Blind Spots

Written by Rhonda Alstott

The very last Alstott is about to start driver’s education. It’s a rite of passage in our family. Our goal as parents will be giving them as much experience behind the wheel as possible. Although official course work has not begun, I have started giving oral commentary every time we are in the car……”and see this is tricky turning left here because of the blind spot”…….I overheard myself say. “A blind spot”, I went on to explain, “is an area where my view is obstructed”.
 
Later that night I thought about how my spiritual life is full of these blind spots. My view of an issue is obstructed. More often than not, I must confess, my view is obstructed by personal experiences, opinions, and biases rooted deep within my person. More recently I have been praying that the Holy Spirit would reveal my blind spots to me, that the Spirit would help me remove those obstructions that keep me from seeing things the way Jesus would. Pride is ever present working against this process. It is just way too easy to keep everything just like I have always had it. I want my world comfortable, and sometimes turning my head to see a blind spot takes too much effort and makes me uncomfortable.
 
In 1 John 1:8-10, the apostle tells us this, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” John has given me a rear view mirror in these verses to keep my blind spots in check. Ironically it starts with the premise that I have sin in my life and if I say I do not, I am deceiving myself. Why is this so hard for me to remember?
 
Confession…. I would rather focus on your sin. For some reason it feels better for me to look at all the ways you are not following the rules instead of focusing on how I am not. Whenever I catch myself becoming too critical of someone else and their choices, it’s the Spirit’s way of saying “Check your mirror Rhonda”. My New Year’s Resolution this year is the first part of the serenity prayer….”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” I picked this, because it gets at my deep rooted need to call out and try to focus on the sins of those around me. As long as I continue in that behavior, the less I have to work on the much needed self-work of focusing on my own behavior, the part that God did give me control over. Wisdom comes when you focus on your blind spots instead of those of everyone else.
 
There is Good News in this for all of us. It begins with confession of our sin, and God, being faithful, forgives us. What a gift. Wisdom comes when you confess your sin, the part of your life that you have control of, instead of complaining about the sins and behaviors in someone else’s life.
 
God has given all of us the gift of His son Jesus, the Holy Spirit to guide us and His Word to show us the way. May we all start 2022 by asking Him to show us our blind spots!

 

Serenity Prayer

God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And Wisdom to know the difference…..

 

 


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Affirmation for Having a Good Day

Written by Becky Perkins
 

“Forget the former things: do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing” Isaiah 43:18 & 19 

For me, the beginning of a new year always strikes a small fear and anxiety for what the year might bring. I think Christmas holidays and the ending of a year, with it’s good, bad, hard, and easy reminds me that I will have to endure all those things again this next year. Or maybe it’s because time seems to go faster and faster with each passing year. Whatever the reason might be, I seem to be melancholy with the start of a new year. 

As I read Isaiah chapter 43, I see God remind the Israelites that He alone brought them through the crossing of the Red Sea and through the wilderness. He affirms the Israelites that He will bring them through their journey in Babylon and out of the captivity. In this way, God affirms to us that He alone will walk the journey through 2022 with us. It seems God likes His people to depend on Him through each journey they take in life. God orchestrates happenings in our lives to grow us and bring us into a total relationship with Him.  God has given us wonderful promises that He is with us and He is for us.

God has affirmed to me that He wants me to trust Him and keep Him foremost in my life.  I believe if I trust Him and follow His lead day by day, He has wonderful things in store for 2022.  My job is to trust, spend time with Him, and follow His lead.  He has my back and will guide me each step along the way.  Yes, 2022 will have its ups and downs, but He never leaves me.  He is walking this wonderful journey of life with me. I recently read in a devotional that if I say the words, “I trust you Lord Jesus”, even if I don’t feel it, He will affirm that He is with me.  Over time, His affirmation and love will grow inside of me, and I will know it in my heart.   

My word for 2022 is “enlighten” because I want to be awed by things of God. I want to be more aware of where He is working, see Him in the small things, and see Him working on the journey with me. I believe the best thing I can do is say each and every day, “Lord, I trust you”, even if I don’t feel it at the moment. This will affirm His presence with me, and then I will be aware, awed, and enlightened by what He is doing in, around, and for me.  

 


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Not All Things Are Helpful….

Written by Rhonda Alstott

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the apostle Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” As 2021 comes to a close, and I reflect on the highs and lows of another hard year, a bright spot in my life is a substantial loss of weight for me. My obesity is something I have struggled with, starting in my college years when I got far enough away from my childhood and began to process trauma, not only in therapy, but with the instant amazing feeling that came when I stuffed a Resee cup into my mouth. In 2019 I began looking hard at some of my personal issues. I faced some things I had put off and continued through 2020 into 2021, where health issues became my intervention for my adulthood addiction to sugar. There has been no magic surgery for me, no special program……. just a hard reckoning that the legal drug (sugar), I was abusing to fix my emotions was killing me physically. I realized my relationship with food, especially sugar, was no longer helpful to me.
 
Another high point for me this year was reentering the workforce after an eleven-year absence. I was hired by an agency I had worked with early in my professional career, Our Place Drug and Alcohol Services. I love my job as our county’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator. I help oversee the Indiana State Department of Health’s goal to help Hoosiers see that tobacco use is not helpful to them as well as those around them. A big deal of my time has been spent educating our community that the Big Tobacco Companies have targeted our youth and other marginalized groups with flavored tobacco and vaping. Sometimes the task seems overwhelming. Our Youth are vaping and becoming addicted, and it is being marketed to them as safe. They are becoming the next generation of nicotine addicts. Our Place also offers education, prevention, intervention, and treatment services for individuals of all ages, families, organizations, and communities who are presently or potentially impacted by alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs of abuse. This is our mission statement. It is a cause I can throw my energy behind. Both of my parents suffered from alcoholism, and both died an early death because of their relationship with alcohol and other drugs. It also fits with Paul’s advice that not everything that is lawful is helpful.
 
I love the way the message puts verse 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians: Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it is spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims. You know the old saying, “First you eat to live, then you live to eat?” Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor Him with your body!” Addiction is not a respecter of age, status, or gender. It also does not respect Christians. I know several Christians and Christian families that suffer from the disease of addiction. Tony and I have had lots of recent heartaches and headaches due to some of our extended family members that refuse to look at their relationship to alcohol and other drugs. On the flip side, we have courageous and brave family members willing to get the help and support they need to tackle their disease. Recovery is a beautiful thing. It deserves to be celebrated.
 

My prayer as you enter 2022 is that as you make your New Year’s Resolutions, you will pray and seek to understand yourself better. That you will earnestly seek to rid your life of the unhelpful things. That all of us would work hard to not be a slave to our whims. It may be a gaming addiction. It may be workaholism or an addiction to what others think. It may be an addiction to sex, drugs, or alcohol. It may be an addiction to being mean to your spouse or maybe even hating on a certain group of people. May God give us the wisdom and grace to remove what is not helpful, so we can get on with His mission of making disciples. May we be dominated by nothing but the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year


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If. . . Then

Written by Aafke Garlock

10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.  –Isaiah 58:10-12

I’ve got to be honest– this year has not lived up to the hype. We ran from 2020, believing that the calendar could wipe Covid-19 off the Earth like some kind of magic Clorox wipe. Instead, 2021 kept the virus and added fun phrases like “Covid fatigue” and “build back better”. The catch is, of course, we can never go back. We’ve lost almost a million Americans to a virus that can adapt faster than you can say “variant.” As a teacher, I have dealt with more teens in mental health crises than I can remember; these kids are not okay. My own children have become more anxious than ever and cling to me constantly. I am exhausted, and I know I’m not the only one. The America, and the Aafke, of 2019 feels like ancient ruins.

In times of trauma, and let’s be real, that’s where most of us are right now, our brains can drive us to hunker down and focus on ourselves. We want to run to stores and nab all the toilet paper we can find, make sure we fill up all of our gas tanks and bank accounts just in case. Look out for ourselves and our kin and that’s that. But, God has a much different plan in mind.

In Isaiah we are given some beautiful “If, then” promises from God. Contingencies if you will. Rather than filling ourselves up, God asks us to… “pour ourselves out for the hungry, and satisfy the desires of the afflicted”. If we do this, he will take our brokenness and darkness and make them whole and light. Not only that, in verse 12 he says he will rebuild and raise up the foundations of many generations. If I am obedient to God’s call to serve those who are the least able to repay me, he will give me the ultimate Build Back Better situation. He will work through me to create new foundations for my parents, my children, and many more generations to come. If we, as the Church, can remain focused in our goals of Loving God and Loving those who are Othered, those who are hungry and afflicted, we will be known as the repairer of the breach– we will have healed and restored.

In my own life, I have seen this promise lived out. I was blessed to work with my students and some amazing coworkers on a mission to help those affected by the Kentucky tornadoes. We needed to get the truck loaded and had one hour to do it– my planning time– the only bit of time I truly get to myself all day. I poured that hour out, and I am so glad I did. While I was sweating and lifting massive bags of donated clothes and toys, I was also witnessing my students sacrificing their time and energies as well, with no hesitation. We got to laugh together when I confiscated a wheelbarrow (it’s Lanesville, don’t ask) and used it to carry donations; we made inside jokes about door jams and traffic jams. That hour of sacrifice did more to repair my exhausted heart than any amount of self-care could have. How much more can we be healed and heal our scorched community if we continue to pour out ourselves to those who need it most?

 

May these last few days of the Advent season offer you ways to be Christ’s hands and feet, and in the process, heal your heart and restore your path.


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Missing Ingredients

Written by Rhonda Alstott

My love and reputation for cooking I owe to my two grandmothers, Mary and Ellen. I grew up cooking alongside them with the coveted privilege of licking the beaters when a dish was complete. As I grew into adulthood, I asked for the treasured recipes. One dish in particular was a holiday dessert Grandma Ellen affectionately called “Gone with the Wind”. I must have made it 3 or 4 times, each one not turning out right until my mother, hearing me complain, confessed “you know she leaves out ingredients so no one can replicate her specialty “……. I learned a lot that day and I am happy to say I eventually got the secret ingredient. I have also learned that my grandmother isn’t the only one who has purposefully altered their special recipe.

 

As a parent, there have been several times in my experiences that I have believed I had followed a “recipe” only to believe “my cake” wasn’t turning out as I had envisioned it.  I read all the best Christian Parenting Books, I had a list of family rules, and I instituted a bedtime routine.I asked the right people for advice, homeschooled for a season and even removed the family TV. As hard as I tried, my children could not escape the same condition that other families had fallen into. Tony would often respond that the cake was still baking and not to lose hope, but as I have aged into this parenting role, I realize that more times than not, I may have not added the right ingredients.  

 

There is something so freeing when you are able to look at your adult child and confess that you are sorry for all the ways you have misrepresented the love of Christ to them. There is freedom in accepting the responsibility that you have cared more about right behavior and somewhere along the way lost sight of the right heart, which has the real opportunity to shape true behavior change. And following a true confession of your remorse, the wish that they find a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe and His Son Jesus and their Spirit, followed by a genuine hug is the most redeeming feeling in the world and gives hope that faith may win out after all. After all, God is still pursuing my child, despite and in spite, of me being misguided and directed as a parent. There is a true hope this Christmas that Jesus will come in new ways and not disappoint, that He will be real in the lives of all of us, even if we have failed and left out some key ingredients in the faith we’ve tried to pass on to our families.

 

In Colossians 3:12-15, Paul gives us the key ingredients in a recipe to follow:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

 

In my parenting quest for holiness, I forgot that holiness is only possible because of what Christ has done for me and my children through His death and resurrection. I cannot follow a list of rules in an attempt to have a recipe for holiness…but I can certainly add compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness and especially love. If we really want to have a great “dish” when it’s all said and done, maybe we need to pay more attention to the quality of the ingredients we are putting into our recipe. There are certain ingredients that cannot be substituted or left out if we want our finished dish to taste good.  I’ve also realized that this recipe for faith is too important for shortcuts. Right ingredients with patience and a dash of God’s amazing grace can give us the homes of peace we all long and hope for.

 

May God’s Presence and Peace Be Present in Your Life as Well as Those You Love this Advent Season


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Leading Gently

Written by Amanda Wacker

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

As I read this verse I was immediately drawn to the words “he gently leads those that have young”. I don’t know how many that read this are parents, but parenting is certainly not for the faint of heart. Parenting is hard. Parenting is tough. Parenting is frustrating. Parenting tries your patience. Parenting makes you want to pull your hair out. Parenting is exhausting.

But what an awesome God we have, he tends to us like shepherds, he gathers us in his arms, he carries us close to his heart, and he gently leads us. He gives us a perfect example of how we should parent. He gives us a perfect example of how to treat others.

Then, my focus was drawn more to the word gently. God is always gently guiding us through life and that is how he asks us to teach and guide our children….gently. Gently is defined: with a mild, calm, or tender manner. It’s the example that he leads by and it’s the example he wants us to lead by for our children.

I don’t know about you, but I fail every single day at this parenting thing. I don’t always parent gently, sometimes I parent out of anger or frustration. Sometimes I am just plain tired. Some days I’m just not feeling it, I think we’ve all been there. Then God asks us to do what feels impossible: raise our children to love God and love others in a world that tells them anything but that. We are asked to make disciples, starting in our own homes, when we can’t even get our children to pick up their rooms or put away their shoes. I often question why God gave parents such a huge responsibility. Why are we entrusted with such a big job? What makes me qualified for this position?

Have you heard the line, “I wish they had a manual for this situation or that issue my child is dealing with…”? The truth is, no one could write a manual quite like God already did. He has laid it out perfectly for us. He gave us example after example of how to be Christ like in all situations. He showed us every single day how to handle even the most impossible situations. For that, I am truly thankful, because I couldn’t get through one single day without Jesus by my side.

Parenting will still be hard. Trials will still come. I will still fail every day. But with the help of God, I will tend to my children like a shepherd tends to his flock, I will gather them in my arms, I will carry them close to my heart, and I will lead them gently. Because that is what God does for me every single day.

 


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