I love to win! I am not a gracious winner because I like to celebrate to the point my opponent feels like I am rubbing it in. Sadly, I recently discovered something new about myself after my family acquired a pool table, I am TERRIBLE at pool, I need 2 or 3 “do overs” just to break the balls to start a game.
Sean and the boys picked up the game fairly quickly. Typically when we play I will still have 4 or 5 balls left on the table when the game is over. The other day we decided to have a tournament, the winner would continue to advance until there was a champion. To everyone's surprise, I made it to the third round, not because I suddenly became a pool shark, but because they kept scratching (hitting the white ball in) when they were attempting to win by sinking the eight ball.
I felt badly about my wins because it had nothing to do with my ability. So when Sean lost by scratching on the eight ball I said “Oopsie daisy, I won”. Sean looked at me and said “ ‘oopsie daisy’ and ‘I won’ don’t go together”. He is right they don’t, especially when those words are coming out of the mouth of a girl who loves to win.
We live in an “if, then” world don’t we? For example, if I am a terrible pool player then I shouldn’t win. If I don’t fill up my gas tank then my car will stop running. If I leave the cookies in the oven too long then they will burn, and so on.
Even as followers of Christ, if we are not careful, we can begin to think this is the way it works with God. So often this kind of thinking is evidenced in perfectionism. If I behave perfectly then I am acceptable, if I do all the right things then I will be worthy of God's love. If I am faithful enough, or pray enough, or if I read my Bible enough, if I minister to others enough, then God will approve of me.
The way I know I am slipping into this kind of thinking is by the way I respond when I mess up. When I ask for forgiveness can I move on knowing that I am truly forgiven? Or do I sit and stew about my mistake until I feel like a complete failure?
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast.”
The Kingdom of God is not an “if then” kind of world, it is a grace-filled world. A world where we receive the unearned, undeserved love and acceptance from a Heavenly Father who sacrificed His perfect Son to make me perfect in His sight. This is true and lasting perfection, the kind that fulfills the deep longing in my soul to be what I was meant to be before sin marred all creation. In this perfection I cannot boast because it is not my work, it is the perfection that gives God all the glory.
Weekly Memory Verse
Many years ago, I started a fire. I didn’t mean to start the fire; it was an accident. Nonetheless the fire was my fault.
My husband and I were newlyweds; we had only been married a few months. We lived in the country outside the city limits of my husband’s hometown. So, we country folks did not have trash pickup. We did what country folks did, we burned our trash in a heavy metal can in our yard.
One spring day, I was home alone, my husband at his work. The trash needed to be burned, so I carefully placed the trash in the can and lit the fire. Then I went inside our house and worked on a paper for school.
A little while later, there was a knock on our door. A man whom I did not recognize informed me that my yard was on fire. The man and I worked to quench the flames that were burning some grass around our home, but to no avail. The fire was quickly spreading from the tall grass to nearby woods. I went to call the fire department.
Our local volunteer fire fighters arrived soon thereafter. They worked hard to put out the fire that had spread to the woods. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and also a breezy day. The wind was spreading the fire quickly. A couple of hours later, the fire truck and firefighters pulled out of our driveway only to have to return when the flames popped back up a little while later.
It took the firefighters a good part of the day to finally extinguish all of the flames. Most of our property had been burned, several acres. It was a day I will never forget. I didn’t mean to start the fire, yet the damage was done.
I recently heard a pastor say, “If you start a fire accidentally, you are still responsible for the fire.” Because of my trash burning experience I could relate.
The pastor was referring to the truths contained in the letter of James in the Bible. James 3:5-6, 9-10 reads, “…The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
I have witnessed a small spark fuel a fire that grows and grows. I have seen the damage it can do. Just like a physical spark, our words can be so powerful. They can cause great damage and they can inspire great good. Oh God, please use our words for Your good only!
Weekly Memory Verse
As I walked through the door and approached my mom, she looked up and said, “Hi honey.” This visit was already off to a good start! The workers in the memory care unit had explained to our family that my mom knows, on most days, that we are someone special in her life even though she can’t remember our names.
Mom’s greeting,“Hi honey”, warms my heart every time she says it. For as long as I can remember, this is how she has always answered the phone or responded when she sees me.
On this particular day, though, as I was talking to her about various things she suddenly said my name. I honestly don't remember what else she was trying to say because I was so taken aback that she called me by name! (Even as I am writing this now I have tears in my eyes.) To hear her call me “Kim” stirred deep feelings of a relationship we once shared. I wanted that moment to last, but I knew better. Still my heart was full for I knew this was a gift from God; and my lips quietly uttered “Thank you Lord.”
I love how God uses life experiences to help us have a deeper understanding of His truths. In Isaiah 43:1b the Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” For those who have asked Jesus into their heart, this promise is ours! (John 1:12)
To think, God Almighty calls each of His children by name! When my mom said my name I was moved by the past; memories we shared and love experienced. But for our Lord to call me by name is an eternity past, present and future kind of relationship. For it was God who “knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) He knows our thoughts, what is on our lips before we say it, and everything we do. (Psalm 139:1-4) And He still loves us!
It’s a forever, unconditional love that is described in Zephaniah 3:17b; “He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”
God the Father also says of us in Isaiah 43:1, “You are mine.”
I remember when my husband, Bill, and I got married. How I loved to introduce or reference him as, “my husband.” I wanted everyone to know that he was mine!
Our Lord wants us to know how important we are to Him and how loved we are by Him.
What does it mean to our everyday lives that He calls us by name and that we are His?
God the Father knows every hurt you and I are facing today. He also knows our hopes, desires, victories, concerns, fears, frustrations and needs. Whatever you are going through in this hour, our Heavenly Father wants to meet you in it.
In our struggles, He wants you to find strength and hope in His truths, knowing that He will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5).
On the other hand, your heart may be full today. As you lift up your heart of thanksgiving, He is there loving you and gently reminding you that “every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17) These gifts that are lavished on us are not only a truth to memorize but to meditate on til you know you have experienced the One who calls you by name.
Weekly Memory Verse
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
A few years ago, my husband and I took an anniversary trip to Niagara Falls. We had heard and read about Niagara Falls. We had seen pictures and knew interesting facts about Niagara Falls BUT we had never experienced Niagara Falls!
Our first glimpse of Niagara Falls occurred as we drove past them on our way to our hotel. We were amazed how BIG and impressive these waterfalls were. In our hotel room, we had a spectacular bird’s eye view of the never-ending falls. When we slept, the waterfall didn't turn off. All night long, 3,160 tons of water per second kept flowing.
The next day, we got closer to the falls by walking on the sidewalk surrounding the Canadian side. The sound was deafening and the mist from the falls created heavy condensation on our sunglasses. We walked over the falls by crossing on the bridge that connects the Canadian side to the American side of the falls. In the middle of the bridge, my husband took a picture of me with one foot in Canada and one foot in America. I felt the wind produced by the falls.
Next, we explored the Cave of the Winds tour that took us 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge where we stood behind the thunderous Bridal Falls and were pounded with winds up to 68 mph and buckets of water. (Bridal Falls is on the Canadian side and is one of the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.)
Finally, we got even closer to the falls by taking a boat tour at the base of this iconic site. We wore raincoats with hoods, but we were drenched by the cold water spraying from the cascading falls. It was freezing and exhilarating!!
For five days, we EXPERIENCED Niagara Falls! We saw, heard, felt, and even tasted Niagara Falls. This was an amazing experience. In the exact same way, our Heavenly Father wants you and me to experience Him! Not only hearing about Him during a church service or a podcast or a short devotion book, but to hunger and thirst - and as the deer pants for streams of water, so our soul pants for Him (Psalm 42:1, NIV). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6, NIV). He desires for us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 4:8, NIV), and when we seek him with all of our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV).
The Lord wants us to be close enough to Him that we get sprayed by His cascading love that He lavishes on us. And, as Chris Tomlin sings, “His love is like a waterfall…raining down on me.” God’s unfailing love for you is significantly more powerful than the Niagara Falls - let’s explore him in as many ways as possible!
Weekly Memory Verse
Do everything without
For the past 10 years I have led children in worship through music. We have an incredible Children’s Director who taught me there is more to leading worship than singing. It’s about encouraging children to focus their hearts on worshipping God for who He is, and to help the truth of God’s Word sink deep into their hearts through music.
Many of the worship songs have great words unfortunately, the kids don’t understand words like grace, mercy, redeemed, glory, rejoice, trusting in God’s name and others. I love how the Lord gives me an opportunity to teach the kids what they are singing about so they can focus their hearts on the Lord.
Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling and arguing.” Wow did the Lord sear this command on my heart. Last week my brother and his family came to visit from Kansas. My husband is a firefighter and the only day we could take them out on the boat was Sunday. However, I was scheduled to sing in Children’s Church and I couldn’t find a replacement.
All week I threw a tantrum with the Lord, I grumbled and argued. I said things like “I can’t believe I have to do this, it’s not fair” and “this is really going to mess up our whole day.” I drove to church Sunday still complaining when the Lord whispered to my heart, “you are looking at this as a responsibility to fulfill instead of an opportunity to serve Me.” With tears in my eyes I confessed my sin and prepared my heart to lead worship.
During the welcome time I went over to greet a boy who hugs me every time I see him. I asked him how he was doing. In a quiet voice he shared something that happened that week that no little boy should ever have to experience. He told me he was scared. I instantly wrapped my arms around him and asked him if I could pray with him and he said “yes.” As we prayed, my heart just broke as we brought his fear to the Throne of Grace.
Shortly after we prayed it was time to sing a song straight from Psalm 33:20-22. I invited the children to come to the front with me as we sang on our knees. The boy almost ran to get the spot beside me. We were on holy ground as I watched this little boy kneeling with his hands raised, worshipping and singing:
“In you our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in your name
We depend on you, for we are trusting in your name
Our hope is in you Lord, for we are trusting in your name”
I cried all the way home completely humbled by God’s grace. I had spent the entire week grumbling and arguing with the Lord because I thought boating with my family was more important than serving Him. In spite of my selfish and ugly attitude, God allowed me to help my young friend trust Jesus in his pain.
Weekly Memory Verse
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.