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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Who Will Rebuild My Home?

    ‘Who Will Rebuild My Home?’

    By Laura Reinhardt

    *Post and photos are courtesy of World Vision.

    It was around noon on a day in 2012 when Adelina and her grandmother, Juliet, returned from working in the fields. They found their house collapsed into a heap of rubble because of poor construction.

    “I felt poverty,” Juliet remembers

    The 78-year-old widow recalls thinking: “My husband has died and now my house had fallen down. Who will rebuild it for me?”

    Adelina says, “I asked myself, ‘Where are we going to live?’”

    Twelve-year-old Adelina has known hardship before. Her mother died due to complications from childbirth. Her father abandoned her and she has lived with her grandmother since 2005.

    But she had always had a roof over her head. Now where would they go? She and her grandmother lived as subsistence farmers. They didn’t have money to rebuild a home.

    The loss of their home forced them to ask for help from neighbors, who allowed them to move into a nearby home. Sadly, that home also had one collapsed wall.

    Despite her advanced age, Juliet began doing extra farming to raise a little bit more money.

    Finally she had saved enough money to buy a few supplies for a new shelter. However, it was hardly a home. Four thin tree posts long by three tree posts wide with a grass roof over top—there were no walls on the sides. It was simply a roof for Adelina and her grandmother.

    Sometimes when it rained, they couldn’t even lay down. Water leaked through the quickly constructed roof. They had to stay awake and standing all night to avoid getting wet.

    Both Adelina and Juliet worried about snakes. Juliet also worried about strangers passing by on the nearby road. Would they see the wide-open shelter and come to harm them?

    Adelina’s biggest fear was simple: “I was afraid the house would fall.”

    Thankfully the story didn’t end there.

    Powerful Training for Pastors

    In the same community, Pastor Jornito Jorge, 35, had begun receiving training from World Vision thanks to child sponsorship in the Namanjivira Area Development Program.

    The training encouraged Pastor Jorge to work side-by-side with his fellow pastors. “Before I didn’t know it was important to have these relationships with other churches,” he says. “It feels like it’s important because if you have interaction with other churches, you grow spiritually and you learn to know much better the word of God.”

    Through this training, he learned about the Community Care Coalition (CCC), which World Vision had started in other communities. The CCC provides for the physical and material needs of children left vulnerable due to poverty like Adelina and Juliet.

    He also learned about World Vision’s Channels of Hope program, which helps pastors and church volunteers to support those who are chronically ill and their children. They work to provide for both the physical and spiritual needs of their patients.

    “Through this training I learned to wear the shoes of somebody else. If this was me, how would I feel? I thought it was good for me to help those in need,” Pastor Jorge says.

    Through the CCC, the community now cares for 144 children. Pastor Jorge gives credit to World Vision and the training he received. Without the training he wouldn’t have even begun “because I didn’t have an idea how to start this work.”

    A Donor’s Generosity

    A donor and child sponsor named Linda Fisher visited Pastor Jorge’s community and heard a presentation about the work that the CCC and Channels of Hope were doing. She asked the groups how would they support all the activities they had planned for the children.  They replied that they planned to pool the money they had to buy a mill to grind corn. They could then sell that corn flour to the community and use the money to provide clothing, school workbooks, and whatever else the vulnerable children might need.

    Linda returned home to the United States and within a month sent back the money for the mill.

    That wasn’t the only source of income for these programs. Pastor Jorge has a small bakery next to his church where he and church members bake fresh bread to sell and raise money.

    The church also owns and cultivates an acre of land growing fresh vegetables. World Vision provided Pastor Jorge and the CCC with seeds. A World Vision staff member who focused on food security trained them on best agricultural practices to increase their vegetable yield.

    Now Pastor Jorge sells cabbage, carrots, corn, and other vegetables to provide additional funds to help the orphans and vulnerable children of his community.

    A Volunteer Visits

    The CCC and Channels of Hope each are composed of 15 volunteers. The CCC volunteers come from throughout the community and the volunteers from Channels of Hope all come from Pastor Jorge’s church—Luz de Jesus.

    The volunteers scour the community visiting all of the vulnerable children and chronically ill in the area. Due to the vast area and the fact that people are most often on foot or bicycle, they usually are able to visit all the people they serve once a quarter.

    So it had been a couple of months that Adelina and her grandmother had lived under their shelter before a volunteer came and learned what had happened. The CCC sprang into action.

    They made bricks, then bought bamboo and grass to roof the house. “I was happy for the news of the house construction,” says Juliet.  “God is powerful because He saw that we have been through a difficult situation and now we have this new house.”

     

    When Adelina learned about the new home she says, “I was laughing [with joy].”

    “Thank you for the help,” says Juliet. “We would be facing hard times because in that house, which used to be so cold.”

    “They are good people,” says Adelina of the volunteers and donors who built her new home.

    Now, thanks to funding from World Vision’s sponsorship program, Adelina and Juliet have a permanent shelter over their heads. The sturdily constructed home should stand for a long time. No longer does Juliet have to worry about strangers passing by in the night. No longer do they have to sleep standing up to avoid the rains. And the future looks a little bit brighter.

    *This is a brief glimpse into the work that World Vision is doing 24/7, 365 days a year around the world.  Every time you shop in-stores, or online, with Family Christian, it helps fund programs like these mentioned above.  Thank you for your support and thank you World Vision for your service and for sharing this blog post with us.

  • Smooth Sailing No, Faithful God Yes by Amy Dewey

    This was originally posted on Amy Dewey's blog and is being shared with permission here.

    I like to think of me steering my life like a ship sailing along in calm waters with the wind filling the sails and nothing but blue skies.  It really is an idyllic and comforting thought, flowing along without a care in the world.  Ahh!! How safe and simple it truly would be....
    Here's the part where life cues the storm clouds, sheets of rain, hurricane winds, and tossing waves....ta-da!!  Well, my dumb idea just got lost at sea along with my security, my personal comfort, and my naïveté.  Bummer, that didn't last long.
    You see, this fake sense of control I like to live in, is just that, fake.  It brings me a comfort for a moment then reality crashes down on me.  I sink into the mire of an aching soul and deep fatigue.  All the plates I had carefully spinning, perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect everything, crash to the floor splitting into a million pieces.  I try to clean up my mess, but I have nothing left and collapse in frustration.
    God pulls me up and reminds me of His promises.
    "Meanwhile the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. "(Romans 8:26-28 MSG)
    I remember then that God has His hand on me.  His Holy Spirit abides in me and It will do for me what I can't do myself.  I then remember all the times God has been faithful to see me through when I thought I couldn't take another thing going the wrong way.
    After 3 car accidents, 3 stinky jobs, and 1 difficult post partim after my daughter's birth, I'm still here in one piece thanks to His love and grace.  Believe me, I could have done without the hard things!  Still, it is during such times that I grow strongest in Him.
    So hold tight to His promises and let go of the false control.  He will see you through each and every circumstance.  You are His precious and beloved child for always.

     

    This was a guest post written by Amy Dewey from Moment by Moment Grace.  Here is her bio:

    I'm a wife, a mama, and a girl that loves Jesus.  My words are simple, but I hope they speak volumes about Jesus' love to those that read them.
    He loves us all so deeply, and that is my greatest joy to share.
  • The Faith To Believe

    We come to this Christian walk at varying stages of life. Some of us barely remember a time when we didn’t believe. Some tried to figure out this life in many different ways before coming to a belief in the one true God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. While still others struggle to believe even now.

    And no matter where you fall on that journey, we can all lack the faith needed to believe when life isn’t easy. When the choices are hard. Our hearts are broken. Our spirit tired. When we wonder, even if we don’t have the courage to say it out loud, if God sees our circumstances.

    Please, reader, know you’re not alone in this.

    *****

    To the wife of many years who realizes, with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, divorce is a very real next step in her faith journey. A decision sure to affect friends and family as well. For years to come. Believe.

    “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

    *****

    To the one struggling with an addiction. Not only today, but every day. Who, no matter how much faith he conjures up, still has trouble getting up, going to work, putting one foot in front of the other. Every. Day. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us be the church. Believe.

    “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” Romans 15:1

    *****

    To the sister who knows God has placed a calling on her life. But struggles to find a church where she can serve freely. Who often contemplates if perhaps she misunderstands the God-given gifts she sees in herself. Believe.

    “But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” I Corinthians 12:18

    *****

    To the pastor who has seen it all. He has served faithfully for years. And knows the depths of the fall of man. But also knows the heights we can reach when we exercise

    the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Who would somedays give it all away to get a job where he worked the day shift, 40 hours a week. When you’re not sure you can continue living into this calling God has on your life. Believe.

    “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

    *****

    To the mama of many children, blessed enough to spend her days with them. So worn out from all these blessings when she finally gets them to bed at night. And, when she’s very honest with herself, often wonders deep down if she’s doing things right. If her children will have the faith she tries to instill in them. Believe.

    “Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

    *****

    To the brother who’s been waiting for a really long time. For a wife. A home. A job. An opportunity to serve. Whose heart longs for his circumstances to change. But God appears silent. Believe.

    “Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 *****

    To the family member who celebrates an anniversary every year. Honoring the death of a loved one. An infant. A child. A husband. A parent. No one gets to tell you how to grieve. Or how long you should bear the sorrow. Know God weeps with you. Believe.

    “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

    *****

    The real hope for a Christian lies in the fact that there is so much more for a believer. More than this broken, fallen world can offer us. His Word promises, again and again, we can have more in this life. And an eternity of better awaits us. Believe.

    “Blessed is she who believed.” Luke 1:45a

    Traci Rhoades can trace God at work her whole life, preparing her for various seasons of ministry. In a big picture kind of way, that very idea encompasses her blog, http://www.tracesoffaith.com.  Her articles offer an honest look at how we can trace ways God prepares us to glorify Him with our lives both now and for eternity.

  • Interview with Matthew West

    Recently Family Christian was able to interview artist Matthew West.  Please read the interview below and be looking for his release of "Believe" on October 14th.  His single "A Christmas to Believe in" is sure to speak to your heart this Christmas season.  We are thrilled that his album is going to be available exclusively at Family Christian stores!

    FC: Matthew, Hello! How are you?

     

    MW:  I am doing great.  Thanks to you, I've been in the Christmas spirit since July!

     

    FC: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.  You know we are so excited for your October 14th release of Believe.  Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your song “A Christmas to Believe in” ?

     

    MW:  When I was asked to write a song based on this broader theme of "believe," the first title idea that popped into my head for some reason was, "A Christmas To Believe In."  Something just felt classic and special about that.  Then, I began to unpack all of things that title could mean.  One of the things I wrote down on my lyrics sheet one day was a list of titles that substituted other words where the word "believe" would be.  I began to think of what, sadly, Christmas might actually feel like for so many hurting people.  For the person battling depression around the holidays, they might say it's  "A Christmas to SURVIVE."  For the unemployed father who's worried about providing for his family, he might be feeling like it's "A Christmas to try to AFFORD." For the family that's been torn apart and is dreading the one time of year that they all have to be under one roof it could be looked at as "A Christmas to ENDURE." And the list went on and on.  I guess this song is my wish for people, that they will be reminded this December how the word "believe" is powerful enough to erase all of those other words we might be using to describe this Christmas; that the One we believe in is strong enough to flood our hearts with hope this year and show us what a Christmas to Believe In is really like.

     

     

    FC:  What is your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?

     

    MW:  My favorite Christmas memory is actually in the final lyrics of this song.  "It's grandpa's bible opened up, to Luke chapter two..."  Every Christmas morning my dad would stop us before opening all of the presents and we would read the story of the birth of Christ. There was something very centering about that moment before the chaos ensued; our hearts were brought back to the reason why each Christmas really is a Christmas to believe in.

     

    FC:  I hear that you are currently working on your next project and I’d love to hear about it.

     

    MW:  Yes, I'm very excited about it!  And I'm also a bit nervous.  But those are always two emotions that seem to precede every record I do, and those are two emotions that seem to always mean that something special is around the corner in my life and in my journey of faith.  With this new record, I'm a man on a mission encouraging people to become a storyTELLER, not just a storyKEEPER.  I have been encouraging folks over the past few years with my records that their life is a story that God is telling, but there is not power in simply keeping that story to ourselves, God wants to use our story to change the world.  So, I'm giving people a chance to tell me their story.  We've received thousands of stories at my website so far, and I'm spending two months hidden away in a cabin reading every one of them and writing the new songs!

     

    FC:  Thanks again for your time today Matthew.  All of us here at Family Christian are incredibly honored that you wrote “A Christmas to Believe in” for us to have in our stores and online.  We want to take the time to thank you again.  We truly appreciate it.  It does mean a lot to us.

     

    MW:  I was honored to write the song for this project, and I hope the heartbeat of the song's message will ring true for all who get the chance to hear it this Christmas.

     

    FC:  One last question: We believe strongly in the power of prayer and we would like to ask you how we can be praying for you.

     

    MW:  I would appreciate your prayers for my time spent in the cabin reading stories and writing these new songs.  I want my heart to be open to what God is showing me and I am praying that I continue to write songs that tell the greatest story ever told!

     

    FC: Thank you Matthew.  Take care and be blessed.

  • The Stress Cure

    Linda

    "The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

    Not long ago, I heard a radio preacher say, "If you have stress, that means you're not trusting God." I was having a stressful day, so I didn't particularly care for his remark. I silently argued, Why of course I trust God, my problem is I'm having a day that won't let me "phone-it-in."

    My stressful day started the morning I had to drive 50 miles to do a live radio interview in another town. As the clock ticked down to my departure time, everything started to go wrong. I suddenly remembered I needed to get a tax report into the mail.

    As I felt my stress rise, I got a call telling me payroll was late. This was a payroll I had to sign before I left town so my assistant could get paid and buy groceries — a habit she didn't like to break. So by the time I finished, filed, found and signed my paperwork, my stress level was high and I was late for the radio interview, which I could not do via phone.

    So, I hopped in my car and with sweat trickling between my shoulder blades, I raced through freeway traffic for 50 miles. When I arrived, I sprinted to catch the elevator. When it reached the top floor, I dashed down the hall and slipped into the chair and headphones as the radio station's mike went live. The host barely managed to whisper, "And I was beginning to think you wouldn't make it!"

    As I talked to the host about how we can live our lives in a deeper relationship with God, I had to laugh at myself for not including more of God in my day. Sure, I'd shot off many Help-me-Lord prayers that morning. But in all my rush to get to the radio station, I felt more flustered than peaceful.

    What could I have done differently? To find a clue, let's unpack Psalm 28:7.

    This verse starts with "The LORD is my strength and shield."

    This is a great reminder that we can use God's strength to make it through any of our problems. In fact, God's strength can serve to shield us from the fiery darts of worry, fear and stress. This news is a great relief!

    The next line of this verse says, "I trust him with all my heart."

    These words prompt us to trust God. The next time you're tempted to turn a hectic day into a panic attack, instead say, "I'm going to trust God through this." You'll soon discover that your choice to trust God will calm you with a peace that surpasses understanding.

    The rest of the verse says, "He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."

    This puts us on notice to acknowledge God's help and presence in our lives. When we take the time to count our blessings, to remind ourselves of all the ways God has helped us through difficulties, we are sure to experience His joy.

    Maybe the radio preacher had it right. When we remember to trust God and to face a hectic day in His strength, we'll see our blessings and count it all as joy.

    Dear Lord, I often allow stress to rule my life. I rush to achieve my goals in my own strength, forgetting that I can rely on Your strength. Help me to put my trust in You so I can relax in Your great love. Thank You for all the blessings You send my way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!" (NLT)

    Psalm 55:22, "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let he righteous be shaken." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What past stress are you still holding on to?

    What would happen if you gave both yesterday and today's stress to the Lord?

    © 2014 by Linda Evans Shepherd. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Interview with Louie Giglio

     

    Family Christian:     What is the main driving force behind what you do? (i.e. Passion Conferences, pastoring, mentoring young people, etc.)

     

    Louie Giglio:   As long as I can remember, the compelling force behind my calling is a desire to know Jesus more and to make Him known. I believe I was created for a relationship with Jesus, so growing in my relationship with Him and worshiping Him with all my heart and life is preeminent. As an overflow of my life – the wake I leave behind with my little dash on earth – I want others to fall in love with Jesus and know of His great hope and purpose for their lives.

     

    Family Christian:    When and how did the Passion Conferences come to be? What was the hope/vision behind it? How did it get to be the huge success it is now?

     

    Louie Giglio:   Passion was born out of a desire to see the close to 20-million university students in America awaken to their God-created purpose and destiny. Shelley and I had been working for a decade with students on one college campus in Texas and had relocated to Atlanta in 1995 to help with the care of my recently disabled father. But suddenly my father passed away and we were neither serving him nor the students we left behind at Baylor University. In that window of confusion and grief God called us to the great opportunity of hosting gatherings for students from all the campuses of the nation. The Passion Movement was born with a gathering of 2000 students in Austin in January 1997. Our growth and influence is hard to quantify or explain. We believe the focus on Jesus, and the clarion call to this generation to live for His fame, is an enduring and worthy effort which God has blessed and favored.

     

    Family Christian:    What is your vision for Passion 2015? Will it be any different from previous years? Is there a theme? Who will be joining you on stage this year?

     

    Louie Giglio:   We are massively excited about Passion 2015, hosting three three-day events – two in Atlanta and one in Houston. Though the faces will be the same, and some of our core speakers will return, the focus will remain as always The Glory Of God.

     

    Family Christian:   What is your favorite (or one of your favorite) passages of Scripture and why? How has it helped you in your life?

     

    Louie Giglio:    While we are speaking of Passion, I think I'll say 1 Thessalonians 5:24 – “Faithful is he who calls who, he also will bring it to pass.” This has been an anchor for Shelley and me as we have followed Jesus personally, and with big mission steps like Passion, and Passion City Church. God has plans and purposes for each of our lives. But the beauty is that He doesn't call us and leave us on our own. Jesus actually lives in us to pull off the amazing things that He has invited us into.

     

    Family Christian:     How should a Christian respond to the tragic current events that are happening around the world today?

     

    Louie Giglio:   The world has been tragic since the day Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. From that moment murder, mayhem and war entered the scene and we are still suffering the consequences of a man-driven, self-serving, short-sighted environment. Yet, like on that day in the garden, God is at work, extending grace, working His restoration plan and bringing all things to the feet of Jesus. To navigate these uncertain and painful days we must be on mission every day, keep our eyes on the hope of Jesus' coming and work to serve all men while we can.

     

     

     

    Family Christian:    What do you think the current generation needs to hear about God and faith?

     

    Louie Giglio:    I know we all need to hear the gospel, but I think more than anything the current generation needs to SEE God as His people live out the sermon, extend truth and grace in tangible ways and demonstrate to the world a real and authentic faith that reverberates through all the facets of our lives. It's time to preach with our actions and be bold with our words, letting people know God is close, He is better and He is able to repair and restore.

     

    Family Christian:   What can we look for from you in the future? (books, DVDs, speaking tours, etc).

     

    Louie Giglio:    Well, I'll be at Passion City Church Sunday speaking about the significance of life and death! :) So that's next for me. As far as resources, we are working on a major book project now we hope to make available in 2015.

  • Wisdom from Nicaragua

    While in Nicaragua, on a trip with World Vision, we visited a school in an impoverished community where World Vision is training teens to mentor younger students in their school on academic topics. Essentially, juniors and seniors are mentoring 3rd-6th graders in reading and math. As we listened to the student mentors, I was deeply inspired by their character, sacrifice, and effort in serving the younger students of their community. Because I was so inspired I choose to address the teens in a manner that was unique but very purposeful.

     

     

     

    With my interpreter, I pulled up a chair right in front of the twenty students so that I could be close to them and look each of them in the eye. As I began, I shared with them that I want to speak to them as if I were their father and that they were to hear me as if the words are coming from their Papa.

     

    What I said to them is this: “As your father I am incredibly proud of you. You are the very best this nation has to offer. You're sacrificial, in that each of you gives up your free time to mentor younger students. Most of you walk many kilometers to be here to instruct and encourage younger students. You, in fact, are not normal student leaders, but truly extraordinary leaders. Your hearts long to make a difference and give back to your community and thereby inspire students and teachers alike. Your effort is making a difference. You are raising up a strong generation. You are setting others up for success. You are setting this community up for success. You honor your family name and your honor your Lord Jesus Christ. As my son or daughter, I would choose you every time.”

     

    Each student was deeply engaged in receiving this feedback and encouragement. Some even had tears in their eyes.

     

    As I ended, the young 17 year old girl who was the leader of this team of mentors spoke these powerful words: “Thank you for seeing us for who we are, not for what we have.”

     

    She stunned me. In our nation many strive to be seen for what they have, not for who they are.  Just the exact opposite of this profound young lady.

     

    As I reflected on her deep comment, my prayer became; “Lord, by your grace may my heart and effort be focused on being seen for who I am in Christ, and not for what I have.”

     

    May we be as wise as this teen from an impoverished village in Nicaragua.

    Written by:

    Steve Biondo

    SVP, HR & Organizational Development at Family Christian

  • True Peace

    There are so many trouble spots in the world.  It is overwhelming and can be depressing to watch the news; it appears that so many places are on the edge of disaster.  You have the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the tension between the Ukraine and Russia, the issues in Syria and, even here in the United States, we have the fighting from the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

    It can be so unsettling.

    Business is hard, it is competitive and changes quickly and you have to be on your game daily.  I just transitioned to a new role.  After 19 years with the HoneyBaked Ham Company I recently became the CEO of Family Christian Stores.  And while I am excited to be at Family Christian and feel called by God to the position, there are significant challenges to be addressed.  In addition, I am meeting new people and learning new processes.  I am working to get a better understanding of the business and its risks and opportunities.

    It can be so unsettling.

    And yet… I have complete Peace.

    I care deeply about those things.  I follow the international situations carefully and I care deeply about the direction of our country and the results of our business.  I pray faithfully for all of these issues and candidly they are not all moving in the direction I prefer.

    Yet… I have complete peace.

    Why?  How?

    The peace I have is not one that is dependent on external circumstances.  It is not dependent on the situation I find myself in.   I have lived long enough to know that I can never have true peace if it depends on circumstances.  My experience is that there are always struggles and challenges in life.  I have found that I cannot escape it.  Even more, I have found that in periods when all appeared to be going well, I still had this unsettled feeling, this tension.  I have concluded beyond a shadow of a doubt that peace cannot be “found” in circumstances.

    The peace I have is born out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    This peace is a tranquility of the soul, a calm despite circumstances, it is born out of a dependence on a loving and sovereign God who has my best interest at heart… always.  It is not born out of the absence of trouble but from a God who comforts and guides me in the midst of the trouble.

    Jesus said (John 14:27) “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”.  He delivered this amazing message of comfort to his disciples the night before he was crucified.  Reflect on those words, chew on them.  The words are powerful and they are true.

    It is His peace that is available to us.  It is a supernatural peace.

    In Philippians (4:7), Paul writes about the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.  It is hard to make sense of this peace in a fallen world, but it is real.  It is a peace that is not logical, it makes no sense and it exceeds our wildest expectations.

    I have experienced it.

    It seems to me that the more I am overwhelmed, the more I struggle, and therefore, the more I cry out to God… the more peace I have. The routine goes something like this.  When I think I am in control, when I am worried about me, when I am unilaterally acting without seeking His guidance, I get anxious.  I want more, I want it faster and I want it better; always and without fail.  On the other hand, when I am over my head, when I am failing, when I am worried, when my family is hurting, when I have no options, then, I cry out to God.  I go to Him in desperation, and it is there, not in the circumstances that I find peace. He comforts me; always and without fail.

    His Peace he gives to me.

    My second son was a Marine Infantry officer.  He fought in Iraq and he fought in Afghan.  He received a Bronze star for valor in combat.  He fought a lot back in ’08 and ’09.  My son was on the front lines fighting almost daily and I knew that.  Yet I had complete peace.

    Why?  It was during those years that I learned the true nature of the peace that is only available through Christ.  It was the first time in my life that the circumstances that affected me were completely out of my control (at least my perception of control).  My son was in Afghan and I was in Atlanta.  There was nothing I could do to help him, nothing.

    Except pray.

    I realized the depth to which I was not in control.  I cried out in desperation and I cried out in total dependence.

    You know what happened?

    During those two years, God transformed me.  He gave me a peace that I cannot describe and it was not a function of the expectation that my son would come home alive.  It was based on a trust that His ways are best and that His love is unconditional and fully comforts.  I was not worried about the outcome.  I simply wanted more of God.  It was an incredibly sweet season for me in what should have been a period of extreme anxiety.

    I have not forgotten that lesson.  I had become a Christian long before my son went to war, but I had never cried out to Him so passionately and so earnestly.  I understood my helplessness and my total dependence on Him.  I was not fooled into thinking that I was in control and only needed God occasionally.  I needed Him “full time” and He was there to comfort me and give me peace.

    Here is the deal… if you want peace… Trust Christ fully and completely.  Do not wait for the world to give you that peace.  That will be a long wait.

     

    Shalom

    Chuck Bengochea

    Chuck

  • Fulfilling Life's Roles

    It seems that all the things in life that I struggle with come around to one central point: how to fulfill all the roles that God has given me. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a youth minister’s wife, a friend, a writer….the list could ramble on for half of a page. It seems that if I’m giving 100% to one role then I’m lacking severely in all the others. No one, including myself, is ever quite satisfied. If this sounds like you, then I hope that you will find encouragement in today’s words.

    Since giving birth to triplet boys last year, my life turned from an organized schedule into a disheveled mess. From being always late, to forgetting to turn in a paper for my daughter’s school, to flaking out on commitments at the last minute, I’ve found myself letting people down in so many ways. It’s never intentional—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have the best intentions. But taking care of my baby boys takes full priority over other things, and I discover that I struggle to fulfill the many roles that I’m supposed to complete.

    It has surprised me the number of times that others have no objection to letting me know how much I haven’t fulfilled what expectations that they have of me. I forgot to send a Thank You card. I didn’t call a family member. I made a last minute plan that someone else found to be an inconvenience. I failed to show up at an event on time.

    This reminds me of a Bible story where someone was accused of not showing up on time. In the familiar Bible story of Martha and Lazarus, Jesus arrived “late” and Lazarus had already died and was buried.

    John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

    Although this isn’t the point of the story, it was within this account of Jesus that I found comfort in knowing that even Jesus had others who, through their human eyes, felt He wasn’t fulfilling his roles. (If Jesus couldn’t make everyone happy, then I know that I definitely can’t!).

    Bystanders even echoed these sentiments.

    John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

    But we know the story. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Beyond the circumstance, beyond the feelings of others, Jesus fulfilled his roles of Friend, Healer, and Savior in ways that go farther than human comprehension.

    For me, this is a reminder that only through the Heavenly Father can I fulfill any roles that He has granted me. All responsibilities and commitments are opportunities for God to work through me and for Him to show His hand in my life. Life roles are more than things on my to-do list. They are chances to be a witness for Him. Regardless of the complaints or skepticism of others, I’ve discovered that keeping my eye on how I can let God shine through my roles allows me to be content and, well, fulfilled.

    John 11:1-43

    Me and Nat cropped

    Melanie is a minister’s wife, freelance writer, blogger, and a mother to a lovely daughter and triplet boys. She enjoys cooking, photography, and her children’s church group. You can find her at It Happens in a Blink where she shares recipes and crafts that utilize fewer supplies, fewer ingredients, and less time.

  • FulFill: Most Likely to Succeed

    Recently a former high school classmate posted an old issue of our newspaper. There was my photo, complete with big glasses and feathered hair, Most Likely to Succeed.

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    At the time, it seemed like an honor. Now, it felt more like an indictment. Because in the intervening decades, I haven't become a doctor or a lawyer. I haven't been elected to public office. Sure, I taught school for eight years, but then I fell into the career black hole known as "justamom."

    Justamom is an uncomfortable place to be for the former kid who wanted to jump right in to each school project the day it was assigned. It's not what you'd expect from the kid who wanted to make a visual aid for each section of the social studies book (my teachers always talked about visual aids. Was that a '70s thing?). I wasn't a member of the Walnut Street Go-Getters 4-H Club for nothing!

    Being justamom feels like ... I'm not accomplishing all I need to. It feels like I'm not, perhaps, fulfilling my destiny.

    In the Bible, I read:

    The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands (Psalm 138:8)

    I can relate to fulfilling things! But then I notice, it's not me doing the fulfilling in this verse. It's the Lord. He is doing all the work here.

    I kind of like that.

    Because, even for the overachieving kid now in grown-up skin, sometimes life gets hard. Yes, God is good and we're all so blessed and yadda yadda yadda -- and still, there are days when I'd like to step off the merry go round and just rest a while.

    The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14)

    That sounds so ... freeing. Perhaps we can simply be, and let the Lord do the fulfilling for us. I think I could succeed at being still today. How about you?

    *************************************************************************************************************************************************

    Susan Barnett Braun is justamom in northeastern Indiana, where she is also a freelance writer, church organist, and piano teacher, when she's not taking care of her three daughters and the family rabbit, chinchilla, and hedgehog. Her books are available at Amazon, and she blogs each weekday at Girls in White Dresses.

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