Within Our Hearts

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

How many of you remember this little song from Sunday School?

O, be careful little eyes what you see.
O, be careful little eyes what you see.
For the Father up above, is looking down in love,
O, be careful little eyes what you see.

It continued with our little ears being careful what they heard; our little mouths what they said; our little hands what they did. I have to say that every time I am faced with a decision in life, whether in relation to God’s will or to resist temptation that little song drifts on the airwaves of my mind from the deep recesses of my childhood. This song has always helped steer me in the right direction and keep my heart pure.

This little tune further reminds me of the scripture from Luke 6:44-45 that says, “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” This is a profound word that reveals the spiritual condition of our hearts and what others see and hear in our lives.

Are we exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” found in Galatians 5:22 and how do we cultivate that growth in our spiritual journey?

I believe the answer lies in Psalm 119:10-11 which says, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” The key is to tuck God’s Word within our hearts by daily reading His scriptures until they become a natural extension of our thoughts, actions and speech.

In fact, there are several scriptures that point us to “hide” His Word within our hearts. Here are just a few!

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9

“The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.” Psalm 37:30-31

“I desire to do your will, my God; you law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8

It appears to me that every time scripture challenges us to “hide” God’s word within our hearts it is to produce in us good fruit, guard us from unrighteousness, assist us in being a blessing to others and create an inheritance of Godliness from generation to generation. This is critical and wonderful and powerful!

Daughters, it may sound as old fashioned as the little tune I opened this blog post with, but we need to get back to Sunday School and start to memorize God’s Word again, burying it deep within our hearts. We need to daily carve out time to read our Bibles and journal our learning. When His Word is within our hearts, we can recall it at will and use it according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

I will leave you with an exercise I have taught my children, and one I do myself, when spending time daily in God’s Word. It’s called “SOAP” devotions. It’s an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. When reading God’s Word write out the scriptures that stick out to you in your journal. Writing them down reinforces them in your mind and lends to memorization. Next observe what the scriptures mean and write down their interpretation in your own words. For application write out how you can apply these scriptures to your life today. Finally, write a small prayer to God in relation to the application. You will find this to be an incredible way to “hide” His Word within your hearts!

Life on Purpose: Being Courageous

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have always been intimidated by the idea of courage. Whenever I heard that someone was courageous, I always pictured a strong, powerful individual who despite all odds persevered through a challenge. Having recently watched the new Wonder Woman movie, that character embodies what I always thought courage looked like. For a long time I never considered myself a courageous person because I was fearful. I saw a challenge and I felt afraid. And while sometimes I was successful, I always thought I missed the “courageous mark” because of my fear.

The mistake I made was thinking that courage is an absence of fear, when in fact that is not true. Courage is the resolve to move forward despite fear.

Joshua 1:9 says,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Here is we see that we are commanded to be courageous. We are also commanded to not be afraid. Being afraid means we are in a state of fear where it controls us and guides our actions. This is what we are instructed to overcome. However, we are not asked to conquer fear through our own awesomeness. Look at the end of this verse. Be courageous and don’t be afraid because God will be with us wherever we go.

There is so much we can be afraid of. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be an easy, default reaction to many parts of life: relationships, motherhood, finances, etc. But a life lived on purpose is not characterized by fearful decisions but powerful ones. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are reminded that as followers of Jesus, the spirit that we have been given by God is not defined by fear, but by power, love, and self-discipline.

Does this mean that you will now never be afraid? No. But being courageous means that we will move forward despite the fear that could so easily cripple us. We move forward because we do not go alone. This beautiful saviour, Jesus, has given us the greatest call- to know Him and walk with Him, whatever may come our way. This is the picture of a life on purpose.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
Mary Anne Radmacher

Lessons From Gardening

Written by: Christianne Williams

The project of a garden that I began a month or so ago is coming along nicely. My heart is happy when I look out my kitchen window and see an expanse of green. I think ahead to harvest time when we’ll be able to enjoy what comes out of the ground. I have discovered quite quickly that weeding a garden can be a full-time job. I’m finding myself out there a lot.

My youngest children wanted to help pull weeds, so I showed them what was desired plant and what was to be evicted. But the desire quickly faded when they discovered bugs reside amongst the greenery. The time in my garden is a quiet time; time I’m able to spend uninterrupted with God, and He’s teaching me many truths while my hands are in the dirt.

One of the very first things I learned was that just because it’s green, doesn’t mean its good. I enjoyed seeing so many plants emerging from the ground, it made me feel accomplished, and there were lots of baby plants in the plot. But, not all that I saw were plants, and at first glance I was having trouble discerning which ones to pull and which ones to leave. In fact, at one point, I thought I had pulled all of the broccoli plants thinking they were the beginning of thistles! I was so relieved when I had trained eyes inspect the row and tell me all was well. Not all growth, not all that appears desirable, not all that looks good from distance will be profitable. We need to pray for discernment to recognize the difference.

A second thing I learned was that no matter how hard you try to only pull out the weeds, there may be casualties! As I was going along in my row of peas, I found that they had wrapped themselves around some neighboring weeds, and as I pulled the weed, the pea plant broke off. Also, as I was pulling large weeds in a row of beets, some small, not yet mature beet plants, came out too! I felt so badly because my intent was to nurture those beets but I realized that as careful as I was being it couldn’t be helped. No matter how prudent you are with decisions you make, sometimes negative consequences can also result. And no matter careful how care your words or actions, sometimes relationships can be uprooted. Faith not yet mature or a deep attachment to something God needs to remove can pull them out of fellowship.

One last thing that was impressed on my heart this week came after I was done my job and was on my way to clean up. When I’m working in my garden I refuse to wear gloves. While they protect my hands from getting filthy, I feel they make me less accurate. Needless to say, when I come in from outside my hands are caked with mud. I had a tip that sugar and oil will scrub away the dirt and leave your hands perfect again- and it works! But it doesn’t help with the nails, and even a brush doesn’t completely rid them of the residue.

The other evening, we had plans for dinner with friends and I took a look at my hands and thought, “There’s no way I can go anywhere with my fingers looking like this!” So, I grabbed some nail polish and painted them. Quite pleased at the cover up, we went out. As I looked at my hands that night I realized that although no one else knew what was under the paint, I did. The most beautiful smile in the world can cover up a world of hurt in someone. Only God knows what’s going on on the inside; only He can search the heart. We only get to see what people are willing to reveal, and we only show others what we are comfortable with them knowing. We need Holy Spirit to help us discern what’s really going on because what we see with our natural eyes isn’t really the entire story.

You May Never Know…

A post dedicated to a dear friend, S.D.

Written by: Cindy Morrone

In a recent conversation with a dear friend diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatments, she shared something that forever altered my perception and will never leave me.

Waiting her turn to receive her treatment, she noticed the others sitting around her. Many including her looked far removed from such a diagnosis. On the outside they appeared ‘normal’; healthy. And yet, on the inside they were fighting a life battle.

In waiting rooms, hospital elevators, church pews, grocery store lines, bus stops, the next home,….your own kitchen table may be someone fighting their own battle. On their exterior their plastered smile, quick responses and avoidant postures easily mask their physical, emotional and spiritual pain.

It’s only when we reach out beyond the, “How are you?” led by a genuine care, concern and love for another that brings us to the front lines with them.

Let’s not be misled by abrasive responses fired by pain, grief, sadness and hopelessness when so much is at stake.

Let’s not take for granted when another shares their burden with us. What an honour and privilege to come alongside.

Let’s not be afraid to be inconvenienced, go out of our way or get messy.

Let’s remember we need not know how to solve, fix, take away, or cure but there are things we can do like share our concern, time, a listening ear.

Jesus shares a story with us about the Good Samaritan found in the gospel of Luke; someone who took mercy on another. There was a man robbed, stripped, beaten and left for half dead. Two others noticed this poor man’s condition but passed him by. But one man didn’t.

“He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10:34 & 35

And Jesus’ instructions to us are the same, …….”Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37

Thank you my dear friend, for sharing your insight and your recent journey. I am so thankful for you and our friendship.

Just Be Held

Written by: Megan Kincheloe

You can’t be everything to everyone. I have heard this statement over and over and over throughout my life. I don’t want to be everything to everyone…but I want to be something to someone. I want to be an encourager. I want to be a prayer warrior. I want to be a friend. I want to be ready and willing for God to use me where He sees fit. But I’m tired.

I was listening to Spirit FM the other day and a song by Casting Crowns came on the radio. The lyrics immediately brought me to tears. Not just a stray tear inching down my cheek…a whole flood of them sprouting out all corners. The title of the song and the last line of the chorus says, “Just Be Held.” It came just when I needed it the most. At a time when I believed I was failing everyone around me. Have you ever felt that way? I mean, I am sure most of you hold so many roles in life already. Daughter. Friend. Granddaughter. Student. Employee. Older Sibling. Volunteer. Athlete. There are so many demands on our time, on our brains, and on our hearts. Sometimes it feels impossible to even take a deep breath.

This belief that I wasn’t adequate came barreling down on me as I read three sweet, well-meaning words from a friend. I MISS YOU. Most people would be very touched to receive a text like this from a dear friend…and I was at first. And then I started to do what I always do. I started to analyze. This was about the 10th person in two weeks to say those words to me. I MISS YOU. I wanted to respond and say, “But I’m right here! Anytime you need me…I’m right here!” But this person knows that. So do the other 9. It’s not that she doubted my availability to be there for her in a time of need. She was simply missing doing life with me on a day to day basis.

I became irritated and tearful and started to list all of the things I was doing for everyone. How can I be failing? I am staying in the Word daily. I am reaching out to encourage others and get them excited about the Word. I am touching base with people every time You put them on my heart. I am doing the best I can to take care of my family and to be a faithful employee. What am I doing wrong?? Right then and there I knew my answer. I am trying to do too much and not doing any of it well. I am distracted. I am overwhelmed. And ‘this little light of mine’ is hiding under a bushel more often than it is shining.

Sisters, we have to take care of ourselves or we won’t have anything to give anyone else. Here are some areas I need help in and maybe you do too…

We have to take care of our souls.
Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (NIV)

We have to take care of our minds.
1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (NIV)

We have to take care of our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)

We have to take care of our bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (NIV)

We have to be willing to accept our imperfections and the imperfections of others.

We have to be willing to give and receive grace.

Taking time to rest and refuel is not being lazy. In fact, our Heavenly Father commands us to do so. Sweet gals, I am not encouraging you to be inwardly focused. You have a purpose. God has equipped you and me for all of the things He has called us to do. All of the roles you fill are important ones and through Him, we will have the strength we need to persevere. That being said…in the midst of all of the striving and serving and loving on others…you are also allowed to Just. Be. Held.

*I am including the link to the song in case you need to hear it today like I did…

Love, Patience & Discipline

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

A few years ago, I attended a funeral for a lady that was a relative of some friends of my family. It was a really beautiful service which highlighted the many ways her family will remember her including: her devotion to Christ, her strong will, her ability to pray and the love she lavished onto her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It was during her son’s eulogy that God began to speak to my heart. He shared that his mom possessed three qualities that made her the “best mom in the world.”

1) Love
2) Patience
3) Discipline

I must admit, when he first shared this ‘best-mom-in-the-world’ combination, it seemed like quite a mixed bag. However, as he elaborated…the Holy Spirit gently nudged me.

These Mom-qualities are actually quite complimentary.

As a fairly new mom myself, I am learning things on a daily basis. Love without discipline is a disaster waiting to happen. Respect and responsibility are two very important things that come as a direct outcome of discipline. Love which involves discipline is a pretty amazing gift when you think about it. Discipline without love pretty much speaks for itself. And, all you mom’s out there would most likely agree that it takes a multitude of patience to implement discipline with love. As love and discipline work together to create a precious gift; patience is the beautiful bow that wraps the three together.

The bible speaks of these qualities as a few of the very gifts of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ NET)

As this son wrapped up the eulogy he’d carefully written about his mom, he had the room convinced that she had ‘done himself (and his five other siblings) good.’ He recognized that discipline was necessary and even said that he and his siblings “got what they deserved.” He stood confident in her love and adored her for her wealth of patience. The deepness of both his love and respect for his mom was truly inspirational to me in my role as a mom.

How will your children stand when you leave this world? Will they stand confident in your love; respectful and patient? Or, alternatively, will they stand unassured, trapped in a place of entitlement from lack of discipline; or wounded from your failure to proceed with patience? If your answer is the latter, how might you change to correct this?

Jesus, thank You for the sweet sweet gift of motherhood. Please help me to be a Mom of integrity and Christ-like character. I pray that as I endeavour to raise my children, they feel not only an assurance that I love them, but that You too love them in abundance. In Your name I pray, amen.

If Only the Lottery gave away TIME!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

As I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of things to do recently, I thought to myself that – if ever there was a lottery where the prize was time – I would be the first in line for a ticket. Do you ever feel like there are just not enough hours in the day, days in the week or months in the year?!

What I could accomplish with an extra couple of hours a week, even! Yes, time would certainly be an invaluable win for me.

As I joked with my friend over coffee that day, I silently felt deep conviction over my long list of work that needed to be done. When I got home I began to mentally brainstorm ways that I could fit in everything I needed to do. Imagine my frustration when my mental list kept being crumpled up with the many demands of my family:

“Mommy, look at this superman I drew. I think it’s my best one yet!!”

“Mommy, can you come and hear the song I can play on the piano? I bet you’ll think I’m so much better than yesterday!”

“Mommy, can you play with me?”

“Want to go for a walk to the park this afternoon with the kids?”

…wait. What!? You ask. You were frustrated with those things?! Those are wonderful things.

I’m over here– raising a guilty hand confirming a big, ugly: yes.

My life is filled with a whole-lot-of-wonderful. My guess, is that if you take a step back and look into your life using a different lens that you too will see that your life is full of wonderful things as well.

If we aren’t careful to budget our time wisely – ensuring there is a balance between work, play and rest- we will most certainly gain frustration as an end result. Instead of making those precious memories at the park with my family or playing tractors on the floor with my three-year-old, I stewed about how little time I have to do all I need to do.

We must be careful not to have our plates so full that we can’t make time for the precious lives that we are so honoured to be a part of.

God has blessed us all in incredible ways, friends. Take a moment today to thank God for your many blessings and endeavour to improve that balance between work, play and rest. (Yes, even rest, my friend.)

Father God, please help us to be better stewards of the time you have so graciously given to us. We love you and we want to honour you with each and every moment. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.

The Ordinary

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

“The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.”

– “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers

I love this quote. Mostly because as a woman, wife, mother, friend and professional, running through my life from task to task, I often just feel very ordinary. I am no different than any other woman on the planet. No different than any of you reading this blog.

I do dishes every day, fold laundry, clean toilets, sweep floors, tidy rooms, make meals, reassemble the kitchen and dust the house. I get up to an alarm, get ready for work, sit at my desk with my “to-do” list, cross tasks off as they are accomplished, head home, only to do it all again the next day. I run the kids to their various assorted extra-curricular activities and social engagements. I book eye appointments and visits to the vet for our furry companions. And let’s not forget grocery shopping, gathering sustenance to feed my two growing teenage boys!

Add to this the crazy pace in which life travels and the ordinariness of life can compound. There is often only enough time for mascara and lip balm on my way out the door. The church clothes worn on Sunday get worn on Monday to work for the sake of efficiency. My hair is coiffed the same way every day, because there is limited bathroom time in the morning for experimentation. I still try to use the “baby weight” excuse after 17 years of motherhood for the added pounds around my middle. My younger vain teenage self would be appalled at my older ordinary appearance.

There are times I sit with my family and watch an exciting, edge of the seat flick on Netflix. You know, the ones filled with wonder, adventure, danger, romance, intrigue and suspense. Or we view a documentary of an individual beating the odds or accomplishing a great feat. Both have the ability to leave me feeling somewhat small and insignificant. There are times when special guests come to speak at church and share about their incredible salvation stories or their unbelievable opportunities to minister and witness. Again, my life story pales in comparison.

But, I must remember that in the ordinary moments there are so many opportunities to practice the Fruit of the Spirit and minister to those I come in to contact with every day. All of those little ordinary moments along the way add up to a lifetime of incredible blessings flowing out. The extra care given to removing a sliver from my child’s finger; the bouquet of bacon roses left for my husband when he returns from a meeting at work; the care package sent to my sister abroad. The door held open for the elderly man struggling to enter a building; the encouraging word to a mom in line at the grocery story with a squalling infant; the coffee paid for in the vehicle ahead in the drive-thru line. These are the ordinary moments that become extraordinary as I allow my character to grow and shine for Jesus.

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

Don’t Give Me Grief

Written By: Nathan Hill

There is a scene in the movie “Contagion” where Matt Damon looses his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) to the deadly contagious disease that eventually infected 1 in 12 people across the world. The doctor is explaining to Damon that his wife has just died; they did all they could to save her but her heart just could not keep up with the virus that was racing throughout her body. Daemon’s repose to all of this was: “…when can I go talk to her?”.

While this may have been a source of comic relief in a film that had some intense moments, this was also quite an accurate portrayal of the emotions that many people feel when they are grieving. Denial is common; so is anger, and Damon exhibited that emotion as well not too long after his somewhat ridiculous request to speak with his dead wife. In fact, those who study human behavior have stated that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance are all ways that we as humans respond to grief.

A while ago, our junior high students explored the friendship between Jonathan and David from the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible. Jonathan’s father (King Saul) was opposed to this friendship for a variety of reasons and eventually caused the friendship to be completely severed…or else he was going to kill David. Jonathan and David expressed some of the classic behaviors of grief as they journeyed though this difficult time. As time passed and Jonathan realized that it would not be safe for David to return to their land, he discreetly sent a message to David telling him to leave forever. The two friends hugged, cried and then eventually accepted the reality of the situation and departed; each in their own direction. Much later on, when messengers came to tell David that Jonathan and his father Saul had been killed in battle, David asked, “How do you know?” Once David realized that he could not deny his friend’s death any longer he became angry and killed the messenger that brought the bad news…(ever hear the expression, “don’t kill the messenger”?)

There are a variety of emotions that will accompany grief, especially if you are experiencing a significant loss in your life for the first time. Many of these emotions are normal for a season of time and when kept in proportion to the loss experienced. (In your anger it is never right to kill or injure…David was not acting as a great example of faith in this example).

The most important thing to realize with grief is that you can express these things that you are feeling and that they will pass once you are able to accept the loss. Everyone grieves at a different rate but you can hold onto the truth that you will emerge on the other side with the help of God and the help of your friends. If you are grieving right now there is no need to grieve alone; speak with your friends, pastor or a trusted counsellor.

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Hebrews 4:15 “This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weakness, for he faced all the same testing we do, yet he did not sin.”

Expectations

Written by: Christianne Williams

Expectations. They leave you feeling pleasantly surprised or sorely disappointed. Seldom do circumstances or people meet them, they generally go above and beyond your ideals or fail to meet those lofty dreams. Take for instance the day I came home after asking my children to load the dishwasher and sweep the floor. I entered the house completely expecting to see the floors gleaming, the counters shining, the dishwasher full and running, and the sinks scrubbed to a finish a crow would adore. What I actually found was that the dishwasher was loaded and the floor had less dirt on it than when I had left. Now, the children didn’t understand why I was immediately cranky, after all, they had done what I had asked. The problem wasn’t with them, the problem was that I had asked for one thing and expected something entirely different. What I was expecting was above and beyond and let’s face it, none of us are perfect when it comes to that.

I could go in two directions here, one being that we need to be clear when we ask people for help or when we’re sharing our hearts, but what I feel God has been showing me is that our expectations, when placed in the wrong places, can leave us with a myriad of negative emotions. These emotions can then grow into wrong thoughts and subsequently, wrong actions.

A number of years ago I had a lady impart some wisdom that, at the time, I didn’t feel applied to me. I was newly married, had small children who I didn’t expect much from except the occasional full nights sleep, and we had just begun our ministry journey. What she shared with me that day has come racing to the forefront of my mind, because lately I’ve found myself in a time when the expectations I’ve placed on others have left me feeling let down.

That day she told me that I should always be careful not to put expectations on people that only God could meet. Simple. So hard to do sometimes. When I’m feeling lonely, or like I’ve been mistreated, or just weepy, I want my husband to be there for me. I want him to listen to my troubles, I want his undivided attention, and I believe that in some way, I want him to give me a solution. He can’t always do that. He doesn’t have all the answers and he can’t always be home, waiting with bated breath to ‘rescue’ me from some hurt feelings. The problem is that instead of realising that he can’t be ‘all’ for me, I get hurt. In times like those, I’ve placed expectations on him that only God can meet. Only God can be ‘all’ in our lives.

Our husbands, our children, our friends, our jobs, no one and nothing can meet all of our needs in this life except God. When we try to give His place to anyone or anything else, we will end up feeling let down and empty, longing for something more. We were created with a God shaped void, and He’s always there, the friend that sticks closer than a brother, to meet us in our need.

In realizing this, we also need to recognize that we will fail to meet the expectations others. There will be people who will ask us for things and we won’t be able to fulfill the need. They may even try to make you feel guilty for not being there for them, I’ve had it happen, but keep this in mind; Jesus is always there and He doesn’t ever expect you to meet someone’s need in an area only He can.