The Peace that Passes Understanding

My mother used to love to tell the story of how I came home from Sunday school when I was five talking about “the peas is pass is.”  She was quite puzzled and was unable to decipher what I was trying to say.  The next Sunday she asked the teacher, who explained that I was trying to say, “the peace that passes.” We had sung the song “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in class.

One of the lines of the song goes link this: “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding, Down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.”

As a five-year old, I had no clue what “the peace that passes understanding” was. It is a fun catchy song that has stuck with me through the years. Over a lifetime, I have experienced many instances of this amazing peace.

The song comes from Philippians 4: 6, 7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (King James Version)

White dove. The dove represents the Holy Spirit, who brings peace into uor hearts.
Photo by M Sidharda on Pexels.com

The New King James Version begins “Be anxious for nothing.”  This exhortation was needed in the days of the early church as followers of Christ faced intense persecution.  They had much to fear, yet Paul admonished them to not live in fear, but to come to the throne of God with their needs and to trust God to meet those needs.

This directive is still pertinent today. We face threats and stress from many sides.  Some threats are applicable to every person who lives: financial stress, health challenges, political unrest, and economic pressures. Other threats are directed specifically at the Church. As Christians, we are under intense pressure to compromise our beliefs and our values in the name of being politically correct. Christianity has not been outlawed as it was in Paul’s day, but Christians are under attack daily.

And God is still the answer. When we bring our trials, challenges, and tribulations to the throne of God, the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s peace.  A peace that does not make any sense—that surpasses our understanding.  In those moments, we know that our lives are in God’s hands. He is walking beside us through each and every trial.

Whatever you are walking through today, do not be filled with anxiety.  Rather, bring your needs to God, with thanksgiving.  God will hear you, and He will walk this path with you.  Then you will experience the peace that the world cannot offer.

Bring your problems, your worries, and your cares to God.  “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  I Peter 5: 6, 7

Being God’s Arms Extended

In our church, we often use the phrase “God’s arms extended.” We use this when speaking about reaching out into our community and sharing God’s love through service, ministry, and prayer.

To my knowledge, the phrase “God’s arms extended” does not appear in the Bible. However, Jesus expressed the importance of doing this in Matthew 25: 31- 46. He was teaching His disciples about things that will happen when He returns to rule over the earth.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Matthew 25: 31 – 34

Jesus explains that those who offered food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, extended hospitality to the stranger, clothed those in need, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned are the sheep. Those who failed to extend assistance and compassion are the goats. Those who cared for others will receive eternal life, and those who did not will receive eternal damnation.

We had a missionary, Mark, speak in our church on Sunday. He shared that early in his ministry in Africa, he had not learned enough of the language to preach and teach. For a time, Mark was limited to embracing children and engaging them in sports. He began to get discouraged that he could not do more. As he prayed, Mark said something along the lines of, “All I can do is hug the children.” In his spirit, Mark clearly heard the Lord say, “Thank you.”

Mark realized that when we, as God’s people, show love to others, we allow God to show love through us. As Mark hugged the children, he was allowing God to wrap His arms around these precious little ones. Mark was literally being God’s arms extended.

What a beautiful picture! God wants to provide for the hungry, thirsty, needy, sick, and imprisoned. And, He does provide through us.

The next time you see someone in need, afraid, or discouraged, I pray that this illustration will come to mind and that you will take the opportunity to be God’s arms extended.

Please feel free to share an instance in which you knew that God was using you to be His hands extended.

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Praise–My One Word for 2022

My Word Word for 2022 is praise. I want to focus on praising God every day, for God is worthy of my praise every day.

Praise is defined as “to honor, worship, and express admiration to God.” It also means “an expression of respect and worship to God.

God deserves our praise, and He desires our praise for many reasons. Here are a few.

  1. He is the Creator. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” Romans 1:25
  2. He is faithful. “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1
  3. He does mighty works. “Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song.” Job 36:24
  4. He blesses us. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 3:1
  5. He provided for our salvation. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
  6. He has compassion on us. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

As you focus on the many ways that God has blessed you and continuous to bless you, I hope that you will find that praise comes naturally and easily. May your goal be, as Paul’s was to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13: 15 -16


Grocery Shopping Amid Empty Shelves and Rising Inflation

The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%.  This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982.  Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food.  MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%. 

To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022.  The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.

Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them.  Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America.  And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.

To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pexels.com

So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.

  1. Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day.  To reduce your food waste:
    • Plan meals and shop using a list.
    • Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
    • Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish.  Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
  2. Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
  3. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
  4. Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
  5. Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store.  Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
  6. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
  7. Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
  8. When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
  9. Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
  10. Buy less than perfect or ugly produce.  Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
  11. Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
  12. Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
  13. Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
  14. Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
  15. Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
  16. Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.

What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?

You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  

Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.  For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Snow Challenges and Helpful Neighbors

If you watched the news last week, you probably saw reports of the complications of a major snowfall. Most news stationed carried stories about the many travelers who were stuck on I-95 in Virginia for up to 20 hours. The worst backup were in the Fredericksburg and Stafford areas. This is my neck of the woods.

Although the weathermen correctly predicted the timing and severity of the snow fall, many of us were skeptical. As we listened to the forecast on Sunday January 2, the temperature was 67 degrees!

The temperature dropped dramatically on January 3, accompanied by a major snowfall. Most neighborhoods in our area reported 12 – 15 inches of heavy snow. By 9 am on January 3, my neighborhood had lost power. It was restored 32 hours later. Many communities were without power for more than a week.

View of snow from my window
View from our front door

I was blessed by the helpfulness of our neighbors and to read about acts of generosity on social media. A Facebook friend without power reported that a friend brought over a pot of hot soup. One with power offered her basement to someone needed a warm place to spend a cold night. One of our neighbors plowed our driveway and many others. Another neighbor made a treacherous trip to the grocery store; while there he called us to ask if we needed him to pick up anything and advised us to not try to leave the neighborhood due to downed trees.

Adversity brought out the best in many people. They exemplified Christ’s command to care for those in need.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25: 34 – 40

With the weatherman calling for more snow this weekend, I am thanking God for great neighbors who help one another in a time of need caused by weather challenges.

New Year’s Resolution or My One Word

We are seven days into 2022, and, if you made a New Year’s resolution, you may have already broken it or you likely will soon. Studies show that most people throw in the towel by the end of January, and 68% don’t last a full month.

My One Word is an alternative to making New Year’s Resolutions. The concept was conceived Mike Ashcraft, senior pastor of Port City Community Church in Wilmington, NC, in 2010.  Mike realized that resolutions are often focused on overcoming past failures–I resolve to lose weight gained or to get out of debt that I have accumulated. He recognized that a better approach is to focus on what God wants to do in your life.

Mike challenged his congregation and blog readers to pray about where God wants to lead them in the coming year.  What is God speaking into your life?  What does God want you to become?  How does God want to use you? What does He want you to learn?

MyOneWord.org
myoneword.org


As you pray and focus on God’s will for you, you will feel God impressing a word into your spirit. This is your One Word for the coming year.  Your Word will be unique to you and where God is leading you. 

I chose my first One Word in 2011; it was Delight.  I also chose a theme Scripture for the year that went along with my word, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4  At that time, my husband had been unemployed for two years, with no end in sight. Yet, the Lord promised that if we delighted in Him, He would bless us. I meditated on Psalm 37:4, and God lifted my spirits and increased my faith. And, despite my husband’s continued lack of employment income, God provided for us to celebrate our 30th anniversary that spring with a cruise to Alaska. And, by the end of the year, my husband was back at work with the company that had laid him off nearly three years earlier. Praise the Lord!

Some of my other One Words have been Commitment, Intentional, Rest, and Stewardship.  My year of focusing on stewardship lead me to write a book and start a newsletter. The book and newsletter are designed to help others become responsible stewards of the financial resources God has entrusted to them.

My One Word for 2022 is Praise. I look forward to focusing my energy on praising the Lord throughout each day.  Rather than a single verse, I have selected Psalm 150 as my theme Scripture passage. I am considering choosing a new Psalm of praise for each month, or maybe every week.

I encourage you to pray about God’s desire for your focus in 2022 and to select a word that represents your focus.  To learn more about the My One Word experiment, go to myoneworld.org.

If you have questions about faithful stewardship of your financial resources, please feel free to email me at susan.ball5@aol.com or write your question in the Comment section.  Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. You may also sign up for the newsletter on the Contact page of this site.

For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.

Last-Minute Donations

2021 is quickly drawing to a close. However, there’s still time an impact in the lives of others by making tax-deductible donations before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.  Here are some ideas.

  1. Operation Shoebox.  Shoebox collection week has come and gone.  However, you can still participate in Operation Shoebox by packing a shoebox online at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/buildonline/   You select the items you want to include in your box, and volunteers will pack the boxes, which will be delivered in the coming months.  You can also donate $9 to deliver a box that another person has packed.
  2. Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog,  You can purchase gifts year-round to help those in need.  Gifts options include providing food to hungry children, purchasing chickens or honeybees to help a family start a business, providing clean water for a community, rescuing children in crisis, and assisting refugees.  Learn more at:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/gift-catalog/
  3. Disaster Relief.  Every year many communities are impacted by natural disasters. Many, many families lost loved ones, homes, and belongings in the tornadoes that ravaged five states recently.  A super typhoon struck the Philippines days before Christmas. Please consider making a donation to an organization that provides disaster relief.  These organizations include:
    1. The Red Cross https://www.redcross.org/
    2. Convoy of Hope  https://convoyofhope.org/
    3. Salvation Army https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/
    4. Samaritan’s Purse   https://www.samaritanspurse.org/
  4. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital– https://www.stjude.org/  Make a donation to help a critically ill child get needed treatment at no cost to their parents.
  5. Your local food bank.  Food banks serve their communities year round to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

There are many, many other charitable organizations that are fulfilling Christ’s command to care for those in need. Pray earnestly about which organizations God would have you support.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40

NOTE:  Donations sent by mail and postmarked by December 31 are considered as 2021 donations, regardless of when they are received. 

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The Light Shining in the Darkness

December would be a dark and dreary month were it not for Christmas lights. Days are shorter, and the sun has set by the time I leave work. As I drive through the streets of our town and into our neighborhood, I am cheered by the bright lights of Christmas. White icicle lights hang from eaves, beautifully lit trees gleam through large picture windows, and brightly colored lights are draped around trees and shrubs. The lights bring joy and cheer. They remind us that darkness can not hide the light.

Town decorated for Christmas
Photo by Andrew Nevins on Pexels.com

The Bible does not provide the date of the birth of Christ. We do know that Jesus was born at a time of great spiritual darkness. His birth brought light into an oppressed world. The darkness of December, with the shortest days of the year, symbolize the oppression of sin and the heaviness of living in bondage,

Jesus’s birth was heralded with bright light, “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” Luke 2:9 The shepherds soon learned that they had nothing to fear, but rather a reason to celebrate. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior-to-be, had been born.

The words spoken by the prophet Isaiah had come to pass, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2

Photo by Burkay Canatar on Pexels.com

Jesus’s birth brought light to a darkened world. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it….That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” John 1:4-5,9

Darkness entered the world at the Garden of Eden, and ever since we have lived in a fallen world. The only escape from the darkness is to seek the Light. Jesus is that light. He has promised to reveal his light and his love to all who seek Him. During the Christmas season, I urge you to allow the true light of Christmas to permeate your heart and bring joy and peace into your life.

“Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1 

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.