Familiar

Familiar
fa·mil·iar
1. well known from long or close association.
“their faces will be familiar to many of you”
2. in close friendship; intimate.
“she had not realized they were on such familiar terms
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Many things can be familiar to us.  We have a friends and experiences from the past and current.  With social media as it is, we are able to see friends from the past and they are familiar.  We remember them as they were when we were young but now they have children and grandchildren. We can stay familiar through media.  We’re able to stay connected.
Families a lot of the time live apart.  As mine does, I only have a few close in my area.  But I’m able to stay familiar with how their families are doing and growing.  The new experiences they are having.  The joys they are blessed with and the trials they are going through.  We’re able to stay connected.
Where feelings and emotions are concerned, being familiar, is valuable.  I may not be familiar with the individual but I can connect with that person because of my “familiarity” with their feelings or emotions.  I find my ability to connect to others through our “familiar” feelings as a great blessing.  We’re able to connect.
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1 Peter 4:12-13 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Lord, I rejoice in You!  I am thankful and grateful for the love that You continually show to me.  I ask You to help be stay strong in my faith and not to sink into pits of sorrow.  I know that I am well blessed.  I ask You to help me be intentional in staying connected.  Help me to remember the importance of sharing life with those I am “familiar” with. I praise You always. Amen!

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, this word could mean many things to many people. We could immediately think about the original Thanksgiving meal. This holiday feast dates back to 1621, when the Pilgrims and Indians gathered at Plymouth for their autumn harvest celebration, now called “Thanksgiving”. Your minds may go straight to the food, the feast on the table, drawing your every taste bud to a mouth watering turkey with all the trimmings. Some sweet potato casserole with nutty crunchy goodness on top, which is my favorite, yummy home grown green beans simmered in bacon grease, mac and cheese dripping in cheese and grand-maw’s famous yeast rolls. Or you may skip right over the main course and your mind goes to the counter full of scrumptious desserts calling your name. You may even day dream of a lazy day in your jammies, watching football and parades.

Where ever the mind takes you when thinking of “Thanksgiving”, there is only 1 place our hearts should take us. To the foot of the Cross!

Mark 8:34    And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Several years ago I read a book that pushed me over the edge of gratitude. As Ann Voskamp states,

Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.

and

We give thanks to God not because of how we feel, but because of Who He is.

Colossians 2:7 Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Life can be challenging!   I can say that with an emphatic “Amen”!   I choose to face each new day and even face my past with Thanksgiving.  Not because I’m all that!  But because Jesus is!  I can tell you without even the smallest of hesitation that HE’s Got This!  Whether “this” is Good or Hard!  So what lives in my heart, not in my belly, in my home, on the field or in the world, is Jesus.  He is my celebration each day and I will shout from the mountain tops my love and thanksgiving for Him.

A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving

A 21st Century Worship Resource

by The Rev. Dr. LaGretta Bjorn

Loving God, Creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come;
You made us human and gave us hearts to love you and follow you.

We thank you for the many blessings you have given us over this past year.

God, we thank you for all of the blessings you have given us throughout our lives:
Food to eat,
Clothes to wear,
Shelter from the storm,
People who love us unconditionally.

We thank you for their love because we recognize that their love for us is a reflection of your love.
We acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we, ourselves, feel unloved and unlovable.
Give us the grace to love others, even when they are difficult.

We trust in your faithfulness to carry us over the rough places of life.
We trust in your love to walk with us through the difficulties of our days.
We trust in your promise of life everlasting and put all of our hope in you.

We thank you for Jesus.
We thank you that he died so that we might have eternal life.

Forgive us for our sins:
The things you asked us to do and we failed to do
As well as the things you told us not to do but we did anyway.

We are sorry and we ask that you will strengthen us
So that we will always follow you.

We pray that your Holy Spirit will be felt by people who are in pain in mind, body or spirit.
elp them to know that you are with them
and you are able to carry them through their trials.

Bless our church family.
Bless our community.
Bless our nation.
Bless our world.

Enable us to live so that your will might be made manifest in the world around us. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior who taught us to pray as he taught his disciples.

Lord, I pray that I will remember each new dawn that You are my Joy.  I pray that I will always seek out the celebration of Thanksgiving with every new adventure.  I pray that when dealing with past, I will live only in the Grace that You have given to me.  I ask that You will wrap Your loving arms around those of this world who are hurting, those who may not know of Your Love and those even who have rejected You but are still searching in their hearts for You.  I ask You to be with my family.  To bring peace and love to their homes and fill their hearts with Joy.  I am grateful to be called daughter, wife, mom, friend and Lollie.  Amen!

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Why do I write?

Revelation 1:19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

I started small! It was when Facebook just started and I had a lot on my heart.  I would get a daily devotional each day and usually I would use a scripture from that devotional.  I would share the scripture and then write how it was speaking to me that day.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

It started out as a few sentences from the heart and then progressed into more lengthy insights.   I wrote because that was my time with God.  My time to dwell on what He was saying to me and make it pertinent in my life.   I also found that it touched the lives of some of my friends who would take a moment to read what I had written.  I did that almost every day for several years.  Then it was suggested to me to start a blog. That was a compliment to think that what I had to say may be pertinent in the lives of others but also it was a scary thought.  My personal FB page was one thing, surely my friends would be kind but to put my self out there to the world was a whole other ball game. But I did it.  That’s been a little over 2 years ago and I’ve remained steady in my writing.  I will say though that I’ve had times when I would question, “Why do I write?”.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

And I keep coming back to the same reason………. it’s my time for God to speak to me.  But now, I have the added motivation that God through me will also speak to you.  The bible is full of letters that were written to others all for varied reasons.  Some were to encourage, to warn, to rebuke, to teach,  sharing trials and rejoices.  Paul was one of many writers of these letters and was a great verbal warrior for Christ.  Can I be a verbal warrior for Christ?  Can I share my experiences, encourage, warn, sometimes maybe rebuke, teach and rejoice with you?  I hope I can!  I absolutely am not a scholar of all things bible.  I do not claim that!  But I am a scholar on how the God breathed scripture has changed my life.  How when I’ve been hopeless, he has brought me hope.   When I’ve been anguished, he has brought me peace.  When I’ve been in pain, he has brought me healing.  When I’ve not known which way to turn, he has brought me direction.  So although I may not have all the answers you want concerning the bible, God and Jesus,  I can assuredly tell you that He is My Savior and Friend and He is Yours Too.

So, if you’re trying to find a way to connect with Him.  Write!  Read!  Write!  Let Him talk with you through His words.  Then share them with someone!

Lord, I pray that I will continue to hear you speak to me.  I pray that you will guide me through your words that are written and help me understand the meaning of those words .  Make me brave enough to share them so that others may have the same hope, peace,healing and direction as you have given me. Amen!

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Excuse

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To place blame on others just to take the blame off you!  That is usually what an excuse is.  Obviously there are reasons for our behaviors, particularly if when we were young and our experiences were traumatic, but there comes a time, yes a time, for us to stop with the excuses.

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

In my recovery, I have had to face up to many things.  Things that were done by my hands and things that weren’t.  Hurtful and harmful things!  But there comes a time in our recovery that we must speak it, face it and let it go.  Once you have let it go there is no more room for excuses.  To grow and mature as an adult this will be key to our recovery.

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Life with a Broken Heart

Denise Bryant:  When you’re not even looking God puts people in your life that you just know will be a blessing to you.  And He did just that when He placed Denise in mine. We both ended up attending a meeting and sat next to each other, not by accident.  I don’t know her well at all at this time but I know that God has big plans for our friendship.  Denise is the leader of our local Community Bible Study, better known as CBS.  This group of women go through 1 book thoroughly each year.  The knowledge that she must have tucked away in her head.  I can’t wait to have a chance to dig through it.   Not only is she a blessing to me but she has been a blessing to so many and will continue that trend.  I’m so glad to be able to share her heart with  you.

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It was a blustery snow flurrying November day in 1959 when I entered this world.  I was blessed to be born into a loving Christian family.  As an infant my parents dedicated themselves to bring me up to know Jesus.  Attending church was a regular part of our week.  We rarely missed a service. After 3 ½ years I was joined by my sister and our family was complete.

When I was four we moved to another town, where finding a church home was high on my parents’ priority list.  After attending a couple of different churches we settled into one that became our church home.  In this church the foundation of scripture was laid. Revivals were a big part of our lives and in the fall of 1969 before our fall revival I was part of a class that was teaching the steps of salvation.  I was an avid student but had no real direction when the revival began to make that decision.  But on Thursday night when the invitation was given my heart was pounding so hard inside my chest, there was nothing else I could do except to step out into that aisle and walk to the front to proclaim Jesus as my Lord and follow Him into baptism. The next day at school I was sure that everyone had to know what this 9 year old girl had done the night before.  I was so free.  I felt like I was walking on air.

My life continued on this same path. But the teaching that I was presented with was more about legalism and works than about grace.  Once again our family was to move.  This move was only 20 miles away, but the changes were so much greater than the distance.  Yet Jesus was still my rock.  He was the cornerstone to everything that I did.  I was in high school now and my world was still rather small.  When challenges came I was secure enough to say no, because of the love and confidence that I had at home.  I confess I was easily frustrated and confused why so many of my classmates struggled and were so concerned about fitting in.  My naiveté blinded me to the fact that my home life was more the exception than the norm, leaving me judgmental of my fellow students’ choices.

College time came and I chose to attend the University of Kentucky, living at home and commuting.  My judgmental attitude followed me there.  It did serve to keep me out of trouble, because I had my checklist of do’s and don’ts and my fear of disappointing my parents was always in the back of my mind.

Throughout college I was active in Christian Student Fellowship and God so graciously opened my eyes to the gift I had been given growing up with parents that not only loved me but loved Jesus even more.  It was in these years He began to show me how harsh my judgments of others were.  But it was not enough to turn my heart around.

I had met my future husband, John, at the end of my senior year in high school.  We began dating at the end of that summer only to find that our focus for life, with God at the center, was completely different.  After about 3 months we went our separate ways.  For nearly 4 years we continued to run into each other at functions, feeling drawn together but knowing our lives were on two different courses.  During my last year of college, John came to me and told me that God had been chasing him and that he was seeking and searching for answers.  It still wasn’t time for us to return to dating.  He again disappeared from my life for about 9 months.  This return made it evident that God was the center of his life and within a month we were engaged.  Thirteen months later we were married.  God began using John to show me about freedom and what that should look like in my life.  I was still holding on to the judgment.  This different understanding of God’s love caused a few ripples in our relationship but we just kept moving forward.

Four years into our marriage we were surprised to find out we were going to be parents.  It definitely wasn’t our planned timing but we were excited.  In August 1986, we became parents to our precious baby boy, Jonathan.  Life really changed, and I loved being a mom.  It was the greatest!  I needed to work outside the home but after a few months we decided that the sacrifice was worth it for me to stay home.  Then in April 1991, Jonathan was joined with a baby sister, Anna.  Our life was complete.  We began homeschooling that fall and life was very hectic but blessed.  Church and family were the center of our lives.  Our goals were to teach our children about Jesus and to instill in them a love for God above all else.  But as crazy as it sounds, for the first time in my life I began to doubt.  I began to ask myself did I really believe all that I was teaching my children.  Did I really want them to see life as I had always seen it?  I was still living in a very legalistic mindset that was keeping me in a failure mode.  I couldn’t live up to my own expectations.  I was drowning in the failures.  John was trying to show me the glories of grace, but I couldn’t really embrace it.

One Sunday in our church one of the men talked about having a broken and contrite heart.  Just as when I was 9 years old my heart was pounding in my chest.  He asked if there was anyone there that wanted to pray for this broken and contrite heart to come forward and he would pray with us.  There were several that went forward and I was one of them.   Little did I know what this would mean?  Our lives changed drastically in the months and years to follow.

Tragedy seemed to come at us faster than we could process it.  My sister miscarried.  My father had a heart attack followed by open heart surgery.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 58.  John was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease and three months later my daughter, Anna and I were run over by our conversion van.  This all happened in less than two years.  God was good in the midst of it all.  My dad survived to live 17 more years, my sister became pregnant with twins, my mother-in-law developed a relationship with Jesus and John was healed.  Anna and I survived with few injures and I began to see my need for Jesus more than ever before.  But 7 months from that accident the children and I were traveling to church and I lost control of the van and drove into an embankment.  Again we survive with little physical damage, but now we were dealing with more emotional damage, for that same day at almost that same time a friend of ours was in a similar accident and she didn’t survive.  Survivors’ guilt became my best friend along with depression as I struggled to see my purpose in life.

I tried to battle the depression alone.  I had Jesus so why should I need any other help.  Finally I recognized that I couldn’t do it alone and sought counseling.  I went with a great deal of anger but life improved.  The improvement was short lived only to spiral down further the next time.  This cycle continued for several years until finally after Christmas one year I told John I was empty and numb.  I returned to the counselor and this time she had a different approach.  Medication was prescribed along with reading through the gospels as if I was there with Jesus and He was talking directly to me.  The scriptures became more than a rule book, now they became a love letter to me, personally.  I could hear Jesus speaking my name and began to understand His grace for me and my need for it.

The years that have followed have continued to open my eyes to His great love for me, but there are still struggles. God has given me a purpose beyond my dreams when called to me to teach His word to women and children weekly through the ministry of Community Bible Study in Winchester for the last 8 years.  What a joy to be used in this way!  John and I celebrated 35 years of marriage and this past year God blessed us with the gift of a grandson.  I pray to always desire a broken and contrite heart for with it comes the blessings of thanksgiving and the knowledge of my great need for Jesus.

To truimph over tragedy, is only done with God.  I thank you Lord for sending Denise to give me that reminder.  Amen!

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Silence

Five Minute Friday on Monday night
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The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
When I think of silence, I think of one particular time in my life when I know, I just knew I had to be silent.  It was a time during my 2nd marriage was falling apart.  My 1st marriage had failed for many reasons and I was determined that my second one would not.  But I was also determined that this go around I was not going to be a door mat.  No one was going to run over me again.  Hence, part of the reason my 2nd was failing.
I was done!  And God spoke to me, saying be quiet, I will fight for you.  And he did.  I literally closed my mouth for 1 year and He rebuilt a marriage.  That was 12 years ago and we are better than ever.   I now have a voice but without that time of silence, I wouldn’t be where I am and God wouldn’t have had the glory.  He has given me many other opportunities to be silent and every time He comes out on top!
Amen!
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Mistakes

A “Mistake”, some would argue what warrants being called a “mistake”.  Whether an action is intentional or unintentional, all actions have effects on the individual doing the action and most of the time on others.

mis·take
noun:   an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.
verb:   be wrong about.
I was watching one of my favorite night shows, “NCIS” and heard this statement.

“Even extraordinary people make mistakes, it’s a given. It’s our response to those mistakes that define us”.

I’m sure that there are many of you who have heard a quote similar to this. But for some reason, today, it stood out to me.  I have made plenty of mistakes and some have had minor consequences and some have had great ones.   And I have also experienced the consequences of other’s mistakes.  Regretfully some of those mistakes have had profound effects on me.  And this is where I come to the above quote.  I have chosen to respond to those effects graciously.  My own mistakes and the mistakes of others.  That is how I’m defined.

James 4:17

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has at one point or another made poor choices and everyone can be forgiven and cleansed but we only have 1 way of doing that so our mistakes do not define us.  And that way is through Christ.  Asking for forgiveness from Him, acknowledging our wrong doings, changing our behaviors and making amends to those our mistakes may have harmed.  If we continue to live with our mistakes buried inside, they will not hide away.  They will overtake us, consume us like a fire burning deep within.  They will show themselves in our future actions.  Christ does not want us to live with these mistakes, he wants us to let them go. Invite Him in!

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Lord, I thank You so for your promises to me and my life.  I thank you for your forgiveness for those choices/mistakes I have made.  I pray Lord that those who have been harmed by my mistakes will be healed.  I ask you to be with me as I continue to heal from the mistakes of others.  I ask you to help me be gracious and forgiving.  I pray for those who are carrying around mistakes/burdens and have not reached out to you for forgiveness yet.  I pray they will. Amen!

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The Value of Me

The Value of Me, is there any value?  Where does it come from?    What our name is, where we live, what we look like or who we’re married to.  A number of things can give us a false value. I have found my value in all these things but this value comes with a big price.  It is not lasting!

Ephesians 2:4-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …

I knew of God and I knew of His love for me.  I knew that it surpassed any love that others could possibly have.  I knew that he made me and I knew that he forgave me.  I knew that he would always be with me.  What I didn’t know is that this gift of love, mercy and grace was a open door to loving myself.   Something that I didn’t realize I could do.  Because of many things from my past.   I was not taught that I had value.  Only Jesus Christ taught me that.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

God gave me life.  Jesus gave me redemption. And the Holy Spirit has given me direction. Through the trials of our lives, we must find our strength to stand firm.  My strength came from Jesus.   I was lost in a world of delusion, putting my faith in things that were not real, trusting in people that didn’t have my back, believed in my own delusions rather than trusting and leaning in God’s truths.  When the going gets tough, I kept on going and ran right into the arms of Jesus.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Today I live in Christ not myself, not others and not in delusions.  I live in the truths that he has given me.  I am guided by the examples that Jesus has given me and I am allowing the Holy Spirit to walk with me through life.  My value is found in HIM!  This value is providing me with strength that I have never had before.  Strength to not be fearful, to not allow others to over power me, to not live in shame of my past and not hide away when faced with opposition.  Strength that has provided me with Hope,  has given me courage to stand firm on, has given me freedom from my past and willingness to face it head on and has given me strength to show opposition love, compassion, grace and forgiveness.  I now have Value in Me because Christ is who lives in me. 

 Only words of gratitude do I have for You Lord. Amen!

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