No Free “WHY-FI”

A friend of mine lost her battle to cancer after a seven year fight. As a strong Christian she had thousands of people praying for her. Yet, despite the multitude of prayers, my friend still died.

Through no fault of her own, a single-mother friend of mine was released from her job leaving her with insurmountable financial hardships.  Another friend, after extensive marriage counseling still found herself embroiled in a bitter divorce.

The stories are endless regarding the trials that many of us face in life. The common reaction to any type of trial or crisis in life is usually to ask, Why did this happen?”

It’s not as if knowing why will somehow magically fix whatever the situation is. More often than not this insatiable desire to ask why only serves to drive us that much crazier.

The fact of the matter is simple:  We’re not always meant to know why things happen as they do. God is sovereign and He is the one in control.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 55:8: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

The Bible also tells us in John 16:33:  "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." Admittedly it’s not a great selling point for Christianity knowing this, but then, life is full of trials regardless of whether we are a Christian or not.

The good news is that as believers when we have trials, rather than succumbing to the need to know “Why,” we’d do better asking — “What.”  What can I learn from this trial, Lord?

The Bible is our handbook for handling difficulties. When trials arise it’s good to remember there are no guarantees we’ll get free “why-fi;” only promises that we can trust the Word. “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

Blessings in Christ,
Kathy Kurlin
Author
www.kathleenkurlin.com

 

 

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Serious Cereal

We had a little situation at our house the other day. Oh, nothing major. Just a little scraped paint off a freshly decorated outlet cover, but what bothered me was the young culprit didn’t fess up until the “oops” stared mom straight in the face. We all need a visual sometimes, so here’s what happened next.

I marched my crew of four into the kitchen and handed each a single honey-nut flavored circle of yumminess.

“Put your cereal on the floor,” I instructed. Eyes wide with worried wonder—they complied. “Okay, now pick up the mess you made.”

Well, that was easy enough. But I wasn’t through with this little troop of lesson-learners.

“Bring me dad’s shoe.”

They watched in alarmed amazement as their mother systematically nudged the toe end of their father’s tennis shoe into their cereal bits, smashing them to a fine powder of breakfasty goodness.

“NOW pick up the mess—and I mean every bit of it.” They sat there carefully collecting each tiny crumb, while I bit back the lecture straining to spring from my lips. I knew it was important for them to feel the weight of this task, the time it took, the difficulty it required to “fix” what was “broken.”

With as much as they could manage now cupped in an upturned palm, I asked, “Which was easier? Cleaning up the mess when it first happened, or when it laid there for a while and got bigger?”

You and I both know the obvious answer, yet how easy is it to forget this basic truth ourselves? When an unkind word passes from us to a friend, when a slightly-higher-than-budgeted shopping receipt sneaks to the bottom of the pile, when a project could be completed with plenty of time to spare—if only we’d started six weeks ago when we were first asked, when a misunderstanding causes waves in an otherwise steady family relationship. It happens to all of us . . . daily.

“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him.” (Matthew 5:23-25)

God’s point is this: make it right, right away! Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (that’s in the Good Book somewhere too, if I’m not mistaken). Grab yourself a broom and take care of that mess before it requires a professional clean-up crew to do the job. Not only will your heart be lighter, but—most importantly—you will be free to worship God with an easy mind and a joyful spirit.

Bring it, breakfast cereal of life. We got this.

Jesseca Newton
Writer

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Our Reflection

I know I’m not alone when I say that I often look in the mirror and all I see are imperfections that are not Hollywood acceptable. We’ve been told to stop comparing ourselves - it’s the media - they pay to look like that. In reality the world has invaded our minds and as women it is hard not to wish we look like “her!”

In the last six months I’ve been fighting with the decision of what weight loss program I should try by asking myself which one will help me lose the most weight and how I can justify the expense to my husband. Friends of mine were doing them so, of course, I had to join in. Then, I realized I don’t have to do it too. While comparing myself I was feeling like a failure not losing weight as fast as others and it was breaking me inside. After I fought this mind game for about 2 months I decided I would just change my diet and begin working out at home. Bam! That was the answer. Or so I thought. One morning I came across a devotional that spoke of not being perfect anymore. That devotional was focused on our images and what we see vs. what God sees. In Psalms 139:14(NKJV) it says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” After reading that I realized I was going about this weight loss thing all wrong. I prayed and refocused. Keeping my healthy eating routine, I simply work out and take care of my body for God rather than the world and it has given me energy, confidence and less inches! Feeling defeated, I put God first and prayed for help to take care of my body the way HE wants me to. Now I don’t feel the pressure from everyone and I look in the mirror and see myself the way God sees me - not how I wanted to see me.

Ladies, comparing ourselves with the world will destroy us! It will take away our confidence, our beauty, and all of our energy. Focus on lifting yourself up each morning by asking God to help you see yourself as He sees you. YOU are beautiful just as you are!

Chrissy Shero
loveSTRONG ministries
Executive Leader

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Not My Shoes

The outside packaging touted the quality of the product within. No preservatives. No trans fatty acids. Only three ingredients. Vegan.

It was a typical Sunday morning. Someone couldn’t find their shoes and we were trying desperately to make it to church on time. This particular someone had supposedly looked everywhere for her black dress shoes. With limited options and the time quickly passing, I pointed to another pair and suggested that they would have to do. She gratefully agreed and we rushed to the car.

Upon arrival at church, I noticed that she was walking funny. When I inquired about her interesting gait, she responded, “My shoes are too big. These aren't mine." The shoes I pointed to - the ones that were in HER closet - were actually the larger version of the exact pair she owns (also missing) and belonged to her older sister. So she shuffled around church all morning in shoes that not only didn’t match her dress, but were also two sizes too big. She was quite the sight! Of course, she wasn’t the least bit bothered.

As adults, we wouldn’t intentionally go out wearing shoes that don’t fit - unless maybe it’s a quick run to the mailbox. But how often do we unintentionally try to walk in shoes that don’t fit? God may be calling us to do one thing, but we’ve got our minds set on something else. And so off we go… in shoes that don’t fit. Or, we serve in an area of church out of guilt or simply because there’s a need, not because we were called to it… off running in shoes that don’t fit. Or, maybe we try to fashion our gifts and talents into something that looks like someone else’s… shoes that don’t fit.

God created us as unique individuals. He has a specific purpose for each of us. We’ll be much more comfortable in life, experiencing peace and contentment, when we’re doing what God has called us to. Let’s wear the shoes that He intended for us to wear.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.Proverbs 19:21

Cindy Schufflebarger
Author and Speaker
www.cindyshufflebarger.com

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The Cover Up

Flattering shades of make up, layers of clothing, the right hair products, and trendy jewelry are used to hide, distract and make us feel better. There is no denying that. As we’ve all heard so many times, “Beauty is only skin deep.” However, with those cover up techniques we can make ourselves feel beautiful. There is no denying that, either.

Last Saturday at The Quest For Joy loveSTRONG ministries event we heard four Life Storytellers take off some of those distracting layers. As I listened to each one I heard a little of my own story in each Storyteller’s voice. While I watched each one talk about their quest toward joy I learned what they hid to make life feel better or at least look better on the outside. I am guilty of some of their same tactics. I also heard what caused them to not give up.

A friend of mine recently answered the question, “What increases joy?” His answer is a fearless obedience to God, day in and day out. Joy is not a euphoric action or a fleeting feeling. It is the consequence of a choice of who or what to follow. What this means is holding onto God’s hand even when you are drowning in illness or personal conflict. Nothing else can rescue you. Not another person or your own actions. Plain and simple, it is God. Life is not without hurt and we cannot escape from circumstances. What we can do is run toward joy, forgetting the past and moving on to a better future. In the book of John chapter 15 it says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full.”

We will continue to wear the cover ups, but God knows what is inside and how to give us joy. That is something that cannot be denied at all.

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries
Executive Leader

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What’s Eating You?

This past Easter during Lent (the six week period leading up to Easter) I felt God was leading me to give something up that I couldn’t seem to live without: sugar – in all its many forms. I’ve wrestled with weight issues and an eating disorder for most of my life and have had a particularly nasty addiction to sugar since childhood.

When I felt that holy nudge to lay down this addiction for six weeks I did so expecting to completely fail. After all – what would a life devoid of sugar actually look like? Sugar has been my “go to” drug of choice for as far back as I can remember. Whenever anything was eating me – I ate back with sugar.

As a stress eater, the idea of not eating my way through a crisis seemed highly unlikely, but I quit sugar cold-turkey, nonetheless. My body (and my brain) reacted to some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that were very painful – both physiologically as well as emotional. I suffered from headaches, body aches, anxiety and off the chart cravings that drove me to the brink of craziness.

It was right smack in the middle of all of this “suffering” that I truly came to understand what Christ must have endured during his 40 day fast in the wilderness and of course, his painful suffering on Calvary. Putting my “suffering” in the same category as Jesus’s suffering shamed me. Saying “no” to after dinner ice cream was nothing compared to Jesus’s anguish.

The greatest gift that God gave me during my Lent sacrifice was to open my eyes to the level of importance I had placed on my love of sugar. First John 5:21 shone a spotlight on the root of my core problem: Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

My problem wasn’t just a little sugar addiction. My real problem, my sin, was that I’d suffered my whole life from a heart condition. I put the need to “go to” sugar during an emotional crisis above my need for Jesus.

I can’t say that sacrificing sugar for six weeks magically healed me, but it did help me to see through eyes that weren’t always glazed over from eating icing or sprinkles. I’m not fixed yet, but I am making an effort to make Jesus my “go to” solution rather emotional eating whenever something is eating me.

How about you? What’s eating you? Is there anything taking God’s place in your heart? Why not let Jesus be your new “go to” solution.

Blessings in Christ,
Kathy Kurlin
Author
www.kathleenkurlin.com

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The Wisdom of a Woman

Currently, I am attending Bible College. The class I recently finished took an in depth look at every single book written within the New Testament. I had the opportunity to study the spread of first century Christianity, the men considered closest to Christ, and most importantly the man, the ministry, and the Messiah himself. Week after week, we peeled away the layers of Scripture and the deeper significance behind the words. The Bible came alive and as I studied the synoptics (Gospels) in greater detail, a particular set of Scriptures stood out. When Jesus hung upon the cross, the Gospel of Mark tells us in Mark 15:40-41 “Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph), and Salome. They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Then they and many other women had come with him to Jerusalem.”

Before we go any further, I need for you all to understand one key aspect here. Women and especially children, were not even considered “second class citizens” but were among the lowest levels of society within the early Jewish culture. Women were not even permitted to speak publicly in church meetings (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

Looking back at the scene of the crucifixion in Mark 15:47 we are told that “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.” Chapter 16 verses 1-2 opens with the following “The next evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices to put on Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they came to the tomb.” These women could do very little leading up to the crucifixion. They could not speak before the Jewish high council in Jesus’ defense, nor could they appeal to Pilate or the Roman guards who beat and mocked him. Yet, even when the disciples had fled for their own lives, these women remained at the feet of Jesus. They followed his body and prepared spices to take to the burial tomb. The preparation of such spices resembled a sign of love, respect, and devotion. Take note here, it is absolutely NO coincidence that these very women were the FIRST to encounter the angel at the opened tomb, and witnessed the miraculous wonders of the resurrected Christ. God blessed their diligence and devotion, as these women used the opportunities they did have, instead of dwelling on those they did not.

Do not for one second believe the lies of the enemy that you are “just a woman” for as I briefly touched on above, women featured prominently in the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and at the Pentecost. Again, this is truly NO mistake. A woman’s testimony during this time period was considered to be worthless, yet God used these very ladies to inform the disciples of what had just occurred. Could you imagine the level of pure joy that must have ensued when they looked upon the presence of Christ early that Sunday morning? Their faithfulness was profound, and God surely rewarded them for it.

My prayer for each of you today is that you are able to better recognize the significance and importance you have not only as a woman, but a woman of God. We are so blessed to reside in a country where we can share our faith. Take FULL advantage of that! I pray that He grants you the ultimate wisdom to act upon the opportunities you do have to remain steadfast and devoted to being a witness for Him. The women accounted for here could have lost their very lives for exhibiting their faithfulness. What do you have to lose?

Stefanie Calens
Writer
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How beautiful are the FEET of those who bring glad tidings of good things!

On the way home from a recent ministry trip, the man next to me on the plane immediately took off his shoes. After settling into our seats and exchanging pleasantries, I tried to figure out a way to diplomatically bring into the conversation how Dr. Scholl’s makes great odor-control shoe inserts. Instead, I thought it would be better to “toe” the line and politely suffer through the 2 ½ hour flight . After it was apparent we both wanted to read our books, I sat there (holding my breath) reviewing the last few days in my heart. I stared at my book pretending I didn’t smell the stench around me (it was no easy “feat”!). What came to mind (and nose ) was “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” I don’t know if you have ever heard that Halloween poem, but I wonder who in the world ever came up with that? It’s challenging, threatening, bossy, rude, and demanding.

Today we’re talking figuratively about smelly feet/sin. It’s so easy to recognize the stench of someone else’s feet to the neglect of our own. Recently some co-workers and I were confronted by some challenging, threatening, bossy, rude, and demanding people. My friends and I asked the Lord to cause us to love these women. Like trick-or-treaters demanding candy, they threatened when they didn’t get what they wanted. What they didn’t realize is their demanding actions, lack of kindness, and over-zealous words, made them appear to have their cause before Christ’s purpose….and who wants to reward or “treat” that kind of behavior? We would put a Twix in their candy bag, they complained they wanted a Snickers. We would give them a Snickers, and they complained it had nuts in it. Have you ever known people like that? Now here is where we have to take off our masks…have you ever been a person like that?

It has been my experience that people who act that way are calloused by insecurity, hurt, or wounds; greatly in need of some kindness, love, and affirmation. Sometimes it is best to gently confront such behavior, but one must make sure it is of the Spirit and not of self. Other times, as it was in our case through the example of Jesus in John 13:1-17, it is best to humbly wash their feet and love them. Feet can be dirty, smelly, ugly, have bunions, callouses, corns, and even worse, they can have fungus. You can’t polish over fungus and get rid of it (no matter how pretty the nail polish). Untreated, fungus can start eating away the very toenails meant to help protect the feet. Sin has a way of doing that to our hearts and lives too; it can eat away at our relationships and the blessings in our lives. Even though “pushy pink” polish can’t, love can cover a multitude of sins. When God calls us to wash someone’s feet, He doesn’t ask us to heal the fungus…that is His job. Zecheriah 4:6-7 tells us, “’Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” He can level mountains into plains, or in other words, remove bitter bunions and forceful fungus, buff off crass and contentious corns and callouses, clip, file and polish tumultuous toenails (and hearts!). We just need to submit, trust, and obey and that is when we will experience the thrill of victory over the agony of “da-feet”. The interesting thing about washing other people’s feet is you have to stoop down to do it, which positions you to take inventory of your own feet. After this trip I can see my toenails are chipped. It looks like it’s time for a pedicure.

Shela-Lyn Boxberger
Christian Author, Speaker, Interpreter for the Deaf and Bible Study Teacher
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More than a Number

Whenever I call my doctor’s office or my dentist’s office one of the first things they ask for is my Insurance card number, which is followed by my pertinent information: name, birthdate, etc. To these medical professionals I am merely a few keystrokes on a keyboard and a series of statistics.

Because I’m a woman and tend to navigate my way through life according to my feelings, I sometimes wonder if that’s how God sees us; as nothing more than statistics. Does He only see our height and weight; our eye color or all of the bad habits we’re unwilling to let go of? Does God only see me as a woman with brown hair who happens to be a socially handicapped introvert who talks too much when she gets nervous? Are we more than the statistics that encompass our physical and emotional makeup?

On my particularly vulnerable days, I wonder the exact opposite – does God see me at all? Am I invisible to the Creator of the Universe? Does He know or care that I’m plagued by insecurities and fear?

The good news is that whenever we’re struggling with our identity in Christ and wondering where we fit in on this planet comprised of more than seven billion people – God not only sees us – He knows our name and exactly how many hairs number our head. Matthew 10:30

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture and should be mandatory, required reading for anyone suffering from low self-esteem or depression. When I read that God saw me as I was being formed in my mother’s womb and that every day of my life was laid out before a single day had passed, it reminds me that even though I may have not felt love from those closest to me while growing up – God always saw me. When I was rejected by my first husband, I am assured that the precious thoughts that God continually has about me outnumber the grains of sand.

Rest assured, Sisters in Christ – we are more than statistics or a number on a census to our Heavenly Father. When the enemy creeps in and tries to make us doubt our Father’s love for us we would do well to remember to thank God for making us so wonderfully complex! Psalm 139:14. We are not invisible to the Savior!

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. Psalm 139:1, 3 (NLT)

Blessings in Christ,
Kathy Kurlin
Author
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The Eternal Pursuit of Love

Does the season of romance make your heart flutter . . . or your stomach turn? Hollywood offers us a shadow view of what love is, or more accurately—what it means. Here’s a look at God’s definition:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:9-11

God’s version of romance draws the unbeliever to His eternal heart of love. Take for example, Tony and Sheila (oh, how I love this story!), a couple living “in the world and of the world”—partying too much, angry too much, trying the world’s way to heal from the broken relationships in their pasts. Hear this: they didn’t think there was any other way. Oh, but God knew another way! In fact, He’d sent His only Son so this empty couple could be filled with forever . . . but, He had some pursuing to do.

In a bold step of faith, Tony and Sheila sat themselves down at a Sunday church service. God spoke directly to their hearts. Both a mess afterwards, a kind lady asked Sheila for her phone number—in case she ever wanted to talk. That week at work, Tony found a scrawled message across the corner of a random cardboard box. “God loves you,” it declared. Not long after, while Sheila did some shopping, Tony grabbed a meal. A little, old lady—a stranger—paid for his lunch, and with a smile she repeated, “God loves you.” Somehow, the unlikely couple found the courage to join a small group Bible Study. Weeks later, in tears of desperation, Sheila decided she didn’t fit in and she wouldn’t go back. But she didn’t tell anyone. To her astonishment, the next day, flowers appeared on her desk along with a compassionate note, “God put it on my heart to send you these.” It was a turning point.

You see, Tony and Sheila did go back to church, and to small group; they did give their lives to the great God who pursued their hearts . . . after all, He asked for Sheila’s phone number, bought Tony dinner, wrote them love notes, and sent Sheila flowers. The inventor of romance knows how to woo His children! What’s your story of God’s loving pursuit of your heart? And when is the last time you returned the favor?

“We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Jesseca Newton
Writer

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