By Kim White
Early in our marriage, my husband Bill, surprised me with a wonderful, previously owned piano. I took lessons for about a year or so and would mess around on it now and again through the years. Well, it’s been enough for me to guide our eight year old granddaughter through the first part of a beginner’s piano lesson book. She recently began playing a chord with her left hand while playing the melody with her right hand. She found it difficult to get her fingers to all the right places and to get the timing down. But the reward of practice showed all over her face as she made her debut performance for this audience of one.
It occurred to me, that in comparison to what she had previously been able to play, she was now enjoying a piece filled with more depth and fullness; and it thrilled her heart.
I share this story because this is what the Lord brought to my mind when I was doing my devotions one day last week. I was praying about going into the Christmas season, desiring the Lord to reveal deeper truths to these familiar passages. My heart was yearning to experience His birth in a fuller way.
Because Scripture tells us that “The Word is living and active,” (Hebrews 4:12a) and that it is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) we may be assured thatHe wants to speak to our hearts! He is waiting on us to meet with Him.
I invite you to join me in experiencing Jesus and the details of His birth. It might be that you begin in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7, meditating over the Names of Jesus and praising Him! In these same verses, we can also think on the significance of these prophesies that are fulfilled in the gospels. Possibly you may want to read through the first chapters of Matthew and Luke to not only meditate on the birth of Jesus, but to also learn from the shepherds, Mary and Joseph about obedience and listening to the Lord. I know for me, personally, I want to spend some time in John 1:1-18, which includes verse 14a, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
My prayer for all of us is that we will spend time each day at the Lord’s feet and ask Him, as the psalmist did, “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
(Psalm 119:118). May your Christmas season be full as you experience Jesus through The Word.
By Beth Calhoun
Several years ago, before my daughter married and moved, we ran in our neighborhood to train for various races. On our running course, there is a cul de sac with 14 crepe myrtle trees lining the edge of the sidewalk. Apparently, a couple of neighbors collaborated and planted the trees at the same time because they were all healthy, identical in size and had beautiful flowers.
Today, my younger daughter and granddaughter and I walked through the same cul de sac. I was shocked at how the trees had changed. The first seven trees were tall, lush and very healthy. Over the years, these trees had obviously been tended to - fertilized, watered and regularly pruned. The outcome produced healthy, beautiful trees that had wonderful curb appeal.
In comparison, the next set of trees must have been ignored and left to their own device. The lack of pruning produced smaller, thinner, shapeless and straggly trees. They appeared sickly and anemic and the differences between the two sets of trees were significant.
I realized that although uncomfortable and very painful, pruning or disciplining is necessary. “The Lord disciplines those He loves” (Prov. 3:12, NIV). He desires for us to act more like Jesus, so He “disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10, NIV). If He didn’t love us, he would let us do whatever we wanted and basically turn us over to our own devices. Eventually, we would resemble the unkempt and sickly looking trees rather than the healthy and beautiful trees.
The trees were created to be beautiful and produce flowers. Similarly, He created us in His image in order to bring glory to the Lord. Granted, “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11, NIV). This discipline helps us look and act more like Jesus.
Thankfully, God loves me so much that through His Holy Spirit, He shows me when I am being selfish, impatient, a poor steward….. He makes the effort to lovingly discipline and correct the errors of my way so that I may reflect His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control (Galatians 5:22, NIV). And I hope that you know that He loves you so much as well!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Prov. 1:7, NIV). Lord, please help me to not be foolish and to be more thankful for Your love and discipline. Help me to accept your correction and change my ways that need to be changed. Thank you for the peace that comes with discipline. Thank you for your love that never fails.
By Julie Fuller
I Thessalonians 5:18 says,
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s
will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Wow, that is not always the easiest thing the Lord commands us to do. Most of us have walked through some really difficult things that bring us, at its worst to deep grief and anguish, and at best, to feeling bewildered or confused as to why it happened.
If we are not careful, we can find ourselves living under the assumption that life should be easy and trouble free because we follow Jesus. But that is the exact opposite of what Jesus told his disciples, the men who gave up everything to follow him. In fact, he said, “in this life you will have trouble.” That word trouble in the original language means, anguish, affliction, trouble, and persecution. And yet, God’s Word still tells us to “be thankful in everything.”
Thankfulness is about faith and trust, Colossians 2:7 says “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” There are truths in God’s Word we learn with our heads that cannot be seared onto our hearts until we experience them.
The sudden death of my father is one of the things the Lord used to make this truth about thankfulness real for me. This is the single most difficult thing I have walked through; the grief was so overwhelming at times I felt like I couldn’t breath. Even now, after 9 years, I write this with tears in my eyes. You see, being thankful is not the same thing as being happy about a circumstance, or denying the pain or the ugly wrongness of it.
Thankfulness is about “letting your roots grow down deep into him,” allowing the things the Lord has allowed in your life to drive you deeper into His grace and mercy, so you are able to trust Him, and your thankfulness overflows not in the circumstance but in who He is.
As we drove to my father’s funeral, the Lord met me in that car with a simple children’s song from Psalms 33. He spoke this truth to my heart.
In You our hearts rejoice,
for we are trusting in your name,
in You our hearts rejoice
We depend on You,
for we are trusting in your name,
we depend on You
Our hope is in you Lord,
for we are trusting in your name,
our hope is in you Lord
I am still filled with thankfulness as I remember the tender way He accompanied me to that funeral. Reminding me I can rejoice in Him, not in the circumstance, I can depend on Him, even when I don’t understand why, and I can hope in Him because this life is not the end. He has an incredible eternity marked out for my Dad and me.
Oh Ladies, we can give thanks in ALL THINGS because we belong to Christ. After Jesus said “in this life you will have trouble” he said “fear not, for I have overcome the world” and in that we can truly be thankful!!
** Psalms 33 is written by Rob Biagi, I added the link if you want to take a listen
This past summer, Bill and I celebrated our 35th anniversary with a memory filled trip to the west coast. Before the trip, I decided before to keep a journal that I entitled, “Thank You Lord...” I wanted to be keenly aware of God’s activity and gifts each day of the trip. And since it was a time to celebrate our marriage, I also wanted to think on and write the many ways I have to be thankful for Bill.
We truly treasured this time away. I admit I was a little sad to give up the restful, reflective time, but little did I know how God was getting me ready to go deeper in my understanding of thanksgiving.
This fall our women’s ministry class, “Beloved,” began reading “The Wholehearted Wife,”by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. As a co-teacher of the class, I began to study and read various resources. It was then that the Lord seemed to begin challenging my heart.
I remember reflecting on some particular notes from my study time. The first statement was, “God loves our husbands.” My initial thought was, “Well, that’s a given.” Then I began to realize that I don’t often thank the Lord specifically for His incredible love for my husband. For God so loved ______ (our husband’s name) that he gave his only Son. (John 3:16a)
When I spent that time thinking on Bill from God’s perspective; it had nothing to do with me. My heart was just rejoicing for His amazing love. It wasn’t based on my thoughts of Bill.
Please don’t get me wrong, it is good, right and necessary to thank God for our husband’s attributes. But for me, the Lord was revealing my selfish heart that often seems to look at even godly things from the perspective of how it benefits me. I am truly thankful for the forgiveness of sins promised as I confess my sins! (1 John 1:9)
I really had to chew on the next part of my notes, as well. In effect it was saying that God desires to help our husbands grow to be more like Christ and we are one of the tools He wants to use to change our husbands. That is a heavy thought. Wow, part of the reason God unites us with our husbands is to help each of us grow out of our sinful nature and into the person the Lord intended.
Ladies, we are to be a portion of grace that God uses in the lives of our husbands.
When I was thinking on the privilege of being a tool of grace I was reminded of 1 John 3:16, (HCSB)
”This is how we have come to know love: He l
aid down His life for us. We should also lay down
our lives for our brothers ."
How do we lay down our lives for our husbands? We must seek God’s Presence daily by reading The Word and talking to Him in prayer and confession. The Lord will guide us and enable us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Thank You Lord for this high calling. May we each be found faithful.
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.