Can I Have Your Undivided Attention?

Written by: Angela Mercer

For the past few years there has been an influx of articles and blogs on how social media and electronic devices are taking over the world and leaving us feeling more disconnected then ever and that kids today have little to no social skills due to the amount of time spent on these devices. While I don’t want to be yet another voice that addresses this issue, I do want to address the issue of listening. Our little fingers can go a mile a minute and text responses so quickly that, when in person, we sometimes lack the skills to truly listen to people.

When others tell you that you are a good listener, it can be tempting to give yourself a check mark after “Listening Skills” and forget that we probably should revisit that and see if there’s room for improvement.

I have had to improve in my listening skills. Always wanting to share my two cents can really get in the way of listening. I heard one author say that most people listen to respond, rather than really hear and understand. And so the latter, has been my focus this year. I want to slow down and really hear what people are saying.

When we take the time to listen are we giving the person our undivided attention? We have become pros at multitasking. Adam McHugh in The Listening Life talks about how our devices are changing the way our brains commute,

“What is less obvious is how the Internet, smartphones and social media are changing the physical characteristics of our brains by rerouting our neural pathways. We like to think that we are the ones acting on our devices, but the truth is that our devices also act on us. Many neurological studies demonstrate that our technology is reshaping our brains so that it not only seems more difficult to concentrate on one thing, it is harder to concentrate on one thing. If we’re immersed in technology day after day, our brains are automatically branching out to do several tasks at once, making it difficult to focus our attention on any one thing. Technology writer Linda Stone says that our brains seem stuck in “continuous partial attention.””

In other words, our brains are taking on the form of our technology. Hearing a million things at once, buzzing from one message to the next, in a constant state of hyper-awareness, over stimulated and unable to concentrate on one single thing.

As Christians, there is the added concern of what this is doing to our relationship with the Lord. Do we listen to him like we listen to people? Do we wait long enough to hear what he is saying in the silence? Or do we rush right onto the next thing as we aren’t hearing from Him quickly enough? Is our relationship with God all one sided telling Him all our woes and giving Him requests or are we allowing time for Him to speak to us as well? Are we so distracted we can’t hear Him anyway as we are thinking about our do-lists and that we forgot to take something out of the freezer for supper.

We live in a time when people more then ever feel disconnected and lonely, desperately seeking their purpose and we have the privilege of knowing a personal God who wants to spend time with His children. He wants to come alongside to nurture, love and tell them all He has planned for them!

Now that I have a 13 year old daughter I want it for her too. When I see her scrolling through Instagram and I see the pains of her feeling left out or less than, the conversation of where our worth and identity come from is always on the table. We talk about it everyday it seems. I encourage her to stay in the Word of God, and ask God what He thinks of her and not leave that up to her friends or social media to decide. But hearing those thoughts from God won’t come to her at the swift click of a button it is going to be an investment and she will need to learn the art of listening.

So, how are your listening skills? Have they waned over the years? Do you find you are anxious for quick answers and if you don’t get the answers right away you go to people or social media for your encouragement? Do you find it difficult to give people your undivided attention? Maybe its time to take a look at our listening skills again and see if there’s room for improvement.

Her sister, Mary, sat at His feet listening to what He taught. Luke 10:39 NLT

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 NLT

When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Lamentations 3:28-30 MSG

Party of One

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Have you ever met someone that is just truly never satisfied?! They throw ‘pity parties’ for themselves because this or that did not go the way they wanted it to….They wallow in self-pity when they don’t own the newest trend; act jealously if someone else has something that they’d like to have; and or withdraws when something really good happens to someone else?

Maybe this person is you?

Two important biblical truths come to mind when I meet or know a person like I’ve described above:

1) “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

If you are always on the receiving end of things….you are not doing what The Lord asks of you. You do not have to have everything or have bags of money laying around to be able to help someone else. Helping someone else could be as simple as sending an encouraging word, making a meal and bringing it to their home during a difficult time, or, just lending a listening ear when someone needs a friend.

2) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I get it, friends, sometimes you just want to wallow. May I make a suggestion….? Don’t. It’s not healthy. No matter HOW bad your circumstances are, there are still SO many reasons to give thanks. The Lord is so good to us. It’s time to praise Him in all things, for His goodness to us.

Self pity is the act of dwelling on the misfortune of your own circumstances, rather than depending on God to meet your needs and desires His way.

If you only occupy yourself with pity; such will be your reward.

Dear Heavenly Father! Sorry for all the times we’ve wasted on our own pity parties. We know that acting in such a way distracts us from the fullness of life that You have so generously given to us. Forgive us, Jesus. We desire to give thanks in all things; in all circumstances. Please bless my sisters; in Jesus name, amen.

 

God’s Will

Written by: Conny Varga

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? What purpose your life really has? Chances are, you have asked that question before. How do we find the answer – do we just wait for some mystical voice from heaven? Do we fast and meditate until we are enlightened? Do we try to interpret circumstances as “signs from God”? Or is there a more sure-fire way to determine God’s will?

I believe that in order to properly answer this loaded question, we have to start with the Bible. If we immerse ourselves in it, we find that God has already stated several specifics about His will for us as His children.

There are some of the obvious ones, such as:

  • ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:30-31)
  • Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:44-45)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4)
  • Do not worry (Matt 6:25-34)
  • Do everything without grumbling or arguing (Phil 2:14)

The list goes on and on. And then there are some of the more radical, scary, painful ones:

  • Go… and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19-20)
  • If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)
  • Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)

God is already at work in this world, and He is simply inviting us to join Him. That’s it. There, the secret is out!

Instead of asking, “what is God’s will for my life,” a better question to find the answer for is this:

Will I OBEY God’s will for my life – no matter what it is? That’s a scary thought! Am I willing to put my whole life on the table and let God use me in whichever way He chooses? Even if that means “forsaking all that I have”?

Some of the questions above are a tough pill to swallow, and they seem impossible to do. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit, we would be incapable of following God’s will at all. But we are promised that He will be with us until the end of time, and that His power is within us.

Do you see the difference between those two questions? The first one (what is God’s will for my life) is focused on ourselves, in a self-absorbed kind of way. The second question (will I obey God’s will for my life) is focused on God and His authority over our lives.

If we love God with our whole being, and our neighbour as ourselves, we will fight for the downtrodden, the poor, the unborn, the enslaved, the outcast and lonely. We will forgive those who hurt us. We will pray for and share the Good News of Jesus with others, even our enemies, because we care about their immortal souls. We will be willing to go wherever, do whatever, however, and whenever, because we will begin to see the big picture of God’s Kingdom. And we will find that God’s will for our lives is really quite simple – being aware of what He cares about and is doing in the world around us, then rolling up our sleeves and joining in the work. And by doing so, He will ignite in us a passion for the work He has created us to walk in (Eph 2:10). Let’s get involved!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Growing up I was known to my extended family as the princess, Snow White.  I came in to the world with dainty features, a head full of jet black hair, creamy porcelain skin, navy blue eyes and a red rosebud mouth.  Those distinct features didn’t change as I progressed through infancy into childhood and caused me to stand out in the crowd with the contrast between dark and light.  I can thank my Irish roots for my unique colouring and tip my hat to my creator for His imagination in creating each one His masterpieces.

As homage to my family nickname Snow White, and to my late Grandfather who first bestowed the name upon me, I incorporated Snow White into our wedding day.  Snow White, Prince Charming and the Seven Dwarfs topped our cake.  My wedding dress, though white, was styled to echo her attire.  My groom wore a very princely tux with tails.  The colours to accent our fairytale day echoed those you would find in Snow White’s friendly forest.

Through the years I have also been compared to another raven-haired princess due to my feisty personality, deep convictions and drive for justice in life.  I tend to rise to the occasion in crisis and lead others forward into the adventurous unknown.  That dark featured warrior princess I tend to emulate is Wonder Woman and she is my hero!

During my school yard days, pretending to be Wonder Woman was my favourite pastime.  The adventures my friends and I had fighting for truth and justice were epic!  To date, you will find Wonder Woman paraphernalia in my office and the new Wonder Woman movie recently released was my girlish dreams come to life.

I guess you could say I embody the “little but mighty” persona, with a zeal for life, a big imagination and high hopes for good in our world.  These attributes found in both princesses I am compared to.

But, when I look into the mirror each morning, and see the passage of time ever fleeting across my fair face, the one princess I most want my whole life to emulate is the princess of the King Most High.  In fact, I am a daughter of the King of all Kings and the Lord of all Lords.  I am heavenly royalty and co-heir with the Son.  I am fashioned in God’s image and made to lead and love like Christ.  I am a spiritual warrior endowed with the most powerful weapons this world has ever known; the Word of God, His armour and the Presence of the Holy Spirit in me.  I am a force to be reckoned with in the spiritual realm, yet meant to exercise the Fruit of the Spirit with all who cross my path.

You too, Daughters, are heavenly royalty with me!  We, together as princesses of our heavenly Father the King, can love others with all the femininity that makes us distinctly women, but bring down strongholds with our warrior strength!  We are integral to His work here on earth and have a glorious future ahead of us on the other side of life.

So, the next time the mirror beckons you to look, and you ask it, “who is the fairest one of all?”, just know that it is you…and me…and we…TOGETHER!  Let’s truly step out in the full confidence of our heavenly royalty, grasp who we truly are in Christ and change our world for all eternity!

But, I still get to be Wonder Woman!  Na, Na…I called it first! 😊

Greater

Written by: Emily Pelley

One look at our world and the eye is overwhelmed

With the pain, the shame

Yet there is a God who is greater

 

We have messed things up bad

We are a society that values greed and calls charity mad

Yet there is a God who is greater

 

The oppression of loneliness holds so many captive

Self-driven ambition leaves no time for community, no love for humanity

Yet there is a God who is greater

 

In the midst of brokenness, our God sent a saviour

Where “come all” is the anthem, and “find rest” is the banner

Yes, our God is greater

 

Undeserved favor, unmerited blessing

We are saved by the grace of One, not the works of many

Yes, we are saved by a God who is greater

 

How One so great reaches down to me!

And my need is eclipsed by His presence

Jesus, You are greater!

 

Tonight, you need to know that there is power in the name of Jesus to break every hold

To conquer any foe- We are empowered by His spirit to go

We walk with a God who is greater

 

Our hearts are turned with passion that burns for none other

For a God who is a friend that sticks closer than a brother

Love for our God who is greater

 

Jesus, the mighty warrior that holds my hand

Jesus, the leader of angel armies who actually cares where I am

Jesus, the maker of the universe and designer of my heart

 

We stand in your presence, with souls filled with joy we shout

In the gathering of your people, let one cry ring out

You are greater! Jesus, you are greater!

God Doesn’t Expect Perfection!

Written by: Christianne Williams

Life offers lots of opportunities to learn. Some lessons are liberating, some difficult.  There are some that seem small and insignificant at the time but days, months, or years later we encounter a situation and say, ‘Aha, that’s what that was all about!’  God uses others to teach us about ourselves also.  My family has been used time and again to highlight good and bad points about my character, shining the light on areas I need to improve in.  Usually I notice more ‘teachable moments’ for myself during seasons of stress, and I find myself in those quite often.

These last few weeks we’ve been preparing for an upcoming move, only across town not across the country again, and I’ve started a new job.  This move requires preparation and so does the training for my job.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and I feel ‘they’ may be somewhere close to right as I try to retain a large amount of new information.  Coming home at the end of the day and looking at piles of boxes and rooms that need to be packed and cleaned, as well as papers that need reading and remembering, and knowing there are homeschool issues that need my attention can leave me feeling overwhelmed to put it mildly.

On my day off, I had plans to tackle as much of it as was humanly possible but I found myself sitting on the couch with a large cup of coffee, and then another, trying to put off what I knew was necessary.  Did I mention that I also have issues with delegating?  Well, I do!  I feel like I need to be the one to do things so that I can micromanage how they’re done.  There is no such thing as, ‘As long as it gets done does it matter how it happened?’ in my books. I sometimes remind myself of a math teacher we had in high school.  I couldn’t understand why, if I had arrived at the correct answer, he was bent on seeing the work that showed how I had gotten there.  And now, here I am.

On that day, my two youngest children wanted to help their mommy out by packing their own things in boxes.  I decided to let go of the reigns and let them do it.  I even told myself that it didn’t matter what went into the boxes, as long as I didn’t have to put it there.  I listened as they threw things in boxes, I cringed as they emptied containers of hair clips and jewellery out into boxes, and then I reminded myself ‘You don’t have to do it!’ and let them embrace independence.

As I sat enjoying my coffee and listening to them talk and work, it occurred to me: God doesn’t care if we do things perfectly, He loves our effort.  He’s not watching over us as we carry out assignments lamenting that we aren’t doing it exactly right.  After all, how can imperfect people do anything perfectly? Just as He gave power to Moses, courage to Gideon, and grace to Paul, He gives us what we need where we need it and cheers on our efforts the same way we do when our children learn to do things on their own.  It may not seem like a big lesson but its encouraged me several times this week as I’ve struggled to learn new things, it’s given me the drive to do my best and try.

When we begin to unpack those boxes, I’m anticipating that the things inside may not all belong together, some sorting will have to take place on the other end, but the kids have gained a sense of accomplishment and I’m proud of them.  God is proud of us too when we take a step out of our comfort zone and try to do things for Him that we may feel ill equipped to do.  He gives us the direction, and we just need to be obedient and do our best.  He honors our effort and our desire to do His will.

Resilience

 

Written by: Cindy Morrone

Having to relay my history to a social worker for our fostering application, she made comment that I had been through very much.  And then she asked me how had I persevered?  How did I not let my past determine my present and my future?

I have often thought of that.

“Resiliency” is defined by Luthar, Cicchetti and Becke, 2000 as, “The achievement of positive adaptation despite exposure to significant threat or severe adversity.”

Resiliency is a game changer.

We are guaranteed to have trouble in this life.

A long time ago, I didn’t believe that. I thought that if I had done all the right things and made all the right plans, that I could avoid brokenness.

And then things beyond my control begin to hammer into my wellness and threatened my recovery.

I promise you my ability to bounce back has nothing to do with me.

Left to my own devices hurt, fear, and feelings of worthlessness turn to a (too high) wall shutting all out.  Closing off any chance to love again; to be restored; to live my life abundantly.  So much would be missed.

Maybe for you it’s anger, revenge, bitterness or unforgiveness. And so much is missed.

So, if it isn’t me, then what? Who?

Hebrews chapter 10 verse 23 encourages us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

There it is……. hope.

Hope that things will get better.  Hope that things will change.  Hope that our prayers will be answered. Hope that we will love and be loved.

What is it that you are hoping for?

My certainty no longer lies in others, or circumstances, outcomes, wins or losses; it relies on the faithfulness of the One I pray to.

I’ll never forget the celebration we had when our forever family was established.  Standing on the platform, my husband and I vowed to parent two beautiful babies.  Me, a barren woman.

My hope lies in my Forever Faithful.

Where does your hope lie?

The Healing

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

Back when I was a small child I suffered from epilepsy.  There were times when I would wake up in the hospital having no recollection of how I got there. Every time the answer was the same. “You had a convulsion.”  I don’t remember having them but I do recall one time being told that I had been playing at the school playground with some neighbourhood friends. I had a spell and had fallen off the monkey bars.  The school was just a few doors down from our home and one of my friends ran told my mom that I had fallen and wouldn’t get up.  Nowadays a parent would never send a child that young to play in the park without adult supervision. I guess times were different back then.

One time it happened on a Sunday morning, and I distinctly remember asking the Dr. what day it was. When he told me it was Sunday I told him, “Well, you had better let me out of here. I have to go to church!”

When I was a little girl, I truly loved Jesus with all my heart.   I loved going to church, learning about him, and loved the worship service.  One Sunday night there was a huge snow storm. Due to the storm the special speaker from the morning was stranded and unable to make his next speaking engagement. So, our pastor invited him to speak in the evening service. He spoke on healing.  I don’t recall any of his sermon but I do know that I sure didn’t want to have epilepsy anymore. I heard that Jesus would heal me!

The preacher called people forward that wanted to be healed. You can be sure I went. I believed with all my 6 year old little heart that Jesus would make me all better! I was standing beside a friend at the time and the minister laid hands on both of us at the same time. His prayer went something like this…”Father we pray for this brother and sister.” He didn’t get to finish because I interrupted him and said, “he is not my brother!” I know now that wasn’t what he meant :-0) I didn’t question if I was healed or not.  No, I simply believed Jesus healed me; no doubt whatsoever. I don’t think the thought crossed my mind that it might not happen. Oh to have that childlike faith today!  No seeds of doubt planted in my heart.

The next morning came and my mom had my pills set aside for me to take. I was on dilantin and phenobarb. I told her “I don’t need those pills anymore, Jesus healed me! ”My mom was very concerned and still wanted me to take them.  As a mom I totally understand her thinking and might be the same way if I were in her shoes. She was afraid of something happening; worried about her little girl having yet another seizure. My dad has always been rather calm, easy going and relaxed, and he calmed her down. “Just wait and see.” He didn’t want to destroy the faith that I had at 6 years old. Still, a phone call was made to my teacher in the morning explaining the situation of me going to school without medication.  Basically she asked my teacher to keep an eye on me.

Well, from that snowy winter’s eve on, I never again took another pill for epilepsy .I was completely healed.

Psalm 73:26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart: he is mine forever.

Psalm. 103:2,3 Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.  He forgives my sins and heals all my diseases.

Psalm 41:3 The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.

Fashioned for a Sacred Calling

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. (Psalm 139:13-16)

I believe I’ve had many callings in my thirty years on this earth. Some of the callings have just been for a season, while others will last until I breathe my last breath. One of the callings that God has drawn me to in this season of my life; is being a wife.

Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s the truth.

I met Nathan when I was just 18 years old. I had one other short relationship with a guy I quickly discerned I had no future with; so I ended the relationship. My relationship with Nathan however began much differently; we were friends first. As our friendship grew, so did our love for one another- and so goes our story.

Almost as quickly as I agreed to date Nathan, I knew he’d be the man I would one day marry. The Lord worked hard and fast on our hearts to bring us to the conclusion that we would begin a life of ministry together; as a married couple. We said ‘I do’ a couple months after my 20th birthday and began full-time ministry a few weeks after that.

My calling, however, is not limited to ministry for those in attendance at our local church, or in our community. My ministry begins at home; as a wife. I believe I have been fashioned for this sacred calling; being a wife.

There are many things that make up my ministry or calling as Nathan’s wife, but three stand out amongst all the rest.

1) To respect him.
….and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

2) To be his helper.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

3) To love him.
….love their husbands…. (Titus 2:4)

You see, sisters, being a wife to Nathan is most definitely a sacred calling. The Lord joined us together because as a team we are so much better than we are individually. As I voluntarily respect, help, love and honour him, I am helping him fulfill his responsibilities, and I am helping him become the man, the husband, and the leader God intended him to be.

Are you fashioned for a sacred calling? What does that look like for you?

Church of Christ, Arise

Written by: Conny Varga

To many of us, they have no name, no face. They’re a statistic, a number, an uneasy feeling to be brushed aside. Orphans are a shocking and heart-rending reminder of the broken world we live in, and in an effort to quiet our conscience, we turn away, shielding our eyes from the horrors and closing our ears to their cries. But what if we allowed ourselves – if only for a moment – to look at them, see their faces, hear their beautiful names, and listen to their stories? What if we were bold enough to step out of our comfort zone and into their world?

Orphans have a special place in God’s heart, and He has much to say to the Church about them. From cover to cover, there are dozens of verses that instruct us to care for them, remember them, defend them, speak up for them, and not take advantage of them. Both in the Old and New Testament alike, the same commandment is made.

In Isaiah 1:17, God instructs us to “defend the cause of the fatherless.

In James we find: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas 1:27)

Maybe you feel the Holy Spirit urging you to take action, but you don’t know where to begin. Maybe you have been sponsoring a child in a third-world country, but you would like to do more. God is inviting you to join Him in His fight for the most vulnerable people on earth – will you accept His call?

Begin by praying and studying what the Word of God has to say about the issue. Surround yourself with people who are involved in and passionate about orphan care. And as you listen to the Spirit, He will direct you in the way that you personally can serve “the least of these”. But beware, it will never seem convenient or easy. Helping orphans is a spiritual battle. Whatever God cares deeply about, Satan will try to destroy – be prepared! To become involved in God’s work is not for the faint of heart. But it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do!

November 12, 2017 is Global Orphan Sunday. Take this opportunity to join in with the countless other Christians around the world to remember the little Forgotten Treasures.

  • Pray for the millions of orphans worldwide. Pray for the thousands of orphans in your own country. Pray by yourself; pray with your family, with your friends, your church.
  • Pray for the many foster and adoptive families who have stepped forward to embrace some of these children.
  • Raise awareness in your sphere of influence. Maybe even organize a fundraiser or information session.
  • Research good and reputable organizations who are involved in orphan care and begin supporting them. Find a good child sponsorship program and become involved.
  • Consider visiting an orphanage and helping with their needs.
  • Help out at your local Child Protection Agency, or a good local Christian Adoption agency. They always seem to be looking for volunteers.
  • Open your heart to the possibility that God may be calling you to foster or adopt.

Fifteen years ago, Orphan Sunday had its humble beginnings in a small native church in Zambia, and it has since opened the eyes and changed the hearts of many Christians worldwide. Church of Christ, let us arise and defend the cause of the fatherless!


https://cafo.org/orphansunday/ (scroll down to 2017 Orphan Sunday video & click “play”)

https://cafo.org/orphansunday/broadcast/ (watch Zambia’s gift to the world for more information on the beginnings of Orphan Sunday)