Keep Moving

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Exodus 14:15 (NIV)

“Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the Israelites to move on.”

One of my all-time favorite bible stories is the story of Moses.  It is an amazing account of how God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  I love reading about all the awesome things God did on their behalf by showing His faithfulness to them in powerful ways.  It is a rollercoaster of suspense, leading up to Pharaoh finally giving in and allowing God’s chosen people to leave and head toward the new land He had promised them.

But what I find most interesting of all is what Paul Harvey calls, “the rest of the story.”   I am talking about those action-packed events that happened after Pharaoh changed his mind and went chasing after them.

The Israelites saw the Egyptians coming after them and were terrified.  They cried out to the Lord for help.  Then they started complaining to Moses and asking him why he brought them out to the desert to die.  In their fear, they began to long for Egypt and to return to their former captive way of life.

Fortunately, God knew that as soon as they experienced trouble, they would want what was familiar to them. They would remember the place where they had been dependent.  His plan was to take them the long way round, strengthening and caring for them.  Then He would put them in such a predicament that it would be impossible for them to escape without His help.

Sometimes it is God himself that takes us to a spot where we feel trapped or cornered.   We cannot go forward or backwards.  We feel as if all hope is lost.  But during those times, God wants to prove to us who He really is, and it is no time to quit.  We just have to keep moving!

Like the Israelites, when we encounter times of stress, it is no time to give up on God or run back to the chaotic life we have been freed from.  Sometimes our enemies–self-doubt, fear, and anxiety—are all pursuing us.  In front of us is uncertainty.  To go forward requires a faith some of us just do not have. To go back means losing all we have learned–so we complain.  But we do not need to.  That is because no matter what we face, God goes before us to show us the way, behind to protect us, beside to befriend us, above to watch over us, and within to give us peace.

With protection like that, we have nothing to fear.  So what stops us from trusting in God and moving forward toward the dreams and desires He has placed in us?  I cannot answer that for you.  But I do know this… we cannot let our enemy, Satan, discourage us to give up!  We can either stay fully bound up in our past, continue to whine and complain, throw pity parties, and blame everything and everyone for our miseries or we can trust God and walk into the destiny that He has already planned for each one of us.

 

 

Lori Wriston

Lori Wriston is the co-founder of Valor Ministries, a non-profit who helps low income residents of Washington County, MD, reach self-sufficiency.  She brings her unique insight of business, church and non-profit management experience together for the greatest effectiveness of the organization.   As a motivational speaker and teacher, she reveals the real life struggles and circumstances she overcame and encourages others to do the same. She shares the Good News that no situation is too great for God.  Lastly, her entrepreneurial spirit motivates her to mentor others to launch their own ministries or non-profits.

For HIS GLORY!

Philippians 1:6 NLT

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Spring always has me anxious for new beginnings and new adventures. This morning, our friend, Laura Acuna, posted the scripture above. It was just the reminder I needed. Lately I have felt wrong, wronged and hurt. I don’t know about you, but when I go through these emotions, one after another several times a day over several days, I begin to feel broken.

I know all the feelings are instigated by satan. He wants nothing more than for me to be upset and hurt. Because, when I am, I am so ineffective. I get depressed, turn inwards and in many ways self-sabotage. He knows the places that hurt. He knows my struggle with pride. Even when I don’t think I am prideful; a slight, word thrown off the cuff, brings me back to my issues. I like to say that I am just insecure, but the gracious Holy Spirit has told me, it is pride.

This brings me to spring and monarch butterflies. I love butterflies. I especially love monarch butterflies. When I was in elementary school we studied the life cycle of the monarch and watched as the caterpillars cocooned and later emerged as beautiful butterflies. It had a huge impact on me. As I think about it know, it still fills me with hope and awe.

The caterpillar, did it know what was in store for it when it was crawling along the ground, in the dirt and muck? When it was trying to stay safe from bird attacks?

When that primal urge overtook it to cocoon. Did it feel like death? Did it all seem worth it?

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For those two weeks it was in the chrysalis stage, did it feel never-ending? The tightness, the transformation, did it feel like too much?

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Then when it begins to emerge. The struggle. Does it feel like too much?

I am sure you have heard the old story about the man watching the butterfly struggle to emerge. Feeling sorry for the butterfly he decided to cut the cocoon and help the butterfly out. But once the butterfly was free, its wings did not work. They were limp at its side and actually made life much more difficult for the butterfly. Soon after the butterfly died.

That struggle from the cocoon, it is necessary. The struggle forces fluid into the wings to make them strong and capable of flight.

Once the butterfly emerges, it is able to soar over the mud and muck it once trudged through. The butterfly is able to see life very differently.

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This is the same thing with us. The struggles, they make us strong in our weak places.

I think about the story of Naomi and Ruth. At one point, Naomi’s life seemed wonderful. She was married, blessed with two sons and two loving daughters-in-law. But in a few short years, she loses her husband and then both of her sons. She is devastated.

We know as she was returning to Judah, she sent her daughters-in-law back to their homeland. But, Ruth refused to go. Instead, she delivers one of the most beautiful speeches:

Ruth 1:16-18 NLT

But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go. I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

They went back to Judah and there found their kinsman redeemer. Boaz became Ruth’s husband. They had Obed. Which gave not only Ruth a new life, but also Naomi.

Ruth 4:14-15 NLT

Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the LORD, who has provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!”

From the dirt, from fear of death and hopelessness, Naomi is now praised by the women in her town.

Not only that, but we read in Luke 3: 32 NLT

David was the son of Jesse.

Jesse was the son of Obed.

Obed was the son of Boaz.

Boaz and Obed, they are in the lineage of our Savior. Our Redeemer.

To say that God redeems the muck and mess in our lives is an understatement. He uses it for GLORY!

So, my hurt feelings. My pride. While I hate it now. I know from God’s track record and the promises in the Bible, He will use it for HIS GLORY! And He will use your hard and weak places too.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

Upward and Forward

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For Lent this year, I am studying Isaiah with She Reads Truth. We recently read Isaiah 30 and verses 1 and 2 stood out to me.

1 “What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the LORD. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins.

2 For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade.

Isaiah is rebuking the Israelites, because when they are faced with fear, they turned inward and went backwards. Inward because they began serving pagan gods and backwards by reaching out to Egypt for protection. The very place where God told them never to return.

According to Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible and I paraphrase, when the Israelites found themselves in danger and distress, they:

  1. Would not consult God. They decided what they should do by looking at the situation and coming up with a solution.
  2. Would not confide in God. They did not think having God on their side was enough. They strengthened themselves in the strength of Pharaoh. They thought he was their powerful ally.

Many times in the Old Testament you will read that the Israelites “forgot the LORD their God”. They started to depend on their own knowledge and did what they thought was right.

How many times do you find yourself doing the same thing? I know I am just coming out of one of those times. I did a few things that I felt shame for. Instead of going straight to God with these feelings, repenting and letting the Holy Spirit minister to me. I allowed the shame to move me away.

Fear is an incredible emotion. It is the root of shame and so many other problems. I did a quick google search to find out how many times fear is mentioned in some way in the New Testament. Ladies, at least 57 times. It seems that God has a lot to say about fear.

Over and over we can read the simple words, “do not fear.” Do not fear, because God knows what fear does to you.

I was taught that I could lose my salvation. If I did too many wrong things, God might not take me back. I feared God and not in the awe inspiring way. He was apathetic, sitting in heaven tallying up the good and bad I did, deciding if I was worthy. And I knew I would never be worthy.

So, I carried two chalkboards around in my mind. I kept my own tally of what I did right and wrong. After a while, I gave up. I pushed God aside and decided to do what was right in my mind. I don’t have to tell you this didn’t work out well. Many wounds and years later, I turned back to God. He graciously embraced me, because that is who He is. A wonderful friend shared the following verses with me.

John 10:28-29:

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

These verses saved me. They healed me. I am a child of God. Jesus already took my sins to the cross. When God looks at me, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. He is not tallying up my sins. For me, the years of carrying around the mental chalk board, tallying up good and bad were over. Okay, maybe not over, but they are definitely fewer.

Fear can make us turn inward and backward. It distorts us.

When I think about distortion, I am reminded of a recent sermon from No Easy Jesus. In Philippians 2:15, Paul warns

15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

I have always read this as crooked and perverse being sinful. But Jason Mitchell explained it is not a moral category; instead it means different than what is “intended” for you. He used the analogy of a tree. A tree is meant to grow straight and tall, but sometimes because of outside forces, the tree begins to grow in on itself, which destroys it.

Like a tree, there is a way God intended us to be. Our choices can warp and distort us from what God created us to be. Our fear can keep us from embracing God and what He has for us. It can cause us to do what we think is right or what feels right instead of what God’s word says. God does not call us to do what feels right, but to do what He says. It is not about feeling good or feeling yourself; it is about focusing on Christ and living connected to God.

Ladies, let’s set our eyes upward and move forward.

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

I Can!

Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

“…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

 After being stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and set up for murder, Paul had definitely learned a few things.  He learned to bless the Lord when things were going well, and to trust the Lord when things were going bad.  He also learned to keep going.  He refused to turn back, to give up, or to give in.  He learned the simple truth that He could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.

This is something we need to learn as well.  So many people are looking for hope these days due to the chaos that is all around them.  But even though life can be full of difficulties, the good news is that the troubles we face are not meant to bring us down.  They are meant to lift us higher and help us to grow in spiritual maturity.  They are designed to help us discover the deeper spiritual truths that will empower us to reach our divine destinies.

The devil may have you convinced that you can’t, but he is a liar.  With Jesus, you CAN!  Your friends may tell you to give up, but they do not know the source of your strength.  When you are weak, HE is strong.  God does not raise up children to be defeated, to quit, or to go through the motions of life.  No, God raises up children to win and to gain the victory in all situations through Christ.  As Christians, we are His children.  And if God is for us, who can be against us?

Sadly, we are the ones who put limitations on ourselves and on God.  We do that when we say “I can’t” instead of “I can.”  It is time to get rid of that kind of thinking.  We need to renew our minds and remove any obstacle that is preventing us from believing this scripture with all our hearts.  We must let go of our sin, pride, doubt, guilt, shame, and our own selfish-desires and then start living out what we believe.  Obedience is the cross-over step that moves us from “I can’t” to “I can.”  If we do not obey, then our disobedience will make us unable to receive the richest truths of God that will sustain us during difficult times.

Think of Paul.  Think of everything he went through as he obediently served God.  It was not an easy road to travel.  He endured so much.  Yet he obeyed throughout it all.  That is why he was able to receive such incredible and divine revelations from the Lord.  Those revelations not only sustained him through his own hardships and difficulties, but they continue to sustain all Christians throughout every generation.  What a testimony!

It is amazing what one person can do if they have an attitude that says, “I can!”  That attitude not only positively affects our lives, but the lives of those around us who are looking for hope in the midst of their circumstances. If you want to be that kind of person, then I encourage you to get your head and your heart on the same page so that you can be like Paul and be ready for whatever comes your way.

Lori Wriston

Lori Wriston is the co-founder of Valor Ministries, a non-profit who helps low income residents of Washington County, MD, reach self-sufficiency.  She brings her unique insight of business, church and non-profit management experience together for the greatest effectiveness of the organization.   As a motivational speaker and teacher, she reveals the real life struggles and circumstances she overcame and encourages others to do the same. She shares the Good News that no situation is too great for God.  Lastly, her entrepreneurial spirit motivates her to mentor others to launch their own ministries or non-profits.  Visit Valor Ministries.

 

 

 

A Word for My Older Sisters (and My Younger Sisters too)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how old I am. I assume it’s because, with all the holidays over, I realize how really quiet my house is. It is obvious that the days of teenaged boys and their friends laughing and carrying on throughout our home are behind me.

In spite of the fact that I can see it in the mirror, sometimes feel it in my bones, and keep getting AARP cards in the mail – it has taken me some time to accept the fact that I am an older woman. On some days this is great news, and on others – it makes me a little sad.

Just being honest.

All that being said, it’s a great season of life! It is a beautiful thing when you have lived a long time, experienced many things and, through those experiences, gained some wisdom. When you can look back over time and see the faithfulness of God – well, there is nothing more beautiful than that.

In a recent blog post, Liz Curtis Higgs wrote,

‘When we’re young, we imagine life will be like a bell curve. We’ll climb upward, enjoy being on top of our game for a few years, then steadily decline until we quietly slip out of sight. That’s not at all what God has in mind. Our life in Christ and our service to Him is ever ascending, moving forward and upward, gaining strength and momentum.’

This is entirely true. I’m grateful for Liz’s reminder. Our Lord is so darn counter-culture. I just love Him for that!

This brings me to what is on my heart today. The message is primarily for us older sisters but, younger women, will you also please lean in and listen? There’s something in this message for you, too.

In the middle of an immoral society in Crete, Paul’s plan to influence that society for Christ hinged on developing church leaders and teaching the older men, older women and younger men in the faith (Titus 2:1-10). The male elders were to be an example to them.

However, one important people group was conspicuously missing; the younger women were to be taught and coached not by the elders – but by older, Godly women.

In Titus 2:3-5, we are given our marching orders:

Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.

Paul’s message could not be any clearer. Godly character, in a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman, is a critical aspect of our growth as believers – and sisters, our growth directly impacts our families and, in turn, our society.

I wish I could tell you that when I was young all of my encounters with older Christian women were positive; the truth is, there were several painful experiences that I remember to this day. This was particularly true when I was a young leader – I often left their presence feeling beat up and put in my place. Looking back, I realize that entitlement, control and fear were involved – I see it now, but I didn’t see it then.

While I don’t recall being taught any of the attributes listed in Titus 2, I did learn a valuable lesson just the same: I vowed then and there to strive to do better when I became an older woman.

We can ruminate over our negative experiences or we can use them as teachable moments to develop our own character.

To be honest, I’ve done both. The latter is the better way.

Thankfully, that isn’t all there is to my story. There have been many dear, Godly older women who encouraged me, carefully admonished me, and met me smack in the middle of my immaturity. They gracefully allowed me to be me—and what patience they displayed! I was talked off the ledge a few times, straightened out, prayed for, understood, and even called “sweetie”. They led me not to themselves – but straight to the feet of Jesus Christ.

I’ve watched them age well, work through problems, deal with heartache, illness and loss – and still carry on with Christ. All of it done with love and all done in humility, seasoned with extreme grace.

Oh, how I needed these examples during the confusing years of raising my boys, figuring out my role as a wife, a leader, and a Christ follower!

Well… here I am and here you may be, too. We’re the older women now.  We’ve been given our marching orders.  It’s now our turn to walk in their footsteps, emulate their character, and breathe life & love into the young women who are coming behind us.

I recently gave a survey to the women in my ministry. They responded to questions about leadership and their relationships with older women. The following are the top eight attributes they value in those who lead them AND in older women in general; the comments next to them are mine. (‘Non-Judgmental’ was overwhelmingly the attribute they valued most.)

  • Non-Judgmental: She needs our empathy, flexibility, and help – not our judgment.
  • Humility: There is no place for entitlement, control, or pride (see Jesus’ example for this).
  • Transparency/Authenticity: She wants to be let in on our own struggles both past and present – this gives her hope. She isn’t looking for perfect role-models. She wants us to be our true selves.
  • A Biblical Foundation: She wants to see us actively seeking the Word of God and applying it to our lives.
  • Honesty: We need to accurately remember that it was hard for us, too. No need to tell her that life was different (better, worse, harder, etc.) when we were young women – that isn’t helpful to her today.
  • Grace-Filled: She will do things differently, but she gets the space and grace to try them out, succeed, and even make mistakes!
  • Accountability: We can be honest and hold a sister accountable – warn and admonish in extreme grace. She should feel loved after encountering us, not judged (again, see Jesus’ example).
  • Generosity: There are times when we need to move aside and let her have her time, her moment. We have had ours.

Enlightening, isn’t it? And right in line with Titus 2.

Now… in case you think I have these bullet points nailed down, you are mistaken! I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you.

May God help us all to be life-givers. To build up and not tear down – to take her hand and place it in the hand of Jesus.

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She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. ~ Proverbs 31:26

I’m thinking I need to write a few thank you notes to the women who have lived out Titus 2 in front of me. How about you?

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

Blessings,

Laura

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Laura exudes warmth, fun and authenticity weather speaking to her Bible study sisters, in front of a large group or in a one on one conversation. She passionately shares the truths the Lord has taught her through His word and through life lessons learned along the way. Married to her closest friend and encourager, she and Pat are the proud parents of three adult sons.

Laura is a graduate of Liberty University where she earned a degree in Christian Counseling and a Minor in Biblical Studies. She’s the cofounder of Sisters in Faith Ministries which includes The Manorwood Café Bible Study, Step Up Coaching for Women in Ministry and Sisters in Faith, a day conference which is in its 17th year. Laura served as a women’s ministry leader for 15 years, is a volunteer chaplain for her church and is a 2012 and 2013 “She Speaks” graduate.  http://www.Laura-Acuna.com

Keep My Eyes on You Lord

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Each time I start reading my one year chronological Bible, it is smooth sailing until I hit Exodus and Leviticus. Isn’t that sad since they are right after Genesis! These chapters are hard. So many rules. And I am a rule follower. So I wonder if they are hard because I know I could never follow all of the rules.

Anyway, I pray each day that God will let me see this text differently. I don’t want to skim over it or get bogged down. My prayer is usually, “LORD, let me see you here. Let me see the people as people, not stories.”

So, here I am, in the middle of Exodus when I begin reading about the dedication of the priests. This goes on for chapters. There are very specific instructions. God is a good God. He tells you exactly what you need to do in order to please Him. You don’t have to wonder or guess. He is clear.

As I am reading through this, the Holy Spirit whispers into my spirit, “not anymore.” Because of Jesus, we don’t have to worry about what we eat, what we drink, what we wear, even the condition of our heart. Jesus is the bridge that allows me to come before God just as I am. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus and I am fully acceptable to Him. Once again, God is very clear on His instructions, when we realize how much we need a Savior, when we put our faith and hope in God, He is pleased with us.

What an incredible God we serve. He is clear, authentic, loving and a pursuer. We don’t have to wait to be good enough. Jesus makes us good enough.

As I continue on through Exodus, I read about how Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai. The Israelites knew where Moses went and they knew why he was gone. He was having a conversation with God about them. And just to make sure they were not without a leader, Aaron was left in charge. Now Aaron was not only Moses’ brother, but also his right hand man. When Moses was afraid to speak to Pharaoh, God allowed Aaron to speak for him. Aaron had seen the power of God first hand.

The Israelites began to worry about Moses. They began to worry that he was not coming back; so they went to Aaron with a solution. “Come on,” they said. “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1)

You might think after all that Aaron saw, he would scold them for even asking. They were God’s chosen people. He delivered them out of captivity in Egypt where they had been for 400 years. Not only were they free, but Pharaoh and the army that pursued them was drowned in the Red Sea. You know, the sea God parted so they could walk on dry land to the other side.

During other times in my life, I would judge the Israelites harshly. How could they really be so shallow and have such little faith after all God has done for them? How could Aaron listen to them? The gold they gave Aaron to form the calf, it was the same gold God had provided to them through the Egyptians as they left Egypt. The whole scene boggles the mind, until I hear that whisper again in my own heart.

Don’t I do the same thing? God has delivered me from captivity. He delivered me from habits, people, sin and thought patterns that kept me captive for years. But once I was delivered, I cleaned myself up and started to believe that somehow I did it. Or at least had a part in it. Or maybe it was the medicine provided by doctors? Or that I learned my lesson? I begin to take the credit away from God and instead give it to myself, loved ones or just things. I form my own golden calf.

Aaron and the Israelites were not bad people. They took their eyes off of God. Anytime we take our eyes off of God. Anytime we look around, instead of up. We risk becoming just like the Israelites that day. We can trick ourselves and begin to believe we can take credit for where we are. Or that someone or something deserves credit for what God has done.

This is also dangerous because it begins to give us license to judge others. Just like I judged the Israelites.

LORD, help us to keep our eyes on You. Forgive us for taking credit for what only you can do. Thank you for Your Son who makes us righteous in Your sight.

So, what are you studying?

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Teresa Neal is a Christ follower, wife, and mother. Her passion is to see women grow in their relationship with Jesus and understand how great His love is for them. She is attends LCBC Church in Waynesboro and leads a women’s life group. You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

The Truth About Your Sweet Feminine Self

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There was a lot of commotion out there this past weekend regarding our role as women in our society and in this world. If we are not careful, we can get ourselves caught up in trying to find our self-worth from someplace outside of God’s Word.

To be crystal clear: our value, our self-worth and our acceptance will never come from a law, a march or a shifting-sand political platform. They come to us from one place and one place alone – Jesus Christ.

Remember this: God-given identity is true for all women. Every single soul has value and is an image bearer of the one who created her — whether she knows Him or not.

In Genesis 1 and 2, God created the heaven, the earth and everything it in it. Each time something was created, He said it was ‘good’ – until He created man. After man’s creation, God decided something wasn’t good.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” — Genesis 2:18

You have seen this verse before and in some translations the word ‘helpmeet’ is in place of the word ‘helper’.

Helpmeet? Helper?

They sound kind of weak, don’t they? Both words feel like God created us to stand a few steps back with eyes lowered to the floor. No abundant life for us – we simply are here to ‘help’.

But it isn’t so.

In the original language, ‘helpmeet’ is translated back to the Hebrew word ‘ezer’ and this word has a very, very different meaning.

The word ‘ezer’ means, strength, power, and rescue. One commentator translates it as a strong power and lifesaver!

So, let’s take a look at Genesis 2:18 again and place the real meaning in the text.

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a strong power and rescuer for him.’

Our sweet Lord created us not as an afterthought, but as the crowning glory of His perfect creation!

This world was not complete (and neither was man) until our feminine strength, fueled by God’s power, arrived on the scene! He has given us large hearts to love and carry life – by our very nature, we are life givers, lifesavers and rescuers.

And anything that goes against how God created us, goes against Him.

Now girls, ever since Eve tangled with sin, our God-given qualities have been distorted.

Oh my, how they have been twisted and turned and defiled! It’s no wonder so many of us have searched for our identity and value in unsafe places.

But the truth is, no matter how messed up our value may be in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, it has never ever changed in the eyes and heart of the One who made us.

We are life-bearers.

We rescuers and lifesavers.

We possess God’s strong power expressed through our big feminine hearts.

We are smart and possess keen intuition & wisdom via the Holy Spirit.

We are valuable.

We are servant leaders.

We have God-given dignity.

And so does every little girl on this earth and those yet to be born. All are image bearers of God Almighty.

The Bible is full of women who used the attributes God created them with to influence their world for His glory.

One such woman was Esther.

Her name means ‘star’ and it is so appropriate! She used her strong power to be a bright light in a very dark time. Her courage, strength and keen wisdom led her to become the lifesaver of her beloved people.

There is also Rahab, Mary, Elizabeth, the Samaritan woman and on and on. These women — and many, many more (some named and some unnamed), have left us a legacy as God’s crowning glory.

Creation wasn’t complete without our feminine strong power!

As designed, we can illuminate His voice of life, calm, wisdom, kindness, love, empathy, loyalty and of understanding in this lost and hurting world.

We don’t need anyone out there to affirm our dignity or value. We don’t have to go looking ‘elsewhere’ for it either. It’s ours. We only have to look at God’s perfect creation and listen to the lives of our sisters in the pages of scripture.

Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. — Hebrews 13:7b

Blessings to you, my girlfriends!

Laura Acuna

 

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Laura Acuna exudes warmth, fun and authenticity weather speaking to her Bible study sisters, in front of a large group or in a one on one conversation. She passionately shares the truths the Lord has taught her through His word and through life lessons learned along the way. Married to her closest friend and encourager, she and Pat are the proud parents of three adult sons.

Laura is a graduate of Liberty University where she earned a degree in Christian Counseling and a Minor in Biblical Studies. She’s the cofounder of Sisters in Faith Ministries which includes The Manorwood Café Bible Study, Step Up Coaching for Women in Ministry and Sisters in Faith, a day conference which is in its 17th year. Laura served as a women’s ministry leader for 15 years, is a volunteer chaplain for her church and is a 2012 and 2013 “She Speaks” graduate.

Visit Laura online:  www.Laura-Acuna.com

The 8th Day of Christmas

Welcome guest writer, Laura Acuna! Laura will be speaking at our Weekend Getaway in March. Read her bio at the end of this post. Enjoy!

 

Did you know that Christmas isn’t over yet? As I write this to you on New Year’s Day, 2017, it is only the 8th day of Christmas – and there are 12!

The 12 days of Christmas began on Christmas Day, December 25, and will end on January 5 – the eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany. Epiphany commemorates the night that the Magi visited the baby Jesus.

Our culture says that Christmas began around Halloween and ended a week ago – but don’t you believe it! Christmas tradition has it right!

The Christmas story itself doesn’t end on the day of Jesus’ birth, either. The book of Luke records that on the 8th day after His arrival, Jesus was named and circumcised. Then, His parents took Him to the temple. When they arrived, they met two remarkable people. We don’t hear their names sung in many Christmas carols, but their stories are very important just the same.

Simeon and Anna were devout, elderly Jews who had been waiting a very, very long time to see their Messiah.

As devout believers, this meant that they had prayed and fasted over decades for Israel’s salvation to come.

Here is how Scripture describes Simeon:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. — Luke 2:25

And Anna:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. — Luke 2:36-38

These were two faithful people who were prayed-up and in the right position to see the answer to their prayers.

And that is exactly what happened.

As soon as Simeon and Anna laid their eyes on the infant, they recognized Him!

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No one knew the Messiah would come as a baby born to two teenagers from Nazareth, but that didn’t matter. Both Simeon and Anna had eyes to see the answer to their prayers – even when the answer came in a surprising way.

They knew Him when they saw Him.

Prayer and worship move us into the right position to see the blessing when it comes.

Anna was widowed at a young age – life certainly did not turn out the way she planned. She could have been bitter and remained focused on her loss, but Scripture says she spent her life praising God.

How many times have I missed seeing the blessings or the answered prayer when it arrives because I am dwelling what I don’t have? 

Years ago, I lived through a season of what I considered ‘unanswered prayer.’ I was so discouraged. It wasn’t until a wise, older woman brought to my attention that I needed to lift my focus off of what God wasn’t doing so that I could see what He was doing.

I was so hyper-focused on what I wanted to see happen that I had completely missed many blessings that were occurring all around me. He was answering my prayers, but not in the way I expected.

Girls, we need to lift our eyes to see the big picture.

God is working in our lives and He is answering our prayers, even if the answer doesn’t come as we thought it would.

Like Simeon and Anna, we need to be in the right position to see the blessing when it comes. Devout and faithful were not just who they were. Devotion and faithfulness are the disciplines they practiced for a very long time.

Here’s the thing – there is no shortcut to a relationship with God that can be described as devout and faithful. It takes investment, commitment, and a true desire to be a follower, not just an ‘admirer’ of Jesus Christ.

With a bright and shiny clean slate to begin the year, I pray that you will consider where your eyes have been focused. Is it time to lift your gaze to view where your prayers are being answered? Don’t miss it – they may arrive in a most unexpected way.

Much love and many prayers for a blessed new year,

Laura

laurainoval2

Laura Acuna exudes warmth, fun and authenticity weather speaking to her Bible study sisters, in front of a large group or in a one on one conversation. She passionately shares the truths the Lord has taught her through His word and through life lessons learned along the way. Married to her closest friend and encourager, she and Pat are the proud parents of three adult sons.

Laura is a graduate of Liberty University where she earned a degree in Christian Counseling and a Minor in Biblical Studies. She’s the cofounder of Sisters in Faith Ministries which includes The Manorwood Café Bible Study, Step Up Coaching for Women in Ministry and Sisters in Faith, a day conference which is in its 17th year. Laura served as a women’s ministry leader for 15 years, is a volunteer chaplain for her church and is a 2012 and 2013 “She Speaks” graduate.

Visit Laura online:  www.Laura-Acuna.com

Simple Joy

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love everything about it! The music, the lights, the smells, the MOVIES! Over the past few years I have been wondering why exactly it takes longer and longer for it to “feel” like Christmas to me? I keep waiting to feel that spark ignite, but it’s not what it used to be. It seems to have lost its wonderment and excitement as I became an adult.

Christmas as an adult looks much like this:

  • Decorating
  • Shopping
  • Not blowing the budget
  • Baking/Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Parties/Family Gatherings
  • Christmas Cards
  • Volunteering
  • Church Events
  • Kids
  • Trying to keep all the “traditions” alive
  • Remembering to move that stinking ELF every single night!

You know, the stuff that causes STRESS. These are not bad things at all, but there’s just so much of it! Every year I tell myself that I will do less, plan better, budget better and not procrastinate. It never seems to happen. I find myself year after year running non-stop until we finally get home on Christmas night and tuck the kids in. Can I get an AMEN?

I was amazed watching my daughter spend literally hours cutting out paper snowflakes the other day. She was so thrilled and excited with the “blizzard” she created to decorate her room with. When I look back on the things that made Christmas memories for me as a kid, it wasn’t in the perfection. It was in drinking hot cocoa and watching a Christmas movie as a family. The first sound of Christmas carols playing on the radio. Taking an extra-long drive home to see the lights. The smell of the Christmas tree farm as we cut down our tree. My dad screaming at the tangled lights every year. Baking cookies with my mom. Fighting with my sister over the hidden German pickle ornament on the tree to get an extra present. Going to church on Christmas Eve. Putting on a nativity play with my cousins. Eating way too many sweets at family parties. These are the things that made Christmas full of wonder and charm when I was a kid. I think that’s why kids truly find joy in this season, because they experience it instead of putting it on.

Do you find yourself spending so much time making sure that others enjoy their holiday that there is no joy left for you? We need to let the perfection go and focus on the things that matter. The commercialism and consumerism is just that-it consumes you. Christmas is a time to worship our Savior. To spend time with those you love and bless those who need it. The other things are wonderful, but if we want to experience joy this Christmas, let’s take off our Martha shoes and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Think of this old acronym J.O.Y. this Christmas season when you start to feel frazzled:

J- Jesus Take time to be with Him and thank God for the wonderful gift of His Son.

O- Others The greatest thing you can do is to spend time with those you love and bless       someone who is in need (whether it be physically, spiritually or emotionally).

Y- Yourself Take time to be still and be present. The dishes can wait!

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11 (ESV)

What are some ways that help YOU to manage the stress of the holiday season? What helps you to refocus on what really matters and experience joy?

Love,

Diane

diane-haupt

Diane Haupt is a stay-at-home wife and mother and serves on the board of directors for The Connection. She is a fellow sinner saved by the grace of God and is an active member of LCBC Church in Waynesboro, PA where she serves on the worship team. She has a passionate desire given by the Holy Spirit to mentor and disciple other women.  You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

 

No doubt, you’ve been tuned into the media over the past few weeks. It is safe to say there is a great level of unrest among the citizens of our great country. The two sides seem to be at war with one another, both as passionate as the other in their agendas. Our country will not stand if it is divided and consumed by quarrels and differences of opinion. United we stand and divided we fall. I’m not minimizing the weight of the issues that our country is facing. We are upagainst some very real, difficult obstacles and the single best thing that we can do as followers of Christ is to pray for our nation and its leaders. Whether or not we agree with the decision, we are ALL flawed human beings and God can use even the most flawed to still carry out His ultimate plan. Look at who He used to begin the Church!  He requires only that we trust Him and that we call on His name.

One thing that I have learned through watching these events unfold is that words matter. They cut deeper than any knife and they cannot be taken back once said.

“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8 (ESV)

Of course, apologies can be made and behavior changed, but the scars remain. Wounds take time to heal. The same is true within the Church. Conflict within the Body of Christ is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is critical, now more than ever. Satan has been working overtime to dismantle the Body of Christ, piece by piece.

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)

We are well aware that the first several items in the list are despicable to the Lord. Right now, I’d like us to take a moment and focus on the last phrase “one who sows discord among brothers”. This is a rampant issue within the Church and one that many turn a blind eye towards or may not even realize that they are partaking in.

Let’s look at some possible ways that this can happen:

-Not going to your brother directly when there is an offense, but discussing it with others to gain affirmation.

-Gossip and Slander OR disguising either as a “prayer request”.

-Lying or twisting the truth to suit your own interests.

-Disagreements or quarreling over minor issues that hold no weight in the bigger picture (i.e. hem length, music style, etc.).

-Listening to others only to insert your own opinions.

-Basing your opinion of a situation on hearsay, with no knowledge of it yourself.

 There are many more, but these items seem to be a common thread among women. We just love to get all wrapped up in each other’s business, insert our two cents and take sides! It’s like we feed off the energy or something. I know that I’m guilty of it too.

We must come to realize that the Church is ONE body. Not individuals. Not political views, denominations, separate places of worship or a building with four walls. When we sow discord with a brother, sister or even a group of fellow believers, we are not only harming them as individuals, but we are actually INJURING the Bride of Christ. For those of you that are married, how do you feel when someone says or does something harmful to your spouse?  I think it hurts even more than if it were done to you personally! That is only a very small fraction of the love that Christ has for His Bride. When we argue over political candidates, personal preferences or trivial things like how long a hem should be or what style of music is best, we don’t solve problems, we create discord. While at the same time, our focus is on that issue and not on the bigger picture, which is to make disciples. Satan LOVES this! He may not be able to have us, since we are children of God, but he CAN make us a poor testimony or too distracted to bother with our main mission.

To be clear, I’m not talking about theology and items that blatantly go against scripture. There is a proper way for these to be handled and an extremely long and weighty discussion for another time. I’m simply speaking to petty arguments.

My challenge to you (and myself) is:

-Be mindful and prayerful of your words. Wisdom wins over emotion.

-If you have an issue or offense, go directly to the person who offended you instead of others.

-Ask if you are sowing discord or creating unity before you speak or  when you comment on social media. Is what you say pointing others to the Lord?

And as all our mothers once told us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”

 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

 

I’m praying with you and for you dear sisters!

Love,

Diane

diane-haupt

Diane Haupt is a stay-at-home wife and mother and serves on the board of directors for The Connection. She is a fellow sinner saved by the grace of God and is an active member of LCBC Church in Waynesboro, PA where she serves on the worship team. She has a passionate desire given by the Holy Spirit to mentor and disciple other women.  You can email her at connectingwomenwithgod@gmail.com.