Tightrope vs Narrow Road

"On a Tightrope"
Today, I have many things on my mind.  However, they all converged into one ultimate concept that abruptly approached my mind like a freight train and, mentally, I found myself flattened underneath the weight of it all.  I have been walking on a tightrope attempting to balance being perfect with being human.  The question is . . . why am I on a tightrope?

A Tightrope?  Really?

In all the illustrations and accounts in the Bible, I never once recall Jesus or the disciples referring to our walk with Christ as being a tightrope walk.  Did Jesus ever express that we must pull our weight from side to side in order to not fall into the pit?  What a miserable existence!!!!  And yet, here I am with a balancing rod, a taught rope, and am positioned between where I was and where I expect to be.

The Difference

What, then, is the difference between my terrible tightrope and the narrow road that is spoken of in the New Testament?  The narrow path was attainable by God's power.  Walking on it was not easy, but the path that God puts before us doesn't shake with pressure (Matthew 7:14, ESV).  No balancing rod gives us a sense of comfort, because the God of eternal peace is by our side holding our hand.  Do you know that the tightrope wiggles and the wind blows making us feel so insecure with life being so tumultuous, but those heading to the narrow door are secure, steadfast, and have no fear!

Getting Down from the Rope

Finally, after finding myself midair, dangling precariously, I begin to ask, "how in the world do I get down?"  I have glorified my efforts and I have been putting so much time into keeping it all together that I do not know how to stop!  Life still must happen, things still must get done, but the narrow path is firm, unshakable, and a path of peace.  Let's just say I'm more than happy to exchange my tightrope for God's narrow path.  The more I rely on God and let Him lead my steps, the less my tightrope looks so thin and unstable, and the more I see that God has set me on his path and his purposes.  Less worry, more trust.  Less stress, more peace.

The Way

Therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
    a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
    ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’  (Isaiah 28:16, ESV)
In Psalms 118:22, the writer prophesies about "the stone that the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone."  The New Testament has multiple references of Psalms, indicating that Jesus is this stone that has become the cornerstone.  Finally, in the book of Isaiah, Isaiah writes about the cornerstone, a foundation that has been laid in Zion, "a precious cornerstone", "a sure foundation", and "whoever believes will not be in haste."  Who is the narrow path?  Who is the cornerstone?  The foundation on who we should make our paths?  Jesus is the foundation, the cornerstone, even the narrow path!

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  I am not saying that I was completely away from the truth while on my little tightrope escapade, but I will say that I have not been walking and abiding in the truth.  Relying on human strength is exhausting!  Trusting in God is energizing and things just have a way of turning out the way they should.

Abandoning the Tightrope

Let's call it jumping ship, shall we?  I no longer wish to rely on me and wiggle about midair.  God's way is infinitely better and I think He can show me the "ropes".  Just had to throw that one in there.  I am going to determine steps to knock me off my tightrope and get me back on solid ground and back to that narrow path where Jesus is the Way.

My Steps

1.  Pray over my plans - I often make schedules, agendas, and to do lists to keep me organized, but I want God to be involved in my plans.  I am going to start praying before writing anything down that He guides me to what is important and down the path He has for me each day, week, and month.

2.  Identify tightrope areas - When do I tend to wobble in the wind or teeter totter with nothing but a balancing rod?  Do I need to be where I am at?  Or am I doing too much in one area?

3.  Look at my feet - We can't be prideful when we are looking at our feet.  Our head is bowed, our eyes our downcast, and well . . . feet aren't that pretty!  What I am speaking of is humility and I need plenty of it.  Realizing that all my efforts are nothing without the King of Kings and casting myself before his grace recognizing that all I want in life resides in Him.

Your Steps

If you read every word on this page and found yourself teetering at the top with me, then perhaps you have some steps to make yourself.  What will they be?  What is your next step?  Are you ready to come down?


"Moving" Out in Faith

Vintage Panoramic of Italy on Metal by ArtHouseGraffiti

Recently, my family made a huge life change.  My husband who is a military member was transferred overseas and we were able to accompany him.  As of June, my husband, my son, and I are now in Italy.  Beautiful, amazing, yet completely terrifying!  Think of living completely away from all you are familiar with for as many as three years.  I wanted to go, I was happy to go, but actually going has been a very hard experience.  Transition is not always an easy thing. 

"Oh Poor Baby"

Before we left our home in Gulfport, Mississippi, I cannot tell you how many people responded to our news with sarcasm as thick as molasses with the phrase "oh poor baby, a transfer to Italy!"  At the time, I agreed.  How could I ever complain about having to rent out our house, deal with the pressures of packing, and the sleepless nights that go with so much change?  After all we were moving to Italy!  With the stress and the pressures from moving, I kept telling myself that no matter what happened it would all be worth it when I got to Italy and everything calmed down.  However, no matter how exotic the location, no matter how beautiful the terrain, or how wonderful the accommodations, moving is hard.  Moving is emotionally intense and I think everyone going through a move deserves a completely authentic "oh poor baby".  Let's face it with life changes, especially moving, it is hard no matter where you are going.

World Traveler Heart Necklace - Italy - TheGreenDaisyShop
How Vast Beyond All Measure

All I can think of is the song "How Deep the Father's Love for Us . . . How Vast Beyond All Measure".  My God is vast enough to wrap his love around the entire world.  How comforting it is that this move did not move me beyond God and his love.  Through this experience, I am learning how to depend on God and take comfort in Him.  Think of how we sing around Christmas how Jesus brought tidings of comfort and joy, but we do not often think about what it means to have comfort and joy through Jesus.  Look at how God wants to bring us comfort in our trials and tribulations:

Isaiah 54:10-11 (ESV)
"For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
    behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
     and lay your foundations with sapphires.

God can bring us comfort in many ways.  He can comfort us through other people.  He can comfort us through time spent with Him and in his Word.  I notice that when I am in a situation that is beyond me, stronger than me, and too much for me, I have to make a conscious effort to take hold of God's peace, comfort, and joy.  The more I hold on to my stress and my uneasiness, the less God is able to pour his peace out in my life.  By holding on to other things, I am basically telling God there is no room for Him.  In moving, the stressors are numerous, but God is stronger.  I need to continually grab hold of God and let go of my right to panic and get upset.  He is my peace, by comfort, and my joy.

Never Homeless

By most definitions, I am homeless.  I am uprooted and stuck in a hotel for up to two months.  We have yet to find a new place to live and for right now, this is where we hang our hat.  Though this be so in the physical, spiritually I am never homeless.  In fact, I am not at my actual home even when I am in a house that I call my home.  Heaven is my home.  Oh how corny right?  I have heard that said so many times that I merely want to point and laugh at my own little statement.  It has been said so many times that it has no meaning; however, I defy its commonality and I declare it to be reinstated with a full rich meaning.

- Heaven -
The kingdom of God where I will live with Jesus forevermore worshipping with the Saints in his glory

- is -
It is now, it has been since God accepted me as his own upon my acceptance of his salvation given freely by Jesus, and it will always be

- my -
This soul and body built by the hand of God created to glorify the Father

- home -
A place of acceptance, security, and eternal peace; a place that one belongs and has life, a place that was created for all of mankind to abide

Heaven is my home, thus I will never be homeless on this earth.  God says we are to live our lives a part of his kingdom; basically, heaven is not some far away place that one day will surface when we are all dead and gone.  The kingdom of God is present and alive.  Heaven (the kingdom of God) is (right now) my home!

Men's Map Cufflinks Rome Italy - by ivcreations55

La Fede Quotidiana (Daily Faith)

Trust me, though I write this, I do not have everything together with this whole stepping out in faith . . . across an OCEAN.  I labeled this section la fede quotidiana, which means daily faith in Italian.  The more we step out in faith the more we have to rely on God to support us.  And we wonder why God asks us to step out in faith!  Duh!  We pray, "Oh God, help me to draw closer to you and really learn to depend on You in all things."  Then God says, alright, then step out in faith in this thing.  So many times we say, "hold it God! That is a little bit much right now, but if You'll just bring me closer to You I'm sure I'll be ready next time."  Can't you see it?  We ask Him to draw us closer, He provides the opportunity to grow us, we tell Him to draw us closer so we'll be stronger next time to do the stepping out in faith . . . and the whole time God is telling us, "I Am."

While I have done my fair bit of grumbling and complaining about all the changes and stressors that I've had to deal with during this trip and move (only my husband knows just how much), I am so thankful that God can use this in my life and in my family to grow us closer to Him.  He is so amazing how He can use the fire to burn away the chaff and refine our lives to be molded more like Him. "Moving" out in faith is just what God wants for our lives so He can draw us closer and help us to learn to depend on Him alone.


How to Care for a Family Member with a Cast

How to Care for a Family Member with a Cast
by Patty

What to look for and when to call the doctor or go to the emergency room

The Broken Foot Necklace - Slashpile Designs
Most families have at least one member that has had the unfortunate experience of breaking a bone. Children can fall out of trees, off playground equipment, or down a rocky hill. Adults can fall in a variety of ways such as falling off a ladder, slipping in a tub, or on the proverbial banana. Whatever the cause of the fall or the age of the person, there are certain basics that are important to know when a cast is applied.

Sock Monkey Cast Cover - Darkhorse Artwork
As with any broken bone a trip to the emergency room is a must. With a fresh injury, a plaster cast may be applied first, and then as the swelling subsides, a fiberglass cast may be applied later. A stockinette is first applied over the skin to provide protection, then padding is applied next to pad bony surfaces and to help prevent pressure areas and skin breakdown. Plaster casts are not waterproof and therefore should not be allowed to get wet under any circumstances. On occasion a broken bone may penetrate the skin or is not reducible (put back in place) by external manipulation and requires surgical intervention. If this is the case, post-surgical bleeding would be expected. This may require a window to be cut into the cast in order to provide a way to change the dressing over the wound. Fiberglass casts are waterproof and won't disintegrate when wet, but do not get any cast wet without your doctor’s permission. The casting material comes on a roll that is dipped in water. This causes a chemical reaction, which may cause a warm sensation on the skin. Avoid putting pressure on the cast until completely dry. The cast needs up to 48 hours for the drying process. When a cast is applied, do not leave the emergency room if you have any sharp or rough areas around the edges that are causing irritation.All of the edges should be thoroughly padded to prevent redness or infections.

Typically, there is swelling present when a bone is fractured. This blog does not address emergency care of a fractured bone. After cast application, it is very important to keep the limb, arm, or leg elevated to help reduce swelling and to prevent further swelling. Swelling may cause very serious complications and must be managed correctly. Keeping the extremity elevated above the level of the heart will facilitate a reduction in fluid buildup. It will not take long to find out that hanging a casted leg or arm down (dependent position), causes swelling and pain. A sling will provide needed support and elevation for the casted arm. Multiple pillows offer a way to keep the casted leg elevated.

Arm Cast Cover - Coveroops
There are" five P's" to observe with any cast application:

PAIN - It is expected that intense pain would be present with any fracture. Casting the area and therefore getting the bone ends in alignment can reduce discomfort as the bone has been stabilized, but pain can still be acute for a couple of days. The physician may prescribe pain medication for a short period of time. More complex fractures may cause extended pain depending on the need for surgical procedures.

PALLOR - Pallor is an absence of normal color. Fingers or toes may appear pale, lacking in color. This may be an indication of poor circulation to the area usually due to swelling.

PARESTHESIAS – This is a sensory loss such as numbness or a tingling sensation. Paresthesias can occur from compression of a nerve, from swelling, or from pressure. These symptoms should be taken seriously and a doctor should be called.

PARALYSIS – This is an inability to move the extremity. There may be nerve compression and this should not be ignored.

PULSELESSNESS - When feeling for the radial pulse (at the wrist) or the pedal pulse (on top of foot approximately 1 ½ inches above the toes), no pulse is felt. Look for a bluish/gray color to the nail beds. If you press on the nail bed and it does not blanch (lose color) and refill with a nice pink color, this would indicate lack of circulation or at least poor circulation. This needs immediate attention. Note that sometimes the pedal pulses are difficult to assess unless you are trained to palpate (feel) these. In this case, look at the nail beds for that nice pink color. If the nail beds are pink, blanching, and refilling well, the circulation is most likely fine.

Crutch Pad Covers and Hand Grip Set - Myscap
Use common sense when taking care of a casted limb. Never put something down into the cast to “scratch” itchy skin. One of my former patients used a long comb to scratch inside of their cast. The comb fell down into the cast and they were unable to get it out. They ignored the problem and did not tell anyone. When the cast came off, there was a large ulcerated sore in the shape of a comb where the comb had pressed on the skin for weeks. As you can see, it is very important never to put any object into a cast. If an object does inadvertently become lodged in a cast, seek medical attention.

Crutch Pouch Purse - Bella By Mary Heath
If your child complains of itching, try using a hair dryer set on COOL to blow air into the cast. A fiberglass cast will allow the air to circulate soothing the skin. 
If the skin remains wet or perspiration causes too much moisture, this may result mold growth or a possible infection. If having a problem with wetness, call the MD.

Keep all doctors’ appointments as your MD may notice something that you don't notice that needs attention.

Never walk on a leg cast before the doctor gives permission. If you have a leg cast, a special heel is applied to the plaster (walking cast) or a special cast boot will be provided. DO NOT WALK on the casted limb without specific permission from the doctor. If the bone is not healed adequately this could cause major complications. Crutches or a walker would be necessary when the physician orders NWB (non-weight bearing) or PWB (partial-weight bearing). Avoid full weight bearing until given permission.

Crutch Necklace - Sterling Silver Charm - Treasured Charms
When it is time for the cast to come off, often people are afraid that they will get cut from the circular blade. It appears that the blade is whirring around in a circular motion, but in reality the blade does not turn in a circular motion, but vibrates at a very high speed side to side, thus making it very safe. Also don't forget that there is thick padding under the casting material. Once the cast is removed the extremity may look pale, thin, and have a dry or scaly appearance to the skin. This is normal as it has not been exposed to the sun, the muscles have not been used as normal, and there is an accumulation of dead skin cells that would normally have been washed off with bathing.
This information is not intended to replace your medical practitioners care. There are more in-depth complications that were not covered here. Always consult your physician with any concerns or questions you may have.


Staying in Love: Part 2

Staying in Love: Part 2

By Brooke Shambley

Jesus taught the disciples about faith in the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders.  However, when Jesus speaks of building our house upon the rock and not upon the sand, I often think about how applicable that message is to marriage.  Here is the parable account:

Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When it comes to staying in love, it absolutely matters what type of foundation our marriage is built on.

A beachfront house threatened by erosion - by Dirk Frankenberg
Type 1: Marriage Built on Sand

Many types of sand exist in marriages today.  Some have to do with the initial forming of the marriage, some have to do with existing problems in a marriage, and some have to do with marriage habits or lack thereof.  A marriage built on sand is unstable, unfulfilled, and when the storms come that marriage may not stand.

Sand of Selfishness - Why did you get married?  Ouch, that's a hard question, right?  Sometimes our motives aren't what they should have been when it comes to marriage.  Maybe our spouse was a major hottie or maybe they made us feel like a better person.  So many reasons to get married exist: to remove loneliness, to have companionship, to make our life better, to have children, to marry the hottest girl/guy, or maybe to be taken care of by someone.  While it might seem that most of these reasons are just fine (minus maybe marrying the hottie), they are all selfish motives.  We need to let God remove the sand of selfishness from our marriage.

We may have gotten married for selfish reasons, but God still has amazingly wonderful plans for our marriages!!!  Remember the verse Romans 8:28? "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  As a couple, you have to seek God to renew the purpose of your marriage.  In Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV 1984) God says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Pray to the God who has plans for your marriage, plans beyond what you may have thought for your marriage.  Allow Him to hold the reigns for your marriage and see Him convert the sand of selfishness into the rock of his will.

Sand of Relationship Sin - The second kind of sand that many marriages are affected by is that their relationship is already in sin.  So many couples begin their marriages from a life of sin.  The movies show that living together is only natural and being intimate before marriage is merely a part of deciding if that person is right for you, but the Bible is very clear that this is not God's plan.

Let me let the Bible speak for itself.  2 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV) says, "I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced."  Also Hebrews 13:4 (ESV) states, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."

May I be clear that God is ready and able to take this sand of sin and turn it to stone?  God is a beautiful redeemer and can take a marriage that has been built on the sand of sin and bring it to stone that is mighty in His strength.  However, as 2 Corinthians 12:21 mentions, a couple that begins in sin must repent before God to be renewed.

Sand of Good Intentions - Just because we may have married for the right reasons and didn't have a sinful relationship before marrying doesn't mean we are still operating in the right spirit.  Often we go into marriage expecting ourselves to be the best spouse ever and one day the best parent ever.  We also expect our marriage partner to be everything we ever wanted from a spouse.  At this point, we are victims of the sand of good intentions.

We must sacrifice our good intentions to the cross as well as our expectations of our spouse.  A marriage doesn't operate on what should get done or the love we intend to show.  A good marriage happens because of what does happen and what love we actually show.  Let yourself be the spouse that God intended, not the spouse that you expect yourself to be.  In addition, let your spouse be the spouse that God intends, not the spouse that you expect them to be.

The sand of good intentions can be transformed into a stone of reality.  God can take our hurts of expectations not met and show us that He has met our expectations all along.  He also helps us to show our love, display our love, and be vessels of his love to our spouse.  Give up your expectations of yourself and your spouse and allow God to pour out his love into your marriage.

Dar al-Hajar - by Yemeni
Type 2: Marriage Built on Rock

Rock of Salvation - I will be completely honest with you.  You will not have a fulfilling marriage built on stone, if you have not given your heart to God.  He is the only one who can bring you fulfillment and if you are looking for emotional fulfillment anywhere else (including through marriage) you will never find it. 

By giving your life over to God and committing your marriage to his will, your marriage will become built on his purpose and his rock of salvation.  That's not to say you won't have issues, we all do.  However, if we stop relying on our spouse and rely on God as our source of love, the expectations that we have been laying on our spouse will become areas that God's grace can cover.  God is perfect, our spouse are humans and sinners.  Rely on God and minister to your spouse in love.  Amen.

Staying in Love on the Rock of Salvation

When we allow God to redeem our marriages from the sand of relationship sin and the sand of selfishness and we accept the salvation God offers for our hearts, God can be the power pack of our marriage.  Staying in love doesn't have to be a human effort, rather God can supernaturally work in our marriages!!!  I'm not saying it's going to be easy, I'm not saying it's going to happen in a day, but when we begin to let God build our marriage on the rock He can and will do miracles.

Staying in love means relying on the source of love, our God who is love.  Commit today to staying in love with your marriage partner by laying your life and marriage relationship at the foot of the cross.  Allow his redemption to redeem your heart and your marriage, his rock of salvation is the only foundation on which to build your marriage.


Series: Staying In Love - Part 1

Word Art I Love You More Than by Hop Skip Jump Paper
Staying in Love - Part 1

by Brooke Shambley

Our culture abounds with books, movies, television shows, and even people telling us how wonderful it is to fall in love.  However, notice the verb in the statement "fall in love" is to fall.  Think of your worst nightmare.  For most people we think of the dream where we are falling through the air without any hope of stopping.  I know I've had that dream at least once.  Why would we want to think of love in the same way?  As if we had no control, no self-awareness, and no ability to think rationally.  "Falling" in love can be fun, spontaneous, and even monumental, but staying in love is another story. 

If we fell in love, can we fall out of love?  Of course, because we have sold ourselves on this helpless, hopeless, and irrational noun called love.  I don't want to live out love as a noun.  In fact, love as a noun is boring!  We have to add verbs of excitement like "falling" and "making" to act like this noun love is any fun at all.  Instead . . . I want to love and be loved.  I want to live out love as a verb.  Not like we love our cat, love pizza, or love watching movies.  This verb love is way more intense, way more wild, and way more exciting than the cheapened verb that we use to express are ardent likings.
Each post of this series on "Staying In Love" I will post ideas for couples who want to learn to live out love as a verb.  This is for those who desperately need to love each other past their initial feelings of falling in love.  I include myself in this category.  We all need to be reminded of ways to act out love in our marriages.

Make a Sacrifice

Dude, I am not talking about chopping off a head or anything here.  I mean remind yourself that your spouse is worth taking a hit.  Acting out love, living love as a verb means putting aside ourselves and realizing that this other person deserves to be loved and is a precious child of God.

Word Art I Love You More Than by Hop Skip Jump Paper
For men:
  1. Leave the golf clubs in the closet and tell your wife you'll go shopping with her.
  2. Get up early, get the kids ready, and serve your wife breakfast in bed. 
  3. Take the money you were saving for a big screen television and make one of her dreams come true. 
For women:
  1. Tell the kids to entertain themselves and sit down with your spouse and watch his favorite show. 
  2. Make the world stop.  Put the kid's activities on hold, don't plan any appointments, clear the night and make it "All About Daddy" night. 
  3. Do the thing you hate to do that your husband loves, whether that's rubbing his feet or ironing his shirts.
John 13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
Jesus loved us so much that He lived in our world as a servant and died on a cross for our sins.  Our spouses are humans that certainly make mistakes, but just as Jesus was a servant to this messed up world so we are supposed to serve our spouses.  Love means serving no matter what . . . loving no matter what.
Let Go of the Excuses:
Sometimes I feel like saying, "I am woman, hear me roar!!!"  I think that being a woman gives me some divine excuse to act emotionally and express myself adamantly.  It doesn't.  I must let go of my excuses.  It doesn't matter how much I decide he deserves it or that he should have done something differently to be treated differently by me.  My excuses are null and void in the realm of the the verb love.  This applies to men as well.  Just because your wife acts "irrationally" or "emotionally" doesn't give you an excuse to walk around with a bad attitude.  Let go of the excuses.  Loving our spouses applies all of the time in all situations anywhere we are at physically or emotionally.
To men:
  1. Determine in your mind to demonstrate your love the next time your wife reacts poorly.  Decide in advance to not act out in response and instead ask her what you can do to show her love.  She may still be upset, but don't give up.  Earnestly show her that you want to know how to best show love to her in all situations.
  2. If you've had a bad day, remove that as an excuse in your mind.  Even on a bad day, the worst, you are called to love your wife.  Take one of your bad days and pick your wife up flowers on the way home.
  3. At a time when you are very tired, almost exhausted, offer to get your wife a drink from the kitchen, offer to rub her back, or offer to do something for her.  Recognize the need to demonstrate love even when you are most tired.
Valentine Word Art I Love You More Than
by Hop Skip Jump Paper
To women:
  1. Determine that during your next monthly "fun" time will not be an excuse for not loving your husband.  Tell him in advance that you may need time by yourself to cool down, but that you want to remove that week as an excuse.  You want to love him all of the time, not just three weeks a month.
  2. The kids have been terrible, the house is a wreck, company is coming, your husband is late, show him love.  On a day that normally is your excuse to be emotional, unraveled, and down right mean, resolve to greet your husband warmly and love him well.  Go out of your way to put aside the excuse of the bad day, and resolve to make him feel loved regardless.
  3. It's been a long day.  Everything took a long time, grocery shopping, appointments, etc., but that isn't going to be an excuse this day.  Ask your husband what you can help him with even though you are tired.  Find someway to love him well despite your having a tiring day.
Ephesians 4:1-3, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
2 Corinthians 13:11, "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."
The Bible says to live in peace, humility, patience, and gentleness.  It says nothing about excuses.  There are no free passes in love.  There are no get out of jail free cards either.  Love doesn't just take a hiatus while we deal with our emotions, our days, our exhaustion, or other life issues.  Loving our spouse is not just a full time job, it's a full life job.
Continued in the next blog post . . .
Note: Some of the information in this blog came from a recent sermon at Gulf Coast Worship Center in Long Beach, MS. Call it inspiration, not a photo copy.


Bible Study: Caught Up

On Wednesday nights, I co-lead a women's bible study.  Tonight, I was able to put together a Bible Study lesson about something I've realized really affects me, and I'm guessing it affects a lot of people.  It's about getting caught up in things . . . often too caught up in things.  Feel free to use this Bible Study for yourself, a group, or for a church.  God bless!

“Caught Up”
by Brooke Shambley

Today, I was thinking about how I get so caught up in things.  This morning I was caught up in an online contest, then later I was completely consumed by getting the church’s commercial range on Craigslist.  Sometimes it’s the computer that has me caught up, sometimes the TV, sometimes life and circumstances.  Bottom line, I know I get way too caught up by things.

Name something that you’ve been caught up with today, or within the last week.

I’m so caught up in __________________________________________ right now.

This really got me thinking, what does the Bible say about getting “caught up”.  What does it mean to be “caught up”, what does it relate to?

There are a few Hebrew and Greek words that mean “caught” or “caught up,” here are their English equivalents:  stolen, seized, take hold of, took hold, spoil, stolen, take away, catch away, handle, lay hold, prevailed upon, grasp

Two main meanings stand out from the Biblical idea of being caught up: 1. Taken forcibly and 2. Grasped or caught

My first question has to do with the first meaning, taken forcibly.  Here are some questions to get you thinking:

1.      What is taking hold of your time?

2.      What is taking hold of your children?

3.      What is taking hold of your money?

4.      What is taking hold of your life?

The answer might be material things, other persons; maybe you are taking hold of it all.  Anything that holds control in our lives without our making a decision to give it control has taken it, seized it, and stole the control.  We even seize the control of our own lives often selfishly, but God is the one who ultimately controls our lives and we should submit to his authority.

Examples of things being stolen or seized (containing the Hebrew word we are studying):

Ecclesiastes 9:12 - Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:  As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.

Numbers 31:32 - The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep . . .

Deuteronomy 22:28 - If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found . . .

Just as fish are caught in a net, plunder is taken from the conquered, and at times virgins are seized and put through things they would never choose, so our life and circumstances are at times out of our control.  Things are forcibly taken in our lives, our time, our resources, and for some when their own bodies were taken.  Getting caught up in this way, we have no control over the circumstances, but we do have control to whom we relinquish our heartache.  God still has a plan when our lives seem caught up by something we can’t control, and He can and will restore our lives.

My second question has to do with the second meaning of “caught up”.  Sometimes our time, children, money, and lives are being caught but not by force.  Sometimes it can seem like we are caught up in a wind or a storm, but are we getting caught up forcibly or are we giving ourselves over to things?  Is it seizure or abandonment?

We must recognize God’s power over our lives and our sin.  We can’t simply put up the white flag before the battle even starts.  Satan doesn’t want a battle; because he knows that God will win every time.

Proverbs 7:13 - She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him . . .

I’m guessing this fellow in the Proverbs example isn’t putting up much of a fuss.  He’s giving himself over to the adulteress.  Joseph’s example is quite different; he’s the example for how things should go.

Genesis 39:12 – [Potiphar’s wife] caught [Joseph] by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

Notice that Joseph recognized what was being taken and stood strong in God by actually running away.  How easy it would have been for him to get caught up and simply give in to her pressuring!  No matter what tries to catch us up and pull us in, we must seek to take hold of God instead of being taken hold of by other things.

We shouldn’t let other things seize control of our lives nor should we seize the control for ourselves and we shouldn’t allow things to catch us up due to inattention, then how can we deal with the “cares of this world”?  What should we do when everything seems to overtake us and demand of our time?  God has the answer and offers to take hold of our problems, etc.

What specifically has God offered to take care of in our lives?  Can He stand strong in our storms?

1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 55:22 - Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Matthew 6:30-32 - If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

So God can take care of our problems, but how can we take hold of God?  Specifically, how can we hold fast and cling to God instead of getting caught up by the world?

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Deuteronomy 4:29 - But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

1 Timothy 6:11 - But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Philippians 3:7-14 – But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I love the synonyms provided by Blue Letter Bible on the Greek word for “Press on” – run to, run swiftly, run after, press on, pursue, seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire

What are you caught up with?  Are you chasing after things or are you chasing after God?  Are we letting things run our lives, or are we standing firm in God?

If you aren’t caught up by God, what are you caught up by?


Growing Like a Tree

Numerous comparisons can be drawn between a tree and the Christian life. Here I will focus on the aspect of personal growth. 

A tree is first a seed buried deep within the fertile soil. The sun and rain fills the land in which the seed is sown and it begins to grow roots sprawling down deeper into the soil. It will depend on the height and strength of the tree just how far down these roots must travel and strengthen. Over time it will begin to grow into a seedling, then a sapling, as it begins to form above ground. It grows in height, width, and greenery. Eventually, it will bud or bear fruit depending on the species of its kind.

It is safe to say that each year it grows it will look differently than the last until it reaches full maturity. The same is true of the healthy Christian. Each year or season of our life should have distinct aspects of growth that looks different than the prior season. If five years have passed and we are in the same place in the Lord as we were five years prior, we have reason to question our progress. We need to check to see that our seed is planted firmly in Christ. We need to examine whether we are receiving proper Sonlight and nutrients.

The Sonlight only comes from the Son. Conforming to His image and likeness is the only way to become more and more like Him. We do this by spending quiet time with Him, beholding Him and getting to know Him. This is not just a time for petitionary prayer, but for relaxing in His Presence. Prayer is communion with Jesus. This is two way spirit to Spirit communication. Words are not required, and often divert our mind from Him to our own needs and internal dialogue rather than truly communing with Him.

Nutrients come from a variety of sources and yet all of it comes out of Christ. This is to say that we water the seed in multiple ways of receiving what Jesus is saying. The most popular and most universally accepted manner is reading the Bible and meditating on the words of Scripture. This is enhanced when the Holy Spirit is involved for it is the Spirit that gives life. The Word without the Spirit can create legalism and religion whereas the Holy Spirit brings liberty and frees us into being true sons and daughters of Christ. 

However, nutrients also come from the teaching of those who are mature in the Lord, specifically but not exclusively those who are five-fold leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). It is important to learn from others who have been called by the Lord to equip the saints in the work of the ministry (Ephesians 5).  This happens, or ought to happen, in our local church, but also on a larger scale from regional, national, and international equipping ministries. We need to learn from a diverse spectrum of the body of Christ to be healthy. Reading books or articles, listening to podcast or sermons from such ministries or attending local or regional conferences are great ways to receive these nutrients. Just as each Christian needs a community of Christians to grow in Christ, each community needs continual and regular contact with other communities to grow as well. 

We cannot grow in a bubble. We cannot stay cloistered in our local church without tasting of the fruits of the larger Body of Christ. We need each other and we need to seek out and honor the giftings God has placed in other ministries. When we honor the other groups by learning from them that which we honor begins to grow in our own life. This is how the Body grows into the fullness of the stature of Christ.

Another way to access these nutrients is to be in relationship with a prophetic community. This means being around people who hear from God and see people through the eyes of Jesus. When people can see the treasure God has placed in you and call it out of you, you grow at an accelerated rate. There is nothing like encountering prophetic ministry. It speaks to who you are in Christ and helps you see what Jesus has put in you. It gives you the confidence to begin to release that dormant gift or to use the gift in greater measure than before. 

To return to the illustration of the tree, when we grow in Christ we find out what sort of tree we are and we begin to grow out our branches into the areas of influence God has called us into. Once firmly rooted in Christ, we stand firm and reach out beyond our previous territory and then we see our branches laden with fruit that we can give away. We get to watch the glory of God become revealed through us and into that which we put our hands to. We can all grow like a tree if we are first planted into the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ.