Category Archives: Christian Life

Thankful for Blessings

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.”  Psalm 100:4

As our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, I encourage each of you to pause for a few moments today to reflect on the many blessings God has bestowed upon you in the past year. Certainly, 2021 has more than its share of challenges. It would be easy to focus on the interruptions in our lives caused by covid and rising prices for food and gas. However, we all still have much for which to be thankful.

Grateful Thankful Blesses

The Bible is replete with the command to thank God for His goodness, as we read in Psalm 95: 1- 7:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

God is our creator.  He made us, and He is worth of our praise and our outpourings of thanksgiving.  “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

Today and every day, we need to express our gratitude to God for giving us life, for providing a beautiful home for us to reside in this life, and for sending His Son to redeem us and make provision for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

May your heart overflow with gratitude for our wonderful Lord.

Cornucopia and Happy Thanksgiving

Thanking Those Who Provide Service


My life was made much easier during the past year and a half by those who did not have the option of working from home and social distancing.  Grocery clerks, postal workers, delivery people, truck drivers, and many other were out in the public every day so that the rest of us had access to the things we needed.  Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to thank those who sacrificed for the rest of us. 

Here’s some ideas to show appreciation:
1) Hand-written note.  Do you know that is takes only about 3 minutes to write a thoughtful, sincere thank you note?  Set aside time each week between now and Thanksgiving to write a couple of thank you notes to those who have most impacted your life during covid. If you will mail your cards, allow extra time as postal deliveries are taking longer than in the past.

2) Gift cards.  Consider purchasing gift cards for those who provide services to you regularly. Gift cards can be included with thank you notes, or you can write a quick “thank you for your service” message on the card. Of course, budget for the gift cards and stick to your budget. A sincere thank you is more important than the amount of the card.

3) Holiday tipping. Many of us tip those who provide service to us more at Christmas than at other times. This year, consider giving tips at Thanksgiving instead of, or in addition to, your Christmas tip. 

Thank you note and flowers
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As you take time this Thanksgiving to meditate on God’s blessings, ask Him to bring to your mind those who have made your covid-experience more comfortable. He will guide you to remember those who will be truly blessed by your heartfelt and sincere message that you have been blessed by their hard work and sacrifice.

Pepperonis as Quarters

Pepperoni Pizzas
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In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA.  Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.”  An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point.  Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket.  Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.

In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center.  I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses.  Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started.  Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means.  Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses.  They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.

As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me.  When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind.  Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents.  We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters”  adage to time and talents, as well as to money.  Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project.  Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.

I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.

Seven Tips for Better Stewardship of Time

Stewardship is the word that God impressed upon me to be my focus for 2021. For me, stewardship involves not only managing our money and financial resources well, but also using the talents God grants us and the time allotted to us in ways that honor Him.

Time stewardship is the most challenging of the three for me. I tend to function best when my to-do list is very long and my time to complete it is short.  When my to-do list is short, it is easy for me to find get distracted.  But the pressure of a long list and little time give me focus and energy. I love making a long list of tasks to be accomplished and then crossing items off as I complete them.

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So, why don’t I make a list each day? That is a question I ask myself regularly, and the only answer I have come up with is that I haven’t found the right tool that works for me.  But, list-making tools is not the subject of this blog.  Rather, this blog is about strategies that I have learned and am attempting to enact to be a better steward of my time, so that I can accomplish the goals God has put into my heart.

  1. Make a List.  Your list should include tasks to be completed today, this week, and over the new few weeks.  A strategy that I learned many years ago is to include some “routine” tasks that you already do at the start of every day, so that you can quickly cross something from your list. Time management experts recommend “Making the bed” or “Showering” as the first task on the list. Crossing off tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and will help you to accomplish more with your time.
  2. Stack Habits.  This suggestion is from Mark Batterson’s book “Win the Day.”  Mark suggests developing good, daily habits by stacking tasks together routinely.  Develop a routine to help you start the day off right, and you will manage your day better. For me, I have stacked exercise with Bible reading.  When I discovered that I could read books on my kindle while pedaling my exercise bike, my mornings improved significantly.  This works best when I get out of bed, grab my kindle, and get on the bike.  I start the day with God’s word, and I get my blood flowing.  I wake up more fully, and the day goes better.
  3. Prioritize Tasks. It’s not enough to have a list. You have to take some time to consider what tasks must be done today? What tasks can be put off until tomorrow or next week?  If you don’t prioritize what needs to be done, you will end of being distracted by emails, phone calls, and tasks that appear urgent but are not critical to you having a successful day.  Ask God for wisdom to align your priorities with His.
  4. Minimize Distractions.  Set yourself up for success by being pro-activate in minimizing distractions.  Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a master of minimizing distractions to accomplish more in less time.  One key tip is to avoid checking emails and responding to texts and phone calls throughout the day.  Rather, Ferriss recommends checking emails and messages at a few pre-determined times a day. Evaluate what your primary distractions are and take steps to minimize them.  For those who work in an office, an open-door policy might be a major distraction.  Consider closing your door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for periods of uninterrupted work.
  5. Schedule Down Time.  No one should be all work and no play, and no one should spend too much time playing and avoiding work. Everyone needs time to kick back and read a book, watch television, or go out for a leisurely dinner.  Plan these times in your schedule to ensure balance in your work and leisure time.
  6. Seek God’s Direction.  Start each day with time in God’s word.  Pray for wisdom, and listen for His direction.  God will show you what is important for you to accomplish each day to fulfill His will for your life.
  7. Ask God to Multiply Your Time. As God multiplied the fishes and the loaves, He can multiply your time.  When we seek God’s will and use our time according to His purposes, He will allow us to do more in less time.  When you need to get somewhere quickly, and all the traffic lights you encounter are green—that is God’s blessing on your time.  If you get in and out of an appointment much faster than you expected, that is also God’s blessing. Make a habit of recognizing God’s hand in allowing tasks to be accomplished quickly and smoothly, and thank Him for those blessings.

There are many other time-management strategies. Which ones are your using?  Please share your best tips in the Comments.

Financial Impact of Divorce

As my husband and I approach our 40th anniversary in two weeks, I have been thinking a great deal of the blessings of a long marriage in both financial and non-financial terms. That will be the subject of my next blog. Today, I want to talk about the devastating financial impact divorce can have on both members of a couple. This was on my mind even before I read the sad announcement today that one of the world’s wealthiest couples is divorcing.

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Bill and Melinda Gates are ending their marriage after 27 years. Their wealth is staggering, and both of them will emerge from the divorce with more money that most of us can comprehend. Hopefully, they will amicably divide their great resources and continue to be generous in their philanthropic endeavors.

For most couples, however, divorce negatively impacts their finances and significantly lowers their standard of living. The costs of obtaining a divorce are staggering. In a relatively amicable dissolution, it is estimated that each partner incurs legal fees in excess of $10,000. Those costs can be much higher if the proceedings are hostile and protracted. Considering that the average household savings in the U.S. is about $42,000, a divorce can wipe out 50% or more of the savings accumulated by the couple.

With their savings significantly depleted and about half of the income they previously enjoyed, each member of the couple must strike out on their own. There are now two rents to be paid and two sets of utility bills. Each spouse winds up with a considerably lower standard of living. There will likely be additional childcare expenses, and perhaps travel expenses, if one spouse moves to a new city or state. Many divorced people struggle for years to achieve the standard of living they enjoyed while married.

Women are hit particularly hard, as they are often the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent typically helps with some of the expenses by paying child support. However, there is often resentment by both parties. It is very rare for either parent to be satisfied with the child support mandated by the courts. The custodial parent struggles to meet the needs of the children, and the non-custodial parent struggles to make the child support payment and provide for his or her own needs. This is not God’s plan, and it is not good for either the parents or the children.

Of course, the devastation of divorce is much more-far reaching than just the financial impacts. And the blessings of a till-death-do-us-part union are much, much greater than the financial blessings. God’s Word tells us that marriage is for life. When Jesus was questioned about divorce, He responded, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10: 5 – 9)

If you want God to bless you in both your marriage and your finances, it is important to make decisions that honor God. That includes loving your spouse and doing all that you can to have a long, prosperous marriage.

Miraculous Provisions

The story of the loaves and the fishes is likely the first story that pops into your mind when you consider how God miraculously multiplies the offerings we present to Him. It is a truly amazing story. A small boy offers his lunch of five small fish and two loaves. Jesus blesses the food and has the disciples distribute it among the thousands of hungry people who have come to hear His words. After all have eaten–five thousand men plus women and children–the disciples collect the leftovers and find that they have more remaining by far than they began. The disciples collected the broken pieces and filled twelve baskets. This story is recounted in Matthew 14: 13 – 21.

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What makes this story even more impressive is that Jesus replicated this miracle sometime later. In the second instance, Jesus fed four thousand men, plus women and children, with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. This time seven baskets of food were remaining after everyone had eaten. (Matthew 15: 20 – 39)

These miracles took place in two different regions but likely within a short period of time. One can overlook the disciples’ skepticism in the first instance that they could provide food for such a large group of people. After all, they barely had enough food for themselves. However, on the second occasion, the disciples were again ready to send the hungry people away. Jesus actually set them up by stating, “I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15: 32. Rather than responding in faith, the disciples failed the test. “His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’” (v. 33)

It is easy for us to criticize the disciples’ lack of faith. We think they should have learned from the first extravagant multiplication of the offered food that Jesus was capable of multiplying resources and meeting any need, no matter how great. How could have even questioned Jesus’s ability to feed the crowd?

Yet, we are guilty of similar lack of faith in God to meet our needs. God has met our needs time and time again, and we still doubt that He will come through for us in the next “crisis”. Our car breaks down and we fret about how we will be able to pay the mechanic for the repairs. Our hours get cut at work, and we worry about covering the rent. The list goes on and on–a medical test indicates a health problem, the stock market plunges, we hear rumors of layoffs at work, or we don’t get the promotion we had prayed and hoped for–and we fall apart. It feels as if our world has collapsed.

Like the disciples, we ask something along the lines of, “The need is so great. How can it be met?” We need to remind ourselves of all the times God has come through for us in order to increase our faith that He will come through again. God knew us long before we were conceived. He knows that our memory are short and that we have to remind ourselves daily of God’s faithfulness to us. That is why He commanded the Israelites to set up memorials to remind themselves and their children of how God had brought them out of Egypt and blessed them. “Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:19 – 24)

When you ask God to provide for your needs, take note of how He answers you. Record these answers in a blessings journal. Read the journal frequently to remind yourself of God’s goodness to you and to increase your faith. Share these blessings with your children and together thank God for the way He has provided for you and your family. God has never failed you, and He never will.

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How Will You Use Your Economic Impact Check?

By now you have likely received your third economic impact, or stimulus, check from the government. The stated intent of these checks was two-fold: to assist those whose income has been negatively impacted by covid and to stimulate the economy and support small businesses.

If you are one of the estimated 18 million people currently receiving unemployment checks, then you probably need the money to meet basic needs for your family. And, of course, you should use the money to meet those needs.

However, if you, like me, have maintained your pre-covid level of income, the stimulus check represents extra money. How will you use this money? Many people are saving the money or paying down debt. In fact, estimates are that more about 71%% of the money distributed in the first round last spring was put into saving or debt reduction and another 18% was used for essentials. That left 11% to go back in the economy. Of that, 8% was spend on non-essential items and 3% was donated to charities. (Ben Wick, https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-stimulus-checks-savings-pay-debts-federal-reserve-cares-act-2020-10)

While it is wise to save and pay down debt, those actions do not help to stimulate the economy–and get people back to work–nor do they help our neighbors who are in need. I encourage you to consider using this third round of stimulus money in more altruistic ways.

In case you need them, here are some ideas:

  • Tithe. For most of us, this money represents an increase. God asks us to give back to His work 10 percent of our income.
  • Donations to Food Pantries. Many people in your community are relying on food pantries to meet their basic needs. Donations are up, yet there is still a significant need.
  • Purchase gift certificates from local restaurants and small shops. These businesses are still struggling and can benefit from the cash influx. My husband and I have bought gift cards that we have no intention of using. We consider the purchase of the gift cards to be donations to help ensure that our favorite restaurants and shops are still operating post-covid.
  • Donate to campaigns to help local shops and restaurants. Many small business are running fundraising events on social media platforms.
  • Shop with independent businesses. One of favorite expenditures has been ordering fresh seafood directly from fisheries. We’ve had salmon and king crab from Alaska, oysters from Pugent Bay, shrimp from New Orleans, and lobster from Maine. The seafood has been shipped directly to our house. It is fresh and delicious, and we are helping fishermen who revamped their business models when their restaurant sales declined.
  • Donations to funds to help pay for childcare and other services for lower-income workers. Many of these workers are struggling to pay for care for children who would normally be in school while they work.
  • Gifts of appreciation to front-line health care workers. Health care professionals in our area are working full-time schedules and then volunteering additional hours to vaccinate the public. There are many ways you can show your appreciation to them and support your local small businesses.

Of course, we are all praying that the vaccines work and coronavirus is soon a passing memory. In the meantime, pray and thoughtfully consider how you can help those in your community who are facing financial challenges from this pandemic.

God Supplies Our Talents and Resources

In Exodus 31, God provided Moses with instructions on building the tabernacle. As He described the intricate work to be done, Moses probably felt a bit overwhelmed. Then God said something remarkable, “I have put wisdom in the heart of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you.” (Exodus 31:6, NKJV)

In today’s vernacular, God was telling Moses, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

Just before uttering those words, God told Moses, “I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,  to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.” (Exodus 31:2 – 5)

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As we read on God has called another, Aholiab, to assist in the work of designing, instructing, and overseeing the other gifted men and women in who God had instilled artistic gifts.

Often when God calls us to do a work, we feel overwhelmed. The job is too big, the work is too difficult. We don’t know where to start, and we want to tell God that we aren’t up to the task. Then the Holy Spirit whispers, “I am here with you. I have given you the wisdom, the creativity, the initiative, and the strength to do all the I have commanded you.”

If God has birthed a vision in you, He will empower you to accomplish the work. And He will supply your need. He provided Moses with many gifted artisan to share the load. Those He called, He filled “with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works.” (Exodus 35:35, NKJV)A few chapters later, as the work began, God instructed Moses to ask the Israelites to bring offerings for the building of the teabernacle. Moses asked them to bring gold, silver, bronze, thread, linen, goats’ hair, animal skins, wood, spices, and precious gems. The offering was to be given freely, as they were willing. No one was compelled to give.

And what happened? In Exodus 35:21, we read, “Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.” In fact, they brought so many supplies, that the artisans asked Moses to compel the people to stop the offerings. “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.” (Exodus 36:5, NKJV)

God supplied their needs abundantly. They had more than enough material resources, and they had a great team of men and women in whom God had given the vision and talent needed to accomplish the task.

God has a great plan for your life. And, He will empower you with all that you need to accomplish it. Trust Him and take that step of faith to fulfill the dream He has birthed in your heart.

My One Word of 2021–Stewardship

I have chosen “stewardship” to be the word that I focus on for 2021. Stewardship relates to how we care for the duties and possessions entrusted to us. Specifically, how we manage the resources given to us by God.

In Genesis chapter 1, God commanded Adam to care for the earth and subdue. There are many stories of stewards in the Bible–some good and some bad stewards.

Growing up in the Assemblies of God, I have been involved in Girls Ministries for nearly 50 years. One of the principles that was impressed upon my was that I was to be a good steward of my time, talent, and money. 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” is a verse that I learned at a young age. It has guided me throughout my life in how I manage my money and conduct my life.

Managing my time has been more challenging. This year, I will focus on displaying faithful stewardship more thoroughly in how I spend my time. I will also encourage others to be faithful stewards in how they handle their money and other resources entrusted to them by God.

Money stewardship is the theme of my newest book, “Honoring God with Your Money.” In it, I examine what the Bible says about money in how we budget and spend our money, as well how we give and our attitudes towards money. The book will be published in the coming weeks.

As I juggle being a full-time employee, a wife, and mother and grandmother, with other obligations that include working in Girls Ministries and church leadership and writing books, faithful stewardship of my time has been even more critical.

Throughout this year, I encourage you to examine your own stewardship of your time, talent, and financial resources. Are you honoring God in all that you do?

Rejoicing for Sinners Who Repent

One Sunday many years ago, our minister stopped the musicians in the middle of a song and announced that he felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that someone wanted to make things right with God. Before he could finish speaking, his youngest son, Johnny, rushed down the aisle into his father’s arm and invited Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.  Johnny was a young adult with a wife and children, and many of us had known him since he was a child.  We had seen him struggle with faith and turn his back on God.  Even when his wife accepted Jesus as her Savior, Johnny stayed away.

But God didn’t turn his back on Johnny.  God loved him and wanted Johnny to be a part of his family.  The church members had prayed diligently and fervently, along with his parents and family, for Johnny to come back to God. This was the day we had prayed for.  The rejoicing in that sanctuary was like nothing I had ever experienced.  For nearly an hour, people throughout the sanctuary stood and raised their hands and their voices to God, praising Him for a lost sheep that had come home.

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Sadly, I have not experienced that level of congregational rejoicing over a sinner coming to repentance again.  Of course, we are happy when we see a sinner repent.  We may  applaud and shout “Hallelujah”.  But, how often do we truly rejoice?   Jesus taught the apostles about rejoicing in the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  It’s recorded in book of Matthew and Luke.  This version is from Luke 15:4-10.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

 

Jesus tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents.  Should we not also rejoice?  Coming to Jesus and accepting His free gift of forgiveness is the greatest decision a person can ever make, and all Christians should rejoice with him or her upon making this decision. We should celebrate exuberantly and weep with joy.

Last night, Sean Hannity interviewed Roger Stone on his evening television show.  By all accounts, Roger Stone is a person who has made many mistakes and many enemies.  But, in that interview, he testified that he has come to repentance and thanked Sean Hannity for convincing him to confess his sins and be reborn.

But more than anything else, I am grateful for God because as you told me, if I would — if I would rededicate my life to Christ, I would be reborn.

I can remember it like it was yesterday and your advice was as solid as can be. You said, God will never desert you. He will never abandon you. He will protect you if you — if you confess your sins and you walk in his way. And I’ve done my very best to do that.

Roger Stone on Hannity

 

Today I am rejoicing that another lost sheep has been welcomed back into the fold.  Roger Stone has confessed his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  This should fill us with joy and hope. And it should remind us to reaffirm our commitment to pray for our unsaved loved ones, our unsaved neighbors and friends, and our unsaved leaders.  Every person needs God. Every person needs forgiveness.  Every person needs to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s pray for everyone we know to respond to Jesus’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  And when they come to Jesus, let’s rejoice as though the greatest thing has just occurred.  Because it has.

 

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