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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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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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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.

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Something Bigger Than Ourselves

by Wendy

DSC_3389

photo by W Coy. Use with permission

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

That afternoon I sang in a gorgeous, warm, intimate, wood-and-gilded 1891 hall named Carnegie. Not my first time there, but definitely my first time on stage. I listened and watched as the sound left our mouths and wafted high into the dome and the fifth balcony, swirling into patrons’ laps and dropping onto their faces with joy. We weren’t allowed to wear cologne, but someone’s shampoo smelled like orange blossoms. Resonance hung in the air with the scent. No one breathed. Perfect silence before the applause.

We were nobodies on that stage, but the hall and the composer/conductor wooed us into something bigger than ourselves.  The hall was like a living thing, a willing ally covering our mistakes; an unseen collaborator warming and shaping our sound and spinning it into gold as it danced between rounded walls. And we happily believed the sound and the audience’s warmth bouncing back to the stage.  We left the hall with that sparkling joy still glittering our hair and our faces.

Two mornings later it snowed, despite being more than a week after Easter and well into April.  Gloom and depression fell along with thick, foggy, slushy flakes which couldn’t stick because the ground was too warm.  Like the concert, the previous week’s hint of warmth was a tease of joy until reality crashed the party.

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His Pride and Joy!

by juste buzas

Image by David Verdugo
Flickr.com_3361579417_6ae151b5ab_ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts!  May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love, that you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and the length and height and depth [of it];”  Ephesians 3:17,18

One afternoon, when I was snuggling with my daughter while watching a movie, God overwhelmed me with the power of His love.  He showed me a picture of this love.  Just as my arms enveloped my dear daughter, His arms were wrapped around us.  My daughter and I were so thoroughly encased in the Father’s embrace that we were completely hidden.  We were wholly and entirely sheltered in His adoration and love.

As I sat there on the couch with my daughter, I realized that my love for my children pales miserably against the reflection of God’s eternal love.  This truth did not discourage me.  Rather, it gave me hope.  Life is the process of becoming like God.  And, God is love.  It is in His love, that this process of life is fulfilled.  It is in God’s love that all things…righteousness, justice, peace, and reconciliation become reality. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dark Day Before Resurrection

by Mindy Kiker

I call it “Somber Saturday” — one of my favorite days of the year nestled between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  I relish the reflections that this day invites. In anguish, I imagine the confusion and sorrow that must have wrapped itself around Mary, the disciples and all those who loved the Rabbi from Nazareth.

Many believed He was the Son of God, come to save the Hebrew nation from the scourge of Roman rule. Little did they realize that this lofty hope was too small a calling, too small a mission for the one true Messiah.

Jesus’ followers did not yet comprehend the magnitude of what God planned to accomplish — the Lamb had come to earth, Jehovah made flesh, to rescue ALL people for ALL time from the scourge of sin, death, sickness, and every kind of evil.

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One Word for 2018: Hope!

by juste buzas

Image by David
Flickr.com_brokentaco_2781330996_f9260fea91

“The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear or dread?  The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”  (Psalm 27:1)

One afternoon not long ago, I stood on my front porch and watched the beginnings of a thunderstorm roll through the sky.  The sky was wild, exhilarating; alive with color and movement.  I was caught up in the rush of wind and action, struck with wonder at the battleground set before me.  It was as though the place in which I stood was the dividing line between storm and stillness.

To my left, the sky was ominous.  Layers of gray and black rolled together as one, threatening force.  An occasional drum of thunder grumbled from within the darkness.

To my right was brilliant sunshine.  Billowing white clouds set high against a glorious, blue sky.

The stage was set.  The battle was at hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Good News!

by Rob Dunne

Image by Darren Tunnifliff
Flickr.com_4232232092_2be61c1467_CC BY-ND 2.0

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-33.

I try very hard not to read or watch the news. To a certain extent, I believe the media intentionally fills its headlines with bad news. The result is that we as consumers of media are in a constant state of fear or anxiety. News can give us a sense of hopelessness.

Two thousand years ago, God sent the angel Gabriel to give Mary and the world some good news. When Gabriel first appeared to Mary, she responded in fear. Unlike the fear that we may experience when watching the news, this fear was warranted. Imagine what it would be like for a supernatural being like an angel to appear in your room. Mary was justified in her initial response.

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He’s in the waiting

by Dawn Aldrich

tantrumby Kerrie Butterfield

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you.”

2 Peter 3:9

A few years ago I went shopping on December 22nd  to do a little last minute Christmas shopping, when I stumbled upon a sweet Mom and her very determined toddler who Papa used to talk with  me about my own heart:

I was waiting in the express line with one tiny item when I heard the screams of a visibly upset todler. He was having a massive tantrum. You could see he was deeply distressed,  sad, and his despair was overwhelming him and His Mom. This is what I overheard:

Mom: “I ‘m not buying that for you. Christmas is just 3 days away.”

Little boy: “I’s never coming!! Christmas is never going to come. It’s 700 days away!!!!” (more crying, and angry tears)

Mom: “It’s just 3 days away.”

Little boy: “It is not. It is never coming. It’s never going to happen.”

Mom: “I wouldn’t lie to you, it is really close. I promise. Three isn’t a lot. Just a little.”

Little boy: “It’s forever!!!” Read the rest of this entry »

Tilled and Sown

by juste buzas

Image by Untilled Soybean Board_Flickr-com_9622771985_21fe5db2fe_CC BY-ND 2.0

Years ago, before I had given my heart to Christ, my life looked like a desert plain where the soil was hardened by the heat of the sun.  Through rebellion and strife, I was responsible for the fruitlessness and decay of my life.  Even so, God was always there.  In His sovereignty, God waited until I came to the end of myself that brought me to my knees.

Kneeling in the desert of my own desolation, unable to stand, parched and spent, I reached out to my loving Father and begged for mercy and escape.

God, in His compassion, met me in the field of my deficiency, stayed with me there in the parched land of my need.  It was there that the Lord began teaching me His ways. He showed me my desolate self against the mirror of His abounding holiness. He opened my eyes to my wandering places, exposed my hidden places of hurt and trespass and revealed where my resisted His love.

It was there, dry and broken, that I understood God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  It was there that He taught me how to be loved:

“For behold, I am for you and I will turn to you; and you shall be tilled and sown.”  (Ezekiel 36:9)

Tilled and sown.  Oh!  God does not leave us in the desert for long.  No.  He tills away our sorrow and our sin.  He turns our lives over…from old into new.  In our willingness for the work of His hand, God is faithful to till and to sow.  He plants His Word deep within our hearts.  He satisfies our thirst.  We become like a newly planted field that is watered by the rain of God’s presence and bathed in the glory of His light.  His seed of grace and goodness is planted deep within our hearts, and our lives are adorned with the fruitfulness of His righteousness.

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