An Exposition on Isaiah 9:1-7
by Julie Davenport
Some people just LOVE Christmas! I have friends that listen to Christmas music starting months before December or even all year long! Are you one of THOSE? I start the day after Thanksgiving and stop the day after Christmas. I do love Christmas, though, and the wonderful feeling you get during the most wonderful time of the year.
One of the most enjoyable things about Christmas is giving gifts to the kids and seeing their excitement. When they are really young, you can get by with less expensive gifts. I remember one year when my daughters were little, we gave them ten gifts each. They were so excited to count all ten! They didn’t care that one of the gifts was a toothbrush, another was a pair of socks, and the rest didn’t cost very much. The fun was in opening all those gifts.
After Christmas, even as adults, there is sometimes a little let down when it is all over. As believers, however, we have the gift of Jesus, the gift that keeps on giving. In Isaiah 9:1-7, we have a passage that lists ten gifts that are available to us all year long. These gifts are not inexpensive ones, they are priceless!
Those living in the days of Isaiah were seeking light and happiness in good things like the strength of their nation, gathering land and goods, moral and religious duties. They even sought happiness through evil things and sought out sorcerers and mediums, but they ended with only darkness and gloom. In Isaiah 8:22, we see their circumstances:
“Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land when they are famished, they will become enraged and looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”
Doesn’t sound very “Christmasy,” does it?
Just like all of us, they were seeking happiness and fulfillment in other people and other things and in their circumstances. This passage in Isaiah is for those of us who have learned that happiness is not found in us trying to bring our own light to our life. True light and satisfaction and joy can only be found in the Lord.
Here are ten gifts available to us all year long:
As a bonus to these gifts, we see in Isaiah 9:7 that there will be no end to the increase of His government and peace, that He will reign forever, and that it is He (not us) who will accomplish these gifts in our lives.
I’m praying for each of you to enjoy these marvelous gifts and to have a wonderful Christmas season!
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry, so when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be...on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. Julie is now an ordained AG minister who through speaking engagements and two daughters continues the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
by Terry Magness
Ever asked that age old question, “How in the world did I get here?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a secretary. When I put on that perfect black and white plaid dress with a red sash my aunt Jean bought me, I felt like an executive assistant. I imagined sitting behind an important looking desk, erect, shoulders back, legs crossed, and poised with pad and pencil in hand, ready to take notes for an appreciative boss who couldn’t get along without me. The thought of it warmed me inside. I felt valued. That was something I desperately needed in those days.
Sure enough, one of my first jobs when I entered the world of employment was as a secretary in a loan company branch office. Next, I worked as a typist in the secretarial typing pool of a large corporation, and finally, I served as a G2 clerk/typist for a Company Commander on a military base. I learned relatively quickly that being a secretary was not what inspired me.
aren’t they—even amazing?
There is a distinct but narrow path in our front yard that begins in a field across the road. The path divides and circles in opposite directions around our house to the concrete patio at the back door. This path was made by a badly scarred but beautiful Golden Beagle. The first day he showed up at our door I could clearly count each rib in his badly malnourished body. Extraordinarily skittish, he jumped at the slightest movement and wouldn’t allow me within five feet of him, and least of all, to touch him. Hunger urged him to forge this path to our house. We comforted him with soft words, and we fed him.
Each day for two and a half years he faithfully followed the path--often many times over--and peered through the glass, hoping to catch our attention. One day, his friend, a small black, brown, and white Beagle, joined him. She too came hoping for food and was just as nervous and afraid as he had been.
In short order their sides filled out, and then one day their eyes shined, and their tails waved high flagging their contentment. Happy, healthy, and strong, they continued learning to trust, because now they were valued and loved. Their basic needs were being met. To this day the grass does not grow in their path to our house, because it is a well-worn path.
What about my path? At the age of thirty, I too was badly undernourished in my soul, was replete with old and new hurts, and found it hard to trust. My scars were not visible, but the wounds were deep, and my heart was dry as stone. I found myself trudging alone on a hopeless, destructive path until unwittingly, I stumbled upon another path that changed the course of my life forever.
The Master of the House saw me peering through the glass, opened the door, spoke softly to me--and then He fed me with love.
If you were to come to my home today, I would be hesitant to let you see the room I call my office. At any given time, you might find stacks of unanswered, unfiled, unattended papers, various begun-yet-unfinished projects, research, teaching and counseling materials, writing assignments, and books in various stages of completion, covering almost every surface in the room. It is now I who needs a secretary!
I love neat and complete, but my interest and energy these days is spent on the path that I know has brought me healing, restoration, and is God’s path for my life. Who but He could have imagined that one day I, an unlikely minister of the Lord, would take hurting women by the hand to walk this well-worn path with me, so they too may know His loving grace to live free and whole, and discover God’s path for their lives? “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” Prov. 4:18 ESV
Now an ordained AG minister, Terry Magness was once a broken, wounded, angry, and abuse-hardened woman, until God’s redeeming love confronted, delivered, healed, and transformed her life. In 1995, Terry founded Grace Harbour Ministries, a not-for-profit, Biblically-based teaching, prayer, and discipleship ministry to women. Through Biblical counseling, coaching, and mentoring, she helps soul-wounded women come to know God in a personal way, conquer sin, overcome life challenges, and live Spirit-empowered lives. Throughout her global ministry she has witnessed God’s captive-freeing power at work. Terry has authored two books--Ever Increasing Grace and Azadiah Reynolds: God's Jamaica Man—and three booklets in her Pocket Scriptures series. She enjoys people, writing, photography, art, nature, and relaxing on the water while fishing with her quick-witted husband, Don, who keeps her laughing. Their amazing children and three priceless granddaughters remind them daily to be ever thankful for God’s wondrous blessings.
by Jill St. John
Indoors vs outdoors; movies vs museums; late nights vs sunrises–those are just some of the differences between my husband and myself. Those differences can cause disagreements and frustrations; however, they are ultimately good. They help expand our points of view and experiences. Those differences help in parenting our adulting kids as well as in ministry as we serve a very diverse community. After twenty-nine years of marriage and twenty-seven years as ministry partners, we still have not entirely mastered how to handle the challenges of our differences, and we are still learning and growing together.
If you are married and in ministry, or if you serve alongside ministry couples, you know the unique challenges of that life combination. Some navigate it well; some struggle; all of us are working it out.
It is a challenge to continue to grow together with all the dynamics of ministry life. The Bible has divine perspective and inspiration from the start. It begins with Adam and Eve being joined together by God Himself (Genesis 2:23-24) and is reiterated by Jesus that a man and woman become one as they join their lives in marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). God is the Biggest Fan of us, our marriages, and our ministries!
Along with marriage and ministry, there is the idea of romance: “a spirit of adventure, excitement, or mystery.” ¹ How does romance enter into and remain in a marriage relationship, particularly for ministry couples? Marriage itself could be considered an adventure as two very different humans join their lives. Perhaps in ministry, unlike most other careers, there is ample opportunity for adventure, excitement, and mystery--for romance!
Not many vocations and livelihoods rely upon people donating their hard-earned money. That is an amazing adventure to me and a perpetual miracle of the Lord!
There is also excitement of all kinds. It looks like counseling someone who is choosing to get help for their addiction as they take breathtaking steps toward Jesus–Who is changing their life and the generations that will follow.
Mystery is the door of the church opening to a person giving a donation in the exact amount as an unexpected expense. Part of the beauty of being a ministry couple is sharing those stories with one another and praising God together for His good works.
"The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22 NLT). For me to be a blessing requires daily personal time in God’s presence and Word and relying upon Jesus to fill me with Holy Spirit fruit and power for the demands of family and ministry. That time with the Lord is also for confession and repentance, pouring out to Him where and how I have blown it, and receiving His forgiveness and grace. Whether a married or single minister, or the spouse of a minister, you are a treasure.
As an alcoholic far from God at the age of twenty, I walked into an Assembly of God church and was greeted with Jesus’ love before I had any idea of His love for me. One of the people who profoundly impacted me with God’s love was my pastor’s wife, Donna. She accepted me and believed in God’s work in me. Whether you are the pastor or the pastor’s wife (or like me, you are both), this side of Heaven you may never know the impact of your ministry. Thank you on behalf of all you have loved and will love!
The New Testament highlights a ministry couple, Priscilla and Aquila, in Acts 18:2-3, 18-26, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and 2 Timothy 4:19. They were a team and did great work for Jesus, growing the Kingdom of God together. We know from these passages that they worked together professionally, as well as pastored a church that met in their home; they accompanied Paul in traveling ministry; and they actively discipled others. Priscilla is a great example of a woman committed to her husband and to their ministry life.
A great way to pray is that we will be committed to our husbands and that we will be committed to the life of ministry to which God has called us, whatever it may look like.
Some of the challenges of being in ministry are the demands on our time and emotional energy, along with being somewhat public figures. Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. What is not light are the expectations and demands of others, nor our own self-imposed expectations. When we are struggling, may God tend to us, and may we be brave enough to share our burdens with others as Galatians 6:2 encourages.
For ministry couples, maybe this is where romance comes into play. We can suspend the pressure and enjoy some adventure, excitement, or mystery: walking in the dark with flashlights, swinging on a swing set, sitting close together on the sofa while watching something that makes us laugh–especially when there is way too much to do. Try setting a timer for fifteen seconds, then spend every one of those seconds gazing into one another’s eyes. It could remind you that God never breaks His gaze from us. It also may end in a lot of laughter! These kinds of moments will infuse our marriage relationships with connection and chemistry.
Here is what I commit to and wonder if you will as well:
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City--6 years as youth pastors, and 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word, helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing, and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
by Amber Mills
(re-printed from a previous "Refresh" blog)
This time was different. The atmosphere wasn’t friendly. Fans were edgy. There was yelling and booing. The opposing players were pushing the limits of what is acceptable. Now don’t get me wrong. My boys have played competitive sports for a very long time and I fully appreciate all that comes with it. Games are loud, intense, and very physical, but this went beyond. There were no post game conversations between players or parents.
The entire demeanor of this competition was different than the last. What had changed? Same team. Same players. Same parents. New coach. The leadership had changed. The new coach encouraged this behavior. He congratulated his players when our team was injured. He gave a thumbs up to the booing fan section. He also demeaned his own players when they didn’t perform to his expectations.
The previous coach had been a very intense, but godly man. He had demanded his players give 100% at all times but he valued character above all else. It trickled down throughout the entire program just as this new attitude has.
Do they not see the change? Do they even care how they are being perceived? How are the parents okay with the behavior of their boys and the attitude change on and off of the court? It is as if they are completely oblivious to the change.
The complete 180 of this team stirred something within me. It made me think! It made me examine! Have there been changes in me, my family, and my church to which I am oblivious? Has my leadership, in any way, cheered on or encouraged bad behavior? When others fall, do I give a thumb up to those under me? Does my leadership make those around me strive for greatness or does it glorify the destruction of others?
Our attitudes and actions are magnified in those over which we have influence. We cannot control how people behave, but we can control how we influence them. If a church is arrogant, cliquey, and more concerned with whom they have rather than whom they can reach, the leadership is usually of the same mindset. On the other hand, humble leadership usually leads the giving, inviting church to reach out and bless their community.
I did not choose to be a pastor’s wife. Nonetheless, it is the path laid before me, and I wouldn’t want to walk any other. I am in leadership; therefore, I must be mindful of my attitude, my words, my facial expressions (if you know me you will agree that the latter is the one, I struggle with the most!).
Philippians 2:3-4 NLT says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
A trickling faucet left alone can cause your water bill to skyrocket. A bad attitude trickling down from ministry leadership can destroy an entire church.
What am I allowing to trickle from my heart into my family and my church? As a children’s pastor, I want the kids under me to be accepting. As a women’s leader, I want my ladies to be inviting and loving. As the lead pastor’s wife, I want my church to be burdened for the lost and more concerned with our community around us than with our own agendas. But most importantly, as a mom and wife, I want my family to be examples of how to truly love each other.
She has served as a full-time children’s pastor wherever they have ministered for over 20 years. “Organized chaos” describes more than just her style of children’s ministry; it can also be used to describe life in general around the Mills' house.
Amber revels in the moments she can simply be the pastor’s wife and support Greg as he leads with excellence in their community. She also craves the other side of the spectrum, where she is blessed with opportunities to share precious words God lays on her own heart.
Amber enjoys creating beautiful events, indulging in chocolate desserts, sharing her heart with the women around her, and living this amazing adventure called life.
by Rhonda Barnes
(Reprinted with permission from the blog Secret Place Revelation.)
It is that time of the year in many parts of the country to change shoe styles. I have accumulated too many shoes, so in order to make room, I pack away my sandals and get out my boots. It is important to have a variety of types of shoes to be prepared for every season, but today’s inspiration is less about style and more about fit.
I have a great video of my daughter when she was about 18 months old trying to wear my heels. I heard the clicking sound on the floor and peeked around the corner to see her trying to walk in shoes that did not fit. It was video-worthy and something I enjoy watching, but trying to walk in shoes that don’t fit is simply exhausting.
She no longer needed those cute little white walking shoes I had purchased, but she was not yet ready for mommy’s heels. In fact, as I watched my daughter grow into the wonderful young woman she is today, she never fit in mommy’s heels. First, she inherited her shoe size from her dad instead of me, but more importantly, heels were just never her thing. I remember in her teen years how she tried to fit into the mold of wearing what friends wore, but she quickly went back to the style that was more comfortable.
Have you noticed that every shoe store or department has a section housing accessories for shoes that really do not fit? There are pads for the back of a shoe to keep it from slipping off. There are pads for the bottom of the shoe to keep your foot from slipping forward. There are barriers for the sides to keep your shoe from rubbing blisters.
The interesting thing is none of these items is needed if the shoe fits!
If we go to a store to buy a suit, it often will not fit. There are individuals trained to alter it. This may work for suits, but not shoes!
If they are too small, they hurt, stifle, and hold you back. They are not satisfying at all to wear. If they are too large, they slip off when you try to walk. You cannot effectively walk, climb, or progress forward.
While foot size grows during stages of maturity, for most people there is a point where the foot size is maximized and will not change. That is why I have too many shoes! I have been wearing the same size for a very long time. Over the years, I have collected a variety of styles and colors for many different seasons and activities.
I love that I am not limited to one style. Seasons and conditions require us to have choices. These are options, but the size is not. The Creator determines the size! We read in 1 Corinthians 12 that there are a variety of gifts distributed by the Spirit to the members of the unified Body of Christ. Each is necessary for the Body to function properly.
THE CREATOR DETERMINES THE SIZE!
I have a passion to remind each person reading this how much your Creator loves you and how He wants to see you walk in the shoes He has selected for you. He chose them long before you were even here:
13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
YOU WERE FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE!
Each one of us is unique and distinct--no two of us with the same thumbprint--but each is given precious thoughts and plans from our Father!
What we must contend for is our own unique size or individual identity in Christ. Each one is critical to the kingdom; if you are trying to wear someone else’s shoes, your identity is left abandoned on a shelf missing God-ordained opportunities.
For example, my sister-in-law and I are very much alike. At her first Christmas with our family, we showed up wearing the exact same sweater before we even knew each other. A couple years later, we actually came to vacation with the same swimsuit, cover-up, and shoes!
We are the same age, we have the same last name, and we even have the same shoe size. However, those who know us well will attest that if I tried to wear many of her shoes, it would not end well! Her style is often different from mine, and she wears heel sizes I cannot tolerate.
This paints such a vivid picture of the fact that even though we have many similarities, I can’t be her and she can’t be me. We can only complement one another, encourage each other, and fulfill our own unique callings.
This simple mistake has caused too many of God’s children to abandon the plans He has for them...trying to wear shoes that do not fit!
We often feel like square pegs trying to fit in round holes, trying to fit the mold, or to meet everyone’s expectations. Let’s change that today and become free to be who He has called us to be!
No apologies! Just be who He is asking you to be! No comparison, no intimidation, no jealousy or envy--just wearing the shoes that fit you in the right season and on the right occasion! Make a commitment today if you have not already done so to walk in the steps He has ordered for you.
DON’T ALLOW YOUR ONE-OF-A-KIND DESIGNER SHOES TO BE LEFT ON THE SHELF!
Rhonda Barnes is an author, speaker, Christian blogger, and gifted teacher of God’s Word. Rhonda was credentialed as an AG minister in 2002, and currently serves as Associate Pastor at Grace Community Church in Salem, Missouri. She has written three books, Road to Transformation, Journey to God’s Glory, Keys to the Kingdom, and It is Written. Rhonda is passionate about sharing the truths of God's Word and launched the Christian teaching blog Secret Place Revelation, inspired by Psalm 91:1. She enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching small groups.
by Rebecca Barton
Summer ended with shocking abruptness this year, hounded by back-to-school busyness and a flurry of ministry activities. I found myself scrambling to ensure the Fall calendar wasn't double-booked—my thoughts drifting and spiraling about like leaves dancing ground-ward.
Ah, Autumn! Season that splashes our landscape with vibrant hues of orange and gold and purple! Your morning temperatures tempt me to brave the last of summer's mosquitoes, greeting the sunrise from my front porch swing with a steaming mug full of pumpkin-spiced beverage. I've always loved Fall—eagerly anticipated bringing in the harvest, shivering in bleachers under Friday night football lights, and shuffling through piles of rustling leaves. Have you ever found it curious that trees shed their layers right when we have to wear more of them?
Have you ever found it curious that trees shed their layers right when we have to wear more of them?
Fall. Why do we call it that? I'm sure the nickname originated from falling leaves, but other things also fall during this season: ripening fruit, lowering temperatures, flagging spirits. Yes, for some, Autumn signals a decline into seasonal depression that accompanies diminishing daylight hours.
I've never been someone whose spirits were dampened this time of year. Instead, I almost always experienced the opposite—relishing in the colder, darker days by warming the kitchen with baking bread and simmering soup and curling up in front of the fire near my Honey to devour an excellent book.
I've never been that someone...but I am now. This past week marked the one-year anniversary of my dad's departure from this earth, and this year, my mood has darkened along with the days. I find myself reflecting upon my memories of the twilight of Dad's lifetime, when like a giant oak that stood tall for such a long season, he swayed and shuddered, shedding leaf upon leaf of a layered life, until all that remained were frail branches—stripped bare and stretched heavenward.
Unlike the oaks that grace our church campus, re-adorning the skyscape with lush green vegetation each Spring, my Dad's earthly frame has ceased to weather the seasons. I stroll now beneath the trees and marvel that they have stood the test of time...and I wish they could testify of all they have witnessed. My dad did. Testify, that is. His last will and testament wasn't best described as notarized words on paper but rather as a compelling urgency to share God's sustaining grace. As his flesh weakened, Dad spent his remaining strong-willed energy testifying to each of us of the goodness of God during his lifetime of faithful service.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that everything has a season and a God-ordained purpose, that He makes all things beautiful in His time, and that He has put eternity in our hearts. At this time, I am in a season of experiencing loss, and it is only timely that I embrace that season as a natural process our timeless Alpha and Omega God uses to create beauty within me. As surely as I stand in faith accepting that He ordains journeys through death and mourning, I can stand in hope believing that He orders steps into life and rejoicing.
Note: If you find that your “season of sorrow” is so severe it prevents you from living at a functionally normal level, please reach out to others who can walk with you on a journey back to healthy acceptance of all of the seasons you experience. There is wisdom in Godly counsel. Please contact us confidentially at email@example.com if you need help locating a Christian counselor.
Raised in a minister’s home, Rebecca was called into ministry at an early age. An Evangel University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English Education and a minor in Spanish, Rebecca has been a teacher, piano tutor, worship leader, office administrator, and bookkeeper. Rebecca currently serves with her husband, Scott, as lead pastors of Eldon First AG. They have been married 33 years--29 of those as pastors in Texas and Missouri. Besides being a pastor’s wife, Rebecca serves as the Publishing Team Leader for Refresh Ministry Women. Her interests include singing, playing keyboards, reading, genealogy, gardening, and crafting. However, her favorite activity is keeping up with her 3 adult kids, their spouses, and 3 active granddaughters.
by Vicki Miller
Are you the mom who cries on her kids’ first day back in school, or are you one of those moms who can’t wait for the little sweeties to be out from underfoot, so you can move on to other things that may seem more productive? If the latter, I bet you are ready to trade pool parties for coffee dates with friends, and unstructured living for routine mornings and early-to-bed schedules. Even if you don’t have children in school, you still feel the effects of an increased pace now that church ministries are back in full-swing.
With the demanding schedules my husband and I have, it’s necessary to be purposeful in how we manage our day-to-day lives. I am not saying that we have it all figured out. However, we understand that if we “fail to plan," then we "plan to fail.” Perhaps these six practices will benefit you, too:
So whether you have a busy-mom schedule, work a secular job, or are in full-time ministry, be proactive in living a life you love. Join me and other women ministers as we take just six weeks to focus on Healthy Ministry Life. See you at our first-ever Lunch & Learn at noon on September 8th. Let’s be healthy together!
Vicki and her husband, Don, have been in ministry for more than 35 years. They have four daughters, four sons-in-law, four grandsons, and three sweet granddaughters who keep their lives full of joy and laughter. After pastoring the same congregation for more than 25 years, they now serve in ministry to SOMO District ministers and their spouses. Traveling is a shared interest between Don and Vicki, especially as they connect with churches and church leaders across our state and around the world. Encouraging ministry wives in their unique role and their walk with Jesus is one of Vicki's passions. For fun, she loves to read, sleuth décor ideas on Pinterest, drink iced tea (no coffee for her) especially with a friend, and take car rides in the country.
by Pamela J. Morton
I had one of those mornings. I'm sure you have, too. The mornings where you are in a deep, sound sleep dreaming blissfully of well-behaved children and the slimming swimsuit that actually keeps its promises. Then the alarm sounds. Bleary-eyed, I try to locate the annoying little beep-beep-beep of my iPhone. I used to "whack" the snooze, but no longer. Now with much genteel effort, I must brush the touch screen to purchase seven more minutes of sleep.
I begin to prioritize the things that I need to do to get out the door. Let's see... Will my hair still look decent if I don't wash it today? What if I eat cereal instead of eggs? Slowly I begin to gain one minute here, an extra two minutes there...Zzzzzzzzzz...........
My father got up every day at 5 AM even after he retired. He would sit at the kitchen table sipping his coffee, doodling on a napkin, and reading his Bible. When visiting my mother-in-law, I know she will prepare breakfast, fold a load of laundry, work on a sewing project, and start lunch before I even shuffle into the bathroom to splash water on my face.
I push the covers back and begin my morning regimen. Some I know are like motorcycles. One turn of the key and rev of the engine and they're off. Others, like myself, could be compared to a push lawnmower which requires a few yanks of the crank and some serious coercion to get the motor going. Still, I wish I could be different...
I stare at my closet, chiding myself for not planning the night before. But I never know how I will feel. Is it an aqua day? Maybe khaki pants and a sharp blazer? Or a swishy skirt to look easy, breezy walking down the street. As a woman, my mood can switch very quickly and the outfit that seemed perfect at 11 PM could be utterly unacceptable at 6 AM. Still, I could have risked it. I grab something that doesn't require ironing and move on mentally to breakfast and lunch.
If my husband and I eat cereal, that will save me five minutes of egg preparation time. That's the ticket...except there's no milk. Seriously, I'm beginning to think the whole "get out of bed thing" was a terribly bad idea. Okay. Next plan. Maybe I can whip up a quick egg and put it on toast. (More mobile that way.) I look in the little egg caddy and see one cracked egg. How metaphorical. So, no eggs.
Ooooo, here's one that Whole Foods people would be proud of. I cut up a fresh apple and place some roasted almonds into a little container. How very delicious. How very healthy. How very natural. (Now I'm thinking that I should change into the swishy skirt ensemble since that fits the "granola" outlook I'm currently adopting.)
My husband announces that he's almost ready to go and begins to gather his things. Well, no breakfast at the table today. I grab my purse and my sliced apple. I start to pick up the small bowl of almonds and place them in front of me. Somehow, in my hurry, I miscalculate where the table is located and miss it by a full three inches. Almonds scatter all over the floor. I stare at the mess. No morning Bible reading AND no protein will prove to be a deadly combination for anyone who happens across my path today. Those poor, poor people!
I can feel tears welling up in my eyes but decide I don't even have time for a good meltdown. I sweep up the almonds, throw them away, and run out to our vehicle with the now-paltry apple slices. Not a lot of food for sharing between two people. I tell my husband what happened, and he gives his most sympathetic smile. (Good, wise move.) He prays a prayer for me, and we begin our drive to work.
How will the rest of this day unfold? Beep-Beep-Beep. My soul alarm goes off. Will I hit the snooze and go about my business in full grace-less fashion? Or do I take a deep breath, pause, and allow the Lord to flood me with His peace and mercy?
Seven Steps to Starting Off the Morning Right
Pam and her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern lives and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land. An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Middle Eastern neighbors while providing insight into their customs and everyday life with her friends in the West.
by Terry Magness
A friend and I were enjoying a leisurely afternoon breakfast at Village Inn before heading home when I suddenly realized I had forgotten to return a package to The UPS Store. Google Maps showed there was one less than a mile away, but in the opposite direction from where we needed to go. Maps also gave another option in the general direction we desired, but it required a sizeable detour from our route home. My friend chose the second option.
When I pointed out the difference in mileage, she responded, “But that’s in the wrong direction!”
I explained the difference between the two extra miles it would take to drive to the first store and back, and the five to six extra miles it would require driving the detour to the store on our way home.
She didn’t get it. Her focus was on her desired destination. Traveling in the opposite direction of home—though it consumed less time, less car mileage, and less gasoline—simply did not make sense to her, and from her perspective, seemed an imposition.
We have often seen or perhaps experienced this scenario first-hand. Something happens. Life presents us with an unexpected turn of events or change in direction. It seems wrong, possibly ominous, unpleasant, and sometimes downright painful. So, we set our compass and step on the gas, speeding in the direction we have predetermined, only to discover the road we are traveling has endless hills and valleys, blind intersections, road barriers, detours, potholes, and stand-still traffic. Eventually, we discover our wheels are spinning in place and we are going nowhere--and we are not quite sure how we got here.
What if we were to put on the brakes and consider? Does God have a plan for my life? Can He be trusted? Does He really love me?
God’s Word answers these questions in the affirmative--Yes. Yes. And yes!
Jesus said you would have trials in this life, but He has plans that will prepare and equip you to prosper in the journey, that you may arrive at your destination triumphantly. Right?
So then, you might ask, “If He loves me, then where is He in all this?”
A dear friend, Linda Brown, is a Celebrate Recovery leader and Certified Peer Specialist at Burrell Behavioral Health. Her occupation and mission in life is to help souls find healing, deliverance, and redemption.
Linda loves and follows the Lord with her whole heart, but a phone call one morning changed the course of her life. Her daughter, Jessica, the mother of her three grandchildren, died in a tragic auto accident in May 2021. Linda now parents one of those children.
How could she ever imagine this as the right direction for her life? It feels completely counterintuitive and is still unbearably painful at times! Please allow me share what she wrote in her blog on the first anniversary of her daughter’s death:
One year ago today I received the worst phone call of my life. No words can describe it, or the year that has followed. I can say, however, and mean it, that God has shown himself to be loving, good, and faithful through every circumstance of my life, including this one. Christians are not exempt from hard things, because we live on Planet Earth where sin, sickness, and death are. Sometimes there are seasons of grief and deep sorrow, sometimes there are times of anger and questions with no clear answers. Sometimes there are days when you just can’t think about. one. more. thing.
When your life takes an unexpected turn that doesn’t make sense, run to God. Leave your will at the door. Seek His guidance; ask Him for direction. Remember, He knows this road you are traveling. He has designated your route. As Linda does, read His Word and pray every day. Peace and assurance will come that God loves you--that He is good. Look for the beauty He provides in each day, and realize He is working His beauty in you.
God’s Guidance System (GGS) is foolproof and trustworthy. Follow His step-by-step en route instructions to reach your destiny.
Now an ordained AG minister, Terry Magness was once a broken, wounded, angry, and abuse-hardened woman, until God’s redeeming love confronted, delivered, healed, and transformed her life.
In 1995, Terry founded Grace Harbour Ministries, a not-for-profit, Biblically based teaching, prayer, and discipleship ministry to women. Through Biblical counseling, coaching, and mentoring, she helps soul-wounded women come to know God in a personal way, conquer sin, overcome life challenges, and live Spirit-empowered lives. Throughout her global ministry she has witnessed God’s captive-freeing power at work.
Terry has authored two books--Ever Increasing Grace and Azadiah Reynolds: God’s Jamaica Man—and three booklets in her Pocket Scriptures series.
Terry enjoys people, writing, photography, art, nature, and relaxing on the water while fishing with her quick-witted husband, Don, who keeps her laughing. Their amazing children and three priceless granddaughters remind them daily to be ever thankful for God’s wondrous blessings.
by Kim Boley
Have you ever eaten too much? Like, where you’re just miserable? It feels kinda gross, right?
What about when you enjoy a meal, you’re full, but you don’t feel miserable? You still feel normal and pleasant? It’s so nice! I love that feeling when I’ve enjoyed everything on my plate, but I don’t feel awful.
This is how I recently began looking at my time. I’ve been offered some amazing things the past couple of years, but I know I can’t say yes to it all. Even with the amazing things I already get to do, I’ve been offered more. But I’m limited. I hate that.
So how do I determine what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to?
I remember saying to my husband one night when discussing what my roles should look like in Chi Alpha next year, “I think my plate is too full.”
And I was hit with this metaphor.
I saw a plate full of delicious food: My main course was my family—my biggest priority after God—my daughters and my husband, and yes, my dog. My favorite side dish is our ministry—Chi Alpha at Southeast Missouri State. Which, honestly, is super easy to fill up on. I love what we do, so it’s easy to put a lot of that on my plate, and I must be careful how much space that takes up. Other side dishes are things I do for National Chi Alpha and our district, but I must keep these dishes small.
Desserts are my hobbies. Mostly reading. I know I could indulge a lot on it, but I also know my entire meal can’t be made up of just dessert. But a little is very enjoyable, and I could argue dessert is very necessary!
Coffee is my connection with friends. Sadly, I feel as if this one does get sacrificed a lot, but I’m so aware that I need it to get me through. I’ve been prioritizing this one more lately.
You might be wondering where God is in this metaphor? My time with Him is the napkin. So simple. So necessary. Cleans me up no matter what’s gotten on my hands and face. Refreshes me. My time with Him determines the quality of the napkin.
The plate is my time. My time has not grown and never will. I still have only twenty-four hours in a day. My plate is fixed.
About a year ago, I recognized my plate was full and I’d already included dessert. Sometimes dessert was knocked off the plate for a bit. But if I add one more thing, something more important than dessert would fall off my plate, and if I was not careful, I’d drop the entire meal.
So, when asked to take on another project or step into another role, I needed to assess the overall priority. What kind of dish is this? What will I lose on my current plate if I take this on? How many meals will that be? Is that overall worth it?
Yes, there are seasons of tasks, projects, etc. But how long do I want less of my main dish? How much extra of that smaller side do I want on my plate? Thanksgiving does have a big meal but that’s not meant to be consumed every day. Sometimes my kids only eat mac and cheese for dinner but that’s not supposed to happen at every meal.
I don’t want to feel too full and miserable. I don’t want to stack so much on my plate and cram it all in those twenty-four hours that I feel miserable afterwards.
I don’t want to rush time with my kids because I have to get something else done for Chi Alpha. And I don’t want to do so much for our ministry that my time with my family gets covered by it. Then when I go to bed, I feel miserable, because I didn’t do any of it well and I can’t even remember the last time I had a cup of coffee!
I don’t know if any of this will help you or not. Life is busy. But it’s okay to say no. It really is. I’ve been practicing it more. I’ve been getting more creative with what I do and embracing peace about passing on things.
I’m not perfect but I’m getting better.
I would encourage you to write out your own “meal” plan. Talk to your spouse and/or an awesome friend on your priorities. My husband knows things that will tempt me and knows what I would say yes to and make room on my plate for, should certain opportunities arise. This helps when I’m tempted to take something on that doesn’t fit; he can remind me what kind of meal I committed to eat.
And, of course, don’t ever forget your napkin!
Kim serves alongside her husband, James, as Chi Alpha missionaries at Southeast Missouri State University. They have two daughters, Abbi & Lizzie, and one fur baby (a black Labrador) named Natasha.
Kim attended Missouri State University in Springfield, MO where she was introduced to Chi Alpha Campus Ministries her freshman year.
After she graduated in 2006, she spent the next seven years at the University of Missouri in Columbia, serving as a missionary associate with Chi Alpha. In 2013, she and James felt led to pioneer a Chi Alpha where there wasn’t one. Through a series of God-moments, He brought them to Cape Girardeau, MO and the campus of SEMO. Since then, they have both become ordained ministers, learned even more about life and ministry, and fallen more in love with God and each other. Kim is a huge fan of coffee, dogs (especially labs), books, and her college kids. She loves doing Chi Alpha with her whole family by sharing life together.
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