{re}fresh

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 »

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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!

Read the rest of this entry »

The winds of faithfulness

by kerriebutterfield

Image by Aneurysm9_Flickr.com_2414232119_a9b48da21f_CC BY-ND 2.0

Image by Aneurysm9 Flickr.com_2414232119_a9b48da21f_CC BY-ND 2.0

Months ago, as I was walking, praying, and confessing my fear of failing to God, he reminded me of our history together; stories of His faithful love towards myself and my family through His provision, answered prayers and healing miracles. Gratitude and joy replaced my anxiety.

Humbled by how much He had done in me, through me, and for me, I stopped right then. Closing my eyes, I lifted my face towards heaven and began thanking Him for who He is and all He had done.

Suddenly, a loud wind began to blow. Startled by the sound, I opened my eyes and looked around me. Read the rest of this entry »

Be a Peacemaker, Be like God

by Mike McKinniss

4872488788_5612f40737_z

Peace” by Jonathan Brown under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9, ESV).

Peacemaking, whether we’re trying to make things right with someone else or whether we’re stepping into another’s conflict as a third party, almost always requires some kind of personal sacrifice. To make peace where we’ve been offended means forgiving the one who has offended us. It means swallowing the “right” to retribution or to recompense. To make peace means we take the hurt and we trust God to make something good and beautiful from it.

This is the model Christ provided us. Did he not make peace with his accusers? Did he not make peace with those who cast him upon the cross? He did. How so? Jesus willingly took the abuse. He silently accepted their false accusations and condemnation. Inso doing, his sacrifice brought peace.

How could Jesus do such a thing? He could swallow the offense because he had full faith that his Father in heaven would deal justly with him and with those who crucified him. Justly? Yes, just to bring good from such deep evil. Jesus believed that if he willingly abandoned his rights and sacrificed all, God would abolish the wrongs that lead us to crucify the one righteous person on the earth.

What we had intended for evil, God turned for good—good to the one crucified by resurrecting him from the grave and good to the murdering mob by pouring out the blessing of forgiveness.

Peacemaking requires personal sacrifice and trust in a good God.

“… For they shall be called sons of God.” What is a son of God? A son of God is one who reflects the true heart of God. It is one who represents God accurately. In Old Testament times among Near Eastern cultures, a son of God is a king on the earth, empowered with the spirit of God to do his will.

Stretching back from the New Testament, the nation of Israel was meant to be a son of God (Ex. 4:22), and so was their king (2 Sam. 7:14). Israel was meant to be a people through whom God hoped to show himself to the world. Going further back, all of humanity were meant to be sons of God, as originally modeled in the hope for Adam—the first man, created in God’s image, that is, his son. (Compare for a moment the language in Gen. 1:26-28 and Gen. 5:1-3.)

And of course, the true son of God is Jesus himself. He perfectly reflected the heart, nature and will of God in all he said and did (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). He took to its fullest the Creator’s hope for a creation at peace. And he assumed the depths of sacrificial love required to bring the world into true peace. It required of him his life.

Now, the promise is that we too might represent God’s heart for peace. How? Through sacrifice. Through the rejection of our rights. Through a full trust that God will see to our needs when we forego them on his behalf.

If we take on ourselves this life—the life of Christ—we will be called sons of God, not because the Creator waves a magic wand and makes it so. Rather, to modify an old saying, we’ll walk like a son of God and we’ll quack like a son of God. And we’ll simply be known for what we are.

Tomato Soup and Saltine Crackers

by Carol Nicholls

But my God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. Philippians 4:19

I couldn’t face it, just the smell was repulsive. For more than 10 years tomato soup and saltine crackers, an American staple, was not allowed in my home. The whole issue began when I was 18.

Six months after high school graduation I packed up my earthly goods (not a lot at that age), left them at my mother’s apartment and headed for the Los Angeles airport. Read the rest of this entry »

Change Something or: How to Get Your Future Wife to Marry You

by Mike McKinniss

“If you want things to change, maybe you should change something.”

Such was the sage advice given to my wife by her wise mother several years ago, which is how we got married.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because the word of wisdom came to the future Mrs. at a time when I was out of the picture. In fact, I was so far out of the picture, I was hanging from another wall …

in another room …

in another house …

in another state.

But this isn’t about me. (It kind of is.)

You see, future wife was stuck in a rut. Life had been motoring along quite nicely for many years. Out of college, she’d been offered a job that she tackled with fervor. Ten years later and she’d happily grown it about as much as anyone could. That work had kept her in a tight community filled with friends she’d made in school and relationships she’d thoughtfully deepened over time. She’d bought a house along the way and fixed it up just the way she wanted. Life was good.

But she had the sinking suspicion God wanted something more for her. Something had to change.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Child of Joy

by Mindy Kiker

I was depressed. Trapped by hopelessness and despair, I could see no way out. My guilt intensified because a baby was growing within my body, a tiny person trapped inside, feeling my every emotion, floating in a noxious bath of misery.

Why did you send this baby to me, God, only for me to taint before he is even born?

I still talked to the Lord, but my mind rejected genuine prayer. I scorned the Word. My heart despised the church. My mouth refused to sing. Once beloved spiritual practices had vanished. What was I to do?

Startled by the phone, I answered in my false cheerful voice, surprised to find my mom’s good friend who has prayed for me since I was a little girl. She rarely phones me, but when she does, I know it is important.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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.

 

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