Accepting the Invitation

Written by Bonita Cadle

Read Luke 14 16:24. Jesus tells a parable of a man who gave a great banquet, but most of the people he invited refused his invitation. They made excuse after excuse as to why they couldn’t come. Have you ever made an excuse as to why you couldn’t RSVP “yes” to an invitation? Is it obvious to you why Jesus tells this story?

 

In October of 2014, if you would have asked me what Jesus was referring to in this parable, I would not have had a clue. I was not a Christian then, and had not attended church since my sons were very young. We were too busy living the dream: travelling, sports, and making that money. We had many excuses and reasons why we couldn’t attend church, many.

 

Well, in November of 2014 some dear friends talked me into attending a weekend Christian retreat with them called The Great Banquet. I was very reluctant, nervous, and didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends either. I did not want to be stuck in a church at some Holy Roller, kumbaya thing for three days and three nights! I had more important things to do, or so I thought.

 

You see, I had received numerous other invitations to sit at the table with the Lord, but I had so many excuses as to why I couldn’t (or wouldn’t). Because of my many “No” RSVPs I was now on the poor, crippled, blind and lame list. My friends were the master’s servants. I hadn’t listened to the Lord’s many callings; my life was too busy and noisy. My friends knew that I needed help and they themselves had to drag me to this retreat. Why are we so “pig-headed” sometimes?

 

During this banquet, my mind got very quiet, my walls started coming down, my heart softened, and the noise of the outside seemed to disappear. I was able to really hear what the ladies were talking about at this banquet. I was able to introspect and think about my life and my relationship, in this case a lack of, with God. It can be so hard to just be quiet and spend time with God in today’s world.

 

I realized three huge things (actually more) during this weekend. First, I needed a relationship with Jesus to survive this life. When my mother (my best friend) died in 1995 I was broken. In spite of having friends, a wonderful husband, and two amazing sons, I had a nervous breakdown. I was not equipped to handle that crisis.

 

Secondly, I needed a church family and friends. I also needed to be surrounded by the body of Christ in order to survive this life. The Godly women who became my friends that weekend and the friends I have made through Wesley Chapel have made a HUGE difference in my life.

 

And thirdly, I need to be able to see the Godly light of Jesus in people around me, and I need to be a light for them in their times of need. I would have NEVER thought I could be a light for others! Me?

 

Three months after my Great Banquet weekend my father had a stroke. It was a scary, trying, and exhausting situation that continued until he died on October 25, 2019. But you know what? The most amazing thing happened. I was able to be a light for him in his darkness. He confessed his belief in Jesus Christ and was baptized before he died at the age of 80. He became a member of Wesley Chapel and is now with my mom in heaven. Amen!!!

 

On February 27, 2021 I lost my sweet husband Cliff to Covid-19. While I still struggle at times, I know without a doubt that my life also would have ended shortly after his if it were not for my relationship with Jesus and my Godly friends.

 

We all have a story, but I want you to hear me clearly and understand, if I hadn’t finally sat at the table with the Lord, I would still be a mess or not be writing this at all and my father would not have made it to heaven. Isn’t that amazing?

 

If you have not accepted your invitation to the Lord’s banquet please RSVP ASAP. Or if you know someone who’s struggling, invite him or her to the table with you. Be the light they need to see.

 

God Bless.


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Room at the Table

Written by Rhonda Boyd Alstott

 

In 2 Samuel 9:1-13 we see King David show kindness to Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the surviving grandson of King Saul and the son of David’s dear friend, Jonathon. David had promised each of these men that he would not destroy any of their descendants, which was a common custom in the Middle East when dynasties changed kings. Mephibosheth was also lame, which would have greatly affected his ability to take care of himself. We know it affected his view of himself, as he refers to himself as a “dead dog” in verse 8. David restores Saul’s land To Mephibosheth and tells him that he will always eat at the king’s table. David was essentially bestowing the honor of being one of his own sons to his deceased friend Jonathon’s son. What a gift and blessing to Mephibosheth that was. It is actions like this that give us a glimpse into why God called David “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

 

What really touches me is that with all King David’s wealth and kingdom’s resources, he could have sent whatever Mephibosheth needed his way. He could have put him in a house with servants and everything he needed to lead a comfortable life. That would have been an easy option for him to do, but that isn’t what he does.

 

Instead he brings him into his home. He gives him a place of honor at his table.  In his kindness he knows that more than all the resources he can offer Mephibosheth, belonging is what he needs the most. He needs his dignity restored and David understands that resources aren’t the way to do this. David knows it’s a relational issue. He offers belonging and acceptance and a place at the table to do this.

 

We would be wise to learn from this. So often we are willing to throw our resources and money at ministries and organizations hoping that will take care of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, ministries and organizations need money to function, but they need so much more. They need servants willing to “get in the weeds” with people and do the relational work of restoration.  Our local news tells us the sad stories of violence, addiction, and abuse. The list goes on and on. It’s not just local, our epidemics are worldwide. We know that so many of these maladies are caused through a lack of connection and trauma. If we want to ever find a way out of our weeds, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work. People, especially youth, need healthy and safe relationships. They need kind adults they can look up to. Persons in recovery need mentors and those healing from abuse need to see what loving and healthy relationships look like.

 

One of my first boyfriends was from my local church and came from an amazing family. Merrill and Mary were his parents’ names.  He was also blessed to have both grandmothers living in the same town. Every New Year’s Day they had a dinner where I was invited as a guest. The table was long and beautifully set with china and formal place settings. His grandmother must have sensed my panic at the overwhelming sight of silver placed around several plates. She discreetly whispered in my ear during the meal explaining what plate went for what and what silverware to use for what course.  She got in the weeds and led this poor girl through a formal dinner and spared me the shame of making a fool of myself.  This beautiful Christian family gave me a place of belonging at their table. Even after I broke up with my boyfriend, this family did not break up with me. They mentored me throughout my high school and college days. They knew I needed a place at their table of faith and the kindness they showed me changed my faith journey.


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How To Manage An Overflowing Cup

Written by Jaclyn Heeke

“A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” Lysa Terkeurst said this in “The Best Yes” Bible study. How many of you are just overwhelmed from the daily to-do list…the daily grind? I am…a lot of the time. During the pandemic, like many, I heroically vowed ‘our family will maintain a much lighter schedule after this. We will not allow the Google Calendar/iCal/old-school paper planner to rule our lives like we have been.’ But alas, here we are – the kids, the husband, and I are all desiring for normalcy again. Which means we want to see people and do all. The. Things again…cue up the calendars and strategic logistics planning.

 

In Psalm 23, the cup David speaks of is running over with JOY. Most of the time my cup is running over with stress. Just yesterday, I was 10-15 minutes late for 3 consecutive appointments. Today, I made a ham sandwich for lunch and forgot the ham! It did not taste good. It was a wake-up call, though…I was not living a joy filled life.

 

Maybe the first important part of this post is just to recognize your cup is overflowing with something other than JOY. How do you realize this? Do you feel confused? Sad? Angry? Distracted? Worn-out and just plain tired? Maybe it’s not stress for you as it is for me. Maybe its grief or frustration or financial strain? How can we begin to refill ourselves with something that doesn’t deplete us, but rather leaves us in a constant state of renewal and allows us to bless others and ourselves along the way? For me, that answer has time & time again been to “get in the Word.”

 

When we are empty, as Christians, we should not refuel ourselves with just anything. No amount of shopping, amazing food/drinks, activities or (fill in the blank) can provide the kind of restoration and healing that God’s words can. I have been trying to do too much this summer, and it has not been going very well at all. But, once I recognized I was literally down to the last drop, I went back and finished a Bible study I’d started in March. I also had the opportunity to serve as a counselor at a church camp for a week with 3rd-7th graders. Those kids singing worship songs brought some happy tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps. At the end of the week, my co-counselor summed it up really well. He said, “I felt like a cup that God was pouring thousands of gallons of water into. He always shows up big!” Serving and attending in-person worship service weekly are wonderful ways to replenish joy and be in Christian community. I also employ smaller daily actions like listening to Christian radio, receiving scriptural and inspirational texts from a women-focused group, praying as I cross the bridge on my way to work each morning, and saying nightly prayers with my kids, just to name a few.

 

I pray that you are filled with JOY today. That your cup runs over, in a good way! And, if it does, please share your wisdom about how you go about refilling your cup to be overflowing with joy in the comments. If you aren’t there yet, I hope this message gives you hope to be JOY-FULL.

 

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Out Of Place Spices

Written by Melissa DeLuca
 

Those who know me well, know that I am most comfortable in my kitchen.  Everything is in its place.  I love to create new recipes, adding traditional spice blends, as well as ones I create on the fly.  I have several containers of spices and spice blends.  There are all different container shapes, sizes, and price points.  I even have some I have brought back from vacations in other countries. They are all in alphabetical order. Some people collect shoes, figurines, or ties, but I collect spices.  I love to try new spices and flavor blends. I have so many that they just have to be that way, or otherwise I would never find what I need.  Woe is the person who puts the garlic near the bay leaves.  Extracts have their own little nook.

I have actually gone to the pantry after someone else has been in the kitchen and exclaimed out loud, “Who put this here?  That is NOT where that goes.” I get pretty upset when things are not put back where they should be.  After all, how complicated is the alphabet?  Surely everyone can see the letter “O” goes way after the letter “C”!  Some may even say I’m a bit obsessive about it all. 

I love to create new recipes.  It’s not only my outlet for solitude and creativity, but it’s a way I show love to the people closest to me.  I want to cook them good food, but I want to be the one to do it.  When I am cooking, it can only be me in the kitchen.  I want no help.  I want no one watching. Other people in the kitchen are just in my way.  My “hands are full.” I want to be the one who is the center of attention; the one getting the accolades for this marvelous creation that is about to happen.

As our children have grown and moved out with families of their own, we rarely have gatherings where we are all together anymore.  We have recently started a few new traditions to attempt to remedy that.

Not long ago we were all together for just such an occasion.  In an uncharacteristic move on my part, I asked my daughters to come help me make some of the dishes.  Each one was in charge of a dish.  I gave only general directions.  They grabbed their own spices and utensils.  We chatted, stirred, and had a great time.  We caught up with each other’s lives.  We spent quality time together in the kitchen-my kitchen.  We had a great time during and after the meal.

The next day, it was just my husband and I again, and it was time for me to make supper.  I went to the pantry and when I went to grab the spices I wanted, I noticed none of the spices that my daughters had used were put back where they had found them.  They were nowhere near where they should have been.

Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I smiled, and I reflected on the time that was spent making connections using those out of place spices.  I was comforted that I could grasp at the crumbs of the time we now are able to spend together as a family.  Time out from busyness and a few miles here and there to connect, to create, to love. 


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Be Careful What You Ask For

Written by Diane Forler

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


I’m a pretty smart cookie, right?  College graduate, great career, wife and Mom, 3 time homeowner, world traveler, pretty much able to sort things out.  Most of the time.  But sometimes I amaze myself with my apparent stupidity.  Have you ever wished for something, prayed, even begged God for something, finally taken it into your own hands and made it happen yourself…then looked around and said “Uh-Oh”?  Of course, we all have.  We think we know what we need, and don’t necessarily wait for God’s answer when we ask for it, so convinced are we that this is the only answer, path to happiness, or solution to a problem.  We pray, that’s who we are, but then we plunge ahead without really seeking His answer.

I made a big decision that way back in the 80s that led to a move to a different city, and changed the course of my life.  I had 2 really “good” reasons to be certain this was God’s will:  the end of a relationship, and missing my Mom and Dad.  I vaguely remember telling God that I wanted to move (run away?), where I wanted to move to, and basically saying “OK, God?”  So I found a job, made the move, and life went on.  Maybe it WAS His will, maybe He made the job and everything else fall into place.  It’s possible, but at the time I really don’t think I waited on His answer.  I just up and went!  I was glad to be closer to home, made some good friends, and even moved forward in my faith.  But I have always wondered, what would my life be like now if I had waited on Him then.   Would I have married someone different, married younger, never married?  Would my career have gone in a different direction?  What other aspects of my life did He want to do differently?

It is my belief that when we make decisions on our own, without seeking Him, God, in His loving way, slaps the palm of His hand to His forehead and says “My child, what were you thinking?” – and desperately wants to intervene, give us a push in the direction He knows we should take.  But then, being our ABBA “Daddy”, He lets us stumble, then helps us pick up the pieces.  So many times He has done that for me, and now in my 60s I think I am finally catching on that taking the time to wait for Him is a really good idea.

Please don’t misunderstand, I do not regret my marriage and cannot imagine life without the exact kids I have.  I love my family deeply.  But it breaks my heart that they do not share my spiritual journey with me.  Maybe if I had sought His will better, my family would be part of my spiritual life.  I still know He has a plan for them, loves them and wants them for His own, and my prayer is for Him to use me or whomever or whatever He chooses to reach them and bring them closer to Him.  I am determined to keep praying and seeking His will until that happens in His way.  I am determined not to get in His way this time.

People are rallying in large groups today for causes that may or may not get them what they really want.  I just wonder how much God-seeking is going on, and how much people on both sides of these issues are only giving God lip service, praying but then plunging ahead without really seeking His guidance.  Sweeping changes are probably needed, and I hope that His will is a part of the changes we are rallying for. 

 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people…”) is quoted a lot these days.  Social issues that fly in the face of God’s word are not going to align with His will, and we as His Church must lead in the quest for His truth and His will in our world today.  We must love all people, meet people where they are, accept the differences we are going to see in our diverse society.  But when we are looking to set priorities and truly seek His will, we cannot compromise in our alignment to His word.  It is a challenging time for our Church and especially for our leaders, as we try to navigate the changes in our world.  It is my prayer that we seek, wait for, and follow His will unwaveringly so that His will is fulfilled.


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The Biggest Blessing

Written by Stephanie Taggart
 

In 1 Kings 19:19-21 we read about the call of Elisha.  While he was out plowing, Elijah came up to him and threw a cloak around him (meaning Elijah is passing the torch to Elisha – anointing him into his prophetic office).  Elisha asks, “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye and then I will come with you.”  It was important for Elisha to say goodbye to his parents as he was leaving to become a prophet. It would be a long time before he would see them again, if ever.

I couldn’t imagine being Elisha’s mother.  While the Bible doesn’t mention her perspective, I bet she was full of emotions.  I’m sure she was worried and sad, while at the same time she was feeling proud of what he had been called to do and what he was taking on.  

The biggest blessing ever bestowed upon me is that of being a parent.  It is also the hardest thing that that God has ever entrusted me to do.   We start out having children that rely on us for everything.  They can’t do anything for themselves and we are in charge of their every need.   They get a little older and we teach them how to do things for themselves.  Eventually, they enter young adulthood, and their independence is calling to them.  

As a new parent to this stage of life (young adulthood) I am realizing that this is the most difficult stage of parenting that I have done so far.  Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it,” I am holding onto this verse tightly, trusting that we have given our child the skills, lessons, and morals she will need to live her best life. We pray she will hang on to the love of God and the faith that we have brought her up with.

To be very honest, I am struggling with the balance between parenting and letting her soar.  Isn’t she still that little girl running through the house asking me to play dolls?  Isn’t she still the girl who wanted to sleep with me on the weekends and watch movies? Then it hits me: no she isn’t. She is a young adult who is trying to find her way in the world.  To do that, I have to let her go and I have to let her figure that out for herself. I have to let her know the struggle of making mistakes and the joy of success.

I know this isn’t even close to the level of Elisha’s mother watching her son leave knowing she may never see him again, but every time we let them fly, they go a little farther. Eventually, she won’t be back to our house and she will be living life on her own. One verse I have tried to instill in her is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

The job of being a parent is never done, no matter how old our kids are. I can’t tell you how many times I have called my mom asking her advice on what to do and how to handle certain things and issues that come up. I am constantly asking for advice on what to say or do in certain situations. What my daughter needs from me now is much bigger because the pressure on her is greater. She needs our time, our money, our counsel, and, of course, our prayers. 

Lately, I have felt like a robot praying for her – praying for the same things over and over. It hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday, her life isn’t the same thing over and over and her struggles aren’t the same thing over and over. I need to change my prayers. So, I got on the computer and looked up, “How to pray for my young adult”.   

I found 5 new ways to pray for her:

  1. Pray that she walks in wisdom – Ephesians 5:15-16
  2. Pray that she grows up – Luke 2:52
  3. Pray that she hangs out with wise friends – 1 Corinthians 15:33
  4. Pray that she seeks God – Jeremiah 29:12-13
  5. Pray that she embraces God’s plan for her life – Psalm 138:8

 

I know this will continue to be a hard time to parent, but I will be more diligent about praying for her and her future. I will continue to be there for her, and I will continue to remind her that I love her, and God loves her.  I will continue to pray for her constantly. I know God has great things in store for her and I can’t wait to see her flourish! 

 

I have a request from me to you. I would ask that as you say your prayers, say a prayer for all the young adults in the church.  Prayer is powerful!

 

 

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