A 7 week book club for two! Draw closer to a friend and to God this summer

Hi Friend!

Do you want this summer to include a fun way to strengthen your relationship with a friend/relative and with God? Do you have a friend or loved one who lives far away? How about a half hour each week chat on the phone after each reading the short chapter on a real life story about love and let the fast fun favorite questions start the laughter and next let the deeper end discussion questions allow for a deeper sharing of hearts.

In the 7 short chapter book Love.Always.Wins the fun fast favorite ice breakers include “What is your favorite comfort food?” to “How old were you when you had your first crush?”. Then, after reading a story from the author’s messy life, the discussion questions include looking up God’s answer in the Bible for answers to life’s many challenges.

A recent quote was sent to me by reader:

“Amber shares her own vulnerabilities as a Christian woman –not perfection– moving to love and forgiveness with God’s help. Her beautiful poems accentuate this Love. ” Sharon P.

Perhaps buy two books and suggest having “a book club for two” as a gift for a friend or mom/daughter. What could be a greater gift then spending time with a friend and learning together how much God loves you ………a love that will Never end ….a love that will Always Win!

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=amber+obrien+love.+always.+wins&crid=36D6AV6LKTO0C&sprefix=amber+Obrien+%2Cstripbooks%2C163&ref=nb_sb_ss_fb_1_13_ts-doa-p

Finding Jesus in the Midst of Hurt

by Carrie McCarty-Gibson (guest Sweet Sister)

I sat in church that January my heart aching from five years of infertility which had just ended in a second miscarriage.  A visiting, itinerant priest, a friend of our pastor’s from seminary, announced he was there to talk personally with anyone who needed to discuss her relationship with God.

Well that wasn’t me!

I went to church every Sunday, prayed with my husband, and even taught the 8th grade class right there at church, but I didn’t talk to anyone about my relationship with God.   As Father Fred stood at the back of church shaking hands with people as they left, I was making a wide arc to avoid him when I felt compelled instead to go speak with him.  Before I knew it, I found myself saying, “I think I ‘m supposed to talk to you about my relationship with God.” 

I went to meet with him and poured out my heart and ended with,

“I don’t understand what I’ve done that has made God angry with me.  I don’t understand why he is punishing me like this.”

Father Fred smiled a big warm smile and chuckled a bit.  He went on to explain that ever since the first day he had been ordained a priest God had been sending him infertile couples and he had known when I saw him in the church why I was coming to see him. For decades, he had kept a list of infertile couples and he would pray that they could find their lost fertility.  He told me in all the years of his list, he had never had one couple who couldn’t conceive.  He asked me if I’d like to be placed on his list.  I was so excited.  This was all I needed.  I could be right with God if I could just be on the list of this holy priest to whom God had given this special ministry.  Father Fred prayed over me and I got up to leave.  He motioned for me to remain sitting and said, “Now, let’s talk about your relationship with God.”

I was confused.  Being on the list was what I needed.  Exactly what I needed.  But God wasn’t leaving me in the misconceptions of my immature faith so Father Fred couldn’t either.

Father asked if I could picture the most painful memory of all I had experienced.  I said, “Yes.  I see the doctor’s face, hear the monitor beeping, feel my husband’s hand.  I see it all, Father.”  He gently responded, “No. You don’t.” 

“You don’t see where Jesus was in that moment and I promise you that he was there with you.”

He told me to ask Jesus where he was.  “Lord where were you?” I cried in a half-sob.  I closed my eyes and pictured the scene again and this time I could see Jesus standing by me and when the doctor spoke those cruel words, I could see him bend over me, shielding me.

  Then I saw so many of the other scenes from this painful journey and I could see Jesus with me through it all.  Father Fred asked, “What is Jesus doing?”

  I answered, “He’s crying.”

“And why is he crying?” Father asked.

“Because I’m hurting and he’s hurting.”

“Why is he hurting?” prodded Father.

“Because he loves me,” I sobbed.

“That’s right! “Father joyously exclaimed.  “Jesus loves you! He’s not punishing you because of something you did wrong.  He’s hurting for you because he loves you.”

Father Fred went on to tell me that bad things happen in the world because sin exists and bad things that happen were not even necessarily the result of our own sin. Sin and the sad that resulted from it were never what God wanted, but that he could bring good from it if I would let him.

I felt so much better and thanked him and got up to leave.  Father motioned for me to sit and said, “Now, I’ll hear your confession.”  I wasn’t ready for that.  I liked to prepare.  Father said, “Relieve yourself of these sins you feel are so great that you believe God is angry with you and punishing you.”

In Isaiah 40:1-2, God says:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

God forgave me and I needed to believe it.  I have spent years learning that lesson – God has forgiven me of anything I had done.  The negative feelings I now felt weren’t an issue with God; I needed to learn to forgive myself.

Father listened to my sins and told me God forgave me. 

Then he paused and said, “I’m getting a very strong feeling from the Holy Spirit that you are going to be pregnant by Easter. Yes. Easter.  Let’s pray you can carry this baby to term.” We prayed. I thanked Father and left.

I went happily through the season of Lent.  The peace my faith had brought me during our infertility and miscarriage trials had inspired my husband to seek Jesus and he was preparing to be baptized at Easter, April 16.   It was a joyous, hope-filled time.  We made a peaceful spiritual retreat to lovely Savannah, Ga and grew in faith and love of God.  Two weeks before Easter, we discovered Father had been wrong.  I was not pregnant, but I talked to God about that and told him we had so much growth that it was okay that Father had been wrong and had misinterpreted the message God had sent.

My husband was baptized at Easter.  It was a beautiful time and it made it ok that Father Fred had been wrong.

 Except, he hadn’t been.

Two weeks after Easter, I discovered I was pregnant and looking back on all those records folks struggling with infertility keep, I was a day or two pregnant at Easter when my husband had been baptized. 

I did go on to carry our little girl, not only to term but two weeks past. Savannah was born in January – exactly a year after I had met with Father Fred.  Easter Sunday that year was on my birthday and Father Fred just happened to be passing through visiting our pastor for Easter. He gave me the best birthday gift I’ve ever received when he baptized Savannah on that Easter birthday of mine.

In so many ways then and since then God has shown me the truth of Jeremiah 29:11-13 –

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,plans to give you hope and a future.12 You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

With my heart broken, I sought a relationship with God, and in finding that relationship, God healed that broken heart.

In the years that followed, I learned:  God has good plans for us and they are so much bigger than our own plans.  I learned to forgive myself if for no other reason because God forgave me and his is a perfect example to follow.  Most of all, I learned to look for Jesus in my times of hurt because he is there.

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

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

Man….does Jesus love us women. #2 Woman caught in Adultery

IMG_8191MA31590921-0002#2    The Women who met Mercy (The Women caught in adultery)

Hi Sweet Sister….so glad you could join our discussion as we study another dramatic interaction of Jesus and a woman.

Exposed. She stood alone after being ripped from a bed of passion and placed in front of a crowd of judgmental religious leaders.  She was a pawn used to bring down the meek prophet Jesus.   Imagine yourself in her place as she stands confused, embarrassed, humiliated and scared to death.  Her heart must have raced as her adrenaline rose causing her to seek to “fight or flight”.   However,  she was as trapped as the man Jesus who was writing in the sand.

This unnamed woman did not seek Jesus out as did contemplative Mary (Woman #1) who sat at Jesus’ feet.  She was caught committing Adultery and thrown into a group of religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus and trying to put him into a “no win” position.  Let us study another way that:

Man…………………………..does Jesus love His women. 

Let’s start at the beginning in the Gospel of John chapter 8: 1-11.

  1. Where did Jesus go the night before this dramatic interaction? What do you think Jesus was doing there?

He left his disciples to be alone. Perhaps he was praying for wisdom as to the next days’ events? Spending time with His Father God as Mary modeled for us in Chapter 1?

2. Where is the “Man” caught in Adultery? Does the law require the man to be stoned as well?

Read Deuteronomy 22:22-24. Since these leaders and Elders asked for Stoning it appears this woman was a betrothed virgin.  So the man should have also been stoned.  It is a mystery as to where he was during this confrontation. He certainly was not defending her.

She stands abandoned, betrayed and alone.  But is she alone? Are we ever alone as daughters of the King? Have you ever felt accused by others? Attacked and misunderstood?  Write down what happened and how you felt.

  1. What women in the New Testament (she is related to Jesus) could have been stoned?

Yes…his own mother….Mary could have been stoned…should have been stoned (according to the law)  if Joseph choose to expose her in the same way.

Since the woman (Mary) was pregnant the child would have died as well.

How would this world be different if Jesus had died in Mary’s womb?  How would you and your world be different?

Meditate on this awhile.

God intervened with Angels (messengers from God) to save Mary and the son of God.

Who would intervene for this women….?   

  1. What was Jesus writing in the sand?

A. Names ? Read  Jeremiah 17:13  Some scholars believe that he was writing names in the sand….

A medieval tradition was the latin, “ Terra Terra Accusta” which means the earth accuses earth.“Those that turn from the Lord will be written in the dust, because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of Living water.”

What is the opposite of being written in the dust?

Exodus 32:32 Moses begs the Lord the Lord to forgive the Isrealites or blot his name from the Book of Life.  The Lord Replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.  In Psalms this is referred to the Book of Life. In Psalm 69: 28 David sings about his enemies and asks, “ May they be blotted out of the book of Life and not be listed with the righteous.”

B. The 10 commandments?

Some scholars believe he may have been writing out the sins of the elders or perhaps the 10 commandments.  Exodus 31: 18  “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”

Perhaps Jesus wrote with his finger the commandment,  Thou Shalt not Kill. Weren’t they all guilty of this command?

In the book of Luke verse 20 Jesus states “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”

What a powerful symbol for the religious leaders to see him writing in the sand. Quietly, the leaders are reminded that the 10 commandments were written by the finger of God. Now, Jesus is writing out commands.

Could he be writing out the two commandments that all the law and prophets hang on? Matthew 22:37

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Love your neighbor as your self

Were they being loving toward this woman? toward Jesus?

Do you think they realized that the Kingdom of God was upon them?

If Jesus is God made flesh, than is not Jesus the finger of God?

C. Comfort for the frightened woman?

One of the sweet sisters thought perhaps that Jesus was writing out something to comfort the woman.  This certainly would align with the kindness and love shown the woman after they all leave.

Perhaps he wrote words similar to those found in Isiah 41:10

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with my Righteous right hand”.

To counteract the words of her accusers:…..”adultery” “sinner” “harlot” “condemned” etc.

5.  What  do you think Jesus might have written?  _______, __________,________________.

Jesus states, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Why do you think they all walked away?  Why the elders first?

Who is the only one who is without sin? The only one who can forgive sins?

________________________________________

So this passage does not tell us what the woman physically did immediately after her accusers left…….

6. What do you think she must have done if Jesus forgave her and said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, from now on do not sin any more.”?

Sweet sister….I imagine her falling to her knees in relief and gratitude.  Kissing the feet of Jesus and thanking Him for defending her. I believe she repented and decided to turn to Jesus and turn away from sin.

Read Psalm 51….such a beautiful and powerful song of Repentance.

Read slowly over verses 18-19

“For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.”

Do you need to turn from a sinful choice and turn toward Jesus? Are you “all in” or are you still sitting on the fence? What do you need to leave behind that is preventing you from following even closer to Jesus and his holiness?   Will your name be written in the dust as one who turns away from the Lord or will your name be written in the book of Life as one who turns toward the Lord.

He waits patiently for you and I to offer our broken, humbled hearts at his feet.

 

Man………………………….does Jesus love us women.