By Pam Otto

 

 

While sitting in my family room today, I happened to notice the random collection of signs that surrounded me…various words that were hanging on a wall or sitting on a side table.   In just one room I saw ”Kindness Matters”, “It is well with my Soul”, “The Lord is my Strength”, “Be Thankful”, and the most recent addition which states, “He will be our Peace.”  Does anyone else decorate their homes with favorite quotes or verses?

 

I’ve always been a lover of inspiring thoughts…I love the way words can exhort, encourage and even convict us…but what happens when we get so comfortable in our homes, or in our lives, that we don’t seem to notice the inspiration anymore?  What happens when we simply overlook the statements that are meant to encourage us and ground us?

 

There are a few verses in the Old Testament that talk about the importance of keeping God’s Word in front of them, even tying them as symbols on their hands or forehead or writing them on the door frames of their homes.  This was intended to prevent forgetfulness and to remember and recall what God has said.  It was used to make God’s word familiar.

 

It seems that the Christmas season is one of those times of year when we intend to stay focused on the right thing, but can often get easily sidetracked. Before you know it, we’ve bought into the hurried pace of the world and hardly notice when our peace is gone, our joy is lost and our focus is off course. The sign “He will be our peace” doesn’t seem big enough for December.

 

My desire this Christmas is to be a “noticer”…an observer… to be fully present while taking in the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas.   I don’t want to overlook the moments of hearing the inspiring carols that remind us of the birth of Jesus.  I want to notice the bright lights that decorate and bring a festive glow to our neighborhoods.  I want to take in the beauty of the season and notice the countless ways that God shows up in the middle of our full and busy lives.  I want to connect with others and share the gift of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.  I want the peace that comes from spending time with Jesus and deeply knowing and leaning on His powerful Word.  I want to notice Him.

 

Do you want to stay connected to the right things this month?  Will you join me?  Let’s become “noticers” together.  Let’s stay mindful of the words and signs around us and breathe in the Christmas season with a thoughtful pace and a peaceful soul.  Lets “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

 “Commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy. 6:6-8

By Michele Laccabue

 

 

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Imagine reuniting with your closest high school friends for the first time in 30 years. What emotion comes to mind? Excitement or horror? Fear or giddy anticipation?

 

Last year, the idea stirred in my heart that it was time to reconnect with these friendships of season’s past.  We were all approaching a very BIG birthday and I thought maybe celebrating this new decade of life together would ease the pain.  Would anyone be interested? Would old-school fears of rejection come true? I decided to bravely step out and extend the invitation. Thankfully, I did.  Within 6 months time, we were traveling from four different states for our first reunion. Nervous, curious, and excited hearts converged on a weekend of epic proportions.

 

We reminisced and laughed about old times and described the journeys our lives have taken since graduation…colleges, marriages, kids, grandkids, careers, and so on. Not surprisingly, we found out that our lives have endured a lot more bumps, bruises, and broken places than our Facebook pages have revealed. We found out we needed each other. We needed to share our stories. We needed to revisit the familiar and explore the new. A priceless time of nurturing friendships. A time to encourage. A time to support. A time to love.

 

“Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God”.  1 John 4:7

 

The most beautiful discovery of all was to hear how God’s love and transforming power was evident and interwoven in all of our stories. Praise God, We had each found Him! He had knitted us together so many years ago and was now responsible for threading us back together at this current season of our life.

 

The weekend left us energized and longing for more so we planned another reunion this past summer.  For reunion #2 we traveled to our hometown and invited four more girlfriends. We included a tour of our high school and drove by our childhood homes. Very fun, but, again, the best part was spending time together. One of our friends summed it up best, “I wasn’t sure about coming. I was really nervous about seeing everyone again, but now I know this is exactly what I needed. You all filled me up. It was the best kind of therapy.”

 

 

Taking time to nurture a relationship is a gift.  It brings life, renews souls, encourages hearts, and speaks love. What relationships in your life could use some nurturing (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers…)?
It is time to reach out and start the conversation.

 

Jesus, thank you for the many relationships you have blessed us with. Thank you for being a relational God and showing us how to love others. Help us to be better nurturers of your love. Open our eyes to the one that needs a call, a hug, a word, an ear. Time is precious. May we not waste an opportunity to love on someone today and show them You.

Have you gotten your ticket to the Beautiful Conference? You’re invited to invest in you!

 

Lisa Harper is coming! If you have never heard her, you will love her. And those who have, you already know how amazing these few days are going to be!

 

This would be a great gift for Christmas for you and you could invite the women in your life! It’s January 18-19, 2018. Thursday, it starts at 7:00PM following dinner at 5:30 PM and all day Friday. Just one day off work. The price goes up on December 1st so don’t miss your opportunity to get a deal! Register at GFCbeautiful.com today.

We’ll see you there!

 

By Kelli Wild

 

 

Are you feeling a sense of being “called” to something?  Maybe questioning if God has a fresh assignment for you? When God begins to call us to a new assignment, we will usually find ourselves facing three predictable struggles.

 

In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah discovered some devastating news.  His people had been attacked and thrown into exile. The wall surrounding their community, which was of deep significance, had been destroyed; and God asked Nehemiah to rebuild it. Upon receiving his new assignment, Nehemiah, experienced these three predictable struggles.

 

  1. You will question your positioning.

 

Maybe you feel stuck in a current job, are facing personal battles, or are at home with small children and have little spare time.  It is normal to look at our current circumstances and question how we will ever get where we would need to go in order to fulfill what God is asking of us.

 

Nehemiah experienced this. He was not a person of means. He was not a professional wall builder. In fact, he was pretty stuck. He worked for the King, and you can’t just quit that job.

His solution – he deeply sought the Lord and prayed for favor. He leaned into God’s sovereignty at a whole new level.

Despite how his circumstances appeared, Nehemiah knew that God would use exactly where he was to get him where he needed to go. In the meantime, he fulfilled his current duties while waiting for God to orchestrate the next step.

 

  1.   You will feel ill-equipped.

 

In Nehemiah 3, the massive project had begun.  Many came together building their section of the wall, each being listed by name. Some appear to be community members of clout. But there was one man, Hananiah, who is my favorite.

Nehemiah 3:8b says, ”one of the perfume makers made repairs next to that…”

That’s it.  That’s all it says. Hananiah “made repairs next to that.” I’m pretty sure when you are apprenticed as a perfume maker you are not exactly a wall building expert.  I can imagine Hananiah thinking, “Um, I have no idea what I’m doing.”  “I think you got the wrong guy.”  Maybe others thought that about him, too. Sound familiar?

 

The sovereign God of the universe used a perfume maker who said yes.

We can trust God to give us the tools and training we need when we are obedient to his assignment. The feeling of being ill-equipped is what humbly keeps us clinging to God, so he will get the glory, not us!

 

  1. You will be attacked.

 

Ugh.  This is painful to write, but it is true.  When you say yes to building your section of the wall, the enemy of our souls takes note. Do not be surprised by this.

 

While building the wall, Nehemiah and his people were constantly under attack.  The scripture says they learned how to build with one hand while carrying their weapon with the other (Nehemiah 4:17).  They took a proactive stance.

 

Put yourself in the place to learn how to fight in the spirit.  God will often begin to do some inner work to prepare you for what is ahead.  Soak in God’s word and surround yourself with those who have gone before you, as you become battle ready.

 

For some of you there will not be a manual on how to go about the work you are being called to do. You may be asked to oversee the entire project, as Nehemiah was.  Or you may be asked to come alongside someone else’s vision, pick up your hammer, and build your part.

 

If you are questioning your positioning, feeling ill-equipped or facing attack – you’re in good company! I invite you to join the rest of us perfume makers, and say yes to the section you are being asked to build.

 

 

By Misty Umholtz

 

 

“Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, how can we improve at giving thanks in ALL things, even the hard and difficult things in our lives?

 

Recently, I’d been going through a rough patch in this area so I would say out loud everyday what I was thankful for…I figured  that might be a good place to start. I had a list in my head of all these amazing blessings in my life, but the problem was that I spent more time hung up and focused on the things I was struggling with, rather than my blessings.  Maybe you can relate?

 

I started thinking,  What if I am supposed to praise God for who He is and be thankful for even all the hard and difficult things that He has allowed to go on in my life?

 

Do you ever notice how you feel after worship at church on a Sunday Morning? When we spend a few songs praising God, thanking God, thinking of who He is and what He has done for us through His Son Jesus. Do you feel lighter? Does your heart feel full? Does His presence feel near like you can almost touch Him? This is what happens when we spend time doing what we are supposed to be doing.

 

The Bible tells us, our Purpose is to praise and worship Him. In fact, it says if we don’t do that, the very rocks will cry out to Him because everything He created was with the purpose of praising Him.

 

When we praise God, it puts Him in His rightful place and us in ours. It automatically gives us the right perspective. This is what gets our eyes off of ourselves. This is what fills our holes, our dissatisfaction, our restlessness, our disappointment, our frustrations.  They get smaller and vanish when we are Praising Him with a thankful heart.

 

When our eyes are on Him, all the struggles in life seem to fade into the background. As the old hymn goes, ‘the world grows strangely dim in the light of His glory and Grace.’

 

Praise is our pathway to Thankfulness. When we are praising God for who He is and what He has done for us in saving us through His Son, then our heart is full of thankfulness.  It is not based on what is going on in our life at the current moment but it’s based on Who He is and what He has already done for us on the cross.

 

The cool thing about praise is we can do it anytime, anywhere. We can do it at home or in the car, just turn on some worship music and start praising Him. What a great example this is to our children who are watching us live out our faith everyday. This is what I want to focus on. I will focus on what I am created to do and I will be thankful in all things.

 

 

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalms 100:4