{re}fresh

Be Still

by Rob Dunne

Tiny House by Rendered
Flickr.com/photos/destinationdiy/9276497549/in/photolist-f8JtwV

Tiny homes are fascinating. Kellie and I recently had the opportunity to stay in one. Located in the hill country, we’d lie in bed at night and enjoy a clear view of Orion and the Big and Little Dipper. In the morning, the backyard was visited by a few skittish deer grazing on vegetation. What I found most appealing was the silence. It was far removed from civilization and a place where you could actually hear yourself think.

Before he became king of Israel, David was a shepherd. He spent days and nights watching over the family’s flock. If David was anything like I am with my dog Bailey, he probably held two-way conversations with the sheep. However, the bulk of his time was likely spent in communion with God.

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by Dawn Aldrich

Farmer’s Market Quilt by Bennilover
Flickr.1450757415_58f0349595_CC BY_ND 2.0

“…while every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.”         John 15:2 NIV

We don’t usually ring in the New Year with thoughts of pruning and discipline. No, it’s usually rung in with celebration, feasting, dancing and dreams of prosperity. More, if you will, than the previous year.

More. It’s my One Word for 2019 that God’s given me to focus on. More. “More what?” I asked.

 

“More ‘becoming.’ More good fruit,” was God’s reply. Read the rest of this entry »

On Becoming

by Robin Puchala

 

“We all with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

They tell me I have an artist’s temperament – typically that includes re-inventing myself regularly, being creative with a healthy dose of independence thrown in. It wasn’t always conducive growing up, but God has found ways to use it for my spiritual growth. Seeking new ideas, I find new truths in His word; seeking creativity, I find Him in activities like writing, drawing or long walks in nature.  Read the rest of this entry »

Anticipation

by Carol Nicholls

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

My brother Bobby and I were in the kitchen helping wash up the dinner dishes. Mom had shut the kitchen door that led to the rest of the house. The doorbell rang, Bob and I ran to the closed door and put our ears as close as we could. “Ho, ho, ho” said a man’s voice. Dad said, “Welcome, please come in.”

“Have Carol and Bobby been good this year?” Santa asked. Just then Mom made a huge clatter with dishes. We couldn’t hear what Dad had said. Our anticipation turned to frustration!

In a little while Dad opened the kitchen door and we went into the living room. Right in the middle of the room was a blue Schwinn bicycle, a giant bicycle, an adult bicycle. And…it was mine. Frustration and anticipation became jubilation! Read the rest of this entry »

The God of Hope

by Mindy Kiker

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

As we approach the Christmas season, we prepare our hearts to celebrate the gift of Immanuel, God with us.  Are you expectant that Jesus is coming, or are you burdened by all that has to be done between now and December 25th? We invite you to anticipate with us the arrival of Christ. We begin our anticipation by asking God to place in our hearts a glimmer of hope.

In Romans 15:13, we are promised that as we trust in God, He fills us to overflowing.  That’s not a few drops of hope, but a flood. The seasons, struggles and storms of life may leave us feeling parched and weary, but He gives us joy and peace more powerful than our circumstances. When Jesus arrives, His joy and peace arrive too.

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Give Thanks on Solid Ground

by Mike McKinniss

What do you believe about God today that you did not believe previously? What do you no longer believe about God that you once did?

It’s an intriguing thought. It shouldn’t take very long before we realize that there’s something we once thought of God that we no longer do. And that, at the very least, ought to make us pause the next time we dig in our heals and sharpen our claws in preparation for a red-hot theological row. But that’s for another time.

Rather, I asked myself these questions recently. One of the places my mind has changed the most regarding the Lord fell in the area of God’s will, his goodness and my role in whatever the Lord may actually do on the earth.

You see, I thought at one time that God’s desire to heal sickness and disease today was essentially his sole prerogative. He might choose to heal; he might not. Neither I nor anyone else had much to do with it. Bottom line, I didn’t get what prayer was all about or how it might influence the Lord or events in “real life.” I was thinking like a fatalist, which is no fun, neither for the fatalist nor anyone else around him.

The broader question—”What was the Lord’s will?”—is a common puzzle for a lot of believers. Personally, since I didn’t know and believed I couldn’t affect it, I’d assume generally that whatever actually happened must have been God’s will by default. It was a natural outflow of a pair of theological tenets most of us never question: God is all powerful and God is all knowing. If these are true, then the Lord’s will is what is.

This is all well and good when the question at hand is whether we’ll get the promotion we’re aiming for or whether our offer on a house will be accepted. If it doesn’t come to pass, then the Lord must have some good reason for it. Que será será.

But when darker issues arise—like personal tragedy or global conflict—this line of thinking becomes extremely problematic. The omnipotent God crashes headlong into another theological tenet: the omnibenevolent God. The result for many is some kind of divine monster who would will—let alone allow—something like the Montecito mudslides. No decent human being shrugs her shoulders and says of the Holocaust, “It must have been God’s will.”

Set with such a dilemma, it’s not hard to see that one thought or another about God has got to change if we’re to keep from closing down our faith altogether.

So here’s a token of advice, if you’ll have it. When you find yourself in an impossible theological position, find one piece of solid ground to stand on. Make it your center, and allow everything else to be refashioned around it.

Here’s one of mine: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

It’s the most repeated refrain in the Psalms—perhaps even in all of the Old Testament. These were, I believe, the last words to leave Jesus’ lips before heading to his arrest, trial and crucifixion (see Mark 14:26, which may be a reference to Psalm 118, the last of the Hallel psalms traditionally recited at Passover). You’d be hard pressed to find more solid bedrock in the scriptures than this brief, easily remembered chorus.

Whatever else may be going on in life, however stressful your circumstances, however tragic your hardship, stand on this: God is good and his faithful commitments to his people and his creation will never be overcome. It worked for Jesus.

Does this mean God is not all powerful? Does this mean the Lord is not all knowing? Not necessarily. Though the theological and philosophical arguments there are too lengthy for now, the point is simply that there may be more going on in reality than we know (always a good lesson to keep in mind), but you can at least stand on one assurance, repeated again and again in Scripture: God is eternally good.

For that it’s worth giving thanks.

Think About Such Things

by Wendy

Philippians-4_8 by-sapphire-dream-photography_flickr-com_9600100560_293d0d7f22_CC BY ND 2.0

Philippians-4:8 by-sapphire-dream-photography_flickr-com_9600100560_293d0d7f22_CC BY ND 2.0

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”(Phil. 4:8, NIV)

Friends across a continent for more than two decades, we relished this rare week, far from the tangle of strained relations, finances, and obligations. Our daily duels with contentment-stealing vultures gradually faded as she basked in sketches, paintings and collages. I bathed in words, watercolors and photographs. She read. I wrote. We walked, prayed, talked, and made sense of the year’s triumphs and tumults. Until Wednesday, when all creativity ground to a screeching halt.

Stretching after an unproductive morning tussling with recalcitrant words, I peeked into the prayer room door. My friend sighed and looked up from her book. “I’m caught in a cauldron of negative emotions,” she mourned, shaking her head. “Yesterday was so good…” Read the rest of this entry »

You’re Invited to the Feast!

by Robin Puchala

Feast by Laura DePonte
Flickr.com_photos/lauradeonte/2055682969_CC by NC-ND 2.0

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6(NIV)

I really look forward to the holiday feasts my family and I prepare.  Turkey and stuffing, fresh green beans, various casseroles and pumpkin or apple pie are some of my favorites. What are yours? And the aromas are intoxicating, making me hungry way before dinner!

In Ancient Israel feasts were very important – wedding feasts customarily included the whole town and wealthy men invited friends to sumptuous lunches.

We know that God Himself will invite us to the marriage feast of the Lamb, His Son, Jesus, as the Church becomes His spotless bride and the greatest celebration ever held will commence.  Read the rest of this entry »

Why Is Saying “Thank-You” so Difficult?

by Dawn Aldrich

Beauty in Hand by petalouda
Flickr.4833540833_7fb8c49de8_ CC BY NC CD 2.0

“Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Romans 8:32 (NLT)

Her petite frame bent low, worn from nearly a century of living. Small in stature but oh, her heart – full and generous and always giving – barely containable. One could never out-give her, never repay her. “Just say thank-you, that’s all,” she’d say.

Open hands to receive and a grateful heart is all she asked in return. She gave what we couldn’t earn. She gave more than we deserved. All because she loved – delighted in providing for others. And today, nearly 14 years since her passing, my heart spills gratitude; not for the gifts but for the giver.

Sarah Young, in Jesus Calling reminds us, “Sometimes {God’s} children hesitate to receive {His} good gifts with open hands. Read the rest of this entry »

Out with the Old

by Rob Dunne

flickr.com/photos/nevilleslens/14534754156/in/photolis_CC BY NC ND 2.0

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

My wife Kellie and I recently undertook a DIY project…painting our kitchen cabinets. It was, by far, our most ambitious home improvement project to date. Truthfully, it is not for the faint of heart.

The first step was to remove the doors, drawers and all of the hardware. Next, we removed the contents of the cabinets or covered the insides with plastic. Of all the steps, this was the most difficult in my opinion. Both of us used an electric hand sander and the dust went everywhere! After sanding, you use a tack cloth to remove all of the dust.

In addition to the cabinet frame, there were twenty-one doors and seven drawers. We put two coats of primer and two coats of paint on all of it. Once they were all dry, the hinges and new hardware was placed back on everything. Lastly, the doors were hung and the drawers slid back in to place. In the end, our kitchen got a much needed facelift and Kellie and I are quite pleased with the results. However, it was a lot of work!

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