Tuesday, July 31, 2007

When Married Life Tests Your Patience

source: crosswalk
Betsy St. Amant

As Christians, we've all heard the joke "never pray for patience, or you'll get it." Ironically, our prayers sometimes come out sounding a little like this: "Hurry up, God, I need patience NOW." Nobody likes to wait. We prefer getting things quickly, and with each successive generation our tolerance for waiting seems to diminish. Take, for example, the coined phrased "microwave generation." We want what we want, and we want it as soon as possible. We don't want our desires or dreams or goals to "bake" in the oven. We want to "nuke" our plans and get results immediately! That is the urgency people feel today, fueled by the media, propaganda, and plain selfishness from within.

Waiting for the Little Things

The vocation of marriage frustrates our natural hurriedness by forcing us to wait – a lot. You wait for your turn in the bathroom. You wait to use the sink to brush your teeth. You wait for your spouse to get home to eat dinner. You wait to use the phone. You wait for your turn to use the computer. You wait for them to finish getting ready so you can leave. It seems nothing is on your time or your schedule anymore – because life is no longer about you.

Everybody waits, but not everybody waits patiently or with grace. What makes patience so difficult? Patience stems from a deep level of unselfishness, something that doesn't come naturally to most of us. As unnatural as selflessness may feel, being selfish in your marriage is a surefire way to cause problems. These everyday frustrations offer a wonderful opportunity to cultivate a selfless heart. Why not wait with a good attitude, since you're going to have to wait anyway? When life throws an opportunity to wait at you, put a smile on your face and adopt a carefree expression in order to avoid an argument over something that is beyond your control anyway. "A harsh word stirs up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath." Psalm 15:1. In time, these little opportunities to learn grace will strengthen your character when bigger challenges come along – and your spouse will thank you for it.

Waiting on Material Things

Not only do we find ourselves waiting on trivial, every day matters, but as married couples, we're often waiting for our worldly dreams to come true. My husband has wanted a boat, a jet ski, a four wheeler, and a new truck ever since he was five years old! I personally would love to have a horse again, and a new house in the country with a private office for my writing – oh, and maybe a trip to Europe! But it doesn't take long to learn that married life isn't an automatic invitation to material wealth. Married life frequently brings on new responsibilities and expenses, and we find ourselves setting aside our childhood fantasies for the sake of the other.

Newlyweds in particular may struggle with tight funds the first few years and most of the things they want are simply not realistic purchases. It's more important to pay the house note and put food on the table than it is to put money aside for a recreational vehicle. Paying your car insurance beats out purchasing new clothes, every time.

The good news: All this isn't to say you'll never have what you want. It's a matter of time, and once again, patience. If you start saving now, you could buy a boat or horse several years down the road. God wants us to be good stewards of our money, and I believe that involves saving and planning. My husband started a separate savings account with his credit union about a year ago. A small percentage is deducted from his paycheck and automatically deposited into this account. We never see or touch the money, and it slowly builds up week after week. We pretend it's not there, and have promised never to use it unless there is a real emergency. The purpose of the money is for us to take an extended vacation somewhere really fabulous in about three years. By then, the money will have built up, with no harm done to our budget, and we'll have a nice trip together, all expenses paid.

If you put in a little effort now, you can enjoy the fruits later. If you and your spouse feel tense about money matters, sit down and map out a long term plan. Knowing you are working towards fulfilling your financial dreams – even if at a slow pace – will take some of the day-to-day pressure off and make waiting that much more rewarding.

Waiting on the Big Things

Sometimes the call to wait seeps into some of the most profound elements of marriage, including childbearing. Over the past several months, many of my friends and coworkers have welcomed children into their homes. Each case strikes me with an instant case of "baby fever." Every time I get back from a baby shower or from visiting a new mom, I question my husband on our own timeline. "But why not now? They're so cute!" Once the fever subsides, I step back into reality and realize unless God decides otherwise, right now is not the best time for us to have children and that a few years down the road would be the best choice for us. Then we'll be more financially stable, my husband will have completed his five year schooling program with the union, and I'll have put in valuable time at my current job. We're waiting, even though it's hard sometimes, because we know it's the best thing for us and for our future children.

For some, waiting is even a source of profound sadness. Some waiting is an exercise of will, but sometimes marriage presents us with situations beyond our control. A couple experiences infertility, and must wait perhaps indefinitely for a child. A spouse gets sick and waits for treatment and recovery. A door is closed on a certain career or mutual dream, and you find yourselves readjusting your plans together. It's times like this – when our dreams are on the line – that waiting seems more like a curse than a blessing.

But "wait" does not have to be a four letter word. Patience truly is a virtue. God wants us to be obedient to Him in seeking His will and timing for our lives, and not just our own. Even in sadness and uncertainty, God has great plans in store. He will bless our obedience and give us more than we could have ever dreamed possible according to His will for our lives. In the meantime, recognize the blessings you have right now in your spouse and in your married life together even in the midst of waiting.

2 Peter 1:5-6 "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, patience; and to patience, godliness."

What are you waiting for today? What is your goal, or dream, or plan for the future? Have you prayed about these plans, and given them to God? Are you seeking His timing on your life, or clinging to your own? There is such joy and freedom that comes when we surrender the burden of our timepieces to Jesus. Hand Him your watch, and be content to keep your eyes on God's clock. His ways are so much higher than ours, His knowledge so infinite, His timing so perfect. We can trust that if we wait until His timer dings, blessings will be sure to follow.

Betsy St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her husband, Brandon. They recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. Betsy has an associate's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing. You can contact her at Betsystamant@yahoo.com.

Red Hot Monogamy: Kindling the Flame in Christian Marriage

Pam and Bill Farrel
Authors, Red Hot Monogamy
surce: Crosswalk

When our oldest son, Brock, was dating his wife Hannah, all four of us parents decided to converge in Atlanta for the Christian Booksellers convention. On our first day in Atlanta, Bill went to a business meeting while I got ready for an evening appointment. Knowing that at some point, Brock or my husband, Bill, might return to the room (and to avoid some embarrassing intrusion during my shower), I hung the "Do not disturb" sign on the door. Brock was with Hannah's family and was planning to meet us for dinner. While Brock was walking to our hotel, a sudden thunder storm hit, completely drenching him. His soggy clothes were dripping on the carpet as he entered the hotel. He was desperate to get into the room and change but when he arrived at the door he noticed the "Do not disturb" sign barricading his entrance. From inside the room, I heard a loud exclamation in the hallway, "Oh man! I can't believe this! Do not disturb! I know what that means! Why now? It's the middle of the afternoon."

I laughed as I opened the door. Brock seemed very relieved that it was only me, completely dressed.

"Whew! Thanks mom. I saw the sign, and I thought, 'I can't interrupt you and dad!'"

"It's okay, honey. Dad isn't even here. But thanks for the compliment! But isn't it amazing and awesome that the first thought in your mind is that you'd be interrupting our love life! On a Wednesday, at 3 pm!"

A Celebration of Lifelong, "Red Hot" Monogamy

Fast forward to the following winter. It was a clear January night. The stars flickered in the sky like individual candles calling lovers into one another's arms. The lights were romantically dim. Music softly serenaded as musician, Anita Renfroe, stepped to the podium in the ballroom and announced, "We are here tonight to celebrate the righteous, red, hot monogamy of Bill and Pam Farrel." The crowd laughed and we looked at each other in shocked amusement.

As we recovered from her statement, Brock stepped to the podium to say grace at our 25th Anniversary Dinner Gala. He introduced himself, "Hi everyone. I am Brock Farrel, the first product of my parents' righteous, red, hot monogamy." It was at that moment the concept for our newest book, Red Hot Monogamy, was conceived.

You see, it is possible to keep the passion red hot — even after 25 years of marriage! So what helps fan the flame in the fast lane? To keep that spark and sizzle, couples will need to carve out a marital oasis.

Oasis of T.I.M.E.

After that evening, we gathered more than 200 red hot romantic ideas in a book filled with lots of practical helps. Ultimately, one of the most important steps a couple can take is to make T.I.M.E. for love. Here is what we see as the minimum time commitment you should have to maintain the connectedness needed for a healthy, strong marriage:

Ten to twenty minutes of talking together, alone, every day.

Investment in a weekly date night (or date breakfast or lunch) together for at least 4 hours. (It takes a couple hours to emotionally connect -- and then you might want to physically connect!)

Make a monthly "day away" policy. At least once a month spend 8- 12 uninterrupted hours together. This can be anything you both enjoy — to maximize this, make sure you schedule a few moments of red hot monogamy sometime during this 10-12 hour block of time.

Escape quarterly (or at least bi-annually) for a 48 hour weekend.

Start tonight; do a mini escape. Climb into bed, into each other's arms. Ask and answer a few questions that will fan the flame of your love:

  • What is your favorite place I touch you?
  • What lighting sets the mood for you?
  • What sounds arouse you?
  • What aromas set your heart ablaze?
  • What words do you love me to whisper?
  • What sights make your heart dance? A view? A sunset? The majestic? Quaint and cozy? Great art? Unique and eclectic?

Oasis of Space

Many married couples lack privacy, so to gain a little alone time, you will have to create the space to experience it. Creating a space at home for a little romance will be just the thing needed to create an extra few moments together.

In our book, Red Hot Monogamy, we encourage a couple to discover their romantic personality and decorate their room to enhance intimate life. For example, we have discovered that even a messy room looks neater when lit by candles, so we buy a candle as a memento on all our trips together and when one of us is "in the mood" we simply light the candles (our version of a smoke signal!) Another clergy couple we know didn't think they had the money for a complete room make-over, so they decided their only hope was to make use of the balcony of their tiny apartment. A small investment of $15 for a set of plastic patio chairs and a plastic table from Walmart gave them a space all to themselves for coffee each morning and sunsets some nights. Another innovative couple scanned the "PennySaver" ads each week for a Jacuzzi. Friends told them they would never find one for the few hundred dollars they saved but they prayed and trusted God. Within a month they discovered an ad placed by a couple who had to move quickly -- that couple practically gave the spa away! On your next date, ask, "What one change can we make to our room, or a space in our home, that will create a more romantic place to be together?"

The Oasis Code

In Song of Solomon, all the "gardening" talk is code for sexual desire. Come up with a code word that let's your mate know you have red hot desire for him/her. One wife puts on a red tank top; another asks, "Want to take a nap?" (We can't use that one anymore as "Wanna take a nap" over 40 really means a NAP!) Our code comes from our book, Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti. There, we explain that men like to go to their favorite "boxes" to rest and recharge: the TV, the computer, the garage, the football field, the refrigerator -- and the bed. The "bed box" is a man's favorite -- it is kind of like the free square on a Bingo card -- he can get there from every other square on his waffle. So our code word for intimacy? You guessed it: Bingo! In our Outlook, we also use "Red Hot Monogamy" and make scheduled appointments marked: RHM.

It may seem simple, but to enjoy a little "RHM," create an oasis of time and a special romantic space. And ask your spouse, "Wanna play some 'bingo?'"

Bill and Pam Farrel are relationship specialists, international speakers and authors of over 25 books including best selling Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti, and Red Hot Monogamy. They have recently released a new marriage DVD series for Lifeway, and will be guest speakers for Festivals of Marriage this fall. To order Red Hot Monogamy, discover more about their DVD for couples or learn about their speaking schedule, go to: http://www.farrelcommunications.com/.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

NEWS: Katie Fisher: Socialite sings hymns to Hillsong

Hillsong Church:
Socialite sings hymns to Hillsong
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
July 28, 2007 Column
Andrew Hornery
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Item 18861 • Posted: Saturday July 28, 2007


The poster adorning shopping malls across suburban Sydney showing the perennial party girl Katie Fischer knitting seems incongruous given her reputation for painting the town red. But James Packer's former fiancee admits she is a changed woman, or rather the socialite who found God.

For months Sydney's cocktail circuit has been intrigued by gossip that Fischer had joined the congregation of Hillsong Church. From her Los Angeles home this week she said joining the hand-clappers had been "the best thing I've ever done".

"I'm a proud parishioner. I love going there," Fischer, the daughter of the Liberal MP Pru Goward said, initially reluctant to talk but later enthusing about the merits of Hillsong. "I did have a different view of Hillsong before I went there, like a lot of people do, and that's regrettable. There is so much that I got out of it, I never really saw Christianity embodied the way it has been at Hillsong." Having just returned from a convention conducted by the US celebrity evangelist Joyce Meyer, Fischer - who had previously immersed her self in meditation and studied with new-age gurus - said she had not spoken about her faith in detail because she did not want to "come across flippant".

"Everyone knows I like to make fun comments and be cavalier and glib. While I want to keep my fun nature, I don't represent the church. I don't work for them, I don't do PR for them and they haven't asked me to. I'm just a parishioner.

"I publicly explored a lot of different belief systems and I don't want to look like I'm being superficial about this. There was a void in my life and it has been filled … I didn't have a lot of discipline for a long time. The paradox is the discipline has now given me a lot more freedom."

As for the Packer wedding: "When people ask me to comment I jokingly ask them to show me what [Packer's former wife] Jodhi Meares has said … but seriously, like all newlyweds, I wish them all the best."


Friday, July 27, 2007

How to Expand Your Life with God

source: Crosswalk
Whitney Von Lake Hopler
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Joni Grace Powers & Robert A. Pyne's new book, LifeSpace: The Practice of Life with God, (Regal Books, 2007).

Life's demands can suffocate you if you settle for less than the abundant life God offers. So take a breath of fresh air and expand your life with God beyond the limits what you can imagine and into an experience of unbounded adventure.

Here's how you can expand your life with God:

Seek worth beyond measure. Instead of trying to prove your worth to yourself and other people, remember that God's glory shines through you because He has made you in His image. Be confident in the fact that you are valuable simply because you are God's child.

Pursue identity beyond circumstance. Understand that your circumstances don't define who you are. Know that your circumstances are simply tools for God to use to shape you into the person He wants you to become. Realize that God is able to redeem even the worst circumstances in your life to accomplish good purposes.

Seek love beyond performance. Rather than or trying to earn God's favor, accept the fact that God already loves you deeply and unconditionally. Rest assured that your relationship with God through Christ is sealed for eternity.

Embrace the messiness of being human. Understand that you can grow not by trying to transcend your human frailties, but by being honest about them and coming to God just as you are so He can use your weaknesses to make you strong. Don't focus on trying to project an image of perfection. Instead, admit your flaws and let them reveal how much you need God. Be authentic in your relationships with other people and seek to learn from the messy interactions you sometimes have with them. Realize that being human isn't a problem to be solved; it's a calling to grow more like the God who chose to take on human form to save the world. Know that God loves real human beings like you because He chose to be incarnated as one.

Live fully in the present. Instead of wishing the present away and longing for your future in heaven, pay attention to where you are right now in life. Rather than trying to escape your life, start looking for ways that God is at work around you. Ask God to help you bloom where you're planted.

Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Remember that everything – even your next breath – is a gracious gift from God. Thank Him regularly for giving you life through His Spirit, and welcome the Holy Spirit to fill your soul and transform you. Ask the Spirit to enlarge your view of reality so you can envision more than just what you can see and embrace the full potential of your life.

Aim your love in the right direction. Ask yourself the key question: "What do I love?" Honestly consider what you might currently desire in place of God, such as comfort, stability, affection, opportunity, piety, or success. Make sure that nothing knocks God out of His rightful place as your absolute top priority. Plan how you spend your resources (time, energy, money, etc.) around the fact that your relationship with God is most important. Choose to love for who He is instead of just what He can do for you. Expect that the more you get to know God, the more you'll fall in love with Him. Know that loving God for His own sake will bring you true joy.

Discover joy. Be alert to specific ways God is at work around you, and make time to reflect on the beauty of that work (such as something you appreciate in nature, or a quality you find charming in a person you know). Notice when and how God answers your prayers, and make time to thank Him for His generosity and creativity. Read, meditate on, and study the Bible to learn more about God, and delight in what you discover about Him through His Word. Be open to the mysteries of faith and avoid futile attempts to fit God's work into a box you can fully understand or control. Look for God's reflection in human creative expression, such as through art, music, literature, and dance. Make a frequent practice of getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new, such as traveling to a foreign country or learning an extreme sport. Celebrate fresh joy whenever you encounter it.

Let God's love flow through you to others. Don't just take God's love for yourself and let it end there. Share that love with other people by reaching out to them as God leads you to do so. Draw a diagram that represents your sphere of community, listing the names of people you're closest to in the smallest circle and moving outward. Then, outside the largest circle, write the names of people you consider enemies or don't feel able to love for whatever reason. Pray about how your circles can expand to encompass all the names you wrote as people with whom you share God's love. Recognize that God intends for you to be roped together with others in community. Don't practice your faith alone; build meaningful relationships with other believers and actively participate in church. Rejoice with others when they have something to celebrate; weep with others when they're suffering. To the extent that it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Slow down the pace of your life and make time to be with people face to face often. When you spend time with friends and family, enjoy their company instead of just trying to accomplish a set agenda during your time together. Don't use love as a tool to try to manipulate others for your purposes. Ask God to help you love others as He loves them – unconditionally.

Make space for grace. Thank God that His grace gives you the space to grow as you're becoming more like the person He intends for you to become. Let your gratitude motivate you to extend grace to other people. For example, let your husband enjoy eating goat cheese or sauerkraut, even if it grosses you out, and give your son or daughter permission to join a garage band, even if that means loud practice sessions at your house. Go easy on others when they make mistakes for which they're repentant. Just as you don't have to earn God's love, don't make other people earn your love. Don't parcel love out sparingly to others. Ask God to help you love people lavishly, whether or not you think they deserve it. Ask God to give you the humility you need to overcome pride, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency. Remember that you – just like everyone else around you – are a sinner, yet God still loves you and Christ still died for you. Be willing to help other people without expecting anything in return. Decide to love even in ugly situations. Believe the best about others and wish the best for them, encouraging them and supporting them as they pursue God's dreams for their lives. Every day, be proactive about doing small things with great love, such as forgiving an obvious slight, offering someone a ride, preparing a meal for someone in a crisis, or complimenting a colleague. Constantly ask yourself: "How have I seen God's grace extended by others toward me?" and "How have I been the space of grace for someone this week?"

Forgive. Know that, just as God has forgiven you for all your sins, He expects you to be willing to forgive others who hurt you. Don't wait until you feel like forgiving; you likely never will. Instead, make the choice to forgive, and rely on the help God will give you to do so. Work toward reconciliation with those who are willing. Realize that by forgiving, you create a new beginning out of past pain. Understand that forgiveness opens up the space you need for healing in your relationships.

Sacrifice. Ask God to help you place your life at His disposal with gladness and eagerness to see how He will use you to accomplish good purposes. Let your love for God and gratitude for all He has done for you motivate you to give freely of your time, energy, money, and other resources to God's work on Earth. Don't just give what's left over after you take care of yourself; give the best of what you have. Be willing to make sacrifices for others as God leads you, even when your efforts aren't rewarded or even acknowledged. Remember that, though you main gain nothing from other people, God will give you joy as you serve Him. Be welcoming toward others, taking a genuine interest in their lives and making time to build meaningful relationships with them. Let go of your own agenda for your relationships and invite God to use them however He chooses to help you and others grow. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to be humble and kind as you go about each day, willing to give yourself away one commitment at a time.

See clearly. Don't settle for a small vision that limits your concept of who God is and what plans He has for your life. Instead, ask God to give you the right perspective on Him and reveal His big vision for you. Let go of your own plans that don't align with God's plans, trusting that for every one of your own dreams that falls away, a better dream from God for you will take its place. Place your hope in the reality of God's promises, and realize that doing so creates space for your faith to keep expanding.

Adapted from LifeSpace: The Practice of Life with God, copyright 2007 by Joni Grace Powers and Robert A. Pyne.  Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.

Joni Grace Powers has her roots in the wilds of West Texas and now lives in Dallas. She is a frequent lecturer, a retreat speaker, and an ordained minister. A passionate teacher and communicator, Joni's writing has covered the gamut from technical business articles to executive development courses to theological musings in seminary. Joni and her husband, Tim, are holding on for the ride as they raise two teenage daughters.

Robert Pyne hails from the beautiful desert of Arizona and now lives in Dallas. He is a professor in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, a published author, a retreat speaker, and an ordained minister. A sought-after speaker on the intersection of Christian life and culture, Bob is also an active participant in such arenas as the American Academy of Religion and the Emergent conventions and dialogues. Bob and his wife, Julie, valiantly attempt to keep up with four teenagers and Webster, the infamous dog.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Can You Love Your Husband and Brad Pitt?

 marriage resource
by Sharon Jaynes
source: Crosswalk

Sitting in a waiting room, I rummaged through stacks of magazines to pass the time. A magazine for families, I thought as I picked up a popular title. That ought to be safe.


Thumbing through the pages, I went directly to the "Family Matters" column to see what the culture was teaching these days. The title? "Why You can Love Your Husband and Brad Pitt Too." I turned back to the cover to make sure I had not inadvertently picked up Cosmopolitan or The National Inquirer. Nope it was a magazine for families - targeted at wives and mothers.


This is some of what the author had to say.


Last spring I found myself applying a pretty shade of pink lipstick before heading off to the nursery to buy annuals. Why the fuss? I hoped to run into the handsome gentleman who worked there....According to experts, married crushes are natural and common. As long as you don't let them develop into full blown fantasies or consider acting upon them, these minor attractions can actually help you appreciate your spouse more...Infatuations offer a safe break from the marital routine. Everyday life is a bit humdrum, making it hard to maintain a passionate connection all the time...


Well friends, there is another expert on marriage who was not quoted in this article and his option is juxtaposition to this one. His name is Jesus. This is what He has to say about infatuation with the delivery boy, flirting with the man at the nursery, or cattily toying with a coworker in the next cubicle.


Your have heard it said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27).


Looking at another man with a flirtatious eye is such a serious offense that Jesus went on to say, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away." (Matthew 5:28).

Now, don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to pluck out your eye if you do have a crush on the buff young man who bags your produce at the grocery store, but I am telling you that you might need to shop elsewhere. I am saying that if you find yourself adding a bit of lip gloss before heading to the post office where the cute blond with the steel blue eyes always greets you like you've made his day, you need to forget the gloss and go to another post office. And that man in the next cubicle who always showers you with compliments and makes your heart skip a beat? I think Jesus is saying to pluck it out, change cubicles, or even more drastic -- change jobs.


Perhaps you think I've gone just a bit too far. I imagine the folks listening to Jesus' advice about running from temptation thought so too. The truth is, I've never heard of an affair that did not begin with a toying glance or flirtatious "innocent" bantering. Every sin begins with a thought and every spiritual battle is won or lost at the threshold of the mind.


Let's face it, women long to feel beautiful. After being married for a few years and having a baby or two, we begin to wonder if we are still pretty or sexually appealing. Then a man comes along who pays us a compliment and our hearts skip a beat. That is natural. However, if that compliment or attention leads to infatuation, returning for more, or a "crush" as the article implies, Jesus tells us to turn and run in the opposite direction...press the delete button...and avoid reply. "Flee sexual immorality" (I Corinthians 6:18). This is serious -- pluck it out.


It is interesting that when Satan tempted Eve in the garden, the first step to her downfall was her eyes. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye...." (Genesis 3:6). It all began with the eyes...what she looked at. I wonder what would have happened if she had chosen to look away.


The article ultimately had very little to do with Brad Pitt or Mel Gibson, but had more to say about men we come in contact with every day. Honestly, had it been Brad or Mel, I might have had a chuckle. But this article was encouraging women to play with fire. The author went on to say...


Whether you have a soft spot for Mel Gibson or Mel the mailman, make sure your husband knows that a crush doesn't change the way you feel about him. We all want to know that we are number one in our spouse's life. As for me, I told my husband about the man at the nursery. 'Going to see your boyfriend?' he teased as I headed out the door to buy mulch. Later I assured him that while Garden Guy knew the best cure for aphids; he could never melt my heart.


After reading that, I tried to imagine my husband, Steve, saying to me, "Honey, I want to tell you that I have a crush on the check-out girl at Home Depot, but I still love you the best." I get a queasy feeling just thinking about such a conversation. And yet, this is what the "family magazine" was suggesting for women of the new millennium. No wonder the divorce rate in this country is 50% and rising.


I am so thankful we do not have to depend on such publications to give us the keys to a happy, fulfilling life with the man of our dreams. We have God's Word. He's the expert and here's what He has to say:


"Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23).


Sharon Jaynes is popular speaker at women's events and author of ten books including Becoming the Woman of His Dreams – Seven Qualities Every Man Longs For. To find out more about Sharon's speaking ministry, or to order Becoming the Woman of His Dreams, visit  www.sharonjaynes.com.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

News (can be used as illustration) A Gate-Crasher's Change of Heart

story forwarded by RW's  ministry Toolbox
The Guests Were Enjoying French Wine and Cheese on a Capitol Hill Patio. When a Gunman Burst In, the Would-Be Robbery Took an Unusual Turn.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007; Page B01

A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.


While he was at a Capitol Hill party last month, Michael Rabdau, above, and his wife watched as a man intruded upon the guests gathered in the back yard of their host's home and held a gun to his 14-year-old daughter's head.
While he was at a Capitol Hill party last month, Michael Rabdau, above, and his wife watched as a man intruded upon the guests gathered in the back yard of their host's home and held a gun to his 14-year-old daughter's head. "I was definitely expecting there would be some kind of casualty," Rabdau said. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze -- and then one spoke.

"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."

The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.

"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.

"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"

Rowan, who lives in Falls Church and works part time at her children's school, stood up and wrapped her arms around him. Then it was Rabdau's turn. Then his wife's. The other two guests complied.

"That's really good wine," the man said, taking another sip. He had a final request: "Can we have a group hug?"

The five adults surrounded him, arms out.

With that, the man walked out with a crystal wine glass in hand, filled with Chateau Malescot. No one was hurt, and nothing was stolen.

The homeowner, Xavier Cervera, 45, had gone out to walk his dog at the end of the party and missed the incident, which happened about midnight June 16. Police classified the case as strange but true and said they had not located a suspect.


"We believe it is a true robbery," said Cmdr. Diane Groomes, who is in charge of patrols in the Capitol Hill area. But it's one-of-a-kind, she said, adding, "I've never heard of a robber joining a party and then walking out to the sunset."

The hug, she said, was especially unusual. "They should have squeezed him and held onto him for us," she said.

Rabdau said he hasn't been able to figure out what happened.

"I was definitely expecting there would be some kind of casualty," Rabdau said this week. "He was very aggressive at first; then it turned into a love fest. I don't know what it was."

Rabdau, a federal government worker who lives in Anne Arundel County with his family and lived on Capitol Hill with his wife in the 1980s, said that the episode lasted about 10 minutes but seemed like an hour. He believes the guests were spared because they kept a positive attitude during the exchange.

"There was this degree of disbelief and terror at the same time," Rabdau said. "Then it miraculously just changed. His whole emotional tone turned -- like, we're one big happy family now. I thought: Was it the wine? Was it the cheese?"

After the intruder left, the guests walked inside the house, locked the door and stared at each other. They didn't say a word. Rabdau dialed 911. Police arrived quickly and took a report. They also dusted for fingerprints -- so far, to no avail.

In the alley behind the home, investigators found the intruder's empty crystal wine glass on the ground, unbroken.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Resource: Build Solid Female Friendships

Whitney Von Lake Hopler
source: Crosswalk

Friendships with other women have the potential to either enrich your life greatly or hurt you deeply. But you can navigate the complex dynamics of relationships well if you realize that God wants to use your friendships to help you and your friends grow.  Grown-up friendships stretch and encourage both you and your friends to become more mature.


Here's how you can build grown-up friendships:


Be willing to invest yourself in friendships. Realize that good friendships don't just happen; they take time and require risks. Invest the time and take the risks necessary to build solid friendships. Don't settle for just fleeting fun marred by insecurity; pursue relationships that help you connect well with other women and experience deep joy together.


Discover the purpose for each of your friendships. Understand that God has an overarching purpose for all grown-up friendships, which is that they should honor Him by encouraging the people involved to become the people He wants them to be. But ask God to show you the unique purpose for each of your friendships, as well. Ask your friends questions as you explore the potential purpose for your friendships with them, and pray about the information you receive until you discover what God wants to accomplish in each of your lives through your friendship.


Rank your friendships by intimacy level. Recognize that not all of your relationships are meant to be close. Know that, while you're called to love everyone, you're not called to share intimately with everyone. Put your friendships in the proper perspective by ranking them according to whether they're acquaintances (people you know by name and with whom you usually share facts or clichés, such as a cashier at your favorite grocery store), companions (people you talk with about opinions or concerns, and with whom you share something in common, such as a hobby or children of the same age) or close friends (people you trust enough to share your deep thoughts and feelings together). After taking inventory of your current friendships, ask yourself if you're experiencing true intimacy in any of your friendships, or if you're spread too thin by trying to have too many intimate friendships. Identify those people with whom you sense God is leading you to become close friends, and become intentional about doing so while letting go of unnecessary pressure in your other friendships. Make sure that God is your number one close friend, and rely on the love He gives to love other people.


Open your heart, with God's help. Don't close your heart off to people God wants you love. If you're having trouble acting loving toward a difficult person, ask God – the source of all love – to help you by giving you the love you need for her. Be aware of how people press your fear buttons through their words and actions. Once you identify how they trigger fear in you, talk with them honestly about it, with the goal of sharing a loving conversation that will enlighten you both and draw you closer together. Constantly keep your heart open to receive God's love so you can love your friends as He intends.



Set and respect healthy boundaries. Pursue healing from any past wounds that are affecting your ability to build current relationships in healthy ways. Reflect on your emotions and what words and actions trigger them so you can understand how to express them at appropriate times and in ways that are most helpful to you and your friends. Make sure that your physical expressions of affection honor God and bless your friends rather than making them uncomfortable. Recognize that God has created you to be unique. Don't try to become like your friends; embrace your own identity with confidence.


Embrace differences between yourself and your friends. Accept the fact that you and your friends have different personalities and approaches to life. Realize that, instead of causing you to grow apart, your differences can actually improve your friendship if you respond to them wisely. Let go of attempts to change your friends and address frustrations and unmet expectations as they occur. View the differences between you as gifts rather than annoyances. Bring out the best in each other by inviting God to use the differences between you to teach you to love in deeper ways. Ask God what He is trying to accomplish by pulling you and your friends together, and keep His purposes in mind as you work through your differences.


Communicate wisely. Avoid behaviors that erode the trust that must be the foundation of a safe friendship, such as: gossip, criticism, competitiveness, blaming, manipulation, an unwillingness to confront about issues, jealousy, too much emotional intensity, jockeying for position within a group of friends, and talking instead of listening. Create safety in your friendships by allowing each other to open up with each other and share your true thoughts and feelings. Honor each other by recognizing each other's value. Realize when your fear buttons have been pushed, and learn how to manage your emotions so they don't control you. Be willing to seek forgiveness when you've hurt your friends. Speak encouraging words to your friends. Avoid screaming, yelling, threats, and other unhealthy behaviors during disagreements. Create ground rules for your friendships that make it clear what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Be willing to confront your friends whenever you believe they have wronged you. Learn how to listen well (be empathetic, summarize what was said to make sure you heard it correctly, ask open-ended questions that lead to deeper sharing, and validate your friend's feelings even if you don't agree with them). Rather than harboring negative beliefs about your friends, acknowledge that your perceptions might be wrong and give your friends the benefit of the doubt until you can visit with them to discuss your concerns. Don't make negative comments about other people in front of your friends when those people aren't present to defend themselves; know that if you refrain from doing so, your friends will trust you not to speak critically about them when they're not present. Take responsibility for what you choose to believe about your friends and how you choose to communicate with them; don't blame your friends for your own choices.



Forgive and seek forgiveness. Be willing to forgive your friends after they hurt you, and ask them to forgive you after you hurt them. Know that this is not an option; it's something you must do to maintain healthy friendships. Remember that God has forgiven you and expects you to take His call to forgive seriously. Rely on God's help to forgive and seek forgiveness, no matter what your feelings, and know that He will help you do so. Pursue reconciliation as well with those friends who are willing to restore their friendships with you.


Overcome destructive friendships. Try to prevent being mistreated in friendships by depending on Jesus (rather than other people) to meet your deepest needs, asking God to help you become wiser and more discerning, being willing to trust others after someone betrays you, and seeking out healthy friends. Understand that a healthy friends: brings her own identity to the relationship, supports rather than acts as a caretaker, is honest and truthful but not critical, can make decisions for herself but does not need to make decisions for everyone around her, honors your other friendships while having a clear vision of the purpose God had when He brought you two together, does not try to manipulate you but encourages you instead, believes the best about you, forgives but does not accept recurring destructive behavior from someone who does not repent. Decide to give your heart in close friendship only to women you can trust to hold it well.


Know when to let go. If you have lost a friendship because of another person's choice, accept that you can't control another person and don't try to force a relationship when she doesn't want one. If you're dealing with a destructive friendship in which your friend is mistreating you and won't change, realize that the best choice for you to make may be to let go of that relationship. After a friendship ends, try to learn from the experience by asking yourself: "How could I have done this relationship better?" and "What can I learn from this painful experience and apply to my other relationships?" Allow yourself to go through the grieving process for a friendship you've lost. Ask God to use the loss of a friendship to refine your weaknesses and draw you closer to Him.


Reach out in crisis. When you're going through a crisis in your life (such as divorce, widowhood, a sick child, a death in the family, or your own illness), don't hesitate to reach out to your friends for support. When your friends are going through a crisis in their lives, reach out to them to offer them some of the hope and help they need.


Pass on what you know. Become a mentor (either formally or informally) to younger women who could benefit from what you've learned about building grown-up friendships. Model love in the midst of hurt, offer support in the midst of trials, pray for their friendships, and occasionally include them in fun activities with you and your own friends.


Press on. Persevere through the challenges of struggles in your friendships, knowing that God will use all of your experiences to help you become more and more like Jesus.


Adapted from Grown-Up Girlfriends: Finding and Keeping Real Friends in the Real World, copyright 2007 by Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver.  Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Ill., http://www.tyndale.com/.  

Erin Smalley holds a master's degree in clinical psychology and has enjoyed working with her husband, Greg, doing marriage intensives and teaching on marital and parenting issues. She currently stays at home with her two daughters, Taylor and Maddy, and her son, Garrison.

Carrie Oliver is the director of the University Relationships Initiative at the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and has a private practice as a counselor. Carrie is a speaker at national conferences and women's retreats and travels with her husband, Gary, leading marriage enrichment seminars and parenting workshops.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Resource: Faith: More than an Act

Whitney Hopler
source: Crosswalk

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christine Caine's new book,  Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, (Regal Books, 2007).


Do you enjoy a time of worship at church on Sunday, yet argue with your spouse on the way home while reacting rudely to other drivers in traffic?  Do the people with whom you interact during the week see the same you that others in your congregation see, or do they see someone who struggles with gossiping, lying, envying, or a host of other behaviors you just can't seem to overcome? 


It's not enough just to try your best to act like a Christian, modifying your behavior from the outside in. You need to invite Jesus to change you from the inside out, transforming you into an authentic Christian. 


Here's how you can stop acting like a Christian and just be one: 


Let love – not a sense of obligation – motivate you. Don't waste time and energy trying to impress God with religious words or rituals if your heart isn't truly in them. Understand that God doesn't want you to come to Him out of a sense of duty, but out of a genuine passion for Him. Strengthen your heart – your core spiritual muscle – by staying in close communication with God through prayer and remaining obedient to His Word, the Bible. Expect that as you seek God, you will discover more and more about Him that will cause you to genuinely fall in love with Him and naturally motivate you to live in a way that pleases Him. 


Guard against potential heart blockages. Combat attitudes that can block your intimacy with God. Instead of becoming bored with your faith journey, remain bold and adventurous to keep your relationship with God fresh and dynamic. Remember that there is always more for you to learn about God, and there are always more ways for you to grow into the person He wants you to become. Keep seeking God, and taking risks that He leads you to take. Don't let your familiarity with God lead you to take Him for granted. Remember that everything you have – even you next breath – is a gift from God. Express your gratitude to Him on a regular basis, and live in awe of His power. Prevent lust from blocking a close relationship with God by staying focused on God as your top priority in life. Know that this will keep everything and everything else in proper perspective so you don't become controlled by your desires. Overcome laziness that can block your relationship with God by recognizing that the good works He created you to do are not empty and dead tasks, but life-giving works that are full of purpose. Ask God to help you notice how He uses even the most mundane activities in your life to fulfill exciting purposes. Embrace His plan for your life, and decide to do your part to see that plan realized. Don't let disobedience block your intimacy with God. Remember that every small step of obedience has eternal ramifications. Whenever you sense God leading you to do something, do it. Keep in mind that if God sees that He can trust you to obey Him in small ways, He will trust you with larger assignments. 


Pursue the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Realize that all true Christians should produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Don't withhold any part of your life from God; invite His Spirit to take control of every aspect of it. Seek healing for any damage in your soul that is causing you to produce bad fruit (such as anger, fear, jealousy, depression, or low self-esteem) in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul and empower you to live faithfully. 



Strengthen your mind. Know that if you want to change your life, you must change the way you think. Recognize that the quality of your mind depends on how much of God's truth (as found in His Word, the Bible) you believe and apply to your life. Daily pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind as you read and reflect on Scripture. Don't allow negative thoughts to remain in your mind long enough for you to dwell on them and have them lead you in the wrong direction. Instead, choose to focus on positive thoughts, and let those thoughts guide you in the direction God wants you to go in life. Expect that when you fill your mind with God's thoughts, you will naturally start to act more like Jesus and experience unshakable peace and joy. 


Don't just go to church on the weekends – become the church all the time. Realize that the church isn't a building; it's the group of believers who loves God and other people both inside and outside the building. Don't keep your faith confined to just a weekend worship service. Instead, live out your faith constantly. Share the Gospel message with people, respond to people's needs through loving service, work for justice, disciple new believers, and engage in other activities that God leads you to do in your community and elsewhere. Just as God is transforming you, work to transform your world. Never let complacency distract you from your core mission to help seek and save the lost in this fallen world. Ask God to help you view others you meet as He sees them, and to value their souls enough to give your best to reach out to them in love. 


Shine your light into the darkness around you. As you invite God to transform your life, point other people toward the life God has waiting for them. Look for opportunities to shine the light of God's love into the darkness of the fallen world, dispelling despair with hope. Don't hide from the evil in the world or be overwhelmed by it. Instead, ask God to show you how you can overcome evil with good every day at work, in your neighborhood, at school, and wherever else you go. 


Get up close and personal with other people. Ask God to help you love lost and hurting people. Realize that, while you're not called to help everyone, you are called to help certain people in certain ways – and you need to respond. Pray for God to let you know of specific ways He wants you to help meet specific needs for specific people. Don't hesitate to become involved in the lives of people to whom God calls you to reach, building genuine relationships with them. Rather than viewing them as projects to work on, see them simply as people to love. 


Remain committed. Stay faithful to the ongoing process of living out your faith authentically. Realize that authentic Christians like you, when working together, wield tremendous potential to change the world for the better. 


Adapted from Stop Acting Like a Christian, Just Be One, copyright 2007 by Christine Caine.  Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.  
Christine Caine serves with her husband Nick as a pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, where they have been released to minister worldwide with their family. The director of Equip & Empower Ministries, she is also the author of A Life Unleashed, I'm Not Who I Thought I Was and Youth Ministry – Principles for the 21st Century.

Resource: When Satan Comes Knocking

Dr. Robert Jeffress
Pathway to Victory
source: Crosswalk

When Satan comes against your mind with wrong thoughts, you don't have to concede defeat. Use these practical actions to confront loose thoughts by securing them with the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14).

Action 1: Refuse to feel guilty for wrong thoughts

Imagine you are awakened at 3 a.m. by someone pounding on your front door. More than likely, before you open the door, you'll look through the peephole to see who is causing the commotion. If it were a neighbor, a friend, or a family member, you would probably open the door and invite him in. However, if it were a stranger wearing a ski mask and carrying a pistol, you would hopefully refuse them entry.

If you were certain the person seeking entry into your home intended to harm you, would you feel guilty over his wanting to assault you? Would you lament to yourself, What is wrong with me that would cause this person to want to hurt me? No, you would call the police immediately to apprehend the would-be assailant.

We are not always responsible for the harmful thoughts that come knocking on the doors of our minds. Although allowing outside stimuli such as certain TV programs, reading material, or internet sites to fill our minds can incite thoughts of immorality or greed, we are not always to blame for the first assault of these ideas. If you were stranded on a deserted island, you would still battle against wrong thoughts.

How do I know that? Consider Jesus' experience in the wilderness immediately following His baptism. For 40 days Christ was completely isolated. No other people, no newspapers, no e-mail. Yet during those 40 days, Jesus was tempted with thoughts of discontent, greed, and pride.

"Since God hasn't provided you with what you need to survive, turn these stones into bread."

"You don't need to wait to reign over the kingdoms of the world; they can be yours now if you are willing to worship me."

"You don't need to follow God's timetable. Demonstrate you are the Messiah now! Put on a spiritual circus to demonstrate you are the Son of God."

Where did these thoughts originate? "The devil said to Him" (Luke 4:3) — nowhere in the biblical account of Jesus' temptation does Luke record that the devil appeared to Jesus. Possibly, Satan spoke to the Lord the same way he often communicates with us: through the mind.

Yet did these ungodly thoughts make Jesus a sinner? Of course not! He remained the perfect Lamb of God whose blamelessness qualified Him to be our Savior. If you and I are going to win the mind games, we need to first stop feeling guilty when evil thoughts invade our lives and, instead, learn how to deal with those unwelcome intrusions.

Action 2: Refuse to allow wrong thoughts to linger

If we entertain and embellish wrong thoughts for any period of time, those ideas have a way of transforming into obsessions. These, in turn, result in overt actions or attitudes of disobedience. Pastor and author Charles Stanley vividly demonstrates:

"The initial thoughts the devil sends to us may be just a toehold the first time we entertain those thoughts and dwell on them or fantasize about them. The longer we entertain the thoughts, however, the more likely we are to start making mental plans about how we might act on them.

"It is then the toehold of an idea becomes a foothold. The more we develop plans for acting on a sinful idea or temptation, the more we find that the foothold has become a stronghold. We come to the place where we feel compelled to try out the idea in our behavior. We come to the place where we want to act on that idea more than we want to banish the idea."

When we reach that point, we are in trouble. How can we prevent our thoughts from turning into strongholds for the devil?

Action 3: Recognize and replace wrong thoughts with God's thoughts

My analogy concerning a burglar attempting entry into your home is flawed in one respect. While we may be successful in preventing an intruder from coming into our home, we cannot keep unwanted thoughts out of our minds. The fact that we are thinking about something means that the alien idea has already gained entry.

Nevertheless, we do not need to allow the intruder to sit down in our favorite chair, engage us in an extended conversation, and announce that since he has been so welcomed, he is taking up residence in our spare bedroom! Instead, we need to follow the Apostle Paul's advice for dealing with an undesirable guest:

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Remembering the words recognize and replace will help you seize control over wrong thoughts. Use the questions we discussed previously to help recognize whether or not a thought could have satanic origin.

Is this thought true? Does this thought motivate me to fear more or to trust God more? Does this thought contradict God's Word?

But know that simply labeling a thought as harmful and attempting to dismiss it from your mind is not enough. In fact, the more you try to reject an unwanted thought, the more you will find yourself obsessing over it.

To dismiss Satan's thoughts we must replace them with God's thoughts, just as Jesus did.

When Satan attempted to plant seeds of discontent, Jesus responded by quoting a verse from the Old Testament. "Man shall not live on bread alone" (Luke 4:4).

When Satan enticed the Lord with thoughts of power and riches, Jesus recited God's greatest commandment: "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Luke 4:8).

When Satan tempted Jesus to act independently from God, the Lord quoted: "You shall not put the lord your God to the test" (Luke 4:12).

Jesus understood that the best way to dismiss an unwelcome thought is to replace it with another, more-powerful thought. The best way to dispel darkness is to confront it with light!

When fearful thoughts try to seize control of your life, you can replace those thoughts with, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV).

When you are tempted with thoughts of discontent, you can replace those thoughts with, "We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

When you are tempted by fantasies of sex with someone other than your mate, you can replace those thoughts with, "The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it" (Proverbs 6:32).

I believe it is this process Paul has in mind when he encourages us to gird our loins with truth (Ephesians 6:14). Our success in spiritual battle depends on confronting any loose thoughts with the truth of God's Word.

Adapted from The Divine Defense by Robert Jeffress, Waterbrook Press, 2006).


Monday, July 16, 2007

Fall Planning Tips for Women's Ministry

source: LifeWay
Written by Debbie Stuart
Fall is the perfect time for a change of seasons in women's ministry. A fresh approach may be in order. Let's not just fill the church calendar with "stuff" and "fluff" but strategically plan for a meaningful year of ministry. 
Evaluate Your Ministry

If you have been doing the "same ol', same ol'" for years, then stop! It's time to evaluate the ministry. Ask yourself and your leadership team some important questions:

  1. Is this ministry having a significant spiritual impact?
  2. Are women growing in their relationship with the Lord?
  3. Are women sharing Christ with others?
  4. How can we improve and expand?
  5. Are there new ministries that need to be developed?
Perhaps your ministry is offering "things" that no one needs or answering questions that no one is asking. As you plan to minister to women this fall consider some new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a different approach.
Challenge women to move to the next level. Most women will gladly stretch to the higher place and a deeper walk with the Lord. Your women's ministry should be loaded with opportunities and avenues for them to accomplish just that.
Meet with the Lord and the Leadership Team
Start your evaluation and brainstorming with your leadership team, whether that's just you and your pastor or you and a host of other ladies in women's leadership. Take some time to meet with the Lord and with your leadership:
  • Pull away. Take the team away for some extended time with the Lord (a retreat, overnight meeting or in your home for a morning or afternoon – no interruptions, since the Lord will need your undivided attention).
  • Pray! Ask the Lord what He would like to accomplish through your church's women's ministry this year. What do you think He wants to do with the women in your church? Ask Him to make His plans and desires known.
  • Revive your passion. Renew your commitment to the Lord and to the ministry. No longer settle for status quo. Don't think about doing good things; think about doing God-things!
  • Prioritize. Organize revelations, instructions, thoughts, and ideas to prepare for meaningful ministry. What's most important? What can be implemented immediately?
  • Plan. Brainstorm! Think about events and women's ministry offerings that will move you in the direction the Lord wants to go. Is there a new ministry that needs to be launched, such as a widows' ministry, women's mentoring, community outreach, or missions opportunities?
Once you've met with your leadership and have begun seeking the Lord's direction for the new ministry year this fall, you'll be ready to move forward prayerfully in planning specifics for the fall.
Debbie Stuart is director of women's ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas.

Overflowing Lives

source: LifeWay
Written by Rhonda Rhea
This article is courtesy of HomeLife.
We have a toilet in one of our bathrooms that has a notoriously sticky handle that I'm forever sending kids back to "jiggle." It can be a real nuisance.

We also have a toilet that tends to overflow. It requires an intermittent, ongoing plunge that can get pretty bothersome, too. I never realized how these two little nuisances could become such a crisis of cataclysmic proportions until they both inhabited the same toilet. I put the calamity equation together pretty quickly, though, once I was in the middle of the ugliest overflow I've ever seen.



I wish I could say I quickly sprang into action. After I heard the screams of disgust from my kids, I ran to the bathroom. But then I froze. I just stood there, staring in horror at the toilet volcano that was erupting toxic lava all over the bathroom.
I fought off the shock effects and struggled to be daring and heroic. It didn't help that I was in my stocking feet, but there was no time to hunt shoes — it was time to plunge in.
Tiptoe Through the Marshmallows
I tiptoed in, took the top off the tank, and stopped the eruption. But I was so grossed out that I wasn't quite sure what to do next. I opened the cabinet to see which towels I could live without (forever), and as I pulled open the door, six rolls of toilet paper came tumbling out. Within a few seconds the six rolls poofed to the size of 18. I felt like I was stepping through a minefield of giant marshmallows. At least they're absorbent, I thought.
I found a new respect and appreciation for the Shop-Vac® that day. And I can't tell you how glad I am that maintenance of any item with the word shop in it (as long as it's not related to the mall) falls under my husband's jurisdiction.
I threw away the towels. And the rug. And the shower curtain. And, just for good measure, I threw away the kids' toothbrushes. By the third or fourth shower, I started to feel clean again.
Let Your Ministry Overflow
Sometimes flushing out just the right place to serve the Lord can seem about as tricky. Thankfully, it's not nearly so messy. But it may require a plunge-in attitude: Not diving in because another person tells us to or because we feel guilty if we don't, and not diving in without thought, but sensibly diving into service because that's what God has called us to do. God's Word gives us "plunge in" instructions in 2 Timothy 1:7: "God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible." Verse 1 of chapter 2 charges us, "So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ" (The Message).
Whatever our situation, one thing is clear: We're supposed to be serving. First Peter 4:10 says, "Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God."  Not one of us is left out of the charge. Each one has received a gift. Each one needs to be using that gift in service for Christ.
Paul instructs Timothy to keep using his special gift of ministry. Paul told him in 1 Timothy 4:14-16 to "keep that [gift] dusted off and in use." Then he says to "cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation" (The Message).
When we are in relationship with Christ, we are filled with His love, joy, hope, peace, and more. Ministry happens when we allow Christ's work in our lives to overflow into the lives of others. Romans 15:13 says, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
It's an overflow that leads to maturity in joy and hope  — and it never requires a Shop-Vac!

Rhonda Rhea is the author of Amusing Grace: Hope and Hilarity in the Everyday Calamity of Motherhood. She experiences this grace with five children and her husband, Richie, who is a pastor in Troy, Mo.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to Live with Your In-Laws and Still Love Them

by Sarah Hamaker

When Hurricane Isabel's high winds sent a tree through our kitchen window in September 2003, my family ? husband and 1-year-old daughter ? suddenly found ourselves temporarily homeless. My husband's parents, who live close by, generously offered to house us while our home was being rebuilt. Just over five months later, we finally moved back into our restored house, grateful to my in-laws for their hospitality and thankful to be home.


My scenario is becoming more common across the United States as young married couples ? with and without children ? move back in with one set of parents and thirty- and fortysomethings care for aging parents in their home. "Both situations are pretty common ? having parents come live with you or having to live with parents because of financial or other reasons," says Christine Arnzen, director of training and professional development for the Branson, Mo.-based National Institute of Marriage, a non-denominational, faith-based organization committed to restoring and renewing the promise of a great marriage.


Multigenerational living ? once the norm among Americans from all walks of life ? brings its own set of challenges to modern home life. Whether you're the one moving in with parents or in-laws or welcoming a parent into your home, here are some things that will make the adjustment smooth and God-honoring for all involved.


• Consider the relational dynamics of all individuals. How do you relate to your in-laws or parents? "If anyone in the two families is overbearing, controlling or doesn't respect boundaries, it will most likely not work," says Tricia Cunningham, director of support resources for the National Institute of Marriage. When Cunningham and her family relocated, they lived with her parents in a basement apartment for three years.


• Have a frank discussion about expectations. "I think in order for us to make the leap to give up some of our independence, we idealize the situation," says Arnzen, whose mother-in-law lives with her family four months every year. "We change so much as we mature that a frank discussion of expectations is essential."


Cunningham adds working out such details as who will do which household chores, how long you will be there, or if you will pay rent helps to keep communication channels clear. "Having a clear understanding from the beginning will help keep resentment from growing," she says.


• Maintain your own independence. For example, with children, keep the grandparents in the grandparent mode and leave the disciplining to the parents, Cunningham says. Arnzen recommends giving the parent the option of not participating in family activities and encouraging her to have her own outside interests.


• Honor your in-laws or parents while living with them. One way to honor your in-laws especially is to let them know how much you love your spouse, their child. Arnzen also says another way to honor parents or in-laws is to honor your spouse in front of your parents. "In essence, you teach your parents how to treat your spouse by the way you treat your spouse," she says.


• Date your spouse. Living with family can limit a couple's alone time, so going out on dates can bring your marriage back in focus. "We were able to put our children to bed and have a night out while my mom 'babysat' by just being there in case they woke up," says Cunningham. Arnzen's mother-in-law was delighted to keep an eye on her grandchildren so that Arnzen and her husband could get away for an evening or an overnight.


• Keep your marriage alive. It's important, Arnzen and Cunningham say, to make sure you make time for the physical aspect of marriage. "Make the most of every moment alone together, look at it as precious," says Arnzen. You might have to readjust the times when you are intimate with your spouse because of someone else's schedule, but that doesn't mean the spark has to leave your marriage," she says.


• Periodically check in with each other. If the stay extends past a few weeks, it would be wise to talk about how things are going. Arnzen made it a habit to periodically check in with her mother-in-law about the arrangements every few weeks. She also checked in to see how her children were coping, especially since one teenage daughter shares a bathroom with her grandmother.


• Take care of their spiritual health. If your family members are believers, then you have an added blessing of caring for their spiritual walk with God. It's important, Arnzen says, to allow the family member to worship God in his or her own way at a church of their choosing.


For unbelieving in-laws or parents, in your house, feel free to set whatever rules you might need to, says Arnzen. If you're in their house, don't sweat the small stuff, unless it clearly violates Scripture.


Overall, while living with a family member ? no matter whose house it is ? can be stressful, it also can provide a wonderful opportunity for parents and grandparents and children to become closer. "These situations can be negative or positive ? so much has to do with your mindset," says Arnzen.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va. She can be reached at  shamaker@earthlink.net.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dealing with Disappointment

Cinde Lucas
source: CrossWalk

Lately I have noticed that I tend to be more "testy" than usual. I've noticed it, but haven't addressed it. So this morning I asked, "Where is this anger coming from?" I had my Bible program open and so I put in the word "anger." One of the words that came up was "disappointment," and immediately I knew where the anger was coming from.



Each of us has hopes and dreams for our lives. God actually designed us to be goal- and vision-oriented.  Proverbs 29:18 says that without a vision we actually perish. So it's not a bad thing to have plans, goals and desires for our lives. But what happens when those plans are diverted?   Proverbs 13:12 says that hope differed makes the heart sick. My heart had become sick with disappointments and I hadn't even realized it.



Disappointment is a part of life that every person deals with. Our kids disappoint us; our spouse disappoints us; our friends disappoint us; we even disappoint ourselves. Left unchecked, these disappointments build up and begin to dam up the River of Life that God desires to flow through us. We must regularly ask the Holy Spirit to shine the light of Truth into our hearts and dislodge the hurts, disappointments, and offenses that threaten to cut off the fruit of God's Spirit in our lives. Bearing good fruit is God's greatest desire for our lives ( John 15) and so it is no wonder that Satan works overtime to dump garbage there! What we do with it greatly affects our life and the lives of those around us. All those little foxes destroy the vine of our lives!



I had to admit that I've had several disappointments over the last several months. Then I had to repent and ask God to forgive me for carrying them. Rather than giving them over to God ( Matthew 11:28 ) and allowing His Spirit to strengthen me, I had 'stuffed' them, causing a dam to be built in me. Praise God I saw it today and not twenty years from now!



Don't be afraid to be honest about what you're dealing with. When we agree with God, His grace empowers us to do that which we cannot do on our own. And I don't care how much you try, you can never overcome without the Holy Spirit's Help. Apart from Him you can do NOTHING!



I pray that today the River of Living Water will well up inside of you and dislodge all the hurts and disappointments in your life. I ask the Holy Spirit to work within you to bring healing and restoration to your body, mind, soul and spirit. May you be filled with the fullness of God's love and may your life abound with lots of good, healthy fruit;  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, gentleness, and self-control! (Gal. 5:22-23). May you be empowered by God in your inner being so that you may be completed flooded with His grace, His power and His peace.




Cinde Lucas is an ordinary person, who happens to LOVE to encourage and motivate people! She has a passion to share the Love of God with people and to let them know that God is GOOD and He has an AWESOME plan for their lives! Cinde truly desires to lead people into a closer relationship with God through music; her prayer is that the ministry we share will uplift and encourage people to be all that God created them to be. Visit Overflow Ministries at www.CindeLucas.com.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Healthy Recipes for the 4th of July

source: Independence Eats
By Emily Battaglia, LifeScript

What's the best part about Fourth of July, besides the late-night fireworks finale? It's the food, of course! If you're like most party-goers, you'll be firing up the barbecue to celebrate America's birthday. But don't just bring out the same ol' burgers and tater salad – it's time to think outside the box for this year's menu. We've got some tasty – and healthy – new twists on classic Fourth favorites…

 Blue-Corn Cornbread
Here's to the "blue" for your red, white and blue Fourth of July spread. Blue cornmeal is what makes this dish so patriotic, and it won't leave you slaving over a hot stove inside for very long. Twenty-five minutes later and your guests – both the kiddies and adults – will be happily noshing on this sweet treat. Slather on some honey butter, and they'll be begging for more.

This recipe serves: 12
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 1/12 of cornbread

Calories: 184
Total Fat: 10 g
Total Carbohydrates: 19 g

Blue-Corn Cornbread Recipe
This recipe serves: 12
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups blue cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk, room temperature
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, melted

Cooking Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9" x 9" pan with nonstick spray.
2. Sift the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. (This can be done the night before and kept covered on the counter.)
3. Stir in the eggs, milk and butter with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix.
4. Pour into the pan and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. The cornbread is done when a small knife inserted in the center comes out dry. Best when served warm from the oven.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1/12 of cornbread  
Calories 184  
Total Fat 10 g  
Saturated Fat 6 g  
Protein 5 g  
Total Carbohydrate 19 g  
Dietary Fiber 1 g  
Sodium 284 mg  
Percent Calories from Fat 48%  
Percent Calories from Protein 10%  
Percent Calories from Carbohydrate 42%  

Creamy Coleslaw Recipe

This recipe serves: 6    
Preparation time: 15 minutes

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup drained, crushed canned pineapple
1/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise

Cooking Instructions
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, pineapple juice, salt, pepper and sugar.
2. In a large plastic bowl, combine the cabbage, carrot and pineapple. Add the vinegar mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Drain the liquid from the cabbage mixture and fold in the mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/2 cup  
Calories 39  
Total Fat 1 g  
Saturated Fat 1 g  
Protein 1 g  
Total Carbohydrate 6 g  
Dietary Fiber 1 g  
Sodium 137 mg  
Percent Calories from Fat 33%  
Percent Calories from Protein 8%  
Percent Calories from Carbohydrate 60%  

Nora Pouillon's Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Corn Relish
For all you mushroom lovers (and even those a tad fearful of fungi), this recipe is the perfect way to celebrate America's birthday. Not only does the meaty, versatile portobello taste delicious when grilled, but renowned chef Nora Pouillon has outdone herself with a colorful, complementary corn relish to serve on top.

This recipe serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 6 minutes
Serving Size: 1 mushroom

Calories: 191
Total Fat: 11 g
Total Carbohydrates: 21 g

This recipe serves: 4    
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 6 minutes

For the grilled mushrooms:
4 portobello mushrooms, stemmed and wiped clean
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the corn relish:
2 ears corn, husks removed and washed
1 large red pepper, washed, seeded and cut into 1/4" dice
1 or 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cooking Instructions
1. Preheat the grill or broiler. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and pepper. Add the olive oil slowly and stir until blended.
2. Brush the portobellos with the tamari-balsamic vinaigrette. Grill or broil the mushrooms for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through and softened.
3. Prepare the corn relish. Cut the corn off the cob and put in a medium bowl. Add the red pepper, green onions and parsley. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat the olive oil in a small pan, add the vegetable mixture and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the corn loses its raw taste. If your corn is very fresh, sweet and tender, this step is not necessary. Just add the olive oil to the raw vegetables and stir to combine.
5. To assemble: Place a portobello mushroom on each of 4 large plates. Spoon some of the corn relish on top of each mushroom.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 mushroom  
Calories 191  
Protein 5 g  
Total Carbohydrate 21 g  
Dietary Fiber 5 g  
Soluble Fiber 1 g  
Insoluble Fiber 0 g  
Sugar 7 g  
Total Fat 11 g  
Saturated Fat 2 g  
Monounsaturated Fat 8 g  

Grilled Pizza with Garden Tomatoes and Basil
Pizza? Grill? Why not? Think of your barbecue as an outdoor oven for this adventurous Fourth of July fare. Topped with fresh basil, garden tomatoes and mozzarella, this one is sure to surprise some of your party guests – in a Wow, who would've thought to grill pizza… it's fantastic! kind of way.

This recipe serves: 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 2 slices

Calories: 362
Total Fat: 11 g
Total Carbohydrates: 52 g

This recipe serves: 4    
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

For the pizza dough:
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon low-fat milk
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra for baking sheet
nonstick cooking spray

For the toppings:
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
4 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
pinch kosher salt or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Cooking Instructions
1. Mix the water, milk and yeast together in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the flour, salt and olive oil. Mix together with the wooden spoon until the dough is too thick and sticky to stir.
3. Spread a little flour on a work surface and place the dough on top of the flour. Knead the dough by pulling it from the sides and folding it in the middle. Keep kneading until the dough becomes a smooth ball. If it sticks to the table or to your hands, add a little more flour.
4. Rub a clean bowl with the olive oil and put the dough in it. Cover the bowl with a towel and put it in a warm place. Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
5. Punch the raised dough down with your fist. Turn the dough over, form it into a ball again, cover, and let rise for another hour.
6. Spray the grill grate with nonstick spray and preheat the grill to medium.
7. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin or use your hands to pat the dough into a circle about 12" to 14" across and 1/4"-thick.
8. Lightly drizzle one side of the dough with olive oil and carefully place the dough, oil side down, on the grill. Lightly drizzle the other side of the dough with olive oil (the side facing up).
9. When the dough is golden brown on one side, turn it over using a long spatula.
10. Arrange the tomato slices and mozzarella cheese on top of the pizza, sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil, place the cover on the grill and cook until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
11. Using a long spatula or 2 smaller ones, remove the pizza from the grill and sprinkle the basil leaves over the top. Cut into slices and serve.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 2 slices  
Calories 362  
Protein 17 g  
Total Carbohydrate 52 g  
Dietary Fiber 3 g  
Soluble Fiber 0 g  
Insoluble Fiber 1 g  
Sugar 6 g  
Total Fat 11 g  
Saturated Fat 4 g  
Monounsaturated Fat 3 g

Make it Quicker: Buy fresh or frozen pizza dough instead of making the dough from scratch.