Tuesday, July 29, 2014

His Strength for Today

         Are you at the end of your rope today? Have you struggled with an issue for so long that your stress bank is overdrawn? I was there until God spoke into my heart one day:

 I knew without looking at the calendar what day it was: the anniversary of our first-born’s death. Stacie was born with a heart defect and struggled to live a day. Her April birthday generally falls within the Easter season.
This year, as emotions pulled me back five years, it felt like I was experiencing her death all over again. Our pastor was doing a Lenten series on people at the cross, taking one person per week and looking at the crucifixion from their point of view. This Sunday morning the person was Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I ached for Mary as she looked on while the riotous crowd
chose to set the criminal Barabbas free. She had to know what the consequences of their decision meant for her son. She followed Him along the Via Dolorosa as He dragged Himself up the hill, stumbling from weakness and loss of blood. She was part of the crowd watching at the cross as He slowly died. There isn’t any mention of her weeping during any of this. She exhibited strength in the midst of excruciating difficulty, possibly willing that strength to help her son through this ordeal, as mothers sometimes do.

There I sat on that April morning, on a weathered pew, immersed in Mary’s world. I ran through the similarities and differences in us and our situations. At least my child didn’t have to suffer like yours did, I spoke in my heart to Mary. I thanked God for sparing me that and for knowing me well enough to know I couldn’t have survived it. Still, I coveted Mary’s strength. I wanted it for myself.
And then I heard God’s voice speak into my soul, “Cathy, I don’t play favorites. The same strength I gave to Mary, I gave to you.” My spirit immediately lifted as I wrapped my mind around the fact that God loves me the same way He loves Mary. And He has placed within me the strength I need to weather any storm. I left church that day buoyed with a new resolve, a strength I didn’t know I already possessed, and an appreciation for how God uses people in the Bible to speak to present day needs.
 
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2
 
“Heavenly Father, just as Moses and his people sang to you long ago, You are my strength and my song. I will praise and exalt You. Affirm the strength you have placed in the women who are reading this today. Give them a renewed sense of hope for what you are doing in their lives. Amen.”

 


CATHY BIGGERSTAFF writes children’s literature, Christian devotions and poetry. She is published in Pearls of Promise, a Devotional Designed to Reassure You of God’s Love, Mature Living Magazine, ChristianDevotions.us, and is a guest blogger. Cathy is the Director of The Encouragers Christian Writers Group and is on the leadership team for Write2Ignite! Writers Conference. She is also known as “Jewel the Clown” in a Christian clown ministry and uses this unique method to reach people for Christ. Join Cathy as she blogs her “Joyful Journey” at http://www.cathybiggerstaff.blogspot.com and contact her at hiskid410@gmail.com




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Will Be With You


My son, David, was 7 days old when the call from the doctor came with My husband, John’s, final diagnoses. The latest and deepest biopsy confirmed what we had begun to suspect. It was cancer. As I hung up the phone, all I could think or say was, “Don’t let him die on me.” Then I burst into uncontrollable tears. Fortunately, my mother who was visiting and a friend were there with me when the call came.

We had a choice to make. Either stay with the local doctors or go to a specialist in Houston, TX, which was 7 hours away. We decided on the specialist. David was 15 days old, John, my mother, David and I headed out to MD Anderson Cancer Center to start the fight of our lives.

After long endless waits to see different doctors, get blood work, and the other tests needed, we got the final results.  The doctors told us they did not know whether it was Hodgkins or non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma so they would need to treat John for both. Hodgkins has a 95% cure rate but Hodgkins is 50%. They told us the tumor was wrapping itself around the vena cava, the main artery from the heart to the brain, and if the doctors could not stop its growth, it would pop John’s heart. Since the cancer was quick growing, there was an urgency to start radiation immediately. After the radiation, chemotherapy would begin. Then at the close, we were told we may not be able to have anymore children because of their uncertainty of what the lasting affect of chemotherapy would be.

My husband had his first week of radiation treatments before we left for home. Then he made the other 7 weeks of traveling back and forth to Houston for 5 days of radiation by himself. Then came the chemotherapy after a three-week break for Christmas. The chemo was given every week for a year and a half at our local hospital.

During all of this, I learned to draw from strength deep within me that I didn’t know I had until I needed it. God’s revealed strength helped me to be what my husband and child needed throughout the crisis. I learned how to keep my eyes focused on God so my faith in His sovereignty would not waver very far. I learned faith in His provisions as I watched God meet every one of our needs.

At some point, I final got the courage to ask God the question that loomed over my heart, “Lord, Is John going to die?”

He answered in my heart with this, “No matter what happens, I’ll help you through.”

In other words, I was going to have to trust Him through the whole process no matter what the outcome.

After 5 years of going back and forth to Houston for checkups, John was finally released with a clean bill of health from MD Anderson Cancer Center. We celebrated joyously in the victory with medical staff, family and friends. AND we had been able to have another baby.
Then, ten years later, John started having trouble getting his breath and tiredness. The doctors found out one of John’s heart valves was defective and he would have to have surgery. We decided to go back to Houston to see a cardiologist and to be near his other doctors. The cardiologist scheduled surgery with the best he knew of in the area.

The night before the surgery, I knelt down beside my motel bed and prayed this prayer, “Whether John comes through the surgery or not is not my call. That is for you and John to decide but you already know what I want. I leave it in Your capable hands.” Believe it or not I slept soundly until the alarm rang.

The surgery went well and the doctors thought after a time of recovery, John would be fine.  As the weeks and months went by, John was not getting stronger. Then, the doctors realized John was loosing heart function. John’s heart was wearing out and there was nothing else they could do except to keep John comfortable until the end.

After John’s death, I started to realize all the things God had done to prepare me for this new life. In that ten-year interval, God had inspired me to renew my teaching certificate so I could find employment, gave me a strong yearning to move back home, 750 miles away and worked on fears and self-esteem issues so I would be strong for my children and the challenges ahead. God had also given me scriptures and stories from different sources that spoke directly to my situation. I was amazed how God had connected all the dots for my future.


It’s been 20 years now. I have learned by trial and error and asking a lot of questions even if they were dumb. I talked to God about everything and he gave me insight. God gave me the hope to continue on when I wanted to give up. After 20 year, God has truly become my first love, my protector, and my friend.

Are you going through "pain-filled" times? Allow God strengthen your heart and fill you with His hope for a brighter tomorrow.



Mary Jane Downs is a speaker, teacher, and writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and children’s stories. She has been published in Awe Magazine, InspiredMoms.com, Writer’s Advance! Boot Camp blog, Schoolbox.com, The Muffin Blog and has judged the weekly writer’s contests for Faithwriters.com. Mary Jane was recently published in a book called Pearls of Promise. Mary Jane’s also writes a weekly inspirational blog, “Joy in the Morning”, which can be found at www.maryjanewrites.com. Contact Mary Jane at maryjanewrites@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's Your Choice?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV)

"I have some news! I'm going to Christian Communicators!" My heart sank. It sank with disappointment, questions and all-out pity parties. Yes, I was happy for my dear friend Nan. I was thrilled. But at the same time, I wonder what I had or hadn't done. After all, we'd both applied for the last 6 years...and she was the one chosen. Once I was able to pull myself together through prayer and also through her sweet words of encouragement, it hit me. I had a choice. I had a choice to either trust God, or I had the choice to give up and say forget it. What was I going to choose? Ultimately, I chose to trust. I realized, with her help, that in God's perfect time I'd get there. So, I ask you the same question I had to ponder. What will your choice be? Will you trust, or will you give in to Satan's lies and accusations?

Father, help us to trust in the good and not-so-good times. Help us, even when it's the last thing we want to do. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The God of Second Chances

Our Great God is still in the business of second chances and happy endings. He rebuilds shattered lives and restores all for His Glory.

I have experienced God pulling me through many trials in my lifetime. As a child, I lived in a dysfunctional family of divorce and alcoholism which drug me through too many types of abuses; physical, mental, neglect and sexual abuse. Shattered personal crises happened and unfortunately much of it carried on into my adulthood. Those challenges led me to interfere with God's plans and brought unnecessary suffering into my life. Depression, anxiety, relationship issues, mental challenges and low self esteem.
 
I refused to wait on God and walked away without obedience to Him. I had put no thought into having a real relationship with the Lord. I took life by the reigns and left the blessings He had for me far behind.

I have failed and each time, many numerous times, God prepared me for the next battle. I know what the taste of disappointment tastes like.  Yet, I have learned what second chances are over and over and over again. It meant a whole new start and a new life. A chance to make my life better and to make my life for Him matter. A second chance to make things right out of things that have gone wrong .

God turns things all around for His Glory. It did not matter how shattered, battered or torn my life had been, my Father God never once turned His back on me. He won't ever reject you. Trust in Him... that His second chance He  desires to give you is all part of His plan. He is working things out, by His divine process so that you will give praise and see the Glory in Him.

It doesn't matter what your past is, or what you are dealing with right this very moment. It doesn't matter where you are or where you have been, You can rise above it with the chance God has prepared  to give you. God will use the experiences you face to prepare you for what He wants to do in your life.

God took every excuse I had for turning away from Him and turned it into a victory, an overcoming and,to my surprise, a ministry. He turned my “been there, done that” moments around with many second chances.

When I feel alone, I need to remember that I am alone to be with God. To be able to request those, "Lord, please give me one more chance" requests. I will have to put my faith in God and realize that what matters most is my relationship with Him.

God is ready to meet you at your loneliest, at your lowest, when trials come to you, When you need another chance. He is always closer than you think and prepared with His perfect plan. God is always reaching out to people like you and me, people who need His touch again.
Will you say "yes" today to the God of second chances?

Psalm 30:2 (NIV)
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.


 I invite you to listen to a song that touched my heart,
 Forgive Me Lord
http://youtu.be/QOcgZ4Dvt6s

Mary Edwards, Guest Blogger













Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Faithful Friends

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24, NKJV)

"Your radio show today was terrific and I loved every minute of it." that was one of the first messages my dear friend Vonda Easley and I exchanged on facebook. Neither of us knew the friendship that would develop with those few words. Since then, we've laughed, we've cried and everything inbetween. The thing is, we've never met in person. Vonda has been a very faithful friend. But, there's a catch to this story. No matter how faithful Vonda and I are to our friendship, we have one faith that binds us together. That's our faith in God. Without that, our friendship would be meaningless. Though we're faithful to one another, God is even more faithful than either of us ever could be. I'm sure in days to come, we'll let one another down. But, God never will. Has God blessed you with a faithful friend? If not, ask Him to provide that special lady for you.

Father, thank You for the gift of friendship. I ask You to give each of my readers that special friend. Provide them with a woman they can trust and confide in. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Who is God to You?

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”
So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 9:27-29, NKJV)

Who is God to you? This question was posed in my friend Shirley Lee's testimony. In this verse, we're told that some thought He was a disciple. Some thought He was John the Baptist. Still, others thought He was a profit. Let me tell you who He was to Shirley. He was her strength, her peace and in her final days He was her comfort. Who is He to You? You may be going through a battle just like Shirley. You may have cancer. Let Him be your comfort. If you're going through a job loss, let Him be your peace and provision. Ladies, whatever you need Him to be, He is.

Father, help us realize who You are. Whatever we need You to be, be that in our lives Father. In Jesus Name, Amen.   

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Don't Let Your Storm Go to Waste

In the movie Forrest Gump, you may remember that famous quote Mama always said, "life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get". This is so true because each day can be different, one day things are going great. Then another day you may have a problem or worry, but you're okay. And then comes the STORM. To me, a storm is the big unexpected trial or situation that tests your faith, humbles you, makes you stronger and brings you to your knees in sincere prayer. While going through this storm, you will make a choice to be mad and bitter or choose to accept God's plan and purpose for your life.

My storm has been breast cancer. I was diagnosed in January 2013, had a lumpectomy in February, and had my port put in and started chemo treatments in March and finished them at the end of August. I began radiation in October and finished at the end of November. There were good days and some tough days, but God was always with me. I have a great support group of family, friends and a wonderful church family. I have learned that your life can forever change in just one day.

I know that God has a purpose for me to help and encourage others. He has already given me the opportunity to talk about him with many people at the Cancer Center while I was going through treatments and also in other situations. I have been able to talk about His love and how He has given me peace, joy and overwhelming love. And He can do the same for you.

God has continued to work. In my bedroom I have a small tree with white lights and an angel that lights up and during my treatments and on my tough days I would turn them on and this would give me comfort. God put it on my heart this year in January to make a list of names of my family, friends, co-workers and church family. Every day, I draw names and place on my tree and pray for them. I call this my comfort tree. God knows who is in need that day. I have had so many people tell me that the prayer was just what they needed that day.

I'm so glad that God is in control and He directs our path, if we are willing to obey and get out of our comfort zone. I have to admit this is not always easy but remember, where God guides, he provides.

I have a love for music and love to sing about God and all that He can do. Music can give you peace, joy and comfort. It can help to heal your broken heart and spirit. During my chemo, there were many songs that helped me. "This Storm" by McMillan & Life is just one of the songs that gave me comfort and peace. I actually got to sing this at my church during my treatments. You may be going thru a storm and feel that things are hopeless and you don't know what to do. But remember, God knows even when we don't understand. He has a plan and purpose for your life, so just trust Him.

My purpose for writing about my storm is to encourage and help others who may be going thru that big storm in their life. My prayer is that if you know God, you will choose to trust and obey His will. If you do not know God, that you will realize that He is your answer and assurance for eternal life. God never said life would always be easy, but He did say that he would never leave us. Trust him today because he is our only hope. May God bless you

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus".
                                                      Philippians 4:19

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
                                                       II Timothy 1:7


Paula Hendrick, Guest Blogger

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Does Your Life Feel Cracked?

 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:14, NKJV)

A few months ago, I leaned down to pick something up in the church parking lot not knowing what it was. On further examination, I realized it was a piece of jewelry. But, there was a problem. The bracelet had a crack directly in the center. I'd never known jewelry to do that before-just crack right down the middle. But there it was. That got me thinking about our lives. We go through things in life that make us fragil-it may make us crack under the weight and pressure. But, my friend Carolyn Kneifley said it best. She says: "Teacups are like
lives, some are beautiful while others cracked, but they're all worthy
just because they were made." Though the bracelet wasn't a teapot, it's the same principle. Do you feel like your life is cracked? Let me encourage you ladies, God made you, so you're worthy. It doesn't matter what you're going through, it doesn't matter how bad the pain. You're worthy just because you were made.

Father, I ask You to give each reader the strength to get through what she's going through. No matter what the pain, no matter the discouragement, calm her heart. Calm her fears. Most of all Lord, remind her just how worthy she is. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Praying Friends

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessolonians 5:11, NKJV)

The retreat was coming to an end. All week, the attendees had been chalenged to work harder in their craft. Now, the time for a worship service was at hand. Sitting there soaking in the music, that's when it happened. My dear friend, Edie Melson sat down beside me and began to pray. While I don't remember the words she said, the thing I do remember is the affirmation I received from her that morning. To this day, anytime I need prayer I know Edie will pray. And though we don't talk or see one another often, when we do it's as if no time has passed. God brought a special lady into my life that day. Who has He brought into your life that you can call on at any time? If you don't have that person, I encourage you to ask Him to help you find someone.

Father, thank You for Edie. Thank you for the many women You have brought into my life. I pray for my readers. I ask You to send them that woman to pray with them at any time. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

God Had the Final Say

But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27, NKJV)

The time was near. It was nearly time for me to go in the chapel to be prayed over before I gave my talk at the retreat. That's when my friend got the text. "I'm in traffic that's not moving. If I don't make it call me so I can pray over the phone." At that point, my nervousness turned to panick. I began to pray silently for my friend to arrive. So did many others who were aware of the situation. A few minutes later, I walked into the chapel and there she was! God had moved that traffic in order for her to be in that room that day. Humanly possible, Kim did all she could to be there. Ultimately, it's was God's decision. God had the final say. What experiences have you had that required God's intervention in order for it to happen?

Father, thank You for Your power. Thank You Lord that you saw fit to get Kim there that morning. I ask for each of my readers that you show up extraordenarily in their lives. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Shining Light

By Jamie Britt
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mathew 5:16, NKJV)

"You have stage 4 ovarian cancer."

Those are words no woman ever wants to hear. But, those are the words my dear friend Shirley Lee

heard 5 years ago. She immediately had surgery and began aggressive chemo treatments. Ultimately though, the surgeries and treatments still didn't save her life.

I first met Shirley at a retreat last March. Until I was told by someone else, I never had a clue Shirley had cancer. That's not something she immediately shared. It's not that she was in denial about it, she just didn't want everyone focusing on that one thing. She didn't let the cancer define her, she let Christ define her. Shirley was a perfect example of this verse. She did let her light shine. When you were around Shirley, you knew the presence of God was in the room. She exuded it. What is it you're going through today? Is it cancer? Job loss? Marital problems? Let me encourage you, be like Shirley. Let your light shine. Be like the shirt someone had made in her honor that says "Shirley shines." Today, shine that light and shine it brightly. By the way, Shirley didn't lose her battle to cancer, she won her victory crown!

Father, thank You for Shirley and her life. I ask that You minister to each reader right where they are. Lord if they're facing what Shirley faced, give them the strength to shine Your light to the world. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Listen To My Heart


Guest Post by: Vonda Easley

Listen to my Heart
Song written by: Vonda T Easley and Jeff R Steele


Have you ever found it hard to pray? There was one day that I specifically remember this happening to me. Here is the story behind the song.

It was on a Monday. I woke up to a phone call from a friend that was having some problems. She explained to me what she was going through. Her situation seemed hopeless. She asked me to pray for her. We talked a little and as soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again.This time it was her husband. He began to tell me the same things. I promised to pray for them and trust God with this situation. So....I went to my prayer closet to pray.

I had been on my knees many times in my closet before, but this
morning was different. As I began to pray, the tears began to flow.
Honestly, I cried to God instead of praying to Him.
Later that morning I called a friend, co-writer Dr. Jeff R. Steele. I
told him about my experience and he told me that we had a song. We began to pen these words...

There are times I get alone to pray.
I can't find the words I need to say.
The pain in my heart is just too great.
That's when the Holy Spirit paved the way......

Lord I have a burden on my shoulders.
Something's really hurting me today.
So I want to ask you.
Before I even start...
If I can't say the words, would you listen to my heart.

I have seen God use this song many times in our concerts and ladies events to move the hurting. Perhaps you are hurting today and fighting back the tears. I encourage you to let them flow! Cry your heart out to God. He hears your heart.

Romans 8:26 says this.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
 
God hears your heart. Ain't that good y'all?

Vonda Easley
Owner Hope's Journey Christian Ministries
www.hopesjourneyonline.com


FYI: Listen to my heart is available on ITunes for .99 cents. Search
Hope's Journey, Listen to my heart.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

God Had Another Plan


The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10, NKJV)

"You're not good enough." "Women don't have a speaking ministry. "Who do you think you are to get up in front of this group of people?"Those are the thoughts Satan was screaming at me as I prepared a message to give at an upcoming retreat. In frustration and unworthyness, I put the message down.

In the midst of all the accusations, God had another plan. "God doesn't make junk." "You were put here for a purpose and it's going to be fulfilled." My dear friend, Vonda Easley spoke these words of life back into my broken spirit. Though Satan screamed his accusations and words of defeat at me, truth screamed louder still. Like Vonda spoke over me that day, God has a purpose. Ladies, no matter what the accusations are, God has a purpose and a plan. He has something specific for you to do, and only you can fulfill that purpose. So, what do you feel God nudging you to do but you've mot done it because of the accusations?

Father, thank you for the encouragement of Godly friends. Thank You Lord that though the enemy threw accusations my way, the truth of Your Word was even louder. I pray for my readers. Show them their purpose in Your kingdom and give them the courage and strength to fulfill it. In Jesus Name, Amen

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sisters in Action

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thesolonians 5:11, NKJV)

"You're not alone in this battle. God has a purpose for your life...no mater what is going on in your life." These were the words a sweet sister in the Lord spoke to me at a writers conference just last weekend. She didn't sit and condemn the way I was feeling by telling me to just get over it. She shared her battle with the same issue and then pointed my focus back to God. Later, when the discouragement wanted to get hold of me again, once again she pointed my focus where it should be. That was a sister in action. What are you going through today that you need a sister to come along beside you and tell you, "you're not alone." Let her point you back to the Lord-our ultimate encourager.

Father, thank You for Your gift of sisters. Let us not take them for granted. Help us see when someone needs a sister to point her gack to You. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are You Drowning?



“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Mathew 11:28-30, NKJV)

"On days you'd rather sit down and in your weariness drown, press toward me child, and I'll give you peace of mind."

During the week, I'd heard those words a thousand times. They were the lyrics to a song by my friend, Brenda Blankenship. But yesterday while home from church with a cold, the Lord let me hear those words as if for the first time. There have been many times that I've wanted to just sit and wallow in my circumstances. I've felt like I was drowning in what I was going through. The Lord showed me through the song that as long as I come to Him, He'll be the one that will give me that peace of mind that I so desperately seek. This verse tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Let us all take a deep breath and take on that easy yoke today. What are you going through where you feel like you're not going to make it through?

Father, I pray for my sister and ask that You give her strength. I ask Lord that You show her she's not alone and You're with her in the midst of her circumstances. In Jesus Name, Amen.



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--
Jamie
Jamie Britt
Writer/speaker

Follow me on Twitter @britt_jamie
Download my Ministry One Sheet
  "The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I hope in Him!"
Lamentations 3:24, NKJV