Faith It, Till You Make It!

Wow!  What a season!  I’m not talking about winter, spring, summer or fall, or a sports-related season.  I’m talking about my spiritual season for the last couple of months.

My church’s current series is entitled, “The Valley”, and that’s precisely where I’ve been.  I’ve been waking up most days feeling “sideways”…totally not myself, a little bit grumpy (some days a LOT grumpy), anxious, stressed, depressed.  All rolled up into a tight, metallic-tasting ball wedged in the pit of my stomach.  Yuck.

I’ve attempted to “fake it, till I make it”, but I couldn’t easily hide my feelings…

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…whoops!  Actually, what I REALLY need is a faith lift (no lisp intended).  I NEED A FAITH LIFT.  I need to “faith it, till I make it”.

This gem was shared at service last Thursday night…

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I’m tired of being squeezed.  It’s time for me to lean into Him…hard.  I need to keep my eyes on Him…put all of my hope and trust in Him.  I know that if I continue to hold His hand, He’ll pull me through this valley.  I want to replace the metallic-tasting ball in the pit of my stomach with the abundant joy, love and peace of my salvation… when I was on fire for Jesus and my roots were firmly and deeply planted in my faith.  My fire hasn’t gone out, nor has my faith wavered (because that will NEVER happen!), but I want the flickering flame to be replaced with the raging inferno it once was.

I’m going to “faith it, till I make it”.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

Who does God say you are?

I had the pleasure of hearing Pastor Matt Fry from C3 Church in Clayton, NC speak and bring the Truth at service yesterday at Granited United Church. One of the first things he asked was, “What label are you wearing?” Label? What label? Am I wearing a label? Geez…where is it? What does it say? Who gave me this label? Does it say “I’m anxious?”, “I’m not worthy?”, “I’m not good enough?” If you’re wearing a label and it doesn’t reflect who God says you are, it’s time to rip it off. The “Hello, My Name Is…” tag isn’t cuttin’ it because SOMEone, SOMEwhere gave it to you when you weren’t even looking and it’s defined you ever since.

Pastor Matt shared a poignant story from when he was a young boy regarding the “reading table” he was assigned to sit at in class. He promptly went, of his own accord, and sat down at the “advanced” reading table, confident that he was sitting where he was supposed to. Where God instructed him to sit, but the teacher asked him to move…to sit at the “average” reading table. There it is! The “label”…he didn’t ask for it, I’m sure he didn’t want it and although the teacher may have believed that this was the “right” table for him, she had no idea that in that one instant, she would define who he was…slapping an “average” label the size of Texas right across his chest. More importantly, even though the sign was invisible and no one else could see it, HE saw it…believing it in his heart. A teacher with good intentions…innocent enough, I’m sure, but a label-giver, nonetheless. No apples-on-the-desk for her!

Pastor Matt stated that we first need to “discover” who we are in Christ and then we need to “declare” who God says we are. In his book, “I Am”, Pastor Matt shows you how to unlock God’s power and purpose for your life by discovering who you are in Him. By exploring the seven “I AM” statements Jesus made in the Book of John, he unpacks key truths that will help you discover who He is and ultimately reveal your true identity in Christ. My husband bought the book at the Warrior’s Men’s Breakfast yesterday morning, so as soon as he’s done reading it, I’m going to dive in!

Pastor Matt provides free daily declarations that you can download from his website: http://www.mattfry.com

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Yesterday’s message came without coincidence as I’ve been trying to figure out exactly who God says I am. I’ve already peeled off a couple of labels that I unknowingly picked up along the way. Although some were slapped across my chest without my knowledge, there was one label, when I was fifteen (over forty years ago), that a teenaged boy gave me regarding my weight. I didn’t ask for it…I didn’t want it but I’ve worn it for over four decades. Only recently did I take a big black Sharpie marker and cover up what it said, but I haven’t been able to take it off…yet. I know I’m moving in the right direction and I’m clearly a work in progress. I am His. I’ll just straighten my crown, pull my shoulders back and remember Who I belong to.

I need to discover who God says I am and then I need to declare it. When it comes to me clearly, filling my heart with His wisdom, grace and love, rest-assured, an air horn and megaphone will be involved because I will totally be shouting it from the rooftops!

-Numbers 14:28- “As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say.” NLT

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

God – legit – moves mountains!

Matthew 19:26 –  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    

 faithcanmovemtnsPhoto cred: Morocco Pens

That’s right, MatthewI’ve seen the impossible become the possible!  I’ve witnessed, first-hand, what God can do! He moved a mountain that I had been standing at the foot of for so long, craning my neck all the way back to try to see to the top of it, but I never quite could.  It was a mountain that seemingly I created, yet feared.  In my mind’s eye, as I prayed on it… prayed that it would move far away from me, there was a tiny seed of doubt… I prayed on it, but I didn’t really believe that it could be moved.  So it stayed there. And it stayed. And it stayed. I’d pray every day for it to move, but that stupid seed was still there, too, and God knew it.  He tried to encourage me to crush that seed underfoot, but I had trouble hearing Him over the seed’s intent… doubt.

After nearly a year of staring at the foot of that impossible-to-move mountain, I finally heard God’s loving but firm voice say, “Just crush that seed of doubt and watch what happens. Trust me.  Put ALL of your faith in me and what you have believed to be impossible is possible…for me.”  So wearing a fabulous pair of boots, I placed that seed of doubt on the concrete and smashed it with my heel into a million pieces.  I knelt down, bowed my head, closed my eyes and prayed, thanking Him for His eternal love and faithfulness.

When I opened my eyes and stood up, I saw Him off in the distance carrying that mountain far, far away.  God moved that mountain for me as soon as I put all of my faith and trust in Him, and once I did so, I fully expected Him to move it. The moment I crushed that tiny seed of doubt, He blessed me in more ways than I could possibly imagine.

Although faith can move mountains, doubt can create them.  I was so tired of having such a stiff neck looking up at that mountain, I had considered pitching a tent at the foot of it and laying flat on the ground as I suspected that I’d be looking up at it forever.

I thank Him for commanding me to shut up and be still for a minute so that I could actually hear His message… to crush the seed of doubt, to put all of my trust and faith in Him so that He could do his job. After all, He IS God and He’s way better at it than I am!

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”.

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

                     

Thankful Through The Storm

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Photo Cred:  ACT Emergency Services Agency

The ability to be “thankful” through and during a “storm” can sometimes seem distant, elusive, just out of reach.  When something tragic and sad has happened in your life, how can you possibly be thankful?  Drowning in your sorrow, feeling helpless or hopeless certainly doesn’t leave much room for thankfulness.

Or so I thought…

2017 has been a year of loss and heartache for me.  My beloved father passed away in August and my very best friend (of thirty-eight years) and sister-in-Christ lost her son unexpectedly last week.  Yes… it’s been a year of loss and sorrow.

For the last few weeks and months, I’ve been “wishing away” 2017, chalking it up to one of the “worst years of my life”.  Sadness had overtaken the joy and peace of my salvation and I felt as though my world was crumbling down around me and I with it.

I was driving to a church staff meeting last Wednesday night, having the feelings, yet again, of this terrible, tragic year and there I was, wishing it away again.  All of a sudden, it was as if Jesus was riding shotgun in my truck and he gently, but firmly, gave me a dope slap in the back of the head and then I heard, “Terri, I know that you have been through many trials and tribulations but did you forget that you found me and I saved you this year? That your best friend was also saved and that you were both baptized on the same day? I’ve been with you every step of the way… through it ALL.”  I’m not sure how often Jesus gives out “dope slaps” but this was well-received and I heard Him…loud and clear!

My faith and trust in God is what moves me forward, one step at a time, one day at a time and even one minute at a time, if warranted.

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Photo Cred:  Following My King-Blogger

My faith IS bigger than my fears, my pain, my sorrow.  I continue to keep my eyes on Him, leaning into Him and His Word and knowing that through Him, all things are possible.  Even being thankful through the storm.

With Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, the first without my father, I know that it will be emotional for me and my family.  As we gather around the table, the head of which being either empty or occupied by another family member, the tears will flow as the Thanksgiving dinner blessing is said.  Memories from all the holidays past will significantly impact the holidays of the present and future.  Living in and through this storm, I know that I do have so much to be thankful for, and I’ll pray for those who can’t find their thankfulness during their storms in the hope that they’ll see He is always with them and is always there to reach down and lift them up through their pain and sorrow, pulling them close to Him and giving them comfort and peace.

So let the storms come, let the rain fall hard on my heart because I know His love and light will shine through it all and He’ll help me rise above it.

“When storms are raging in your life, you must grab a hold of The Rock—that is Jesus. He is your refuge, your shelter, the only secure, safe place. He is the bright ray of sunshine in any storm that comes your way.” ~Cathy Irvin/CBN.com

Psalm 107:29 ~ “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

The Aftermath: Learning To Live Without Someone You Love

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As the days, weeks and now months have passed since my beloved father died, I’ve been struggling with how to live happily without him.  He was everything to me.  He was the beacon of light on a dark day.  He was the ray of sunshine that burst through the clouds when my mood was dismal.  He was my last phone call of the day.  I made sure that we always had that nightly opportunity to recap our respective day and to exchange, “I love you’s”.  It’s now been sixty-four days since I’ve spoken with or hugged him.  But who’s counting.  Oh, yeah… that’d be me… I’m counting.  Truth-to-tell, I have spoken to him every day since his passing, but naturally, it’s a one-sided conversation.  I miss his voice, but am blessed in having a couple of audio recordings of conversations we had earlier this year.  These weren’t recorded by chance… they were done purposefully, in preparation of when he would inevitably be gone from this world.  There are a few videos, too, but I’m not quite ready to listen to, or watch them, just yet.

This isn’t my first loss of a loved one and surely it won’t be my last.  I’ve been down this road countless times, beginning at age thirteen with the loss of my wonderful “Gramps”, followed by the loss of my brother four years later (and so on, and so forth), and I know I’ll travel it again.  It’s not a straight, bumpless path… it twists, turns and it’s filled with hills, both negligible and steep, with hidden, grass-covered divots, in which I’ll undoubtedly stumble.  I’ve encountered many hills and valleys throughout my life, as many people do, but my Dad was always there… either pushing me up, or pulling me up from those respective hills and valleys.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently died nine days later, the joy and peace of my salvation promptly made its way to the back burner where it simmered on low for many, many weeks, overshadowed by the enormous loss of him and my grief.

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Photo Cred:  The Gourmand Mom

I was not, and am not, “mad at God” for “taking my father”.  The week before he passed, I got down on my knees and prayed to God to “please not let him suffer” and I distinctly remember saying, “If that means you have to take him next week, Lord, please do.”  Prayers answered.

I clearly thought we had more time; perhaps several weeks or a couple of months, but I’ve come to the realization that if God had not called my Dad home when He did, my fear of him suffering would have become reality, and as much as I miss him, that would have been too much to bear.

In my mind’s eye, and in my heart, I can see that the back burner is empty now.  The flame is gone and instead, the front burner is fully lit on high and my joy and peace are slowly beginning to “bubble away”.  

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Photo Cred:  The Cook’s Info

I knew they would return and even though they might jump to the back burner occasionally, I’m confident in knowing that they will never be gone… they may just need to “simmer” once in a while when not at a full “rolling boil”, for those times when I simply need to acknowledge my loss, my sadness and cry, as I continue to live without someone I loved beyond measure.

Revelation 21:4:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Matthew 5:4:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~  TP

 

Christians are not “better” than anyone else…

…they’re just “better off with Jesus”.  ~Pastor Anthony Milas, Granite United Church

 

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Photo Cred:  Mountain Toppers

Profound words from an awesome and ever-engaging Pastor!  I have been attending Granited United Church for over nine months.  It’s been the most amazing experience of my life.  Why, you might ask?  Well, first, I have Jesus.  He is first and foremost in my heart and I welcomed Him as my Lord & Savior without a moment’s hesitation, doubt or fear of the unknown.  Additionally, to help me in my Christian walk, I have the passionate and heartfelt guidance of G.U.’s Lead Pastor, Anthony Milas as well as my Campus Pastor, Courtland Holloway and their lovely wives, Christy and Kara, not to mention my entire G.U. Family.  One of the first things I learned when I walked through their doors was that there are “No Perfect People Allowed” at Granite.  Outstanding!  I’m about as far from perfect as a person can be!

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month” and I can’t thank my Pastors enough for the way they pour into us each week.  They don’t walk in front of us, nor behind us, but beside us so that we may lean on them as we lean into the Word to better know and love Jesus.  So “Thank You” to all of the Granite United Pastors and their wives for helping us all on our respective Christian journies.  You are well-respected and well-loved!

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Photo Cred: LittleThingsAboutGod

As duly noted by Pastor Milas yesterday, as Christians, we need to say, “NO to the world and YES to the WORD”.  It’s not as difficult to do as it may seem.  Stick your nose in a Bible if you’ve never done so.  Perhaps start with the book of John.  When you read the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t come here to teach us about religion; He came to save us.  He wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us.  All we need to do is call upon His name, ask Him to forgive us of our sins and to be our Savior.   If you’ll take a leap of faith and do so, you’ll know the joy, peace and eternal love that salvation brings.

Sometimes, it’s not an easy path to walk…it can be lined with naysayers, those that may ridicule, judge or reject.  That’s okay, they’re not the ones I’m trying to please; only Him.  Do I completely understand EVERYTHING in the Bible…not even remotely, but it’s a work in progress; I’m a work in progress!  With the guidance of a very loving and devout Christian woman, who teaches my Bible Study class (shout out to Nancy Susan Salois!), I am learning and growing every time I immerse myself in the Word.

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Photo Cred:  www.mybible.com 

O Come to the Altar’ By Elevation Worship…. (an excerpt) of very POWERFUL lyrics!!

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful?
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him
For He is Lord of all
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you found

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Photo Cred:  Soul Shepherding

To not share the Good News and the peace and joy of loving Christ would be like not grabbing and pulling back on the arm of a toddler who’s about to step off a curb into traffic.  Why would I keep this all to myself?  Why wouldn’t I want my loved ones, both family and friends, to have what I have?  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and know that God has a plan for everyone.  He’ll do His work, and I’ll continue to do mine.

Granite United is a church that extends grace, not shame or criticism.   I’m so THANKFUL to have found this wonderful community where I get to worship, pray and be taught the Word of God in an awesome, very cool, and hip way (and by cool and hip, I mean “TOTALLY COOL AND HIP!”)

Again… a huge THANK YOU to Pastor Milas and ALL of Granite’s Campus Pastors!  Without “you”, we wouldn’t “be”.

Luke 15:3-7 – [3]So Jesus used this illustration: [4]”If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it?  [5]And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. [6] When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. [7] In the same way, Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

He’s Got My Baggage

 

 

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Photo cred:  Macy’s

Little did I know that I had “baggage”.  I thought I was “good”; perhaps toting around a small carry-on bag containing a few trinkets of regret, shame, embarrassment, guilt, etc.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had considerably more than a carry-on bag.  I had that, plus two of those big suitcases with the wheels and retractable handles, a garment bag, a duffle bag and a backpack.  Seriously?  Where did all of THIS come from?

I was simply “doing” life on my own…without help, without guidance and without purpose.  I thought I was managing things in a reasonable fashion.  I thought I was just like everyone else…sucking it up and moving forward.  Oh, I was, alright… I had my head down and plowed through everyone and everything, ignoring what was in my heart… knowing that something of enormous proportions was missing.  But what was it?  What was it that I was missing on my solo flight through life?  There was “something”!  It seemed to be on the very edge of my heart and mind, but whatever it was,  it seemed so elusive and mysterious.

I was plugging along by myself for over fifty years.  I had my beloved family and friends, my dogs, my job, a few hobbies, and my life “seemed” to be okay, average, “normal”… but ALWAYS, something seemed to be missing.

As I reflect back over the last five decades, I did start out with a small carry-on bag, no doubt, but over the course of time, the rest of my baggage crept in, almost imperceivably, and the next thing I knew, I had one of those hotel-dollys stacked high with the rest of my baggage. I hunkered down behind it holding on to the cold, brass rails in a defensive lineman’s stance, with all of my weight on the balls of my feet so I could reluctantly push it.  I pushed it uphill most of the way, only once in a while, when my life seemed simple, fun and carefree, did I take the opportunity to jump on the back of it while it careened downhill… going faster and faster….. Woooooooo Hoooooo!  On those rare occasions, that baggage dolly would inevitably come to a crashing halt, tipping over and spilling my regret, embarrassment, shame and guilt all over the ground.  I’d painstakingly gather everything back up and stuff it all neatly into my baggage, and I’d hunker down again and start pushing.

I was EXHAUSTED.  This down- and uphill battle was killing me…breaking my spirit into a million pieces.  How could I POSSIBLY go on any longer in this fashion?  How could I even entertain getting my life “under control”?  Who was going to save me and redirect my life so that I could live peacefully, joyfully and without guilt and shame?

And then it happened.   That elusive and mysterious component missing in my life showed up.  All I had to do was stop pushing that dolly full of my baggage, open my heart and my mind and ask for help.  I knew I couldn’t do this alone any longer.  I needed help, I needed rest.  I needed Him.  Only He could take this load off of my nearly broken back and shoulders.  When He offered to take my baggage from me and told me to follow Him… I couldn’t do it fast enough!  Without a moment’s hesitation, I started to transfer my baggage from that dolly to Him.  Each time I ladened Him with yet another bag, He stood tall, His knees never buckeled, His stance never wavered.  His pile was getting bigger and heavier by the minute and mine was getting smaller and lighter.  By the time I finished, He had it all…

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Photo cred: Pintrest

He reached over and took my hand.  As I stepped into His love, light and life, I never looked back.  I’ll NEVER be able to thank Him for what He’s done for me.

We all have baggage…some loads are lighter than others, but we ALL have it, nonetheless.  When you’ve had enough of doing this life on your own, He’s waiting for you…

God is greater than the burdens you are carrying.

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Photo cred:  Proverbs 31 Ministries

 

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

Whaddya mean, you want me to *SERVE*?!?

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Photo Cred:  Illinois Baptist State Association 

After I joined my local bible-based Christian Church, Granite United, I kept hearing chatter about “serving”.  Being new to the church, I was unclear as to what that meant.  As I continued attending service each week, the notion of “serving” began to unfold and before I knew what I was doing, I had filled out a “Connection Card” checking off the box for “Kids Ministry”.  Wait a second…”Kids Ministry”?  What could I, as a new Christian, possibly “teach” these kids about Jesus?  They probably know way more about Him than I do.  They’ll probably teach me a thing or two.  But okay… I committed to doing it…and so it began.

Easter Service…my first time in KM.  These little bright and shining faces looking at me like I knew what I was doing (I was as nervous as a tortoise trying to cross Route 93), but I just “went with it”.  I mean, these are “just kids” after all, right?

We played some games and did a lesson followed by an Easter Egg hunt.  I watched as one of the sweetest little girls on the planet handed over the “golden” Easter Egg that she had found to a boy who happens to be blind.  As I watched this transaction transpire, the waterworks came on and I was sobbing like a baby.  I had just witnessed a four year old angelic-looking girl gladly, graciously and lovingly give up the coveted golden Easter Egg to a boy who, although he couldn’t see it, knew it was a “big deal”.  He squealed in overjoyed delight, jumping up and down with a smile on his face that went from ear-to-ear.  I stood there placing my hand on the little girl’s shoulder and bending down to her level, told her how “very proud I was of her for giving him the golden egg and that was such an unselfish thing to do.”  Looking up at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes and an ever-present smile, she beamed, “I know!”  Being such a little girl, this was, in no way, a self-serving or self-aggrandizing statement.  It was “matter of fact”, as if she simply knew that what she had done was a “good” and “kind” thing.  :::I was still crying at this point, but reined it in a little so as not to alarm them:::

As we wrapped up the Easter Egg hunt, service had concluded and parents were arriving to pick up their kids.  Hugs all around and heartfelt “good-byes” ensued.  For those that know me well, know that sometimes I’m overcome by emotion and this day was no exception.  I got in my car and as I drove the 15 minutes to get home, my heart was so full of love and happiness over these kids, I continued to cry, barely being able to see where I was going.

So I’m a few rounds into KM and let me share with you how it’s changed me and what I’ve learned.  I’ve “taught” a couple of lessons… Noah’s Ark & God’s Rainbow and the Last Supper & Communion.  I’ve watched these kids be engaging, kind, selfless and loving.  I always used to jokingly say that I could never “run a daycare” because by the end of the day, when the parents would arrive to pick up their kids, they’d either find them hanging from the ceiling fan or duct-taped to the wall, suggesting that I’d never have the patience or wherewithal to “deal” with kids.  All joking aside, how wrong I was!  I am so thankful to be involved in Kids Ministry and knowing that it’s a committed process to teach children about Jesus in a fun and loving way; without it being too overwhelming for them.

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Photo cred:  Kids Matter Kids Ministry

Kids Ministry has taught me patience, to be able to see Jesus through the wonder-filled eyes of children.  It’s taught me about giving my time, willingly and lovingly, to assist these kids in learning about and coming to know Jesus.  After all, I’m a “Baby Christian”, so I’m learning right along with them.

Since kids can sometimes be unpredictable, there have been a few moments where things were going a little “sideways”, but through the loving hand of Jesus Christ, I found myself de-escalating a situation that otherwise may have ended with a ceiling fan or duct tape.  (Just kidding!)

In all seriousness, I never, in a million years, would’ve thought that I would be where I am today…completely devoted and ever-faithful in following Christ and serving in Kids Ministry.  These kids have impressed upon me their desire and willingness to know the Lord, and by His mercy and grace I will humbly do my best to help them on their journey.  I’ll hold their hands and take this walk with them, knowing that if either of us stumble, Jesus will be there to pick us up and help us continue on our way.

If you’re a part of the Granite United family and haven’t yet served in Kids Ministry, I urge you to do so.  Not only will you be helping kids learn about Jesus, you will be rewarded in ways you never could’ve imagined!

Matthew 18:2-4 [2]”And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4]Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

 

Eternity DOES hang in the balance! Where do you think YOU’RE going?

 

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Photo cred:  Indian in the Machine

All of my life I’ve never wavered in thinking that after we “die physically” we still continue to exist.  In being raised Catholic, I was taught about heaven and hell, but always believed that if I were a “good person”, heaven awaits!!  My bag’s been packed for years, not that I’ll need much in heaven; after all it IS heaven, but just to be on the safe side, my bag includes my Keurig machine, my favorite “Dog Lover” coffee mug, a never-ending supply of Peet’s Major Dickason K-Cups, Hershey’s Chocolate and Caramel creamer, as well as my iPad and wireless keyboard…after all, I’ll HAVE to blog about heaven when I get there!  As I trudged along in my humble worldly life, I truly thought that I was “good to go”…landing in heaven for all eternity because I believed in it and I certainly didn’t want to go to hell.   I mean, isn’t being a kind, humble, caring, selfless person enough?  Nope.

John 14:6 ~ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I always thought the aforementioned verse meant that as long as I “believed” in Jesus, I was all set…Red-carpet-roll-out upon MY arrival into heaven!  Whoop whoop!  Ummmm… “no”…that’s not what it means.  :::Insert ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look here:::

Luke 16:19-30 tells the story of the “Rich Man and Lazarus”.  The rich man was just that in his worldly life…rich… he had every worldly possession his heart desired, but refused to repent and turn his life over to God.  The poor man, Lazarus, covered in sores, [21]who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.  [22]The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, [23]and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  [24]And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ [25]But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. [26]And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. [27]And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— [28]for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ [29]But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ [30]And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ [31]He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

EVERYONE needs to know that there is a heaven to gain, but there is also a hell to shun!  Poet Willam Arthur Tell wrote a thought-provoking poem about this; well worth the read.

At service yesterday, our Lead Pastor reminded us that “Good people don’t go to heaven…FORGIVEN people DO!”  Asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins and to be our Lord and Savior means we ARE forgiven.  This is a life-changing commitment; the difference between spending eternity in heaven vs. hell.

I know that for many years I thought I was all set and that heaven awaits me when my time on this earth ends.  I was pretty confident in that belief; I didn’t know anything to the contrary.  I never opened a bible when I attended Mass; it was something that the Priest opened up and read the gospel from.  I thought, “I’ll never understand or be able to comprehend it.  Does the Word really pertain to ‘me’?”  Oh, “yes”, it does!  I’m in His Word EVERY day.  The Bible is a living document, directing me where I need to be EVERY time I open it.  He knows… it’s by his mercy, grace and favor that I humbly live.  Jesus IS the truth, the way and the life and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve grabbed ahold of his hand and I’m NEVER letting go!

I’m not special, not in the least.  But I am FORGIVEN and I am SAVED.  That’s all fine and good, but what about those that aren’t?  Don’t they deserve to know that their eternity hangs in the balance?  “Leave no man behind”.  Seek and find; bring those you love (and even those you don’t) to Jesus.

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The good news is, is that HEAVEN is FOREVER, but we must not forget that so is HELL.  There’s no bargaining your way out of hell.  There’s no begging for forgiveness then… it’ll be too late.  There is NO WAY out of HELL…EVER.

There are people in my life whom I desperately want to turn to Jesus.  Deep-rooted in the back of my mind (until now) has been the haunting thought that, “They’ll never do it.  They’ll never repent and be forgiven and saved.”  Shame on me.  My Pastor said yesterday, “Don’t answer somebody’s “No” for them.”  AMEN!  Who am I to assume they can’t or they won’t?  It may seem like an impossible task for ME, but nothing is impossible for God and with His love, faithfulness and guidance, I will continue to ask them, I will continue to pray for them, and I will continue to let them see Jesus in me.

Romans 10:9-10 ~ “[9]because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10]For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP

 

 

 

Love my enemies? You’re kidding me, right?!

IMG_0055.PNGPhoto cred:  Bloor Landsdowne Christian Fellowship

 

Old Me:  “Shut up, Matthew!”

New Me:  “Okay, I get it, but this is NOT gonna be easy!  Just sayin’…”

I’m in the Bible every day.  I know that the greatest second commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~Matthew 22:38

Ugh.  I keep reminding myself that I’m only human.  That when someone is against me, slighting me, undermining me, the “old me” rears its ugly head and the venomous feelings of revenge surface, and I know exactly who’s behind it.  The enemy.  I momentarily entertain the “old feelings”… of who and what I used to be and when I reflect back on the times I would’ve gladly engaged in a WWE smackdown, taking pleasure in “giving someone what they had coming”, I’m so ashamed.  Embarrassed, too.

That was me… really?  Yes, it was, right up until I turned my heart and life over to Jesus.  Not gonna lie… this is the one that I struggle with the most.  REALLY struggle with. Not that I was, by any stretch, a bad person, but if someone intentionally hurt me, I was all over them like “white on rice”.   There was NO way I was going to “let someone hurt me, and get away with it.”  Since becoming a Christian, I feel as though I’ve been “turning the other cheek” so often that I’ve got whiplash.  True story.

I’ve always considered myself to be humble, kind and thoughtful…UNTIL someone came at me.  Then it was “game on”.  The humble, kind and thoughtful me went out the window and was replaced with the “Terminator”.  Yuck.  It pains me to even acknowledge it and write it “out loud”.

Each day I pray for God’s mercy, wisdom, grace and favor.  I ask Him for His strength and guidance in my Christian Walk.  I pray for those who are suffering, who are less fortunate, for those who don’t know Jesus and “yes”, I pray for my enemies.  By the time I “get to them” in my prayers, it’s more like a “footnote”; a perfunctory recognition of their existence.  Oopsies!

I realize now that when I pray for my enemies I need to do so in a truly loving and forgiving way.  Praying for those against me initially was contrary to everything I felt and believed… it’s not easy… not in the least, but it’s what I NEED to do… it’s the RIGHT thing to do.  I recently shared the following post on FB by Pastor Joel Osteen:

  • Bless Your Enemies… Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28 “Bless those that curse you, do good to those that hurt you, pray for those that mistreat you.”  One test we all have to pass is being good to people that have not been good to us.  It won’t make sense in your mind, everything in you will will say, “Hold a grudge, talk bad about them, look for ways to get even.”  Your job is not to pay people back.  Your job is to bless your enemies.

Challenge accepted, Pastor Osteen.

To my enemies, ga’head “bring it”.  I’ll be waiting for you, with a heart full of forgiveness and prayers for your well-being.  Because at the end of the day, I’m living my life as Jesus did, to the very best of my ability, and, quite frankly, the simple reminder to myself is, “What would Jesus do?”  He’d bless them, forgive them and love them.  He’s so awesome.  I thank Him every day for blessing me, forgiving me and loving me.  I’m a sinner; not unlike my enemies.  If He can forgive me, I can certainly forgive them.

~Matthew 5:44 – “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Okay, Matthew… message received loud and clear and I’m sorry that the “old me” told you to “shut up”.  The “new me” will keep reminding myself of this message every day, until I no longer have to “think” about it; that praying for and loving my enemies will come as second nature to me and I’ll do it willingly, gladly and with nothing in my heart but love.  Consider me a “work in progress.”

~Matthew 6:14-15 – [14]For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  [15]but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

~Let Love Lead The Way~ TP