Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I Choose You Today



I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last
About The Book:  A reminder why you chose the one you married and 31 ways to choose to love them every day.  Married for nearly 38 years, author Deborah DeArmond and her husband have made the spoken declaration, “I choose you today” a regular part of their communication. It’s when we least feel like saying it that we need to remind ourselves that love is a choice, not a feeling. I Choose You Today features 31 scriptural principles that support marriage and help couples develop healthy biblically based behavior.  Built on an introductory anecdotal story, each chapter has an inspirational takeaway of not only what to do, but how to begin applying the principles immediately. Thought provoking questions create talking points for couples to explore their own choices and experiences in each area serve to generate open dialogue of discovery. I Choose You Today is not a book of "shoulds," but one of clearly identified choices that each individual can make to grow their marriage and align it with the word of God. Every saying ends with a conventional wisdom quote.
About The Author: Deb DeArmond is a highly-experienced and sought-after executive coach, trainer, and facilitator, having worked in marketplace ministry with audiences at all levels across a broad spectrum of industries and organizations. She is an expert in the fields of leadership, communication, and relationship and conflict resolution. Deborah owns DeArmond and Associates, dedicated to helping others build successful solutions to the challenges they are facing. Deb is the co-founder of MyPurposeNow.org, a website for Christian women 50+. She is a staff writer for the online magazine, Destiny in Bloom and her writing is regularly featured at Living Better at 50+, also an online magazine. She has been published in WHOA Magazine and Dallas Family Magazine.
My Thoughts On The Book:  Having just celebrated my twelfth wedding anniversary I found this book to be  a must read for newly and oldy weds too.  This book is a great counseling tool and is full of sound advice that makes you sit up and pay attention to. As a pastor I plan to make this book one of my counseling books.  The book is filled with many scripture references that are helpful and Deb's stories in each chapter are touching and easy to relate to.  If you want a marriage that will endure then this is the book for you.  Loved it!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley Publicity Group and Litfuse Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Happy Meal - Communion Concept For Children


I'm sure that everyone here this morning knows what that special kid’s meal at McDonalds is called! That's right! It is a McDonald's Happy Meal. Have you ever had a Happy Meal? What's your favorite part of a Happy Meal? For most children, their favorite part of the Happy Meal is the toy. I will have to be honest with you, I'm not too happy about the toys in a Happy Meal. They look pretty cheap to me  and they don’t last very long. Even if it does last, it doesn't do much of anything and I'm sure it won't keep me happy for very long. I will admit that I was pretty happy about the fries, but as good as they were, when they were gone, I wasn't really satisfied. I still wanted more. That's the trouble with a McDonald's Happy Meal -- the happiness just doesn't last.

Did you know that our church has a happy meal? Well, we do -- and we are going to have a happy meal right here in this worship service this morning. This is what our happy meal looks like. It is a small piece of bread and a little glass of juice.

 The bread represents the body of Jesus and the juice represents his blood. When we eat this Happy Meal, we are reminded that Jesus loved us so much that he died on the cross so that you and I could have everlasting life in heaven with him. Now, that is something to be happy about!

 I have a poem that might help you to remember the meaning of our Happy Meal.

The Savior's Happy Meal
 This Happy Meal doesn't look like much,
 And it doesn't come with a toy.
 It may not fill my stomach,
 But it fills my heart with joy!
 The bread and juice remind me of
 The Savior's love for me;
 When he died upon a rugged cross
 On a hill called Calvary.
 There is no way I can describe
 The gratitude I feel
 Each and every time I eat
 The Savior's Happy Meal!

 Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Jesus' death and resurrection. Thank you also for the Happy Meal we will eat today as a reminder of what Jesus has done for us. Amen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Little Life of Jesus



My Little Life of Jesus
About The Book:  My Little Life of Jesus introduces the story of Jesus' life to 3-to 5-year-olds. It follows Jesus from His birth, being baptized by John, meeting the disciples and teaching them how to pray, telling His stories to people in nearby towns and villages, right through to His return to the heavenly Father. Illustrated throughout with adorable artwork from a popular Candle Books artist, there is also a map included to show the land where Jesus lived. This padded hardcover comes complete with a presentation page for gift or award giving.
About The Author: Karen Williamson worked as a London primary school teacher and publisher’s editor before launching a successful career as full-time writer. With three children of her own, she specializes in Bible stories for young readers.|As a child, Marie continually drew characters and illustrated fun books for friends and family. After studying graphic design and illustration at college she has worked on stationery, puzzles, greetings-cards, maps and posters as well as numerous children's books.
About The Illustrator:  Amanda Enright is an illustrator from West Sussex in the UK.    
My Thoughts On The Book:   I do not review children's books often and for the most part I enjoyed this little book. It had great eye appeal.  I actually read it to a Sunday School class of 5 year olds and they were most impressed.  I loved that each event was followed by scripture.  The events were close to accurate, Jesus's getting his own donkey was not correct.  I researched several versions of the Bible and in all versions the disciples got the donkey as Jesus asked.  It was still a very simple telling of the life of Jesus that a small child could comprehend and I loved that.  The illustrations were precious.  The only thing I found fault in was that all the characters were white.  People from that region of the country were darker skinned.  Yet, even with that I could see where children would never notice this.  This book would be a great gift for a little one in your life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Programs. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Hodge Podge For The End of January

Welcome to this week's edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge.  Here we go...answer the questions on your own blog, then add your link at the end of Joyce's post. Be sure to say hi to the blogger who linked before you, because this is one place where traffic is fun!  Here are my answers-


1. When did someone last suggest you 'chill out'? Or, when did you last tell someone (or want to tell someone) to 'chill out'? Or, when did you last tell yourself to 'chill out'?  I am pretty even keeled and don't get told to chill out.  I did tell a student that last week when she was stressing over something that happened over the weekend.
2. What most recently caused your heart to melt?  The news letter I got from Kat and Brian for December and January.  It made me mushy.  Also a song Amanda played for me this past weekend called, "Alaska or Bust."  I cried like a baby.  The Go-Daddy commercial with the puppy.  I think they have pulled it....as well they should.
3. "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered." G.K. Chesterton
Your thoughts? When did you last experience either an adventure or an inconvenience? How did you see it at first, as an adventure or an inconvenience?  Does it feel the same in hindsight?
Car duty at school for the next two week.  I was just getting over bronchitis, it is cold, and I did not want to do it. 4. A Wendy's Frosty, root beer in a frosty mug, or a frosted chocolate cupcake...of these three, which one is your favorite 'frosty' treat?  An A&W rootbeer frosty in a frosty mug.
5. Would you say your life so far this year has been more like a circus or a symphony? Explain why.
It has been pretty symphonic.  All is well in Karendom. 
6. Since it's a 'snow day' here, what's your favorite song containing the word 'white' I know that Christmas is over, but White Christmas by Bing Crosby tops my chart. 7. If you had to leave the city you currently live in, what would you find hardest to leave behind?
The Porch People and our church families.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.
For the third year I am  planning to participate in the April A-Z Blog Challenge this year? If you're not familiar with the challenge, here's the 411-you blog every day (except Sundays) during the month of April. Conveniently that works out to 26 posts, and since there are 26 letters in the alphabet, you blog from A-Z. April 1st the letter A, April 2nd the letter B, and so on. 



You can have a theme or just write randomly unrelated posts, whatever you like. Personally I like and need a theme, although I haven't a clue yet what mine will be for this year's challenge. In years past I've written about our European travels, motherhood, a mishmash bag of photographs, my trip to Asia, and last year 'married with children'. You'll find all of these on my sidebar by clicking on the month of April.  I enjoy the discipline of writing every day, and also getting creative with my chosen topic. Plus, I feel like my writing gets a little sluggish this time of year, and the challenge gives it a much needed kick in the pants. If you're new to the challenge I will tell you that it helps me tremendously to get a head start on the posts. I like to work about three or four days ahead of each letter, and set them to auto post. That way, when life get's busy (and it always does!) I don't stress out about missing a letter or falling behind. Yes, missing a letter would stress me out.    Sign ups are open now, so if you want to participate click here to join the party. Joyce I will definitely be playing.  I love it! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Moldova and Team Jones Update



La multi ani!!
Hello dear friends and family. We hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the New Year and all of the joys and promises it holds. We hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. We are well into January, and we apologize that we have not sent you an update sooner. Let’s just say we have been going full speed ahead since we last wrote. During the month of December, we unloaded a large container from Scotland, had multiple Christmas celebrations, took our English class to see The Hobbit in English, visited with friends, celebrated Moldovan Christmas, celebrated New Year’s Eve and then headed wildly into 2015.

The first week of January brought special guests from America, including Philip Cameron (the founder and patriarch of our organization) and Sadie Robertson (from Duck Dynasty and Dancing with the Stars.) We had an amazing week with them. During their time here we had our big Moldovan Christmas (Moldovans are traditionally Russian Orthodox and they actually celebrate Christmas on Epiphany- January 7th). We also unloaded a massive container from the U.S., visited three orphanages where we took Christmas gifts, performed skits, and shared love. It has been a whirlwind start to 2015. We wouldn’t change a minute of it.


We would love to be able to communicate clearly through words and photos how amazing the Christmas season was here in Moldova, but as the saying goes, "you just had to be there". Here’s just a little bit about what we experienced here:


•On Christmas night, we had a huge celebration that included music and skits performed by four different groups of our kids. Brian was even part of one of the teams and had a few lines in his team’s skit. We then swapped "secret angel" gifts which was so much fun because we had the chance to do little gifts for our secret friends leading up to Christmas as well. We enjoyed delicious food and stayed up way too late.
•The second Christmas which is usually celebrated January 7th was actually celebrated a few days later because of scheduling issues. Again, there was music and wonderful food. This time, however, we all opened our gifts from America. The gifts for our guys and girls from Stella’s House and Simon’s House were all organized by two of our wonderful friends at Centerpoint Fellowship Church. We appreciate their amazing effort and sacrifice to make these gifts possible, and we are very thankful for the many individuals, families, and small groups all over the Montgomery/Prattville area who sponsored one of our kids and spent their time and money buying gifts for them. These young people were all so excited and so thankful for their gifts. To see their faces as they opened the boxes was priceless. For the past few years, we have been on the American side of this process. One of our favorite things every year was organizing the Christmas box project, and we never thought we’d have the chance to be here to see the kids open their gifts. Just to see what a blessing these gifts are to them is the best gift we could have received.



•The next day, we celebrated with the kids at Providence (the home for younger children, not an orphanage exactly, that is run by Stella’s Voice). They performed some songs and skits, and our crew from Stella’s House and Simon’s House did as well. Then Santa handed out their gifts. Their reactions were amazing. These were the first gifts that some of these sweet children had ever received. A few of the kids ran up to Galina (who runs Providence) and asked her questions about
their gifts, but we didn’t quite understand. She told us later that they kept asking her if these gifts were actually for them to keep. They couldn’t believe that all of these things were actually theirs.

•On the big containers from both America and the UK, there were gift boxes for kids at other orphanages. These boxes contained some really cool toys, clothes, and candy, but they also included very basic toiletry items. We took these boxes to two different orphanages in the Straseni region. The first was Straseni Orphanage which is where many of our guys and girls lived for many years of their lives. The next stop was a place called Scoreni which is an orphanage for children with behavior issues and emotional disabilities. The kids at these two orphanages loved their gifts, and the team had a great time seeing their excitement over receiving these items. These were great visits, but the third orphanage we visited was by far the most memorable.

•To tell you about this third place, we must start by telling you the very short version of Ulizana’s story. Ulizana is an amazing, talented, and brilliant young lady who is currently spending most of her time working with the Stella’s Voice ministry in the states. We felt so blessed to have her visit here during Christmas. When Ulizana was very young, her Mom couldn’t take care of her, but she didn’t want to leave her in an orphanage. With the best of intentions, she decided that Ulizana would have better care at a hospital for kids. So Ulizana spent many of her early years in a hospital for very sick children. She didn’t have tuberculosis, but she was given the medication for years. She recalls that when she was taking the medication, she had a very difficult time learning in school, and it seemed impossible for her to remember anything. On top of that, some of the workers there didn’t treat the children very well. She describes the hospital as being worse than the orphanage, and that’s saying something. Once she moved to the orphanage, she worked really hard and caught up in school. To meet her now, you would guess that she was always the kid who was the best in her class at everything. It’s only by the grace of God that her life has been transformed. Just a few weeks ago, we went with Ulizana to take gifts to the children in the hospital where she spent so many years. This was her first trip back there, and the workers there (many of the same people from years ago) were amazed by her. We were honored that she allowed us to be a part of such a big day for her. Of course, we gave out more gifts to the kids there. These children were the most excited about their gifts. It turns out that no one had brought gifts there at all this Christmas until Stella’s Voice arrived. Theses boxes contained some really great gifts, but they were excited about even the simplest things. It was awesome to just watch their reactions to these things, many of which we would consider stocking stuffers in America. The coolest thing was getting to see Ulizana go back to this place and be part of blessing the children at this hospital.

•In addition to seeing lots of kids open gifts, we were blessed to receive gifts from home. That was such a nice surprise. We received a suitcase full of wonderful goodies from our church family at Frazer. They do so much for us already, these gifts were an amazing and unexpected blessing. Our friends who organized Christmas boxes sent boxes for us as well, and we appreciate those so much. On top of that, we received gifts from family and lots of Christmas cards. We’ve always loved getting Christmas cards in the mail, but this year they seemed extra special. Also, on the container from America, we received furniture for our apartment. For the past 6 months, most of our stuff was still in our suitcases because we only had minimal furniture (a mattress and a kitchen table). The ministry sent us some furniture, and we have plenty of storage and a comfortable bed. So we were very, very spoiled during Christmas.
There is so much more to tell, but we know that no one wants to read a short novel about our past few months. We can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and your financial support. Without both types of support, we’d never have a chance to serve God, Stella’s Voice ministry, and these amazing kids. Thank you so much for all that you do for us.

Wishing you all the best,

Brian and Kathryn Jones

Team Jones in Moldova
**There were pictures in the newsletter but for the life of me I could not get them to post.  I will try again later. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

"I Am My Beloved's and My Beloved Is Mine"

Solomon 6:3 - I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine; He feedeth his flock among the lilies.  Today is my 12th wedding anniversary.  Frank and I got married 12 years ago at the end of the Arbor Service at First Methodist Alex City.  Robert Gaskins was Frank's best man and Kathryn was my matron of honor.  It was an awesome day celebrated by us and about 500 of our closest friends and family. 


He is an amazing man.  He is funny, loving, and kind.  He loves me, he loves our daughters.  I am looking forward to many more years as his wife. 




Happy Anniversary to a man I love to the moon and back.  You truly are my sunshine.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fishing Isn't The Same As Catching


My scripture today can be found in Mark 1:14-20

My daddy used to always tell me that “Fishing Isn’t the Same as Catching”

When I was a young girl, after my brother died, my dad and I would often take off on a Saturday to a nearby canal.  Florida is famous for them.  If we did not go to one of the canals off of the Florida Turnpike we would go to Lake Okeechobee or Lake Osborne.  We would stop and buy some crickets as bait and go out fishing for several hours.  Many times we never caught a thing!  But you know…it was not really about catching the fish as it was spending time with life lessons.  I loved the times we would catch some fish and I loved putting them in my dad’s fishing bucket.  We would take them home at the end of the day and my dad would prepare them for eating.

Read Mark 1:14-20 

As we look at our Gospel Lesson for this morning, two really important facts jump right off the page.  The first is how quickly—actually immediately—the disciples responded to Jesus’ call. The second is that He called them not to be catchers of men, but to be fishers; and there is a difference.

Verse 18 tells us about the quick decision on the disciple’s part: “At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Something is really happening here.  People don’t usually drop what they are doing immediately…especially fishermen.  Fishermen think things over.  They’re usually slow to act because they are used to having to use so much patience to get what they want.  But for these four disciples, well, their response was immediate.  They left their nets and followed Jesus.

How many people do you know who are willing to follow or respond so immediately?  How often are people asked to do something for the church and their immediate answer is: “Sure I will. I’ll be glad to.”?  How often do we immediately respond?  Is it only when our boss calls; or our spouses or mom?  Or do we even put off our response in those cases?

“Just a minute honey!”…  …or “Not right now, dear!”…  …or “How about during the next time out?”  …or the next commercial….  Or half time.

 

And what the disciples were called to do…well…it pales in comparison to the little things I’m talking about.  All the disciples of Jesus left something behind.  These first four left their fishing boats, their livelihood and their homes.  And it wasn’t the kind of situation where they could say: “Well, okay, we’ll try this out for a while, and see how it works out.”  They followed…plain and simple.  There was a finality about it.  Have we left anything to follow Jesus?

And I ask this because in order to follow Jesus we do have to leave something behind…for good!  It may not mean that we have to leave our present jobs, or our homes or families…but it might.  Just like Kathryn and Brian….they left a good teaching job and the security that goes with it and a good engineering job.  They left…and went off to do God’s bidding….trusting in Him to take care of them.

What it means for us is that we might have to leave behind some of the prejudices that we cherish so much…and that are so familiar to who we are.  And maybe there are lifestyle issues we must leave behind in order to follow Christ.  One day when I was an undergrad, on the campus of  Auburn University, I was witnessing to a fellow college student over a cup of coffee.  I asked him if he believed that Jesus Christ is Who He says He is.  His answer was yes.  Then I asked him if he would be willing to pray, repent of his sins, and ask Jesus to become the Lord of his life.  His answer was, “No. Not yet. I believe, but I’m not ready to give my life to Christ. There are too many things I’m not ready to give up.”  So let me ask you all this morning….How many of us ‘believe’, but are not willing to follow?

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us: “Even the demons believe…”  But we are also told that they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire!  “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”  Let me tell you all….The power of the Gospel changes people’s lives.  Once we meet Jesus on the road of our own individual life, and decide to follow Him, we will be changed!  We will be different people.  But many of us tend to resist change.

 

So many folks just want to see the Gospel through rose colored glasses—wanting to see only the joy, comfort, and light—and not wanting to see the difficult or disruptive.  “Behold, I make all things new,” says Jesus.  Two very important words in this morning’s Gospel Lesson are repent and believe.  Too many people think repent means to feel sorry for what you’ve done—and then, go do it again.  But that’s not it at all. 

Repent means to change direction.  It means a change in priorities.  It means living with a whole new approach to life.  It calls us to embrace the newness and change which Jesus brings.  And to believe…well…it doesn’t just mean listing our denomination as United Methodist on some application blank.  It means trust and reliance and placing one’s whole life in God’s hands, regardless of what happens in life.  It’s called “the leap of faith.”  That’s the kind of change that the Gospel produces.  That’s what makes us different.  And there’s no turning back, because it’s a difference that won’t go away.  This is what happened to the disciples as soon as they began to follow Jesus…nothing was ever the same.

It was the beginning of a new and exciting journey…the best journey imaginable…where God is not just a Sunday friend but a daily companion. And this is what happens to all of us when we heed the call of Jesus in our lives to: “Come follow me.”  And when we embrace this newness of life that Jesus offers…  …well, we see how good things can be…  …we experience God’s love up close and personal…and we want to ‘Pass it On.”   “Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.”

There truly is a difference between being fishers and catchers of men.  Jesus calls us to be fishers.  Think about your life journey.  How many people dropped a hook in front of you…before you finally grabbed a hold of the new life you found in Christ?  An awful lot, I’d imagine. Maybe you were brought up in church.  Maybe you were surrounded by the preaching of the Word, the invitation to accept Christ, and people who were wonderful/grace-filled examples of how magnificently different it is to be a follower of Christ.  But you still didn’t bite.  At the same time, there were hundreds upon hundreds of seeds being planted.  And then one day, well, Praise the Lord!…

…it all clicked…  …the decision was straight ahead of you and you became a Christian!  And you believed…really believed…and things really started to change!  Who was the One Who caught you?  Do you remember?  There had been a lot of fishers after you…  …but Who caught you?  Was it not the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Even the ability to believe and make the decision to accept God’s plan of salvation is a gift of God.

Fishing is not the same as catching.  Jesus calls us to be fishers, not catchers, and that is good.  It means that we’re not alone in the project of proclaiming the Gospel to the world.  God is with us, since it is God the Holy Spirit alone Who enables our ‘fish’ to be caught, Who enables people to respond to our message.  And since it is the Holy Spirit Who does the catching, we don’t need to take the rejection of the Gospel personally.

Maybe it wasn’t the right time for that person; maybe the Holy Spirit has some other things to work out with them first; it may be a lot of things…maybe they will never accept Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives…  …We do have free-will.  The main thing we should be concerned with is the fact that we did witness to them.

And whether a catch is made or not, we are called to cast the net again, to proclaim the Good News to another person by words and deeds, and let the Holy Spirit fill the net according to God’s will.  Many of have invited friends and family members to church.  Many of us were at one time invited.  There’s been a lot of fishing going on!!!  And let me tell you….this church is a fishing church.  And we are praising God for it!  But you know…It is not us who do the catching…  …but we do the fishing and rejoice when the Holy Spirit convicts and a positive decision is made!!!  So let’s put ourselves in those boats so long ago, with the knowledge we have of a Savior Who wants to give everyone the gift of salvation.  And let’s remember that this gift can neither be bought nor earned by any human being; that it is, however, God’s free gift to those who call upon Jesus’ name, who trust Jesus for salvation and not themselves.

Let’s hear Jesus call us to be fishers of people…  …and let us respond by fishing and fishing and fishing…  …letting God take care of the rest.