An Extravagant Expression

Written by: Jody Mugford

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

Lately, I can’t seem to get this image out of my mind – Mary anointing the feet of Jesus.  There are so many lessons we can learn from the life of Mary but the lesson that is burning on my heart this week is of her love for Jesus.

This particular scene happens 6 days before the Passover, when Jesus will be crucified.  He is having a meal with friends including Lazarus (whom he had raised from the dead), Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, and His disciples.  Jesus is relaxing with his loved ones at dinner, Martha is serving, and here we see Mary pouring expensive oil (worth a year’s wages, by the way) all over His feet.  She then proceeds to wipe Jesus’ feet with her hair!

I can only imagine that, at this point, all conversation has stopped and you could hear a pin drop.  There are a few reactions going on in the room now, one being a comment made by Judas about how wasteful Mary is being.  In Jewish culture at the time, it was customary to give someone water with maybe a drop of perfume in it for them to wash their feet, but Mary used a whole pound of expensive oil!  “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”, he questions.  We know from scripture that Judas was possessive of the money set aside to help the poor because he would steal from it but, nonetheless, he was probably echoing the thoughts of some others at the table.  There were likely also those in the room that were uncomfortable with Mary’s lavish expression.  A Jewish woman would not usually be seen with her head uncovered and her hair let loose but here Mary has abandoned tradition, let her hair down, and been brave enough to express her devotion to Jesus, despite what others may think.  In verse 7 & 8, you’ll read that Jesus defends her against the criticism of others, saying that she is preparing Him for burial.  Whether Mary realized that was what she was doing, we don’t know, but we do know that she receives His acceptance and approval of her extravagant, even somewhat scandalous, expression of love and devotion.

This challenges me so much.  I am such a doer and can be overly practical sometimes.  I would probably think to pour costly perfume on Jesus’ feet out of love but then stop myself.  What would people think?  Should I use up all this supply?  Maybe there’s a less daring, more practical way to show Jesus my love?

There is nothing wrong with being conservative and using our resources wisely.  There is nothing wrong being aware of the type of example we set and how our behaviour impacts those around us.  I would challenge us all, though, (myself included) that if we are redirecting our expression of love for Jesus into more practical ways out of fear, embarrassment, selfishness, or another inhibiting emotion…if we are rationalizing our way out of pouring passionate affection on Him because we feel it isn’t as valuable as other acts of ministry, it is time to reevaluate our hearts.

Mary didn’t let finances or appearances stop her from worshipping Jesus in abandon.  She had spent time listening to Him and learning from Him (Luke 10:38-42), seeing Him perform miracles, seeing Him raise her brother from the dead (John 11)!  She knew who He was.  She knew what He had done for her and her family.  She knew He was worthy of ALL her praise and adoration.  So she gave it to Him.  Simple as that.  In the best way she knew how.

Friends, our acts of service, our ministries, our commitments, they mean nothing if they are not rooted in an overflowing love for Jesus.  More than anything, He wants our affection, our surrender, our devotion.  If we spend time in His presence, learning from Him, falling in love with Him and seeing who He truly is, that love will grow.  It will become like a well that is overflowing within us.  Then we will serve Him and worship Him with all we have in adoration and love.  Oh, what a joyous place to be!!!!

“Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.”  Philippians 3:8-9a

I love how, after Mary had poured her perfume on Jesus’ feet, the room was filled with its beautiful fragrance.  Authentic love for Jesus is contagious, friends.  It spreads like a sweet perfume.  I pray that our love and our worship, when poured on Jesus, fills our homes, our communities, our churches and our lives with a beautiful fragrance, pleasing unto the Lord.

Love and blessings,

Jody

STEPS DOWN NEW ROADS

Written by: Christianne Williams

I love routine.  I am quite comfortable when things roll along in the same way they always do, no ripples or waves, just nice, smooth, sailing.  I love the idea of change, fresh starts, new territory to discover, but the actual act of being submersed in it makes me uncomfortable.  I like my comfort zones.  They’re very safe.  But they can also be very barren areas.  I’ve often heard it said if you change nothing, nothing will change.

Comfort zones can also be detrimental to others because when we feel what we’re comfortable with, or used to, is being pushed or challenged we can lash out and leave others wondering what they’ve done wrong.  In actuality it’s a reaction to feeling threatened and is something within us that God wants to work on.

As much as I dislike straying from my comfortable places, like leaving my big comfy chair in the morning to go to work, as I look back over my life I see those journeys as giant seasons of growth.

When our daughter was diagnosed with congenital heart disease, I spent many hours telling God that I wasn’t able to handle such a bad situation.  I was terrified if I’m being honest.  I had three children, all healthy, and this new prospect made all of normal hurdles of motherhood seem incredibly insignificant.  Getting up in the night to feed a hungry baby was nothing in light of the challenges we would face at the end of this pregnancy.  And that was if she survived at all.

We just celebrated her eighth birthday, a lot of water had flowed under that bridge, a lot of shifting from one comfort zone to another, only to be displaced once again by something new.  I had no clue what in the world was going on.  I had no idea at the time that while I was leaving my comfortable place of dwelling that God was increasing my faith, increasing our witness, increasing my confidence in Him but also in my relationship with Him.  He was teaching me to live by faith when all the circumstances were out of my control.

When He called our family out of everything we knew to live in a place far from family and lifelong friends, He had a plan to grow us.  No longer in our comfort zone of ‘home’ He showed me how to rely on Him and not others for comfort and friendship.  When you’re a pastor’s wife and you relocate all the rules change.  What you did before, you may no longer do.  Where you fit before, you no longer fit.  There are days when loneliness sets in you feel sad for what you’ve left behind, you long for the comfort of what you knew.

In these seasons, growing in relationship with Him has always occurred. He always gives direction for the new normal, the new places to fit, the new areas of ministry, and usually it’s different.  It’s a new opportunity to develop skills and gain confidence in new giftings.  I love finding out things about myself I would never had known if we’d never taken steps down a new road.

There awesome, amazing things awaiting as you walk out of your comfortable places.  I love the song Oceans, especially the part that says,

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my saviour.”

When we step outside of what we feel we can handle on our own, because that’s basically what a comfort zone is, we allow God to really show us how he’s working in us.  He calls us, and strengthens us, and grows us, and we look back and see how amazing His work in us has been.

Running On Empty? What Do You Do?  The Choice is Ours.

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I had several prescheduled appointments to make.  Time was tight but I had arranged each stop strategically so it would all work out.

I didn’t make room for error.

At the appointed time, we got into our van, turned it on and immediately I noticed that in order to do what I had to do and get back home, I would need gas or we’d be stranded.

I didn’t have time to get gas before all the scheduled appointments so I prayed that the van would get us through.

The warning sign didn’t come on until after the first appointment, about an hour away from home.  I pushed through the next appointment and the next, and then started to drive home.

Recently a close friend asked me, “Does it get any easier saying good-bye?” She knew we had just lost our precious foster baby to her forever home and was concerned about how I was coping.

My immediate answer was, “No.”  After a brief reflection, I answered, “Well, in some ways its easier and in some ways its harder.”

Knowing the pain to come, I knew the things I could do to help ease the pain.  Finish her life book, meet up with friends, exercise and not over extend myself during this time of grieving.

When you know difficulty is coming, you can somewhat brace yourself.  You prepare for the storm and you put in place those things you know have helped in the past.

But no thing can prepare me for the depth of this storm.  And it’s when I try to press on in my own strength, thinking those things in themselves will completely heal my pain that I find myself running on empty.  I can’t just stop at the next gas station and fill up.

I need to account for my human error.

It’s only in my intimate and deep dependency on my Jesus that I make it through.

Devotions and prayer become my refuge.  The Word my anchor.

Scriptures like this, hold true;

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  James 4:8

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:26

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ 2 Corinthians 12: 9&10

 

 

And in my prayers, I don’t just hope that I’ll make it through, I know for certain that I will.

The Water Jug

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

This post was inspired by a sermon I heard a couple weeks ago by a man named Walter in Manos Extendidas church.

The Bible talks about the Samaritan woman. She was a well- known woman with a reputation. She was an outcast. Everyone knew her as an immoral woman. They knew she was living with a man that she was not married to. They knew that she had had five husbands before. She was not well esteemed or well liked. I imagine she would have been desperately lonely.

This woman went to the well at the hottest time of the day instead of during the evening as was the norm back then.  A time when she knew no one else would be there. Going to the well was likely something the ladies would do together. There would have been a lot of socializing at wells. But this woman went alone. Perhaps she wished to avoid the stares, the snide comments and the gossip.  Maybe she wanted to avoid being shunned.  Little did she know how her life was about to change.

It was at the well, where she met a Jewish man…Jesus. He was a man who ignored the social rules of the times and talked to her.  Jews were not supposed to talk to Samaritans. It was considered improper. They were supposed to hate each other.  However, this man Jesus spoke kindly to her. He knew all about her past. He knew everything about her, all the wrong and sinful things she had done and yet, he was not repulsed. He accepted her. He offered her living water.  Freedom. Forgiveness. Redemption.

John 4:13:14 Jesus replied , “ Anyone who drinks of this water will soon be thirsty again. But those who drink of the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them giving them eternal life.”

John 4:15 “Please Sir,” The woman said, “Give me this water! Then I will never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

They conversed back and forth a little and the woman left, leaving her water jug behind at the well with Jesus. She was not the same woman who came to the well that day… a woman rejected and cast aside by society. She had been changed and she wanted to tell everyone all about it.

John 4:28. 29 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

I can almost hear the excitement in her voice. She had found freedom. Living water.

In leaving her water jug, she put her past behind her.   She abandoned her brokenness, her shame and left it at the well, with Jesus.

She didn’t allow her past to get in the way or stop her from going and telling others. Everyone knew the kind of woman she had been, and yet with their own eyes they saw the change. Because of her testimony…they too came to Jesus and believed.

What is your water jug? What is in your way of sharing your faith with those around you? Is there something you feel in your heart that God is calling you to do?

If God can use the Samaritan woman, He can use me and he can use you.  We need to leave behind our shame, our mistakes and our past and not let them be an obstacle. We need to abandon our water jugs, leave them with Him, and go.

How Connected Are You?

Written by: Conny Varga

Last week, I was reminded of a metaphor. It’s a metaphor most of us are probably familiar with, and yet, it is good for all of us to think about it from time to time.

I’m talking about Jesus’ analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15. Jesus describes Himself as the True Vine that we, the branches, are connected to. His Father is the Gardener, who inspects, prunes, and shapes us.

Anyone who has ever seen a well-pruned fruit tree or grape vine knows that it is a beauty to behold. The tree is well-shaped, healthy, and full of big, beautiful fruit.

In contrast, a neglected tree is just the opposite. There are sucker branches everywhere, the shape of the tree is undistinguishable, and the fruit, if any, is small, diseased, and shriveled.

If we have put our faith in Christ and have been made new, our lives – the branches – have been grafted into the tree, which is Christ Himself. We do not live in our own strength but rather draw sap from the tree, which gives us everything we need to live. We do not decide which of our little side branches we get to keep, and which ones will be cut off. We cannot keep ourselves healthy, nor can we produce fruit by ourselves. As a matter of fact, we don’t even decide what type of fruit we will grow, or who will eat it. All of this is decided and taken care of by the gardener. All we have to do is allow the sap from the tree to flow into us!

Sounds easy enough, right? Why is it then that at times it seems so hard? Why do we resist the pruning and cutting off? Why are we content with growing lush foliage, putting on a beautiful show, but lacking what we were created to be – a fruit-bearing branch?

I believe we sometimes forget that it’s all about “remaining in Jesus”, about staying connected to the tree. We forget that in order to draw sap from Him, we must spend time with Him. Much time. The more we focus on our relationship with Jesus, the more He will be able to transform and change us through the power of His Spirit, and the more good fruit we will produce. A branch on a fruit tree doesn’t “decide” to grow fruit, it just naturally grows it – because it is connected to the tree. In the same way, fruit-bearing will be a natural result of our deepening relationship with Christ.

When is the last time you were hungry for meaningful time with God? How long has it been since you spent an hour or two in heart-felt prayer, Bible study, or quiet time away from the distractions of life? I fear that we have become such fast-paced, busy, distracted people, that our time with God gets pushed aside for the sake of “the urgent”. We rush through our day, an ever-growing to-do list on our fridge, our minds in a frenzy, and relationships with our loved ones suffering – all because we have bought into the notion that “this is life”.

Jesus gave us the perfect example of how to balance our lives. He spent hours, days, weeks away from the crowds, spending time with His heavenly Father. When he returned, He had the strength He needed to serve, heal, and save. He knew He couldn’t get through life on His own – He needed the Father. If Jesus needed Him that much, then what does that say about us? Do we not need Him even more?

Research has proven that we perform much better if we give ourselves regular “time-outs”. So let’s put ourselves in time-outs and spend regular time with Jesus. We will feel refreshed, recharged, renewed, and ready to go and serve, bearing much fruit to the glory of God.

Age is Beauty

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

I have to say, part of me does not like the idea of getting older, but another part of me doesn’t mind at all.  I am not old by any stretch of the imagination, as I sit on the cusp of my 45th birthday.

There are times I look at my hands and despise the faint spots that are starting to appear and the ropiness of the veins leading up to each finger.  My eyebrows are ever encroaching upon my eyelids and the lines in my forehead are slightly deepening.  Hair dye is now a necessity as opposed to a frivolity.  There lies a little more weight around my midsection that is so difficult to get rid of.  And this just covers the outward things!

What about the fact that I can walk from one room to another on a mission, only to arrive at my destination completely forgetting what the mission was?  Or the times I am sharing a story with someone and mid-sentence the whole concept flees my mind for a few moments!  Not to mention the realization of time passing quickly when a 20 something does not understand a cultural or media reference I have just made from the 90’s!  It is still the 90’s right?

On the other hand, being in my 40’s is so completely liberating!  I have a confidence and firm understanding of who I am, once lacking in my younger years.  I am not worried about what others think of me and celebrate my individuality.  I have learned the value of reflective thinking and introspection, appreciating solitude and quietness.  I no longer need to fill conversations with my thoughts and opinions, but simply enjoy listening to others and exploring their points of view.

Spiritually speaking, I enjoy a much deeper and richer relationship with Jesus than I ever have before.  Life is tough, with many knocks and twists, but through this I have proved the incredible value of spending time daily with my Saviour and soaking in His presence.  More and more I am learning to trust in His faithfulness and provision.  I am seeing that His plans and ways are much higher and greater than mine ever could be.  Expectation grows within me as to how God is going to order my steps and watching for his signposts brings adventure.  Surrender has become my anthem as I strive to be more like Him each day.

Recently, I came across a poem by A. B. Simpson entitled, “Himself.”  It spoke to me of the great beauty of age as we transition through life and grow closer to God and reach spiritual maturity in Him.  This poem is my prayer.

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;

Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.

 

Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;

Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

 

Once ‘twas painful trying, Now ‘tis perfect trust;

Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.

 

Once ‘twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;

Once ‘twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

 

Once ‘twas busy planning, Now ‘tis trustful prayer;

Once ‘twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.

 

Once ‘twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;

Once ‘twas constant asking, Now ‘tis ceaseless praise.

 

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;

Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.

 

Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;

Once for self I laboured, Now for Him alone.

 

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;

Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.

 

Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;

And my hopes are anchored safe within the vail.

 

AMEN

Lord, What About Him?

Written by: Jody Mugford

“When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow me.”  John 21:21-22

Jesus has just given Peter his call, telling Peter if he loves Him, he must feed His sheep.  He must preach the gospel and lead people to the Lord, guiding them in their walk with God.  Jesus then tells him that this path will lead to persecution and death but He still calls Peter to follow Him.  Peter has been given an amazing, enormous responsibility that he knows will bring glory to God and salvation to many but will also result in his own suffering.  Peter replies by shifting the focus, questioning Jesus about His plans for John.  What about him, Lord?  What is he to do?  Jesus is loving and straightforward with His beloved follower, stressing that His plans for John are of no concern to Peter.  Whether John has a life of peace and blessing or one of hardship, it doesn’t change the Lord’s plans for Peter.  Peter has been given his own call, unique to him and the Lord’s plans for his life.  I don’t blame Peter for asking about John.  After being given such a tremendous directive by Jesus, and being told it will lead to death, I’d be wondering about everyone else too.  But Jesus is clear – the work He gives Peter is all Peter need be concerned about.

Earlier this week, I found myself slipping into the comparison trap.  My husband and I have been walking a hard journey lately with many unexpected twists and turns.  We’ve seen high highs and low lows and we continue to wait and pray for the completion of a miracle for our daughter.  We have friends around us that have recently been blessed with amazing answers to prayer; miracles in themselves.  We are completely overjoyed for our loved ones.  Many of them are seeing God’s hand in deliverance and provision and we rejoice with them.  It is astounding to see God work in these difficult situations, but this week I felt anxious thoughts start to creep in.  “How much longer Lord?”, I asked.  “Couldn’t there be an easier way?  Why them and not us?”.

I was feeling myself start to withdraw spiritually, as we often do when disappointment with the Lord sets in.  Thankfully I’ve learned to recognize this pattern and was being deliberate to fight the reclusiveness.  I had a hard time finding words in prayer so I turned on some worship music.  I was immediately brought to tears as the lyrics of a song spoke right into my soul.  Jesus, in His firm but gentle way, reminded me that His plan for us is just that – HIS plan for US.  We have a road to walk to bring about the best for His glory and for our good.  And we will follow Him, wherever the road leads.  What He does or doesn’t do for others is of no concern to us, other than to walk along with them in prayer and love, just as they have been doing for us.

He reminded me that He will equip us with everything we need to walk our journey.  We are not alone and He is walking each step with us, strengthening us, refining us, and impacting others along the way.  He WILL bring about good and amazing things through our lives BECAUSE we have yielded them to Him.  If we continue to do so, the results will be more than we could ever dream or imagine.

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”  Psalm 138:8

If you sometimes find yourself struggling with comparison, don’t let yourself fall into that trap, friend.  That is just what the enemy wants.  Satan doesn’t want you to recognize that God has designed an intentional purpose for your life.  He wants to you wallow in pity, comparing your circumstances with others.  This can lead us to distance ourselves from God and others, never fulfilling the destiny God intends!  Know this: God has a unique plan for your life and it is greater than any you could imagine for yourself.  It may not look the same as those around you but it is just as special and has just as much purpose.  The Holy Spirit will equip us with all we need to fulfill our call and do it well, if we allow Him.  I leave you with these lyrics that spoke to my heart so strongly this week.  I pray they encourage you as well.  Rely on His strength and the promises of hope He brings!

In the crushing, in the pressing

You are making new wine

In the soil, I now surrender

You are breaking new ground

So I yield to You and to Your careful hand

When I trust You I don’t need to understand

(when that truth hit me, I was brought to tears in a prayer of thankfulness and surrender…)

Make me Your vessel, make me an offering

Make me whatever You want me to be

I came here with nothing, but all You have given me

Jesus, bring new wine out of me[1]

Love and blessings,

Jody

 

 

___________________________________________________________________

[1] Hillsong Worship.  Lyrics to “New Wine”. There Is More, 2018.

A Good Storm

Written by: Christianne Williams

I love a good storm.  Growing up on the Atlantic ocean I can remember lots of tropical storms that would blow up the coast, some leaving destruction in their path, some just clearing the air after a hot spell.  The clouds rolling in, the winds picking up, the rain beginning to fall, and the waves crashing on shore all created a feeling of excitement for me.  I don’t ever remember the devastation that some places have experienced from coastal storms so I was never overly worried and that left room for awe at the display of power that ensued.

I do know, however that many lives were lost in storms, fishermen out trying to make a living caught in the relentless seas.  Towering waves and severe winds threatening to change the lives of all who knew them.  Knowing the danger that awaited but needing the income that the ocean provided.  To these men and their families, the storms brought no consolation.

Two very different perspectives, born from very different experiences.  While I watched safe from the shore, they battled the waves praying they’d see home again.

I’ve discovered prairie storms are much different.  They seem to blow in out of nowhere, fierce, and sometimes when you think they’re over, they come back, just as strong as they began.  In life this kind of storm wears you down.  You have no idea where it came from, you feel like its finally ending but then it knocks you off of your feet again.  Other times  it’s over as quickly as it began.

Similarly, I’ve learned that there are storms that life throws at us and not at others.  I will face things that you won’t, and you will walk through valleys that I will never visit.  While we will all face storms, none of us will weather them the same.  Sure, there may be similarities but we are all different, having come from diverse backgrounds that shape how think, we won’t feel the exact same way.

I remember when we were putting one foot in front of the other, trying to make it through the angriest storm of our lives.  It was hard to hear people on the shore tell us to have more faith,  pray harder, pray less and believe that God was already working it out, and the hardest of all, God is still God.  If you’ve ever gone through a storm you already know God is still God, you know because He’s right there with you, you haven’t forgotten who He is.  What you’re longing for is someone to sit with you, to pray with you and for you, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and show you that you’re not alone.

Romans 12:15 says, “Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.”  We aren’t always meant to give people advice because we don’t always know where they’re coming from, but we are always meant to rejoice with them or mourn with them.  That doesn’t mean getting down in the dumps with them, it means being there for them so that you can help minister to the needs they have.  I can speak from experience that when you face a trauma in your life there are times when you don’t even know how to pray anymore and that’s when you appreciate someone coming alongside and being your voice for awhile.

If you’re going through something now remember that the one who calms the storm is right there with you.  Just as He can calm the storm with a word, He can calm His child with a  word.  Listen for His voice and take refuge while the storm passes.  He created you and knows how you respond, He won’t leave you or forsake you, and He understands every thought you have.  Even if there seems to be no one else in the world interested, He cares for you.

 

Considering Only the Cost……

Written by: Cindy Morrone

Sitting on our front porch watching the vehicle leave with our precious one to bring her to her forever home, I watched as my daughters cried.  We had spent over 9 months loving and helping to care for her.  No longer with us, she will be forever in our hearts.

My heart desperately ached for answers to many questions; one being, “Is this ok for our daughters?”

Was it ok to expose them to such heartache and hurt?  Was it ok to expect them to love on and care for another that was known to be with us for only a time?

My husband and I parent our daughters closely. We are hands on kinda parents and consider their safety of the upmost importance.   We even strive to come alongside them and as best we can help them navigate through the tribulations they experience.  We pray over them and ask others to pray for them.  We seek wise counsel when needed.

And yet, here we are a foster family.  We have intentionally asked them to love and let go even though it hurts desperately.

As we sat on the porch comforting one another my husband spoke up.  He said, “Yes, it hurts so much right now but what if we had never met her?  What if we had never had the opportunity to have her in our lives, help care for her and know her?  We would have missed out on so much.”

When he spoke, in the very back recesses of my mind, I found the words, “Tis’ better to have loved and lost; Than never to have loved at all.”

Not remembering how I knew these words, I started to research, finding that these words were written by the British poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” Lord Tennyson penned these words as he grieved over the loss of a beloved friend.

And I couldn’t agree with him more!!

It is better to have loved and lost her, than to have never loved her at all!! It’s better for me, my husband and our daughters. Our lives are beyond enriched!!

Love comes at a cost.  If you’ve loved only for a quick second for all the wrong reasons; you’d have to agree.  Love comes at a cost.

But what we’d miss if we don’t open ourselves up to loving and caring for others.  What we’d miss if we only consider the cost.

Please, don’t just take my word for it.  Open the Bible and see the ultimate love exchange when God did not spare His One and only Son.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  Matthew 16:24 & 25

When We Praise

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

Psalm 118:5 In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered my prayer and set me free.

In the public schools that we teach Bible lessons, we have been sharing the story of Paul and Silas. We talk about how they were sharing the gospel with everyone and how the entire city was in an uproar because of their message. They were stripped, badly beaten and tossed into prison. Not only that but they were thrown into the inner dungeon with their feet in stocks to better ensure they did not escape. It would have been cold, damp and smelly.  In my mind’s eye I picture rats scurrying around, and mold on the walls. Seeing that it was an inner dungeon, there would have been no windows so it would have been dark.  Paul and Silas would have been in agony from the beating they received. They would have had every reason to be afraid, worried and upset. I know I would be stressing out. I would be discouraged.  I would be wallowing in worry. My mind would probably wander, dreaming up the worst case scenarios.

Yet what was their response? They prayed and sang songs in worship to God. As they lifted up their hearts in praise during a very bad situation, something miraculous happened.

Act 16:25,26 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All of the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

I think that we can all learn something from this. I believe that like with Paul and Silas, when we choose to be thankful and choose to praise, chains can be broken.  Chains of despair, loneliness, discouragement, and sadness.  When we praise, the atmosphere changes.  Those burdens weighing heavy upon our hearts will lessen.   It may not change our situation, but it will change our outlook.  He will give us peace in the midst of whatever storm we are in.

All of us struggle. We all go through things in this life that are beyond difficult. We all have moments when we want to toss in the towel and moments when we feel hopeless. But our hope is in Him. He is our strength we feel like our strength is gone and we have nothing left.   And there is always something to be thankful for.

I like what Christine Caine says in her book, Unexpected. Getting into His Word and letting it get into us brings our hearts back to life. Worshipping Him opens the door for the Holy Spirt to encourage us and heal us so we can trust again. Learning how to change our perspective though steps like these helps us transition from fearing the unexpected to trusting God through it.

Psalm 30:11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing: You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Hab 3:17,18 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!