Category: Gratitude

How Relationships Work – Workshop 3/24/15

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By , March 24, 2015 12:24 pm
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Today we sang “You Are For Me” by Kelanie Gloekler and “Power In The Blood” by Fernando Ortega.

Kathy led us in a workshop by answering questions that we had emailed her during the week.  She addressed handling offenses with unbelievers, living in victory with unresolved or repeated conflict in a family, differentiating between a boundary and a wall, how to love people who don’t seem to like us, how to stay more in the spirit, what it means if we are taking an offense for a third person, how our forgiving others is evidence that God has forgiven us, and what it means to turn the other cheek.  Kathy also took questions from the floor and we all benefitted from the conversation.

How Relationships Work: Negotiating Differences, Part 2- 03/17/15

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By , March 18, 2015 2:45 pm
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We praised God singing “God of the Impossible” by Sara Reeves and “Just As I Am” by Travis Cottrell.

Kathy reviewed last weeks lesson about reconciling relationships and the importance of forgiveness.

We continued learning about negotiating differences, especially in regards to long standing relationships that are not reconciled.  She talked about the fact that out of our hollow places of pain can flow rivers of living water and guarding against the devastating affects of bitterness.

Blessed

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By , March 15, 2015 1:24 pm
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Please join us for the remaining sessions of our series “How Relationships Work.” We will meet these Tuesdays: March 17th and 24th, April 7th and 14th. Class times are 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.–or follow online anytime!

 

 

 

BLESSED

 

I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.

 

Genesis 12:2 NRS

 

It was another gray March day, the sky threatening yet more rain. Only an occasional glimpse of sunshine had graced us these last 2 weeks here in the supposedly sunny South. My internal climate mimicked the external one. I wasn’t exactly gray inside, just lacking a bit of joy.

 

I dreaded my afternoon chore: catching up on my bills and putting my finances in order. That’s one of those tasks that I push to the bottom of the list repeatedly until the point when late notices threaten to arrive. I finished them all until I had to stamp the bills. We only had 2 in the entire house; they weren’t nearly enough for my stack of envelopes.

 

A glance at the clock told me that five o’clock was fast approaching. If I hurried, I might be able to get my bills in today’s post. To my irritation, I didn’t make it to the nearest post office before it closed, so I had to fight rush-hour traffic and head to the larger USPS downtown. I pushed through the afternoon rush hour traffic to get there.

 

I arrived and stepped into a long line of customers. I pulled out my smart phone to check messages when I heard a strange sound. It was something between a scream and a cry. My eyes followed the sound and landed on a boy sitting in what I can best describe as a large baby walker. He was pitching his head back and yelling at the top of his lungs. He seemed too old to be in a stroller; his sprawling limbs told me that he was disabled. His mom was the picture of patience as she bent down to quiet him. I noticed a Cross on the front of her t-shirt as she turned my way.

 

My mind immediately went to what the Bible teaches about blessings. I’ve been learning that we have the capacity to receive every spiritual blessing from God. (Ephesians 1:3) It immediately brightened my day to realize that I could impart a blessing to this precious family out of the overflow of God’s blessings to me. I put my phone down and under my breath began to speak blessings over the boy, his mom, and his sister. What love and mercy sprang up inside as I began to tap into the greatness of the Father’s love for them!

 

My blessing session was interrupted by the attendant who was ready to sell me my stamps. It made me smile to realize that my primary purpose for being there was not to complete this transaction and my little project for the day. How wonderful that my Sovereign Lord gave me this special Kingdom assignment. His plans for me were so much more satisfying that what I had in mind for myself that afternoon!

 

As I walked back to the car, the little boy zoomed right past me in his walker. When his mom came running after him I got a glimpse of the back of her shirt this time. It announced in a cheerful font and bright colors the message of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Now it was my turn to be blessed! I blurted out without thinking, “Lady, you’ve got on the perfect shirt!” She turned to me with a smile and said, “Yes ma’am, I do.”

 

This busy mom was clearly accustomed to questions about her son. She introduced me to 5-year-old Mason and shared his story with me. Her face blazed with passion as she told me how the doctors predicted he would never survive when he was born at 24 weeks gestation. “They said he would be a vegetable if he lived, but look at him. And God is not finished with him yet!” It wasn’t hard to see that her joy surpassed all the world has brought her way and it was contagious.

 

It was all I could do to get to the car before dissolving in tears. I prayed, “Forgive me, Father, for my selfishness and ingratitude earlier today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see this stunning example of what it looks like to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. I want the same thing I saw on that woman–a joy that comes from deep down inside and that can only come from You.” I believe God will give me that same joy even in my most difficult circumstances. In fact I’m overjoyed now as I remember that He is not finished with me yet!

How Relationships Work: Negotiating Differences – 3/10/15

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By , March 11, 2015 3:09 pm
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This week we sang “Jesus Paid It All” by Kristian Stanfill and “Live Your Love” by the Katinas.

Kathy began with a review, reminding us that God’s ministry to us and for us is reconciliation.  He reconciled us to Himself through Jesus and now calls us to reconcile with others.  A heart that is for reconciliation has experienced God’s grace and forgiveness for itself, is wise and wily in response to others, desires connection, and is open to newness in relationship.

This week’s lesson focused on negotiating differences in relationships.  We looked at what God’s word says about handling offenses, whether we have sinned or have been sinned against.  We learned how to stay within Biblical boundaries when negotiating differences by 1) going to our brother in private with the goal of reconciliation, 2) going quickly but choosing our time wisely, 3) keeping our comments current,  4) not judging or accusing, 5) admitting and taking responsibility for our wrongs, and 6) speaking the truth in love.

Kathy reminded us that God is the secure foundation for all of our other relationships.

How Relationships Work: Finding the Father’s Favor – 11/04/14

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By , November 5, 2014 4:35 pm
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We began our time of worship with “My Inheritance” by Ronnie Freemand and “It Is Well” by Hillsongs.

Kathy shared some biblical examples from the books of 1 and 2 Kings on receiving God’s favor that provided great principles for us to follow.

* If you attend the morning class, make sure to complete the Trumpet Call Prep sheet to prepare for next week’s class.

Honored

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By , October 27, 2014 6:07 pm
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God is great at relationships! Our focus in the series “How Relationships Grow” has been to get to know Him intimately and study how He relates to us. As we learn how to receive God’s love in greater measure, He enables us to go and love with the same love with which we’ve been loved. It’s not too late to join us in this journey at 10 a.m. or 7 p.m. on Tuesdays or by listening online.

 
 
 

HONORED

 

“You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”

Isaiah 43:4 NLT

 
 
In speaking these astounding words of affirmation, God sets a wonderful example in what love looks like. He wants to make sure we know that we are precious individuals that He loves and favors. Our magnificent and holy God, the Creator of the universe, chooses to bestow honor on us! He takes pleasure and pride in each one of His people and He doesn’t mind saying so. Wow! If God makes the effort to honor us, I want to go and do likewise to the people I love.
 
Birthdays present a wonderful opportunity to do just that. I’ve always been a big fan of birthday parties. Planning a favorite meal, cake, and candles is a great way to celebrate the people that are special to us.
 
My family recently gathered to mark the milestone of my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. The children and grandchildren took time to write down things they love about her. They honored her with their words and then proceeded to put away mass quantities of Mexican food—her favorite!
 
The meal turned out so well that I wanted to share the recipes with you. I hope you will use these to jump-start your own fiesta. Enjoy!
 
FIESTA GRILLED SKIRT STEAK
 
2 heads garlic, broken into individual cloves
½ cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 pounds skirt steak, best quality
 
In a small skillet over medium heat, roast the unpeeled garlic, turning occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, place the garlic in a glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes.) Cool, then peel and place in food processor or blender along with the remaining ingredients. Process until the mixture becomes a smooth puree. Place the steak in a non-aluminum baking dish. Pour the marinade over the steak, coating both sides of the meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
 
Heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Brush or spritz oil over both sides of the steak. Place it on the hottest part of the grill. Grill, turning once, until grill marks form and it becomes richly browned. Move the steak to a cooler part of the grill for cooking until done to your preference. (The thickness of the meat and your grill will vary, but this step took 15 to 20 minutes for medium temperature. I like to use a meat thermometer to gauge this.) Move the meat to a dish, cover, and let rest for at least 15 minutes. This step is important in keeping the meat juicy.
 
Cut the meat into 3- to 4-inch strips, cutting across the grain. Taste for saltiness and adjust to your liking. Serve with small corn or flour tortillas, lime wedges, and the toppings of your choice including fresh cilantro, shredded jack cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and sautéed vegetables (recipe follows). Each pound of steak yields 5 or 6 tacos when served on a 6-inch tortilla.
 
 
Adapted from “Fiesta at Rick’s” by Rick Bayless
 
 
SAUTEED FAJITA VEGETABLES
 
1 poblano pepper, seeds removed and thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and thinly sliced
1 yellow or white onion, cut into thin rounds
8 oz. small Portobello mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste
 
 
Heat a large skillet and a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add a dash of oil to the large skillet, then the onion, peppers and mushrooms. Cook until softened and slightly caramelized, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Season generously with salt, pepper, cumin and lime juice. Fill warm tortillas with the vegetables and add toppings of your choice for vegetarian fajitas. Makes an excellent accompaniment or topping for steak or chicken fajitas.
 
Adapted from a recipe on the website “Minimalist Baker”
 
 
SPANISH RICE
2 T. canola oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 c. white rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 c. tomato sauce
4-6 T. chopped fresh cilantro, optional
2 t. salt
 
In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add in the fresh onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add dry rice and cook with the onions for about 5 minutes or until rice becomes a golden brown color. Add in the garlic to the rice and sauté for one more minute.
 
Add in broth and tomato sauce (add slowly into the rice, not directly onto hot pan!) And then add in the cilantro if you’re using it. Stir it up and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat to low and cover. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and fluff with a fork.

How Relationships Work: Love/Hate Relationships – 10/14/14

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By , October 14, 2014 10:07 pm
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This morning we sang “Man of Sorrows” by Hillsong Live and “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman. Kathy reminded us that choosing the fruits of the Spirit is NOT about performance. We are choosing to STOP and CONNECT with the Lord, asking Him what He wants to produce in us in that moment. Remember – CONNECTION, CONNECTION, CONNECTION. All of these lessons are in the context of RELATIONSHIP.

We continued to learn how relationships work by examining FORGIVING LOVE and how sometimes we need to “forgive” God…not that God ever needs to be forgiven; He is perfect. Sometimes we FEEL offended, we FEEL disappointed, we FEEL hurt and we need to reconcile those feelings by extending forgiveness and reconnecting with the lover of our souls.

Empty Nest

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By , August 8, 2014 10:19 am
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“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, … “I will protect him.”

 

For a solid year I had dreaded the day when my firstborn child would leave home to go to college. Things would never be the same once he left.  I’d sniffled (and sometimes cried outright) through almost every “last” event of his senior year. Tears would flow when I realized it was our last registration or pep rally or spring break. Soon the day would come when I would no longer be a part of his day-to-day life or close enough to make sure he had everything he needed.
 
By the time we got to our last family beach trip, I was inconsolable. Surely I was taxing God’s willingness to keep track of my every tear! Fortunately I was just about cried out when the Lord led me to Jeremiah 31:16: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord.” The next verse goes on to say, “’There is hope for your future,’ says the Lord. ‘Your children will come again to their own land.’” What a good and timely word to me from my heavenly Father! I was ready to accept the reality that my only begotten son was flying out of the nest in less than a week.
 
The intervening days were busy with organizing and packing, and my tear ducts were actually cooperating. I woke up on Jackson’s move-in day with a sense of anticipation in my heart. After all that preparation, it didn’t take very long to get the boxes of carefully chosen college gear into that tiny apartment and put them in place. We had plenty of time for lunch and afternoon football.
 
The family headed to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare stadium before all the pregame traditions began. We were making our way up the long ramp that curves around the arena when I noticed feathers scattered all over the path in front of us. Immediately I was reminded of the promise so dear to my heart: “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). How precious of God to reassure me — I could count on Him to provide a safe place for my son.
 
A few minutes later I watched my son as he watched the eagle make its game day flight over the stadium. I could see the pride and determination in his face. He was crossing the threshold of a new season, and he was ready. It was time for me to step back and let God be the primary parent and teacher.
 
From that day on, feathers have become a symbol to me of the Lord’s protection. It seemed I saw feathers everywhere I turned those first few weeks after Jackson moved away. My heart skipped a beat every single time; I received each one as a special love message from God. I even began to find great comfort at the sight of the feathers that leaked from the annoying, cheap pillow inserts I had purchased!
 
While my son studied math and science, God had me majoring in trust. Jackson has since graduated with honors, and God was faithful to keep His promise of protection during those college years. Even now, every time change or uncertainty comes my way, I’m still learning that I can trust God to keep my fearful heart safe under His sheltering wing.
 
feather

Intruder Alert!

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By , January 27, 2014 9:41 pm
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Don’t miss the new semester of Times of Refreshing: Re-Thinking Work and Rest beginning January 28th. Join us in person on Tuesday mornings at 10 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, Room 104 and invite your friends! If that is not possible, you can take advantage of this teaching series via our website. The weekly message and handouts will upload on Wednesday afternoons and can be accessed 24/7 at www.divinedesigndiscipleship.com under our Resources tab. Please join us at a day and time that is convenient for you.

 

 

INTRUDER ALERT!

My soul still remembers and sinks within me

Lamentations 3:20 NKJV

 
We dropped our suitcases at the back door, arriving home from a trip, destination now long forgotten. Home sweet home—I love that feeling of returning to the familiar, tired but refreshed, ready to get back to my regular routine. My first task was to take the dirty clothes downstairs to start a load of wash. As I made my way through the kitchen I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks. There was a piece of shutter, a slat that bore deep indentations, sitting in a pile of sawdust. Obviously we had had an intruder in our absence, one with two sharp front teeth.
 
Going directly to the room where the shutters hung, I was mortified to discover that the scoundrel had gnawed most of my windows. In the adjacent room, I found small brown pellets littering the floor. Then I turned to see the worst violation of all—my newly upholstered chair, the one with the pretty pale blue damask, wore an ugly yellow stain on its right arm.
 
Horrified, I screamed for my husband, “Bob, come here!” He stopped his unpacking to find me. “Look at this. It’s all ruined!” I said. “How in the world did this happen?” He suspected that a squirrel had gotten into the house while we were away. He went to work locating and evicting the nuisance.
 
We determined that the little creep had wriggled in through the chimney. I never again wanted to deal with a problem like this, so I promptly called a chimney sweep to close up the entry point. His services were a bargain compared with the expense it took to undo the more visible damage.
 
This little episode was not catastrophic, but it was costly and inconvenient. And it serves as a great illustration of deeper things. Countless times across the years I’ve walked into situations where intruders like fear, anger or shame seemingly came out of nowhere. I’m left wondering why these unwelcome reactions were able to barge in and leave their marks.
 
I recently put this principle to use when I noticed I was a bit anxious about my new sport of swimming. Every time I go to the pool to swim laps, it takes me a few minutes of praying and rehearsing Scripture to overcome an unpleasant sense of dread. It’s not full-blown panic, I just feel tense and anxious in a way that’s not compatible with my true desire to be there for exercise and relaxation.
 
It finally occurred to me to ask God what was going on here. No sooner did I ask than He brought to my recollection an event buried deeply in my memory: I had nearly drowned once! It’s hard to imagine that I could I forget something like that, but I did.
 
My anxiety over swimming may seem like a minor thing, but God demonstrated that He stands willing and able to help. Identifying the entry point (the near-drowning incident) was curative in itself. But God went beyond informing me and administered emotional healing as well. His healing touch came when He led me to Psalm 18:16, “He reached down from high above and took hold of me. He pulled me out of the raging water.”
 
God knew that I was in danger that day long ago, and He sent someone to rescue me. When I realized this, not only did I feel loved and protected, but dread and anxiety lost their power over me. I knew through and through that the same God that can deliver me from a scrape with death can certainly keep me safe in the swimming pool!
 
How comforting to know that I can call upon my Redeemer in prayer when events from the past have left their imprint inside of me. I am learning to ask God to examine my thoughts, feelings and experience to find out where the squirrel got in and make the needed repairs in my soul.
 

My spirit, why are you so sad? Why are you so upset deep down inside me? Put your hope in God. Once again I will have reason to praise him. He is my Savior and my God.

 

Psalms 42:11 NIRV

 
Here is a sample prayer you can use to explore entry points when you experience emotional responses you can’t explain:

 

Lord, in the places where my soul is disturbed within me, I pray that You would reach down to reveal and heal. I open the book of my life to You. Search each page of my history. I give you complete access to my memories, emotionally charged circumstances, and significant events or environments that have intruded my life. Show me where the squirrel got in and continues to rob me of peace and joy even today. I invite Your healing touch. Come quickly, Lord, and repair what’s broken. Thank You for being a God who sees, cares, and redeems. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 

 

 

 

 

Tramp For The Lord

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By , November 8, 2013 7:33 pm
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 This week in class we talked about how to “number our days aright so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12) Living within the parallel boundaries of faith and love is one of the biblical strategies we discussed. This article is based on that principle (previously posted on April 22). Be sure to listen in to the Times of Refreshing series for more on this topic. It can be accessed under the resources tab of this website.

 

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:6 MSG

 

Something stirs inside me when I hear the sound of trains passing early in the morning and late at night. It brings to mind images of migrant workers in the Great Depression. I imagine them, having exhausted the resources of a place—day jobs and handouts—hopping on board, this their act of faith. They move out, believing there is something more waiting for them at the next stop.

 

Our lives as believers are not so different. We hear the call of Jesus, “Follow Me,” and onward we go. Jesus, who had no place to lay His head, certainly modeled this lifestyle for us. Early in the morning, He got His marching orders for the day and then set out to follow His instructions. Abraham, who we might say is faith personified, followed God to a place he didn’t know.

 

Do you ever feel like the life you live is little, that it can’t amount to much? How can it with so much earthly baggage to tote? It often seems that I am more like a drifter than a soldier of God. When I am in that place, I find solace in the journey of Paul. I think of him as a bit of a tramp, his tent-making supplies gathered into a knapsack and the Gospel burning in his heart. He meandered, it would seem, across Asia into Europe sewing and preaching and sowing. But he went as the Spirit bid him (see Acts 16) even when led into trouble and prison.

 

It’s not that surprising that a tramp would have a firsthand acquaintance with a jail cell. One of my spiritual role models is Corrie Ten Boom, and she did time in Auschwitz. In her story of enduring faith, she testifies, “no pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.”  And, though her account about living victoriously in a prison camp is miraculous, it is her later writings that mean the most to me.  In “Tramp for the Lord,” she chronicles her life after prison, in the daily trenches of decision-making and doubt and relationships.  Corrie demonstrates, as did Paul, the powerful lifestyle of getting on board with the Lord, pressing on to know Him and His upward call.

 

Citing Galatians 5:6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” my friend and teacher John Riddle explains how we can live this way. We follow Jesus on the parallel tracks of faith and love. I can have faith that wherever God leads me holds the best of all possibilities because His love for me is perfect.

 

Join me in asking God to help you live like this: Lord, I covet the joy of watching You move and the faith to simply follow. Transform my thoughts and conform my will so that I can more readily get on track with You. Wherever You lead me, God, that is where I want to be. Make me into a Tramp for You, Lord!

tramp

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