Peace

Written by Chrissy Perkins
Peace.
 
Such a simple common word yet so hard to put into action.

 

In a world where events are fast, emotions high and what seems to never be enough time, peace is the last thing on our minds.

When do you find peace? How do you find peace?

Do we actually truly achieve peace?
 

Seems too time consuming to even find the answers to those questions, doesn’t it?

 

Peace is not something that comes naturally or when you least expect it. We experience peace in the moment, moments and when we just “be”.

 

People have stated they find peace when practicing the art of yoga, or taking a long walk in the quiet woods, or even when holding your sleeping baby.
 

Those moments of peace fill our body and soul with a sense of clam, joy, and even happiness.

How do we find peace in the noise or the hard times?

That is up to you, you are the maker of your peace.

 

Do something you love such as paint or journal or even take a nice long walk. Make time for your loved ones. We (people) are social beings, God created us to be with each other. Quality time can lift the spirt and bring joy into your life.

Struggles may come and hardships are inevitable, but how you respond to those moments will help you make it through. When overwhelming times come lean on those hobbies or people to find your peace.

 

Take a second and have a talk with God.

 

From an early age I was told “tattle to God or talk to God”. When good comes, when troubles come, when I feel uneasy or when I’m hurting, talking to God while I’m doing something I enjoy such as a walk or sitting by the pool helped me find peace.

I may not feel the peace at that exact moment, but as my prayers would continue day by day or a situation would happened, then I would feel the peace

 

It’s not always easy to be still and listen for God or to see what plans he has for you but one thing is very sure, he will grant you peace when you seek Him.

 

Find your “happy place” and pray. If it’s one of those days in the workplace, take a second in a quiet place and start talking to God.

 

Peace also comes when you have faith God has you in His hand. Having faith and trusting no matter what comes your way, God has you and is taking care of you.

Trust + faith = peace

John 16:33 ESV /

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Psalm 29:11 ESV /

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

 

How will you find your peace today?

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He Equips The Called

Written by Josh Suiter

What are you passionate about? What areas of ministry do you find yourself drawn to do? Are you a musician and feel God calling you to join the praise band? Do you love to help people feel welcomed and want to join the hospitality team? Or do you have a passion to help youth and children learn more about Jesus and see them come into a personal relationship with him?
 

Whatever your passion is, I want to encourage you to be open to using this in ministry. But also, to be open to the fact that God may not have the same idea in mind.

A few years ago, I was asked to begin teaching the young adult Sunday school class. At first, I found this terrifying. I was used to teaching 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. What did I know about teaching young adults? Although I was close to them in age, I was worried that I didn’t have the Biblical knowledge to lead this class. But I felt God saying – “I’ve got you. Just trust me.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Sometimes God calls us into a ministry we may not have considered before. I never thought I would go from teaching middle schoolers to college age/young adults, but what I have learned along the journey is that even when I don’t feel qualified or able, He gives me the strength to keep going.

Can you imagine how the disciples felt? Each of them from all walks of life and skills levels were called to follow Christ. Matthew 4:18-19 says “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Can you imagine what might have been going through their heads? Do you think they second guessed their decision?

What if we had that same faith to just leave our nets and follow Him no matter what He is calling us to do? Sometimes I wonder why I ever doubt Him. Why do I question God when He calls me to do something because I do not feel comfortable with that calling?

Matthew 28:20 should affirm to me that He is with me and I have nothing to fear – “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If we truly believe this verse, then we shouldn’t fear if we are qualified or if we can do it because He’s got us! He will see us through and will stretch us and grow us through this experience.

As we continue to return to church after many of us have spent a year at home, I want to pose a few questions for each of us to ponder?

  • What has this year of staying home or distancing ourselves from others taught you about yourself? What has it made you passionate about?
  • What needs in the church (or even in our community) do you feel God is calling you to help with?
  • What are you doing about that calling?

I am praying these questions will help you assess where God can use you in the church and outside the church. He has made the ask. Will you accept it?

 


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Brokenheartedness

Written by Rhonda Alstott

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

 It seems that we’ve turned the corner with the pandemic, but not without battle scars from the past 15 months. Anyone trying to find mental health services  for a loved one right now will tell you there is a shortage of services and the wait for professional help in the form of therapy can be as long as 6 months. May is mental health awareness month, and mental health advocacy has always been close to my heart. Tony and I have several loved ones that have had their share of struggles with it. In our family of seven Alstott’s, five of us suffer with depression and/or anxiety and the other two suffer with denial. You can sense my sarcasm, but everyone has mental health struggles. Just like our physical health where we can manage certain maladies like diabetes, asthma, and cancer, we all have mental health as well, where we suffer with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.  I like to think of mental health as a continuum: healthy being on one end and unhealthy being on the other. Several factors can affect which end of this continuum we find ourselves at during different periods of our life…a loss of a loved one, a promotion, marriage, divorce, finals…you get the picture…our circumstances can move us back and forth on this continuum. It’s fluid. Exercise, therapy, medicine, spiritual disciplines and support systems can help us live on the healthy end of this spectrum. 

I just finished the last lesson of Elijah by Priscilla Shirer with my Women’s Bible Study. Elijah is heralded as a strong prophet and leader, but I wondered how Priscilla would handle Elijah when he was at his lowest point: after defeating the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. She included this part of his story in her study and I am thankful she did. So often in Christianity we leave no room for mental health issues. We have plenty of examples in scripture that show us that mighty people of God had their share of struggles with mental health as well. In 1 Kings 19:4 we see Elijah asking God to take his life. If I was writing a presenting problem on a treatment note for Elijah, I would write suicide ideation. What got him to this point? It’s a list of reasons including work exhaustion, poor diet, over concern of what someone thought, lack of sleep and threats on his life that induced fear. Fortunate for Elijah, God sent an angel to minister to him. Food, sleep, and a plan going forward was part of Elijah’s treatment plan. God was able to start Elijah’s healing with the question, “What are you doing here?” I love how God provides us with examples we can not only relate to but learn from. When we find ourselves at the end of our rope, that’s a great question we can all ask ourselves…What are we doing here? Sometimes in answering that question, we find ourselves getting back onto the path of healing and wholeness. If we can’t answer that question on our own, it’s okay to get the right help to do so. For far too long, the church has shunned systems to help us in the area of help and healing of our mind. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that prayer, worship, serving and study can all help my mental health, but so does therapy, support groups and medicine. Sometimes it takes all of the above to keep us on the healthy side. 

How can we help and encourage one another in our faith journey? Show compassion. Listen, love, set boundaries, offer grace… pray with, go with…whatever can help that person answer the question “What am I doing here?”  Remember: just because you may not understand their struggle, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Also, just because you found relief from reading a book, a certain oil, pulling yourself up from the bootstraps, or prayer doesn’t mean it will work the same way for someone else. I have had countless friends and loved ones feel so abandoned by God because they prayed and prayed for relief and found none. Sometimes God answers our prayers by sending us to the right doctor or therapist. It is important to remember that just because you do not sense or feel the love and presence of God, does not mean He isn’t there.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Another thing to remember too: Elijah’s despair didn’t disqualify him for the work God needed him to do. Elijah is our example that God really isn’t finished with us, even when we are finished with ourselves. God has a plan and purpose for every one of us, and a bout on the unhealthy side of our mental health continuum does not change God’s plan. In fact, more often than not, He will use this time for the good of His kingdom in ways we never imagined.  My hope and prayer for all of us is that we live balanced lives that honor God. Balance that takes into consideration that we are heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). Hopefully, the realization that God wants to use us to further His kingdom, in spite of and despite our struggles with mental health, should help us put aside the stigma we’ve carried for too long around mental health issues. May God grant us all His shalom on our lives and on the lives of those we love.

*Interested in some other people in scripture that had their share of discouragement? Note the following:

Jonah (Jonah 4)                        Hagar (Genesis 16)

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20)            David (2 Samuel 12/Psalm 38)

Gideon (Judges 6 & 7)              Paul (2 Corinthian 1)


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Do You Feel Like Your Sparkles Have Fallen Off?

Written by Lois Flowers

A few months ago, I received a hand-crafted Valentine from my daughter. On the cover, “Happy Valentine’s Day” was written in gold glitter.

Inside, the message said, “Don’t shake your card too hard or all your sparkles will fall off.”

It’s so much like my daughter, to give me a card with instructions. It makes me smile to think of it even now, all these weeks later.

A few days after Valentine’s Day—when memories of a friend who died 10 years earlier were fresh on my mind, when our schedule was all thrown out of whack due to extreme cold and snow, when my parents’ personal effects were strewn all over the basement as I work on organizing them—I woke up and just felt sad.

Thinking of Molly’s card, I sent Randy a brief text message: “I feel like my sparkles have fallen off,” I told him.

I’m wondering if you can relate. Perhaps, like me, you’re generally upbeat and optimistic, or at least fairly consistent when it comes to how you feel. Maybe not all the time, this last year especially. But overall, most of the time.

Or maybe you’re more prone to emotional ups and downs but you thought you had found a good rhythm, finally. Then something happens and the bottom just drops out.

One day you were feeling fine; the next day, it’s like you drank a gallon of blue.

Could be hormones, could be that you’re tired, could be you’re getting sick, could be an unexpected obstacle or setback is affecting you more than you thought.

It could be anything, really. And—this is what makes it even more fun—what it is this time might not be the culprit next time. (Because yes, there will likely be a next time.)

Having gone through this whole cycle a few times recently, I have some thoughts. Actually, I have three observations, three actions and three scriptures for you. They’re not a one-size-fits-all remedy for the occasional blues, but I hope they help.

Three observations:

 Feelings are not truth. They’re real, but they might not be an accurate picture of reality.

 You’re not alone. Others feel the same, some more acutely.

 Just because you feel like this today doesn’t mean you will feel like this tomorrow.

Three actions:

 Tell God how you feel. Don’t worry about whether or not your words make sense, or sound good, or seem worthy to copy and paste into an Instagram post. Just pray. Cast your cares on him one by one, no holds barred. Out loud or in writing. Just do it.

 Talk to a person about it, in person if possible.

 Go outside. Take a walk, or weed your flowerbeds, or just sit on a chair in the sun.

Three scriptures:

 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)

 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” (Psalm 28:7)

Finally—and this is important—if you are feeling like its been weeks or months since your sparkles fell off, or you can’t remember ever having sparkles at all, it might be time to seek additional help. Talk to your doctor, ask a friend to recommend a counselor, share your feelings with your spouse or sister.

Trust me—life is too short to spend it feeling bad all the time.


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Prepare The Way For The Lord

Written by Becky Perkins

Tangled Christmas tree lights are something I hate to straighten out and untangle when I put up decorations each year. Each year when I put the Christmas decorations away, I intend to take time and patience to put them away in an orderly manner and prepare a way to make the next year’s decorating time go more smoothly. But, every year, I am ready to put the decorations away, and I am in a hurry to get it done. So, every year, I have to deal with tangled up Christmas tree lights, because I did not prepare the way for the next year.
 
In Luke 3:1-6, John the Baptist was the person God called to herald the way of the coming Messiah. In Biblical times when a king was traveling to a town or region to meet the people, a herald would go ahead of the king to announce his coming and call for everyone to make the way smooth and straight for the king. The way was to be cleared of debris, the crooked path was to be made straight, valleys were to be filled in, mountains were to be leveled out, and rough places were to be made smooth. This process would require powerful construction, and a forceful grinding was required of the rocky places. This process took time and patience. The person doing the work would need help from others to help them get the job done. Once the way was made clear, the procession of the king was a grand and safe celebration. People rejoiced when the king arrived and spent days in the festivities.
 
I have had times in my spiritual life when I have felt that my spirit was in a tangled up mess. There are times when I felt like the rough road that needed smoothing. There are times I was in a valley and needed the Holy Spirit to fill in those deep places of unbelief and discouragement. There have been times when my spirit needed those mountains of self-sufficiency, idolatry, and pride to be leveled out so that I would be humble and ready for God’s use.
 
The process to make a life of humility for the use of the king requires some grinding, shaping, and refining to make the soul level and straight for the arrival of the king. This process takes time, patience, and often the help of others to get us on the straight path. The only way to get the life straight, level, and safe is to spend time with God on a consistent and regular basis each week. Time in His Word and in prayer. It takes patience to work out the rough places with the Holy Spirit. The working out of our salvation is something we have to give over to God and let his Holy Spirit chip away the rough edges and make them straight. It takes time to study the Word with other people. We need to have a village of supporters around us who will pray with us and for us. We cannot hurry the process. The Holy Spirit will work within his time table. This process of working out our salvation, often called sanctification for those of us on this side of the cross, will continue on until we reach that time of entering his kingdom.

Next Christmas, when I take down all of the Christmas lights, I hope I remember that the process will go much smoother if I only take the time to prepare the way for the next Christmas.

 

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, The rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation” Luke 3:4-6

 


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The Greatest Blessing

Written by Diane Forler

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22

Life got away from me.  It just did.  I didn’t mean to, but somehow I got into my late 30s before I managed to get married and have kids.  So, when I gave birth to the two little girls I had always wanted at 38 and 40 years old, I was beside myself with just about every emotion I could imagine.  Amazement, wonder, fascination, disbelief, but most of all love.  The greatest, biggest, deepest love I had ever felt.

Don’t get me wrong- I love my parents (now deceased), sister, husband, family, close friends, people, and I love God all very deeply.  Yet, the love a mother feels for her child, that moment when she first sees that baby’s face, well, there is nothing quite like it.  You know in that instant that this is someone you would lay down your life for without hesitation, and that never changes.

Like all new things, reality does eventually settle in, and raising those little precious babies has its challenges.  I remember one time when my oldest was about 4 and acting out to the point I was at a loss.  My Dad was there and I tearfully asked him how I was going to handle her.  His answer was simple:  Just love her.  Well, I knew I loved her, but I maybe didn’t know exactly HOW to love her at that point.  I never forgot him telling me that, and knowing the deeper meaning of it.  It takes every single Fruit of the Spirit to show your kids the love they need.

Loving your kids doesn’t always just mean being the sunshine and softness in their lives.  Love must also be tough (stole that from James Dobson).  It’s a hard balance to strike.   While it seems like we just want our kids to have a good, happy life, what we really want is for them to learn to think for themselves, be strong when things don’t go their way, believe in themselves, find ways they can be a blessing to others, in big ways or small, and, most of all, l trust God.  That means we have to walk the walk because kids notice EVERYTHING, and the older they get the more they let you know it.  If I want them to see Christ in me, they need to see the attributes described in Galatians showing up in the way I am living my life.

A few months ago, we were having a group meltdown (not my finest hour), me and my 2 now young adult daughters, when I was lamenting they’re not doing certain things I thought they should just know they should be doing by now.  Silly me. I just figured it would come naturally. They see me doing these things. They are plenty old enough to help. So why am I still doing it all??  Well, I found out.  My precious child looked at me and said “Mom, you haven’t really let us grow up.  You still do all this stuff for us that you want us to do for ourselves, you just don’t give us a chance to do it ourselves!”

Wow, I said.  I can help you with that!  I immediately started handing things back to them when they would tell me they needed something.  You’re out of vitamins?  Walmart carries the ones you take, or you can order them online.  You need that outfit for tomorrow?  There’s the washer!!  Hey, this is kinda fun!  We HAD taught them to do for themselves, I just didn’t trust them to DO it.  Now it’s my turn to let them. 

It was a life lesson for me. It’s funny because in pharmacy management I have always supervised a team of employees.  My goal is always to enable them to do their best, take on more responsibility, and work independently.  It makes them feel better about themselves and makes my life and my job a lot easier.  Why didn’t I apply that to my kids?  I guess it was easier to just do it for them, but it is not too late.  It’s never too late to be a part of making your kids’ lives better. 

Raising kids is a lifelong process.  The best advice I can give, aside from obviously praying and seeking God’s will, is to love them enough to meet them where they are, with all the “fruit” you can carry. The relationship changes as they get older and at this point, when my kids are 19 and 22, I am not done being their Mom. I find I need to watch them more and more, see who they are becoming, and be there when they need me.  Be patient, talk less, listen more.  Patience is not my strong suit, but it is so very important when they are at this point, on the brink of adulthood, needing me to trust them, and still looking to their parents as role models.

My daughters are the greatest blessing in my life, and I thank God every day for them, and for a husband who is a great “girl Dad” and partner in this journey.  I pray daily that they will find their way to all that He has in store for them, and I am so thankful to be able to be a part of their journeys, and for the love I have in my heart because of them.


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