{re}fresh

Repentance: Feel the Love

by Mindy Kiker

Image by Jason Watson Flicker.com_deviantmonk_8khVEE-4P7_CC BY-ND 2.0

Image by Jason Watson
Flicker.com_deviantmonk_8khVEE-4P7_CC BY-ND 2.0

Love your enemies, do good to them….Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36

Love is tough. It’s gritty and glorious. I struggle to love people when I’m disappointed in them, or in myself, or with life in general. Sometimes I come across less like a lover and more like an accuser. You don’t want to know me when I get into striving mode with a long to-do list and a tight time schedule with little margin. I inevitably start to feel the strain, but instead of dealing with my own heart before The Lord, I like to start first by blaming others:

It’s the kids’ problem–they’re so disobedient. Why did I have so many children?

It’s my husband’s problem–he’s not at all helpful. Why didn’t I stay single?

It’s my many obligations–why didn’t I say “No!”? What was I thinking?

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Harvesting a surprise

by Rob Dunne

Image by Toni Verdu CarboFlickr.com_629236570_31721a3ebd_CC BY-ND 2.0

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

One of the most rewarding aspects of youth ministry I’ve experienced, was short term mission trips. To date, I have traveled to Jamaica, Mexico, Guatemala and Uganda.  These overseas trips were particularly powerful because the students experienced how difficult life was outside of the United States. They realized just how good they had it back home!

Admittedly, students occasionally made poor choices. There were times when I wondered if my efforts were for naught.

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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.

Lessons in the Vine

by Dawn Aldrich

Grape Harvest Gouveia Vineyard, Wallingford, CT
Image by Peter Aldrich

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 (NIV)

In the early morning sun, grapes hung fragrant, ripe and heavy from the vine.  The vineyard buzzed with activity from both man and bee as we harvested our community’s first autumn crop. I met the challenge cheerfully, anticipating time spent outdoors tending the vines alongside my husband and neighbors.


Conversations in the field were as plentiful as the grapes. Some were boisterous and jolly, awaiting the end-of-harvest drinks shared in celebration. Others were soft spoken and patient as they taught their little ones the proper way to cut the fruit from the vine.

There was so much going on around me but the more grapes I harvested the more I found my spirit contemplating the lessons in the vine.

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Love Demonstrated

by Mindy Kiker

Forgiven, Loved_Ben Husman
Flickr.com_2803463263_45751eacab_CC BY-ND 2.0

“But I don’t want to forgive him!” In coaching my children about forgiveness, the resistance I meet is familiar. Even I resist letting my offender off the hook with those three magic words, “I forgive you.” The reality is, unforgiveness feels powerful while forgiveness feels weak.

Experts agree that, while seeking healing for our broken hearts, what most commonly blocks our healing is unforgiveness. Saying it another way: the way to mend a broken heart is to forgive.

Do you recall the words of Christ on the cross? “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:24)

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Filled With The Spirit

by Rob Dunne

Praying by Tarah
Flickr.com_1471520030_ccde31ee4f_CC BY-ND 2.0

He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. 1 Corinthians 14:4

My friend Tony is a spirit filled Pentecostal. When he and I first started hanging out, Tony told me that I had to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Then I heard people speaking in tongues and thought to myself, this is weird!

The first mention of tongues is found in Acts chapter 2. The Spirit fell on the disciples and they went out in to the street and people from all over the world heard them speak in their native tongue. I thought to myself, “This is what speaking in tongues is about. It is not gibberish. It is an actual, known language.” I fought the idea of speaking in tongues for a long time.

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Measured by God

by juste buzas

Worship
by spaceamobea
Flickr.com_1515437636_ce7442adf1_CC BY-ND 2.0

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

Early one morning, while on my knees in prayer, I asked the Lord to expand me.  I prayed that He would broaden my capacity to hold Him…to know Him.  I asked for increase in my ability to minister His love and life to others.

In response to my heartfelt cry, God answered, “Let me measure you, My daughter.”

I lifted my arms.  In the Spirit, I saw a cloak arranged and placed upon my shoulders.  I saw a tailor’s measuring tape placed and stretched.  I doubted and dropped my arms. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Confrontation

by kerriebutterfield

IMG_3197I had the opportunity to travel to Japan recently and had a confrontation with a beautiful piece of pottery. As we walked up an ancient road to visit a temple we popped into a pottery shop to escape the oppressive heat and enjoy the air conditioning. As I soaked up the cool air, a small corner of the shop caught my eye. It contained a series of shelves filled with pottery in the style of Kintsugi.

Wikipedia describes Kintsugi as, “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with laquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard of Kintsugi, but it was the first time I saw it outside of a museum. This first time I could pick up the object and hold it in my hands and run my finger over the golden filled cracks, and investigate it thoroughly. And as I did, God took this opportunity to confront me and align my heart with His. Read the rest of this entry »

Perfection Is Moving the Right Direction

by Mike McKinniss

Sometimes, while reading Scripture, you find yourself nodding along in total agreement. “Yes,” you whisper to yourself. “It’s so true!” And the warm fuzzies cover you head to foot like a Snuggie. Sometimes, the words leap off the page, get right up into your face and cut you in the heart. Like surgery, conviction is an uncomfortable, often grueling, but entirely necessary affair. Cutting out a cancer still requires a painful incision.

And then there are the passages that simply stop you dead in your tracks. Neither affirming nor convicting, they simply elicit a good long head scratch.

Luke 2:52 is one such passage:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people (HCSB).

Now, I can understand the young Jesus increasing in stature. Luke inserts this tidbit right between Jesus’ dedication in the temple as a young man and the arrival of John the Baptist heralding the Christ’s arrival. I couldn’t tell you how tall Jesus was at 13 or at 30, but I’ll bet there was a significant difference.

I can also wrap my head around Jesus growing in favor with people. I, for one, am typically fairly skeptical of a teenager’s sufficient character to follow through on a pledge or listen to instructions or generally act like a decent human being. It’s easy to imagine Jesus consistently having to prove himself worth his young salt as he approached manhood.

But how does Jesus Christ grow in wisdom? And how does the Son of God increase in favor with God?

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Lover Of My Soul

by Rob Dunne

Monet by Peter Miller http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmillera4/6883619436 CC BY-ND 2.0

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

A wealthy couple spent many years collecting fine art. One day, they added a Monet to their collection that immediately became the wife’s favorite. Though they shared a love of art, the husband’s love for his wife grew cold and he filed for divorce. She kept the Monet.

Within a few short years, the wife contracted a terminal illness and died. When her will was read, everyone was surprised that she had bequeathed the Monet to her ex-husband. As it turned out, she never stopped loving him and demonstrated that by giving him her most prized possession.  Read the rest of this entry »

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