{re}fresh

Hollyhock Gracelettes

by Wendy

Hollyhocks by Rakel Leah Mogg
Flickr.com_5927759987_d1279c9d8d CC BY-ND 2.0

She stopped by unannounced, unexpectedly showing up on my back porch. Who does that when you live in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path?  Hikers frequenting the nearby mountain, perhaps, but no one else. Yet here she was, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, one who lived far enough away to make the trip unlikely.

My heart leaped for joy to see my friend, but my brain groused that I had five hours of work to finish in the short time before our dinner on the porch.  My husband’s unexpected disability meant the outdoor tasks wouldn’t happen. Dead leaves and blossoms littered the deck alongside the deserted robin’s nest and sticky spider webs. Flowers drooped in the muggy, blistering heat. The daisy waited patiently for a new pot, but the hollyhocks…   I sighed, seeing the wilted, dying blooms in plastic tubs. Four weeks was three weeks too long for those plants.  Their new garden bed wasn’t going to happen either.

“I love digging in the ground,” my friend offered reassuringly.  Wait, what?  You’d plant the hollyhocks for me?  My grousing stopped as the Spirit nudged me to remember. Was it this morning I shook my head and prayed cynically, “Lord, what I really want is someone to walk in off the street and say, ‘Hi, I’m here to plant those hollyhocks.’” What I really thought was “Right, that’s not going to happen.” Read the rest of this entry »

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From Anxiety to Hope

by Robin Puchala

Image by Lauren Rushing
Flickr.7004688988_c937403027_CC BY-ND 2.0

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

I know we don’t mean to worry, but honestly, don’t we all have moments when we do? There was a time when I did. I’d rehearse old hurts, replay incidents in my mind, allow all the old feelings of discouragement to come flooding back, keep the past alive so that God would have trouble breaking through to recreate me.

I lived in a place of defensiveness, until God spoke to my heart and said, “Why are you wasting your time on this? I have saved you and delivered you. Come away, my Beloved!” Which sounds very much like Isaiah 55:2, a verse the Lord uses often to keep me focused:

Why spend your money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen to me and eat what is good. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing up the daily grind

by Dawn Aldrich

Image Coffee -7
Flickr.79787320_de0c43dc5e_CC BY-ND 2.0

I like coffee. More so in the cooler months of fall and winter than through the warmer spring and summer months. But one thing I’ve noticed of late, I like to change up my daily grind to coincide with the changing season.

For instance, in the warmer seasons, I prefer the light, fruity flavor and scent of blueberry coffee. I don’t know, maybe it’s good marketing or good aroma therapy, but it reminds me of summer as a kid, eating fists full of wild blueberries from my grandfather’s farm.

In the fall, of course I’ve fallen for the ever-popular pumpkin spice or salted caramel flavors. Who doesn’t want to be reminded of sitting in a pumpkin patch or biting into a caramel apple at the local fair minus all those sugary calories?

And winter? Well, there’s the holiday blends that brew up memories of cinnamon sticks and Christmas sugar cookies that seem to carry you straight through the worst blizzards and comfort your soul.

Well, you get the idea. I like change…beyond changing seasons or my coffee flavors. I welcome change in my faith walk. I confess, I’m a human being that, while I find comfort in the sameness of a season, I can also easily grow complacent if I’m not challenged to think outside my present “faith box” if you will.  Sometimes a change in the daily grind of my faith walk reminds me that I hold Kingdom purpose and I need to refocus.

Sometimes change is voluntary and sometimes its forced upon me by life’s challenges, emergencies, or tragedies. I’ve experienced spiritual change and growth in both instances.

Voluntary change is best. It’s when we voluntarily refocus our attention on Jesus; seeking Him with all our hearts, and desiring the Holy Spirit to move us forward and further into our God-led desires. God delights in His people, especially when they seek Him with all of their hearts. It’s in this precious relationship, this give and take, soul-honest conversation and worship that God speaks intimately and we hear effectively. It’s here we’re able to move forward with joy and fullness of life.

Involuntary change comes through life’s challenges, emergencies or tragedies. Not a fun time of refocus. (And, please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying God causes these situations to draw us nearer to Him. God does not cause tragedy. A broken world, poor choices by ourselves or others, and our Enemy cause tragedies). But, through these messed up times, when life is out of our control, that God has used these experiences to grow my faith, to open up new opportunities, or to make relational connections to further His kingdom purposes down the road. It’s through life’s unwelcome surprises where we must trust God to guide us through every moment of every day until we realize there’s a new normal and we’re experiencing a new flavor of life.

Whatever causes the change, scripture reassures us “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Whether you find yourself ready to voluntarily change up the daily grind of your faith walk, or you find yourself in the midst of an unwelcome life surprise, trust God to work for your good. Seek Him with all your heart, mind, strength and body. And if you need to borrow some strength, call upon someone you can trust to come alongside you and bear your burdens.

 

I Double Dare You!

by Rob Dunne

Dare by Peter Blanchard
Flickr.com_5009977284_1f38f2fa20
CC BY-ND 2.0

And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:5

“I double dare you!” Those words were frightening as a kid. It meant a peer was goading you into doing something stupid or dangerous. If you had the guts to accept the challenge and successfully accomplished it, you were a hero. Fail to meet the challenge and you were the embarrassment of the neighborhood; At least until the next sucker was challenged.

I am not a farmer. It is my understanding, however, that farmers who still use beasts of burden like oxen to plow their fields use a goad. A goad is what helps the animal maintain a straight line or is used to increase its pace. It is an instrument that causes discomfort to make corrections.

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ANXIETY !!!

by Carol Nicholls

Image by Leland Franciso

In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!

Psalm 94:19 (Amp)

There is a whirlwind of activity in my family this week. My firstborn grandchild is getting married next Saturday. Along with all of the planning and making sure everything gets done, daily life goes on. Jobs still need our attention. Meal preparation is a task that can’t be put off. Clothes still need to be washed, and so it goes. Cramming extra activity into an already busy schedule can soon give birth to ANXIETY.

The Bible asks, “Who of you by being worried and anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life?” Matthew 6:27(Amp)

Anxiety is a useless emotion in God’s eyes. Yet, it makes its presence known almost every day. Anxiety can be a vague feeling that “all is not well.” It can also become a life-crippling force.

“So, do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries of its own. Sufficient for each day is its trouble.” Matthew 6:34 (Amp)

How do you face anxiety? God says it’s futile trying to resolve anticipated problems. Thinking about them to gather facts is a wise way to be prepared. But, anticipating negative consequences will only lead to panic attacks.

The mind and emotions are the battleground. There are thoughts that lead to peace and there are thoughts that lead to fear. Take a good look at your thoughts. Are you dwelling on a potential negative? Why is that negative more powerful than a positive thought? Usually that is because we can see the outcome of the negative thought but we have NO idea how anything good could come of the situation.

Most of us have bought into the lie that we are “all-wise” and can, with enough effort, solve every life problem. When we can’t see the solution, anxiety sets in. Doubt, fear, insecurity, what other emotions are plaguing you? When we follow God’s advice and take every thought captive we can stop them before they become an emotion. Write them down if that helps. Then ask God to show you that thought through His eyes.

“..now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectations are in You.” Psalm 39:7 (Amp)

Father, I am oh so human! Anxious thoughts are always lurking in the back of my mind. I want to trust You with my whole heart. Your word says Your plans for me are for good and not harm. As I turn my anxious thoughts over to You, please, show me Your heart, grant me Your peace moment by moment through today. And, when tomorrow becomes a new today, show me Your way again. Amen

Kingdoms: Yours and God’s

by Mike McKinniss

Did you know that you have a kingdom?

We don’t think much about kingdoms in America, unless, of course, you’re one of those who got caught up with the Princess Meghan business several weeks ago. But you don’t have to marry a figurehead prince to get yourself a kingdom. You’ve already got one.

Let’s put it another way. Better, let me put it in the words of someone much brighter than me. The late, great Dallas Willard defined a kingdom as the range of our effective will. That is, your kingdom is wherever you have the final authority, wherever you have influence, wherever you have say-so.

For most of us, this extends at least to our extremities. Some of us are fortunate enough to have a firm say in whatever happens in our own household. Many of us share that responsibility. A few of us get to the top of our fields, running a company, captaining a boat, what have you. Kingdoms all, big or small.

And this is precisely as it should be. It’s how we were made.

Read the rest of this entry »

Live Carefree

by Mindy Kiker

Image by Jeremy
28363682838_d00ba1bef5
CC BY-ND 2.0

I was exhausted, depleted of joy and hope. I needed a break, to find rest in the midst of around-the-clock demands. Guilt and regret plagued my conscience. I said “yes” to a call from the Lord, but now it was a burden.

What was wrong with me?

Because God desires to help us look more like Jesus, He orchestrates circumstances in our lives to expose selfishness. When I became a mother, it was a journey designed to crucify my flesh. For you, it may be any number of pressures in life, such as caring for a parent, dealing with a chronic illness, coping with a disability, navigating a mental health issue, or any challenge that threatens joy.

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Sabbath Rest

by Rob Dunne

Image by Bart Soverijns
Flickr.com_35732976723_507847d286
CC BY-ND 2.0

[B]ut in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Leviticus 25:4

When I was in high school, relatives from Ireland came to visit us. They spent a week with us, a week with my aunt and a week with my uncle. Then they enjoyed several weeks of sightseeing. All in all, they were on vacation for a whopping six weeks! Now that is what I call a vacation!

Here in the United States, we have forgotten the importance of downtime. Rather than taking weeks off for vacation, we take one week or a few days. Making matters worse, we bring work with us. That drive is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.

God understands the importance of rest.

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The Best Rest

by Robin Puchala

Image by Diana Robinson
Flickr.com_41865289301_8b95390140
CC BY-ND 2.0

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Vacations loom large as colorful sunsets fire up our evenings and warm, inviting sunshine bathes us during the days. (Ahh, breathe a deep sigh of relief).

When I was a little girl, my family rented a cottage a block or two from the beach in early August. All summer I waited with great anticipation to smell the salty sea air, run and squish my toes in the soft, wave-beaten sand, and swim, splash, or body surf in the waves. It was my time of rest and refreshment.

In Matthew 11:28 (TPT) it says, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”

Ponder those words. Read the rest of this entry »

Buy the Book. Eat the cookie. Buy the shoes.

by juste buzas

Image by David Lifson
Flickr.com_3418813640_db17f6213e
CC BY-ND 2.0

I was browsing through the cookbook section at my local library’s used book sale when a title caught my eye.  A cookie book.

I pulled it from the shelf.  Instead of a baking book however, it was Joyce Meyer’s book, Eat the Cookie…Buy the Shoes.  I smiled at the misplacement of the book, thinking that a more fitting title for the book’s misfiling could be “Bake the Cookie…Eat it…then, Buy the Shoes.”  I chuckled and turned to find the book’s proper section.

Mid-turn, the Lord spoke to me.  He said, “This isn’t an accident.  Buy the book.” Read the rest of this entry »

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