Sunday, November 25, 2018

Solid Ground Coffee ~ A GIVEAWAY!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits...who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Psalm 103:2,5

Do you love coffee?
How would you like a chance to win a free bag?

It is no secret that I dearly love the taste and smell of coffee.  As we travel and visit new places, I always love to try new-to-us brands, and if we like it, we usually try to buy a bag to bring home.  You may remember that earlier this year, I mentioned in this post that we had been introduced to a new kind of coffee called Solid Ground.  I loved it immediately, and it has quickly become my favorite coffee!!  Seriously, folks, this coffee is SO good!  I wasn't asked to write this post and have no motivation in writing it other than to let you in on how wonderful it is and to give you a chance to win a bag of your own!

In addition to their original coffee, they have added a second coffee choice.  I asked the owner, Matthew Gooch, to describe both coffees in his own words.

"My flagship coffee is from Guatemala. It has taste notes of Cinnamon, butter, and toasted nuts. It’s a very smooth all day coffee that falls into the category of a strong standard coffee.

The new addition in the Solid Ground Coffee family is a new bean from Ethiopia. I chose this coffee because it’s very bright and tasty and is really different than what a lot of people have probably ever tried before. It’s tastes notes are lime, mandarin orange, and jasmine. It’s really a tasty coffee that differs from the normal coffee we see every day!"

Both types of this delicious coffee are available for $15.00 + $6.00 shipping per bag, and you can order them HERE!

By the way, for those who don't know, Matthew Gooch is the guitarist for the Southern Gospel group, Karen Peck & New River.  Matthew is Karen's son.  This is one of our favorite songs by them, and you can enjoy Matthew's amazing guitar skills while watching.  Then scroll down to learn how you can enter a giveaway for a 12-ounce bag of Solid Ground Ethiopian coffee!

Now, for that giveaway!
For a chance to win, just leave a comment below, and we will automatically enter your name!
If you choose to comment anonymously, please leave your contact information.  Otherwise, we will have no way to reach you if you should win.
The giveaway will be open until the afternoon of Sunday, December 16th, when the winner's name will be drawn.  That is exactly three weeks from today, so you have lots of time to enter!
Our apologies to our out of country readers, but the giveaway is available only in the United States.

God bless each one of you dear readers and meet any needs you have at this time.
He is ever faithful!
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."  Romans 8:37

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Beyond Thankful & So, So Blessed

"But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 15:57

Dear friends,
Today, I am 
As I look back over this year and all of the years before, I can clearly trace His guiding, protecting, gentle hand upon my life.  I am so, so grateful to Him for all of the many blessings He has bestowed upon me, my life, and my precious family.  I truly have no words to praise Him enough, and I can only hope that my life will be a continual outpouring of worship and thankfulness to Him—not only through the words I say, but more importantly, through the life I live.  A person's whole life can be lived as an offering to the Lord, and that is what I most want my life to be—it is what I owe the One who gave His life for me.  This is my reasonable service and a debt I will never be able to amply repay.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Romans 12:1

May God richly bless each one of you faithful readers on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

When The Gospel Looks Like A Tent & A Sleeping Bag

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:26
Emphasis added

It was cold, dark, and raining and the parking lot was crowded as Zach and I drove closer to the front door of Walmart.  Kevin had gone inside to get a quick head start on shopping for Zach's Christmas and birthday, and I wanted to save him from having to walk back to the car in the rain.  There were a few other cars in front of us, and as we waited I noticed an African American gentleman around 60 to 65 years old approach the car directly in front of us.  After exchanging a few words with the driver, he returned to where he had been standing against the wall next to the door.  Soon Kevin appeared, and as he was on his way to our car, I noticed the gentleman approach him, too. When Kevin got in the car, he told us the man had asked for money, and he had given him the only cash he had—$1.00.  Kevin said he overheard another customer asking the man how much he needed.  The man replied that he was trying to get $14.00 to buy a tent, As Kevin listened, the manager came outside and told the man he needed to stop asking customers for money. 

As we started to pull away, Kevin said something that caused me to apply the brakes and reconsider our decision to shrug off the encounter as yet another random scam attempt.  "He told me he's a Vietnam vet."  Kevin's voice was full of compassion.  He rarely prays a prayer without asking God to bless and look out for our veterans and those who currently serve in the military, who are on the police force, and also the firefighters.  We have a soft spot in our hearts for all of them.  Dad was a veteran who served in the Army in Korea, Kevin's Dad was a WWII Navy vet, and in our opinion, no one deserves kind treatment and support more than our veterans.

I turned to look back at the man one more time, and something about his dejected stance as he hovered under the narrow overhang, unsuccessfully trying to find shelter from the cold, stinging rain melted every excuse I could muster to drive away and leave him standing there like that.  I just couldn't do it.  "So all he needs is a tent?" I asked, then quickly followed with, "Do they only cost $14.00?"  "I don't know, but I don't think you can buy one for that,"  Kevin replied.  My eyes were fixed on the man's reflection in the side mirror of my door, and I felt tears coming to the surface.  The three of us kept discussing his situation, weighing it against our own, and ultimately, compassion won.  $14.00 or whatever the cost, soon, Kevin and Zach were out of the car making their way inside Walmart.  On their way, the man told them he needed a tent, then he said, "No, a sleeping bag would be better.  Just a real cheap sleeping bag—the cheapest they've got."

As I waited, I watched the man closely.  At one point, I saw him reach into both of his pockets at once.  It looked like he was trying to locate a cigarette and a lighter, and I muttered, "Don't tell me he is going to smoke."  Self-righteous frustration came to the surface at the thought of the possibility that he would waste money on cigarettes when his basic needs were so sorely lacking.  As soon as I mumbled those words of judgment, God spoke words of reminder, and I was deeply convicted.  "Don't you know how it feels to be bound?  People become addicted and can't help doing some of the things they do.  It's not for you to judge."  I was put in my place real quick and realized with fresh understanding that it doesn't matter how a person gets into the predicament they're in—the reality is that they are in it, they need help, and it isn't up to us to fix them or force them to do the right thing.  Our job is to extend unconditional love, human kindness, and compassion, just like Jesus would.  I sat there feeling like we should do something to "get the Gospel" to that needy man, and again, the dear Lord spoke.  "The best way you could ever get the Gospel message to that man is to reach out and meet his need." 

I am reminded of the quote, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

It wasn't long until I saw Kevin and Zach emerge and hand the grateful man the best quality sleeping bag they could find in Walmart—one that promised to keep a person warm in up to as extreme cold as 10 degrees—and a three-person sized tent.  The man was overwhelmed.  "Are you sure?" he asked.  Kevin and Zach profusely assured him and let him know how glad they were to help him out.  Zach said, "I'll be praying for you.  What's your name?"  The man answered, "Don.  Please, when you pray tonight, please pray for Don."  

Heart-wrenched, Kevin and Zach returned to our car, and for just one, brief second I made eye contact with that weathered veteran standing against the Walmart wall.  I don't suppose I will ever forget the way he looked at me.  I can't really explain the look—the only way I know to put it into words is it was somewhere between astonishment and disbelief and a need to defend what little dignity he had left.  I smiled a smile that I hope conveyed what I most wanted to say—I care, you are important, you are special, you matter, and don't you ever forget it, as we pulled away.

Some would say we were scammed.  Some would argue that the man probably walked the merchandise back into Walmart to exchange for a gift card.  Maybe he did, but I have to say, I don't think so.  I have a feeling his needs were as legitimate and dire as he conveyed they were, and I'll tell you what, regardless what happened afterward, we drove away with one of the best feelings in the world.  That feeling you get when you know deep inside that you just did something for Jesus.  Didn't He say that is the way it works?  Kevin reminded me of His words as we drove along.

"Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:  naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.  Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee hungry, and fed Thee? Or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?  When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?  Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."  Matthew 25:34-40

Granted and sadly, there are a lot of wrong-intentioned people in our world who truly do not have our best interests at heart, and a person has to be more guarded and careful than we used to need to be.  Scammers are real, and it is only wisdom to stay close enough to God to hear His still, small voice offering Divine guidance and discernment and then to follow His lead with open hands. 

I don't tell this story to flaunt anything the three of us did last night.  I write it with a heavy heart because this world we live in right now is SO filled with hate, vitriol, and a seemingly ununifiable divide.  I have never, in all my years of life, seen such a spirit of blatant evil unleashed with such unprecedented anger.  As followers of Jesus Christ, it is up to us to make the positive difference our world sorely needs.  Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another."  John 13:34-35

We are the salt and light, and if we don't bring that to our world, who will?
"You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world."  Matthew 5:13,14

Did you ever notice the significance of the correlation between John 3:16 and I John 3:16?  There are no coincidences in God's Word.  Just look at the two verses in consecutive order.  

"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  I John 3:16

See how that works?  Jesus laid down His life for us.  In like manner, we are to lay down our lives for each other.  Let's look a bit farther to the very next verse.

"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"  I John 3:17

How can we say we love God if we don't love our neighbor?

"We love Him because He first loved us.  If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.  Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him.  By this, we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous."
I John 4:19-I John 5:3

If we really love our brother, can we overlook and ignore his need?

No matter what our lot or station in life, we all have something to give.  Sometimes, it has nothing to do with monetary giving.  Sometimes, it is our time that someone needs the most.  Sometimes, it is a smile or a kind touch.  Sometimes, it just means being there.

"Dear Lord, help us to be Your hands and feet.  Help us to really see the needs around us.  Help our hearts to be so concerned that it is impossible for us to turn away.  Fill us to the brim with Your love.  Help us to follow Your example and lay down our lives in service to You and the people around us.  In Jesus' name.  Amen."

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jesus, If It's You, Bid Me Come

"For we walk by faith, not by sight."
2 Corinthians 5:7

I will never forget an epiphany I had one evening while mowing grass on our riding lawnmower.  Out of the blue, I heard that still, small voice of Jesus ask, "Child, would you be willing to leave here?"  I looked around, and my eyes immediately went to the tan house with the green shutters situated on the front left side of our property.  My heart ached at even the thought of leaving there.  Zach was not even one year old when we had moved into that house all those years ago.  He had grown up running across those two acres with his "pack" of seven dogs.  We had started homeschooling there, spent many a happy hour behind those walls, made beyond precious memories with loved ones, including my dear Mom who had recently gone to be with Jesus, and grown together as a family in countless ways.  How could I even consider the thought of saying yes to the question Jesus had ever so gently whispered?  Yet, it was Him.  I knew it.  And, the realization that I would have to eventually answer Him was not lost to me.

All at once words that were written in red letters in my Bible came rushing into my mind, "And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life."  Mark 10:29,30

The three words that spoke loudest to me in those moments were "For My sake" or in another similar passage in Matthew 19:29, it is worded "for My name's sake."  As I mowed, I looked up to the sky and said, "Lord, I would be willing to leave here only if it's for Your name's sake.  How do I know if it is for Your name's sake?"  I kept asking Him over and over.  I knew deep in my heart that nothing short of doing this for HIM would be able to convince me to let go and leave the beloved place we had called home for so long and launch out into the great unknown.  Somehow, if I knew with 100% certainty that HE wanted us to do this and that it would be for HIS name's sake, then I would be able to bear leaving the place I had lived longer than I had lived anywhere in my whole life.  Only that could overpower my fear of letting go of all that was familiar and what felt safe to me.

As the question swirled for a long time, I asked God over and over if I made that sacrifice and came to a place of willingness, would it really be for His name's sake?  

Recently, about five years after that epiphany, the dear Lord reminded me of something that happened to His disciples and Peter, and as He dealt with my heart, I saw so many similarities to my night on the lawnmower.  "And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him unto the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.  And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.  But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, 'Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.'  And Peter answered Him and said, 'Lord if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.'  And He said, 'Come.' And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, 'Lord, save me.'  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 'O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"  Matthew 14:22-31

Peter had a desperate need to know it was Jesus before he ever even considered the thought of leaving the "safety" of that boat.  Even though it wasn't the safest place to be, violently tossed by the contrary wind, it felt safer than the thoughts of being out on the open water where Jesus was.  As absurd as his question must have seemed to everyone else on the boat, Peter asked it anyway—"Lord, if it is really You, ask me to come to You on the water."  Only after Jesus answered with the affirmation Peter craved did he have the courage to step out and do something that was humanly impossible.  Jesus' invitation to "Come" was what Peter needed.

Somehow, knowing it is "for His name's sake"—knowing it is HIM out there on those tossing waves in that unknown place makes even the most absurd-appearing, human reasoning-defying, radical proposition seem completely rational.  

As time went by, the precious Holy Spirit gently and gradually brought me to a place of willingness and pliability to follow Him away from what was familiar, as He affirmed with complete certainty that any time He asks us to launch out into the deep unknown, it is always "for His name's sake."  Eventually, He brought each member of my little family to the same conclusion, and with total unanimity, we placed our house and land on the market and "stepped out of the boat" in response to Jesus' call.  

Since then, He has, through many circumstances and confirming pieces of evidence thoroughly convinced us that everything He asked us to do has been "for His name's sake."  Tonight, as Kevin, Zach, and I reminisced about all that has changed and taken place in our lives, we realized that the boat we were in—the place I felt "safe" and had unintentionally come to depend upon for my sense of security—-was taking on water, and had we stayed on board, we would have gone under.  Oh, the things we know now that we didn't know then!

Walking forward to follow Jesus into the great unknown is never easy.  It always requires a measure of faith but especially so when everything around you contradicts what He is asking you to do.  We can't go by what we see because our vision can be skewed by our sense of longing to stay in our comfort zone.  What we perceive as being familiar and safe may, in reality, be on the verge of collapse.  If Jesus is calling us out, He is doing so in our best interest.

So, what is He asking you to do, my friend?  What have you heard Him whisper to you lately?  What invitation from Him has caused your heart to pound?  Are you struggling with questions and wondering if it is really Him who is doing the asking?  

Just ask, "Jesus, if it's You, bid me come to You on the water."  When He speaks "Come" you can step out of your boat with a certainty that, regardless how deep or storm-tossed the waters, He is walking beside you, and everything is going to be okay.