Simple Things That Make My Heart Sing!

 

I sing in a two different choirs. My own church choir, which is like a family to me, and a large statewide choir (500 strong) that sings at various events and churches around our state several times a year. Participating in these two choirs is an important part of my life and brings me great joy. It lifts my spirit and fills my soul to sing praises to the King of Kings with other believers. It makes my heart sing.

But, there are  other, non-musical things in my life that make my heart sing, as well, like:

Enjoying a full house, noisy once again as my independent young adult children come home for a holiday or family event and interact with each other in fun and teasing ways—a vivid display of their unbreakable family bond.

Walking with my husband on a sunny day, under the shade of the oak canopy that stretches over our quiet little country road—engaging in deep conversation or just holding hands in silence.

Lying on the beach with a book in my hand, lulled into relaxation by the hypnotic sound of the undulating ocean waves and the warm caress of the summer sun.

Sharing moments of growth and epiphany with other women of all ages who have come together for Bible study and encouragement.

Seeing glimpse of spiritual ownership and growth displayed in the lives of my young adult children, a confirmation of God’s grace and mercy to an imperfect yet well-meaning mama.

Enjoying quiet, uninterrupted private times of prayer and devotion with the God of the universe on my humble back porch.

Holding my very first grandchild and seeing in his eyes the hope of Christ for the next generation.

These simple things make my heart sing.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Daily Habits for Effective Christian Living

 

Living a purposeful and effective Christian life with a spiritual mindset doesn’t come naturally to us. In general, we are more earthly minded, haphazardly rushing about our day completing tasks, going to meetings, running errands—focusing on the urgent, but not necessarily the important duties of life. Few of us have ever taken the time to develop a plan of action that will lead to a more effective and purposeful spiritual existence. Here are 5 practical steps we can take each and every day to maximize our impact in our little corner of the world:

  • Encourage a family member with a note, a kind word or a helpful act. Everyone needs regular encouragement. Our husbands need to hear that we appreciate them, our kids need to know that we’ve noticed their progress and growth. I mean, who doesn’t love a note in their lunchbox signed with a heart, or a message scribbled in lipstick on the mirror? How about a Bible verse taped to the closet door? A little note only takes a minute. A simple act like taking over a person’s chore for the day or giving them a spontaneous back rub can really lift their spirits. You know what actions speak love to your child or to your husband. Plan to implement one of those actions each day.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

  • Encourage someone outside of your family by sending a text (it only takes a second), writing a card, or paying a visit. We all know someone who is either in the midst of a health crisis, going through family struggles or just needing some encouragement. Maybe there is an elderly widow or widower in your church or neighborhood who needs to see a smiling face or to simply know that someone cares. Loneliness is a very real struggle in the waning years of life. On days when you find yourself with a little extra time, maybe you can bake a pie or deliver a flower bouquet to someone in need. The point is to look outside your family each day and think of someone who needs encouragement. Then, be Jesus to them.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

  • Meditate on God’s Word. Find some time in your day for a few moments of quiet solitude to read and meditate on the Bible. His Word is our instruction manual for living. It is also God’s love letter to us—a view into his very heart. How can we possibly know God and his purpose for our lives if we never read his Word? If you’re not sure where to start, use a daily devotional as a guide, choose a book of the Bible to read through over a few days, or just begin where the spirit leads. You may have to be creative in finding time. If you work outside the home, perhaps you can slip away to your car at lunchtime, or get up early in the morning before the kids. The Bible is a treasure trove of insight, wisdom, and comfort. Dive into it every day!

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  • Spend time in prayer. Prayer is not a magical, mystical practice; it is simply a conversation with God. We pray in order to take our struggles, fears and questions before Him seeking mercy, healing and help for ourselves and others. In addition, it is through prayer that we thank and praise God for all he has done for us and for all that we have. The time and place are not that important. In fact, prayer is to be an ongoing attitude of the heart. We have access to God anytime, anywhere, and for any reason. He is always waiting patiently to hear from us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

  • Invest in your personal health and wellness by getting some exercise (this could mean walking the dog or working in the garden—no gym membership necessary!) and taking the time to prepare a healthy meal or snack. Like it or not, it is through these imperfect human bodies of ours that we minister to others and carry forth the message of Christ to the world. Therefore, we need to have the energy and stamina to complete the task. That means making sure there is some sort of physical activity in our day and that we eat, in moderation, a variety of the delicious and colorful foods that God has provided for us. Rest is another important component to health and wellness that we often overlook. Make time for a nap or plan to get 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Or, just step away from your life for a few moments and do something relaxing that you love. (reading!)

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.                                1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If we can incorporate these 5 habits for Christian living into our daily routine, we will become more effective in ministry and in life as we learn to: love and encourage others, develop our relationship with God, and take care of our earthly temple. Let’s begin today!

 

 

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Loving Life and Loving God: Counting the Cost.

 

I do love my life. I love that I have a comfy home in which to live. I love that I can go and buy things that aren’t just necessities. I love that my children are healthy and happy. I love that I have a hard-working husband with whom I can share life. I love the beautiful sunny and warm state in which we live. I love this season of life when most of the birdies have launched from the nest and I can slow down and relax—choosing to spend the majority of my time doing things that I enjoy.

But, do I love my life too much? Have I forgotten God’s call for me to take up my cross, forgo the trappings of this temporary life, and follow Him? Have I been willing to make sacrifices of time, money, convenience and pleasure to further His mission in the world? How about you? Does your life bear any evidence of self-sacrifice? Have you come to love the pleasures of this world more than God?

God’s Word has a lot to say about the danger of loving this world too much. In John 12:25, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus spoke to his followers saying, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me; and where I am there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, him my Father will honor.”

When Jesus spoke these words, he was foreshadowing his impending death on the cross and also letting his disciples know that they risked actual death in following Him. But, this is also applicable to us today as we seek to follow Christ. We are called to live with a passion and devotion for Him that is greater than the love we have for things of the world—greater even than our love for our own family.

In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

You see, when someone becomes a Christian they often experience conflict within their family because of it. I have heard countless friends talk about the problems they’ve encountered when trying to talk about Christ, or faith, or even church with their unsaved family members. Unfortunately, becoming a devoted and fervent Christ-follower will often mean a separation of sorts from family who would hinder your relationship with Christ. In addition—on this concept of loving God more than family—we as parents can sometimes, without realizing it, set our children up as idols, loving them even more than God himself.

There are several passages in the gospels where Jesus talks about taking up our cross and following him. The first is in Matthew 16:24-25: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'”

The exact same message of taking up our cross and losing our lives for the sake of Christ is repeated in Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23.

 This message implies a life of sacrifice and struggle as Christians seek to share God’s love and hope with the lost world. It is not supposed to be easy, my friend. And coming to love the world too much as we go through life can certainly derail our mission.

The hypnotic rhythm of comfort and affluence is a tactic often used by Satan to strengthen our love for the world and to make us ineffective as Christians.

It takes sacrifice to minister to an elderly neighbor or a sick friend. It takes time and commitment to serve in your local church. It takes courage to speak the name of Jesus in your workplace or neighborhood. It takes self-denial to give money to ministries and missions. And that’s if you never even step outside of the good ol’ USA! There are those who have sacrificed so much more than the average Christian today for the cause of Christ around the world. In fact, many have paid the ultimate price.

Does your life bear evidence of a devotion to Christ that is greater than your love for the world? Have you truly answered God’s call to take up your cross and follow Him?

This Easter season let’s take inventory of our lives. Have we been lulled into a spirit of complacency when it comes to sacrifice and service? What can we leave behind to follow Christ? Are we finished with easy and ready to do hard?

There is no doubt you and I are free to appreciate and enjoy God’s blessings in our lives but, we are also called to give back— to love God more than anything this world has to offer.

 

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Hope for the Terminally Ill: A New Tent for Eternity

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (NKJV)

It is so hard to see loved ones suffer. As we shared prayer requests in our Sunday school class this past week I noticed that every one of us had been touched by—or knew someone who was currently affected by— cancer. It is certainly a dreaded and life-wrecking disease having no mercy for the young nor the spiritually devoted.

In the case of young innocent children or godly saints in the prime of life, we ask ourselves, “Why? Why would God allow this to happen? What good could possibly come from it?”

I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I know that God, in his infinite wisdom, is not caught off guard. He is still in control and he still loves us with an everlasting, incomprehensible love—the kind of love that would sacrifice his only Son so that we could be with him forever.

There is one thing that I do know. Our life. This life—is but a blink in time. Whether I live 5 years, or 90, it is still only a single teardrop in the sea of eternity. Our physical bodies were not designed to last forever. However, the Bible says that we have a “building from God”, an eternal body, that will replace this wind-torn tent we currently inhabit. And that is the body in which I will spend eternity with God.

If you are mourning a friend or family member with a terminal illness, first of all, take the opportunity to share Christ with them. Assure them that as a child of God, they have a new and marvelous eternal body waiting for them. One that will never grow old, never wear out, never succumb to cancer or any other illness or disease. Help them to see the beauty and hope God has planned for them in a brand new heaven and a remade earth. Remind them that you will see them again!

And in the time that we do have on earth (which God has prescribed for us), let’s live every moment for his glory; loving, serving, growing—taking care of this temporary vessel–but always keeping in mind the fact that this life is not the end.

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Getting in Touch With Your Life’s Mission

 

What is the dream that God has placed within you? Do you have a vision of reaching people on the African continent for Christ? Do you hope to start a company that will impact the world in some way? Are you a teacher who dreams of influencing a generation of students to follow and honor Jesus Christ?

Every believer has within them a dream, a call, a mission, placed there by God himself. If we can get in touch with that vision and focus our energies on moving towards that goal, then we will find fulfillment and purpose in this life.

I began to think on this topic after hearing a sermon recently by a pastor who was filling in at our church. He began his sermon by asking the question, “What dream has God placed within you?” I knew the answer immediately. On the way home from church I asked my family if they could guess what my answer would be. My daughter, who knows me very well, hit the nail on the head, saying, “Mom, your dream is to raise us kids to love God and follow him forever.” The fact that she knew my heart so well brought tears to my eyes—discreetly hidden behind my large sunglasses, of course.

That has truly been my calling in life. “Well, that is not much of a dream,” you may say, “there are women out there doing great things like starting companies, writing books, even breaking the glass ceiling as CEO’s!” But for me, raising my children (and influencing other children, as well, in my capacity as an elementary school teacher ) to know Jesus Christ, to follow him, to live in a way that pleases him, is a high and holy calling not to be diminished by today’s equality culture.

If you know the dream that God has placed within you, what is stopping you from pursuing it? In most cases it is fear of one kind or another: fear of not being smart enough, fear of not having the resources, fear of not being able to finish the task, fear of what others will say. And that fear uncovered reveals the belief that God is not enough—not enough to provide whatever you need to accomplish that dream.

For myself and other stay-at-home moms/teachers, it is often a struggle to go against the flow of the “woman power” culture. We find ourselves constantly defending our choice to stay at home, doing without all the flashy stuff that our friends have, and fighting for respect as baby spit-up rolls down our backs and our homes sit in disarray for days on end. It’s no surprise that many women are fearful to follow the “stay-at-home mom” dream. It’s certainly not only physically hard but emotionally, as well. I mean, it’s not been easy to stick with it all of these years given the cultural pressure to keep up with the men, make a name for myself, or produce some concrete evidence of my hard work. I needed to conquer my fears and follow the dream God had placed in my heart. Other women may have God dreams of  going on the mission field, or starting a home-based business. Only you can figure that out.

My children are young adults now but, given the pull of the world and the pervasive influence of secular thought on their lives, I know that my work is not done. God has also placed within me a desire to influence and encourage other women by: leading Bible studies, forming relationships that strengthen and empower other women to grow in their faith, and, writing this blog! As I have pursued God’s vision for my life I have found peace, purpose, and fulfillment. I know that you can, too!

If you haven’t figured out your God dream, now is the time to do so! Don’t waste another minute on some rabbit trail, moving further and further away from God’s purpose for your life. Conquer your fear. Know that if God calls you to a task, a project, a life mission—then he will equip you for it. Don’t let the world tell you who to be. God has already determined that. You just need to get in touch with your perfectly designed, tailor-made, God dream, and move forward–full speed ahead!

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)

This post was inspired by a sermon delivered by Dr. Gary Crawford, former pastor of Westside Baptist Church, Gainesville, Florida.

 

 

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