You could….write a Book or you could…..Live the Book by guest post writer Lynn Moratis

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You Could…Write a Book or You Could…Live the Book 

guest post by Lynn Moratis

Have you heard the saying “I could write a book”? I’ve heard it countless times and I’ve said it myself many times in my fifty-three years. I’ve often considered writing a book. Sometimes, I think we say it in jest because we think wow some of the things I’ve done, some of things I’ve seen, this stuff just could not be made up, this is book worthy. So the quest of writing begins…

Recently our Sweet Sister Bible Study group met and discussed what Jesus meant in John 8:12 when he declared,

I am the Light of the World.”

Now this is a man that was book worthy to say the least.

“When Jesus spoke again to his people he said, I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.

We had such a great night of sharing all the references that the Bible has related to light and how to live a life worthy of the light of Jesus. It was eye opening for us and it was like a ray of sunshine was in the room.

Did you know that there are over 200 references to light in the Bible? It started in the very beginning, Genesis 1:3, when God made light and he saw it was good and he separated it from night.

The Sweet Sisters and I talked about how can we live like the light and how can we share the light with others. We talked about helping others, honesty, kindness, hospitality, volunteering, serving others and smiling at strangers. We talked about treating others like Jesus did throughout his entire walk on earth.

In Philippians 2:14-16 we are encouraged to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without a fault in a warped and crooked generation, then you will SHINE among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. As earthy beings, we know perfection is hard to come by, virtually unobtainable, but it is something for which we can strive.

We also know that “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5:14). Our talents are meant to be shared with others. We all have something to offer that shares the light and will have a lasting impact. We are called to develop it from a flicker into a flame.

We read verse after verse about light and how to walk in the light. One thing became clear to us to be a light to others to live like Jesus – we just have to do one thing besides believe and that is LIVE the book. (Psalm 119:105, Psalm 119:129-130, Proverbs 4:18-19; Luke 8:16-18, Ephesians 5:8-10; I Thessalonians 5:5-8)

How many times have we turned on lights outside for guests to leave our home at night or used a flashlight when walking after dark to guide our path? Sure we need the mechanics of the light to navigate as we travel the path. The same can be said for navigating the path of life, we need the light that only one person and one source can truly provide for our eternity – JESUS.

You may wonder how do I overcome the darkness with the light, so let’s look at 1 John 1: 5-9 –

“Then this is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

So tonight as I walked my dogs and thought how do we share the light with others in a meaningful way, I started to reflect on writing a book about my life and what I would say.

It would certainly include many favorite memories, which happen to be associated with warmth and light from the sun, shining through the sky – my favorite type of day.
Of course it would reference those dark days when I was feeling sad and alone, maybe even hopeless. Through it all would be a journey of a life filled with ups and downs, but one constant would be the hope, the love and the light of Jesus.

As I walked I decided, I think I would prefer to live the book and be the light when opportunity allows in the paths of those I cross. I’ll press pause on writing the book. I know I won’t be perfect, but I’ll keep trying. There’s lots to be done out there in this world.

I’ll end with another great verse my friends which is found in Ephesians 5:1

“Follow God’s example therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”

Xoxo Lynn

There is Power in the Precious Blood of the Lamb by Marni J. Hansel

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Please help me welcome our sweet and salty sister Marni J. Hansel to our table. Do you feel as if Easter flew by and you didn’t get a chance to soak in all of its meaning? Were you hosting or traveling or just occupied with family and now feel a loss that Easter has passed. you. by? Relax. This is only the first Sunday after Easter and there are 6 more Sundays until Pentecost.  The Easter season lasts for 50 days and so this a beautiful time to reflect and study the meaning of why Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. This is such a rich and wonderful season that the church gives us 50 days to fully rejoice and comprehend this amazing and incredible gift. The gift of a pure, unblemished lamb. So please find your Bible and lets delve into the power of Easter and the lamb.

Read John 1:1-36, in which you will find the account of John the Baptist.  Called by God as a prophet, John’s purpose was to “prepare the way of the Lord”.  He was to testify, or bear witness, to the truth that Jesus was God’s chosen Messiah, or Christ.  In John 1:29, we read that when John saw Jesus approaching, he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  With all the different names used to describe Jesus in the Bible, why did John choose this designation?  Why not say, “Look, it’s the King of Kings!  The Lord of Lords!  The Savior has come!  The Lion of the tribe of Judah is here!”?  The people were living under Roman occupation.  They were looking for a conquering deliverer!  What could a mild lamb do?

The Jews of Israel had descended from the ancient Hebrews.  They had a long history of celebrating annual feasts and ceremonies that God established to help the people remember His faithfulness.  Read Exodus 12:1-13, the story of the first Passover, which protected God’s people during the last plague of death while they were slaves in Egypt.  The people were told to apply the blood of the lamb to the door-frame of their houses, and death would pass over them.  Take a moment to picture the blood on the wooden beams of the door-frame.

Hundreds of years later, the Jews continued to remember God’s deliverance from death for those covered by the blood of a lamb.  Three years after John the Baptist had announced Jesus as the Lamb of God, the disciples and Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.  Read Luke 22:7-20, an account of the Last Supper.  Here He established that the wine in the cup would represent His blood, which He would shed for them.  The Jewish disciples knew well that the blood shed at the first Passover was not from a man, but from a sacrificial lamb.  In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul helps us understand what this all meant:  “Christ, our Passover lamb, is sacrificed for us.”

Read John 19:14-37, the crucifixion of Jesus.   Picture the blood on the wooden beams of the cross, so very like the blood of the lamb on the wooden door posts.   Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed to deliver God’s people from death.   Eternal death is God’s just punishment for sin.  How did Christ’s death on the cross take away sin (and God’s judgement on sin, which is death)?  Read Hebrews 9:11-28 to see that His perfect sacrifice purifies us from sin.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.

Ephesians 1:7 explains that in Jesus, believers “have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”  The blood of Christ symbolically covers us, so that even though we die, we live with God forever in Heaven.   To get a glimpse of this heavenly eternity, read Revelation Chapter 5:1-9, Revelation 7:9,10, and Revelation 7:14b-17.

John the Baptist’s prophetic use of the appellation “Lamb of God” shows us our greatest need.  It is not deliverance from slavery, oppression, or any other life circumstance.  Our greatest problem is our sin, which separates us from God, and what we need is deliverance from eternal death.   Can you hear John the Baptist’s voice proclaiming the truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?  Can you hear the voice of Jesus, offering you the cup representing His blood, that you might have forgiveness of sin and enjoy forever the Gift of God, which is eternal life through Christ our Lord?

Power in the Blood Lewis E. Jones  1899 Public Domain

  1. Would you be free from the burden of sin?
    There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
    Would you o’er evil a victory win?
    There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

    • Refrain:
      There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
      In the blood of the Lamb;
      There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
      In the precious blood of the Lamb.
  2. Would you be free from your passion and pride?
    There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
    Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
    There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.
  3. Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
    There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
    Sin-stains are lost in its life-giving flow;
    There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.
  4. Would you do service for Jesus your King?
    There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
    Would you live daily His praises to sing?
    There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

 

Famous Last Words ………… What will yours be?

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I kept reading the words over and over.  The priest who I spoke with just the day before was dead.  A faithful, elderly and supposedly retired priest who served the Lord till his very last day when he sat in the confessional booth to help others confess their sins to God.  I am so glad I went. I am so glad I waited in the extra long line to speak with him.  As I waited I kept asking God, “what sins are separating me from you?” What relationships in my life are not right and keeping me from a closer walk with you God? As I waited in line and listened to the soft peaceful music, the holy spirit reminded me of individuals in my life who I still had not fully forgiven. A tightness of heart occurred when I thought of them and I knew I wanted a clean, soft heart that overflowed with Love instead.

I shared my desire to fully forgive these individuals with the recently departed Father. Then, I received the gift and privilege of some of his last words on this broken, messy earth.   He wisely told me, “About forgiveness…..we are commanded to forgive;  but remember that just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you will forget what happened to you. That is not the way humans were created.”

His final words on forgiveness reminded me of some other famous last words. The Final words of Jesus Christ as he slowly died on the cross.

“Father, forgive them,  they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34) 

Who is Jesus forgiving in the statement above? not just the Romans…He is a personal God who is speaking to You and I. We are the “they”.

Sometimes an earthly example (a criminal before a judge scenerio) can help to explain an overwhelmingly incredible and mind-blowing spiritual truth. So imagine that you are about to go before God (the Judge and Jury) and make an account for all your lifelong sins and transgressions. You speak with your attorney and confess all that you have done throughout your life as well as all the missed opportunities to help others. So your advocate attorney goes before the judge (whose job is to make sure that Heaven remains perfect with no sin or sadness or sickness in it)  and says, “Your Honor……Yes. If she came to Heaven her sin would ruin it.  I agree with you that she deserves the death penalty and then she should spend eternity in Hell. She is guilty and justice says that she needs to die as a consequence.”

You stand shocked with your mouth ajar.”What?  I thought you were going to defend me ?” you start screaming at your attorney, ” Why don’t you help me?”

You fall to the ground in despair.  When you look up, the holy, white-hot  face of your advocate blinds you with Love as He declares boldly, “I will take on your death sentence. I love you and want you to spend eternity in Heaven where there is no sin. So I will destroy death and sin by dying for you and rising from the dead.”

The weight of all our sins: past, present and future fell upon His shoulders so the penalty would be accomplished. For you and I personally participated when God allowed mankind to torture and kill His only begotten son. My selfishness nailed his feet to the beam. Your sin became a thorn in his already wounded body.

Now you are overcome with joy and start to sob as the handcuffs and shackles of sin are released from your legs , “Thank you … oh Jesus…. thank you so much. I Believe. I Believe that you paid the penalty once and for all. Thank you for the gift of being set free from the death penalty and everlasting death.”

God in the flesh kneels down to embrace you and tells you that you may now enter the Holy of Holies because the veil of separation has been torn open. You now have special access to the throne of Almighty God. He calls you His child for you are now a member in the family of God. He calls you friend because He did this to restore the intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had with God before they sinned.  He calls you princess because you are a now a flawless, beautiful daughter of the King of Kings.  Your time on earth will never be the same…….. as well as beyond.

You slowly rise up and in awed thanksgiving you ask,  “After all you did for me….Jesus, what can I do for you??”

And then you remember His last words on the cross.

Father,  Forgive them……..they know not what they do. 

gulp.  Did I just say that I was willing to do anything for God after all He did for me? But this is sooo hard in this broken world when people can be so mean.  “But Lord…..They made my life so much harder when I needed help and was already struggling”.

“Yes”, Jesus would answer ” Just like when I suffered on the cross and your sins made my suffering so much harder”.

God came to reconcile with you and wants you to reconcile with those around you as much as it is up to you. (of course  you don’t have to have a relationship with someone to forgive them…in cases of abuse etc…we need to set boundaries)  God wants the best for us and unforgiveness causes stress that can lead to disease and most of separation from God.  He wants your heart to be free and not tight. There is a difference from remembering and dwelling on our past. Look up at the cross of Jesus, and not back at how others have hurt you. Focus on how you are now free from death row; from eternal separation from God and perfect heaven. Forgiving them means you are going to let your Big protective Heavenly Father deal with what happened.  You are releasing the situation into His Hands and asking God to take the bitter root of unforgiveness out of your heart. 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, and that no bitter root spring up to cause trouble, through which many may become defiled.  Hebrews 12 14-15 

Trust that God will use your painful experiences for good someday. He can transform all things that we offer up into His loving and firm hands. Ask God to give you compassion for the person you struggle to forgive. Ask God to help you to forgive as we humanly can not do this alone. Remember that you have special access? Use it.

Each time a thought comes to your mind, say out Loud, “I forgive them in the Name of Jesus.” Forgiveness is a process that takes time. While you may always remember what happened, the sting will slowly go away and your heart will be light and free.

What will your last words be?  

I hope we can say together on that resurrection Day, “Father, I forgave them as you forgave me. Thank you for setting my heart and soul free.”

Don’t Ever Forget the End of His Story….. when you are weary and weepy from grief.

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Transformation. One of my favorite examples in nature is the grounded, ugly caterpillar who transforms into a beautiful butterfly who joyfully flutters into the fresh, spring sky.  Similarly, one of my favorite Jesus stories is how He transformed six large stone jars filled with plain water miraculously into wine. Not just any wine……the best wine.

Do you feel like the ugly, grounded caterpillar today? or do you feel as empty as a stone jar? Perhaps you have cried so many tears that you believe you could have filled one of those 30 gallon containers. I have scribbled notes in my Bible next to the Wedding of Cana story during three desert times in my life in which I felt like a caterpillar struggling in a dark cocoon to be set free from the downward pull of grief. Three times when I felt as cold and empty as one of the stone jars.  The notes read : I feel weak. a second time: so tired, empty. and third: weepy, headache.

But those notes are not the end of my story because I came and sat at the feet of Jesus day after day and He gently changed those tear-filled jars into sweet, joyful wine. He helped me to shed the cocoon of sadness and grief.

And  next to those sad words during those dry times, this verse is scribbled in my bible next to the Wedding of Cana (John Ch. 2)

I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows. Jeremiah 31: 13

Let us never forget the end of the story.  In the physical, caterpillars change into butterflies and the best wine is produced during dry seasons when the vine roots go deep and the grapes produced are the sweetest.  In the spiritual, ordinary water is transformed into sweet wine, wine is changed into the redeeming blood of the Lamb and God changes our weary, weepy hearts into hearts overflowing with hope and joy.

What did Mary tell the servers in this first miracle of Jesus? she told them,

Do “whatever He tells you.”

So your role in this transformation is to trust and obey. Sometimes like the butterfly we are to just wait and let God heal in His own sweet time as He  transforms our broken hearts. While we wait we can show our trust by writing down what we are thankful for and worshiping God even in the dark cocoon when we do not understand the whys.  I have found that we don’t need to know the Why’s…We just need to get to know the “who”. The names of God are adjectives that help us to know Him better. Meditate on the names and the character of God.  (He is love, He is good, and He is in Control  is a phrase I repeat often when struggling in a dark cocoon of doubt or confusion)

Another positive choice would  be to join a support group and let God use people to show His love and to help you heal.  Also, exercise and fresh air is such a necessary gift so go out often and take walks in nature and see the beauty and hope that God desires to share with you.  Reach out and seek to help others, as the servers took action and filled the jars with water. Allow Jesus’ touch to transform these acts of service into healing for you and those around you.

So my advice would be to start the day in quiet with Jesus and in His word (write down three things you are thankful for in your journal after you write out all your emotions and questions)  and then seek ways to show care for your body and those around you while you wait for transformation.

Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom and so during this time of slow, painful drought is when your spiritual roots will spread down the deepest.  One cannot race past this time of growth and strengthening, just as one should not remove the butterfly before his wings are strong enough to fly. Trust and obey during this desert time. Bit by Bit keep seeking out the next best choice. Make healthy choices for your mind, body and soul.  Staying hydrated sometimes is the first best choice if you’ve been crying or have a headache.

Just as the Jesus saved the best Wine for the 2nd half of the wedding reception, we believe that God promises the same for His children. He promises the Best is yet to be…..in this world and beyond.

So…….What do the final verses of the Greatest book of all time say…….God’s final promises to His people ?

Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain for the old order has passed away. Behold, I make all things new. ( Rev. 21: 3-5 )

 

 

 

When You Get Caught Speeding for the 2nd Time

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“Noooooooo!” I screamed in my head as a policeman stepped out into the street and motioned for me to pull off into a side street that included more police and cars who also had been caught in a local speed trap.  I had been enjoying  my christian rock station that my family jokes changes my gas peddle foot to lead.  My joy soon popped like a balloon as my heart sunk and my breathing increased.  For this was not the first time that I had been pulled over. The last time just a weeks earlier. So while silently I prayed, “Please Lord …have mercy…please let this be a warning”.  I also thought,” but…..I deserve a ticket.” I had been give the gift of a warning before and I knew better.

An officer came to my window  and announced that I had been driving at 44 miles per hour in a 3o mph zone. “I didn’t know” I mumbled.  Of course I wasn’t going to argue. Out of respect for the officer and his role but also because I am prone to driving too fast and I should know better.  I’m sure he was correct.  I started to condemn myself for I hadn’t learned from the other time. He took my driver’s licence and registration

As the painful wait continued,  I prayed for  mercy again knowing that soon I may have to deal with points on my driving record (increased insurance costs etc…)  and an angry husband. Most of all, I would be facing a conscience who wouldn’t stop condemned myself for doing the same mistake once again.  Time dragged on as I anticipated the consequences that I would soon face.

The young officer finally came back and told me that I had received just a warning! “Oh thank you Officer. God bless you.” I told him twice over.

As I drove away, my soul felt free and with a grateful heart I keep saying over and over…” thank you Lord ….for grace upon grace. I deserved a punishment and you set me free. Oh Thank you Jesus.”

Have you ever received mercy when you didn’t deserve it? Have you ever had a Red Sea crossing moment when God carried you from the slavery of Sin to total forgiveness and freedom? This is what it means to be “born from above”.  God sent his only begotten son Jesus to take our punishment so we could drive away scout free.

 Beautiful, marvelous undeserved Grace upon Grace.

In your mercy you led the people you redeemed; in your strength you guided them to your holy dwelling.                 Exodus 15:13   

These are the words of the ex-slave Israelites after they walked to freedom as the Red sea was parted and then swallowed up their captors. They danced and sang on the other side as they thanked God for His saving grace.

Now imagine these feelings of relief, joy and gratitude  and then times them by a billion trillion and that must be like the true freedom a Christian receives who has died and is set free from their aging body.  A believer whose soul has been released into the arms of his heavenly father.

Beautiful, marvelous, grace upon undeserved grace.

 

When Your Life Feels Like a Confusing Box of Chocolates by Lynn Moratis

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Hello Sweet Sisters:)
Please help me to welcome our sweet and salty sister Lynn Moratis. Lynn is a true Proverbs 31 woman who with great style wears the many hats of:  wife, mother of two young men, nurse and vice president of a regional care coordination program. Sit back and enjoy a bonbon as she writes Part 2 on her teaching on Jesus being “the bread of Life.”
Do you ever feel like you are  in the movie “Forest Gump”, when Forest so honestly relays the line ” Life is Like a Box of Chocolates, You Never Know What Your Going to Get”? I think we all feel that way some days, don’t we? Thankfully, though there is an answer and that answer is Jesus.
I’ve never doubted my belief in Jesus and the one that God has sent to us. However, at times I did not pursue a close relationship with him and this left me empty. It also reminds me that even though you don’t always know what to expect, he does. He will meet your needs, he will fill you up. It’s not always what we wanted, expected or hoped for, but recognizing and leaning on the power of Jesus gives us the reassurance to keep going on.
Have you ever thought that having a closer relationship with him would be hard, that it’s not obtainable? That you have to make major changes to do this? It’s really simple, so read below to see what he tells us about believing in him.
Remember now that Jesus has been busy throughout the book of John teaching, preaching and working miracles – all leading to his crucifixion. The people are well aware of the miracles he is working. That being said though; they are still looking for more, but he plainly tells them to seek spiritual fulfillment:
“John 6:27, Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed”.
They are looking for a sign from Jesus as they ask him about what they need to do to follow God, but like many things in life the answer is more simple that we would think as Jesus tells them in John 6: 29:
“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent”.
Jesus is making it very clear that he is the bread of life. They are seeking a physical sign and he’s sharing a spiritual fulfillment. He tells them in verse 33 “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven; and giveth life unto the world”.
In verses 35 -40 we learn that Jesus is the source, but the true provider/giver of the source is God the Father. We are learning throughout these verses, Jesus is the real bread, while the people are looking for more, the real source, the real bread is right in front of them. It’s obvious, but they aren’t getting the obvious.
Again, much like our lives, we sometimes don’t see what is right in front of us. Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will. What is our role? What is expected of us from these verses, what was Jesus asking the people to do? Again, I must say it is simple – we just need to believe and pursue him and in return we have the gift of eternity. Of course in our belief, our lives should demonstrate him: love, service to others, pursuit of holiness, pursuit of wisdom.
Believe and pursue him – I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the unexpected chocolate’s we are all sure to face.
In my journey I have found that he loves us unconditionally, he is a true friend, he is the true source when other’s fail. A relationship with him is like your favorite food, dress, or gym routine- it’s meant to be shared, so other’s see him in you. Sharing him is easily seen in how we live our lives, how we speak and how we forgive.
Please, don’t keep the true bread of life a secret and don’t be afraid to pursue him, the more you pursue him, the more he will reveal himself to you and you become like him. I can’t think of a anybody else I’d rather be like – can you?

Running on Empty- Go to the Source Part 1 by Lynn Moratis

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Hello Sweet Sisters:)
Please help me to welcome our sweet and salty sister Lynn Moratis. Lynn is a true Proverbs 31 woman who with great style wears the many hats of:  wife, mother of two young men, nurse and vice president of a regional care coordination program. She taught last Monday at the Sweet Sister small group on the Name of Jesus being the “bread of Life”.
Running on Empty – Go to the Source
John 6: 1-13
In the above referenced scripture, we learn all about the miracle of the Feeding of 5,000. Set upon a grassy mountainside, with crowds following Jesus and his disciples to learn from him and watch the miracles he has been performing. This day is no different, 5,000 have gathered, many traveling miles by foot, some by boat. Jesus is famous, they were giving him all the attention at this point. He recognizes their physical hunger and wants to feed them, he ask his disciples for their recommendation, Philip is skeptical and Andrew is aware of the cost it would take to feed them, but also that Jesus has the Power to feed them. He uses a little boy and his meager food offering and feeds the 5,000 from 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish. We know that this meal was not a luxury offering, it was meager, it was the food of the poor, but Jesus took something meager, and made it sufficient for all to eat.
Truly a miracle, truly an example of his generosity, his humbleness, his charity and his compassion. He fed them all. 
In today’s fast pace, I often realize I can let myself run on empty, going and going. In the past few years, I’ve found myself looking for satisfaction that may not be reasonable because my attention has been on the wrong types of satisfaction. Thinking about what I want or need versus realizing what I already have. Focusing on achieving more and realizing that true happiness is not in what I have or what I earn, but comes from going to the true source, the one with the power to perform miracles and the only one who promises me eternity. The one who shows us how to live and the one who lived a meager life on earth and gave it all up for me and you.
There is so much that happens on this one day of many miracles, but it also a great example for me to realize, yes Jesus provides for us physically and he did so for the 5,000 in John 6: 1-13. However, many times our hunger isn’t physical. When we find ourselves running on empty, he’s there for us, he is the Source. All we need to do is reach out and and believe in the true source – Jesus.

Relax…….God’s in Charge

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Dear Sweet Sister:

Do you delight in hearing the love story of how a husband and wife first met? I sure do! When Dave and I meet another couple for the first time, my favorite question to ask is, “How did you two meet each other?” Most often, their eyes light up as they tell the story together of how their love story began. Oh how I love to tell my story of how I met my husband of 28 years. I share this as a way to encourage the single sister that feels called to marriage but is still waiting on God to find her life mate. I share this for the married sister who needs to be reminded that God is always in control. Lastly, I share this for my future granddaughters and my great-great-granddaughters in generations to come.  How did I met my husband? I’m so glad you asked. Here you go:

Act 1.  January 31, 1986 Friday afternoon:
Alone in my freshman dorm room, I lay in my bed confused and disappointed. Tonight was the night I was supposed to perform a skit entitled, “If God Talked back” for the Intervarsity Christian Group on campus. I had practiced for hours and memorized all my lines and I was just so excited to finally use my acting skills to give eternal truths. (I performed in high school and on the Gettysburg stage during my first semester but all the effort has no spiritual message or purpose.)  When the skit was given to me over Christmas break, I was ecstatic to use my time and talent for God and to impact other students. During that Christmas break, Janice and I prayed for all those on the campus. How excited I was once back on campus to practice and perform this skit.

But my plans came crashing in when Lee (the classmate who was to play the part of God) called and explained to me that he had a family emergency and needed to take a train home. This just did not make sense to me. Why would God allow Lee to leave the night of our performance? Dinnertime was approaching, but I didn’t feel much like eating or getting out of bed.

I looked upward and the poster caught my eye. In this poster above my bed, a cute plump panda happily lays on his back in a grassy field while the words above him boldly proclaim, “Relax, God’s in Charge.” I can still vividly remember that poster, 30 years later. (do you see the poster in the photo below?…upper left side above my head) 

IMG_1946

So I had a choice to make. Would I wallow in self-pity and disappointment, or would I trust God and do the next best thing which was to simply go to the cafeteria for dinner?

This one choice would change my life and if you are one of my great-granddaughters, you are alive because of it.

Act 2. The same Friday, evening:
I find a seat in the Gettysburg cafeteria at a table with my dear friend Janice. There are some new students sitting with her that I haven’t met before (she was a sophomore) and soon I am explaining my situation in true dramatic manner. I bemoaned to the group, “I have all my lines memorized for tonight’s show and then God took the first train out of town.” So I guess you could say I was holding onto the self-pity part just a smidgen?

Then a tall handsome young man with broad shoulders volunteered to play the part of God that night. (I had made a list years before that I wanted a husband with a good sense of humor and broad shoulders that I could cry on.) This mysterious  young man had never attended an Intervarsity Christian fellowship group meeting (despite being invited several times) and had never acted before.

You see, he also had a choice in that moment. He later explained that he had dreamed multiple times of a woman with full cheeks and lips (I once had the nickname chipmunk cheeks) who he believed was going to be his wife. She was washing dishes in the dreams (and yes I’ve done a lot of dishes in the past 28 years, but since Dave is such a fantastic cook I am happy to do so).

Once he spotted me at that path-changing supper, he said I looked just like the girl in his dreams (literally). This gave him the courage to volunteer and stand in front of the intervarsity group that night.

Act 3. Later that night:
Dave stood behind me and read his lines from the script. I kneeled in onesie footed pajamas and pretended to be praying my nighttime prayers as I played an 8-year-old girl who recites The Lord’s Prayer each night without  knowing what the prayer really means.

“Hallowed? I don’t know, what does it mean?” She asks. God explains, “It means honored, holy, and wonderful.” She responds thoughtfully, “Yes, that makes sense.”  

And then she keeps on praying.   

“Give us this Day our daily bread…” and to her shock and the audience’s amusement God answers with,
“I think you’ve had enough of that bread.”  

As the girl continues to recite The Lord’s Prayer she receives help from God on how to forgive a friend’s betrayal and ultimately deepen her relationship with the Lord. Dave enjoyed playing the part of God, and I was thrilled to perform that night to my Gettysburg peers.

The following Friday, I performed a mime as Sonbeam the clown with Janice, whose clown name was Salty, for the same Intervarsity Group.  Dave came to the meeting, and afterwards we enjoyed hot fudge sundaes with a group at the Lincoln Diner. On the way home, with me still dressed as a clown: rainbow wig and white faced, he asked me out on a date. I’ve often kidded him that because I was a ‘mime’ clown I wasn’t able to say no. Of course I nodded  “yes!”

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Act 4. A few months later:
Dave and I joined the debate/forensics group on campus and visited other colleges/Universities to perform “If God Talked Back.”  But the real Act 4 is that we began to date and our love story continued. We dated three and a half years and married in my childhood United Methodist Church as our Gettysburg priest Father Phil assisted.

Dave is my best friend on this earth and God continues to guide me and bless me through him.   Our union has produced four children (three on earth, and one in heaven) and a thriving preschool business that we both enjoy.

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So dear single sister, my advice for you is to be patient and seek out ways to use your talents to honor and serve God. Join a Christian singles group or find like-minded friends. Hold out for a husband who will have self control and wait for you. You are worth the wait, my sweet sister.

To my married sister, are you sitting on your bed in self pity wondering why things are not going as you planned? Remember the panda poster and trust God that He is in control. Show this trust in your actions. Don’t hide away in your room, but let go of your tightly-gripped dreams. Release your own expectations and trust in God’s character. When things don’t go your way, repeat these three statements:

God is Good.
God is Love.
God is in Control.

When you are not sure as to what to do next, just do the next best thing. Our lives are a result of our choices. Keep making small loving choices for God.

To my great-grands, I love you. I am praying for you. Pray and wait for the one who will lead you closer to God.

PS.
For my sweet sister or grands who have slipped and desire to go back and start over, take heart, for it is never too late to start anew. God is all about redos and restarts.  

Relax, God’s in charge. 

For My Sisters Who Are Grieving this Christmas/ How to help Our Grieving Sisters

AmberOBrien"

   My experienced friends warned me that certain days of the year could pull a bereaved person down into a quicksand-like spiral as the memory of the past rubs salt into the still-wounded present. Holidays and anniversaries magnify the loss of a loved one, each event having the potential to drag under the people left behind. As a new Christmas season approached, I hoped that during the second anniversary of my baby girl Megan’s birth and death, I would resist both fighting the pull of grief and trying to speed through this potentially heartbreaking time. For as a victim in quicksand soon learns, both thrashing around and trying to rush through it could result in more loss. Continuing to fight causes the quicksand victim to further sink, just as I could further sink into my grief and self pity. Panicking and trying to speed the process of escape causes the victim to sink faster, just as I could push myself further into the pit of despair by not taking my time to acknowledge and face my grieving.

The Key with both quicksand and with grief is to move slowly, take small steps, and be willing to let others pull you out.

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     Two years before, I gave birth to a premature baby girl on December 23. The most intense forty days of my life followed her emergency birth as my husband and I watched our baby girl go on and off a respirator and survive bowel surgery, only to watch her take her final breath in my arms. Megan weighed just 2 pounds 4 ounces, but she was perfectly formed, a true gift from God. As she struggled for her life, we struggled against two major snowstorms to bring her my breast milk. I felt so torn between visiting the hospital and caring for my other two daughters, Mary Jo and Katie, at home.

As Megan took her final breath, however, I felt God’s complete peace and an awareness of his sovereignty. She shared forty days with us on earth, the number the early church fathers held as “the necessary period of cleansing or testing and strengthening which allows the fullness of wisdom to become a reality.” According to the Bible, Jesus spent forty hours in the tomb between good Friday and Easter morning, as well as forty days in the desert while being tempted. Noah and his family spent forty days on the ark. Moses fasted for forty days before he received the Ten Commandments, and the Israelites wandered for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Megan completed her forty days on earth and was now free from pain, praising God in her own Promised Land – Heaven.

The name Megan means “will achieve might and strength,” and I knew in my innermost depths her life was complete at forty days. While most days I could trust in God’s perfect wisdom for my family and me, as a sensitive and shortsighted human I still felt the loss of a loved one. Grieving is a healthy and necessary process whose emotions and tears should not be buried or ignored. I spent the following year writing in my journal and creating a scrap/photo album to include the photos, cards, and letters sent to commemorate Megan’s short life. A room was dedicated to her at my home church and Mary Jo, Katie, and I made frequent stops to hang bulletin boards and set up supplies. A year and a half later, a baby boy named Jacob blessed our family (Jacob means “the supplanter”). The waves of grief diminished as time and understanding increased. I turned to Jesus and His Holy Word for comfort and I felt my own faith strengthen. At times, I relished in the thought that I had a child in Heaven, for is that not our ultimate goal as parents?

However, as Christmas and Megan’s second birthday approached, my fears of how I would handle the days increased. Christmas was centered on a baby boy who was miraculously born. The absence of a miracle for Megan would seem greater with one less stocking to fill. On the other hand, if I filled a stocking as some bereaved parents do, I have one less child to unpack all the goodies. The sore empty wound that I still carried (and will always carry in a lesser degree until I am reunited with my baby) seemed such a contrast to the cheery hustle and bustle of Christmas. What could I do instead of planning her birthday party? What could I buy instead of party favors, cake and ice cream? Would anyone but me remember Megan’s birthday?

     Christmas surrounded me with its cinnamon smells, jingle bells, glitter and gold tinsel. Could it have been only two years before, alone in my cold sterile hospital room that I spent Christmas morning? I was supposed to be six months pregnant, I thought. Instead, my little baby girl struggled for life in intensive care. My staples stung from the emergency cesarean, a physical reminder of the stinging feeling of sitting alone in a hospital bed trying to imagine the reactions of my girls as they opened their gifts at home. Two years later, especially during anniversary remembrances, the sore emptiness of loss was ever present and I feared I would sink into the quicksand of self-pity and depression. “Lord, I can’t let Megan’s birthday take away the peace and Joy of Christmas from my other children. Help.”

     The Sunday before Christmas, we stopped by Megan’s grave after church. Before I opened the car door, I spotted something lying on her tombstone. I burst into tears of joy as I realized someone had left a tiny Christmas tree in Megan’s memory. Little ornaments of angels, Mary and Joseph, adorned the little tree. Attached was a card inside a plastic bag. Who could have been so kind? Who remembered Megan? With trembling hands, I ripped open the bag. As I read the card, my questions melted into understanding. Of course –  It was from Irene and Rich, friends of ours who had lost their own baby a year before mine to SIDS. “Merry Christmas, Megan,” the card read.  “Keep an extra eye out on your Mommy and Daddy, Mary Jo, Katie and Jacob this Christmas. You are forever in their hearts.”  

     I felt God’s love through the gift of that tree. As I thought about how Rich and Irene were able to comfort me because of their own loss, an idea sprouted. Now I had a plan as to how I was going to celebrate Megan’s birthday. My excitement grew as I planned our birthday surprise, and I no longer felt the quicksand pull of self-pity. On December 23rd, I bundled up my children and stopped first at a florist shop and selected a colorful bouquet with roses.

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Next, we stopped at a local bookstore. I did not know the owners personally, but I had briefly met their preteen daughter before she died in a bicycling accident years before. She had watched my older daughter at church, and so five-year-old Mary Jo handed the father our bouquet. “What’s this?” he asked. I nodded to the picture of his daughter behind the cash register.  The words sputtered out and my eyes blinked back tears. “This is in memory of your daughter.”

     Later that night, as I pulled into our driveway, I noticed a white rose with a note attached lying in our path. I recognized my friend Terry’s handwriting, but the message felt straight from heaven.  “Mommy, Thank you for giving me a ‘birth’ day.  Love, Megan.”

     Tears of gratitude and release flowed. Like a balm for my wound, the tears flowed as I again felt God’s love and understanding through a friend. More ideas began to spring up as if my tears provided the moisture necessary for germination. Many neighbors, relatives and  friends were approaching quicksand pools of their own, and I hoped to help pull some of them out. The strongest pull is love, I will tell them, and the only escape from a pool of quicksand is to receive God’s love and then to love-pull a friend out of their own.

Confessions of a Survivor Addict / For My Sisters Who Just Want to Escape

AmberOBrien"

Locked in our small powder room, I cling to the phone as my three children knock on the door.
“Mom, she hit me!”  They whine.
“Jacob won’t let me use the computer.”
My husband chimes in with “Amber, have you seen my shoes?”
Ignoring the interruptions I ask my friend on the line, “Have you ever wanted to go to an island and just get away?”  

So begins one of the many videos I have submitted to the reality show, Survivor. If you think I am crazy for wanting to go to a remote location for thirty-nine days and live off the land, eat bugs, wear no makeup (yikes!) and put myself in a situation of possible ridicule and failure, I don’t blame you. I have wondered the same thing time and time again.

The producers must have thought the same thing after seeing the second part of the video we submitted.  My ‘director’ husband created a scene in which I suddenly emerge out of blue sparkling water similar to the scene with Bo Derek in the movie 10. After my exaggerated surprise at being in a beautiful tropical scene, I start to walk toward the shore complete with beaded hair. Boom! My three children run into me and try to knock me down.  As I seek to upright myself I laughingly state, “Make that without children” correcting my fantasy wish.

After some reflection, I realize that the contrast between Bo Derek and me was probably too much for the judges to handle.  I still wonder if they laughed out loud or simply moved their fingers like I was crazy.

Yes, I confess to submitting videos and applications to be on the show. The poor video judges must have held their ears as I sang the Gilligan’s Island theme song complete with new words, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, the tale of a homeschool mom…” While the words might have been clever, my singing voice has never been one of my assets.  Nevertheless, creating the videos was always great family fun.

In contrast to the light-hearted videos, the application process forced me to dig deep. One question in particular made me stop and ponder more than the others:

“Who is your hero and why?”

Quickly, I realized that my hero was not a former winner of their show or a famous actor on television.  Instead, I thought of all the unrecognized people serving and caring for God’s people.  My heroes included: parents who care for a terminally ill child or parent, an abused woman who allows her anger and hurt to dissolve into forgiveness, a husband who turns away from temptation, a woman who regrets a past decision and now helps others from making the same mistake, a family who says yes to one more child, a couple who seeks counseling to reconcile a dying marriage, an addict who throws away his addiction because it is destroying his family, the single parent who must play the part of both mom and dad…  the list goes on and on. These people give and forgive when no camera crews are watching. These true survivors endure hardship and heartache often lasting much more thirty-nine days. No odds of winning a million dollars or being a guest on The David Letterman Show. They are not ‘models’ but they model for me who I hope to become.

Despite our family’s best efforts, I never received a call to come and audition. As time went on though, my desire to try again continued. I tried to rationalize and justify my desires. Since the sociology of putting such diverse people in this situation appealed to me, I reasoned they needed a Christian homeschooling mom on the show. I mean, how many homeschooling moms have been on Survivor?  Zero! Of Course, it’s questionable how many have actually applied. I also desired justice, and hated to see someone who lied and cheated win.  I thought perhaps I could show them that the best strategy is to be trustworthy. Perhaps my mission field would consist of millions of viewers.

It was then that I recalled Mother Teresa’s famous saying, “Do small things with great love.”  I was grounded once again as I thought of all the unsung heroes listed above.

I would pray “Lord, take this desire away if it is not of you.”  I would also ask, “Is this just me?”  No, this drive seemed not to be a push from within but a pull from beyond.

Then it happened. My desire to get away became a reality when I went on a silent women’s retreat with a friend. During the 48 hours I began to refocus.  

“What is reality?” The priest asked.  

“Reality is the love of Christ.”  

We were reminded that we are on this earth such a short time in relation to eternity, and we are all called to make the most of the time we have to know, love, and serve Him. My silent retreat was away from the busyness of the day, and far from any Hollywood cameras. What a wonderful and refreshing weekend! I felt spoiled as I enjoyed the delicious food (no bugs) and listened in the peace and quiet. I will never forget how the priest began the first meditation.

“You think that you worked hard to scheme and put together this weekend, but Jesus for all of eternity has been planning this time to be with you.”  

Yes, He had been planning the weekend all along and in it I found once again the reality of His love for me.    

After a short time however, I realized that this time away was not all going to be a romantic bed of roses.

Sometimes God loves us so much that He convicts of something that is harming our body or a relationship with others or with God. 

God convicted me of something that culturally most Christians would not consider a sin.   Slowly God had been bringing others in my path who were walking counter-cultural and I started questioning this choice I was making. Out of obedience I finally surrendered this crutch and realized that I needed to trust God more. As a priest said who walked by and saw my many tears. “God is pruning you, to make you stronger.” When I arrived home I still had work to do to fully to free of this sin, but the relief and joy of being releasing from this hindrance was the best gift that God could ever give. As Jesus proclaimed in John 8: 34

“Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  So if the son frees you, then you will truly be free.”

Jesus Christ is the truth. He came so that we could see the reality of how sin slowly destroys our relationships. Sin poisons our bodies and souls.

The only way we can know Truth is to spend time in the presence of Jesus. For He is the way, the truth and the life.

Randy Alcorn explains, “Jesus is the source of all truth, the embodiment of truth and therefore the reference point of evaluating all truth-claims.”

The more time we spend in His presence and reading His word, the more we can know what “truth is” and to be protected from the lies of the enemy.

How mind blowing is this: The King of Kings wants to sit and chat with you. You don’t need to go to a deserted Island or even a weekend away. I suggest  sitting with a pen and paper and start reading from the Gospel of John.  A  10 minute retreat each morning will change you from the inside out.

You don’t need to escape your life, you need to allow the eyes of your heart to be opened to the Reality of God’s deep love for you.