Rosa Parks’ Example

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By refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks (1913—2005) helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States. The leaders of the local black community organized a bus boycott that began the day Parks was convicted of violating the segregation laws. Led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott lasted more than a year—during which Parks not coincidentally lost her job—and ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. Over the next half-century, Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end entrenched racial segregation.  (Source: Black History, The History Channel)

We as Americans today need to learn from leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and citizens like Rosa Parks.  Rosa Parks taught us there is a right way to make our voices heard and to stand up for what we believe and for our rights as citizens-a way where the rights and welfare of others is respected and dignity is preserved.  It is a way without hate speech and violence.  Yet, so many choose the way of hatred and destruction, never considering the rights, feelings, or needs of others who may disagree but who certainly have the same human rights as themselves.

What has our nation become?  Have we as a people forgotten the values our founding fathers and Christian leaders have laid down for and taught us? Have we lost our dignity and all respect for our fellow citizens?  We, as Americans, need to earnestly PRAY for God’s mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance in the days ahead.  Let us look to and learn from the lives of those who have stood for the rights of citizens and have done so without hate-filled speech and violent demonstrations.  Let us pursue our causes with loving hearts and with Almighty God as our guide and remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who risk their lives every day for our freedoms and protection. There is a better way!

Zacheriah 7:9: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another.”

Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

2 Samuel 8:15: “So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.”

Stand in the Bright Spot

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Looking back over the year 2013, I must admit it was a year of seemingly relentless difficulty for me.  Perhaps you can relate?  As soon as one trial had passed, another would quickly follow.  And often there were multiple trials all at once which became an almost insurmountable struggle.  One day, in a moment of weakness, I was praying and literally crying out to the Lord to ease my load, feeling as though the darkness might soon completely overtake me.  I longed for a reprieve from the seemingly endless barrage of attacks from the enemy- a breakthrough!  Then, softly and intently, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Angela, stand in the ‘bright spot’.”

I cried out in desperation, while in the middle of a particularly bad flare, “What bright spot, Lord?”, overwhelmed and struggling at the time to see the tiniest glimmer of light outside His immediate presence.  Surely, in the midst of all the trials- a year-long whirlwind of family chaos and turbulence, the effects of chronic pain and fatigue, months of difficulty getting resettled after a necessary summer move, nearly three months of fighting not to succumb to depression, and not to mention the current ice storm with thirty-two hours of no power, no heat, and no running water at home- I thought surely, there wasn’t a beam large enough for me to stand in.  “You’re all the light I see, Lord,” I said.  “Where would You have me stand?”

And then, like a vision, it came to me.  Though the circumstances that weighed so heavily upon me were like walking through dark shadows that seemed to engulf me, I began to imagine beautiful rays of light as they broke through the clouds of darkness.  In those rays of light- the “bright spot”- there was hope, warmth, even joy, and renewal.  So I asked the Lord, “Father, where is the bright spot in all of this?”  I longed to see it and to feel it’s warmth flood my spirit. Then I felt Him saying to me, “Look around you to those things where I am and you will find it.”

It was a week before our Christmas Musical at church and I so wanted to sing for the Lord and bring glory to His name.  Singing is one of the things that brings me joy and gives me inspiration.  I so enjoy singing with our Praise  Team and worshipping our Lord together.  And for nearly three months, I had longed to once again find the ability to connect with the passion and inspiration I knew God had placed within me for His ministry.  So, in that moment, and for that very time in my life, singing in the Christmas Musical became my “bright spot”. For a little while, I was able to bask in the rays of light from my “bright spot” and felt God’s warmth pour over me as His joy began to renew my spirit.  Making an effort to attend weekly practices and listening to my performance CD at home and in the car, I had been looking forward to singing with my sweet Sisters on the Praise Team and to the program God had inspired our Music Minister to lead.  But my basking wouldn’t last long.  The next morning I awoke with a scratchy throat.  And, by the following morning, it had turned into the worst sore throat I could ever remember having.   This time the Holy Spirit led me in a different way.  But I’m certain it was His direction which prompted me to call and make an appointment with my doctor, something I usually don’t immediately do.  A visit to the doctor is certainly not one of my favorite things!  But this time was different- I knew I needed to get to be seen as soon as possible and suspected it was strep.   Sure enough, the test confirmed I had strep throat!

It seemed my “bright spot” had vanished. But I soon discovered it had only moved.  Often in challenging circumstances, the Lord’s desire is to inspire our faith to grow as we continue to trust Him and follow His leading.  So I prayed for His strength and the ability to trust faithfully and to keep my focus on Him, instead of on my circumstances.  The circumstances surrounding me were still very difficult.  That had not changed.  But just as He always had, by His mercy, grace, and love, the Lord brought me through.  Each day, as I followed my doctor’s instructions, took my medication, and placed everything in God’s hands, I began to improve.  Slowly, I began to practice using my singing voice a little at a time and was soon able to sing again!  More importantly, God helped me realize that His gift of inspiration doesn’t always come from within.  Sometimes His desire is that we rest in Him for a while and be carried by and become part of the inspiration He bestows to others. I’m continuing to learn, when the dark clouds of gloom and uncertainty loom over me, I only need to ask the Lord to help me look for the “bright spot” and to stand in it!

No matter how dark the clouds looming overhead or the shadows surrounding you, there is always a bright spot- a place where God says, “I am”.  It may be uniquely different, depending on your circumstances.  Where is your “bright spot” today?  Is it the love in your children’s faces?  Is it spending time with your grandchildren, lending them your love and guidance?  Is it something God has gifted you to do that brings you joy?  Perhaps it’s having lunch with a friend, or a phone call to a loved one.  Maybe it’s giving of your time and talents to minister to others.  Or it’s spending time studying or teaching God’s Word.  Maybe it’s a walk in the park or a drive through the country, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. Look for your “bright spot” today.  Stand in it!  And the Lord will give you warmth, hope, His unspeakable joy…and He will renew your spirit!

John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the Light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” (HCSB)

Standing in the Bright Spot,

Angela 🙂

 

Happy 2014!

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Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to embrace the New Year with joy, for Your blessings are beyond measure. And help me to approach each new day with a joyful outlook and to diligently share Your love with others. May Your love bubble up from within and overflow! In the precious name of Jesus, our LORD. Amen.

Wishing You a Joyous, Hope Filled, & Love Inspired New Year!!

Making Your Home a Haven

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Making Your Home a Haven | FaithGateway.com

Courtney Joseph

December 19, 2013

Why do we love certain houses, and why do they seem to love us? It is the warmth of our individual hearts reflected in our surroundings. — T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, quoted in Welcome Home

We all desire to make our homes a haven. After all, no woman wants a cold, messy, or critical home. Whether you homeschool or not, whether you are a mom or not, or whether you are a full-time homemaker or work outside the home, your role in the home is huge!

Is your calendar full like mine? Do you feel tense, rushed, and even panicked at times when you are running late? Do you feel that the rest of the family is feeling the same way? When I am tense, the rest of the family is tense. When I am crabby, my family is crabby right back at me. I want to have a peaceful home, and I have learned that it starts with me.

Proverbs 14:1 says, The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.

What makes a home a haven? Is it having a well-decorated home that looks as if it popped out of Better Homes and Gardens? Is it a home that has massive amounts of toys, food to feast on, video games stacked high, and every movie imaginable to view? Is it a certain number of square feet, a separate bedroom for each child, or the neighborhood in which you live?

No. It is not the things we have or the things we do not have that make our homes a haven. It’s you, my dear reader; you are the key to making the home a haven.

Let me propose a challenge: Purchase an extra-large candle and light it every day in your home. I start mine in the morning, but you can start yours at dinnertime. Do what makes sense for your family. I often have a candle burning in my kitchen, the main hub of my home. Each time the candle catches my eye, I say a prayer for peace in my home. I encourage you to do the same — watch what God can do!

How to Make Your Home Sing

Edith Schaeffer wrote, “There is a charm in making music together which not only stimulates interest and creativity, but which breaks through whining and fussing and clears the atmosphere.”

Playing music is another way to bring peace to your home. I love to play classical and worship music daily, but we also enjoy upbeat music when we are cleaning or letting loose. As I light my candle, pray for peace, and turn on soft music, I am reminded to pursue using peaceful words in my home. I want to maintain peaceful relationships. There is no room for seething anger, tattling, criticism, and back talk when together we pursue making our home a haven.

Need music suggestions? Here are mine:

If You Know How to Play an Instrument, Play It!

In our home, when I sit down to the piano to play, the atmosphere completely changes. All whining and complaining disappear, and dancing and singing begin. This is what the book of Psalms is all about — making a joyful noise unto the Lord. So pull out your dusty instruments and start playing.

Sing

Sing or hum in the kitchen while you cook, in the bathrooms while you clean, or while you drive in the car. Force yourself to open your mouth and let your joy of the Lord be heard by your family. It will be contagious!

Strike Up the Band!

My typical morning includes a cup of coffee, a lit candle, piano music, and time in God’s Word. Your musical preferences may vary from mine, but whatever type of music you like, play it while you go about your daily tasks and you’ll find a smile on your face.

Use Peace-Filled Words

Instead of raising your voice in anger, lower your voice to a whisper. Proverbs 15:1 says, A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Don’t let someone else’s anger make you angry. Stay in control of your emotions, and do not let the other members of your family dictate your mood.Remember, yelling at a bud won’t make it bloom. Your home will not blossom into a haven if you are not controlling your temper.Continue to pray for peace in your home. Never cease praying. James 5:16says, The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Cleaning Up Clutter

Managing clutter is a huge modern-day problem for homemakers, and it can turn a haven into a hassle. Here are some ways to tackle this problem:

Contain Clutter

Pick an area of your home where clutter collects, and put something there to contain it. For example, I keep a small basket at the bottom of our stairs to collect all the little things that need to go upstairs. Truthfully, I need one the size of a laundry basket because often we are carting up stuffed animals, books, toys, hair ribbons, my purse, shoes, and more. Put bins to catch papers in the kitchen, office, and family room. I also love using buckets to organize under my sinks in the bathroom.

Set a Timer

Set a timer for twenty minutes, grab a trash bag, and walk through your house, throwing stuff away. Throw away old magazines, broken toys, and papers. The rule is, if you haven’t used or worn it in a year, either give it away or throw it away. Clutter attracts clutter. If you are a pack rat, this is a challenge. Take this challenge; you won’t regret it. And trust me: you won’t miss these things! Things will never make you happy. Unused clutter only weighs you down.

Organize Clutter Spots

List a few of the spots in your home that make you visually stressed because of all the clutter. Now organize them with hooks and containers, or move it all to a drawer, closet, or the trash can. Work on cleaning up clutter. Throw things away.

Deal with Spiritual Clutter

Oftentimes we have spiritual clutter that weighs us down. First John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What sin have I not confessed that is getting in the way of a peaceful home?” Now confess it. All of us carry the stain of sin. At any moment we may sin again… and often we let ourselves off the hook too easily. We justify our sin by saying things like, “I’m just discerning, not judgmental,” or “I’m just truthful, not rude,” or “ I’m just sharing prayer requests, not gossiping.”

The earlier in your life you confess sinful strongholds, the better. I encourage you to root out those sins now before they become habits. Do not get cozy with sin. Repent daily. Free yourself of spiritual clutter.

Create Family Nights

J. R. Miller says, “The richest heritage that parents can give is a happy childhood, with tender memories of father and mother. This will brighten the coming days when the children have gone out from the sheltering home, and will be a safeguard in times of temptation and a conscious help amid the stern realities of life.”

In our home, I’m the family night coordinator. If there’s going to be a game night, pizza night, movie night, or a social happening, it’s because I planned it. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. Growing up, my mother did a great job of creating fun family memories. They weren’t complex or over-the-top, but they happened! They happened year in and year out, and now the memories of those fun moments give me security, comfort, joy, and a bond with my family that will never be broken.

A wise mother knows how to have fun and how to be tender. She knows the healing touch of her hands. Jesus used His hands to touch and heal many. There is power in the gentle expressions of love through warm embraces and cuddles.

Mark 10:16 says that Jesus “took them [the children] in His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them.”

Bless your family with tender, physical love.

The Art of Cooking

God created taste buds, the sense of smell, and the eye that is drawn to beautiful things. To please our senses, He created crunchy green peppers, fuzzy peaches, juicy watermelons, sour lemons, and sweet potatoes!

Cooking should not be thought of as drudgery but as an art. It’s the coming around the dinner table that blesses the souls of our families. In Luke 11:3, Jesus says to pray, “Give us each day our daily bread.” In America, we are so blessed we rarely have to ask God for our daily bread, but we must remember to give thanks for our food. Bowing our heads as a family in thankfulness to God is a gift we give our children and a memory they carry with them into adulthood.

I remember when I was a child, shortly before dinner would be served, a loud beeping sound would come from the kitchen phone. In the olden days, when a phone was taken off the hook, it would beep very loudly at a fast pace so you were alerted to put it back on the hook. Well, my mom took the phone off the hook on purpose because she did not want our time around the table to be interrupted. She guarded our family dinnertime.

Children and teens who eat a family dinner tend to get better grades, are less likely to do drugs, have healthier eating habits, and communicate better with their parents… and yet baseball coaches schedule practice right in the middle of dinnertime. What do we as moms do? We have to get creative! We need to move dinner to a later time or we have to say no to obligations that stand between us and our family time. We must not cave in and abandon the tried-and-true practice of eating dinner together. It truly is important.

Edith Schaeffer says, “Food cannot take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional problems, but the feeling of being loved and cared for, the actual comfort of the beauty and flavour of food, the increase of blood sugar and physical well-being, help one to go on during the next hours better equipped to meet the problems.”

Alexis and I connect over peeling potatoes and cracking eggs. She loves to stir a pot of soup or pour the ingredients into the mixing bowl. She enjoys making meals appealing by pulling out fancy napkins and china alongside me. We don’t have to have guests to pull these things out; we make our home a haven when we treat our own family as worthy of these special touches.

Let’s bless our families this week with special surprises from our kitchen! And while the candles are lit and the music is going, take your husband by the hand and slow dance cheek to cheek — the children will love it! Grab them by the hands, too, and swirl them around. Have fun together as a family as you walk with the King!

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Your Turn

In what ways do you try to make your home a haven for your family? In what areas do you struggle? Leave your comments on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!

The Right Question to Ask on Your Hard Days . . . and the Answer

via A Holy Experience – The Right Question to Ask on Your Hard Days . . . and the Answer.

An uplifting and inspirational message by Joni Eareckson Tada

Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 7.44.17 AM My beautiful friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, has spoken words into my life that have forever changed me — and countless others around the world. Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community, Joni is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Heaven, Joni, Diamonds in the Dust, and her most recent — and beautiful — Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story.

Joni tells a story on the farm front porch today that just — well, you tell me what it does to your heart…

Ken opened wide the front door so I could wheel out to the van.

For a long moment I sat squarely in the door frame, staring and taking it all in:

the shade tree dappling our brick path, blossoms bobbing on the crepe myrtle, and patches of sunlight on dewy grass.

It was the freshest of mornings. Oh God, I breathed, If only I could feel as fresh.

After more than four decades of quadriplegia, I’m tired.

Please don’t think I’m a veteran or a professional when it comes to living in a wheelchair.

I’m not an expert.

My bones are weary and thin from battling everything from pressure sores and pneumonia — to stage III cancer.

My question these days is never “Why, God?”

It’s most often “How?”

How do I keep on going?

How do I care about others when I’m consumed with my own physical challenges?

How can I be kind and civil when pain wracks me?

How can I find the strength to face this day?

That morning, Ken had the answer.

“Why aren’t you out by the van?” he asked when he came from the kitchen with my lunch bag. Staring at the splendorous morning beyond the door, I answered him with a deep sigh.

“Wait here,” he said, “I know exactly what you need.”

Soon he was back with a yellow post-it note. With a thick Sharpie, he had simply penned on it the letter ‘C.’ I gave him an odd look.

“It stands for Courage,” he said, “The courage of Christ. I can see it in your eyes, Joni, and you can do this. I know you can!”

With that, he pressed the post-it on my shirt, right above my heart.

I glanced at it, then up at him. I can’t explain what happened next, but grace actually entered my heart. His note was a means of grace, like a sacrament through which God creates faith inside us. And it felt so liberating.

A breeze wafted in and my eyes became wet.

“Thank you,” I whispered to Ken and lifted my arm to give him a hug. “Thank you for that.”

He wiped my nose, kissed my cheek, and said softly, “Let’s get this day going.”

I then wheeled out into the morning feeling a fresh wave of strength from my Savior.

Proverbs 18:21 sums it up: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Ken only said a few words, and probably without giving them much thought.

But those words were brimming with power and life. His was a pronouncement, a declaration of the good he saw in meor, at least the good he wanted to see. And God gave me His amazing grace to rise to the occasion.

It’s a hard world. Even the best of Christians are feeling the weight of weariness. Little wonder we are to “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

Think of the people you’ll see today… friends recovering from surgery, neighbors dealing with grief, coworkers coping with pain.

Whether you say it in an email, over the phone, or in person, your words have the capacity to change their countenance and character.

And the best word?

The Word made flesh, Jesus — who always has courageous words of life.

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