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Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's Going On?

How are you doing? God always brings good out of what seems bad.

In scripture it says

Romans 8:28 -

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

The psalms are beautiful to read through at hard times. David wrote many of them. Sometimes you can see his struggles with life in his writings. It is amazing. He actually says things like “his body aches and he cries out to the Lord.” He was always in a battle and running and being hunted down by his enemies. God allowed the battles. But the Lord said “David is a man after my own heart.” God loves us all, but does allow trials in our lives. We then can learn and put that to use someday. WE Will always be able to relate to people on a deep level, because of the times we have experienced pain. It is hard but, this is a very valuable thing to learn. Learning to sympathize with others.

Yesterday I was in the Portillo’s with my Mom. My Mom was having a difficult time and needed to eat. There was a man in line before me. He was gruff and complaining to a women standing outside the line. His issue, I don’t know but he was going on and on. The line opened up for him to order and he is not paying attention. He is going on and on. Finally I said, very softly sir are you going to order. He looks up gruffly and defensively, “well yes. What are you in a big hurry, maybe you should go ahead.” I said “it is just that my mom is diabetic and needs to eat.” What comes out of the ladies mouth (she is the one who was talking with the man) (she had no sympathy) “well my mom is diabetic and she carries food with her when she gets like that.” I said “my mom is new at getting shots and does not get that yet.” Well, the lady says “well she should.” The both of them just wanted to go at it with me. No sympathy nothing, just cut downs and gruff responses. WHAT’S GOING ON?

I feel sorry for those people. People are either hardened by life or softened. My prayer is that we continue to take care of ourselves and be softened by experiences and use them to be an example for others. I know you can be an example for many.

I was reading in Acts 14:8-11 Paul saw a man that was crippled in his feet, from birth. Paul was preaching and the man listened to Paul. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and Paul called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

I have faith as I look Jesus in the eyes and say, so and so needs to be healed, Please help. I believe that is the purpose to the bible to help us to remember that Jesus started a work on earth, passed it to the apostles and the apostles passed it others and so on to us. Faith….it heals. Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full, it says. Each day as we renew are minds with the truth it speaks to our soul and gives us strength to carry on. How were some of the remarkable people able to carry on? I believe it was there faith and believing God will get them through everything.

Let’s pray: Father in heaven help me to bless those who are being difficult. I want to love everyone. Thank you for giving me faith to believe that you will always help me. In Jesus name. Amen.

Peace be with you,

Love,

Elaine

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A++ Part 2

Dear Friend:

In my last letter I told the story of how God puts us all together as the Church of Christ. We unite with all our gifts to make up the body of Christ. We are not bound by a building but by Christ alone.

There were so many things that I saw with the tweeners that I continuously am blessed. I was thinking deeper along this message and wanted to include some more extensive observations.

When the girls were getting ready to leave the cabin for good we had to clean up. God showed me even in the clean-up how he uses all are gifts. I saw girls come and ask me what needs to be done to get us through our check-list. There were 5 girls that really came and sincerely were willing to clean anything, even the showers. They just took the spray cleaner and did it. I asked myself “should I get more involved in this process?” Again God reminded some serve so mercifully without thinking. Even to the point of cleaning sinks and showers. Rather than pointing out the negative of those that did not volunteer we should point out how God supplied those with the heart who genuinely did not care and were willing to clean anything. I know at other times the girls have all been used with their gifts in different ways. Some clean, some lead, some think and come up with wise plans all are different. I am not making excuses for the girls who did not volunteer and I will try and get everyone to participate and clean, but I just want to show how God gains cooperation through the hearts. I did not see one of the girls who volunteered then go back and say I cleaned the showers so you should clean the beds. I saw the heart of God in the girls and there was genuinely cooperation and ease in the process.

This is something to think about in our own homes and lives. Looking at situations and leading by prayer and letting God get involved in the hearts of our families. When the Spirit of God is present in a family we can experience peace and cooperation. I know that this lesson goes along with the bible verse,(I will quote it from the Message Bible) What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over theses things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matthew 6:32-34

(Faith, friends it takes Faith) Are you getting this? What will happen in your life if you choose God first? What is the promise? Everyday human concerns will be met. ALL! We can expect peace cooperation and smoother sailing. I am not saying we can expect perfection, but a balanced home. A house that is taught to seek God first and not full of over activity brings balance and peace and time for chores and other projects the family is trying to get too! Think about it.

You can pray: Father in Heaven I choose to seek you first and then my concerns will be met. Thank you Father. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Choosing God First,

Elaine

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A++

Dear Friends:

I have many hats I wear over the years being in Ministry for the Lord. Today I’m going to add reporter to my list. I am going to write a message from a reporter’s perspective.

As many of you know my husband, I and two other chaperones took 29 tweeners on a winter retreat for what was supposed to be two nights. Wisconsin experienced a lot of snow and the roads were closed on the day we were to leave. I observed a lot of young girls get excited about one more day of snow fun. We choose to do an extra session of bible that evening. I did not have a teaching prepared, but in my heart I felt there needed to be a wrap up of the whole weekend. We discovered when things happen in our lives we have two choices:

1. To get through the time and just move on.

2. Learn as much as we can from that experience. To take the time to find out if we want to make changes in our lives based on what happened.

The girls needed to own their faith for themselves. I can’t make them read their bibles. I can’t make them understand God’s perspective in life. They must pray and seek things on their own. At the end of the session, however, one girl stood and said “if it wasn’t for the snow keeping us here an extra day, we would have never had this meeting.” YES!

Then the next morning came. We were up bright and early to eat and get on the bus. Soon we found out the bus had a part that was frozen and we would be delayed. We were all packed and ready to go waiting in the dining hall. We were told we would be on the road in about one hour or so. That turned into another hour and so on and so on till 5 ½ hours later when we finally boarded the bus.

What I observed from the girls was truly “FAITH IN ACTION.”

When we heard the bus was going to be delayed. I find out that the seventh grade girls united together and prayed for the situation. After they prayed some came and told me that the just prayed for the situation. Why didn’t I get them together and get them to pray?” But the Holy Spirit put that on their hearts and they released their Faith in God to get us through the time till we got home. YES! After they prayed I saw peaceful girls just keeping themselves busy. No fretting, worry or anxiety about the situation at all. Many of the girls called their parents quite frequently to reassure them that they were fine. They came up with so many creative ways to keep themselves busy. One way they kept busy was many of the girls wrote letters to the speaker and thanked him for taking his time to teach them about God. Some girls wrote letters to Marilyn, who made magnets for everyone in our group that said “JESUS LOVES______ (their name)

But all I heard was a lot of laughing, singing, playing games and being silly.

During the trip home, we went through a lot of snow and ice, which again, caused the part on the bus to freeze and we were forced to stop at a truck stop and call for repair. What I saw next again was “FAITH IN ACTION.” The girls went into action figuring out what they should do. A couple of girls decided that the bus driver may need a drink and snack. So they came to me telling me that they want to get him a drink and snack “What did I think?” WOW! They were listening to the Holy Spirit and putting their heart before their own needs. The girls were all very peaceful and listening to us as we asked them to stay in one area and occupy themselves. It was most amazing how fast the hour went. I can’t tell you the abundant peace I saw on all our faces. No what if, no maybe we should….it was all just trusting God and waiting.

That brings me to now. Where I look back and say “why am I not aggravated or upset that I spent two extra days with twenty-nine girls?” The below verses came screaming out of my gut and the Lord said remember these verses. This was lived out these past days.

1Co 12:12 - The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

God gave each one of us a part to work out the past two days. Some with entertaining us with laughter, some with organization, some with teaching, some with serving, some with cleaning, some with care, some with praying, some with compassion but all with Jesus in our hearts. I truly saw “FAITH IN ACTION.” As a teacher my heart skips a beat that they got it….they really really got it. Each girl has a different gift to offer the group and they just did their part. All of the prayer that went into this weekend was answered and more. We passed the test from God with an A++. So each girl is getting a gold star on their heart for the tremendous use of their time on this trip. It definitely was not spent worrying, complaining or doing anything negative. I saw love, compassion, caring and self-control. BRAVO TO GOD! HE IS THE ONE WHO TAUGHT THE GIRLS AND WILL CONTINUE TO LOVE AND TEACH! What a pleasure and privilege it was to be in the presence of a live teaching assignment. We passed and were going to keep going. I forgot to mention that as we did different snow activities, some were scary and I actually heard girls say “go for it, I will pray for you.” They prayed and tried new activities with the boldness of Jesus.

Let’s pray:

Thank you God for always fulfilling your promise “that you always work everything together for my good. “ Lord for remind me to never waste time, but allow time to teach me. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

In closing I can only say that I got a taste of how St. Paul must have felt when he said this greeting to the believers in Corinth “I always thank God for you, because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge-because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift(each girl used their gifts) as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

Thanking God,

Elaine

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

M.A.D.

Dear Friend:

Have you ever wondered if you can truly MAKE A DIFFERENCE in someone’s life? I have been praying about this and the scripture that comes to my mind is

Pr 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.


I have had some moments lately where I have put this into practice and have found we truly can make a difference. I am writing this not to brag, but to encourage you to go M.A.D. I want to boast about Jesus and the truth of what He taught us while He did His ministry here on earth. He truly went M.A.D. and had the greatest impact on earth for all eternity. Even his disciples went on to go M.A.D. and then their followers and so on…. Acts 14:27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

I was volunteering in the hospital on the transitional floor. That is where patients are in rehab from surgery or many things for several weeks. There was an older Italian lady name Isabella, and as I entered her room she was crabby. Ask me, “How crabby was she?” She was so crabby that she looked like a dog that was going to attack me. So I looked at her and said “oh my nieces’ name is Isabella.” Isabella, do you know what your name means? She gruffly said “no.” I said the only reason I know is because I looked it up when my niece was born and it means “consecrated to God.” To which she replied (gruffly again)” I don’t feel like God cares, look at the condition I am in.” I said “do you need anything or how can I help you today.” She said “I can use a newspaper, I did not get one.” So I went and got her a newspaper and when I brought it back (right away I must add) she smiled and her whole demeanor had changed. She actually smiled. When I was ready to go home and almost on the elevator I thought about Isabella so I strolled back to her room and noticed she had just been served her lunch. I said “I am going home and wanted to say good-bye” and she said “thank you.” Then I asked her can we I pray for you and this lunch and she said “yes I would like that.” So she grabbed my hand and we thanked God for the food and asked that Isabella get strong fast and she would know in some way that God is there with her. When I got home I thought to myself “we can MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” We can give a gentle answer and it can turn away wrath. Praise God!

The next day I was on the tennis court with a lady that was trying to rattle my partner and me by picking on our calls and trying to make drama. Every time she did that I would say nothing or very kindly say “Pat you are a very nice lady, I know that you know I made that call right.” She was very kind through out the rest of the match and especially at the finish (when we had won!!! Yes!). I know she has a reputation for starting trouble, but that gentle answer just wouldn’t let her bring on her wrath.

I hope you are getting my point and will consider putting your emotions aside and giving someone who does not deserve kindness a gentle answer. Let’s pray: Father in Heaven bless you today. Bless me with the ability to M.A.D. with my responses each day. Thank you Father for helping me... In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

M.A.D.

Elaine

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Measuring Stick

Dear Friend:

Good Morning! This morning I am reflecting on the lesson that I taught to the “tweeners.” Is that what they are calling the kids in middle school today? Anyway, I gave each girl a 12 inch ruler and asked them to measure God’s love. Guess what? They couldn’t. We all quickly realized that God’s love was so big it was infinite….

I prayed for them like Paul prayed for the Ephesians saying “Lord, I pray with you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

We focused on the command in Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Every girl agreed that would be like your whole self. I asked the question “how do you do that?” How can we love God in such a big way? The verse above helps us to understand. To grasp God’s love for us and to know that love is the beginning of the knowledge to help us grow closer to God. Their favorite verse that many of them wrote on their rulers to take home was in 1 John 4:19 we love because he first loved us. I challenged them to read on in that same chapter it said in verse 20 “if anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. This is what I believe really spoke to their hearts. When they say I hate so and so they are really saying “I hate God.” God created all and loves all. WOW! Are they getting this love? Are you getting this love?

It is really big and really hard to fathom, but critical because God commands love. How do you surrender yourself to love God? It takes baby steps, but it is just a prayer away. It is communicating day by day with Our Father in heaven. Believing He exists to benefit your life on earth and your life eternally with Him. Experiencing God and loving others in your everyday life is a choice. Just as you choose to get to know a human here on earth and love them we must choose to get to know Our Father in Heaven. Each of us is getting to know God each time we meet talking about Him and reading the word. It can only lead to love.

I will leave you with the most powerful way to grasp God’s love. For God so loved the world (that’s you) that He gave His one and only Son (JESUS), that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son (JESUS) into the world (you) to condemn the world (you), but to save the world through Him. We all are bent toward doing wrong at times, but Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross and they nailed His hands and pierced His feet and HE said “I LOVE YOU, I AM TAKING ALL OF YOUR WRONG DOING ON ME ON THIS CROSS.” That is how much He loved you! Powerful! Do you know anyone who would die for you in such a brutal way?

Let’s pray: Father in heaven, Oh to know the love that surpasses all knowledge, help me to grasp it. Thank you that I have the word to read about your love. Thank you that you can help me to experience your love here on earth. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Reading the Bible is like reading the greatest love story. We also read 1Corinthians 13 1-8 “The love chapter.” Read it to find out God’s unconditional (not limited to any absolute, unreserved, conditions) love. We always have conditional (granted on certain terms) love.

Reading the love story,

Elaine

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Popeye Moments

Dear Friend:

Ever have one of those Popeye moments? You’re probably asking, “Elaine what are Popeye moments?”

A couple of months ago a friend told me how their youth group did a teaching with Popeye spinach. A couple of weeks later I buy a book that my Pastor wrote and it had a whole chapter entitled “Popeye moments.” Then I go looking for a Popeye cartoon in video stores and can not find it anywhere. Well, this past month I went on a Caribbean cruise and wouldn’t you know everyday on the cruise stations they have Popeye cartoons. LOL! I thought I better find some object lesson in this or I maybe seeing Popeye everywhere.

What happens next is so much fun. I go looking for the cheapest way to purchase Popeye spinach for my lesson to the young girls I teach. I am standing in the store asking “Lord how many cans I should buy?” Don’t ask me, ask God, but the number 14 comes into my head. So I buy fourteen cans. Guess how many girls came to the meeting that day. That is right, fourteen came. God is having so much fun with me.

You’re probably saying, get to the point Elaine. I am, I am. I e-mail the girls and say come to small group and you will go home stronger. No, I did not make them eat the spinach. But what I did do is look up many verses in the bible with the word strength in it. The Old Testament has the word strength 165 times and the New Testament 15 times.

As I watched the very first episode of Popeye I found out, he did not know the power of spinach. His father keeps telling him “you gots to eat your spinach.” He never listens. Popeye is strong on his own, he doesn’t need any spinach. Until the final battle with Pluto comes and Popeye is trying to save Olive Oil and the baby (sweat pea?). He is running out of strength and his father throws him a can of open spinach and Pluto not knowing about spinach, shoves it down Popeye’s throat. The crazy Popeye moment comes when he fills up with supernatural energy and wins the fight. The crazy song begins to play, “I’m Popeye the sailor man, I’m Popeye the sailor man, I’m strong to the finish because I eats my spinach I’m Popeye the sailor man (hoot hoot through his pipe comes the noise).”

David in the bible was running because he was being hunted down by Saul. David is the author of most of the Psalms and that is where the word strength appears the most in the bible. David knew where his strength needed to come from and it wasn’t spinach, it was GOD.

So the girls and I watched the end of Popeye and we began to talk about ourselves. Isn’t it just like us to get up each day and tackle the day without our spinach (GOD)? We think on our own we have enough to get through the day. We talked about what takes our strength away…..a unjust thing happens, your parents are not getting along, bad health, you don’t make the team, someone lies to you, you see injustice, you have a crabby teacher, your mom or dad are on your case, your brother or sister is driving you nuts, lack of food/water, lack of someone understanding you, false accusations, betrayal of a friend, crying from being overwhelmed and many more. How can we renew are strength. We must believe the promise of God that he will renew our strength. He is the giver of strength. We can see examples in the bible of this, but when you experience God giving you supernatural strength and you know He did it. There is nothing like God teaching you His strength, it is awesome. Meditating on the word and saying what God says “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.” Philippians 4:13 Sometimes we just need to be saying that over and over and stop thinking about the problem but think about the God who gives promises or commands.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Courage isn’t having the strength to go on- it’s going on when you don’t have the strength.

Let’s pray: Father in heaven. Thank you for each day. Thank you that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Let me live this kind of trust out in my life. Give me strength. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Something else we discussed at the end of the lesson that I think I must end with. Sometime you see injustice in school, the workplace, grocery store, neighborhood, on the tennis court and all over. You need to pray and ask God for strength and say “should I say something or not.” When you see something wrong it takes strength to speak up. Popeye would say “I cants stands it no more” and then he would eat the spinach and fight. We need to do the same when we see things that are wrong and say “I cants stands it no more’, then pray and ask God for strength and do what is right.

I canst stands it no more, JUST GIVE ME JESUS!

Elaine