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Archive for the ‘Decision-Making’ Category

 

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Did your jaw drop when you saw that title? Are you wondering if I’ve suffered a brain injury and lost my ability to reason? Let me add a few words of clarification:

 

It doesn’t matter what we believe if our beliefs aren’t based on truth.

 

“Truth is incontrovertible.

Panic may resent it;

Ignorance may deride it;

Malice may distort it;

But there it is.”

–Winston Churchill

 

I can strongly believe that a coin tossed in a fountain will cause my wish to come true, or that a kind, friendly salesman has my best interest at heart, or a sad, desperate plea for financial help is legitimate.

But such beliefs can result in futility and misplaced trust. No, whenever possible I must verify the truth of my beliefs.

 

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On November 8, what we believe will guide us to make a very important choice—a choice for which many of us have grave concerns.   According to a Rasmussen Report released yesterday, 69% of Americans believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. No doubt these folks are asking: Which candidate will be the most likely to change our course and lead us in a more positive direction?

It is imperative we base our decision on the crucial matters impacting our country: national security and terrorism, unemployment and jobs, the national debt, and healthcare, to name a few. Our beliefs about which person is the candidate of choice must be verified by facts—to the best of our abilities.

 

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Let’s be honest, though. Neither candidate is perfect. Then again, I can’t very well hold them to a standard I haven’t achieved myself. Perhaps the answers to these questions will guide my decision:

  • What kind of leader does our country need?
  • What are the most pressing concerns? Which candidate addresses those concerns with realism, clarity, and insightful solutions?
  • Which candidate aligns with the truths I consider most important?

If you’re not sure how to answer those questions, may I recommend you ask for advice from people you highly respect, people who are knowledgeable about current events and have demonstrated wisdom in the life-choices they’ve made. Who are they voting for and why? What news sources do they trust and why?

To be honest, no matter how the election turns out, I have deep concerns about the outcome. Perhaps you do, too. What’s a citizen to do?

Scripture and the forefathers of our faith give us indication:

  1. Be responsible, cooperative, and supportive citizens, as the Apostle Paul laid out in Romans 13:1-7.

 

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  1. Be realistic. Our pastor pointed out a few weeks ago that, much as it may disappoint us, we don’t have to live in a Christian nation in order to thrive as Christians.   Throughout the centuries, the church has actually strengthened and grown when under persecution.

 

  1. Be prayerful. That’s the most important instruction as we approach November 8. Again it is Paul offering wise advice:

 

“I urge then, first of all,

that requests, prayers, intercession and

thanksgiving be made for everyone—

for kings and all those in authority

that we may live peaceful and quiet lives

in all godliness and holiness.

This is good and pleases God our Savior

who wants all men to be saved

and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

–1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NIV)

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.flickr.com (2); slideshare.net.

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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Oh, boy. Here she comes again. ‘Seems like she seeks me out every week. Lord, help me.

As Mrs. T. approached me after church, I braced myself for a lengthy, one-sided conversation. Mrs. T. loved to talk, usually about herself, her pains and struggles. As annoyance and frustration would build within me, all I could think about was how to get away without offending.

Now I realize there is a remedy for such situations.

I could have had V-8!

No, not the fortified tomato juice—the VICTORY x 8!

 

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I can win over annoyance and frustration—when faced with situations I cannot change—even those circumstances much bigger than aggravating people.

The “times eight” refers to eight ways the battle can be fought. By implementing the following actions, victory can be mine:

 

  1. Confession and repentance provide the best place to begin. Lord, my attitude toward Mrs. T is negative and unloving; bitterness and self-pity have taken root. Help me to abandon those roots so they shrivel up and die.
  1. Forgiveness.  You, oh God, have forgiven me of so much; how dare I withhold forgiveness from Mrs. T? Help me to remember that forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s a commitment to lay aside the offense—as many times as necessary.
  1. Prayer for the person(s). Father, my first inclination is to pray you reveal to Mrs. T. how annoying her self-centered chatter can be! But your wisdom dictates I pray blessing upon her (Luke 6:28). Ease the distresses and frustrations in her.  Show me how I can help, beyond providing a listening ear.

 

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  1. Thought Control. Those resentful, self-pitying thoughts in my mind want front-and-center attention, Lord. Turn my focus instead to gratitude. Thank you for the privilege of being your ears and perhaps your voice for Mrs. T.  
  1. Attitude Adjustment. Oh God, help me keep a proper perspective. On a “Scale of Measurement for Difficulties in Life”, Mrs. T rates only a 1 or 2. Forgive me for allowing such a small annoyance to steal my joy.
  1. Affirmation of God’s sovereignty and attributes. It is well within your power to redeem this situation, Lord. Help me to embrace the fact you may have a different plan– that redemptive change take place within me rather than in the situation. May I avail myself of your strength, determination, and wisdom for that change.
  1. Expectation. As Mrs. T. approaches, Father, remind me that you are working for my good and hers. My good undoubtedly includes growing the fruit of the Spirit. But it’s also possible you have planned an additional positive outcome that will surprise and delight—at the proper time.

 

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  1. Perseverance.  Thank you for that glorious promise in James 1:4–that perseverance in faith principles produces maturity and sound character. Thank you for the joy and peace that results—so much more satisfying that allowing frustration to fester!

 

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Since those days of listening to Mrs. T, have I always applied V-8 to difficult situations? No. Annoyance, bitterness, and a host of other negative emotions can still crop up as challenges arise. This post was much more for me than anyone else.

When the next problem occurs and I feel weak to handle it, I’m serving up some V-8!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.faithmessenger.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.indulgy.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Evidence confirms: God loves to take ordinary people living ordinary lives and accomplish impossible feats. Examples include:

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  • An imprisoned slave, elevated to prime minister in a matter of minutes
  • A village shepherd boy who became the greatest king of his nation
  • A widow who took a stranger into her home, and witnessed miraculous events
  • A common girl, chosen as queen in a foreign land and became the savior of her people

No doubt you recognize these persons. We would never consider them ordinary because of how God used them:

  • Joseph
  • David
  • The widow of Zarephath
  • Esther

But if we visited Joseph in prison before Pharaoh sent for him, if we passed by David watching his father’s sheep, if we ran into the widow of Zarephath at the village well, or if we met Esther in her cousin Mordecai’s home, would we have recognized greatness? Would we have known that these people were extraordinary? I doubt it.

We easily forget that what we see from our human perspective is never the whole picture. Only God has an omniscient view of circumstances and events—including past, present, and future.

Only God has the capability of weaving complex events to accomplish his purposes. And his work is always extraordinary. The wonders of creation offer undeniable proof.

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And since you are part of God’s wondrous creation, you are extraordinary. Yes, YOU!

That means:

Our seemingly ordinary lives, lived out through ordinary days, can have extraordinary significance, because God Almighty is orchestrating them.

That doesn’t mean we just sit on the sidelines and watch God work. Choices must be made:

  • Joseph chose to honor God in Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:4), and in prison (v.22), long before his miraculous promotion from slave to prime minister.
  • David chose to spare King Saul twice, even though the king pursued David with the intent to kill David chose to wait for God’s timing for his coronation (1 Samuel 24, 26).
  • The widow of Zarephath (a town not in Israel) surely knew nothing of Elijah or his God when she met him at the town gate. There was no reason to take him in; she had nothing to offer him. As it was, the woman and her son were starving. The land was parched dry by famine. But she chose to believe his assurance that God would supply their needs. And miracles resulted (1 Kings 17:7-24).
  • Esther chose to intercede for her people, even though it may have led to her own death. She saved the Jewish captives in Persia from annihilation (Esther, ch. 4, 5).

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We never know when a decision or choice may directly or indirectly cause significant, extraordinary results.

Therefore, our decisions must be based on scripture-based convictions and values. It is God-influenced choices, day by day, even moment by moment, that will lead us to extraordinary living, accomplishing divine purpose.

But be prepared. We may not know the significance of some of our choices until we reach heaven.

Think of Ruth, who chose to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, from her home in Moab, back to Naomi’s home in Judah. She also decided to follow Naomi’s instructions and glean barley in Boaz’ field. At the end of the beautiful drama it is revealed that Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David and a descendant of Jesus himself, and a book of the Bible is devoted to her story. What an honor for a woman not even from the house of Israel!

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But Ruth never knew.

Extraordinary people live extraordinary lives when they’re led by God–choice by choice, decision by decision. And they leave the results in his capable hands.

(Art & photo credits:  www.St-talkla.org; http://www.1decision1day.com; http://www.ammiministry.org; http://www.joyfulphpist.wordpress.com.)

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FORTUNE COOKIE WITH BLANK FORTUNE

‘Cracked open a fortune cookie not long ago and discovered this bit of wisdom:

“It’s not the years in your life,

but the life in your years

that counts.”

Come to find out, that’s not from Confucius or any other Chinese sage.  It’s from a beloved, former U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln.

Many folks might interpret this proverb to mean:

Live each day to the fullest; a full life is a meaningful life.

But what brings fullness to the day? And what makes a life meaningful?

The answers to those questions lie in another collection of proverbs, not found in fortune cookies, but in the Bible:

  1. A meaningful life comes from finding favor with God and with others (Proverbs 3:4; 21:21). 

Proverbs 3:3 names the qualities that garner favor: faithfulness and love.

It’s true.  Those two character traits play out in goodness, generosity and grace. Without fail, that kind of person experiences great satisfaction in her relationships. After all, that’s how God designed us (Acts 20:35).

“A full life cannot be measured by the quantity

but rather the quality of one’s relationships

with others and with God.”

–Warren Mueller

  1. A meaningful life comes from living wisely (Proverbs 8:35).

And just how do we do that? By applying integrity to our actions, discretion in our conversations, and prayerful, Spirit-led discernment in our decisions.

“Wisdom is the power to see

and the inclination to choose

the best and highest goal,

together with the surest means of attaining it.”

–J. I. Packer

And wisdom leads to peace of mind, contentment, and a clear conscience—important foundation stones for a meaningful life.

  1. A meaningful life comes from internalizing God’s ways (Proverbs 11:28, 21:21). 

These proverbs, (11:28 and 21:21), provide a corollary to the previous one. A wise person follows the course of conduct established by the Father of Wisdom and revealed in the Bible.  He made us; he knows the best way for us to live.

Countless millions have devoted their lives to the accumulation of stuff, the pursuit of fame, and the climb to a position of power.

Yet King Solomon (who had it all) proclaimed: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  Did you notice that four words out of seven in that verse are the same?   “Meaningless!” I hear a bit of frustration in Solomon’s voice, don’t you?

Wouldn’t it be wise for us to avoid the mistakes he made? Maybe we should post that verse on the fridge, to keep us grounded in what really matters: God’s purpose for our lives.

“No real meaning exists

apart from linking our lives

to God’s purpose.”

–John Maxwell

  1. A meaningful life comes from reverencing God (Proverbs 14:27; 19:23). 

And reverence includes honor, respect, adoration, and awe. Embracing these attitudes toward God leads to deep satisfaction, complete peace, and true joy, because:

“The man who has God as his treasure

has all things in One.”

–A.W. Tozer

  1. A meaningful life comes from trusting God (Proverbs 16:20b).

God alone knows me better than I know myself. He alone is aware of what’s going on in the lives of those around me. And he alone can see into the future. Why do I think I’m capable of moving ahead on my own?

Even when trouble comes to call, I can rest assured that such experiences have purpose and meaning (Romans 8:28).

I would do well to remember: 

“Relinquishment is a prerequisite to fulfillment.”

–Eugene Peterson

  1. A meaningful life comes from an attitude of humility (Proverbs 22:4).

Humility is the proper perspective of oneself, especially in relation to God. He is all-powerful, all-wise, all-seeing, and more. Reminding ourselves of his magnificence is one way to foster humility.

Another way is to be thankful. A full, satisfied life is grounded in humble gratitude.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving,

turn routine jobs into joy,

and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

–William Arthur Ward (italics added)

M-m-m. Living thankfully, joyfully, and blissfully aware of each blessing. Yes, that does sound like a highly satisfactory way to live.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Service, Wisdom, Obedience, Reverence, Trust, Humility, and Gratitude.  That’s a long list, Lord.  Perhaps the full, meaningful life is out of reach for me.  Oh, but if I consider the interrelatedness of these qualities, the reach is shortened considerably.  Obedience includes service, and reverence naturally leads to humility.  Humility includes gratitude, and trust leads to wisdom.  Most important of all, YOU want all of your children to experience life to the fullest. Oh, how  I praise you for your direction and provision to make that happen! 

(John 10:10; Philippians 1:6; 2 Peter 1:3)  

(Photo credit:  www.kitchendaily.com.)

 

 

 

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Just as Jennifer was about to take freshly washed sheets to the backyard clothesline, she heard a knock at the kitchen door. Through the curtain she recognized the silhouette of her friend from down the street, Sarah. In tow were her two little boys.

Not another interruption, Jennifer thought. Between the cleanup of spilled orange juice in the fridge and the talkative A/C repair man, I’m never going to get the laundry done and finish vacuuming before I have to pick up Josh at preschool. Jennifer’s to-do list was longer than usual, and with company coming for the weekend, there was a deadline, too. Today was the only day she didn’t have to be at the floral shop where she worked part-time.

Jennifer could have pretended she wasn’t home, but felt compelled to open the door. She was so glad she did. Sarah was crying, although trying to hold back in front of her boys.

“Come on out to the yard with me,” suggested Jennifer, as she hefted the laundry basket once more. “The boys can play on the swing set and we can talk.”

While the two women hung sheets, Sarah confessed that her husband, Rob, had become very angry that morning and hit her. Hard. Sarah desperately needed someone to talk to.

Oh, Lord. What if I hadn’t opened that door?” thought Jennifer.

*     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *     *

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Amy stood in line at the grocery store with her two-year old son strapped into the child’s seat. Behind her was an older gentleman.

“That’s a cute little boy you’ve got there,” he said. “Too bad they can’t stay cute and little.”

Amy smiled. “I guess we just have to look for the positives of each stage as they grow.”

“Yeah, well, there’s not much positive in a grown son who’s become a religious fanatic,” he replied. “Always talking about Jesus.”

Amy was shocked speechless. What an odd comment to make to a stranger.

It was Amy’s turn to line up her groceries on the conveyor belt; the conversation stopped.

In the parking lot, no sooner had Amy loaded her groceries into the trunk, than that same gentleman came walking toward her. His car was directly across from her. It seemed too coincidental.

I need to say something to him, don’t I, Lord, Amy thought, to let him know that Jesus is not who he’s been led to believe. Help me speak your words to him! And calm these butterflies, please!

With Sam still strapped in the child’s seat, Amy walked her cart across the aisle. “Sir,” she began. “I just wanted you to know that I’m a believer in Jesus, too. He’s made a huge difference in my life, and I am very glad I said yes to him!”

The man actually smiled. “Thank you, young lady.”

Two cars turned into their aisle, one from each direction. Amy had to get her cart out of the way, to open up the parking space where she stood.

“Well, good-bye, and God bless you!” she called as she scurried across, already praying. Oh, Father. Did I say enough? Were those the words he needed to hear? Use this encounter to get him thinking. May he reconsider what his son has been trying to tell him. 

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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At the end of a Sunday morning worship service, Sylvia and Michelle saw Cindy walk down to the altar. Cindy had been attending for a few weeks, and had even joined the choir.

The two friends left their seats to join Cindy. Her hands were already wiping away tears; her shoulders shook.

“Is there anything specific we can pray with you about?” Sylvia asked softly. Cindy shook her head.

So Michelle began to thank God for his peace and comfort when we’re hurting, for his power to handle any situation, for his wisdom and guidance to deal with challenging decisions.

Cindy continued to cry uncontrollably.

Michelle stopped praying.  She felt a nudging in her spirit to ask, “Cindy, do you remember the day when you invited Jesus to be a part of your life?” She shook her head, no.

And so Sylvia and Michelle joyfully introduced Cindy to the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace.

The crying stopped, and Cindy broke into a radiant smile.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Each day we have the choice to embrace God-ordained opportunities. Opportunities like:

  • Inconvenient Interruptions
  • Coincidental Encounters
  • Whispered instructions

And no doubt your heart cries out as mine does: Lord, may I not miss a one!

Now, it’s confession time. These stories are based on actual events. Jennifer, Amy, and Michelle are really one person. Me.

Not that I have recognized or stepped out in faith in response to every opportunity God has provided.  Far from. But as I recall times such as those described above, my resolve is strengthened.

I’m trying to remember: We will never regret embracing God-inspired opportunities; it’s the missed opportunities for which we will carry remorse.

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.mprnews.org; http://www.istockphto.com.)

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 “By myself!” “By myself!” “By myself!” Numerous times each day our granddaughter asserts herself, announcing with much gusto that whatever the task, she can handle it.

But Elena just turned two. Although her confidence is high, skills are limited. When it’s time to go upstairs, “by myself” means down on all fours, one limb at a time. One hand up, and then the other. One foot up and then the other. It is a slow and laborious process.

In addition, the grown-up in her wake must be very sly about offering support. No hand on the back, or even hovering where Elena can see it. She’ll cast aside such safety precautions and announce firmly once again, “By myself!”

Child Washing Hands

Hand washing is another activity she prefers to do independently. But her attempts to pump out a dollop of liquid soap often end unsuccessfully. The soap usually lands in or around the sink—not in her hand.

And once the soap is in her palm, Elena reaches for the faucet. Forget the actual washing. If we try to help, she pulls her hands away. “By myself!” Even when she acquiesces, her scrubbing efforts leave much to be desired. Squeezing is her version.

And rinsing is another issue. “By myself” often results in enthusiastic splattering of water on dry dishes, counter, and backsplash.

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Mealtimes offer more opportunities for autonomy. “By myself” means she will hold her spoon or fork as she chooses, not as the grown-ups have shown her numerous times. Elena has yet to figure out that holding a utensil at the very end of the handle is not very efficient.  (The child in the photo is not our Elena, but is demonstrating the same technique.)

Because of her unwieldy grip, Elena ends up turning the spoon upside down as it approaches her mouth. Needless to say, most of the food ends up on her chin, in her bib pocket, on her clothes, on the tray, or back in the dish.

We shake our heads and roll our eyes. Toddlers!

Then it dawns on me. Sometimes I’m not much more mature than a toddler in God’s family. I’ve been known to proclaim “by myself,” too:

  • “Yes, Lord, I need you to take care of the important matters, but I can handle the small stuff by myself. ”
  • “I’ll make this decision by myself, Lord, because—to be honest–I’m not sure I’ll like your choice.”
  • “I can decide by myself what will make me happy, Lord.”

Yep, I can be as foolish as a toddler, even though great wisdom is available to me.

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Wisdom such as:

“Start with God.

The first step in learning

is bowing down to God.

Only fools thumb their noses

at such wisdom and learning”

(Proverbs 1:7, MSG).

Ouch. But Solomon is right.  God made me; he knows the best course for me. Over and over again he has proven himself worthy of my trust — guiding my way, providing for my needs, empowering me to accomplish his plans.

If I can’t trust the One who died for me, who can I trust?

Any time I’m tempted to approach a situation or decision by myself, I need to remember:

“God always gives the best

to those who leave the choice to him”

–Selwyn Hughes

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Father, forgive me for the times I have foolishly asserted my independence. Help me to relinquish control to you. I’ve lived long enough to know from experience that living life by myself does not result in satisfaction. Help me become a person who turns to you first, and asks, “What do YOU want me to do, Lord?” because you are the all-wise One of the universe.  And I know the benefits of following you will far outweigh any costs.

(Photo credits:  www.motherhood.modernmom.com; http://www.childcare.oxfordcounty.ca; http://www.cleftstories.com; http://www.covedevotions2010.blogspot.com.)

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