Posted in Jesus, Life as it happens., Photography

Open Heart Surgery

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a cutsey, eye-catching way to draw you in and wow you with my 2 w’s. Wit and Wisdom. But I can think of nothing at all witty or wise to say so I’m just going to jump right in with both feet, since that is typically how I roll.

Have you ever had one of those times where the hits just keep coming? You’ve barely recovered from one hit when the next one comes. Or maybe it comes as you’re still reeling from the pain of the last encounter?

You’re left breathless and feeling more than a little like you’re coming apart, only it’s not a nice neat coming a part at the seams. No, it’s a big, ugly hole in the middle of your dress. It’s the sting of the loose string someone pulled and now you’re being exposed.

And it’s cold.

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DSC_0102It’s the words someone says to you that are true. And you know they’re true. The words being spoken to you about you are all very true, and you know you never claimed to be the opposite of the words, but there they are all up in your face. And you’re left feeling like a liar at best and a more than a little wounded as you puzzle over why on earth they thought the words needed to be said at all.

Because you never claimed to be what they are telling you you aren’t. Not once. In fact, you never even had the thought that you were or could be until they asked you too be it or do it. Until they led you to believe you could be something you weren’t.

All their encouragement and tenderness as you tried on the new and found a passion that lit the fire of your soul now feels fake and like a lie from the deepest pit of deepest hell.

And you never claimed to be good at it. You never claimed to be a professional. You never even knew you had the skills they claimed to have seen. You never would have attempted it without their encouraging.

And now here you are, months later, once again finding yourself horribly inadequate, unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary, cast aside, rejected yet again.

You never claimed or wanted any of that. But here you are. Reading words that bring a quick sting of tears to your eyes and nose, the quick intake of breath before your face involuntarily crumbles as your body convulses with sobs and you land in a shattered heap on the floor.

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You ask over and over, “Jesus! What? What does this mean? Why did You allow this? Why?”  You pray for eyes that are open to His answer, ears that are attentive to hear His voice whispering in the midst of your pain-filled sobbing.

You long to run. You want to be anyplace but here. But right here is where you are and you know you can’t escape. You must stay here in the agony of the hurt. You must stay right here in the painful place and wait for His voice, you have to, as my friend says,  “embrace the pain.” All you really want to do though is shove it way, make it stop. Run far and fast. So far so fast in ten years time you’ll still be running.

Over time your prayer changes to “What do you have to teach me, Lord? And can You teach me quickly?” Because you’re still about avoiding the pain.

Your friend threw an arrow and it hit its intended target with deadly accuracy. You pray, “Lord, yank it out! Yank out that arrow, even if it means I bleed to death, yank it out because it hurts too much. Yank it out, please!”

Job 23:10 runs laps in your mind:

“But He knows the way I take, and when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

And you chant this as if it was your new mantra. You pray it back to Him as you bleed out your heart to Him. Every breath a new agony, every breath a prayer.  A prayer just to keep your lungs taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide.

Breathe in, breathe out. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Breathe in the Life of Him, knowing it is only His Life that is keeping you alive. Breathe out His Life. Choose to fixate your gaze on Him and not on those who would hurt you.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

And in that moment you know it’s only His life and His grace that is keeping you alive at all. You know fully now that if you can only cling to Him in this painful place you will find Him fully capable and more than willing to take your painful heart and heal it.

You begin to see that He was treated this same way by His friends. They all left Him and fled in His greatest hour of need. And you wonder how on earth He could have managed the cross all alone.

And I mean, all alone. Because not only was He alone on the cross, all His friends had fled, but His Father also left Him alone. The greatest hours of darkness this earth has ever known were that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross.

And He hung there. For love. For the love.

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For the love, He hung there for me! For you.

And what a prize He got. He hung there to the death for His enemies. Because that is what I was. What you were. His enemies.

And we dare to compare our paltry little hurts from friends to His sacrifice. I can’t say I’d die for my friends, I know that probably makes me a bad friend. If I wouldn’t die for my friends, I sure won’t die for an enemy.

But He did.

For the love.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Life as it happens.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon Vol. 2 {A Review}

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a man who is often equated with great wisdom and a great love for Jesus. He has been referred to as The Prince of Preachers. He came to Jesus in 1850 after reading Isaiah 45:22 and he preached his first sermon later that year. He was 15.

C.H. Spurgeon, though, wasn’t only a preacher. He was a prolific author. Each week on average he wrote 500 letters. By the time of his death when he was 57, he had authored approximately 150 books. This does not include his sermons, which he edited weekly and were published in over 40 languages in his lifetime.

Spurgeon was always one of those authors I tried to read but just wasn’t able to grasp what he was trying to say. I always gave up in defeat. He was an author I thought “every ‘good Christian’ should be able to read his books without issue” and I believed that quoting him would show a great mind and love for Jesus.

Imagine my immense surprise when I saw The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon ( compiled by Christian T. George) was available for review and I picked it. This was Spurgeon, the very man I didn’t understand and couldn’t follow.

20171021_083759When the book arrived, I quickly opened the box and the ohs and ahs began in earnest. The book was stunning.  The colorful cover is eye-catching and has been designed to replicate the original notebook.

Inside the book are full-color pictures of the actual sermons as they were written in Spurgeon’s own handwriting.  These include any finger smudges or prints as well as his crossed through mistakes.

20171021_083814.jpgOn the opposite page from the photos of his notebook, are the sermons typed out. Each of the sermons is noted and brief explanations are given at the end of the sermon. These make Spurgeon seem a little more real.

This book is one that could be read through as any other book, but doesn’t necessarily need to be. One could very easily pick and choose which sermons to read.

This would be a great gift for the theologian in your life. It would also make a great a great addition to any library.

I give this book 5 out of 5 turning pages. Yes, I know it’s Spurgeon. Yes, I know I can’t follow him, or read him. It’s good!

I received a free copy of this book from LifeWay publishers through their review program for the purpose of review. All opinions and photos (except for the video below) are my own. 

Posted in Book Reviews, Jesus, Life as it happens.

Know The Word Study Bible {A Review}

Diving deeper into God’s Word can be easy and rewarding if you break it down book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic with the new KJV Know The Word Study Bible by Thomas Nelson. The book-by-book series of notes leads you through the main points of each book of the Bible. The verse-by-verse notes help you to dig deeper into God’s Word. The topic-by-topic articles, which cover 21 theological topics, guide you through a series of insightful notes and give you a thorough biblical understanding of each topic. With the beautiful and timeless text of the KJV translation, the KJV Know the Word Study Bible offers you choices of how to study Scripture and grow in your relationship with Christ.

This fall, become a regular student of the Bible and enter to win the Kindle Fire giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of the KJV Know The Word Study Bible
  • A Kindle Fire 7
  • A Kindle Fire case (winner’s choice)

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 31. The winner will be announced November 1 on the Litfuse blog.

My Thoughts:
First things first. The dust cover has the look of aged parchment with a black band around it near the bottom. It’s beautiful. Under the dust cover it is a medium grey cloth with gold letters emblazoned on the front and the spine.
I love that it has a presentation page. Most Bibles now don’t have this and I think it’s a necessary page. Especially if it was a gift.
It gives a list of the Topic-By-Topic Articles. These are broken down into major topics, like Trinity, Love, Obedience, Sanctification, and many others.
Each book of the Bible has a brief summary of the book and a section on how-to study that particular book.
There are also different devotionals scattered throughout on various topics, all are designed to draw the reader in and deepen their understanding of the passage given.
This Bible does not have center-column references, but does have study notes at the bottom of the page.
What I don’t Like:
I always hate to say what I don’t like about a Bible because it is a Bible. But here goes.
The font is small! My eyes are not the best, but even with new prescription lenses I would not be able to read this in church as the font is just too small.
It’s a heavy Bible also. Definitely not your sword drill type.  I know as a general rule hardbacks are heavier than leather or cloth back so probably in a leather cover this Bible would not be near so heavy.
Now this is going to sound very strange because I requested this Bible to review and I knew it was a study Bible. I’m not fond of the notes on the pages. I’d rather dig into the Word for deeper understanding but not everyone is like me. And I found no issues with the notes I read. (Obviously I did not read all of them.) What I would like to see is wider margins (which would of course increase the size of the Bible) to give the reader more room to write their own notes.
What I Like:
The cover is simply beautiful! The dust cover is made to look like parchment and has a black band across the lower portion. Under the dust cover the hardback is covered with a medium grey cloth. On the cover and the spine the words are in gold.
The extensive concordance at the back of the Bible! Wow! I love that!!
I love that the first time I opened the Bible the pages did not stick together. This is probably due to the hardback, but I’m a fan of that!
Again, this will sound weird but I liked the notes feature because not everyone is like me. Some people use them so having them available is a great thing!
***I received a free copy of this Bible from Litfuse for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.***

 

Posted in Life as it happens.

Charlotte’s Garden

Charlotte’s Garden

By Shirley Johnson

 

unnamed (13)Charlotte loved to work in her garden in the morning. She could hear the morning birds greet the day with a song. The refreshing dewdrops found rest upon the garden. The flowers seemed to smile back at the sun.

 

Charlotte worked hard at maintaining the presentation and growth of the garden. She knew with the proper care it would not only look beautiful, but create a peaceful atmosphere for those viewing it. From childhood, she knew which of the elements and garden intruders can interfere with the presentation and growth of the garden and which are harmless.

 

The garden often ministered to Charlotte. She embraced the seasons of the garden. It often shared reflections of life and whispers of hope.

 

While working in the garden a ladybug crawled on her sleeve. There was a time many years ago if this happened she would have panicked. She smiled and laughed to herself. She thought back to when she was a very small child. She was with her mom visiting at their friend’s home. The porch provided a favorite play area. Somehow a ladybug crawled right where she sat. She cried out to her mom for help.

 

Charlotte’s mom came running in response to her cries. While Charlotte saw a big intruder, her mother saw a simple little ladybug. “Oh, Charlotte.” “It’s okay,” said her mom. Her mom had gardened a long time and knew the difference between a harmless bug and dangerous ones. “This is just an innocent little bug that somehow landed in the wrong place.” She calmly scooped up the ladybug with her gentle hands, opened the screen door, and let it go.

 

Life’s seasons have a way of presenting itself with different problems. There are times when we have real problems, big problems that we need to face, address and solve. Sometimes though, we have little irritations that invade our space. They land right where we sit in life. They have us talking, repeating, agonizing and spinning our wheels. They interfere and distract us from the purpose and plan in our lives. They “bug” us.

 

When those little irritations land in our space,

look at them and determine how big they are.

Perhaps there are times when we too must open the screen door and let them go.

 

ABOUT

Shirley Johnson shares inspiration and encouragement through her writing. She is a member of SCBWI and ACFW. She loves to read and has volunteered at her local Public Library as an Adult Literacy Tutor. She shares her writing on her blog. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

http://busylifepause.com/

https://twitter.com/shrlyjohnson

https://www.instagram.com/shrlyjohnson/?hl=en

https://www.facebook.com/shrlyjohnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life as it happens.

So you want to be a sheep?

So You Want to be a Sheep?

By Maureen Hager

 

unnamed (12)Sheep are mentioned in the Bible more than any other animal; symbolically they refer to God’s people. All the sheep that belong to the shepherd are of one flock.

 

God has many names; each one describes an attribute of His character. A favorite name is Yahweh-Rohi – The Lord, Our Shepherd. Here is the description of the relationship our God wants with us. The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).

 

What a beautiful picture of the rest we have in Him. Are you stressed today? Find rest in the green pastures of His finished work. Find hope and restoration as He restores your soul.

 

The Lord tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that most sheep will go astray and follow their own way. Are you a stubborn sheep, straying on the wrong path and in need of guidance and correction?

 

A shepherd’s rod redirects and corrects the sheep. The staff is used to lift and restore the sheep.  Trust and hope in the Good Shepherd to lead you out of the pit of despair.

 

I once traveled on the wrong path. This misguided search led me into a painful journey of drug addiction and life in a motorcycle gang. I was that stubborn sheep that got caught up in a violent gang war and became a broken victim. Crippling bullets forever changed my life.

 

Eventually, I encountered the hope and healing of God’s transforming love. A victorious life in Him is meant to be lived on the paths of righteousness and not in the past.

 

So why would you want to be a sheep? Like sheep, we need only to trust the Lord and follow Him. We need Jesus, our Good Shepherd to lead and guide us, to care for us, and to protect us from the enemy. What contentment and sufficiency we can have in Him.

 

Yahweh-Rohi leads us home. He lovingly rubs the healing oil on our broken and wounded hearts. The Shepherd knows our needs. He will restore us when we are broken, pick us up when we fall, and strengthen us in our weakness. Now that is a love I can trust!

 

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.                     John 10:27-28 (NJKV)

 

ABOUT

Maureen Hager is an author, speaker, and blogger. Her passion lies in empowering women to receive hope and healing from their brokenness through the love of God. Her testimony of deliverance and restoration has impacted women of all ages. Her book, Love’s Bullet is available Fall, 2017. Website: www.MaureenHager.com  Blog: www.OutoftheBrokenness.com

 

Posted in Life as it happens.

Got 5-Minutes?

Got Five Minutes?

By Letitia Suk

 

unnamed (11)“Take five minutes to pray for your work each day and see what happens,” was the challenge proposed by our pastor to the congregation years ago. I remember thinking something like, “Duh!” Of course, I already pray at least five minutes a day for my work…don’t I? Surely all the praying-on-the-run I did each day for all the flying curveballs added up to more than five minutes.

 

The nudging continued so the next morning I grabbed a timer on the way to my prayer chair, set it for five minutes and began to pray specifically for my work. Wow, that timer took a long time to ding! Challenge accepted—I was ready to see what would happen.

 

Like many of us, my work is multi-faceted. So I decided to give a minute to each of the five areas for my day-to-day projects. It seemed like one minute would be easier that five. I know, wimpy, right?

 

The first minute I gave to my coaching clients. They invested time with me to bring focus and intentionality to their lives and I wanted to give them my best work. My writing got the next minute. The current projects, the longed-for projects, my skill and wisdom in putting words on a page. Good thing the timer rang because it was easy to zone off into work mode instead of praying.

 

Speaking ministry was next. Events already scheduled and those I wanted to schedule. For my communication skills to grow and for lives to be changed. A lot for one minute.

 

My part-time chaplain work got minute #4. Patients, sensitivity, staff and overall blessing for the hospitals.

 

The last minute I saved for specific work stuff on that day’s agenda: marketing, blogging, networking. This time the five minutes flew by.

 

He was right—things happened! I felt more partnered with God in all aspects of my work. Not just that I was working for Him but with Him as I laid the concerns out each day. I saw clearer productivity and greater results.

 

All these years later, I still set my timer most days. My work depends on it.

 

Each day holds 1440 minutes…hard to claim a legitimate excuse for not finding five of them to invest in prayer over your work. You might be amazed at the return.

 

P.S.—The same five-minute principle works for other areas of your life too!

 

ABOUT

 

Letitia (Tish) Suk, http://www.letitiasuk.com, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She blogs at hopeforthebest.org and authored Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat) and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Find Tish: https://www.facebook.com/Letitia.Suk.Author/

 

Posted in Life as it happens.

5-Tips for Flexible Family Faith Time

Five Tips for Flexible Family Faith Time
by Stephenie Hovland

 

unnamed (10)Guess what? There is no such thing as a perfect Christian family! That means there isn’t one perfect way to devotions. In fact, I’m thinking the word “devotions” might need to go. Think of this as family faith time.

 

Let’s go through five tips to make your family faith time work. Remember to revisit these ideas regularly. As your family grows and ages, you might need to change how this works.

 

  1. Purpose: This is a time for your family to meet around God’s Word. Your family and circumstances may dictate what time of day, where, what materials, how long it will last, etc. You are not trying be a theology professor or expect perfect participation from every family member every time. Just start with something (the Bible or a kids’ Bible story book, for example) and run with it. Make changes later.

 

  1. Plan a little: Don’t worry about it being perfect, but make a few plans. Or, if you’re like me, plan a lot! I am not spontaneous, so I need to have several options. You can evaluate how it went after you’re done, so the next time is a little better.

 

  1. Pray: I hope you pray with your family, but say a quick, private prayer as everyone gathers. That personal prayer time will help you to take a breath and let God handle things.

 

  1. Physical: Be physical. Hold hands when you pray, hug when you’re finished, and try to touch members of your family in a loving way when you talk about and with God. We want to be Jesus “with skin on” in a sense, so we should touch. Jesus did.

 

  1. Play: While family faith time works great around a dinner table for some, others find it easier to focus on faith talk when they’re more active. Maybe you need to take it outside and shoot some hoops while you explore God’s connections in each family member’s life. Or, perhaps you start or end your time with play. Dancing helps get the wiggles out, so it might be a great way to start your family faith time. Or, maybe after a quick devotion and prayer time, you play Candyland together as a family.

 

When it seems like it’ll never work, please don’t give up! Try not to force your way. Change elements of your time together, and see if something else might work better. (I say this from much experience.) Keep trying. Keep praying. God is there for you and your family.

 

 

ABOUT

Stephenie Hovland loves reading and writing devotions. She also writes rhyming Bible stories for children and resources for teachers. You can find her work at Concordia Publishing House, Creative Communications for the Parish, and many online bookstores. Visit her Facebook page: @StephenieHovlandWriter and on Twitter:@StephHovland