Me, Myself & Hey-Soos

The daughter of a friend of mine, Lacey, spent a few years working her way through the ranks at a fast-food restaurant, until she finally became a manager.  During her tenure in restaurant management, young Lacey had a new-hire employee whose name was Jesus – spelled like Jesus, as in Christ, but pronounced like Hey-Soos, which is a popular Hispanic name.

Young Lacey was born and raised as a Christian and lived many of her early formative years in Alaska, so she wasn’t aware that there was a southwestern pronunciation for this name. What’s more, she couldn’t fathom why any mother would name their child after the Son of God. Whenever Lacey worked with this young man, she quite naturally called him Jesus (as in Christ) since that was the only way she’d ever seen or heard this name pronounced.
 
Anyone who has ever worked at a fast-food restaurant knows just how crazy busy things can get during a lunch or dinner rush. As a manager, Lacey was in a position to delegate work assignments. 

She was frequently heard saying things like, “Jesus, I need you on the drive-through register!”  Or “Jesus, I need your help up front at the counter!”  When things were just plain chaotic and out of control, Lacey could be heard simply saying, “Jesus, I need help!”

While Lacey’s fellow employees and customers always found her managerial orders quite funny, I can’t help but think that this young woman may have stumbled on to the secret of life’s success.  How many times a day do most of us encounter situations that require a little divine intervention?  Imagine how much smoother a problem could be worked out if we only took a minute to simply say, Jesus, I need help! 
 
The New Testament gives us many Scriptures reminding us that Jesus is ready and willing to help us if we simply call on Him.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) and “They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household."  (Acts 16:31). 
 
We should make it a regular practice to memorize Scripture for those times when we don’t know what to pray … we just know we need the Lords’ help.
 
Do you need encouragement? Help on your job or with your relationships or raising your kids?  Whatever your need, with just a couple of quick words … help is on the way!
 
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord.    Psalm 121:1-2

Kathy Kurlin
Author

 

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Nature Revealed

The clouds are a shade of absolute perfection. The sun is playing hide and seek in the mid-morning sky, and the wind’s breath softly caresses your face in between periods of stillness. Your body becomes one with the earth. Your toes find themselves nestled beneath the tiniest grains of sand. The sound as each wave arises and departs sedates the soul.

Can you hear it? Can you smell it? Most importantly, can you see HIM?

Scriptures express two distinct, two very separate yet profound ways in which God communicates and shares Himself with us through what is known as general and special revelation. The latter is for another Note however, Paul departs his wisdom with regards to the concept of general revelation in his letter to the Romans in 1:20:

“From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse what-so-ever for not knowing God” (NLT).

Nature reveals to all of creation a God of order, a God of magnificent power, a God of intelligence, a God of overwhelming beauty, and a God that unmasks Himself in the most intricate of details.

Have you ever become mesmerized by the flawless symmetry of a snowflake? Or what about the fingerprint imparted on a leaf? No two are identical. And have you ever stopped to consider how the ocean understands just how far its reach is allowed on land? Or do you discover yourself deep within a forest, captivated by the rustling of the tree tops, as if they harbor their own form of spoken language? The Father reveals not simply His divine and perfect nature, but also His personal qualities with each and every one of us through nature.

As believers, we can stand upon Scriptures and their assertions regarding the omnipresence of our Lord yet when chaos enters our lives, we fail to recognize Him. You may have even found yourself begging Him to “show up," not realizing He never once left.

Truth is, friends, make it a point to unplug and spend more time with nature. Whether it be from a boat or in your own backyard, be intentional. God desires to show Himself to you.

The real question is, can you see HIM?

Going deeper: Genesis 1:31; Psalm 19:1-4

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG ministries

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Where Do I Turn?

When going through a hard time we should automatically turn our thoughts over to God. Right?

A few months ago, we had to say goodbye to our dog that we've had for 12 years. This was one of the hardest moments for me. The next day I found myself driving down the road thinking I should go shopping and that would "fix" my hurt.

In that same moment I heard, "No, turn to Me."

Why is it, more often than not, we turn to stuff to fix our hurt rather than seek Jesus? I came across this verse the next day, "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.”  Psalm 62:5 NIV

This verse was my reminder that when the world around me seems to be falling apart I can find a renewed hope in HIM.

Chrissy Shero
loveSTRONG ministries

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What Did You Say?

A couple months ago, while I was crowding around a table with others during a charity bake sale at work, I noticed a particular woman from one of the service departments who was also looking over the items.  I didn't pay much attention to her at first because I was busy focusing on the specialty cookies, cupcakes and nut breads our co-workers had made, and trying to decide among them. 

Each item cost $1 and I had brought a $10 bill with me, willing to spend all of it depending on what was there.

But while I was looking, I was distracted by this co-worker who mentioned a couple of times how good everything looked, but she didn't know if she should buy anything.  She repeated it so often that I was getting a little annoyed. 

For one thing, the area was crowded, and she was blocking the way for others by just standing there.  I felt like asking her to please move to the side while she was making up her mind, or even suggesting if she couldn't decide, she could buy a few things because the money was going to charity. 

And then I heard Elaine, another woman who was there, quietly say, "Carol, you do so much work for me all the time.  Why don't you let me get something for you as a thank you?"  Immediately Carol's face lit up and she enthusiastically replied "Yes!"

I can't tell you how ashamed and humbled I was as Carol eagerly accepted the brownie with the thick chocolate icing.  Money apparently was a little tight for her and she hesitated at the idea of spending a dollar – even if it was going to a charity. 

Instead of being so busy perusing the wares and seeing how much I could buy for myself, I should have been following Elaine's example and listening more closely to what those around me were really saying.

"(She) who has ears to hear, let (her) hear." – Matthew 11:15

Lois Thompson
Author

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Clutter Down

 

I like opening a closet door to see everything in its place.  When towels and washcloths are arranged just so and neatly stacked, I’m happy.  It is nice when sheets and pillow cases are folded the same and look uniform.  The closet with décor items and games looks so orderly when I open it to change seasonal decorations.

But we all know it does not always stay that way.  In a hurry, things get put away and I think I’ll go back and fix it later.  That time lasts longer and longer and the decorations and games closet looks like a small bomb went off when I open the door. 

I plan a time to fix it back to being orderly.  And then I am happy again.

My life accumulates clutter sometimes too.  Too many irons in the fire and not enough time to keep it straight.  If I stop and put the clutter into priorities, make changes and remain dedicated to those priorities then all runs more smoothly.  I no longer feel anxious and I accomplish tasks with a clear head.

What does it mean to "clutter down?" It means carving out time to evaluate what is most important.  Deciding what (or who) needs to go.  Taking a hard look at yourself and making choices based on prayer. 

God is not in the business of being a magic genie who only brings what you desire.  God is in the business of love.  If you are finding yourself lacking in love within your world, then something needs to be moved or changed.  And that something is probably you.  Clutter shows up when you are not focused.

Before you blame this person or that action for your lack of love, pray and ask God to make it clear where you are weak.  He has made you and He knows every single part of you and is the only one qualified to bring the answers to you.  You will not get an email.  Or a text message.  You will have a sense of direction if you are sincere about listening to Him and wanting a change.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “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.” (NIV version)

Memorize that verse and repeat it out loud when you feel the clutter piling on.  Trust God to show what stays and what needs to change in your world.  Knowing that everything is based upon love, you will find comfort that God is moving and changing for your benefit.

And the clutter will disappear.

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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Undeserved Grace

He was a particularly evil, nasty, disagreeable human being. He verbally abused all those who tried to help him. He lived a sinful, depraved lifestyle and wreaked havoc on those closest to him right up until he died.  He deserved to die a slow, painful death and to be cast into the depths of Hell – but if he called upon the name of the Lord Jesus with his last dying breath, he would be sharing Heaven with me some day.

This isn’t a made for TV Lifetime movie with a happy ending. I’m actually talking about the man my mother married when I was 12. This man single-handedly destroyed mine and my sibling’s childhoods as well as my oldest daughter’s. He was responsible for sending my mother to an early grave and lived for 13 long years after her death, spewing hatred and squandering everything she’d worked hard to acquire.  Yet, the Word of God tells me I’m to pray for him and forgive him as Christ has forgiven me. (Ephesians 4:32)

In Luke 23, the gospel gives the account of Christ’s crucifixion. One of the criminals mocks Jesus saying:

“So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!.”

“But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

This story reminds us that criminals – yes even particularly wicked sinners like my step-father --can get a “get out of jail free” card if they call on the name of Jesus, even though we think they don’t deserve it.  This card isn’t foolproof though, as no one knows for certain exactly when they will die and if they’ll have even that split second to call on the name of Jesus.

I made repeated attempts to witness to my step-father throughout his life, practically choking on the words, “Jesus loves you and died for you.” I have forgiven him for what he perpetrated upon me and my family and asked God to have mercy upon him – yet … his eternal resting home will remain a mystery.  Only God knows what’s in a man’s heart and whether there is forgiveness or repentance there. 

The mortality rate still stands at 100%. We must all stand before the Lord one day.  Use your “get out of jail free” card today and call upon the name of the Lord so that you might be saved!

 "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."  Romans 10:13 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Wish, Hope, Dream

A meaning of “Wish”:
to want; desire; long for
For example:  I wish chocolate peanut butter gelato didn’t have so many carbs in it.

A meaning of “Hope”:
the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best 
For example:  I hope my mom’s ovarian cancer stays in remission.

A meaning of “Dream”:
to think or conceive of something in a very remote way 
For example:  I dream about living in Tuscany, Italy.

Do we spend our lives wishing, hoping and dreaming and miss what is right in front of us?  Yes, some wishes, hopes and dreams are important to identify so we can have goals to strive for.  Sometimes, though, we need to stop the daydreaming and do something.

David was a small guy who was overlooked because of his age and stature.  He wasn’t exactly the kind of boy who could slay a very large man.  Yet, he picked up simple ammunition and took down a huge threat.  No one believed he was even remotely skilled or big enough to take on a full-grown man who had a vast amount of fighting experience.  Even David’s older brothers mocked him and told him to get lost.    (Read I Samuel 17)

You see, David came with more than rocks and a sling.  He came with the desire to show up and be an example of God’s power.  His routine was to be the younger brother of 4, take care of sheep and deliver food to the soldiers at the battlefront.  He was young and certainly his body wasn’t exactly big enough to be a fighter.  

However, his experience with taking care of a herd gave him practice in protecting the sheep from large animals with his own hands, sling, rocks and his staff.  

You have experiences you draw from to make yourself prepared every day.  You may also have dreams of becoming someone important and possibly wishes and hopes to make something better.  Use those experiences but don’t just look for big and loud ways to do things.  The smallest thing can start a giant ripple effect.

Wish for opportunities to show God’s love to someone you see every day.

Hope that God is seen in your actions and heard in your words.

Dream about how someday you will hear the words “Good and faithful servant” when you take your last breath.

“Go and the Lord be with you.”

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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Bridges & Boots

“So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18) NLT

Recently, I had myself a sound cry. It was one of those ugly kind of cries where no emotion was spared. Each tear drop that departed from my eyes felt as though it was carrying the weight of my soul within. And as every pain-riddled droplet vacated, I was left wondering how I would gather the strength to continue that day.

It was at that exact moment when I felt as though I could walk no more, a vision of a bridge appeared, and the faintest whisper could be heard requesting me to “get up.” There I was, standing on one side of that bridge desperately longing to embrace what awaited me…..until I looked down only to realize my boots were tattered and worn from walking through many previous storms. Surely I couldn’t face this bridge with my ratty old boots. I required a brand new pair for the journey ahead.

You see, each plank on our bridge of life is a lesson waiting to be learned. A life experience handcrafted by The Bridge Maker Himself. An experience designed to embrace triumph despite whatever kind of tragedy lies in its wake. In order to reach the other side, we are required to walk as Jesus did. There are no shortcuts my friends and obstacles are guaranteed. There will always be those who deem the task too difficult and turn around to where the terrain is less demanding. And then there are those who lace up their boots and get to walkin’. Don’t forsake your eternal reward based on the intensity of today’s temporary pain. Your bridge was not constructed for you to simply view it at a distance. It was manifested out of the deepest pain Christ would ever have to endure in order for you to reach the other end.

Do YOU need a new pair of boots? If so, be encouraged for they are specifically designed to withstand the splinters of your life’s bridge. Step into your destiny, lace em’ up and get to walkin’ friends. The journey is not void of hardship. The end result, however, certainly is!

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG ministries

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The Power of the Vacuum Cleaner

Legos, paper clips and popcorn are overpowered by the vacuum cleaner every time!  When I am using that power, I can make the carpet look like it is brand new with those sculpted lines across it.  Hubert Cecil Booth invented the motorized vacuum cleaner and I would vote for him as a wizard who makes me feel accomplished and clean.

Using the vacuum cleaner allows me to flex my muscles.  Not just because I am pushing a motor-powered cleaner-upper, but also because my arm and leg muscles are tense with power to push it backwards and forwards.  I really am powerful (in my own make-believe way).

The reward is gratifying when the tracks are made in the carpet and I know my work is done.

This is kind of like my life.  I make the mess.  God cleans up the mess.  I am all cleaned up.  I feel better.

When I decided to be a Christ-follower, He took the old me and cleaned me up.  The Bible told me that I was made brand new again.  The reason is because a sacrifice was made on my behalf and that was all that was needed to give me the power to be clean.

Those places where a stain existed is gone.  A new spot may occur but I have the power to ask Jesus to clean me up and show me where I went wrong.  And He does, every time.  Learning to walk around a possible situation to stay on track is the way of life for every believer.

When we realize the power is not us but rather is in us, that’s when our muscles flex and we can run right past the temptation situation. 

So, today, flex your muscles.  Open your Bible and read John 3:16-21 and you will see the explanation.  In just a few minutes you will understand the concept of living stain-proof.  And the next time you run your vacuum, I hope you remember God can make you clean again.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

 

 

 

 

 

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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Keep Your Hopes Up

Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;"

You've probably seen the cartoon of the miner who cuts his path for miles then gives up and turns around just one foot shy of the where he would have struck gold.

Of course, we'll never know if we gave up a day before our answer was set to arrive.  

We recently spent over four years keeping our hopes up for one particular thing: a new baby.

We have two sons and when our youngest son was about three-and-a-half years old, we started talking about "trying" again. In the beginning, we were quite committed and I went through a lot of cheap pregnancy tests. If you've never "tried" to get pregnant, I can tell you that it's incredibly stressful, trying to get the timing right...then waiting to find out if you got the timing right, month after month after month. And of course, you want to know ASAP if it "took."

Over the course of those four years, our efforts occasionally waned, whether we were experiencing financial pressures or just feeling discouraged. I stopped taking pregnancy tests because it was such a let-down. Into the third year, my hubby would check in after the start of a new cycle to make sure I was OK. "Eh," I would reply. "I'm used to it." 

From the very beginning (probably after the first few unsuccessful cycles, because once you decide you want to get pregnant, it should happen immediately, right?), I promised God that I would always keep my hopes up, even to the bitter end when I was SURE I wasn't pregnant. So even if I were crampy and spotting one night, I would wake up the next morning with my hopes still up. "I will never stop trusting," I promised Him. 

Toward the end of 2016, I was growing weary. My husband and I agreed that at the first of the year, we'd either decide to stop trying or we'd go in for testing. I had visions of diagnostic tests, urine samples, ultrasounds and genetic work-ups. A part of me thought, "If it's that hard, maybe it's not meant to be."

Then one beautiful Sunday morning in early January, my cycle was five days longer than usual and I was set to head out for a day trip with my parents. I blamed holiday stress for a delayed ovulation but thought, "But I'm keeping my hopes up!" as I took a cheap dip test and let it run while I took a shower.

In the shower, I reminded myself for the umpteenth time..."One of these times, it's going to be positive." It was a thought that had kept me going for all that time.

Imagine my shock when I picked up the strip and saw a clear second pink line. "No way. No way! No. Way." 

I don't know when you'll be reading this but as of today, I'm sixteen weeks pregnant and due in mid-September of 2017. We've had one ultrasound (when our baby earned the name Baby Bean) and have heard the baby's heartbeat several times but I still can't believe it actually happened. I thank God every day.

I am so glad I kept my hopes up. I clung to the belief that someday it would happen and I don't have to live the rest of my life wondering if I gave up too soon. I am convinced that part of the reason why we waited so long was to be able to tell other people, "Don't give up!" 

Get your hopes up! Keep trusting! Keep believing! One day, you'll get your answer, even if it's not how you envisioned it. Just don't turn around before you reach the prize.  

One last side note: just before we found out we were pregnant, my hubby and I made the leap of faith to bring a vision for a ministry into reality and are in the process of setting up a non-profit. We pray every night for what we believe God has called us to fulfill. Yup...we've already committed to keeping our hopes up. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabitha Dumas
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