." Isn't that a tag line we would all be honored to have after our name - "His faith never flagged." "Her faith never flagged." Instead of grousing and giving up, what if we all kept our faith strong and gave our petitions up to God! This unfailing faith and prayer perseverance is what I see in my own mother.
Instead of a God Box, Mom writes her petitions in her devotional books and in her journals. Dozens of journals are stacked in corners of her bedroom, each containing the accounts of the lives of her family, the blessings of each day, and the petitions for each member of her brood. In her prayers she is bold and specific, recounting to God the trials and triumphs of each family  member. Her ultimate plea to God is for all of us to "walk humbly with our God" and to live in God's plan for our lives.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Mom is living her legacy, one filled with undying faith, abiding love, and persevering prayer. What a blessing! What a legacy! Thank you, God, for the power of a praying mother!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pencils come in all shapes, sizes, designs, and colors. One end is used to write; the other to erase our mistakes. I make lots of mistakes, so the eraser end of my pencils have worn thin.  People are a lot like pencils. We come in all shapes, sizes, designs, and colors, and we all make mistakes. Fortunately, God sent his son to die for us and erase our mistakes. He wants to forgive us and he will over and over.  But he wants us to ask for his forgiveness.

Then he expects us to forgive others ---over and over and over. When Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive, Jesus said seven times seventy. I believe Jesus used that huge number because he knew that we would eventually lose count and keep forgiving people over and over.\

But, what does it mean to forgive others?

When you forgive another person, you no longer allow their behavior to cause you anger, pain, bitterness, or resentment. When you choose not to forgive, you make the choice to hold on to your feelings of resentment, anger, and pain.

Forgiving another does not mean you will never again feel the pain or remember the thing that hurt you. The hurtful experience will be in your memory forever. By forgiving, you are not pretending the hurtful behavior never happened. It did happen. The important thing is to learn from it while letting go of the painful feelings.

Forgiveness is not about right or wrong. It doesn’t mean that the person’s behavior was okay. You are not excusing their behavior or giving permission for the behavior to be repeated or continued.

When you forgive another, it does not mean you wish to continue your relationship with them. This is a separate decision. You can forgive a person and live your life apart from them.

Let us accept God's forgiveness and then extend that to others - over and over again.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

I used to love the game Sorry! when I was a kid.  The game title comes from the many ways in which a player can prevent the progress of another player, while issuing an apologetic "Sorry!"

"Sorry!" Oh, how easily that word sometimes rolls off the tongue with no sincerity or depth of meaning. Often people think that saying the "sorry" word gets them off the hook for any sort of indiscretion.  True repentance though involves more than a token "sorry."

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." Remember that line from the popular 70s movie Love Story? I never did buy into that idea. Relationships involve all kinds of opportunities to apologize and to forgive.

Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Jennifer Thomas have identified five "languages" of an apology that when applied, can greatly enhance our relationships.

Expressing Regret
"I am sorry."

Accepting Responsibility
"I was wrong."

Making Restitution
"What can I do to make it right?"

Genuinely Repenting
"I'll try not to do that again."

Requesting Forgiveness
"Will you please forgive me?"

Usually, we don't get past step one when it comes to expressing a regret. We mumble a confession and then offer excuses and explanantions. The "language of apology" provides steps to lead us to be sincere and to make amends for our wrongdoings.

I wonder how many marriages could be saved by couples practicing persuasive apologies. How many children could grow up taking ownership of their wrongdoings or careless behavior by being taught how to apologize? How many work relationships could be strengthened by people offering sincere apologies?

The most important relationship that requires repentance is the one we have with Jesus Christ. Repentance is an essential element of the Christian faith.

"...repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:47)

"Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

Let's use the "language of apology" in not only our relationships on earth but in the one that will give us eternal rewards - the one with our Heavenly Father.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How does the Holy Spirit fit into our lives? John Wesley describes grace as having 3 components:

1. Prevenient grace

From birth God's grace prepares us for new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit goes before us (prevenient) preparing us in order to bring us to faith. Consider the image of a path that leads to our spiritual house. It is on the path where God pursues us. The Holy Spirit goes before us, pursuing us in gentle and love ways. How might that look and feel?

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John 12:32

2. Justifying grace

We accept this grace offered to us and come into new life in Christ. Justifying or Accepting Grace describes the way we receive forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life when we repent and ask forgiveness. Consider the image of a porch at the end of the path where God has been pursuing us. At the porch of our spiriutal house we receive God’s forgiveness of sin and accept Christ as Lord. This is the grace that brings us to faith and salvation. This comes to people at various times – some are young, some are not.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not form ourselves, it is the gift of God --not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

3. Sanctifying grace

After accepting God's grace, we move into God's sanctyifying or sustaining grace. This is the beginning of our new life in Christ. Day to day we are being made perfect in love and motives. In our image we've moved from the path and from the porch to the inside the house where we open every room of our lives to the Holy Spirit. This grace accepts us for who we are but wants to make us better. Our goal is to open all the rooms of our spiritual house so that God can heal the broken places and motivate us to leave the places where we are stuck.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)

When we are willing to open all of our rooms for Christ, we will have transformed lives. The key to real peace and happiness is inviting the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and walk with us every day.

What Are You Sowing?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus (Luke 8:5-15) tells of a farmer who set out to sow seeds. Some seeds feel along the path, some fell on rocky ground, some fell among thorns, and some fell on good soil. He goes on to tell his disciples that the seed represents the word of God. Jesus is actually describing four kinds of Christ-followers and how they "sow" the word of God into their lives.

The parable begs the question, "What are you doing with your seeds?" In other words, what are you doing with the Word of God in your life?
Have your seeds fallen along the path? You hear the word yet you allow someone else to remove it from your heart. Have the seeds fallen along the path of your busyness and are left lying dormant waiting to be picked up again and re-planted?
Are your seeds on rocky ground? Maybe you’re joyful about God’s word and work for a while but it’s all a bit superficial. It doesn’t last long because the seeds haven’t really taken root.
Are your seeds among the thorns? You hear the word of God. You’ve heard  it and you've read it. You've even studied in it how to cope with life and how to develop a strong relationship with God, but you give in to your weaknesses – your worries, materialism, worldy pleasures.
Or have they fallen on good soil? If so, Jesus says you have a noble and good heart. You hear God’s word, retain it and produce a crop. You internalize what you read and hear. You move forward in your relationship in faith and as a result you are producing good works.
When I taught high school students, I found many of them had a misunderstanding of how to prepare for tests. They thought if they glanced over the material and memorized some facts, they would be prepared. I told them good preparation means you internalize the information. You make it a part of you. The same principle applies for living out the Word of God.
We can read it and we can memorize some verses, but we need to internalize it and make it a part of us. When we do so, we'll have seed that's "fallen on good soil."  Oh, what a crop it will produce!
What is the next step for you to consider in order to plant your seed in good soil?  
  • Taking time to meditate on God’s Word?
  • Spending intentional time in prayer?
  • Acting on God's promptings?
  • Journaling?
  • Writing your prayers?
  • Spending more time in service – doing the Word?
  • Walking in the Word?
  • Listening?
 It's planting time!

Unleash God's Power

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Have you ever experienced a real connection between prayer and the release of God’s power? I have learned through many life experiences that there is a direction connection between my prayer life and my life responses. The more I count on God through fervent prayers, the more I notice that my attitude becomes brighter or I develop a courage I didn’t realize I had or I had an idea about how to effect change.

When my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer years ago, I couldn’t have been the supportive helpmate to him if it weren’t for the power of prayer. I gained God’s strength through prayer. As long as I focused on God and not the mountain of cancer, I knew I would have the strength to be a loving caregiver. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to keep on keeping on. The truth is I was not able to keep on keeping on, but God’s power energized me to carry out the many responsibilities of caring for my very sick husband, for working a full-time job, and doing the myriad of tasks each day brought. Yes, prayer unleashed God’s power in me.

The Israelites learned the connection of and God’s power through Moses’ example. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites, Moses told Joshua to gather his men to fight. Moses promised to stand on top of the hill and pray with the staff of God in his hands lifted toward heaven. So Joshua obeyed the command and fought the Amalekites. Moses, Aaron, and Hur stayed on the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, he sat. Aaron and Hur even helped hold up his hands. Joshua’s army overcame the Amalekites. (Based on Exodus 17:8-13)

God’s power was released when Moses prayed. God’s power is released when we pray too. In the case of the Israelites, the power to win the battle was released. The power released when we pray looks different depending on what we pray for. In times of weakness, we may pray and receive courage. When we feel insecure about a situation, the power that’s released may be in the form of confidence.

Power can be released as…
  • Wisdom
  • An idea
  • Courage
  • Confidence
  • Perseverance
  • Staying power
  • A changed attitude
  • Altered circumstances
  • Miracles
  • Or many other forms
It's awesome to note how powerful it is for others, like Aaron and Hur, to come along beside us to lift us up and support us in our prayers. 

When your facing your Amalekites, remember the power of prayer. Prayer is the way to unlocking God’s power in your life. There is a connection between prayer and God’s power! Unleash his power!

Robin Roberts - Inspiration

Friday, August 31, 2012

What an inspiration Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts is as she faces MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease! As she began her leave of absence to start her treatment, she shared with viewers what she says are “gifts” she’s experiencing on this journey.
  • The Gift of Life – Her sister has donated the bone marrow for her transplant.
  • The Gift of Family – With every step of this experience, she feels the love, kindness, and support of her family.
  • The Gift of Laughter – Family members make her laugh even during the darkest times.
  • The Gift of Knowledge – Her medical team teaches her about her disease and treatment for there is more comfort in knowing than not.
  • The Gift of Giving – She raises awareness of her illness and has encouraged others to become donors.
  • The Gift of Friendship – “Team Robin” cheer her on in the fight.
Roberts shares that her faith is what sustains her and it’s obvious that the power of prayer strengthens her resolve. Her sister and donor, Sally Ann, prays three things for Robin’s life: strength, wisdom, and favor. What a blessed prayer to pray into anyone’s life - strength to fight on, wisdom through the myriad of decisions ahead, and God’s blessings and unmerited favor even through the struggle.
As a visible reminder of her faith, Robin created a prayer bracelet denoting the Prayer for Protection that her mother taught the Roberts children. 

The Light of God surrounds me. 
The Love of God enfolds me. 
The Power of God protects me. 
The Presence of God watches over me. 
Wherever I am, God is.
Knowing the journey will not be easy, Robin Roberts chooses to focus on the gifts. Let’s be inspired to count our own gifts during the good times and the challenging ones

Prayer Talk

Sunday, August 26, 2012

We Christ Followers come to our prayer experiences from so many different backgrounds. I am blessed to have wonderful prayer models. Some of my first memories are of my parents on bended knees every night before they went to sleep.

I call my mom a "Prayer Angel." She lives in a constant attitude of prayer. She starts each day with prayer using devotional books that are marked with prayer requests and notes of answered prayer. She prays for each family member by name and with specificity every day. What a beautiful comfort to know that every day of my life I have been lifted up to God.

I call my dad a "Prayer Warrior." He is perhaps the best public prayer I've ever heard. I remember Dad always had a prayer list taped to his mirror. Each day as he shaved, he prayed for his list, mostly the men in his Sunday School class. He kept men on his list who had never made a profession of faith and prayed for them until he could place a check by their name - saved.

My parents taught me to pray. From the time I could speak, I learned to pray, "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Before every meal whether at home or away, we said the blessing. I first learned, "God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food." We had the "Bread of Life" cards in a bread-shaped container on our table and we would read a scripture and then a prayer on the back.

Yes, my models of prayer helped me to develop my own prayer patterns. I now begin my daily season of prayer by saying, "Lord, help me to be open to the giving and receiving of your blessings today and do all things pleasing in your sight." That prayer opens my running dialogue with God for the day and helps me to focus on all the good things he sends my way. By being blessing focused, I find I'm a little better equipped to face the challenges that inevitably come.

Not everyone has prayer models like mine or learned at an early age to talk to our Heavenly Father. But no matter where we are on our spiritual journey, we can go to God and pour out our hearts, whisper a prayer, or just utter our groanings to him. He hears us whether we've practiced and prayed all our lives or just begun to pray.

Have a little talk with Jesus today!

Be unceasing in prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17

View video of Prayer Prompts -

Christian Community

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Athletes Village in the Olympic Park will be home to thousands of Olympic and Paralympic athletes in 2012. IN this beautiful facility the athletes will eat, drink, sleep, visit with their families and friends. They will prepare for the biggest competition of their lives. They will live in community with each other.

What does it mean to live in Christian community?

The Early Church had a clear understanding of what it means to live in community? Here’s how Paul describes it in Acts 2.

"And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:44-47

Dieterich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, described Christian community this way -

"Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through Jesus Christ. What does this mean? It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity."

(from Life Together, by Dieterich Bonhoeffer, 1954)

From these descriptions we see that Christian community is a place where Christ-followers become the hands and feet of Jesus. It is where we serve, love, and care for others in the name of Christ whether we have a brief encounter with them or a lifetime relationship. Christian community becomes a way of life.

Isaiah 58: 11-12 describes the strength we get and the benefits we receive when we live in Christian community.

11 The LORD will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

Let’s be mindful of living in community wherever we are.


Monday, July 2, 2012

All wounds involve hurt and pain. Many times we continue to live in hurt and pain because we aren’t really willing to let go – let go of negative thoughts, bitterness, anger, or memories. Sometimes we don’t want to let go because we haven’t learned to forgive. Many emotional wounds are connected in some way to unforgiveness - unforgiveness of self or someone else.

Emotional hurts are an open wound for unforgiveness. Unforgiveness results in anger, bitterness, depression, and anxiety – all weaknesses in our character. We must forgive others and seek forgiveness in order for healing to occur.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

What Is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a decision to let go. It means that you no longer allow someone else to cause you bitterness, resentment, anger, or pain.

What Forgiveness Is Not
Forgiveness does NOT mean you will not remember the hurt.
Forgiveness does NOT excuse someone’s behavior.
Forgiveness does NOT mean you condone an action.
Forgiveness does NOT mean that a relationship must continue.

Jesus is our model of forgiveness!
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. (34) And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:33-34 ESV

Characteristic of Champions

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I have such great memories of Olympic athletes. Some of my favorites are figure skater Dorothy Hamill, speed skater Eric Heiden, gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and swimmer Mark Spitz. These Olympians worked steadfastly over many years to achieve their goal. As I began to think of the similarities of their journeys and our own spiritual journeys, I came across a study done by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina. They studied 10 US Olympians to determine the traits they had in common. I think we can learn a great deal by examining those traits and seeing how we can apply them to our own faith journeys.

1.  High Motivation and Commitment
They spent many years developing the skills necessary to compete at a high level. They were persistent in seeking to achieve their goals. Their drive was fueled by an inner desire, not an external desire, to accomplish their goal.
2.  Optimistic and Positive
Their optimism caused them to look at the athletic glass as "half full versus half empty." They were able to "move on" in the face of disappointment or losses. Rather than becoming disenchanted when their performance was not optimal, the athletes focused on the positive aspects of their performance.
3.  Uncanny Ability to Focus
The Olympians had the ability to concentrate or focus on the task at hand and could block out distractions. They could "dial in" and "intensely focus and quiet the mind."
4.  The Ability to Handle Stress and Cope with Adversity
They were able to deal with the routine setbacks and anxiety associated with training and competing in developmental and elite levels of competition.
5.  Mentally Tough
Mental toughness was another important trait. It was seen in their resilience, perseverance, and the ability to successfully deal with adversity.

When you review the list in the context of spiritual growth, you will see that these characteristics can also be used in our spiritual journey.
1.  Let's become highly motivated and committed to our journey with Christ.
2.  Let's stay optimistic and positive even in the midst of setbacks and disappointments.
3.  Let's develop an uncanny ability to focus on God and his word.
4.  Let's work on our ability to handle stress of daily living.
5.  When we practice these traits, we will develop a spiritual toughness that will see us through our journey.

To view a 16 minute video of this lesson and learn more about living in strengths through the Strengths of the Spirit, Spiritual Discipline, and the Strength of Time, click the link below.

LeadingForward has shared a video with you on YouTube:
Dr.Cathy Robbs Turner shares the 2nd session of the series Living in Your Strengths. She shares the top traits of Olympic athletes and shows how we can incorporate them in our spiritual journeys.

Lighting the Flame

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This summer the Olympic Games will be held in London. I look forward to watching my favorite events: swimming and gymnastics. I’ve spent some time researching the Olympics, and I think there are a lot of things we can learn from athletes, from the Ancient Olympics, and the Modern Olympic movement. We can make connections between living in our strengths and living the Olympic dream.

Let’s begin with Lighting the Flame. The lighting of the flame is the symbol to the world that the Olympics are fast approaching.

The Olympic Torch was ignited in May in Greece at the site of the ancient Olympics. It was then passed to a Greek athlete who began a seven-day relay through Greece, followed by a flight to Great Britain. Then it began a 70-day journey, changing hands 8,000 times on its way to London.
This Olympic Torch Relay will end on the day of the opening ceremony when the final torch bearer will run towards the cauldron and using the torch, will light the flame in the stadium. The flame will continue to burn throughout the Olympics and will be extinguished on the day of the closing ceremony.

The image is a beautiful one. All flames come from a common source. Runners are in a relay moving toward the same goal. The world feels a sense of international unity. People come together for a common cause, a celebration of achievement. We see lots of people moving with a sense of purpose.

These images call to mind the common cause of Christ Followers.

We too come from a common source. We too are runners in a relay moving toward the same goal. We too want a sense of international unity with people coming together for a common cause. We too celebrate achievement. We too come together with a sense of purpose….for as long as the flame is lit.

For as long as our flame is lit …and therein lies our problem. Often our flame of purpose is extinguished. We lose our fire, our zeal for following Christ day to day. We live in our strengths for a while and then we fall back into old habits and our weaknesses reappear. It’s often hard to live in our purpose and to live in our strengths on a consistent basis. Consistently shining our light for Christ is often a challenge.

But we are called to…keep on keeping on. We are to live in our strengths and our purpose so that we can be the light in the world. The way we keep in keeping on is to stay close to the source of our light.

Our Olympic size lesson is…

To stay on fire for Christ, we must live close to the flame.

Jesus tells us in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

Christ is our flame. In order for us to reflect his light, we must live very close to him. Living close to our flame means we need to follow him, read his word, pray to him, meditate on him, and really listen for his voice.

The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning "Faster, Higher, Stronger".

Let’s run our race for the light of the world “faster, higher, stronger.”

To view a video of Living in Your Strengths Session 1: Lighting the Flame, click below.

Lighting the Flame video

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