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Out of Practice

Today’s guest post is by Deborah Thomas, Eye Sights BlogDebby with short hair

Everyone knows that practice is not optional if you want to get better at something. I just talked with a seasoned piano teacher about the possibility of teaching a four-year old to play the piano–can they do it? She said that to the degree that the parents make the child practice is how well they do. With discipline and regular practice, they progress solidly. But parents that do not require their child to practice see them struggle.

The same goes for any skill. I used to take private dance lessons to learn how to country swing better. I had no boyfriend so practicing alone in between lessons was almost useless. Line dancing practice a la solo worked better, as long as I did not forget any of the moves.

In Christianity, we have moves, also. I call this practice. If we are out of practice, today is a new day! Christianity does not end at conversion; that is only our birth. We must go on with Christ, a life time with Him. We need to get smart!

Whoever learns how to throw hardball while sitting on the sideline? Who learns how to suffer without bleeding or injuring a body part? Who knows grief unless there has been loss of some life? Who can swim well without practicing strokes or treading water a long time? Can anyone really practice being kind until they are shown unkindness in their face? The Lord is not going to hand these things to us on a gleaming platter. He wants us to practice and exercise our spiritual muscles.

1 Peter 1: 6 & 7 declares: “…now for a little while, you may have…to suffer grief, in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Trials come to give us practice; if we practice, we prove our faith. God wants to know if our faith is the real thing. Authenticity matters. You cannot just say you are a Christian. Your life has to prove it. Practicing your Christianity brings forth outstanding results: praise, glory and honor to Christ.

I do not want to be out of practice, as I walk in faith before the Lord. Suffering? Grief? Unkindness? Trials? Yes, they are there all right. But they are just the backdrop on which we practice our instruments for Him. Amen?

To read more of Deborah’s posts go to Eye Sights.

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There’s a “I” in Him

As a mom of former college baseball and softball players, I have heard the saying “there is no “I” in team” more times than I can count. In other words, one player is not to work alone, but rather work together with others to achieve a certain goal. Today I am drawn to the word “Him”, as in Christ. Yes, there is an “I” in that word but I am not just talking about the “I” in the spelling of Him.

As a woman, a wife, and a mother, who walks her life out with Christ, I can truly say; there’s an “I” in Him. Me, myself, and I are in Him and He is in me. We are a team and He is my captain. It is “I” in Him and “Him” in me that makes all things possible. Christ said it himself in Matthew 19:26, “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Because I think like a baseball/softball mom, let me put it to you this way. Life can feel like a ball game. It may 5435255_mseem like you are at the bottom of the 9th, stuck on 3rd with 2 outs and you’re ready to give up. But it is at that moment that He steps up to the plate and knocks one out of the park. Christ is the only one I would ever want batting at that point in the game. I know that the things of this world sometimes leave me stranded on third but Christ will always bring me home. Never has He left me standing alone on the field of life and I will never stop giving Him praise.

Today I pray that you, too, are the “I” in Him and that He is in you. I pray that you will step behind Christ as your Team Captain and let Him call the plays. I also pray that you will let Him be your strength whatever life brings your way.

I hope that knowing you can also be the “I” in Him brings you peace during even the hardest of times.   What are you waiting for? The words of the song “Centerfield” by John Fogerty say it perfectly…“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play”. Be the “I” in Him!

 

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The Blessing Box

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Count your blessings”.

In our deepest pain, our blessings may be hard to find because it is difficult to see past our present circumstances. When we choose to walk with God, there is no guarantee that there won’t be struggles. By acknowledging our blessings and worshiping God in the storm, we not only honor Him, but it opens heaven’s floodgates of strength and comfort to carry us through whatever we are facing. When we feel like we have nothing in us, those are the times we need to praise Him all the more.

DSC_7524About five years ago we walked through a very painful time when our daughter was harmed in an act of violence. More than once, I thanked God that there were only 24 hours in a day because with each new morning His mercies were new. At one point during that hard time my friend took my hands and raised them to the Lord and said, “Thank God for the blessings you can see”. At first I looked at her like she was crazy and I thought how can there be anything to be thankful for in this nightmare.

As I sat on the floor with tears streaming down my cheeks, my friend held my hands up to the Lord, and I said, “Thank you, Lord, they did not kill my daughter”. In that moment I felt a sense of joy during the most painful time of my life. My daughter was alive! I had missed that in my pain. With my hands still held up by my friend, I began to thank God for the blessings I had not noticed in my pain.

Suddenly I realized she had let go of my hands and I was holding them up on my own. I was still hurt by what had happened and concerned about what lay ahead of us but I had new strength. For the first time in over a month, I was able to sleep through the night. The next day I added a night of sleep to my list of blessings.

In September 2015 while thanking God for a new blessing in my life, I got the idea of making a blessing box for my husband and myself. It sits in the area where we spend time in study and prayer. On the days that are hard and we struggle to find the words to pray, we can dump out the blessings in the box and then read them one at a time. It is very powerful. I can start on empty and when I am done reading them, I am running on a full tank of joy.

I want to encourage you to make a blessing box for yourself. If you are married or have children living with you, make a blessing box to share or make one for each of you. When the storms hit and you can’t find the words to pray dump that box out in your lap and start thanking God for how He has blessed you. Let Him turn your sorrow into joy because a joyful heart is good medicine. –Proverbs 17:22 (NASB)

 

Authors note:

Here is an idea for the whole family. Get some fun things to decorate the blessing box and include the whole family in the decorating. Setting aside time each week to share your blessings with each other and adding them to your blessing box is a simple way to acknowledge what the Lord is doing in your family.

 

Every couple of months dump the box out and take turns reading the blessings. No matter how old your children are, they can all take part in this. Teaching your children to count their blessings and give thanks, helps build their faith so that when the storms come, they will remember to look beyond their circumstances and see the goodness there is in the Lord.

 

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Muck Boots

Muck boots.

Muck boots and laughter.

Muck boots, laughter and deep mud.

I can still hear the sound of my daughter and her best friend stomping in the mud on a cold November day. The37363764_s rest of us enjoyed the warmth of the bonfire as we listened to the Apple Cup football game on the radio.

Those two were having so much fun in the deep mud. However, the fun came to an end when they got stuck. The more they panicked trying to get out, the more stuck they got. At the bonfire we could hear the sound of the girls yelling for their dads to help them.

Both of the dads ran quickly to help the girls. They carefully positioned their feet so they would not get stuck themselves. They had to pull as hard as they could to get the girls out of the mud. One of the girls lost her boot because the mud refused to loosen its grip. Their dads were stronger than the mud that had its grip on them.

What started out as fun, led the two girls to be trapped in a place that only their fathers were strong enough to pull them out of. No matter how old we are we may find ourselves playing in the mud in a different way.  Pornography, unhealthy sexual relationships , drugs, and excessive drinking are just a few ways you can find yourself stuck in a mess you never wanted to be in.

If you are stuck in a place you don’t want to be, call out to God. No matter how much mud you may find yourself in, God can pull you out of it and clean you off. Tell Him you need His help and He will be there. He will make you white as snow when you ask Him for forgiveness. Also, ask someone you trust for help. Go to them and be honest about what is going on. Tell them you need prayer and accountability. You might even be surprised to find out that they may have stepped in their fair share of mud too. If you need to speak to a professional or seek treatment do so. There is never any shame in getting the help you need.

Don’t ever think there is no way out of the mud. Cry out for help. Your father in heaven will come running just like the dads did when the girls yelled for help. Psalms 40:2 says, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.(NIV) Believe He will lift you out of the mud, out of the muck and mire, just like scripture says. Please be honest with God and those you love.

Be careful what you step in, even with your muck books on.

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Don’t Bite Into the Apple

Originally written for Living Better 50 Magazine.

Some of the biggest lies we believe start with a little bit of truth. If you don’t believe me just take a look at Eve. Thanks to the serpent, Eve bit into one of the biggest lies in the history of the world.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He 20800870_ssaid to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. Genesis 3:1-6

The cunning lie began when the serpent said to Eve, “Did God actually say”, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? He opened the conversation with the truth of what God said. After stating what he knew to be true he went on to say, “you will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil”.

The enemy took the clear instructions that God had given to Adam and Eve and spoke the truth that if they ate of the fruit they would know “good and evil”. He offered them wisdom. Unfortunately for Eve, he left out the part about dying. Instead he got Eve to focus on the fact that she could be like God. He tempted Eve by getting her to look at something God clearly said was off-limits, the forbidden tree, and convinced her it was something she should be allowed to enjoy.

The enemy is the king of deceit. His goal is to get us to believe that “feeling good” is better than the truth found God’s word. God wants me to be happy, right? Certainly, this must be from God. The enemy wants you to begin to think God’s word must be wrong because of how happy you feel after biting into the proverbial apple.

Getting us to doubt God’s word is his mode of operation. He is clearly no match for God so his only way to hurt God is to cause His children pain. Greed, anger, all kinds of sexual sin, and pride are just some of the things he can use to pull us away from the truth of God’s word. When we realize what we have done, we are ashamed and in pain. This hurts God’s heart. Because God is a loving God he hurts when his Children hurt.

If you find yourself in a place where you believe God’s word is wrong as a means of justifying your choices, you have bitten into a lie. In Christ you have the authority to rebuke the enemy. Tell him to take a hike because you are not going to believe the lie he has fed you.

The first thing you need to do is start with a prayer asking God to forgive you for doubting His word and thank Him for loving you so deeply. Now take the lie you have bitten into back to the Word of God to see what it says. As you read the Word and discover the truth, ask God to help you let go of the lie that the enemy has fed you. Ask God to give you the strength to resist the lie when the enemy tries to suck you back in again. Trust me he won’t just walk away, he is going to put up a fight.

He will come at you with things like this: “You know you liked the way it made you feel” or “If God really loved you He would want you to be happy. He would be okay with you doing this”. There is also his famous “God is not fun” approach, “He is always making you give up what you like.”

Everyone is going to be faced with temptation and lies from the enemy. Eve wasn’t the only one to take a bit out of the apple. What the enemy is offering may be pleasing to the eye but all it takes is one bite and you have fallen for the lie. Choose wisely because believing one lie pulls you out of the will of God and onto a path of destruction.

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Don’t Just Frost Yourself

The thick layer of frosting swirled perfectly on top of the cupcake was calling my name. 6604420_sI’m a frosting girl. One bite into that cupcake, that looked so beautiful, led to instant disappointment. Underneath the frosting was a very dry cupcake lacking any flavor.

We can very easily be just like that dry cupcake. On the outside we can frost ourselves with our cross necklaces and bracelets. Over our shoulder or on our arm we may carry a beautiful purse that is adorned with a silver-studded cross. Maybe there is a pair of cowboy boots decorated with a turquoise cross that you have your eye on.

One thing we need to remember is, no amount of jewelry or clothing worn on the outside is a true reflection of our walk with God. I am not saying we should not wear things with crosses. I have a cross necklace that I wear almost daily. In my closet hang items of clothing with crosses and I do want a pair of cowboy boots with a cross on them. No matter what we wear on the outside, it is not as important as what is on the inside. We need to make sure that what is on the inside is not dry like the cupcake I bit into. No amount of frosting could ever cover up how dry and bland that cupcake was. And no amount of cross swag worn on the outside can hide how dry and bland we may be on the inside.

Cooking is not one of my strongest giftings. More than once I have forgotten to add the salt to what I was making. Forgetting to add the salt to a batch of chocolate chip cookies can change the way they taste. I can’t help but wonder if some salt would have helped improve the bland taste of that cupcake.

Scripture teaches about the importance of salt.

” For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50 (ESV)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

Salt not only adds flavor, it is also a preservative. We are told to have salt in ourselves. If we are not salting ourselves with the peace, love, kindness, gentleness and truth of God, we will become dry and bland in our walk. Just as salt preserves, God preserves. We need to make it a point to not lose our saltiness. No amount of frosting could make that dry cupcake taste good and no amount of outward religious swag that we adorn ourselves with will ever hide our dryness in God’s eyes. Sure the world may think we are Christians because we wear a cross necklace but God looks at our heart.

Don’t just frost yourself… salt yourself.

In closing, l will leave you with this prayer.

Lord, I pray whoever reads this will have a love for You that is much deeper than their outer appearance. May they be salted from the inside out and filled with the peace, love, kindness, gentleness and the truth of You, God.

Originally posted on Living Better 50 Magazine.

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Keeping Christ in Christmas

Originally written for Living Better 50 Magazine.

It was a snowy December day when I found myself walking in a very slippery Fred Meyer Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 4.57.50 PMparking lot. As I approached my car, I saw a couple who looked to be in their 80’s or 90’s. The husband was trying to push the cart through the snow and help his wife who was very frail. Watching them made me think of my grandparents who I missed deeply. Carefully I walked toward them extending my arm to the woman to help her keep her balance.

When we reached their car she hugged me, and for a moment, it felt like my grandma had given me a hug. While her husband put the bags in the trunk I helped her into the car and told her that the hug she had given me blessed me because I missed my grandma. She took my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “You are my angel and God sent you to me today.” I wished them a “Merry Christmas”, closed the car door, and returned the shopping cart with teary eyes and a heart filled with joy.

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season don’t forget that you are a witness for Christ. That day I was in a big hurry to get a lot of things done. I very easily could have ignored that couple and moved along to the next thing on my long list of to-do’s. I wonder how many times I have missed a chance to show kindness toward others because I was in too much of a hurry to stop and share the love of the man who laid down his life for me. Maybe you are also missing opportunities.

Every year it seems as though Christ gets pushed out of Christmas more and more. We must make a point of not getting so “wrapped” up in holiday parties, baking, and gift shopping that we forget the reason we are celebrating Christmas. Let’s not get so caught up in finding the perfect decorating ideas on Pinterest that we “Pinterest Jesus” right out of the season.

This holiday season take time each day to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Christ. I can almost guarantee someone will cross your path that needs a helping hand. Just a short five-minute interaction changed my perspective greatly, it might change yours too. Six years later I am still filled with joy when I think of that sweet couple I helped in that snowy parking lot.

Show grace to the tired clerk or grumpy shopper. Think of the grace Christ has shown you. Rather than snap at the driver who cut you off, have a heart full of forgiveness and say a prayer that they would slow down. How many times has Christ forgiven you? As you wrap a gift say a prayer for the person who will receive it. Prayer can work wonders in the hardest of hearts.

In the simplest of actions you can keep the love of Christ alive this holiday season. After all, it really is about Him.

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Be Still

By Cassie of Cassie’s Corner.

CassiesCornerButtonTonight while putting the kids to bed I was singing along with their instrumental hymns Pandora station. The song was Amazing Grace. Ezekiel crawled out of bed and onto my lap. He was crying, he just laid there and wept like a baby when they are over tired and just need sleep. I continued to sing and he calmed down. I asked if he was ok and he replied that he just needed me to hold him. How precious is a child’s love for their parents. This simple gesture by my son made me think of our Father, God. He showed us amazing grace by sending his son to live among us and die on a cross for our sins. He yearns for us to crawl up on his lap and weep and just be held. Praying Psalm 91 over the kids tonight  for their protection and acknowledgment that God is their refuge and strength.  I realize my need to just be held….”Be still and know that I am God…” Thank you Lord for using my children to show me to slow down and acknowledge your strength in my life

Click here for more of Cassie’s heartfelt lessons.

 

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Finding Your Prayer Closet

Praying is such an important part of our growth as Christians and it is our best defense35446842_s when life throws a sucker punch at us. It is very important to have place we call our own to pray. I have a favorite chair in my living room where I do my study but there is a window by the chair and when it comes to my prayer time, that doesn’t work for me. I see one thing out of the corner of my eye and “Squirrel!!” I am off track. If I see the dishes in my sink, I feel like I need to get up and wash them. So many things in my home can easily distract me. After watching the movie, War Room, I knew I needed to make a place to pray.

Not everyone has a closet big enough to turn into a prayer closet. I understand how valuable closet space is but even more valuable is your time with God. Every one of us needs to find some uninterrupted time where we can be open and truly honest with God. I encourage you to find a place in your house where you can do that.

Being empty nesters our son no longer needs his closet. My husband and I moved in and set up shop. Your prayer closet doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You may not even have room to put a chair in there but a pillow and a blanket on the floor can make your closet feel cozy.

Be creative. Do you have a spare bedroom that you could go in, close the door, and step away from everything? Do you have a storage room that has room for a chair? Maybe there’s an empty shelf to put your Bible and your prayer journals. If you have a little light and an extension cord, put the light in there. Turning off the overhead light keeps your eyes from being distracted by what you are storing in that room. We keep post-it notes in our prayer room. We can write short prayers or a scripture that really speak to us and stick them on the wall. Using the blue sticky material for hanging posters keeps our post-it notes on the wall.

Maybe your laundry room has no windows but has room to put a chair. Put a little light near the chair and turn the overhead light OFF so you’re not distracted by any laundry that needs to be done. Don’t run your laundry while you’re there either. You don’t need to be distracted by the sound of the washer and dryer. For that matter, turn your chair away from any laundry that needs to be done. If that means looking at the wall, so be it. Use the wall in front of you for a few pictures of your family and sticky notes with prayers and scriptures. Do you remember the lesson about Mary and Martha?

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42 (NIV)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Your laundry can be started after you spend time with God. God is not asking for anything fancy. Uninterrupted time is what he’s seeking. Find a place in your home where you can step away from everything and spend a little time with God. I have found that when I step away from all the distractions I really feel the peace of God. I’m excited to step into my prayer closet. Every day I step in with the expectation that God will give me just what I need. He has blown my mind with what He has shown me during our quiet time together and I believe He will do the same for you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

 Posted on The Whatever Girls and Living Better 50 Magazine

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Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey

A few years ago, we invited our friends to join us for Thanksgiving and I learned something very important. Although my friend is an amazing cook, I told her I would do the turkey and the main dishes if she would handle the dessert. “Are you sure you don’t want me to cook the turkey?” she said. I was excited to use my grandma’s roaster so I told her I had it covered.

The two of us began to plan the table decorations, and between both of our houses, we set one of the most beautiful tables I have ever seen. “Everything is going to be just perfect,” I told myself. I was going to make a Thanksgiving dinner to be remembered.

Sometimes the best-laid plans go sideways. Thanksgiving morning the comedy of errors began. As I set the turkey in the roaster pan, another friend told me, “You need to add water because if you don’t it will burn.” I questioned that, but then again, what did I know. I had never used the roaster before and cooking is not exactly my gift. An hour later the turkey was steaming, not roasting. The legs looked like they were going to fall off. Help!FullSizeRender

I tried to call my friend, who was also my neighbor, but she was not home. Her husband told me she was at our other neighbor’s house. In a panic I called, and when my neighbor answered the phone, I said, “I have a turkey emergency!” Within minutes, I had three women in pajamas standing in my kitchen. The first thing they said was, “Why is there water in here?” As one of them tried to lift the turkey out of the pan, she said, “You didn’t get everything out of the inside.” I had looked in the wrong end apparently. There I stood in my kitchen in tears as they tried to fix the turkey.

My friend, the amazing cook, said, “Let me take it to my place and cook it because I have a new electric thermometer.” Out the door the turkey went. Silently I cried, as I put the roaster away. I wanted so badly to cook the “perfect turkey” so I could have the “perfect dinner” to go with the “perfect table”. A few hours later my friend called to tell me the turkey was done. “Are you kidding me? It can’t be done yet,” I said. “We are not going to eat for a while.” Her response was, “My thermometer says it is.”

As we were getting everything ready to serve dinner, my husband began carving the turkey. I will never forget the look on his face as he informed us that it was not cooked all the way through. The turkey was then cut into pieces and placed on the barbecue. The poor thing was steamed, baked, and barbecued before it made it to the table. My “perfect dinner” was not perfect. Then again, maybe it was better than perfect.

I had put so much emphasis on the “perfect dinner” that I forgot what Thanksgiving was all about. It took a turkey to put things in perspective for me. As we sat down for dinner, we gave thanks and spent an evening filled with laughter about the stupid turkey. What mattered more than anything was the fellowship that took place around the dinner table. Too often we get so wrapped up in the production of the meal that we forget the reason behind Thanksgiving. Looking back, it was a Thanksgiving to be remembered. Maybe it wasn’t what I had originally envisioned but I am glad that it turned out the way it did. That day has become one of my favorite memories.

Now I am not saying I still don’t go a bit overboard on my table but I have learned that family and friends are more important than the turkey. Last year the same family came over and we shared what we were thankful for as we ate our dinner. We played Bunco and the room was filled with laughter. As I watched my friend hold her grandson, I gave thanks that she was responding to her cancer treatment. I had learned a lesson in what was truly important.

This Thanksgiving, don’t get so wrapped up in the table decorations, the “perfect turkey”, and all the other details that you forget to really enjoy the day, instead make memories that will last a lifetime. Take time to give thanks, and remember, Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey.

Also Posted on The Whatever Girls and on Living Better 50 Magazine.Whatever-Girls-ButtonLB50ContributorSQ

 

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