A Time to Focus on Family

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“‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:19

Remember the biblical account of Jesus healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons? No one had been able to subdue this man, no one had been able to help him. Until Jesus. Jesus cast the demons out and restored this desperate man to his right mind.

How grateful he must have been. In fact as Jesus was leaving, this newly healed man begged Jesus to let him go with him . The man’s reason for wanting to accompany Jesus may have been an overflow of gratitude, a desire to be part of Jesus’s powerful life-changing ministry, fear that he had nowhere to go since he had destroyed all his relationships with his family and friends, or possibly a combination of these reasons. Whatever the reason, Jesus had another plan for him.

Instead of saying yes to the man’s request to go with him, Jesus told him to go home. He wanted him to tell his family how much he had done for him. To tell them about the mercy he had shown him.

We don’t know all of Jesus’s reasons for asking the man to go home. The Lord certainly wanted the man’s family to hear this amazing testimony of Jesus’s love and power. We know Jesus wanted more people to come to know him. But maybe he also knew the man’s family ached for news of him or that the man himself needed to be reassured of their love. Maybe he knew this family’s reunion was what was most important for that group of people at that moment in time.

Whatever his reasons, Jesus wanted this man to focus on his family. And there are times I’m sure that his plan and task for us is the same. We may have a desire to go somewhere or do something big for the Lord or we might just wish we had a more exciting role in life and in God’s kingdom, but sometimes in some seasons God shows us our main ministry is at home. Our main ministry is to be focused on our family.

The Lord has called me to such seasons at times. Whether staying home to raise our girls or serving in caregiving roles for loved ones with health problems or giving my time to help with our twin grandsons this past year, I’ve seen that at times serving my family is indeed a major part of my role in life and in ministry for the Lord. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be involved in other activities, but I did have to say no to many things in order to fulfill the ministries to family that God placed before me.

I wonder if today the Lord is leading any of us to focus on our families? Is his plan for us to “go home” for now? If it is, let’s accept it as from him and go joyfully and in peace. Let’s shine for the Lord at home.

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1 Timothy 5:4

*When has God called you to a season at home?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out early last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Ryan Smith Photography, Creative Commons License

Midweek Morsel: We Flourish Because God Blesses

438756167_fcc0efd8ab_z“Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold because the LORD blessed him.” Genesis 26:12

When we flourish, when we experience success and reap a hundredfold the way Isaac did, who gets the credit? If we’re not careful, we can get caught up in the way the world thinks. We’ll either think we just got lucky or we’ll start thinking our success resulted from all the smart decisions we made or all the things we did right.

Yes, the seeds of success are planted because of hard work—we reap because we sow. My own experience is testimony to that. I wouldn’t have a book coming out later this year if I had not done the hard work of writing and revising and polishing that book and if I had not taken years of steps towards securing an agent.

But when the seeds that we plant grow, when we reap in bounty, when we flourish, it’s because God blesses us. God blessed me with doors finally swinging open. He is the one who blessed me with an agent. He is the one who, against extremely high odds, opened a door at BroadStreet for me. And now as I move into a new phase of doing the best I can to help market my book when it releases, I need to remember that he holds this step in his hands as well. Any blessing that results will come from him.

Yes, friends, let’s remember who gets the credit for blessings in our lives.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6

*How has God blessed your efforts lately?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

*The latest issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out this week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Frank Hamm, Creative Commons License

7 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Relax and Refresh

23530319910_151534d002_zAnyone feel the need for some relaxation and refreshment? Did I just see everyone’s hands shoot up? That’s not surprising. When dealing with even the ordinary stresses and demands of everyday living, we all reach a point when we need to step back and recharge.

Here are some simple—some free or inexpensive—ways we can relax and refresh in our day to day lives. Some of these will be things we just need a reminder of while others may be ways to renew that we hadn’t really thought of before. I hope you find several tips to try soon!

1. Change your environment. Go for a walk or a drive. Get out of the house or your office. Breaking free for a few minutes can give an immediate boost.

2. Unwind with your favorite hot drink. Go to a comfy spot and sit and sip in peace until every last drop is gone. No multitasking allowed. Just relax.

3. Take a leisurely walk down memory lane. Pull out some old photo albums or look through your photos and home videos on your computer or phone and enjoy those memories you’ve captured. Smile, laugh, sigh in nostalgia.

4. Snatch a nap. That’s right, an old-fashioned nap. Whether it’s a 15-30 minute power nap on a busy day or a more relaxed nap on a Sunday afternoon, catching a little extra rest is a luxury we can all afford, one we all deserve.

5. Soak up some nature. Enjoying the beauty of a sunset or flowers in bloom (or you fill in the blank) can refresh like nothing else. The glory of God’s creation has such a soothing power, doesn’t it?

6. Catch up on conversation with a loved one. Take time for a good catch-up session with a friend or family member. Share news, pour out worries, laugh at memories or at life’s latest funny turn of events. Let love refresh your spirit.

7. Spend some private moments with God. You might just want to be quiet in his presence or perhaps worship him in song. As in the tip above, you can pour out your worries or you might want to spend your time thanking him. Let the love of the Lord renew you for another day.

Now the question is will we take time to relax and refresh? Let’s make a point of taking time for personal renewal regularly. It can make all the difference, can’t it?

“‘in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” Exodus 31:17b NIV

*What are some other free or inexpensive ways to relax and refresh?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

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

*Flickr photo by K.H. Reichert, Creative Commons License

One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway

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In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up in a couple of weeks and since this holiday is all about love, I’m going to give you another shot at winning a giveaway prize you all seem to love—a Starbucks gift card!

That’s right, the Starbucks giveaways I do here on my blog seem to get the biggest response of all. So since I love you all and want to give you what you love and since cold weather still has us wanting to curl up with a hot drink, I give you the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway! One lucky commenter will win a $15 Starbucks gift card. Now whether you’ll splurge on hot drinks or pastries or one of each will be entirely up to you :)

To enter, just leave a comment on this blog post by 6 p.m (CST) Wednesday February 10th, and I’ll announce the winner in my midweek morsel post the next day. Any comment will do, but to make it more fun, why not tell me one of your favorite treats for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s flowers, candy, a delicious hot drink, a night on the town, or something sparkly from the jewelry store, let’s have fun sharing some of our favorites. Me? It’s hard to choose, but I always love a night at the movies or some Harry & David Dark Chocolate Truffles.

And while we’re thinking about treats, let’s be sure to treat ourselves daily to the joys and comforts of God’s Word. That will be a sweet treat for our souls that will hit the spot indeed!

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

*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 ND Strupler, Creative Commons License

God Blesses Above and Beyond

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Anyone growing weary while traveling a hard road? Anyone growing discouraged while waiting for God to answer your cries for mercy? Don’t give up. Let me encourage you. God may be getting ready to bless you above and beyond your present hopes. The photos with my post today are our family’s testimony to that very fact.

Before I say more about our family’s story, though, let’s recall a story from the Bible—one that shows how God has been in the above and beyond business for a very long time. We all remember the story of God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites as they made their escape from Egypt, but do you remember that they then traveled for three days in the desert without finding any water?

I’d say traveling in the desert without water is a hard road in anyone’s book. The parched and desperate travelers must have been begging for mercy from the God who was leading them out of Egypt. When they came to Marah, they found water, but it was bitter. Moses cried out to the Lord, though, and he showed him a piece of wood to throw in the water to make it sweet. The Lord heard Moses’ cry for help and met their desperate need.

God was not finished blessing and refreshing the Israelites, though. He led them on to even more. When they reached Elim, they not only found water in abundance—twelve springs to be exact—but they found shade as well in the form of seventy (yes, seventy!) palm trees. God blessed them above and beyond.

God has blessed our family above and beyond, too. Our daughter Kristin and son-in-law Shawn traveled a painful desert road for years as they desperately cried out to God for a baby. As their parents, we traveled a hard road as well as we hurt for them and prayed along with them. And then, when none of us knew how much longer they could endure, God answered our cries for mercy. He blessed Kristin and Shawn with precious newborn twin boys—our sweet grandsons Isaiah and James. Yes, when God answered, he said, “Here’s two!” Above and beyond indeed!

Friends, we have a Father who specializes in above and beyond, who loves to give good gifts. If you are barely hanging on today as you wait for him to answer your cries for mercy, take heart. He loves you. He has the perfect plan in place, the perfect answer for you and your unique situation. Trust in him. Trust in his above and beyond heart. Even though the answer may be different than what you imagined, it will be what’s best. He will not fail you.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

*When has God answered your prayers above and beyond what you dreamed or imagined?

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

*Photos by Anna Martin Photography; also find Anna on Facebook.

Isaiah and James