Steaming Hot Valentine’s Day Giveaway!

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February is almost upon us, dear readers, so that makes me think of Valentine’s Day—which, of course, makes me think of fun giveaways. I guess that’s a side effect of being a blogger, huh?

Since it’s still winter and since staying warm is still on everyone’s radar, I give you the Steaming Hot Valentine’s Day Giveaway! One lucky commenter will win a $15 gift card to Starbuck’s. The winner can splurge entirely on herself or stoke the fires of romance and treat his or her sweetie as well.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post by 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 11th. If I don’t know you personally or cannot contact you via your website or blog, be sure to include your email address (such as cheryl at cherylbarker dot net).

It’s not required for the giveaway, but to make it more fun, tell me what your idea of a fun date night is. My hubby and I love to go to the movies. We get a big tub of popcorn, their biggest Pepsi or Coke, and a package of Peanut M&Ms (yes, those are for me!). We love getting into the spirit of it all—plus eating helps keep Don awake :)

And to help stoke the fires of your spiritual life, why not warm up with the verses below from the Word of God? Be blessed and be a blessing—in February and beyond!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Melissa Gray, Creative Commons License

Following Through on Repentance

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“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Do any of you have sins, weaknesses, or offenses that you confess to God (as well as to others whom you’ve wronged) but then find yourself doing the same things again and again? If so, you’re not alone. I have a few problem areas like that, too.

For example, at times I get irritated too easily. I end up reacting too quickly and sounding more harsh than I should. And regardless of the offense that prompted me to lose my cool, I really don’t want to act that way.

I’m fairly quick to realize my wrong behavior and confess it, but many times I have trouble with follow-through—with, like mentioned in the verse above, producing fruit in keeping with my repentance. It’s easy to say we’re sorry (and yes, it’s harder for some), but changed behavior can be an ongoing challenge.

True repentance should manifest itself in our actions, shouldn’t it? If we’re truly sorry for certain behaviors, attitudes, or thoughts, shouldn’t we make a real effort to avoid those shortcomings in the future? Of course.

One simple thing we can do to help correct our shortcomings is to memorize the verse above from Matthew. The Holy Spirit can then remind us of it when we are tempted to slip back into the wrong pattern. He might also bring it to mind when we make the same mistake again, correcting us and exhorting us to keep on trying to produce the fruit that matches our repentance.

Let’s take a moment today to think about the sins that trip us up and ask ourselves if we are producing fruit in keeping with our repentance. If not, let’s ask God to work in our hearts to bring about the fruit he—and we—long to see. Let’s follow through.

“‘But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’” John 14:26

*What other things can we do to help bring about changed behavior and/or thoughts?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by prodigy130, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: Adventure Awaits!

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The year ahead holds much for each of us. Some of it we know is coming and some will catch us by surprise. Chances are we’ll all experience a mixed bag of joy, sorrow, love, hurt, good health, poor health, success, failure, challenges, and smooth sailing. Twelve months of living can pack an awful lot into our lives, can’t it?

One thing I hope this year holds for you and me is adventure. Adventure can be a little risky, a little scary. And many times it requires an investment of some sort. But consider what Mark Twain said about adventure:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Whether planned or spur of the moment, adventure will be sure to enrich our lives. Will we be ready to take the risk? Will we be ready to make the investment? Let’s do it. Let’s sail away from safe harbor!

“Sing to the Lord a new song;” Psalm 96:1a

*What adventures would you like to experience this year? Some of mine will be sure to include the two sweet boys below (Isaiah on the left, James on the right) :)

*Flickr photo above by Thomas Hawk, Creative Commons License

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!

05-aLSP_1973*Photo by Bella Baby

Safe to Cry with Jesus

7456141970_c9c7d38139_zHow many times have you held back tears while trying to be strong for someone else? If you’re like me, it may be too many to count.

Recent examples happened for me during some of the most difficult days after my husband Don’s injury in November. On a couple of different occasions it was all I could do to keep from collapsing into a pool of tears.

On dismissal day from the hospital, I was completely overwhelmed with being caregiver to someone who not only had his spine fractured in several places but who also was experiencing an adverse reaction to some medication.

When the time came to leave, I ducked into a bathroom and pleaded with God to help me hold it together. I didn’t want to cry in front of Don or my dad, who was also on hand as we left. The last thing I wanted to do was scare Don or worry him, and I didn’t want to worry my dad more than he already was. God heard my prayers and gave me the strength I needed to shake off the imminent meltdown. Thank you, Lord!

The other time I had to fight back tears was when my daughter Kristin was leaving after she’d been home helping us for a couple of days. I was worried about Don, who was experiencing some of his worst days, and also fearful of facing the situations that might unfold alone. As she left, I held my eyes as wide open as I could to try to keep the tears from falling. I later found out she was fighting tears as well and unleashed them only after she drove away. Yes, we stood strong for each other that day.

I’m so glad we don’t have to stand strong when we’re with Jesus—so glad we’re safe to cry with him. He is strength itself and wants to be our Rock, our Refuge. We can let our guards down when we’re with him and let the tears flow freely. We can let him know our deepest needs and tell him all about our fears and the weariness that threatens to overwhelm us.

Do you need to cry today? You’re safe with Jesus. Go ahead and turn to him.

“‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears . . .’” 2 Kings 20:5

*When have you held back tears to be strong for someone else?

*Flickr photo by KimbOlene, Creative Commons License

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Answered Prayer—A Double Blessing!

10923243_10152956712373232_4454384483570747389_n“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine . . . to him be glory . . . for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Isn’t it just like God to answer our long-time prayers and deepest desires with a double blessing?

That’s exactly what he’s done where our daughter Kristin and son-in-law Shawn are concerned. Many of you have stood with us in prayer for a long time now (thank you!), asking God to bless them with a baby. And when God answered, he answered in a big way—with twin boys!

Last fall my “Prisoner of Hope” post featured this scripture from Zechariah 9:12: “Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.” And then God did it. As our family—his prisoners of hope—returned to him time and again with our cries for mercy, he did it. He gave twice as much as we dreamed. How we thank him! How we praise him!

So allow me now to introduce our grandsons—Isaiah Dean (held by Kristin) and James Logan (held by Shawn). They are without a doubt two of the most beautiful gifts our family has ever been given. Their middle names are family names, but their first names were chosen because of scriptures dear to Kristin’s and Shawn’s hearts (Isaiah 41:10 and 40:28-31 and James 1:12 and 1:17).

The long wait is over. God has answered our prayers. Rejoice with us, won’t you? And be encouraged for any wait you may be enduring. The blessing is on the way! 

“. . .weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

*When has God blessed you beyond your wildest dreams?

*Photos courtesy of Kristin and Shawn. The one below was taken when the twins were almost a week old and finally together again after being in separate isolettes since their birth. Isaiah is getting his first good look at his brother. I may be prejudiced, but is this cute or what?!

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